Growing up isn’t easy, with girls facing an increasing range of pressures, whether that’s fitting in with peers, or standing out for parents. Talking is important, but books are an excellent way to explore some of these issues, as well as simply giving girls space and ideas to work out who they are, and who they want to be.
In the 1970s, Joan Aiken’s Arabel helped me be inquisitive and impulsive, while Enid Blyton’s George and Johanna Spyri’s Heidi instilled in me independence and adventure. Then, in the 1980s, Judy Blume taught me everything I needed to know about growing up. Now, the go-to authors for navigating girlhood are Jacqueline Wilson and, for older girls, Cathy Cassidy, but there many more classics as well as undiscovered gems that will help guide girls from the terrible twos right up to the tricky teen years.
Some of these take on well-worn gender stereotypes, some explore how far you should go for friendship, while others offer role models, factual and fictional, to inspire girls to greatness, whatever their age and their goals.
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Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts
Shy Rosie conjures up incredible inventions from odds and ends, from hot dog dispensers to helium pants. If only she were brave enough to let anyone see them. An inspirational story about pursuing your dream, and learning from failure, from the team behind the equally uplifting Ada Twist, Scientist.
Wendy Meddour, illustrated by Rebecca Ashdowns
“For despite her long hair and her ravishing looks, she loved nothing better than reading good books!” Told in charming rhyme, this should be a lesson to us all that books, not boys, help us make our way in the world.
Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Caroline Binch
Grace is desperate for the part of Peter Pan in the school play, until her classmates point out Peter is a boy, and he isn’t black. Thankfully her Ma and Nan tell her she can be whatever she wants to be, if she just puts her mind to it.
Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo
What if the princess didn’t marry Prince Charming but instead went on to be an astronaut? What if the jealous stepsisters were supportive and kind? And what if the queen was the one really in charge of the kingdom?
This book introduces us to a hundred amazing women from around the world, from Malala to Michelle Obama, with their incredible life stories retold as modern fairy tales.
This book celebrates the achievements of extraordinary female pioneers from British archaeologist Mary Anning to African-American NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson who calculated Apollo 11’s trajectory to the moon.