The best girl-power picture book biographies

Who am I?

I’m an award-winning children’s author who lives in Australia. I love reading and writing picture books, and although I mostly write fiction, I also love writing biographies. I am drawn to stories about women who have achieved something inspirational and unexpected and who may have not received wide recognition at the time or that any recognition has faded from public knowledge. I find it exciting to work with a team, that is the illustrator and the publisher, to create books that will find their way to children and allow them to imagine and feel another person’s life, and to see that everyday people do amazing things.


I wrote...

Railroad Engineer Olive Dennis

By Kaye Baillie, Tanja Stephani (illustrator),

Book cover of Railroad Engineer Olive Dennis

What is my book about?

When Olive Dennis was young, girls were expected to be sewing, cooking, and cleaning. But Olive was busy imagining, designing, and building everything from a wooden dollhouse to a model streetcar with working parts. When she grew up, Olive continued to defy expectations, earning a civil engineering degree, and becoming the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad's first female engineer. Her genius for inventing improvements based on her keen observations of passengers' needs and problems led her to the assignment of a lifetime: designing a luxury train that would change rail travel forever.

The books I picked & why

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Pocket Full of Colors: The Magical World of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire

By Amy Guglielmo, Jacqueline Tourville, Brigette Barrager (illustrator)

Book cover of Pocket Full of Colors: The Magical World of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire

Why this book?

This colorful and joyous cover enticed me to learn about Disney artist, Mary Blair. As a child, Disneyland was a regular part of my television viewing in Australia. Had I known back then that girls could be anything they wanted, I would have been excited by the possibilities. Mary Blair created eye-popping work full of delicious colors and adventurous ideas. Seen as too unusual, Mary’s work was stymied, and she left Disney. But then Walt Disney had a special project and he knew Mary was the perfect artist for the job. I love this book for its kid-friendly vibrant illustrations and I hope children will see that each one of them deserves to shine in their own way. 

Pocket Full of Colors: The Magical World of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire

By Amy Guglielmo, Jacqueline Tourville, Brigette Barrager (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pocket Full of Colors as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Amy Guglielmo, Jacqueline Tourville, and Brigette Barrager team up to tell the joyful and unique story of the trailblazing Disney artist Mary Blair.

Mary Blair lived her life in color: vivid, wild color.

From her imaginative childhood to her career as an illustrator, designer, and animator for Walt Disney Studios, Mary wouldn’t play by the rules. At a time when studios wanted to hire men and think in black and white, Mary painted twinkling emerald skies, peach giraffes with tangerine spots, and magenta horses that could fly.

She painted her world.


Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean's Most Fearless Scientist

By Jess Keating, Marta Álvarez Miguéns (illustrator),

Book cover of Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean's Most Fearless Scientist

Why this book?

Sharks are fascinating! I’m sure most kids would be curious to find out who and what a ‘shark lady’ is. This engaging story paves the way for children to explore the life of Eugenie Clark, a scientist determined to dismiss the view that sharks are ugly and scary. I love picture book biographies because they are a combination of just the right words and mesmerizing illustrations. I also love biographies about women who have refused to conform, and who simply craved opportunities to explore any pathway. When Eugenie felt pressured not to study science, she didn’t listen. Bravo! Everyone’s voice matters and Eugenie’s contribution to what we know about sharks is refreshing and wonderful. 

Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean's Most Fearless Scientist

By Jess Keating, Marta Álvarez Miguéns (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Shark Lady as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of New York Times' Twelve Books for Feminist Boys and Girls!
This is the story of a woman who dared to dive, defy, discover, and inspire. This is the story of Shark Lady. One of the best science picture books for children, Shark Lady is a must for both teachers and parents alike!
An Amazon Best Book of the Month
Named a Best Children's Book of 2017 by Parents magazine
Eugenie Clark fell in love with sharks from the first moment she saw them at the aquarium. She couldn't imagine anything more exciting than studying these graceful creatures. But…


Dorothea's Eyes: Dorothea Lange Photographs the Truth

By Barb Rosenstock, Gerard Dubois (illustrator),

Book cover of Dorothea's Eyes: Dorothea Lange Photographs the Truth

Why this book?

The cover shows a woman peering into her camera. She holds the camera carefully, gently and with purpose. Inside, the attractive illustrations show Dorothea Lange who, as a child, was sick leaving her feeling invisible. But the world wasn’t invisible to her. She surprised everyone when she announced one day that she was going to be a photographer. Was it unladylike? What did that even mean? It didn’t matter to Dorothea, who refused to look away from the suffering of people. She used her photos to show that each person is special. Without Dorothea, the images she captured would remain invisible, when they all deserved to be visible. Actual photographs and timeline at the end of this book make it even more fascinating.

Dorothea's Eyes: Dorothea Lange Photographs the Truth

By Barb Rosenstock, Gerard Dubois (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dorothea's Eyes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"An excellent beginner's resource for biography, U.S. history, and women's studies." -Kirkus Reviews

Here is the powerful and inspiring biography of Dorothea Lange, activist, social reformer, and one of the founders of documentary photography.

After a childhood bout of polio left her with a limp, all Dorothea Lange wanted to do was disappear.

But her desire not to be seen helped her learn how to blend into the background and observe. With a passion for the artistic life, and in spite of her family's disapproval, Lange pursued her dream to become a photographer and focused her lens on the previously…


Miss Mary Reporting: The True Story of Sportswriter Mary Garber

By Sue Macy, C. F. Payne (illustrator),

Book cover of Miss Mary Reporting: The True Story of Sportswriter Mary Garber

Why this book?

Mary Garber loved sport. She played sport. She read about sport. And she wanted to write about sport. So, what’s wrong with that? Nothing! Then why, as a woman, was she banned from the Press Box? During the 1940’s, sports reporting was a man’s job and Mary was discouraged from pursuing this type of work. But she did. After working decades in a job she loved, she became known as a reporter who didn’t care who you were or where you were from. If you did something, she was going to write about you. I love this book for showing the strength and determination of Mary and how she brought her own special talents and observations to the reporting world. The illustrations beautifully capture the action and the era of this story.

Miss Mary Reporting: The True Story of Sportswriter Mary Garber

By Sue Macy, C. F. Payne (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Miss Mary Reporting as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“A heartfelt, informative, and thoroughly engaging picture book biography.” —School Library Journal (starred review)

From beloved author Sue Macy comes an illustrated biography of Mary Garber, one of the first female sports journalists in American history!

Mary Garber was a pioneering sports journalist in a time where women were rarely a part of the newspaper business. Women weren’t even allowed to sit in the press boxes at sporting events, so Mary was forced to sit with the coaches’ wives. But that didn’t stop her.

In a time when African American sports were not routinely covered, Mary went to the games…


Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story

By Suzanne Slade, Jessica Lanan (illustrator),

Book cover of Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story

Why this book?

The Anna Comstock story shows us a girl who loved the natural world. She was a naturalist and an artist who was determined to encourage schools to take students outdoors to increase their interest in nature. Outdoors! ‘Didn’t she know school rules?’ Her persistence paid off when several schools agreed to let students tromp through forests and fields. Her art which is beautifully represented in the illustrations, and her books helped children realize that all living things are connected. I love a book that shows passion for wildlife and the environment. Anna’s story does just that. 

Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story

By Suzanne Slade, Jessica Lanan (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Out of School and Into Nature as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

**2018 NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book**This picture book biography examines the life and career of naturalist and artist Anna Comstock (1854-1930), who defied social conventions and pursued the study of science. From the time she was a young girl, Anna Comstock was fascinated by the natural world. She loved exploring outdoors, examining wildlife and learning nature's secrets. From watching the teamwork of marching ants to following the constellations in the sky, Anna observed it all. And her interest only increased as she grew older and went to college at Cornell University. There she continued her studies, pushing back against those…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in girl power, women photographers, and naturalists?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about girl power, women photographers, and naturalists.

Girl Power Explore 19 books about girl power
Women Photographers Explore 11 books about women photographers
Naturalists Explore 17 books about naturalists

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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