International Women’s Day is celebrated on 8 March. What a memorable year this is already, especially with the commemoration of 100 years of the parliamentary vote for women in Ireland. Publishers near and far have produced a rich and diverse range of stunning books to inspire readers of all ages and genders about remarkable women, their phenomenal feats and their tireless battle to achieve them. Fascinating facts about astounding activists and valiant virtuosos can be found in beautiful, colourful picturebooks and richly illustrated informative fact books. There were so many amazing books featuring incredible women from around the world that we had a hard time narrowing down our selection!
Books are a marvellous way to introduce children of all ages to campaigners, creators, designers, inventors, leaders, pioneers, trailblazers and world changers. Inspirational figures come in all shapes, sizes and genders, but there’s no denying that animals are a wonderful way to entice young readers.
For children aged 0-2, you can’t beat Lucy Cousins’s ‘Maisy and Friends’ series featuring the eponymous white mouse. Focusing on her love of animals, simplicity and colour, Cousins’s creation has been capturing the hearts of pre-schoolers for over twenty-five years! With everything from lift-the-flap books, to board books and eye-catching picture books, young readers will be entertained time and time again. Another classic featuring an eponymous hero is the much-loved ‘Miffy’ series by Dick Bruna. Miffy was first published in 1955, which highlights the fact that simple, striking design with an inspirational main character has timeless appeal.
It’s no surprise that I’m a Girl, Irish author-illustrator Yasmeen Ismail’s picturebook for younger readers, has been such a success. The cover alone is enough to encourage everyone to celebrate their individuality with the notable message: ‘Be yourself, there’s no one better!’ Readers aged 2+ will be delighted by Ismail’s lively illustrations and charming story.
For readers aged 4+, Savannah Guthrie and Allison Oppenheim’s Princesses Wear Pants is an amusing story with a practical message that is sure to please. Irish illustrator Eva Byrne’s cartoon-style drawings are a perfect complement to this wacky tale.
For readers aged 6+, the eye-catching and colourful series ‘Little People, BIG DREAMS’ is sure to attract. Ballerina Dreams is an inspirational story, championing the rights of black dancers and touching on themes of difference. Budding inventors, scientists and engineers will enjoy reading Andrea Beaty’s magnificent Rosie Revere, Engineer and Ada Twist, Scientist, illustrated by David Roberts.
Three Cheers for Women! by Marcia Williams is an ideal introduction to 70 inspirational women and their amazing feats. Michelle Roehm McCann’s Girls Who Changed the World and Girls Who Rocked the World are motivational, influential, notable and aspirational. Older readers aged 9+ will love Rachel Ignotosky’s impressive Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win and Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World. These fascinating collections featuring notable women have created a splash on both sides of the Atlantic.
Remember: BOLD GIRLS are courageous, confident risk-takers! So, let’s continue to celebrate and congratulate them for all their astounding feats, incredible deeds and commendable risks.
MARIE CURIE (Little People, BIG DREAMS)
BY ISABEL SÁNCHEZ VEGARA, ILLUSTRATED BY FRAU ISA
FRANCES LINCOLN CHILDREN’S BOOKS 2017 (HBK) 32pp £9.99 ISBN 9781847809612
Suitable for 5+
From the popular ‘Little People, BIG DREAMS’ series featuring the lives of outstanding women, Marie Curie focuses on the extraordinary life of the Polish Nobel Prize winner. Marie overcame many difficulties and struggles in order to accomplish her goals, including moving to a new country in order to attend university. This series contains the valuable message that each successful woman began life as a child – ‘All of them achieved incredible things, yet each began life as a child with a dream’. Covering an awe-inspiring range of women, including Agatha Christie, Coco Chanel, Marie Curie, Frida Kahlo and Amelia Earhart, as well as distinctive illustrations and striking design, this series has become a knockout success, especially for emerging readers.
MICHAELA AND ELAINE DEPRINCE, ILLUSTRATED BY ELLA OKSTAD
FABER & FABER 2017 (PBK) 80pp £6.99 ISBN 9780571329731
Suitable for 5–8
Ballerina Dreams is an uplifting true story about Michaela and her friend Mia – orphans from war-torn Sierra Leone in western Africa who are adopted together and move to the United States. Inspired from an early age by her treasured picture of a famous ballerina, Michaela is encouraged to fulfil her dreams of becoming a dancer by her adopted mother, Elaine DePrince. Bright, gorgeous illustrations convey Michaela’s sheer joy and dedication to dance. Ballerina Dreams is an inspirational story that promotes the rights of young black female dancers and highlights themes of difference, in particular, Michaela’s skin condition vitiligo.
THREE CHEERS FOR WOMEN
WALKER 2017 (HBK) 48pp £12.99 ISBN 9781406374865
Suitable for 7–12
Three cheers for author-illustrator Marcia Williams for creating this superb collection of women, which spans centuries to the present day. Crammed full of amazing facts and featuring the lives of 70 women from Cleopatra VII to Malala Yousafzai, this book is ideal to inform and motivate even reluctant readers. The entertaining cartoon-style illustrations are sure to spark the interest of all readers. A remarkable book that can be dipped into and will amuse and reward readers time and again.
GIRLS WHO CHANGED THE WORLD
MICHELLE ROEHM MCCANN
SIMON & SCHUSTER 2018 (PBK) 320pp £6.99 ISBN 9781471174919
Suitable for 8+
From the author of Girls Who Rocked the World comes another important, uplifting and empowering book. Girls Who Changed the World is a comprehensive collection of stories tracing the lives of exceptional women from Cleopatra all the way to Emma Watson. Though the collection features a diverse range of young women from around the world, they all share a common theme of achieving their goals and creating an impact early in their lives. Michelle Roehm McCann’s latest book is sure to motivate readers as it shines a light on the importance of independent role models and their life-changing opportunities. Remember: you are never too old to be empowered, inspired and motivated.
Síne Quinn is an editor with an M.Phil in Children’s Literature. She is the editor with the Bookmarks Programme at Trinity College and a Children’s Books Ireland book doctor.
For more reviews check out Inis magazine which is published by Children’s Books Ireland, the national children’s books organisation whose vision is an Ireland in which books are central to every child’s life.