The best picture books to encourage young girls to dream big

Why am I passionate about this?

In grade school, when Apollo 11 landed on the moon, I was immediately swept up in the craze for space and dreamt of being an astronaut. Until I was told by my teacher that girls weren’t allowed to be astronauts. I added that to a growing list of things I was told girls couldn’t do. Flash-forward to 2017, when a prominent man insisted that females should “dress like a woman” at work. Women from all walks of life–athletes, astronauts, emergency workers, and scientists posted photos of themselves in gear appropriate for their jobs, not the dress-and-heels implied. I was inspired by those photos and my childhood feelings of injustice.


I wrote...

Book cover of Dress Like a Girl

What is my book about?

A group of diverse young girls learn to think outside of the box–the dress-up box, that is! Ignoring old-fashioned “rules” of dressing, the girls explore exciting clothing and occupations. Wear white? Why, yes, if you want to be an astronaut! Put on a coat with pockets? Of course, if you want to be a doctor or nurse! From science to sports to emergency services, these girls know that to “dress like a girl” means wearing what lets you feel most like YOU.

Studies show that gender stereotypes solidify in the minds of children in the early years of school. Broaden the views of young girls before stereotypes take hold – beginning with picture books.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of A Girl Can Build Anything

Patricia Toht Why did I love this book?

Celebrate girls who love to tinker and build! It begins with an idea for something big or small. Materials found, tools gathered, and building begins! If a creation wobbles or collapses, “failure isn’t final,” the book reassures.

I am grateful that my parents recognized my early love of woodworking and bought me a tool kit at a young age. This is the perfect picture book to pair with a set of tools for small hands!

By Pat Zietlow Miller, e.E. Charlton-Trujillo, Keisha Morris (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Girl Can Build Anything as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

A brilliant, inclusive ode to self-expression, girl power, and the many things readers can create.

Have you ever dreamed of building something? Maybe something little—like a birdhouse? Or something big—like a skyscraper? If you can envision it, you can build it! A Girl Can Build Anything is a playful celebration of all the different ways girls can make things—from tinkering to tool wielding, from ideas on paper to big, lived-out dreams that require brick and mortar. This fun and empowering ode to self expression will inspire readers to jump up and immediately start to build. Because they can. They can…


Book cover of Go, Girls, Go!

Patricia Toht Why did I love this book?

Cars and trucks and things that go are not exclusively the realm of boys. In this rhythmic read-aloud, a dozen girls hit the road and sky with a rumble, vroom, and roar.

Kids will love the sound words and the repetitive “Go, Girls, Go!” The bold illustrations are a joy. And an invitation near the end (“What about you?”) encourages little imaginations to race away with possibilities.

By Frances Gilbert, Allison Black (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Go, Girls, Go! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Come along for a rollicking ride in this picture book celebration of vehicles that puts girls in the driver's seat!

Girls can race...and girls can fly. Girls can rocket way up high!

Piloting fire trucks, trains, tractors, and more, the girls in this book are on the go! Join them for an exuberant journey that celebrates how girls can do-and drive-anything.


Book cover of Big

Patricia Toht Why did I love this book?

This book captured my heart from the first time I read it. As a toddler, the main character is praised for being “a big girl,” but as she continues to grow, she discovers that being a “big girl” soon becomes a negative thing that prevents her from doing what she wishes.

The illustrations are amazing, and fold-out pages can barely contain the growing main character and the empathy you’ll have for her. 

A book you will hug when you’re done reading it, then immediately read it again.

By Vashti Harrison,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Big as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Once there was a girl with a big laugh and a big heart and very big dreams.
She grew and grew and grew. And it was good... until it wasn't.

When the girl grows big, the world begins to make her feel small. She feels out of place and invisible, and soon she isn't herself at all. But with the girl's size comes huge inner strength - and this helps her look past the hurtful words to see how perfect she really is.

With beautiful illustrations and a gatefold flap, this quietly reassuring story explores the experience of being big…


Book cover of Like a Girl

Patricia Toht Why did I love this book?

Roll out the role models for your girls! These twenty-four women have made their mark by standing up, prevailing, creating, soaring, training, and changing the world.

This book is the perfect starting point to introduce your girl to the women who led the way and overcame challenges. The main text offers brief introductions, then four pages of biographical information at the back delve deeper.

This book is a terrific jumping-off point for exploring picture book biographies!

By Lori Degman, Mara Penny (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Like a Girl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Create, prevail, change the world . . . like a GIRL! This celebration of international girl power honors a multitude of women who made a difference.

"As an introduction to women's power and possibilities, this choice rises above the rest." --Kirkus

Once upon a time, "like a girl" was considered an insult. Not anymore! In art, aviation, politics, sports, every walk of life, girls are demonstrating their creativity, perseverance, and strength. From civil rights activist Rosa Parks, who stood up for her beliefs by staying seated, to astronaut Sally Ride, who soared to the skies, the 24 women profiled here…


Book cover of How to Write a Story

Patricia Toht Why did I love this book?

I can’t resist adding this book about being a writer since it’s my job and my passion. As a child, I don’t recall ever reading a picture book about writing. There were spelling books and penmanship books, but nothing about turning an idea into a story.

If you know a budding writer, this book is the perfect place to begin. Written in simple steps, it offers encouragement to keep going and even gives tips on revising. The journey of a future author could start with this book!

By Kate Messner, Mark Siegel (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Write a Story as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, and 5.

What is this book about?

The inspiring sequel to the 2015 Parent's Choice Winner, How to Read a Story!

Step 1: Choose an idea for your story. A good one.
Step 2: Decide on a setting. Don't be afraid to mix things up.
Step 3: Create a heroine-or a hero.
Now: Begin.

Accomplished storytellers Kate Messner and Mark Siegel playfully chronicle the process of becoming a writer in this fun follow-up to How to Read a Story, guiding young storytellers through the joys and challenges of the writing process. From choosing an idea, to creating a problem for their character to resolve, to coming to…


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The City Sings Green & Other Poems About Welcoming Wildlife

By Erica Silverman, Ginnie Hsu (illustrator),

Book cover of The City Sings Green & Other Poems About Welcoming Wildlife

Erica Silverman Author Of Wake Up, City!

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an award-winning author of picture books and early readers. I have set my stories in many kinds of locations, including a haunted house, an Eastern European shtetl, an English Renaissance village, and a working cattle ranch. For Wake Up, City, I turned to the setting I know best, the city. I drew on memories of walking to kindergarten in early morning Brooklyn. This book is my love song to cities everywhere. As a lifelong city dweller, I worry about the impact of urban spread on the planet, but I feel hopeful, too, because many cities are becoming more nature and wildlife-friendly. The books I'm excited to share celebrate city wildlife. 

Erica's book list on celebrating cities

What is my book about?

A unique and artful blend of poetry, science, and activism, this picture book shows how city dwellers can intervene so that nature can work her magic.

In Oslo, Norway: citizens create a honeybee highway that stretches from one side of the city to the other, offering flowerpots, resting spots, bee boxes, and beehives—even water fountains—every eight hundred feet.

In the Bronx, New York: a community rallies to clean their river and cheers at the return of the long-lost beaver population.

In Busselton, Australia: people make a rope bridge that swings high above speeding cars, creating a safe path for tree-hopping possums and squirrels alike.

Through a mix of lyrical poems, real-life success stories, and bouquet-bright artwork, The City Sings Green explores the environmental impact of humans and showcases the many ways that we can rewild cities across the globe. Together, we can welcome nature back!

The City Sings Green & Other Poems About Welcoming Wildlife

By Erica Silverman, Ginnie Hsu (illustrator),

What is this book about?

A unique and artful blend of poetry, science, and activism, this picture book shows how city dwellers can intervene so that nature can work her magic. Perfect for fans of The Curious Garden and Harlem Grown.

In Oslo, Norway: citizens create a honey-bee highway that stretches from one side of the city to the other, offering flowerpots, resting spots, bee boxes and beehives-even water fountains-every 800 feet.

In the Bronx, New York: a community rallies to clean their river and cheers at the return of the long-lost beaver population.

In Busselton, Australia: people make a rope bridge that swings high…


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