12 Children's Books with Non-Princess Female Protagonists

12 Children's Books with Non-Princess Female Protagonists

Tess Wilson
Nov 11, 2014
(Image credit: Macmillan Publishers)

I was reshelving picture books in the library the other day, and happened to notice that of the twelve in my arms, only two featured a female lead- and one of those books was about getting a haircut and the other was about being a princess. This is unacceptable...

Granted, that was a small sample size, but it is an example of what I see everyday: the vast majority of children's books feature a male protagonist, whether he's human or not. If it's a book about a panda bear, it's a male panda, if it's a ghost, it's a male ghost, if it's a chicken, it's a rooster. This imbalance gives kids the wrong idea from a very young age. And while there's nothing wrong with a princess book now and again (but wouldn't a little girl rather be a queen? You get jewels and power!), I rail against the fact that so many of the books featuring girls are ultra-girly books. Let's read to our kids about little engines, hungry caterpillars, and mischief-makers and monsters of all genders. Here are 12 of my favorite female-led books, mostly new, but with a few classics thrown in and SPOILERS abound...

  1. The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kahara (above): Young female librarian helps her community, promotes literacy, and is all-around awesome.
  2. Mossy by Jan Brett: Independent female turtle, revered female scientist, and talented female artists all do excellent work, and doctor's young niece saves the day.
  3. Blueberry Girl by Neil Gaiman + Charles Vess: As the dust jacket says, "a much-loved baby grows into a young woman: brave, adventurous, and lucky."
  4. Prudence Wants A Pet by Cathleen Daly + Stephen Michael King: Independent, creative little girl wants a pet, makes-do with stick, twig, etc.
  5. Silly Doggy by Adam Stower: Young girl wholeheartedly loves bear, is, in author's words, "[one] of those wonderful people who embrace life with a fearlessly positive attitude".
  6. The Wolves In The Walls by Neil Gaiman + Dave McKean: Young girl triumphs over doubters, wolves.
  7. Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson + E.B. Lewis: A powerful, heartbreaking account of bullying, isolation, prejudice, and regret
  8. The Grey Lady and The Strawberry Snatcher by Molly Bang: Independent elderly lady protects her possessions and evades stalker, enjoys delicious, healthy snack.
  9. Julia's House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke: Young girl provides refuge, guidance for outcasts, judges not on the color of the skin, horns, nor scales
  10. The Night Before First Grade by Natasha Wing + Deborah Zemke: Independent young girl advances her education, navigates social situations, provides for herself, and rises to new challenges.
  11. Corduroy by Don Freeman: Young girl gives bear a home and practices valuable skill, mother has incredible posture, both are financially responsible.
  12. Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems: Very young girl recovers her property, speaks her mind.

Please share your favorites, and remember that books make fabulous holiday- or anytime- gifts!

Also on Apartment Therapy:

  • 10 Juvenile Fiction Books With Female Protagonists
  • 10 YA Books With Female Protagonists
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