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Books with Strong Female Leads - Elementary School to Young Adult by Eden Godsoe

by Eden Godsoe, posted to Books

Although my mother is a librarian, I was never a big reader growing up. Now that I have a daughter, I wanted to start a list of books with strong female leads so we could start reading them together.

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Added to Your List

Stella, Princess of the Sky & other Stella books (Marie-Louise Gay) - ages 2 & up

Sam is the quintessential preschooler–full of wondrous questions....more

Suggested by Kiramadera

Spirited, imaginative girl who is a clear leader.

Added to Your List

Madeline (Ludwig Bemelmans) - ages 3 & up

Set in picturesque Paris, this tale of a brave little girl's trip to...more

Little Madeline may be small but she is confident and courageous. It was a favorite of mine as a girl and my daughter now has many Madeline books.

Added to Your List

The Paper Bag Princess (Robert N. Munsch) - ages 4 & Up

The Princess Elizabeth is slated to marry Prince Ronald when a dragon...more

As one recommendation says, this is almost a reversal on the "damsel in distress" story.

Added to Your List

Brave Irene (William Steig) - ages 4 & up

When her mother, a dressmaker, falls ill, indomitable Irene fights a...more

Little Irene embraces the term "where there's a will, there's a way." This is one I will be adding to my 4 YO daughter's book shelves.

Added to Your List

Grace for President (Kelly DiPucchio) - ages 5 & up

DiPucchio and Pham are game gals. Explaining the electoral system to...more

Suggested by Fabienne Doucet

Author Kelly DiPucchio not only gives readers a fun introduction to the American electoral system, but also teaches them the value of hard work, courage, and independent thought--and offers an inspiring example of how to choose our leaders.

Added to Your List

Matilda (Roald Dahl) - ages 6 & up

Matilda is an extraordinarily gifted four-year-old whose parentsa...more

Kids just seem to love everything from Roald Dahl and this series is no different.

E.S. Ivy: My middle girl loves Dahl.

Added to Your List

Little House on the Prairie (Laura Ingalls Wilder) - ages 6 & above

When Laura Ingalls Wilder first wrote of her experiences growing up in...more

To quote another woman who recommended this series - "Laura Ingalls is one of the original American Feminists." Although Amazon recommends age 8 & above, I want to start reading this series with my daughter at about age 5 or 6.

E.S. Ivy: This is one of the few from my childhood that my daughters also like - they are evergreen!

Added to Your List

Pippi Longstocking (Astrid Lindgren) - ages 7 & up

Pippi is an irrepressible, irreverent, and irrefutably delightful girl...more

Highly recommended by my mom, who is a librarian and raised two strong, confident daughters.

Added to Your List

Little Women (Louisa May Alcott) - ages 7 & up

Little girls, especially, love following the adventures of the four...more

I was a reluctant reader but did embrace this book. You can get different versions of the book for different age levels. This one is good for about grade 2 and above.

Added to Your List

Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel (Nikki Grimes) - ages 7 & up

Grade 2–4—Dyamonde, a third grader, is still coping with her...more

Suggested by Fabienne Doucet

Dyamonde is a take-charge kind of girl who isn't willing to take "no" for an answer. This is a whole series of books great for kids in grade 1/2 and beyond.

Added to Your List

Harry Potter Series (J.K. Rowling) - ages 7 & up

Fabulous Box Set Containing Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone,...more

Although Harry is obviously the leading character, Hermione Granger is usually the one that talks sense into the boys and saves the day. She is smart, independent and brave.

Added to Your List

The Wrinkle in Time series (Madeleine L'Engle) - ages 8 & up

The Time Quintet consists of A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A...more

A great series with a strong female character from a renowned female writer. Highly recommended by my mom (a former librarian) and my sister (a major book worm.)

Eden Godsoe: You can find a great book review from the NY Times here -

Added to Your List

Harriet the Spy (Louise Fitzhugh) - ages 8 & above

The fascinating story is about an intensely curious and intelligent...more

I can't wait to get into this series with my daughter.

Added to Your List

Igraine The Brave (Cornelia Funke) - ages 8 & up

Igraine dreams of becoming a famous knight just like her great...more

Suggested by Michelle Hutchison

This is a girl who sticks to being who she really is.

E.S. Ivy: This is great for a reader just getting into chapter books - charming!

Added to Your List

Nancy Drew (Carolyn Keene) - ages 8 & above

The Nancy Drew Starter Set is the perfect gift for aspiring...more

My sister devoured Nancy Drew books as a child. She was an avid reader and started these books far earlier than age 8, as recommended on Amazon.

Tracie Sullivan Laney: They have a couple of new series, with a much younger Nancy, George & Bess! My daughter started with those at age 7 & graduated up to the same books I read as a child - I think it is awesome!!!

Eden Godsoe: Tracie - Good to know. I am dying to start my daughter (only 4.5 years old) on Nancy Drew and some of these other series.

Added to Your List

Ella Enchanted (Gail Carson Levine) - ages 8 & up

Every child longs for the day when he or she will be free from...more

Suggested by Jacqueline Hutchins

Good to read with younger or older girls. Another Newberry Award winner.

Eden Godsoe: Jacqueline - thank you for all 3 suggestions - great additions to this list, which is very near & dear to my heart.

E.S. Ivy: One of our favorites!

Added to Your List

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (Grace Lin) - ages 8 & up

Starred Review. Grade 3-6–Living in the shadow of the Fruitless...more

Suggested by Jacqueline Hutchins

Strong, brave resourceful heroine. Slight magic. Real family relationships. Good read-a-loud. Interesting story for many audiences.

Added to Your List

Anne of Green Gables series (L.M. Montgomery) - ages 9 & up

When Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert of Green Gables, Prince Edward...more

As a Canadian whose roots are from the Maritimes, I may be partial to the story of Anne Shirley.

Bluenose Girl: I am glad to see many of my childhood favourites have stood the test of time. I still have all my L.M. Montgomery books from my childhood. She has lots of fantastic books, and I still love rereading the stories.

Added to Your List

Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom (Louisa May Alcott) - ages 9 & up

Suggested by Gaston Buhunny

This 2-book set has a main character, Rose, who is about 10 at the start and grows to 18-20. She has to learn about a large new family that she now lives with after her parents die. She learns to think for herself, makes friends with a young woman who's socially lower than she is, and has to deal with the death of a beloved cousin who drinks.

Added to Your List

Princess Academy (Shannon Hale) - ages 9 & up

Starred Review. Grade 5-9–The thought of being a princess never...more

Suggested by Jacqueline Hutchins

Not your typical princess-in-training book. This one has won major accolades.

Added to Your List

Deltora Quest: The Complete Series (Emily Rodda) - ages 9 & up

For centuries, the evil Shadow Lord has been plotting to invade...more

Suggested by Michelle Hutchison

This book has been marketed for boys, but one of the main characters Jasmine is one of the toughest, bravest, fiercest characters you will meet. In fact these books are great at breaking gender stereotypes. The main character Leif (who is male) is brave and smart as well as caring and sensitive. Many of the leaders of tribes are women.

Added to Your List

The Song of the Lioness quartet (Tamora Pierce) - ages 10 & up

Call it fate, call it intuition, or just call it common sense, but...more

This series gets amazing reviews on Amazon and from friends of mine who have read the series themselves or with their daughters.

Added to Your List

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (Avi) - ages 10 & up

A 13-year-old girl must extricate herself from a perilous position...more

I have never read this one but it was recommended by many different women.

Added to Your List

Terrier and the Beka Cooper books (Tamora Pierce) - ages 10 & up

Suggested by Andrea Phillips

These are well written stories with an awesome girl protagonist. Beka Cooper is smart, brave and dedicated to upholding the law and protecting the innocents. Another great series by Tamora Pierce.

Eden Godsoe: Thanks for the addition. I wasn't familiar w/ Tamora Pierce when I started this list but her name keeps coming up. Can't wait until my daughter is a little older to introduce her to Tamora's various series and strong girl characters. Where were these books when I was younger?!

Added to Your List

The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins) - ages 12 & up

Each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in "The...more

This series is popular with both young girls and adult women.

Added to Your List

Spindle's End (Robin McKinley) - ages 12 & up

Much like in the original story, the infant princess, here named...more

The story of sleeping beauty but with a twist.

Added to Your List

The Tiffany Aching books (Terry Pratchett) - ages 13 & up

Nine-year-old Tiffany Aching needs magic--fast! Her sticky little...more

This is a series of books about young witch-to-be Tiffany Aching. The series includes Nation, a Hat Full Ofsky , Wintersmith, and The Wee Free Men

Added to Your List

Ella Enchanted (Gail Carson Levine) - ages 13 & up

At birth, Ella is inadvertently cursed by an imprudent fairy named...more

A tale about escaping the compulsion to be obedient. Good morals and well-written.

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comments (1)


Alice Ketchum:

 The Girl that Owned a City - OT Nelson, Medicine Maid - Elizabeth Hoople, Susannh (of the Mounties, Of the Yukon, At Boarding School and Rides On) Muriel Dennison, Anything by Kit Pearson... do you want me to keep going lol