12 Feminist Kids’ Books for Dismantling the Patriarchy

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My niece is 14 weeks old. She can’t walk or talk, and who knows what’s going on in her speedily developing brain (quite a lot of things, I think!) but like a lot of aunts, I am confident that she is going to be pretty much a genius. She’s already grasping for things! And what does any budding genius child need this holiday? Books. Particularly, books that can help pave their way into a strong, courageous, patriarchy-defeating, feminist adulthood. Books the adults in their lives can read to them, and maybe even learn from themselves. Here are a few of my favorites for her growing collection, and maybe yours. (Share widely for a better future.)

Shy Rosie loves to invent things, but hides her daring creations away — until her Great Great Aunt Rose (you may know her as “the Riveter”) comes to visit and teaches her that the only way you can really fail is if you quit. (Also check out Beaty’s Ada Twist, Scientist.)

Buy
Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty $10, Amazon

Princess Elizabeth is going to marry Prince Ronald, until the doofus gets himself prince-napped by a dragon. She sets out to save him, but when Good Old Ron is insufficiently grateful, she dumps him like last year’s tiara. (Not that she cares about tiaras, she has other important things to do.)

Buy
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch $7, Amazon

When I asked friends for book suggestions for a little girl, this illustrated, encyclopedic collection of ladies who kicked butt and took names was one of the most-repeated titles. My niece won’t be able to read it ‘til she’s older, but in the meantime I’m gifting it to all my friend’s grade-school-aged daughters, too. It also comes with a handy list of ways to be rad. And take note: There’s also the global-looking Rad Women Worldwide (by the same author and illustrator).

Buy
Rad American Women A–Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries Who Shaped Our History … and Our Future! by Kate Schatz $7, Amazon

No kid’s library is complete without this ’70s classic, with singable, resonating messages of empathy and compassion and being ourselves — whatever that looks like — that we need more than ever right now.
Note: This exact edition is out of stock, but a previous one is still available.

Buy
Free to Be … You and Me by Marlo Thomas (and Friends) $12, Amazon

Occupy Wall Street calls this book “like reading Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, but for 2-year olds.” Think: “C is for Co-op, Cooperating Cultures, Creative Counter to Corporate Vultures. Oh, and Cats.”

Buy
A Is for Activist board book by Innosanto Nagara $10, Amazon

Um, a confession. I still read this book regularly for inspiration, because Pippi is the original badass who gives no fucks, does what she wants, has a great time, and is smarter than all the adults around her. Plus, she’s strong enough to lift men over her head.

Buy
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren $6, Amazon

This is the young reader’s version of Shetterly’s best-selling book about four African-American women who worked at NASA and did the math that let John Glenn orbit Earth (among other things). They didn’t get the glory then, but they should today (oh, and it’s a movie out now).

Buy
Hidden Figures Young Readers’ Edition by Margot Lee Shetterly $7, Amazon

This book came out in 2012 but it’s never been more timely — not only does it explain electoral politics, it also pits a well-qualified girl against a boy who barely tries. Luckily, the best candidate wins. (See also: Hillary Rodham Clinton: Some Girls Are Born to Lead, by Michelle Markel.)

Buy
Grace for President by Kelly S. DiPucchio $13, Amazon

This book’s premise includes the loveliest message from a parent to a child: “When I look at you, and you look at me, I wonder what wonderful things you will be.” Sure, it’s sweet, but it’s an incredibly powerful starting point for confidence and success, too.

Buy
The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin $11, Amazon

This book came out in 1990, and it might feel dated except aren’t we still fighting to get men to do their fair share of the housework (and, oh yeah, there’s that equal pay thing, too)? Mrs. Piggott takes a stand against the three male chauvinists, a.k.a., pigs, in her house, and everyone learns a valuable lesson.

Buy
Piggybook by Anthony Browne $8, Amazon

Be the purchaser of a book about the child Ruth Bader Ginsburg you wish to see in the world. Valuable lessons abound in this one, including that yes, it’s okay to disagree — and life’s about way more than just finding a husband.

Buy
I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy $8, Amazon

Described as a “Lean In for young girls, a book about the glorious things that happen when you unshackle from fear and open up to exhilaration.” Note: I will be reading this to my niece regularly, I think, not just for her, but for me.

Buy
The Gutsy Girl by Caroline Paul $12, Amazon

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12 Feminist Kids’ Books for Dismantling the Patriarchy