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15 Inspiring Kids Books About Women Who Changed the World

The Children’s Book Review | March 20, 2019

Why should we read books about women who changed the world? That’s easy! It’s deeply inspiring and encourages all children, both boys and girls, to raise their voices and shout: Here she is and yes she can! When we read books about any human that makes a difference, it reminds us that we can all make a change to the world by being thoughtful, honest, hardworking, and caring people.

“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” ― Malala Yousafzai, I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban

So many women have worked incredibly hard for equality and a better world. It is an honor to read about them. Here are 15 inspiring kids books about women who changed the world in their own special way …

A is For AwesomeA Is for Awesome: 23 Iconic Women Who Changed the World

Written by Eva Chen

Illustrated by Derek Desierto

Publisher’s Synopsis: Why stick with plain old A, B, C when you can have Amelia (Earhart), Malala, Tina (Turner), Ruth(Bader Ginsburg), all the way to eXtraordinary You―and the Zillion of adventures you will go on?

Instagram superstar Eva Chen, author of Juno Valentine and the Magical Shoes, is back with an alphabet board book depicting feminist icons in A Is for Awesome: 23 Iconic Women Who Changed the World, featuring spirited illustrations by Derek Desierto.

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Ages 1-3 | Publisher: Feiwel & Friends | February 5, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-1250215994

Wild Horse Annie- Friend of the MustangsWild Horse Annie: Friend of the Mustangs

Written by Tracey Fern

Illustrated by Steven Salerno

Publisher’s Synopsis: Wild Horse Annie was the nickname of Velma Bronn Johnston (1912–77), loved mustangs all her life. When she saw mustangs being rounded up and killed to make room for ranchers’ livestock, she knew she had to speak up. In 1950, she began writing letters to local newspapers and politicians, defending the horses’ right to raom free.

Many people told Annie to hush up, but they couldn’t stop her. She soon became a voice for mustangs throughout the state of Nevada, speaking on their behalf at town halls and meetings.

But Annie was only one person, and she wanted to do more. So she got children to speak up, too, by having them write letters to Washington, D.C., officials to ask them to save the mustangs. Finally, with the help of her young “pencil brigade,” Annie persuaded Congress to pass nationwide laws protecting wild horses and burros on public land nationwide.

Readers will find inspiration in author Tracey Fern and artist Steven Salerno’s portrait of an early animal-rights advocate, who spoke up for what she believed in, and empowered a generation of children to be a voice for the voiceless.

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Ages 4-7 | Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux | February 19, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-0374303068

Dancing Through Fields of ColorDancing Through Fields of Color

Written by Elizabeth Brown

Illustrated by Aimée Sicuro

Publisher’s Synopsis: They said only men could paint powerful pictures, but Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011) splashed her way through the modern art world. Channeling deep emotion, Helen poured paint onto her canvas and danced with the colors to make art unlike anything anyone had ever seen. She used unique tools like mops and squeegees to push the paint around, to dazzling effects. Frankenthaler became an originator of the influential “Color Field” style of abstract expressionist painting with her “soak stain” technique, and her artwork continues to electrify new generations of artists today. Dancing Through Fields of Color discusses Frankenthaler’s early life, how she used colors to express emotion, and how she overcame the male-dominated art world of the 1950s.

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Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Harry N. Abrams | March 19, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-1419734106

Brave Ballerina- The Story of Janet CollinsBrave Ballerina: The Story of Janet Collins

Written by Michelle Meadows

Illustrated by Ebony Glenn

Publisher’s Synopsis: A lyrical picture book biography of Janet Collins, the first African American principal dancer at the Metropolitan Opera House.

Janet Collins wanted to be a ballerina in the 1930s and 40s, a time when racial segregation was widespread in the United States. Janet pursued dance with a passion, despite being rejected from discriminatory dance schools. When she was accepted into the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo as a teenager on the condition that she paint her skin white for performances, Janet refused. She continued to go after her dreams, never compromising her values along the way. From her early childhood lessons to the height of her success as the first African American prima ballerina in the Metropolitan Opera, Brave Ballerina is the story of a remarkable pioneer as told by Michelle Meadows, with fantastic illustrations from Ebony Glenn.

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Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. | January 8, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-1250127730

Along Came Coco Eva ByrneAlong Came Coco: A Story about Coco Chanel

Written and Illustrated by Eva Byrne

Publisher’s Synopsis: In a time when children were meant to be seen and not heard, along came Coco, a small French orphan with an eye for style, a talent for sewing, and a big imagination. Coco grew up in an orphanage run by very strict nuns, but she wasn’t very good at following rules. At a time when girls were told to brush their hair 100 times until their arms were sore, Coco promised herself that one day she would snip away her locks so that she wouldn’t have to be so fussy—girls needed time for other things, and they needed some of the comforts that boys enjoyed. Why shouldn’t girls have pockets? And why did they have to wear corsets all the time? An exploration of Coco’s early life and a celebration of her creativity, Along Came Coco ​shows the ways in which Coco Chanel’s imaginative spirit led her to grow into one of the world’s most beloved fashion icons.

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Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Harry N. Abrams | March 19, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-1419734250

Hedy Lamarr's Double Life- Hollywood Legend and Brilliant InventorHedy Lamarr’s Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor

Written by Laurie Wallmark

Illustrated by Katy Wu

Publisher’s Synopsis: Movie star by day, ace inventor at night: learn about the hidden life of actress Hedy Lamarr!

To her adoring public, Hedy Lamarr was a glamorous movie star, widely considered the most beautiful woman in the world. But in private, she was something more: a brilliant inventor. And for many years only her closest friends knew her secret. Now Laurie Wallmark and Katy Wu, who collaborated on Sterling’s critically acclaimed picture-book biography Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code, tell the inspiring story of how, during World War Two, Lamarr developed a groundbreaking communications system that still remains essential to the security of today’s technology.

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Ages 5+ | Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books | February 5, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-1454926917

Counting on Katherine- How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13

Written by Helaine Becker

Illustrated by Dow Phumiruk

Publisher’s Synopsis: The bold story of Katherine Johnson, an African-American mathematician who worked for NASA during the space race and was depicted in the film Hidden Figures.

You’ve likely heard of the historic Apollo 13 moon landing. But do you know about the mathematical genius who made sure that Apollo 13 returned safely home?

As a child, Katherine Johnson loved to count. She counted the steps on the road, the number of dishes and spoons she washed in the kitchen sink, everything! Boundless, curious, and excited by calculations, young Katherine longed to know as much as she could about math, about the universe.

From Katherine’s early beginnings as a gifted student to her heroic accomplishments as a prominent mathematician at NASA, Counting on Katherine is the story of a groundbreaking American woman who not only calculated the course of moon landings but, in turn, saved lives and made enormous contributions to history.

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Ages 5-9 | Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. | June 19, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1250137524

She SpokeShe Spoke: 14 Women Who Raised Their Voices and Changed the World

Written by Kathy MacMillan and Manuela Bernardi

Illustrated by Kathrin Honesta

Publisher’s Synopsis: When the world tells you to stay quiet, do you listen, or do you speak up? In She Spoke: 14 Women Who Raised Their Voices and Changed the World, with the touch of a button readers can hear Dr. Mary Mcleod Bethune, Dolores Huerta, Dr. Maya Angelou, Dr. Jane Goodall, Shirley Chisholm, Susan Shown Harjo, Hilary Rodham Clinton, Leymah Gbowee, Dr. Temple Grandin, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Tammy Duckworth, Dr. Joanne Liu, Abby Wambach, and Malala Yousafzai.

Through succinct profiles, stunning portraits by illustrator Kathrin Honesta, and the original voices of these women, She Spoke: 14 Women Who Raised Their Voices and Changed the World will inspire readers of all ages to share their own truths and change the world.

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Ages 6-9 | Publisher: Familius | March 1, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-1641701310

Wilma's Way Home- The Life of Wilma MankillerWilma’s Way Home: The Life of Wilma Mankiller

Written by Doreen Rappaport

Illustrated by Linda Kukuk

Publisher’s Synopsis: As a child in Oklahoma, Wilma Mankiller experienced the Cherokee practice of Gadugi, helping each other, even when times were hard for everyone. But in 1956, the federal government uprooted her family and moved them to California, wrenching them from their home, friends, and traditions. Separated from her community and everything she knew, Wilma felt utterly lost until she found refuge in the Indian Center in San Francisco. There, she worked to build and develop the local Native community and championed Native political activists. She took her two children to visit tribal communities in the state, and as she introduced them to the traditions of their heritage, she felt a longing for home.

Returning to Oklahoma with her daughters, Wilma took part in Cherokee government. Despite many obstacles, from resistance to female leadership to a life-threatening accident, Wilma’s courageous dedication to serving her people led to her election as the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation. As leader and advocate, she reinvigorated her constituency by empowering them to identify and solve community problems.
This beautiful addition to the Big Words series will inspire future leaders to persevere in empathy and thoughtful problem-solving, reaching beyond themselves to help those around them. Moving prose by award-winning author Doreen Rappaport is interwoven with Wilma’s own words in this expertly researched biography, illustrated with warmth and vivacity by Linda Kukuk.

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Ages 7-10 | Publisher: Disney-Hyperion | February 12, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-1484747186

Herstory- 50 Women and Girls Who Shook Up the WorldHerstory: 50 Women and Girls Who Shook Up the World

Written by Katherine Halligan

Illustrated by Sarah Walsh

Publisher’s Synopsis: Move aside history—it’s time for herstory.

Celebrate fifty inspiring and powerful women who changed the world and left their mark in this lavishly illustrated biography compilation that’s perfect for fans of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls and She Persisted.

Throughout history, girls have often been discussed in terms of what they couldn’t or shouldn’t do.

Not anymore.

It’s time for herstory—a celebration of not only what girls can do, but the remarkable things women have already accomplished, even when others tried to stop them.

In this uplifting and inspiring book, follow the stories of fifty powerhouse women from around the world and across time who each managed to change the world as they knew it forever. Telling the stories of their childhood, the challenges they faced, and the impact of their achievements, each lavishly illustrated spread is a celebration of girl power in its many forms. From astronauts to activists, musicians to mathematicians, these women are sure to motivate young readers of all backgrounds to focus not on the can’ts and shouldn’ts, but on what they can do: anything!

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Ages 8+ | Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | September 11, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1534436640

Frida Kahlo Little Guides to Great LivesLittle Guides to Great Lives: Frida Kahlo

Written by Isabel Thomas

Illustrated by Marianna Madriz

Publisher’s Synopsis: Frida Kahlo was a colorful Mexican artist who endured great pain and hardship, but used her bright, vivid brushstrokes to express her emotions and reveal her true personality. She created over 50 self-portraits, and is considered to be one of the most influential and inspirational artists of the 20th century.

Little Guides to Great Lives is a brand-new series of small-format guides introducing children to the most inspirational figures from history in a fun, accessible way. From Curie to Kahlo and Darwin to Da Vinci, Little Guides to Great Lives tells the stories of the most amazing people from all over the world and across history, with colorful illustrations and fresh design to bring their incredible stories to life.

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Ages 8-11 | Publisher: Laurence King Publishing | July 10, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1786273000

This Promise of ChangeThis Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story In the Fight for School Equality

Written by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy

Publisher’s Synopsis: In 1956, one year before federal troops escorted the Little Rock 9 into Central High School, fourteen year old Jo Ann Allen was one of twelve African-American students who broke the color barrier and integrated Clinton High School in Tennessee. At first things went smoothly for the Clinton 12, but then outside agitators interfered, pitting the townspeople against one another. Uneasiness turned into anger, and even the Clinton Twelve themselves wondered if the easier thing to do would be to go back to their old school. Jo Ann–clear-eyed, practical, tolerant, and popular among both black and white students—found herself called on as the spokesperson of the group. But what about just being a regular teen? This is the heartbreaking and relatable story of her four months thrust into the national spotlight and as a trailblazer in history. Based on original research and interviews and featuring backmatter with archival materials and notes from the authors on the co-writing process.

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Ages 10-12 | Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books | January 8, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-1681198521

Rad Girls Can- Stories of Bold Brave and Brilliant Young WomenRad Girls Can: Stories of Bold, Brave, and Brilliant Young Women

Written by Kate Schatz

Illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl

Publisher’s Synopsis: From the New York Times best-selling authors of Rad Women Worldwide and Rad American Women A-Z, a bold and brave collection of stories and art about inspiring and accomplished girls who have made positive impacts on the world before the age of 20.

In Rad Girls Can, you’ll learn about a diverse group of young women who are living rad lives, whether excelling in male-dominated sports like boxing, rock climbing, or skateboarding; speaking out against injustice and discrimination; expressing themselves through dance, writing, and music; or advocating for girls around the world. Each profile is paired with the dynamic paper-cut art that made the authors’ first two books New York Times best sellers. Featuring both contemporary and historical figures, Rad Girls Can offers hope, inspiration, and motivation to readers of all ages and genders.

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Ages 10+ | Publisher: Ten Speed Press | July 17, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0399581106

So Here I Am- Speeches by great women to empower and inspireSo Here I Am: Speeches by Great Women to Empower and Inspire

Written by Anna Russell

Illustrated by Camila Pinheiro

Publisher’s Synopsis: Discover the inspiring voices that have changed our world, and started a new conversation.

The first dedicated collection of seminal speeches by women from around the world, So Here I Am is about women at the forefront of change – within politics, science, human rights and media; discussing everything from free love, anti-war, scientific discoveries, race, gender and women’s rights.

From Emmeline Pankhurst’s ‘Freedom or Death’ speech and Marie Curie’s trailblazing Nobel lecture, to Michelle Obama speaking on parenthood in politics and Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza’s stirring ode to black women, the words collected here are empowering, engaging and inspiring.

With powerful illustrations from Camila Pinheiro, this anthology of outspoken women throughout history is essential reading for anyone who believes that change is not only possible, it is necessary.

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Ages 12+ | Publisher: White Lion Publishing | February 5, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-1781318270

Yes She CanYes She Can: 10 Stories of Hope & Change from Young Female Staffers of the Obama White House

Compiled by Molly Dillon

Publisher’s Synopsis: YES SHE CAN is an intimate look at Obama’s presidency through the eyes of some of the most successful, and completely relatable, young women who were there. Full of wisdom they wish they could impart to their younger selves and a message about the need for more girls in government, these recollections are about stepping out into the spotlight and up to the challenge–something every girl can do.

With contributions from Jenna Brayton, Eleanor Celeste, Nita Contreras, Kalisha Dessources Figures, Molly Dillon, Andrea R. Flores, Vivian P. Graubard, Noemie C. Levy, Taylor Lustig, and Jaimie Woo.

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Ages 12-17 | Publisher: Schwartz & Wade | March 5, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-1984848451

Header image from Breathe with Me (Sounds True, 2019).

The article 15 Inspiring Kids Books About Women Who Changed the World was curated by Bianca Schulze. For similar books and articles, follow along with our content tagged with .

Bianca Schulze is the founder of The Children’s Book Review. She is a reader, reviewer, mother and children’s book lover. She also has a decade’s worth of experience working with children in the great outdoors. Combined with her love of books and experience as a children’s specialist bookseller, the goal is to share her passion for children’s literature to grow readers. Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, she now lives with her husband and three children near Boulder, Colorado.

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