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Self-reliance: Books For Kids

Looking for a list of the best children's books about self-reliance?

Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to self-reliance. To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about self-reliance.

Our list includes board books, picture books, and chapter books. Board books are best for babies and toddlers from ages newborn to 2 or 3. Picture books are generally great options for toddlers and for preschool and kindergarten age children. Picture books are especially enjoyable for adults to read aloud with young kids. The chapter books on our list are generally best for elementary through early middle school age tween kids. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid.

When it comes to children’s stories about self-reliance, there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like The Paper Bag Princess to popular sellers like Ella Enchanted to some of our favorite hidden gems like From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

We hope this list of kids books about self-reliance can be a helpful resource for parents, teachers, and others searching for a new book! As you explore the list, please comment below to let us know what books you would add.

A Little Princess: A Babylit(r) Friendship Primer
Written by Jennifer Adams & illustrated by Alison Oliver
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-6

Meet Sara’s friends with text from the original novel, A little princess, showing little ones that friends can be found in surprising places.

Cinder Edna
Written by Ellen Jackson & illustrated by Kevin O'Malley
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Cinderella and Cinder Edna, who live with cruel stepmothers and stepsisters, have different approaches to life; and, although each ends up with the prince of her dreams, one is a great deal happier than the others.

Ella Enchanted
Written by Gail Carson Levine
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

In this novel based on the story of Cinderella, Ella struggles against the childhood curse that forces her to obey any order given to her. At birth, Ella of Frell was given the gift of obedience by a fairy. Ella soon realizes that this gift is little better than a curse, for how can she truly be herself if at any time anyone can order her to hop on one foot, or cut off her hand, or betray her kingdom—and she’ll have to obey? Ella’s quest to break the curse and discover who she really is, is both funny and poignant.

The Paper Bag Princess
Written by Robert Munsch & illustrated by Michael Martchenko
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

Over five million copies in print!

When the fiercest dragon in the whole world smashes Princess Elizabeth’s castle, burns all her clothes, and captures her fiancé, Prince Ronald, Elizabeth takes matters into her own hands. With her wits alone and nothing but a paper bag to wear, the princess challenges the dragon to show his strength in the hopes of saving the prince. But is it worth all that trouble?

Readers the world-over have fallen in love with this classic story of girl power. Now a newly designed Classic Munsch edition will introduce the tale to a new generation of young feminists.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Written by E.L. Konigsburg
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

2017 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the beloved classic From the Mixed-up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

In this winner of the Newbery Medal from E.L. Konigsburg, when suburban Claudia Kincaid decides to run away, she knows she doesn’t just want to run from somewhere, she wants to run to somewhere—to a place that is comfortable, beautiful, and, preferably, elegant.

  • The Worst Princess - B is for Bookworm - I think this story of an untraditional princess is a great addition to any library! I love that the princess doesn’t just follow the “princess rules,” but shows that there is more than one way to be a princess.

  • DogFish - Everyone has a dog. Except for one little boy. He has a goldfish. He needs a dog. Mom says, “Why do you need a dog when you have such a nice goldfish?” But goldfish can’t catch sticks or go for walks or wag their tails…. Can they? Maybe they can…

  • The Two Princesses of Bamarre - B is for Bookworm - This story of some not so average princesses is full of adventure, but the main reason I like it is because of the courage, bravery, and love it entails. When one sister gets ill, the other steps out of her comfort zone and stands up to danger in order to help her sister.

  • Dear Girl, - A #1 New York Times bestseller which Today show co-anchor Hoda Kotb calls, “a beautiful, beautiful book” New York Times bestselling author of I Wish You More, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, and her daughter Paris Rosenthal collaborate to bring you the heartwarming and inspiring Dear Girl, Dear Girl, is a remarkable love letter written for the special girl in your life; a gentle reminder that she’s powerful, strong, and holds a valuable place in the world. Through Amy and Paris’s charming text and Holly Hatam’s stunning illustrations, any girl reading this book will feel that she’s great just the way she is—whether she enjoys jumping in a muddy puddle, has a face full of freckles, or dances on table tops. Dear Girl, encourages girls to always be themselves and to love who they are—inside and out. Dear Girl, This book is for you. Wonderful, smart, beautiful you. If you ever need a reminder, just turn to any page in this book and know that you are special and you are loved. —Amy and Paris A perfect gift for all occasions.

I Like Me!
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

I have a best friend. That best friend is Me!

Meet Nancy Carlson’s peppy pig—a character who is full of good feelings about herself. Her story will leave little ones feeling good about themselves, too!

Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible
Written & illustrated by Ursula Vernon
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Never a conventional princess, Harriet becomes an adventurer after learning she’s cursed to fall into a deep sleep on her twelfth birthday, but after two years of slaying ogres, cliff-diving, and more with her riding quail Mumfrey, things go awry at home and she must seek a prince to set things right.

The Princess Knight
Written by Cornelia Funke & illustrated by Kerstin Meyer
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

Envious of her brothers who are in training to become knights, young Violetta disguises herself as a boy in order to take part in the big jousting contest in the hopes of showing everyone that she is just as capable.

Go Get 'Em, Tiger!
Written by Sabrina Moyle & illustrated by Eunice Moyle
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-18

This very first picture book from the Hello!Lucky team celebrates milestones reached and challenges overcome!

The award-winning Hello!Lucky team brings their bold style and surefire laughs to a picture book about an exuberant tiger tackling life’s challenges and coming out on top. Perfect for celebrating any big milestone, from the first day of preschool to college graduation, and every goalpost in between.

Teacup
Written by Rebecca Young & illustrated by Matt Ottley
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

A boy must leave his home and find another. He brings with him a teacup full of earth from the place where he grew up, and sets off to sea. Some days, the journey is peaceful, and the skies are cloudless and bright. Some days, storms threaten to overturn his boat. And some days, the smallest amount of hope grows into something glorious. At last, the boy finds land, but it doesn’t feel complete . . . until another traveler joins him, bearing the seed to build a new home.

With lyrical text and gorgeous artwork, this poignant picture book is perfect for discussing all of life’s toughest challenges—a big move, a divorce, long-distance separation, or even the current refugee crisis—in a way that’s reassuring and inspiring for children and adults alike.

  • A Little Princess - A Little Princess is a 1905 children’s novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It is a revised and expanded version of Burnett’s 1888 serialised novel entitled Sara Crewe: or, What Happened at Miss Minchin’s Boarding School, which was published in St. Nicholas Magazine. According to Burnett, she had been composing a play based on the story when she found out a lot of characters she had missed. The publisher asked her to publish a new, revised story of the novella, producing the novel. Based on a 2007 online poll, the National Education Association named the book one of its “Teachers’ Top 100 Books for Children.” It was one of the “Top 100 Chapter Books” of all time in a 2012 poll by School Library Journal.

  • Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots? - Every inquisitive little girl wonders what it is really like to be a genuine princess. At the heart of Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots? lives an energetic, spirited, and contemporary child who has lots of important questions for her mom. Do princesses ride tricycles, climb trees, do chores, or have to eat the crusts of their bread? The mother’s voice is timelessly reassuring as she answers her daughter’s questions and advises her that being like a princess has to do with what we are on the inside.

  • Not All Princesses Dress in Pink - These princesses dig in the dirt, kick soccer balls, and splash in muddy puddles — all in their sparkly crowns!

  • Goodbye Brings Hello: A Book of Firsts - There are many ways of letting go. With each goodbye, a new hello. From being pushed on a swing to learning how to pump your legs yourself, from riding a beloved trike to mastering your first bike ride, from leaving the comforts of home behind to venturing forth on that first day of school, milestones are exciting but hard. They mean having to say goodbye to one moment in order to welcome the next. Honest and uplifting, this cheerfully illustrated ode to change gently empowers readers to brave life’s milestones, both large and small.

Fever 1793
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14

An epidemic of fever sweeps through the streets of 1793 Philadelphia in this novel from Laurie Halse Anderson where “the plot rages like the epidemic itself” (The New York Times Book Review). During the summer of 1793, Mattie Cook lives above the family coffee shop with her widowed mother and grandfather. Mattie spends her days avoiding chores and making plans to turn the family business into the finest Philadelphia has ever seen. But then the fever breaks out. Disease sweeps the streets, destroying everything in its path and turning Mattie’s world upside down. At her feverish mother’s insistence, Mattie flees the city with her grandfather. But she soon discovers that the sickness is everywhere, and Mattie must learn quickly how to survive in a city turned frantic with disease.

Princess Baby, Night-Night
Written & illustrated by Karen Katz
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

This bedtime book is perfect for little ones interested in princesses. I like that the baby is learning how to get ready for bed (and get her stuff animals ready, too) independently, though with some instruction from parents.

board book
Recommend Ages: 2-6

A latest entry in the series that includes Princess Baby on the Go features an exuberant little Princess Baby who does not feel sleepy at bedtime but who puts on her pajamas, puts away her toys, brushes her teeth and selects a perfect storybook before settling under the covers.

Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie
Written by Julie Sternberg & illustrated by Matthew Cordell
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 7-10

When nine-year-old Eleanor’s beloved babysitter Bibi moves away to care for her ailing father, Eleanor must spend the summer adjusting to a new babysitter while mourning the loss of her old one.

Part-time Princess
Written by Deborah Underwood & illustrated by Cambria Evans
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

A girl escapes her annoying little brother and the drudgery of school and home life when she travels to a magical kingdom each night and embarks on a series of adventures.

  • The Duck Princess - “The Duck Princess” is the wonderful story of a duck named Juniper, a monster and a bear wizard. Juniper faces a problem she thinks she can’t overcome but finds out the solution was within her the whole time.Written and illustrated by Zach Wilkinson, with photos by Paul Jarvis, this beautiful children’s picture book will take kids of all ages on a journey of self discovery and friendship through mountains and streams, forests and fields.

  • Princess Truly and the Hungry Bunny Problem - Princess Truly, the clever princess with magical hair, is playing outside when she hears a very sad sigh. Ever the curious girl, she decides to investigate and her beloved pug, Sir Noodles, follows her. They soon discover a very sad Lola Little. Lola’s bunny friends are hungry because her garden will not grow any carrots. Princess Truly and Sir Noodles are happy to help her with her hungry bunny problem. This enchanting tale features the delightful and whimsical illustrations of Amariah Rauscher.

  • Sadie: the Paper Crown Princess - Sadie is a spunky princess-in-training whose big ideas keep getting in the way of her earning her tiara. Her journey takes her from the Princess Academy on an around the world adventure where Sadie learns the meaning of being a real princess. With one last chance to prove herself worthy of a crown, Sadie follows her heart and discovers the beauty of being true to yourself.

  • Dealing with Dragons - Meet Princess Cimorene—a princess who refustes to be proper. She is everything a princess is not supposed to be: headstrong, tomobyish smart… And bored. So bored that she runs away to live with a dragon. And not just any dragon, but Kazul—one of the most powerful and dangerous dragons arounds. Of course, Cimorene has a way of hooking up with dangerous characters, and soon she’s coping with a witch,a a jinn, a death-dealing talking bird, a stone prince, and some very oily wizards. If this princess ran away to find some excitement, it looks like she’s found plenty! With a new look and new introduction from the author.

Fearless Girls, Wise Women, and Beloved Sisters
Written by Kathleen Ragan and Jane Yolen
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 6-10

Retells more than a hundred folktales form Europe, the Americas, Asia, the Pacific, Africa, and the Middle East that feature active heroines of all types.

A Blind Guide to Stinkville
Written & illustrated by Beth Vrabel
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Before Stinkville, Alice didn’t think albinism—or the blindness that goes with it—was a big deal. Sure, she uses a magnifier to read books. And a cane keeps her from bruising her hips on tables. Putting on sunscreen and always wearing a hat are just part of life. But life has always been like this for Alice. Until Stinkville.

For the first time in her life, Alice feels different—like she’s at a disadvantage. Back in her old neighborhood in Seattle, everyone knew Alice, and Alice knew her way around. In Stinkville, Alice finds herself floundering—she can’t even get to the library on her own. But when her parents start looking into schools for the blind, Alice takes a stand. She’s going to show them—and herself—that blindness is just a part of who she is, not all that she can be. To prove it, Alice enters the Stinkville Success Stories essay contest. No one, not even her new friend Kerica, believes she can scout out her new town’s stories and write the essay by herself. The funny thing is, as Alice confronts her own blindness, everyone else seems to see her for the first time.

This is a stirring small-town story that explores many different issues—albinism, blindness, depression, dyslexia, growing old, and more—with a light touch and lots of heart. Beth Vrabel’s characters are complicated and messy, but they come together in a story about the strength of community and friendship.

Sky Pony Press, with our Good Books, Racehorse and Arcade imprints, is proud to publish a broad range of books for young readers—picture books for small children, chapter books, books for middle grade readers, and novels for young adults. Our list includes bestsellers for children who love to play Minecraft; stories told with LEGO bricks; books that teach lessons about tolerance, patience, and the environment, and much more. While not every title we publish becomes a New York Times bestseller or a national bestseller, we are committed to books on subjects that are sometimes overlooked and to authors whose work might not otherwise find a home.

The Boxcar Children Fully Illustrated Edition
picture book
Recommend Ages: 7-10

The classic story of four orphaned siblings, Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny, who find an abandoned boxcar in the forest and decide to make it their home. Since its initial publication in 1942, The Boxcar Children has captivated many generations of readers. This fully illustrated edition commemorates the 75th anniversary of Gertrude Chandler Warner’s timeless novel. Featuring all-new full-color artwork as well as an afterword about the author, the history of the book, and the Boxcar Children legacy, this volume will be treasured by first-time readers and longtime fans alike.

A Blind Guide to Normal
Written & illustrated by Beth Vrabel
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Richie “Ryder” Raymond has a gift. He can find the punchline in any situation, even in his limited vision and prosthetic eye. During the past year at Addison School for the Blind, Ryder’s quick wit earned the respect and friendship of his classmates. Heading to mainstream, or “normal” school for eighth grade is going to be awesome.

After all, what’s not to like? At Addison, Ryder was everyone’s favorite person. He could make anyone laugh, especially his best friend Alice. So long as he can be first to make all of the one-eyed jokes, Ryder is sure he’ll fit in just as quick at Papuaville Middle School, home of the Fighting Guinea Pigs. But Alice warns him fitting in might not be as easy as he thinks.

Turns out, Alice was right. In just the first hour of “normal” school, Ryder is attacked by General MacCathur II (aka, Gramps’s cat), causes his bio teacher to pass out cold, makes an enemy out town hero Max, and falls for Jocelyn, the fierce girl next door who happens to be Max’s girlfriend. On top of that, Ryder struggles to hold onto his dignity in the face of students’ pity and Gramps’s non-stop practical jokes.

Ryder quickly sees the only thing worse than explaining a joke is being the punchline. But with help from his stuck-in-the-70s Gramps and encouragement from Alice, Ryder finds the strength to not only fight back, but to make peace.

This exciting sequel to A Blind Guide to Stinkville weaves humor, recovery and second chances into an unforgettable story, with characters who will hook you from page one.

Tuesdays at the Castle
Written by Jessica Day George
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

“A shape-shifting castle, a missing king and queen, and the young princess who must save her family and her kingdom. This is a clever, page-turning adventure for young fantasy readers.” - Seira Wilson, Amazon Editor

Tuesdays at Castle Glower are Princess Celie’s favorite days. That’s because on Tuesdays the castle adds a new room, a turret, or sometimes even an entire wing. No one ever knows what the castle will do next, and no one-other than Celie, that is-takes the time to map out the new additions. But when King and Queen Glower are ambushed and their fate is unknown, it’s up to Celie, with her secret knowledge of the castle’s never-ending twists and turns, to protect their home and save their kingdom. This delightful book from a fan- and bookseller-favorite kicks off a brand-new series sure to become a modern classic.

  • Princess Potty - After formally announcing that she has to go pee-pee or poo-poo, a princess rides her royal pony to the royal bathroom where she goes potty and gets a special princess sticker for her tiara as a reward.

  • The Haymeadow - Fourteen-year-old John comes of age and gains self-reliance during the summer he spends up in the Wyoming mountains tending his father’s herd of sheep.

  • Isabel and the Hungry Coyote - A little girl on her way to Grandma’s house. A basket of goodies. A lurking scoundrel. Sound familiar? Yes, but this time, the Chihuahua Desert of the American southwest is the setting for a spiced-up retelling of the classic Little Red Riding Hood story. Spunky Isabel outwits the cunning coyote with self-reliance and daring. Fiery tamales and chili sauce are the villain’s downfall. Also available in bilingual editions.

  • You Can! Words of Wisdom From The Little Engine That Could - The classic character that has inspired generations of children to believe in themselves will now inspire readers of every age in this book filled with encouraging words of wisdom. Everybody needs a little downtime for maintenance. There will always be obstacles you don’t anticipate. Wake up ready for an adventure. The Little Engine That Could is one of the most popular and enduring children’s stories of all time, and for more than eighty-five years, this classic character has encouraged readers to try their hardest to achieve their dreams. This story of determination and inspiration has now been reimagined in a charming, illustrated gift book that will speak to readers no matter what the age and no matter what the challenge. This is the perfect gift for graduation, and for everyone who may need to be reminded, “You Can!”

Puppy Mind
Written & illustrated by Andrew Jordan Nance
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

In this picture book for children and adults, illustrated by Jim Durk, who is adored by thousands of children for his many Clifford the Big Red Dog and Thomas the Steam Engine books, a young boy discovers his mind is like a puppy, always wandering away, into the past or the future. He sets about learning to train his puppy mind to heel to the present moment. Through remembering to breathe, the boy becomes a stronger and more caring master of his puppy mind, keeping it in the present, if only for a moment. Includes a link to a discussion guide for parents and teachers.

Tintinnabula
Written by Margo Lanagan & illustrated by Rovina Cai
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-7

In wild times and in wartime, in times of fear and illness, I go to Tintinnabula, where soft rains fall. Tintinnabula is a story about moving from discomfort to peace, from violence and uncertainty to a still, sure place. It reminds us that our best friend in hard times can often be ourselves.

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