10 Books for Kids to Celebrate International Women’s Day

Feb 22, 2014

As International Women's Day approaches, it's the perfect time to celebrate the accomplishments, strengths and uniqueness inside each girl and woman. Last year we featured books that depict girls who are clever, courageous, determined and brave. This year I've included books for preschoolers that highlight experiences and characteristics that girls will relate to along their journey toward womanhood. For school-aged readers, I've included books on real women who overcame obstacles or adversity and became groundbreakers in their own way.


Willow's Whispers by Lana Button, illustrated by Tania Howells

Willow has a soft, shy voice that often goes unheard. It can be quite a problem at school, where she'll end up with orange juice at snack even though she asked for apple juice. One morning she comes up with a fabulous solution--she creates a magical microphone that makes her voice louder. It's not until her microphone breaks that Willow finally finds her own voice. If you're the parent of a shy/quiet girl as I was (my daughter has since found her voice), you'll know how hard it can be for her to speak up and be heard. This is a story you'll want to share.



Roslyn Rutabaga and the Biggest Hole on Earth by Marie-Louise Gay

Roslyn Rutabaga wakes up one day and decides she's going to dig the biggest hole on earth. She tells her father she might dig to China, "Or even to the South Pole. I'd really like to meet a penguin." When she starts digging, she encounters a number of creatures who object to her digging in their home. It's a charming tale of a spunky, active girl with a big dream who, when faced with disappointments, finds a way to turn things around. The illustrations, as you'd expect from the creator of the Stella and Sam books, are warm and playful. 



The Dark by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Michael Martchenko

Jule Ann has a problem. She's inadvertently released "a dark" in her house and it's quickly eating up all the shadows and growing at a tremendous rate. The dark gets so big that Jule Ann can't go out to play. Her parents' efforts to get rid of the dark are useless. Jule Ann, rather than be frightened by the dark, jumps into action, eventually managing to succeed at recapturing the dark.




Sophie and the Sea Monster by Don Gillmor, illustrated by Micheal Martchenko 

Sophie worries about a lot of things, not least of which is that there might be a sea monster living under her bed. When she finally musters enough courage to look under the bed, she finds there really is a sea monster living there. As it turns out, the sea monster is not scary at all. In fact he's hiding under the bed because he's afraid of a great many things--things that Sophie herself worries about. Over time, Sophie manages to help the sea monster overcome his fears. Both boys and girls will enjoy this quirky story about facing your fears.



Spork by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

Okay, so this book doesn't feature a girl, but I think the overall message is one that girls in particular need to embrace. With a spoon for a mother and a fork for a father, "Spork was neither spoon nor fork... but a bit of both." He didn't fit in with either types of cutlery and was often overlooked, until a "messy thing" arrived at the table. Then Spork was the perfect piece of cutlery. Too often as girls (and women) we allow ourselves to change who we really are to suit others. This simple but charming story highlights the importance of individuality and finding one's own purpose.




In the Bag!: Margaret Knight Wraps It Up by Monica Kulling, illustrated by David Parkins 

Margaret Knight (or Mattie) lived an unconventional life for her time. In the 1850s she wasn't like a lot of the other girls she knew. She liked to build and work with tools and wood. She created her first invention at the age of 12 while working at a cotton mill. Then, in her thirties, she would come up with a machine that would automate the making of paper bags. She faced some challenges on the road to having her device patented, but in the end her determination got her the patent in 1870. In the Bag, with Monica Kulling's engaging narrative and vibrant illustrations by David Parkins, gives a clear picture of an outstanding accomplishment. A note at the end gives readers more detail about Margaret's life and later achievements.



Laura Secord by Janet Lunn, illustrated by Maxwell Newhouse 

With the 200th anniversary of the war of 1812 not far behind us, it seems right to include this depiction of a heroic act by Laura Secord. With age-appropriate narrative and the rustic artwork of Maxwell Newhouse, young readers will get a better idea of who the woman was whose name graces a well-known chocolate shop.




Capturing Joy: The Story of Maud Lewis by Jo Ellen Bogart, illustrated by Mark Lang

 Inspired by the joyful paintings of Maud Lewis, Capturing Joy tells the story of the artist's life that was full of hardship. Despite living with pain and poverty, her paintings are exuberant and full of vitality. The book includes reproductions of her work as well as black and white line drawings by Mark Lang. It's sure to inspire.




Rachel Carson and Her Book that Changed the World by Laurie Lawlor, illustrated by Laura Beingessner 

Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, was a pioneering environmentalist. Her book was the first to show the harmful impact people were having on the environment. While at college, she observed the declining state of the environment and wondered about its impact on people's health. This was in the early 1900s and it was quite unusual for a woman to study sciences, but Rachel was determined to become a biologist and later struggled through the Depression to find work as a biologist. This picture book highlights Rachel's determination to follow her passion and her sense of duty to the environment. An epilogue tells readers more about what happened after the publication of Silent Spring and shows what a great impact one person's efforts can have.



Four Pictures by Emily Carr by Nicolas Debon

Emily Carr was one of the few women painters of her time. She was fiercely independent and preferred to follow her natural curiosity about nature and aboriginal culture rather than bowing to what was fashionable at the time. Taking four of Emily Carr's paintings as a starting point, Nicolas Debon presents the episodes in Emily's life that lead to their creation in graphic novel format. 


Article Author Tamara Sztainbok
Tamara Sztainbok

Read more from Tamara here.

Tamara Sztainbok is the mother of two school-aged children. A children's book editor with Scholastic Canada, she believes anything you ever need to know you can learn from a children's book. She also runs Puzzle Box Communications, providing communication services to small businesses. She writes about adult books on her ClubMom blog, Turning Pages. Follow her on Twitter @PuzzleBoxCom. Opinions expressed here are Tamara's alone.

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