Inspired by Shannon Hale’s resurrection of #BoysReadGirls, I was going to write a post with books about girls that boys should be reading. Then I realized I did that already. But, I wanted to come up with SOMETHING for women’s history month…
After much thinking, I came up with a list of feminist books for kids/teens. Which are also books that everyone should be reading. My standards were kind of loose: if it felt like a feminist book, then I’m calling it a feminist book. Which means, I probably missed a TON. Let me know what you would have added.
The Princess in Black, by Shannon Hale: “Princess Magnolia has a secret. She’s a superhero, rescuing innocent and unprotected goats from the Big Bad Monsters. The thing is: princesses aren’t supposed to be superheroes. They’re supposed to be princesses. Right? Well, aside from the stuffy Duchess Wigtower, no one tells Princess Magnolia she can’t.”
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly: ” Callie discovers that studying the world around her is what she really wants to do. She spends as much time as possible with her grandfather — in between piano recitals, forced sewing, school, and managing her brothers’ crushes for her best friend — living for and thriving off of the time spent studying and observing. Of course, since this is 1899 and Texas, Callie couldn’t be allowed (allowed!) to proceed this way: good, proper, well-off girls just didn’t tromp through the underbrush looking at bugs. For me, this was the heart of the novel, this pull for Callie to do what she wanted and not what everyone expected of her.”
Amelia Lost, by Candace Fleming: “She flew not really because of skill — often she didn’t take the time to learn things thoroughly — but because of determination. She was a feminist: she believed that just because she was a woman didn’t mean she shouldn’t do whatever she wanted to do. Including flying. She resisted the boxes that the time period wanted to put her in, and literally soared. No, she wasn’t the most talented, or even the most skilled, but she was determined, and that made up for a lot.”
No Cream Puffs, by Karen Day: “The second big thing, and probably the more defining one, is that Madison decides to play in the boy’s baseball league. She’s a brilliant pitcher, and is encouraged by her older brother to test her skill in the league (since there isn’t a girl’s league). Because of this, she makes waves in her little town. Some people want to make her a pariah: she’s a girl, she has an unfair advantage because no one will want to hurt her, she’ll bring down the level of the game. Others, her mother included, want to make her out to be a trailblazer, a feminist, someone who stands up for women’s rights. Madison, refreshingly, just wants to play the game”
The Cure for Dreaming, by Cat Winters: “Sure, there’s more plot to this one than that, but who cares? This one has a strong feminist agenda and it’s not afraid of it. The father had me seething. The rich handsy boy whom the father liked made me want to smack him. Henri was nice enough, but I really loved Olivia and her struggle against the system (and the Man) and her desire to be Free. I was just cheering her on: you go girl!”
Lady Macbeth’s Daughter, by Lisa Klein: ” Lady Macbeth is only slightly better; she gives herself over to Macbeth because she knows no other way, and the motivations Klein gives her for encouraging Macbeth in his road to destruction evolve out of her feeling cornered in her life. In fact, Klein gives us an interesting dichotomy with her women characters: Lady Macbeth is what one would think is very traditional, very husband-bound; while Albia, on the other hand, is very modern and feminist, choosing her own path without being bound by men’s expectations”
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E.Lockhart: “Frankie did something big; she proved something to herself — and to her family — that she can do something. Sure, they reacted badly, but then, most people react badly to people who think outside the box. Even if that box is something as simple and silly as a secret boys’ club at a posh boarding school.”
Poisoned Apples, by Christine Hepperman: “I didn’t know what to expect, but what I got was a weird, wonderful, empowering collection of poems. Hepperman mixes fairy tale retellings with modern issues, from anorexia and photoshopping to the everyday over sexualization of women. It’s a seamless transition from fantasy to reality.”
Gabi a Girl in Pieces, by Isabel Quintero: “It was Gabi’s awakening to the double standard, and her actively trying to do something about it — which came near the end of the book –which endeared me to the book. There was so much crap going on in Gabi’s life that I found it difficult, initially, to relate. But by the end, I was cheering for Gabi, for her attitude toward her life, and for Quintero’s unflinching portrayal of her.”
Glory O’Brein’s History of the Future, by A.S. King: “Glory’s visions are of a horrific patriarchal future, where women’s rights are completely taken away, and the country ends up in another Civil War. This fascinates and terrifies Glory — what’s her role in this future? How does it come to be like this? Will it? — and the act of having these visions pushes her into action.”
And a couple of adult ones tacked on the end:
Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley: “A heady piece of feminist fiction. The first time I read this, I was enraptured by the way she tells the story [of King Arthur] from the women’s point of view. “
The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood: “I can’t imagine — more like, don’t want to imagine — a world where women are treated as nothing more than the sum of their bodies, where men get excused for their behavior because of their position, where women hate and loathe each other because of their roles. Wait… that, too much, describes what our world is like now. Without the religious framework, without the robes, without the martial law, there are elements of this world around us”
2 thoughts on “10 Feminist Books for Kids and Teens”
My boys were so appalled at Hale not being “allowed” to speak to boys that they took me up on my challenge to fill up the whole PIB circulation card with boys' signatures! More importantly, they think it's a fun book. I just had my 6th year of Boys Read Pink, so I should investigate this more!
How cool, Karen! I think you're doing GREAT work there.