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The 2021 theme for International Women’s Day is Choose to Challenge, and the UN has chosen to celebrate ‘Women in Leadership’. Plus March is also Women’s History Month and the focus this year is on Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to Be Silenced.
March has always been an exciting and busy month for us at The Feminist Library, which celebrates its 46th Birthday this year, as it gives us the opportunity to highlight our collection. With a woman VP in the White House, it’s the perfect time to champion and celebrate how far women and young girls have come and how the next generation of little feminists will continue to be inspired, empowered and be seen and heard in books.
So in this blog piece I am bringing together a mixture of old and new book recommendations for Little Feminists. This booklist honours women and girls who have gone before and new women authors and feminist characters including fairy tales retold and princesas that want more than just a shiny tiara.
First off are two classic picture books which have been around for over 30 years and have never been out of print, ground-breakers that have stood the test of time:
Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman and Caroline Binch (Frances Lincoln) 5+
Grace loves dressing up but when her classmates say that she absolutely can't play the part of Peter Pan because he was a boy, and besides, he wasn't black, Grace's Ma and Nana tell her she can be anything she wants if she puts her mind to it. A feminist classic.
Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole (Penguin Random House) 5+
One of the first feminist fairy tale retellings in picture book form is about Princess Smartypants who would rather ride around on her motorbike doing what she wants than get married off.
And now to a new title out this month with another would be princesa...
Anita and the Dragons by Hannah Carmona and Anna Cunha (Lantana) 3+
Anita imagines she is a princesa, and has a strong sense of herself on her home island. She does not want to be whisked away to a distant land astride the back of a formidable white dragon. In reality, she and her family are leaving their home in the Dominican Republic, aboard an aeroplane, to move to another country. With poetic text and delicious illustrations that evoke the joy and sadness that Anita feels and language that drips with sweet mango kisses.
Dreams for our daughters by Ruth Doyle and Ashling Lindsay (Andersen Press) 3 +
A star-scattered night, a brand new baby, and all the potential in the world. This is a poetic introduction to what it means to be raised as a girl in the challenging times we live in, and all of the dazzling possibilities the world has to offer. The poignant message at the heart of this book is that we can be whoever we want to be.
Sofia Valdez, Future Prez by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts (Abrams) 3+
Sofia is a dreamer and a doer. One day she gets an idea that her town could turn a slimy trash heap mess into a park! She goes to City Hall to plead her case and even though they say 'you’re just a little girl, you can’t do that,' she gets helps and shows that it can be done. Told in rhyme with illustrations that include detail and precision that children will love. Part of a series that also includes Rosie Revere, Engineer and Ada Twist, Scientist
Two Sisters: A Story of Freedom by Kereen Getten (Scholastic) out March 4th, 8+
When Ruth and Anna are shipped off to Master John's home in London for their safety, it isn't the haven they imagined. Their differences force them apart – Anna is allowed to stay upstairs while Ruth is banished to the servants' quarters and is forced to work.
In this heart-stopping adventure based on real historical events, readers go on a journey of sisterhood, struggle and survival from Jamaica to Britain.
The Closest Thing To Flying by Gill Lewis (Oxford University Press) 8+
Present day: Semira doesn't know where to call home. She and her mother came to England when she was four years old, brought across the desert and the sea by a man who has complete control. Always moving on, always afraid of being caught, she longs for freedom.
Semira discovers a diary written by Hen, who lived 100 years ago, and finds a kindred spirit. An uplifting story of friendship, suffragettes, courage, birds and cycling against the odds.
The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna (Usborne) 14+
This is set in the patriarchal fantasy world of Otera, an ancient kingdom, where a woman’s worth is only as good as her proven purity. When Deka bleeds gold this is deemed impure and she is declared a demon. Deka is rescued and taken to a training ground for women where she finds a friendship and sisterhood. This is a dark feminist tale spun of blood and gold and embraces a diverse range of characters.
The Burning by Laura Bates (Simon & Schuster) 12+
There’s nothing to trace Anna back to her old life until the whispers start up again. As time begins to run out on her secrets, Anna finds herself irresistibly drawn to the tale of Maggie, a local girl accused of witchcraft centuries earlier. A girl whose story has terrifying parallels to Anna's. From the author and campaigner of Everyday Sexism this book about the dangers of social media, true friends and starting over, is as authentic as they come.
I would just like to put the spotlight on 2 outstanding series that celebrate women past and present, and have been the forerunners that countless others have followed.
The Good Night Rebel Girls series created by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo
With original artwork introduces biographies of women and girls that have and are changing the world. It was originally rejected by publishers but managed to crowdfund its first print run and showing women having the courage to pursue an idea that would come to be seen as original and well overdue.
And for the really tiny Feminists The Little People, Big Dreams series. The latest published from this unique series include two current sportswomen:
Megan Rapinoe, the Captain of the USA Football team
Wilma Rudolph, Olympic sprinter and civil rights campaigner
Mary Anning, mother of paleontology and all things dinosaur.
It's the perfect series for introducing inspirational women and girls to your little ones.
Sarah works at The Barnes Bookshop in South London and volunteers at The Feminist Library. It feels like it’s her second home. She has been a teacher, librarian and has written Making Pink Lemonade – a novel for teenagers about getting to know your menstrual cycle. It has always been about books and their power to inspire, educate and empower.