20 Brilliant Books to Celebrate Bold Girls

Jill Holtz

March 8, 2018

bold girls

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The Mykidstime Team are all big book fans, so we were thrilled to hear about a new initiative from Children’s Books Ireland called BOLD GIRLS launching on March 8th 2018, appropriately for International Women’s Day and in the centenary of Irish women’s suffrage. They have launched a new BOLD GIRLS Reading Guide and they have shared 20 Brilliant Books to Celebrate Bold Girls with us:

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The new Children’s Books Ireland BOLD GIRLS Reading Guide is an 88-page publication reviewing 173 children’s books (in English and the Irish language) which feature strong women and girls, for readers aged 0–18, including classics and non-fiction.

There are reviews and information on books that feature female characters with agency, power and opinions, addressing at a young age some of the issues that stand in the way of women achieving their ambitions, whether that be in leadership, in government or in the arts.

These are stories from Ireland and around the globe, featuring pirates, politicians, ponies, polar bears, pilots, princesses and pretty much everything in between, from authors and illustrators ranging from Marita Conlon-McKenna to Roald Dahl to L. M. Montgomery.

The Reading Guide is online from childrensbooksireland.ie and good bookstores while stocks last.

Here are 20 books from the Guide to give you a flavour:

#1. Maisy’s Digger by Lucy Cousins

Maisy's DiggerWALKER BOOKS 2015 (BOARDBOOK) 18pp £5.99 ISBN 9781406358155

Those familiar with Maisy books will recognise immediately the bright, colourful illustrations and familiar characters who populate her world. In Maisy’s Digger, Maisy is driving a digger and takes great pleasure in showing some of the things she can use it for. She is then joined by her friends who help her to complete their project. The nice repetition of the action words will engage young readers. A lovely, simple story about working together to create something everyone can enjoy.

READ ALSO: Maisy’s Fire Engine; Maisy’s Moon Landing; Doctor Maisy

#2. I’m a Girl! by Yasmeen Ismail

I'm a GirlBLOOMSBURY CHILDREN’S BOOKS 2015 (PBK) 32pp £6.99 ISBN 9781408857007

I’m A Girl! Is the story of a fast, loud, messy, strong and spontaneous girl who is constantly mistaken for a boy because of how she behaves and how she dresses. She’s supposed to be sugar and spice, but she doesn’t want to be quiet and nice all the time: she wants to win races, learn all about boats and play loud music. I’m A Girl! celebrates girls who do their own thing and don’t feel pigeon-holed by gender stereotypes.

READ ALSO: Nothing! by Yasmeen Ismail

You might also enjoy reading Why Picture Books Are Good For All Ages

#3. Izzy Gizmo by Pip Jones, illustrated by Sarah Ogilvie

Izzy GizmoSIMON & SCHUSTER 2017 (PBK) 32pp £6.99 ISBN 9780857075130

Izzy Gismo is a book about never giving up and is for every girl who wants to be an inventor, or possibly a veterinarian. Izzy puts all her inventiveness, creativity and ingenuity into practice to help an unfortunate injured crow to fly again. Izzy teaches us all that making mistakes, but continuing to persist, is the key to success in all our daily activities. At the end we are left to ponder how she will help other needy characters coming her way.

READ ALSO: Is Breá le Lúlú an Leabharlann le Áine Nic Cuinn agus Rosalind Beardshaw

#4. Little Red by Bethan Woollvyn

Little RedTWO HOOTS 2017 (PBK) 32pp £6.99 ISBN 9781447291404

Little Red (yes, that one!) dutifully takes a cake to her sick relative but on arrival, unlike her more gullible namesake, she knows that is not granny in the bed. She takes matters into her own hands in a most decisive and satisfying matter. Little Red is no naïve little girl who might be fooled by a wolf or rescued by a man. This beautifully paced and wryly funny retelling of the traditional tale will cause many to smile and more to cheer. Illustrations are in a muted palette through which Little Red blazes a trail in more ways than one.

READ ALSO: Rapunzel; Hansel & Gretel

You might also enjoy reading 10 Great Stories For Kids You Should Have In Your Home

#5. You’re Amazing, Anna Hibiscus! by Atinuke, illustrated by Lauren Tobia

Anna HibiscusWALKER BOOKS 2016 (PBK) 96pp £5.99 ISBN 9781406349139

In You’re Amazing, Anna Hibiscus! Anna Hibiscus and her extended family live together in a big house in Africa. Coping with troublesome younger brothers, the death of her beloved grandfather and a falling-out with her best friend, Anna learns important lessons about life: that stories are powerful and healing, that you should always try to right the wrongs you do and, no matter what happens in life, you can still be happy. The rhythm of the writing echoes the oral tradition of Africa and lively illustrations bring the strong cast of characters to life. A beautiful portrait of a child facing and overcoming grief, Anna Hibiscus is indeed amazing.

READ ALSO: Hooray for Anna Hibiscus!; Chicken in the Kitchen by Nnedi Okorafor and Mehrdokht Amini

#6. Little People, Big Dreams: Frida Kahlo by Isabel Sánchez Vegara, illustrated by Gee Fan Eng, translated by Emma Martinez

Frida KahloFRANCES LINCOLN 2016 (HBK) 32pp £9.99 ISBN 9781847807700

Long overshadowed by the artistic success of her husband, muralist Diego Rivera, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo only achieved worldwide fame twenty years after her death, a fame that has since earned itself the label ‘Fridamania’. This book Little People, Big Dreams: Frida Kahlo looks back to the beginning of young Frida’s life in Mexico and follows her into adulthood. Kahlo’s life is scarred by hardships and the text does a great job in mentioning some of them with a very light touch, leaving the illustrations to convey some of the more dramatic information. An emotional biography that reads like a story, this is truly empowering and inspirational. (Age 5–8)

READ ALSO: the rest of the Little People, BIG DREAMS series

You may also enjoy reading 10 More Good Books Every Home Should Have

#7. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren, illustrated by Tony Ross

Pippi LongstockingOXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS 2015 [1945] (PBK) 138pp £5.99 ISBN 9780192793799

Beloved for generations, Pippi Longstocking is the girl free from rules from parents and society. Written in 1945, her bizarre antics have stood the test of time and she remains a delightfully anarchic presence, quite the inspiration to any young readers perhaps a little tired of being on their best behaviour. Her super strength and love of tall tales are explored in many amusing episodes and readers will be laughing from here to a certain small village in Sweden. (Ages 5–8)

READ ALSO: Ronia the Robber’s Daughter by Astrid Lindgren

#8. Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts

Rosie RevereABRAMS BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS 2014 (HBK) 32pp £13.99 ISBN 9781419708459

Rosie Revere is a young inventor, always coming up with ingenious solutions for life’s challenges, but she’s too shy to show them to anyone. A visit from her great-great-aunt Rose, who reveals that her greatest wish is to fly, inspires Rosie to invent a flying machine to help Aunt Rose achieve her ambition. Rosie learns that failures are a necessary part of the inventing process and help to get to the next stage and eventually on to success. This is a book that will encourage conversations around perfection and expectation, with delightfully detailed illustrations.

READ ALSO: Rosie Revere’s Big Project Book for Bold Engineers; Ada Twist, Scientist

You might also like reading The 10 Best Books For Kids Aged 8-12 Years

#9. The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton

WALKER BOOKS 2015 (PBK) 40pp £6.99 ISBN 9781406365382

Princess and the PonyBeaton, with her background in comics, has a hilarious, fresh style. Her superhero warriors (many of whom are women) are wonderful, her colours are quirky and her pacing is perfect. The Princess and the Pony is the tale of Princess Pinecone who longs for a pony instead of yet another fluffy jumper for her birthday. Soon her parents cop on and present Pinecone with a not-quite-right pony on her big day. This small, round warrior turns out to be just the one to help Princess Pinecone win an important battle, but in a way you couldn’t possibly expect!

READ ALSO: Isadora Moon Gets into Trouble and Isadora Moon Goes Camping by Harriet Muncaster

#10. Women in Sport: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win by Rachel Ignotofsky

Women in SportWREN AND ROOK 2018 (HBK) 128pp £12.99 ISBN 9781526360922

Women in Sport: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win is the follow-up to Ignotofsky’s extraordinary book about women in science, and introduces young readers to over a century of women in sport. From women who competed in male events to record-breaking swimmers, from referees to coaches, and from famous names to lesser-known sporting heroines, Ignotofsky does not shirk from the difficulties these women faced to become the best. A fascinating book that reminds girls how powerful and capable women can be in the face of adversity, across all sporting genres. Packed with Ignotofsky’s notable portraits, remarkable facts and inspiring quotes, this is a must-have for any bold girl. (Age 7–10)

You might also enjoy The Best Non Fiction Books for Kids

#11. Rebel Voices: The Rise of Votes for Women by Louise Kay Stewart illustrated by Eve Lloyd Knight

Rebel VoicesWREN & ROOK 2018 (HBK) 48pp £12.99 ISBN 9781526300232

Rebel Voices: The Rise of Votes for Women refuses to conform, starting by rebelling against gendered book design. How women are disempowered by gendering and stereotyping is demonstrated positively by a whistle-stop tour of the women’s suffrage movement from its first success in New Zealand in 1893 and on around the world. Readers will be captivated by stories of female activism that will inspire new recruits to the women’s rights movement. Hard as it is to believe, the global fight for women’s right to vote is not over yet, and since the year 2000, six countries have granted their female citizens the right to vote – want to know which ones? Read this book! (Ages 8–10, 10–12)

#12. Mollie on the March by Anna Carey

Mollie on the MarchTHE O’BRIEN PRESS MARCH 2018 (PBK) 352pp €8.99 ISBN 9781788490085

Everyone’s favourite young suffragette makes a welcome return in this timely sequel, Mollie on the March. Mollie and Nora continue their dedication to votes for women as they attempt to contribute to the suffragettes’ protest of British Prime Minister Asquith’s visit to Ireland. However, with terrible cousins, crazy dogs and the threat of danger and arrest, not everything goes according to plan. Mollie is a wonderfully fearless character whose interrogation of her identity as a suffragette is sure to get readers interested in feminism and women’s history. Carey draws expertly on the past while echoing challenges facing women today. Absolutely not to be missed.

READ ALSO: The Making of Mollie by Anna Carey

You might also enjoy reading Books I Loved As a Child

#13. Matilda by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake 

MatildaPUFFIN 2016 [1988] (PBK) 256pp £6.99 ISBN 9780141365466

Matilda is an unappreciated five-year-old genius coping with the world’s worst parents and a headmistress from hell. Resourceful Matilda teaches herself to read and uses the magic of books to transport herself into new worlds. Her super-brain develops a strange power that Matilda puts to effective use to build herself a new life and a new family. A story full of wisdom, wit and hope for the future, with extraordinarily expressive line drawings, Matilda is the best of all classic bold girls to read or re-read. (Ages 9–11)

READ ALSO: Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

You might also enjoy reading The BFG and 9 Other Epic Stories with Giants

#14. Rocking the System: Fearless and Amazing Irish Women Who Made History by Siobhán Parkinson, illustrated by Bren Luke

Rocking the SystemLITTLE ISLAND BOOKS 2018 (HBK) 208PP €15.00 ISBN 9781910411964

Rocking the System: Fearless and Amazing Irish Women Who Made History celebrates twenty remarkable Irish women, their achievements and their impact on society. The biographies are organised chronologically by birth year, from mythical Queen Medhbh to athlete Sonia O’Sullivan. Each opens with a sketch derived from a portrait photograph and a single-sentence summary of their claim to fame. Their lives and the historical context of the struggles they overcame are discussed in a multi-page essay. Break-out boxes interrupt with interesting asides, poetry quotations and short articles on family and friends. A summarising timeline concludes each excellent profile. An educational, eye-opening introduction to a selection of inspirational Irish heroines. (Ages 9–11, 12–16)

#15. I am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up For Education and Changed The World by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick

i am malalaORION CHILDREN’S BOOKS 2015 (PBK) 272pp £7.99 ISBN 9781780622163

On a ‘most ordinary of days’ a man boarded a school bus and asked, ‘Who is Malala?’ He shot the fifteen-year-old three times, almost killing her: her campaign for girls’ education had already gone global, and the Taliban wanted her dead. She recounts her journey from ordinary Pakistani childhood, through imposed sharia law and death threats, to safety in the UK. I am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up For Education and Changed The World is a personal account of an otherwise ordinary life lived by an extraordinary girl may inspire readers to raise their own voices against injustice. A glossary, timeline of important events and colour photographs provide some historical and cultural context. (Age 11+)

#16. Lydia: The Wild Girl of Pride & Prejudice by Natasha Farrant

Lydia Wild GirlCHICKEN HOUSE 2016 (PBK) 304pp £7.99 ISBN 9781910002971

In Natasha Farrant’s Lydia, we meet the youngest of the Bennett sisters from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Rooted firmly in the recognisable landscape of Austen’s novel and sharing the same tone and concerns, Farrant’s approach is fresh and fun. Lydia is a heroine that will appeal to contemporary readers with her energy, determination and optimism. She has a healthy appetite for food and life, refusing to be bound by the narrow rules of society and preferring to swim with the boys in the river and ride horseback. Escaping the countryside for Brighton, Lydia glimpses new possibilities through the introduction of new characters and a new plot line. An enjoyable read.

READ ALSO: After Iris: The Diary of Bluebell Gadsby

You might also enjoy reading 10 of the Coolest Classic Books for Teens 

#17. Wing Jones by Katherine Webber 

Wing JonesWALKER BOOKS 2017 (PBK) 384pp £7.99 ISBN 9781406369090

Wing Jones comes from a long line of bold girls, including her Chinese Granny LaoLao and her Ghanian Granny Dee. Living in the shadow of her football hero brother, Wing becomes the target of the school bully. As her family struggle after a catastrophic accident leaves them with crippling medical bills and a changed future, Wing discovers her astonishing talent for running. Determined to use her talent to help her family, even at the risk of losing her first love, Wing overcomes many obstacles to prove herself a true bold girl. A direct writing style and a nuanced view of life and relationships bring depth to this rewarding read.

READ ALSO: The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan

#18. Star by Star by Sheena Wilkinson

Star by StarLITTLE ISLAND BOOKS 2017 (PBK) 180pp ISBN 9781910411537

Set in 1918 against the backdrop of the flu epidemic, the Great War and the Irish struggle for independence, Star by Star is a novel that is full of hope. Themes of loss, grief, trauma and change are explored through Stella, a vulnerable, impulsive, feisty and thoroughly likeable heroine who is as concerned with fashion and making friends as she is with injustice and political causes. Wilkinson’s writing gives the novel a contemporary feel while being grounded in historical fact. It creates a sense of empowerment using the beautiful imagery of the night sky lighting up one star at a time, just as the course of history can be changed person by person.

READ ALSO: Name upon Name by Sheena Wilkinson

#19. Things a Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nichols

Things a Bright Girl can DoANDERSEN PRESS 2018 (PBK) 432pp £7.99 ISBN 9781783446735

The message to be drawn from this marvellous historical novel is that history is about everyone. Nicholls’s three protagonists, from very different social milieus but all involved in aspects of the suffrage movement in London, demonstrate different types of feminism in the lead-up to and during World War I. Like much of the literature about 1916, this book raises questions about historiography and how the experience of women was written out of history for much of the twentieth century. Drawing heavily on the writings of Vera Brittain and Sylvia Pankhurst, among others, Nicholls has created a compelling and moving narrative in Things a Bright Girl Can Do. Compulsory reading.

READ ALSO: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

#20. Tangleweed and Brine by Deirdre Sullivan, illustrated by Karen Vaughan

Tangleweed and BrineLITTLE ISLAND BOOKS 2017 (HBK) 180pp €16.00 ISBN 9781910411926

Tangleweed and Brine is a fantastic collection of short stories, based on fairy tales we all know and love, told from the perspectives of women in the stories. Don’t expect to always know which character’s perspective you are listening to; there are twists and turns to be found in these beautifully told adaptations, where heroines and villainesses alike give their own views. Some themes are adult, and in particular involve mature relationships. The plots are not what you expect, the language is beautifully descriptive and the characters are brave, resilient and realistic, which altogether made this book an absolute pleasure to read.

READ ALSO: Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

About the BOLD GIRLS project

Bold Girls LogoFor the centenary of women’s suffrage in Ireland in 2018, Children’s Books Ireland’s BOLD GIRLS project celebrates strong, confident, intelligent, brave women and girls in children’s books, giving them much-needed visibility alongside their male counterparts.

BOLD GIRLS aim is to break down societal barriers and to instil confidence in girls and young women by showing them female characters in children’s books with agency, power and opinions, addressing at a young age some of the issues that stand in the way of women achieving their ambitions, whether that be in leadership, in government or in the arts.

BOLD GIRLS will highlight and review books that feature strong, intelligent, self-possessed female protagonists in children’s books, as well as celebrating twenty female Irish authors and illustrators, both emerging and established, who have made an exceptional contribution to the canon of Irish children’s literature.

As part of the initiative BOLD GIRL partner Trinity College Dublin will celebrate the fantastic skill and artistry of Irish women writers and illustrators of children’s texts with an exhibition entitled Story Spinners: Irish Women and Children’s Books in the Long Room of the Old Library. BOLD GIRLS events will take place across the country, and schools will be able to download a free BOLD GIRLS Resource Pack.

Visit the Children’s Books website at www.childrensbooksireland.ie, find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/childrensbooksireland, on Twitter @KidsBooksIrel, on Instagram at www.instagram.com/kidsbooksirel and follow the hashtag #BOLDGIRLS.

Over to you now. What do you think of this BOLD GIRLS project? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below. 

bold girls

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