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21 girl power picture books to help inspire strong girls

These bold stories empower girls of all ages to be all they can be.
by Lisa Tolin / / Source: TODAY

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Remember when books aimed at girls were covered in pink and glitter? Today, all those princesses seem to be surrounded by small, raised fists.

Book sellers are embracing feminism for young readers, inspired by current events and the success of books — like “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls” and “She Persisted” — that celebrate the achievements of real women.

Fictional picture book heroines are also exploring science, math and political activism. Even board book babies are feminists now.

So, here are 21 books to inspire and empower the girls in your life:

“Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World” by Susan Hood and 13 illustrators, $15 (usually $19), Amazon

TODAY editors, writers and experts take care to recommend items we really like and hope you’ll enjoy! Just so you know, TODAY does have affiliate relationships. So, while every product is independently selected, if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the revenue.

Illustrated by 13 different female artists, this compilation of poems about earth-changing women features well-known figures like Nellie Bly and Frida Kahlo alongside the first female firefighter, the inventor of the modern swimsuit and more.

"Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 2" by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, $35, Amazon

“Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 2,” a follow-up to the original New York Times best-seller, features 100 stories about extraordinary women, including well known women and lesser known scientists, artists and revolutionaries.

“Dear Girl” by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Paris Rosenthal, Illustrated by Holly Hatam, $15 (usually $18), Amazon

“Dear Girl” offers wisdom for daughters about coloring outside the lines, keeping your hand raised and asking questions. Amy Krouse Rosenthal wrote “Dear Girl” with her daughter Paris before she died of ovarian cancer last year.

“Princesses Wear Pants” by Savannah Guthrie and Allison Oppenheim, $14 (usually $18), Amazon

Savannah Guthrie wanted her daughter, Vale, to know that even princesses need to get stuff done sometimes. “You can be a girly girl. You can dazzle, you can love makeup, you can love all that stuff. That’s fine — or not,” Savannah said. “But be a person of substance. Be a doer. And that’s a lesson for girls and boys.”

“Beautiful” by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, $13 (usually $17), Amazon

Stacy McAnulty’s text explores stereotypes about what makes girls beautiful, while the illustrations cleverly subvert them. The “perfect look” is dirty, and the best makeup is used for pirate mustaches.

“Malala’s Magic Pencil” by Malala Yousafzai, illustrated by Kerascoet, $12 (usually $18), Amazon

Malala tells her story of seeing a world that needed to change, and wishing for a magic pencil to change it. When education is taken from girls, and tragedy finds her, she discovers a different kind of magic.

“She Persisted Around the World” by Chelsea Clinton, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger, $13 (usually $18), Amazon

This follow-up to the best-seller “She Persisted” introduces young readers to more women who changed the world, including Marie Curie and Malala Yousafzai.

“Alabama Spitfire: The Story of Harper Lee and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’” by Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Erin McGuire, $13 (usually $18), Amazon

The true story of Harper Lee shows the “To Kill a Mockingbird” author growing from a tomboy who shunned the “pink penitentiary” of girlhood into the one of the most celebrated writers of the 20th century.

“Charlotte the Scientist is Squished” by Camille Andros, illustrated by Brianne Farley, $14 (usually $17), Amazon

Charlotte is a scientist with a problem: too many brothers and sisters in her way. She uses the scientific method to formulate some hypotheses, test them and find herself some space.

“Ada Twist, Scientist” by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts, $13 (usually $18), Amazon

Like her predecessor “Rosie Revere, Engineer,” Ada Twist is born for STEM. In this rhyming romp, she sets out to find out what smells so bad, with a series of elaborate experiments.

"I Am Enough" by Grace Byers, illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo, $15 (usually $19), Amazon

This lyrical ode to self-love tells girls to rise like air, grow like trees and soar like birds. Though we are all different, we are all enough.

“Feminist Baby Finds Her Voice” by Loryn Brantz, $7 (usually $10), Amazon

Why stop at learning to talk when your baby can stand up for equal rights? This is a rhyming sequel to “Feminist Baby.”

“Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History” by Vashti Harrison, $14 (usually $17), Amazon

Forty women are highlighted, including pilot Bessie Coleman and activist Ruby Bridges. Each is illustrated in a pose of sweet serenity.

“I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark” by Debbie Levy and Elizabeth Baddeley, $11 (usually $19), Amazon

This illustrated story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg takes her from childhood to the Supreme Court, emphasizing all the ways she stood up for herself and others along the way.

"Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor" by Patricia Valdez; illustrated by Felicita Sala, $11 (usually $18), Amazon

The real story of Joan Procter, who traded dolls for reptiles as a girl and went on to design the Reptile House at the London Zoo, where she held children's tea parties with a Komodo dragon.

“Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World” by Rachel Ignotofsky, $12 (usually $17), Amazon

This intricately illustrated guide explores the real history of NASA scientists, chemists and mathematicians whose accomplishments will enlighten girls and their parents.

“Ada’s Ideas” by Fiona Robinson, $17, Amazon

The world’s first computer programmer was a woman. (This beautifully illustrated biography might shock some bros in Silicon Valley.)

"Mae Among the Stars" by Roda Ahmed, illustrated by Stasia Burrington, $15 (usually $18), Amazon

This book is inspired by the story of Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African American woman in space. Mae dreams of seeing the Earth from space, even if people laugh at the idea.

“Grace for President” by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, $10 (usually $17), Amazon

Grace learns that the United States has never had a female president and decides to do something about it.

“A Lady Has the Floor: Belva Lockwood Speaks Out for Women’s Rights” by Kate Hannigan, $12 (usually $18), Amazon

This nonfiction picture book tells the story of the first woman to run for president.

“Little Feminist” set by Galison and Emily Kleinman, illustrated by Lydia Ortiz, $13 (usually $15), Amazon

Colorful portraits celebrate artists, leaders, activists and pioneers for the littlest feminists.

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