22 of the best feminist children's books

Discover our edit of the best feminist children's and YA books packed full of stories with female role models and inspiring messages to empower, as well as entertain.

Growing up, children and young people are constantly confronted by images telling them what they can and should be. Even in the 21st century, many of those images have women and girls playing very specific gendered roles. Literature should encourage young people to be all of the wonderful things they could possibly be, from mathematicians and artists to detectives and inventors. The more diverse and empowering roles readers see girls take in these stories, the more they might consider the world of possibilities out there for themselves. 

Each of the books here offers readers of all ages the opportunity to see girls and young women doing amazing things, whether on a personal or global level, at home or across the world.

Feminist children's books for 0-3 year-olds


by Yi-Hsuan Wu

This beautifully rendered illustrated version of the Mulan story is perfect for young readers. Its interactive pictures introduce children to the tale of Hua Mulan, a legendary Chinese warrior whose story has been retold throughout the centuries. Mulan famously disguised herself as a man in order to take her father’s place in the Chinese army. In doing so, she defied the gender roles of her time and demonstrated that women can be heroes too.

The Nature Girls

by AKI Delphine Mach

The Nature Girls is an engaging picture book about budding explorers that adults can share with young children. Follow the Nature Girls as they don their uniform, prepare their packs and set out into the unknown. Whether it’s the desert or the sea, their curiosity takes them across the globe to learn about the many forms nature can take. This one might just inspire the next Jane Goodall or Jeanne Baret to circumnavigate the earth or study its inhabitants.

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Feminist children's books for 3-5 year-olds

A Dress with Pockets

by Lily Murray

Emerging star Lily Murray and Waterstones Prize-winning illustrator Jenny Lovlie promise a light-hearted story with a subtle feminist undertone. Lucy and Aunt Augusta are looking for new dresses. The Fabulous Fashion Store is crammed with frilly, stripy, silly and colourful choices. But Lucy isn't interested . . . she just wants a dress with pockets, where she can store her collection of petals, nettles, spells and shells. Will Lucy find the dress of her dreams?

Three Little Vikings

by Bethan Woollvin

Long ago in a Viking village, and everything is going wrong. Chickens are vanishing, trees are falling and there are weird loud noises everywhere. The Chieftain won't listen, but three little Viking girls come up with a plan to figure out the mystery and save the village. A story about speaking out, and working together.

The Paper Bag Princess

by Robert Munsch

Book cover for The Paper Bag Princess

The Paper Bag Princess has been challenging expectations since the 1980s, and is truly a children’s classic. Princess Elizabeth finds herself in the position of rescuer when her prince is stolen by a dragon and her palace is burnt to the ground. With nothing else to wear she must set off on her mission dressed in only a paper bag. But a silly thing like that isn’t going to stop her outwitting the monster at every turn.

Izzy Gizmo

by Pip Jones

Book cover for Izzy Gizmo

Izzy Gizmo loves to build, to pull things apart and to figure out how they work. When her inventions inevitably work a little bit differently than she meant however, she finds herself struggling with frustration. This time, however, her skills could help a bird who can no longer fly, and if she can learn to overcome frustration and work on her mistakes then the invention might just be a big success.

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Feminist children's books for 5-8 year-olds

A Dinosaur Ate My Sister

by Pooja Puri

Esha Verma is a genius inventor extraordinaire. And this year, along with her snotty apprentice Broccoli and his cunning pet tortoise, she is determined to with the legendary Brian Trophy – the ultimate inventing prize. This year's entry: a time machine. But the day before the competition, Esha's big sister hijacks the time machine and gets lost in the Cretaceous age. With help from a new recruit for The Office of Time, Esha and Broccoli will have to face hungry dinosaurs, mysterious black holes and malfunctioning inventions to get them back in time . . .

Peanut Jones and the Illustrated City

by Rob Biddulph

Drawing feels like magic to Peanut Jones. But art can't fix her problems. Her dad has gone missing, and she's stuck in a boring new school where the teachers hate her doodling, St Hubert’s School for the Seriously Scientific and Terminally Mathematic. Everything seems bothersome, until the day she finds a magic pencil and is suddenly pulled into a world packed with more colour, creativity, excitement and danger than she could ever have imagined. And maybe, just maybe, she might find out what happened to her dad.

Rumaysa: Ever After

by Radiya Hafiza

Rumaysa: Ever After is the fabulously empowering sequel to Radiya Hafiza's Rumaysa: A Fairytale – a powerful and laugh-out-loud story that turns a classic fairytale around, showing that anyone can be a hero. The story starts long ago and far away, with young Rumaysa looking for her long lost parents. She hopes that an invitation from Saira White, the Queen of Bishnara, will help. Will the queen help her find her family? But it's not quite that straightforward, and soon Rumaysa is tugged into a mystical adventure, trying to help some new friends. Witches, princes, princesses and beasts feature in this tale set in a magical, alternative South Asia.

Max and the Midknights

by Lincoln Peirce

Max has always dreamed of being a knight, but that seems even less likely that finding a friendly dragon! That is until something truly dreadful happens and Uncle Budrick is kidnapped by King Gastley. Monarch or not, Max is not about to let the cruel king get away with that. And so begins an epic adventure that follows Max and a loyal band of friends, who will have to work together to save those they love and restore peace to their lands.

Aziza's Secret Fairy Door and the Birthday Present Disaster

by Lola Morayo

When Aziza sees a Secret Fairy Door in her bedroom, covered in a ribbon tied with a messy bow, it's clear that a new adventure is just around the corner. She opens the door, and finds herself in the palace, just as Princess Peri's birthday party is about to begin. Tiko is organising party games, tasty food and more. But when some the the presents go missing, Peri needs Aziza's help. The third title in an enjoyable and inclusive series, this story is packed with mischief, magic and friendship. 

Malala’s Magic Pencil

by Malala Yousafzai

Book cover for Malala’s Magic Pencil

Throughout her childhood Malala shared a passion for learning with her father, a teacher and campaigner. But when Malala, along with the other young women and girls in Pakistan, is denied access to education, she embarks on a fight against those who wish to deny others their rights. The true story of Malala is one full to the brim with conviction, passion and determination. It highlights the struggles faced by girls around the world, and lets children know that their voice can make a difference.

Counting on Katherine

by Helaine Becker

Counting on Katherine is the true story of Katherine Johnson, an African American woman who played a major part in the success of the first ever moon landing. From a young age Katherine had a passion for numbers. Despite the discrimination and racism she faced on a daily basis, she dedicated her life to honing her skills – skills that would one day save the lives of NASA astronauts.

She Shoots, She Scores!

by Sarah Long

The girl who had to play football in secret but grew up into a goalscoring legend. The 13-year-old who shot to international fame but didn’t get a mention in school assembly. The greatest women’s footballer ever, who scored in five World Cup. With a foreword by England captain Steph Houghton, She Shoots, She Scores! tells the incredible story of the best sport in the world, women’s football – from the men who tried to ban it to the superstars of today’s game, including Lucy Bronze, Sam Kerr and Alex Morgan.

Feminist children's books for 8-12 year-olds

You Have the Power

by Leah Williamson

Leah Williamson, captain of the England women's football team, encourages us to be leaders and follow our dreams in You Have the Power. In 2022, Leah led the Lionesses to victory in the European Championships. Now, she shares her positive guide for life to show you really can achieve anything you put your mind to – both on and off the pitch. Filled with stories from Leah's own life as well as practical and helpful advice, this is the perfect read for any child looking to be empowered by a brilliant female role model. 

They Did it First. 50 Scientists, Artists and Mathematicians Who Changed the World

by Julie Leung

From the leading expert on chimpanzees, Jane Goodall, to Walter Alvarez who first theorized that an asteroid led to the extinction of dinosaurs, They Did it First tracks the incredible journeys of fifty extraordinary people. Crammed full of inspiring stories, Julie Leung’s book encourages readers to pursue their dreams and value their differences, because the world needs scientists, but it needs artists too.


by David Roberts

This beautifully illustrated book is the story of the astoundingly brave women and men who fought for women’s suffrage. The accessible writing and richly detailed artwork bring to life the many characters involved in the suffrage movement, from well-known figures such as Emmeline Pankhurst and Millicent Fawcett to lesser-known activists such as Rosa May Billinghurst.

Ottoline and the Yellow Cat

by Chris Riddell

Ottoline is curious, and nothing is going to stop her pursuing that curiosity. Her determined mind makes her a perfect sleuth, and Ottoline continuously finds herself in the role of amateur detective alongside her fluffy feline companion Mr Munroe. Their escapades take readers on an exciting adventure powered by a desire for knowledge.

Feminist books for teens

Ophelia After All

by Racquel Marie

The course of love – and sexuality – never did run smooth. Ophelia Rojas knows what she likes and who she is,  but when she finds herself thinking more about cute, quiet Talia Sanchez than the loss of a perfect prom with her ex-boyfriend, seeds of doubt take root in Ophelia’s image of herself. Add to that the impending end of high school and the fracturing of her once-solid friend group, and things are spiraling a little out of control. Soon, Ophelia must make a choice between clinging to the version of herself she’s always imagined or discovering who she really is, after all.

Children of Virtue and Vengeance

by Tomi Adeyemi

Adeyemi’s Legacy of Orïsha series follows a young woman named Zélie. Zélie’s world, inspired by African culture and mythology, is in danger. Magic is dying and the royal family are destroying everything her people hold dear. Unwilling to watch them suffer any longer, Zélie takes it upon herself to rise up against the oppressive rulers. While we may not all be magicians living in a fantasy realm, readers can relate to Zélie’s journey of self-discovery and empowerment throughout this series.

Rules for Being a Girl

by Candace Bushnell

When Marin is sexually harassed by her teacher no one believes her, and the school refuses to do anything about it. Marin, however, will not have her voice silenced. She loves school and has big dreams for her future, but the dismissal of her experiences threatens all of that. To demonstrate the damage her teachers and peers are allowing, Marin begins to write her story for the school newspaper and asks fellow students to join her in founding a feminist book club. The strength of Marin’s voice throughout this novel will no doubt help many other young people in search of their own.

We Hunt the Flame

by Hafsah Faizal

For older readers (14+)

The first in the Sands of Arawiya duology We Hunt the Flame is a breathtaking debut about discovery, conquering fear and taking identity into your own hands. Zafira is the Hunter. Forced to disguise herself as a man, she risks everything to provide for her people. When she embarks on a dangerous quest to return magic to her suffering land, she crosses paths with the feared assassin, the Prince of Death. As their journey together unfolds, an ancient evil begins to stir . . .