March is Women's History Month, and Buzzfeed is celebrating with a list of 29 books featuring strong female protagonists.
It's a great starting point for young readers of any gender looking for female-centric stories. Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, Patricia C. Wrede's Dealing With Dragons, Gail Carson Levine's Ella Enchanted, and Tamora Pierce's Alanna books were in constant rotation in my own childhood.
In that same spirit, I wanted to share a couple of my own personal recommendations. These are perfect for anyone looking to introduce their kids (or themselves) to stories about kick-ass ladies:
- Mrs. Frisby And The Rats Of NIMH (Robert C. O'Brien) The protagonist of this book may be a mouse, but she's also a brave single mom looking to protect her children with the help of some genetically enhanced rats. This was one of my absolute favorites growing up, and those who only know the story from the animated film (which adds a mystical element) should check out the more scientifically minded novel.
- A Wrinkle In Time (Madeleine L'Engle) Since I loved both sci-fi and fantasy as a kid, it makes sense that I adored A Wrinkle In Time, which effortlessly blends the two genres. When their father goes missing, a group of children (led by 13-year-old Meg Murry) travel through time and space to find him. Both complex and poetic, this book never speaks down to its young readers.
- His Dark Materials (Philip Pullman) Philip Pullman is a master of world building, and his Dark Materials trilogy takes place in a highly imaginative, realistically rendered universe where people are born with animal partners who represent their souls. Although the series tackles big questions about religion, science, power, and myth, protagonist Lyra Belacqua remains its relatable emotional center.
- The American Girl books (various authors) and The Baby-Sitter's Club series (Ann M. Martin) Like Little Women, these books remind readers there's no one personality young girls must emulate (something it's easy to forget in stories with only one female character). The Baby-Sitter's Club series celebrates female friendships and offers a wealth of diverse characters (I loved funky artist Claudia Kishi), while The American Girl books double as a history lesson as they explore the lives of young girls growing up in all different eras (I was a fan of Felicity Merriman who lived through the American Revolution and Josefina Montoya who grew up in 19th century New Mexico).
- Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling) Yes, technically the protagonist of Harry Potter is a boy wizard, but Hermione Granger was so hugely important to me growing up that I have to make space for her on this list. If you need further proof of Hermione's importance, check out this fantastic Boing Boing article written by 14-year-old fan Naomi Horn.
Looking back at my childhood favorites, I realized I read a lot of books about white characters. Sadly, it's still harder than it should be to find young adult books centered on characters of color, but xoJane complied six recommendations to get you started including Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor and Eleanor And Park by Rainbow Rowell.
And finally, here are five female-centered bonus recommendations for older readers:
- Beloved (Toni Morrison)
- Pride & Prejudice (Jane Austen)
- The Joy Luck Club (Amy Tan)
- Mrs. Dalloway (Virginia Woolf)
- Confessions Of A Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)*
*This fun chick lit series may not be great literature, but it's an utterly charming story with a wonderfully flawed female lead, and I have no shame in recommending it to those looking for some lightweight fun.