It’s never too early to start reading to kids, or to kick off a consciousness-raising session with them—and these feminist children’s books make it easier than ever to do both. When you’re shopping for the youngest revolutionaries in your life, consider wrapping up a herstorical tale of triumph, an early primer on privilege or a defiant treatise on gendered clothing. (Plus, all of these books came out just this year, so there’s a pretty good chance the girls and boys in your family tree haven’t even read them yet.)
It’s true that we may be inclined here at Ms. to recommend Aura Lewis’ biography of our co-founder—but we promise it’s not just because her time at the magazine takes up a fair share of its pages! Steinem’s story is a constant source of inspiration for feminists of all ages, and this book is a great introduction not only to the legendary activist herself, but the larger women’s rights movement she helped shape. (Plus, the watercolor illustrations on every page are absolutely poster-worthy.)
Eleanor Morrison and Faye Orlove’s board book is proof that it’s possible to have age-appropriate conversations around bodily autonomy—and their digestible guide for little ones reinforces that their body is their own and that they can say “no” to kisses, hugs or any other behavior that makes them uncomfortable. And although parents may already be familiar with the basics, a discussion section in the back of the book helps expand the conversation to family members of all ages.
Anastasia Higginbotham’s groundbreaking picture book, one of the first releases from Dottir Press, rejects the idea of sheltering kids from conversations about white privilege and white supremacy. Instead, she allows young readers to confront racism—and challenges white children to grow up into allies in the fight to end it.
Juniper Fitzgerald and Elisa Peterson’s book—one of a few children’s books available from the Feminist Press—features provocative collages and a diverse array of characters working hard to do the best by their children. The moms inside protest, clean and dance; they wear stiletto heels and sweatpants. How Mamas Love Their Babies celebrates every mom out there, and invites kids to do the same every time they turn the page.
In this follow up to Savannah Guthrie, Allison Oppenheim and Eva Byrne’s Princesses Wear Pants, Princess Penelope Pineapple and her friend Princess Sabrina Strawberry work together to protect their neighborhood’s ecosystem. Princess Sabrina Strawberry’s vines have no fruit because all the bees have disappeared; Princess Penelope Pineapple has plenty to share. Together, the fruit princesses band together to help bring the bees back to the strawberry fields. In addition to showcasing the impact of collective action and sisterhood, the afterward also teaches kids about the unfortunately real crisis of disappearing bees.
New York State Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s debut children’s book, illustrated by Maira Kalman, tells the stories of women who led the suffrage movement, including often-minimized boundary-breakers like Jovita Idar, Mary Church Terrell and Ida B. Wells. The riveting but bite-sized biographies of these powerful feminists, coupled with beautiful portraits you’ll want to hang on your wall, make this book a guaranteed source of girl power—perfectly timed to meet the 100-year anniversary of the 19th amendment in 2020.
Rosie Revere and the Raucous Riveters by Andrea Beaty
The picture book Rosie Revere, Engineer was so popular that author Andrea Beaty decided to continue telling her story chapter-by-chapter. In this installment of her new series, Rosie helps her great-great aunt and her friends, the Raucous Riveters, solve a problem so that their friend can compete in a painting contest even with broken wrists. Their hilarious attempts at success, and their spirit of resistance and persistence, will empower early readers to take risks and remind them of the value of solidarity and support systems.
This flap book by Libby Babbot-Klein and Jessica Walker will help little feminists fine-tune their motor skills and brush up on their herstory lessons. Inside its pages, icons such as Frida Kahlo, Mae Jamison, Malala Yousafzai, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Michelle Obama are depicted as adults and then as babies—showing their readers with every tab, twist and page turn that they, too, could change the world.
Dr. Mary Edwards Walker was arrested multiple times in her life for wearing pants—and now, Keith Negley has told her story for the younger set. (And likely, to many of the parents reading it out loud!) Featuring adorable illustrations and a plot anchored by a supportive father-daughter relationship, Mary Wears What She Wants will teach your little one about this incredible woman and inspire them to express themselves authentically and defiantly. As Mary herself once said: “I don’t wear men’s clothes, I wear my own clothes.”
Up-and-coming inventor and innovators will love this story about Dr. Temple Grandin, one of the most famous autistic women in the world—and all of its readers will come away from this picture book with a newfound sense of respect for each other’s boundaries and insight into the different ways people experience the world. Amy Guglielmo, Jacqueline Tourville and Giselle Potter’s How to Build a Hug follows Grandin as she invents a machine to help herself with sensory overload; after story time is over, a section at the end offers further resources for learning about her work.