It’s all too easy to accidentally pick out a well-titled, gorgeously illustrated picture book for your kids, only to find that the book perpetuates tired gender stereotypes. On the other hand, children’s books are filled with some of the most subversive characters in literature. Here are five feminist-friendly books my family has read over the years that my now-eight-year-old daughter and five-year-old son love.
Adventures of Isabel by Ogden Nash
When confronted by a bear, a witch, and a questionable doctor, Isabel didn't care. As the book rhymes, “Isabel, didn't worry. Isabel didn't scream or scurry” and the bad guys get their comeuppance every time. The poem from this book is animated in this cute student-made short (it’s a little heavy-handed that the video ends with info about the National Women’s Hotline, but that makes you feel all the more compelled to find and share books about strong girls).
Violet the Pilot by Steve Breen
Violet is a crack mechanical engineer. With her trusty dog Orville, she not only builds her own a flying machine, but flies it, too. This book is a great gift for girls but I would also love to see this book in every little boy’s collection of planes, trains, and automobiles.
William’s Doll by Charlotte Zolotow
A classic memorialized in the 1972 album Free to Be…You and Me, this book not only validates the wishes of young boy who wants a doll—and a train set and a basketball—it is also a beautiful depiction of the relationship between a grandmother and grandson. It’s important book for boys and girls—it was four year-old girls who told my son that Hello Kitty wasn’t for him.
The Munschworks Grand Treasury by Robert Munsch
The collection contains Munsch’s well-known feminist tale The Paperbag Princess along with others that should be just as much part of your library. Munsch’s books portray children of all colors, some of whom don’t match the skin of their parents.
Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang
This book isn’t about defying stereotypes or explicitly feminist in any way—it’s a counting book for babies and toddlers. But it’s beautifully illustrated and I am putting it on the list because basic books about numbers usually don’t portray little girls with brown skin. And as it counts down from ten, it turns into a bedtime story as well. It’s the one counting book that should be in every child’s library and is one of my favorite baby shower gifts, especially the board book version.