The best kidlit books starring spunky (aka determined and courageous) girls

The Books I Picked & Why

From the Desk of Zoe Washington

By Janae Marks

Book cover of From the Desk of Zoe Washington

Why this book?

A fan of reality baking shows, I was first drawn to this book because the protagonist Zoe dreams of becoming a star baker and wants to audition for the Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge. Once I learned that the author was inspired by true stories of wrongful convictions, it went to the top of my TBR pile and became my favorite 2020 read. This middle-grade contemporary meets mystery follows Zoe who’s determined to uncover if her father—who she’s never met because he’s been in prison—is innocent of the crime. For those looking for an engaging, heartwarming story tackling the tough topic of social justice from the POV of a twelve-year-old, look no further. 

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Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women

By Elena Favilli, Francesca Cavallo

Book cover of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women

Why this book?

Growing up, I loved fairy tales. So when the first volume in the Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls series featuring short stories of real-life women and girls told in a fairy tale style was released, I was excited! The gorgeous illustrations, motivating quotes, and blank pages for readers to write their own stories and draw their own portraits are genius. Filled with 100 extraordinary females—past and present—from countries all over the world, including those who are well-known to the unfamiliar, this book will inspire readers to explore their passions, dream big, and pursue their goals without limits. Spoiler alert: all four volumes are fantastic!

Disclosure: As a “writer-for-hire” contributing author to Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Real-Life Tales of Black Girl Magic (Volume 4), there’s no financial gain for this recommendation.

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Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen

By Debbi Michiko Florence, Elizabet Vukovic

Book cover of Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen

Why this book?

The moment I fall in love with a character, I will follow them anywhere. Toss in an intriguing plot, a huge extended family, and heart-warming humor, you get a recipe for a fun, fast read. This first in a chapter book series stars eight-year-old Jasmine Toguchi who’s jealous that her older sister gets to participate in the New Year festivities of making mochi, a Japanese rice cake (and one of my favorite desserts). Jasmine decides she’ll be the first girl to pound the rice—something her sister has definitely never done. Readers will cheer for this flamingo-loving tree climber as she hammers out her own path.  

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The Most Magnificent Thing

By Ashley Spires

Book cover of The Most Magnificent Thing

Why this book?

If you’ve read my book, you know that I’m all about characters navigating their emotions. This picture book focuses on something every kid—and adult—can relate to: you have a magnificent idea, but when you try to make it happen, it comes out all wrong. Despite her frustration turning into anger, this regular girl, with the help of her canine assistant, keeps on trying again and again and again to make her magnificent thing. Readers will hold their breath, wondering what comes next after she exclaims, “I QUIT.” 

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Revenge of the Red Club

By Kim Harrington

Book cover of Revenge of the Red Club

Why this book?

The title alone intrigued me. Once I learned the premise of this middle-grade novel, I was hooked: a group of students supporting one another through the ups and downs of navigating their periods is shut down by the school administration after receiving complaints. 

As the investigative reporter of her middle school’s newspaper, Riley’s no stranger at going the distance to uncover a story. Using her fact-finding skills, Riley hunts for the truth on who put an end to their club and why. Filled with humor and heart, this book had me up all night to finish in one sitting, cheering Riley and her friends on as they fight to save their club and stand up for their rights. 

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