We wrote in our last blog about awesome female authors. In the same way that we need to read books by female authors, we also need to see strong female protagonists in literature, especially children’s literature. It is about empowerment!
Books can be mirrors or windows. Female readers need to see their likeness reflected back to them, but they also to experience the lives of female readers who come from different backgrounds with different perspectives. Non-female readers need to be able to walk in the shoes of characters who have lives they can only begin to imagine.
It seems that sometimes people have negative views about spunky female child protagonists. You may remember there was some online discussion several years back about Junie B. Jones, the character in the series by Barbara Park. Some parents didn’t like her character because she was irreverent and outspoken, while others loved her for exactly those characteristics.
In honor of Women’s Month, we are happy to provide you with this amazing list of phenomenal female protagonists.
An absolutely phenomenal book is One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, a story about three sisters who visited their mother in Oakland, California. Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern are an absolute hoot, but there is a serious thread that underpins the novel. They learn about the Black Panthers and about why their mother left the family when her youngest daughter was an infant. These sisters have a lot of personality; they stand up for each other but are also tender and open to new ideas.
When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller is the story of four women in Korea: a sick grandmother, a mother, and two daughters. Lily’s sister calls her a ‘quiet Asian girl,” and Lily begins to think that is all she is. But her grandmother’s illness helps her realize she is strong, like a tiger, inside and out.
Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata fantasy series tell the story of Sunny Nwazue, an Albino girl whose parents move from America to Nigeria, where her parents were born. Sunny makes friends, but also discovers some unique powers she has. It is her leadership and drive that propel the story.
Carole Boston Weatherford has created some amazing nonfiction picture books that show the lives of Black women who have made important contributions to the world, including Aretha Franklin in the book RESPECT: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, and Fannie Lou Hamer in the book Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement.
Finally, Deedee Cummings has created an entire series of books called Kayla: A Modern-Day Princess, based on the perseverance and talent of her own daughter, Kayla Pecchioni, who took her passion for singing and dance is now a performer on Broadway in New York City.
What books do you know of that can inspire young female readers? Share them with us!