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Female Role Models and Based On A True Story: Books For Kids

One reason that we love to read is because we identify with characters in books. We enter their worlds and learn with them. If you think about the last five books you read, what did you learn from the characters?

This list highlights books with positive female role models from whom we can all learn empowering lessons. These strong female characters can inspire and benefit all children across many ages, from toddlers to middle school aged kids! These ladies are strong, determined, brave, smart, powerful, and more.

While the children's book market has started to make a better effort to publish progressive books with more women power, it can still be hard to find them—especially good titles that you will come to love. We've sorted through the bunch and have come up with our favorites for you. We think these are the best books to show the positive impact of being a good role model. You can use our subtopics and filter the list by book type—board, picture, and chapter—to find the titles that most interest you. Comment below if you have any you love that aren't on our list!

Emmeline Pankhurst book
#1
Emmeline Pankhurst
Written by Lisbeth Kaiser and illustrated by Ana Sanfelippo
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-4

New, in the My First Little People, Big Dreams series: Introduce your littlest one to the leader of the suffragettes, Emmeline Pankhurst. Told in simple sentences, this young reader edition of the best-selling series is perfect to read out loud to little dreamers. This empowering series celebrates the important life stories of wonderful women of the world – and is now in available in a board format for little hands! These books make the lives of these role models accessible for the youngest children, providing a powerful message to inspire the next generation of outstanding people who will change the world!

Maya Angelou book
#2
Maya Angelou
Written by Lisbeth Kaiser and illustrated by Leire Salaberria
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-4

Meet Maya Angelou, the world's most beloved writer and speaker! Now available as a board book in the Little People, Big Dreams series, this inspiring and informative little biography follows the life of Maya Angelou, from her early traumatic childhood to her time as a singer, actress, civil rights campaigner and, eventually, one of America's most beloved writers of poetry, memoirs, and essays. With stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, this empowering series celebrates the important life stories of wonderful women of the world. From designers and artists to scientists, all of them went on to achieve incredible things, yet all of them began life as a little child with a dream. These books make the lives of these role models accessible for children, providing a powerful message to inspire the next generation of outstanding people who will change the world!

Audrey Hepburn book
#3
Audrey Hepburn
Written by Isabel Sanchez Vegara and illustrated by Amaia Arrazola
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-4

This board book version of Audrey Hepburn—an international bestseller from the beloved Little People, BIG DREAMS series—introduces the youngest dreamers to this iconic Hollywood movie star. Audrey Hepburn grew up in Arnhem in the Netherlands. After living through the hardships of World War Two, she moved to study ballet in London. She went on to star in plays and films, eventually becoming one of the most iconic actresses of all time. Babies and toddlers will love to snuggle as you read to them the engaging story of this fascinating star, and will also enjoy exploring the stylish and quirky illustrations of this sturdy board book on their own.

Girl Running book
#4
Girl Running
Written by Annette Bay Pimentel and illustrated by Micha Archer
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

* "A bright salutation of a story, with one determined woman at its center."--Kirkus Reviews, starred review The inspiring story of the first female to run the Boston Marathon comes to life in stunningly vivid collage illustrations. Because Bobbi Gibb is a girl, she's not allowed to run on her school's track team. But after school, no one can stop her--and she's free to run endless miles to her heart's content. She is told no yet again when she tries to enter the Boston Marathon in 1966, because the officials claim that it's a man's race and that women are just not capable of running such a long distance. So what does Bobbi do? She bravely sets out to prove the naysayers wrong and show the world just what a girl can do.

Little Feminist Picture Book book
#5
Little Feminist Picture Book
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-10

Celebrate 25 amazing women throughout history with Mudpuppy's Little Feminist Picture Book. With easy to process words by Yelena Moroz Alpert and colorful illustrations by Lydia Ortiz and Patrick Rafanan, this book is the perfect way to introduce young children to these inspiring women. Features artists, scientists, politicians, athletes and much more! - 52 pages - Book Trim: 9.25 x 9.25'' - Hardcover with soft-touch finish

Anne Frank (Little Guides to Great Lives) book
#6
Anne Frank (Little Guides to Great Lives)
Written by Isabel Thomas and illustrated by Paola Escobar
picture book
Recommend Ages: 7-11

Anne Frank was an ordinary girl living in extraordinary times. Forced to go into hiding to escape the Nazis' persecution of Jews in World War II, Anne kept a diary that would become one of the most famous books in the world. Meet one of history's most inspiring figures in this beautifully-illustrated guide to her amazing life. From artists to aviators and scientists to revolutionaries, Little Guides to Great Lives is a brand new series of small-format guides introducing children to the most inspirational figures from history in a fun, accessible way.

Little Guides to Great Lives: Marie Curie book
#7
Little Guides to Great Lives: Marie Curie
Written by Isabel Thomas and illustrated by Anke Weckmann
picture book
Recommend Ages: 7-11

Marie Curie was a brilliant scientist who coined the term 'radioactivity', discovered polonium and radium, and helped develop treatments for cancer. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, but her dedication to physics ultimately caused her death from radiation. From artists to aviators and scientists to revolutionaries, Little Guides to Great Lives is a brand new series of small-format guides introducing children to the most inspirational figures from history in a fun, accessible way. Launching with Leonardo da Vinci, Marie Curie, Nelson Mandela, and Amelia Earhart, Little Guides to Great Lives tells the stories of the most amazing people from all over the world and across history, with full-color illustrations and fresh design to bring their incredible stories to life.

Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education book
#8
Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education
Written by Raphaele Frier and illustrated by Aurelia Fronty
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

Malala Yousafzai stood up to the Taliban and fought for the right for all girls to receive an education. When she was just fifteen-years old, the Taliban attempted to kill Malala, but even this did not stop her activism. At age eighteen Malala became the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work to ensure the education of all children around the world. Malala’s courage and conviction will inspire young readers in this beautifully illustrated biography.

Little Guides to Great Lives: Amelia Earhart book
#9
Little Guides to Great Lives: Amelia Earhart
Written by Isabel Thomas and illustrated by Dalia Adillon
picture book
Recommend Ages: 7-11

The first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, Amelia Earhart was a superstar of aviation in the 1920s and 1930s and a pioneer of women's rights. Her disappearance in 1937, while attempting to fly around the world, remains an unsolved mystery. From artists to aviators and scientists to revolutionaries, Little Guides to Great Lives is a brand new series of small-format guides introducing children to the most inspirational figures from history in a fun, accessible way. Launching with Leonardo da Vinci, Marie Curie, Nelson Mandela, and Amelia Earhart, Little Guides to Great Lives tells the stories of the most amazing people from all over the world and across history, with full-color illustrations and fresh design to bring their incredible stories to life.

Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail book
#10
Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail
Written and illustrated by Jennifer Thermes
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-7

"Emma Gatewood's life was far from easy. In rural Ohio, she managed a household of eleven kids alongside a less-than-supportive husband. One day, at age 67, she decided to go for a nice long walk. . . and ended up at the other end of the Appalachain Trail. With just the clothes on her back and a pair of thin canvas sneakers on her feet, Grandma Gatewood hiked up ridges and down ravines. She braved angry storms and witnessed breathtaking sunrises. When things got particulary tough, she relied on the kindness of strangers or sheer dumb luck to get her through the night. When the newpapers got wind of her amazing adventure, the whole country cheered her on to the end of her trek, which came just a few months after she set out. A story of real resilience and hardcore lady power, Grandma Gatewood proves that no peak is insurmountable. After all, at age 83, she hiked the whole trail again (sneakers and all)"--

Cloth Lullaby book
#11
Cloth Lullaby
Written by Amy Novesky and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-7

Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) was a world-renowned modern artist noted for her sculptures made of wood, steel, stone, and cast rubber. Her most famous spider sculpture, Maman, stands more than 30 feet high. Just as spiders spin and repair their webs, Louise's own mother was a weaver of tapestries. Louise spent her childhood in France as an apprentice to her mother before she became a tapestry artist herself. She worked with fabric throughout her career, and this biographical picture book shows how Bourgeois's childhood experiences weaving with her loving, nurturing mother provided the inspiration for her most famous works. With a beautifully nuanced and poetic story, this book stunningly captures the relationship between mother and daughter and illuminates how memories are woven into us all.

My Shot book
#12
My Shot
Written and illustrated by Elena Delle Donne
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

“Elena is one of the brightest stars in our game today and an iconic role model.” —Lisa M. Borders, WNBA President “Inspiring in many ways.” —Kirkus Reviews Elena Delle Donne, 2015 WNBA MVP and 2016 Olympic gold medalist, shares her inspirational story of being a young basketball prodigy who gave up an impressive basketball scholarship for family and self-discovery.

Rice from Heaven book
#13
Rice from Heaven
Written by Tina Cho and illustrated by Keum Jin Song
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Rice from Heaven is a true story about compassion and bravery as a young girl and her community in South Korea help deliver rice via balloons to the starving and oppressed people in North Korea. "We reach a place where mountains become a wall. A wall so high, no one dares to climb. Beyond that wall and across the sea live children just like me, except they do not have food to eat." Yoori lives in South Korea and doesn't know what North Korea is like, but her father (Appa) does. Appa grew up in North Korea, where he did not have enough food to eat. Starving, he fled to South Korea in search of a better life. Yoori doesn't know how she can help as she's only a little "grain of rice" herself, but Appa tells her that they can secretly help the starving people by sending special balloons that carry rice over the border. Villagers glare and grumble, and children protest feeding the enemy, but Yoori doesn't back down. She has to help. People right over the border don't have food. No rice, and no green fields. With renewed spirit, volunteers gather in groups, fill the balloons with air, and tie the Styrofoam containers filled with rice to the tails of the balloons. With a little push, the balloons soar up and over the border, carrying rice in the darkness of the night over to North Korea.

Harriet Tubman: Freedom Fighter book
#14
Harriet Tubman: Freedom Fighter
Written by Nadia L. Hohn and illustrated by Gustavo Mazali
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Learn about the inspiring life of Harriet Tubman in this early reader biography. Harriet Tubman was a brave woman who was born enslaved in Maryland in the 1800s. After risking everything to escape from her slave master and be free, Harriet went on to lead many people to freedom on a journey known today as the Underground Railroad. This book covers some of the amazing aspects of Tubman's life: She led 13 escapes—all successful and at great personal risk—between 1850 and 1860. This book also covers some of the lesser-known amazing aspects of her life: During the Civil War, Harriet Tubman enlisted African American men to be soldiers. She served as a spy. AND she led a battle under the command of a Union Army colonel! Beginning readers will learn about the milestones in Harriet Tubman’s life in this Level Two I Can Read biography. This biography includes a timeline and historical illustrations all about the life of this inspiring figure, as well as a rare historical photograph of her. Much mythology and conflicting lore exists about Harriet Tubman. This book was carefully vetted by noted Harriet Tubman expert Dr. Kate Larson. Harriet Tubman: Freedom Fighter is a Level Two I Can Read, geared for kids who read on their own but still need a little help.

A Life Made by Hand book
#15
A Life Made by Hand
Written and illustrated by Andrea D'Aquino
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-10

Ruth Asawa (1926-2013) was an influential and award-winning sculptor, a beloved figure in the Bay Area art world, and a devoted activist who advocated tirelessly for arts education. This lushly illustrated book by collage artist Andrea D’Aquino brings Asawa’s creative journey to life, detailing the influence of her childhood in a farming family, and her education at Black Mountain College where she pursued an experimental course of education with leading avant-garde artists and thinkers such as Anni and Josef Albers, Buckminster Fuller, Merce Cunningham, and Robert Rauschenberg. Delightful and substantial, this engaging title for young art lovers includes a page of teaching tools for parents and educators.

The Extraordinary Suzy Wright book
#16
The Extraordinary Suzy Wright
Written and illustrated by Teri Kanefield
picture book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Children are taught much about the men who shaped early America, but history-shaping colonial women remain largely unknown and undiscussed. The Extraordinary Suzy Wright sets about to change that, telling the little-known story of Quaker Susanna (Suzy) Wright (1697-1784), a renowned poet and political activist. Suzy helped settle the Pennsylvania frontier, where she acted as legal counselor to her less literate neighbors, preparing wills, deeds, indentures, and other contracts. Surviving documents and correspondence between Suzy and a host of her contemporaries--including Benjamin Franklin; James Logan, Pennsylvania's governor and chief justice; and a few signers of the Declaration of Independence--reveal that Suzy, from her home on the frontier, exerted considerable influence in the highest circles of Pennsylvania government. This fascinating and inspiring story includes an author's note, bibliography, and index.

Have a suggestion for a book to add to this list? Send an email to [email protected]!