10 Must-Read Books for Young Feminists

It seems fitting to award Malala Yousafzai the Noble Peace Prize just days before International Day of the Girl. Malala’s mission—advocating for girls’ access to education—aligns with the sentiment behind the United Nations-recognized day: International Day of the Girl celebrates and advocates for gender equality, including ensuring girls have educational opportunities, on a global scale. As I’ve been looking toward this day, I’ve also found myself inevitably looking backward on my education—both in and outside of the classroom.

Much of my schooling, particularly regarding women’s empowerment, came from books. I loved stories with strong women characters, fighting dragons and battling evil magic that was about to overcome the kingdom. In light of today, I decided to peruse my elementary bookshelf and reflect on my fictional favorites—this time, with gender relations in mind. I’ve collected a list of my favorites here: Books I devoured, authors I would wait impatiently for at the library and series that I would stay up reading far past bedtime.

Below are the 10 titles I would recommend if you’re wondering what to pick up on your next library visit, have a young one in the house, or just want to revisit some ’90s fantasy fiction.

1. The Paperbag Princess by Robert Munsch

  • Summary: Princess Elizabeth is supposed to marry Prince Ronald when a haughty dragon attacks and kidnaps the prince. It’s up to Elizabeth to clean up everyone’s mess, rescue the prince and make her own life decisions along the way—all while sporting a paperbag dress.
  • Age Range: 4-7 years old

2. Cam Jansen Mysteries by David A. Adler

  • Summary: Cam is a quick-witted, contemporary Nancy Drew. In this series, she solves mystery after mystery thanks to her smarts, her photographic memory and her general chutzpah.
  • Age Range: 8-12 years old

3. Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

  • Summary: Cimorene is bored by the princess lifestyle, so this headstrong, sharp-tongued princess runs away to live with a dragon. Talk about breaking convention!
  • Age Range: 10 and up

4. Island of the Aunts by Eva Ibottson

  • Summary: Author Eva Ibottson dazzles readers in one of my favorite titles (read all of her books, please). In this tale,  aunts from a hidden island kidnap Minette and Fabio to care for the island’s creatures, like the mermaids, selkies and boobries.
  • Age Range: 8-12 years old

5. Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborn

  • Summary: When sibling duo Annie and Jack find a magic treehouse filled with books, their series of adventures begins, taking them from the Civil War to Camelot, and from the deep sea to bases of volcanos.
  • Age Range: 8-12 years old

6. Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park

  • Summary: This endearing, uplifting series follows Juniper B. Jones (what a great name!) as she goes through her daily routines, from interacting with evil Jim to meeting the monster under her bed.
  • Age Range: 6-9 years old

7. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

  • Summary: As soon as Stargirl enters Mica Area High School, it’s obvious she marches to the beat of her own drum (actually she strums to the rhythm of her own ukelele, to be precise). She carries her pet rat in her tote bag, leaves strangers notes and empathizes with the opposing football team. Spinelli’s book explores the struggles of high school acceptance and reminds us of the importance of individuality.
  • Age Range: 12 and up

8. Myth-o-Mania series by Kate McMullan

  • Summary: This series parodies Greek mythology, telling the infamous tales from Hades’ point of view. What if Persephone wasn’t kidnapped after all, but stowed away in Hades’ trunk to escape her mother, Demeter? The series makes us rethink what we know, granting agency and humor to characters who are, well, mortally dull.
  • Age Range: 9-13 year old

9. Deltora Quest series by Emily Rodda

  • Summary: In this action-packed series, Leif, Barda and Jasmine must collect all seven of the hidden gems in order to save Deltora from the evil Shadow Lord, who plans to invade the kingdom and enslave the people.
  • Age Range: 9-12 years old

10. Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry

  • Summary: Gathering Blue, a sequel to The Giver (and part of The Quartet), follows Kira as she searches for truth in a dystopian society that condemns her for being an orphan and having a twisted leg. This series makes readers examine their own understandings of equality, dis/ability and truth.
  • Age Range: 8-12 years old

Photo courtesy of Enokson licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.



Brianna Kovan is a reader and writer from the Midwest. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in English.