Great Female Characters in Children’s Books

The representation of women across all forms of media has been discussed in depth in seemingly every major news outlet in the last year. This is brilliant news.

What seems to have been discussed less than other forms of media, though, is children’s books. Considering their importance in shaping our political beliefs, forming our ideas about identity and instilling confidence, this seems like something that should be redressed.

Thus, without further ado, let’s launch into Turnaround’s top picks of children’s books that show women as complex characters or see them taking on a role they might historically have been denied in the children’s literary canon.

Pearl Power 9780992854416

Succinctly, Pearl Power is a picture book that tells the story of four year old Pearl’s refusal to take playground bullies telling her that she “does things like a girl” as an insult. “You run like a GIRL” someone will sneer, “why thank you!,” Pearl will reply. Her unruffled replies to casual sexism should be taken as an inspiration to us all. Plus, the highly stylised bold, scribbly, artwork makes it look very much like a classic in the making.

She’s also got a sequel along the theme of the Let Toys Be Toys campaign.

Not Just Another Princes Story 9781927018576

There is so much we could write about this one, but our desire to do this is grappling with our desire to showcase as many of the funny, clever , somewhat mischievous looking  watercolour images as possible. See what we mean?




Not Just Another Princess Story does what it says on the tin; it centres on the story of a young princess (and thus is bound to appeal to children weaned on Disney films who can’t get enough of long haired, castle dwelling characters), without reinforcing any of the messages that other princess stories arguably do. While there are knights and dragons galore, the knight in question is neither rescuer nor prize, he’s just a chap who our heroine is quite fond of.

In Her Hands9781600609893

In Her Hands introduces young readers to the life and work of sculptor Augusta Savage, a major figure in the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance was an artistic explosion that took place among black communities in 1920s America. It was a time of new experimentation in musical form that would later go on to set the template for much of modern jazz, new experimentation with fashion that led to the invention of brighter colour fabric dyes than ever before, and experimentation in the visual arts, specifically sculpture. Against this back drop, Augusta Savage wanted to pursue her own career as a sculptor, but found that even in an environment known for its openness to change, sexism was ingrained. Her battle to be recognised was long and arduous, but ultimately successful, and this title is accordingly an uplifting read.

The whole story is illustrated with bright, lively pictures by contemporary sculptor and Harlem resident, JaeMe Bereal. (See more of JaeMe’s work here).

Find more diverse kids books here

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