Thursday, the 8th of March is International Women’s Day, and there are plenty of children’s books to honour the many memorable women who have shaped our world, and changed history by carving their own paths and believing in themselves!
Sharing these stories of extraordinary women in your homes, classrooms and libraries can be such a fun and educational way to inspire the next generation of scientists, adventurers, artists and athletes. Here is a small selection of our favourites (including a couple of legendary Australians!).
Meet Nancy Bird Walton – Grace Atwood
Nancy Bird Walton grew up during the golden age of aviation. By the time she was 13, Nancy knew she wanted to fly. When she was 18 Nancy studied under the famous aviator Charles Kingsford Smith. This is the story of how Nancy began her career as Australia’s first female commercial pilot.
Me … Jane – Patrick McDonnell
In his characteristic heartwarming and minimalistic style, Patrick McDonnell tells the story of a young Jane Goodall and her special childhood toy chimpanzee named Jubilee. As the young Jane observes the natural world around her with wonder, she dreams of ‘a life living with and helping all animals,’ until one day she finds that her dream has come true. One of the world’s most inspiring women, Dr. Jane Goodall is a renowned humanitarian, conservationist, animal activist, environmentalist, and United Nations Messenger of Peace. In 1977 she founded the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), a global nonprofit organization that empowers people to make a difference for all living things. With anecdotes taken directly from Jane Goodall’s autobiography, McDonnell makes this very true story accessible for the very young – and young at heart.
Ada’s Ideas – Fiona Robinson
Ada Lovelace (1815–1852) was the daughter of Lord Byron, a poet, and Anna Isabella Milbanke, a mathematician. Her parents separated when she was young, and her mother insisted on a logic-focused education, rejecting Byron’s “mad” love of poetry. But Ada remained fascinated with her father and considered mathematics “poetical science.” Via her friendship with inventor Charles Babbage, she became involved in “programming” his Analytical Engine, a precursor to the computer, thus becoming the world’s first computer programmer. This picture book biography of Ada Lovelace is a compelling portrait of a woman who saw the potential for numbers to make art.
Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors – Tanya Lee Stone
In the 1830s, when a brave and curious girl named Elizabeth Blackwell was growing up, women were supposed to be wives and mothers. Some women could be teachers or seamstresses, but career options were few. Certainly no women were doctors. But Elizabeth refused to accept the common beliefs that women weren’t smart enough to be doctors, or that they were too weak for such hard work. And she would not take no for an answer. Although she faced much opposition, she worked hard and finally―when she graduated from medical school and went on to have a brilliant career―proved her detractors wrong. This inspiring story of the first female doctor shows how one strong-willed woman opened the doors for all the female doctors to come.
Malala’s Magic Pencil – Malala Yousafzai
As a child in Pakistan, Malala made a wish for a magic pencil that she could use to redraw reality. She would use it to give gifts to her family, to erase the smell from the rubbish dump near her house, to sleep an extra hour in the morning. As she grew older, Malala wished for bigger and bigger things. She saw a world that needed fixing. And even if she never found a magic pencil, Malala realised that she could still work hard every day to make her wishes come true.
This beautifully illustrated picture book tells Malala’s story, in her own words, for a younger audience and shows them the worldview that allowed her to hold on to hope and to make her voice heard even in the most difficult of times.
White Mouse: The Story of Nancy Wake – Peter Gouldthorpe
The Gestapo called her The White Mouse – and they wanted her, dead or alive. Nancy Wake was an Australian who joined the French Resistance during World War II and became the most wanted woman in France. Parachuting behind enemy lines, blowing up bridges and smuggling refugees across borders, Nancy fought fiercely against the enemy and became the most decorated Australian woman in any war.
The World is Not A Rectangle – Jeanette Winter
Get to know Zaha Hadid in this nonfiction picture book about the famed architect’s life and her triumph over adversity from celebrated author-illustrator Jeanette Winter.
Zaha Hadid grew up in Baghdad, Iraq, and dreamed of designing her own cities. After studying architecture in London, she opened her own studio and started designing buildings. But as a Muslim woman, Hadid faced many obstacles. Determined to succeed, she worked hard for many years, and achieved her goals—and now you can see the buildings Hadid has designed all over the world.
Ella Fitzgerald – Isabel Sanchez Vergara
Meet Ella Fitzgerald, one of the most influential jazz singers of all time. This mini biography charts Ella’s life, from her early singing days on the streets of Harlem, to her success as a jazz legend, with the message: ‘It’s not where you come from, but where you’re going that counts.’ This inspiring story of the First Lady of Song features a facts and photos section at the back.
Shark Lady – Jess Keating
At nine years old, Eugenie Clark developed an unexpected passion for sharks after a visit to the Battery Park Aquarium in New York City. At the time, sharks were seen as mindless killing machines, but Eugenie knew better and set out to prove it. Despite many obstacles in her path, including trying to break into the scientific field as a woman, Eugenie was able to study the creatures she loved so much.
From her many discoveries to the shark-related myths she dispelled, Eugenie’s wide scientific contributions led to the well-earned nickname “Shark Lady,” as she become a fixture in the world of ocean conservation and shark research.
Grace Hopper: Queen of the Computer Code – Laurie Wallmark
Who was Grace Hopper? A software tester, workplace jester, cherished mentor, ace inventor, avid reader, naval leader AND rule breaker, chance taker, and troublemaker. Grace Hopper was the person who coined the term “computer bug” AND taught computers to “speak English.”
Throughout her life, she succeeded in doing what no one had ever done before. Delighting in difficult ideas and in defying expectations, the insatiably curious Hopper truly was “Amazing Grace” . . . and a role model for science- and math-minded girls and boys. With a wealth of witty quotes, and richly detailed illustrations, this book brings Hopper’s incredible accomplishments to life.
Firebird – Misty Copeland
In her debut picture book, Misty Copeland tells the story of a young girl–an every girl–whose confidence is fragile and who is questioning her own ability to reach the heights that Misty has reached. Misty encourages this young girl’s faith in herself and shows her exactly how, through hard work and dedication, she too can become Firebird.
Lyrical and affecting text paired with bold, striking illustrations that are some of Caldecott Honoree Christopher Myers’s best work, makes Firebird perfect for aspiring ballerinas everywhere.
The Girl Who Thought In Pictures: The Story of Doctor Temple Grandin – Julia Finley Mosca
Meet Dr. Temple Grandin-one of the world’s quirkiest science heroes!
When young Temple was diagnosed with autism, no one expected her to talk, let alone become one of the most powerful voices in modern science. Yet, the determined visual thinker did just that. Her unique mind allowed her to connect with animals in a special way, helping her invent groundbreaking improvements for farms around the globe!