Since the holidays have passed and some of you may have received gifts for your kiddos that you are less than thrilled with, I’d like to share a list of feminist-friendly books that you may want to exchange them for or put on a list for future gift giving.
I’ve left out many overtly and intentionally feminist books:
There are so many awesome people making great books for kids that challenge gender stereotypes! For this list, though, I want to focus on things that you may not find in a Google search for “feminist children’s books” and especially books that are intersectional.
Sunshine and Snowballs by Margaret Wise Brown, Illustrated by Charlotte Cooke
At first glance, this is a simple rhyming book about the seasons by the beloved author of Goodnight Moon. However, its modern illustrations by Charlotte Cooke turn it into a perfect way to introduce the normalcy of same-sex relationships to young kids. The book features two people playing and being affectionate throughout the year and one of them is portrayed neutrally enough, with their long purple sweater and short haircut, that we use feminine pronouns when talking about them in our house: “Oh, they’re sitting together. She has her arm around her. They must really care about each other.”
I’d Know You Anywhere, My Love by Nancy Tillman
This sweet book assures children that their parents will know and love them whomever they decide to be. Tillman writes “Fox or koala, giraffe or racoon…anything anywhere under the moon. Whatever it is you imagine to be, I’ll just be so proud you belong to me.” The last page, following the end of the story simply says “You are loved.” This would be a wonderfully reassuringly loving book for trans kids or kids questioning their sexuality and is a great message about unconditional love for all kids.
Bob is a Unicorn by Michelle Nelson-Schmidt
Another trans-friendly pick, in this simple book, Bob is an elephant who sees himself as a unicorn. While his other friends are too busy to listen to what he’s telling them or think he’s being silly, he meets a child at the end who immediately recognizes him for what he is. This story is great for reading aloud and adding fun voices to each of the characters. This book is a great message about imagination and friendship, but can also be read as encouragement, letting kids know that there are people who will love and accept them for who they are.
Be My Friend? A Yeti’s Tale by Ross Kearney, Illustrated by Nate Rainey
This indie pick is a hit in our house. It has valuable messages about friendship, including that friends don’t bite each other “without consent.” It’s funny for adults, but is also a great way to open conversations with kids about how friendships and relationships should be mutually caring and respectful.
Baby Bug Magazine
This magazine for very young children has so many great features. Every month, its first story is Kim and Carrots by Clara Vulliamy, which featurs a little girl with short hair and no-nonsense outfits who goes on adventures and enjoys every day activities with her stuffed rabbit. Her aesthetic and the stories challenge the common ideas that everything needs to be gendered for little girls. The rest of the magazine is fantastic too and always includes children of color and stories or poems from countries around the world. It often shows dads in active caretaking roles and regularly features grandparents, making it a great intergenerational pick as well.
Elephant and Piggy Books by Mo Willems
This whole series is so cute and funny! I enjoy the stories as much as my kids do—they are genuinely funny. One of my favorite parts is that Piggy is a girl but she isn’t gendered in any obvious way. Every time I’m reminded Piggy is a girl, I’m surprised, which makes me question my own internalized sexism—always a good thing! Piggy is also the adventurous, mischievous one of the pair while elephant is a bit of a neurotic worrywart. It’s a nice change.
Runners Up: There are lots of books with smart, clever, brave, and kind girls as the protagonists. These are some more of my favorites:
A Tale of Two Beasts by Fiona Roberton
This clever story shows that those who are different from us are not as strange as we may believe and that we all want the same thing—the right balance between comfort and freedom.
Sparky! By Jenny Offil, Illustrated by Chris Appelhans
In this book, a girl takes on the challenge of training her pet sloth and is rewarded by friendship. It’s a funny relatable story about wanting to impress others and biting off more than you can chew.
Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, Illustrated by Jon Klassen
I love how the protagonist in this story is fearless. She has no qualms about standing up to an archduke and continuing her mission of spreading love and coziness.