16 Favorite Books for Brave Girls
Brave Girls love adventures! And books are full of them.
Books are a great way to start conversations, teach life lessons, and develop critical thinking. And, these stories are fun!
I’m so excited to share my Reading List for Brave Girls with you! (Plus a Bonus one at the end… tsk, tsk)
The titles are in no particular order, but I added a little * to my absolute favorites.
I would love to hear if your favorites made the cut, or if you bought one of these. Tell me in the comments!
Each title links to Amazon. You can support Brave Like a Girl by using the direct link when you buy a book. We receive a small commission that helps us continue our work of raising Brave Girls everywhere!
1. The Paper Bag Princess (Robert Munsch, Michael Martchenko)
This book is a classic, and with good reason. Friends told me about it on several occasions before I actually checked it out. It relates the story of a princess whose prince is kidnapped by a dragon. As this happens, her clothes are burned down, so she uses a paper bag to cover up. When she finally rescues the prince, he criticizes her saying, “You smell like ashes, your hair is all tangled and you are wearing a dirty old paper bag.” The princess is disgusted by his reaction and leaves him, skipping happily into the sunrise.
Though the message behind this part of the story makes it a favorite, I also love that the princess didn’t have to use the traditionally “male” qualities to beat the dragon. She did not physically fight it. Instead, she outsmarted and tricked the dragon into exhaustion.
The Paper Bag Princess is a great way to teach girls to use their unique gifts to fight for what is right. Also, it teaches all of us to let go of what doesn’t deserve our attention.
2) Betty Bunny Wants a Goal (Michael B. Kaplan/Stéphane Jorisch)
Betty Bunny wants to be a soccer player. Not just any soccer player, she wants to hit 10 goals on her first soccer try. When she realizes that the game requires more skills than she possesses, she wants to give up.
My favorite part is where her brother tells her, “Maybe you’re just not that good.” Betty Bunny seeks comfort from her father, who surprises everyone when he responds, “Maybe he’s right.”
This book creatively illustrates that being good at something requires work and effort. It normalizes the idea that we don’t need to be perfect, and that the most fulfilling road can often be hard. With her family’s support, Betty Bunny practices until she scores her first goal.
Being a Brave Girl requires courage to try, fail, and try again – until you get good at it! Like Betty Bunny’s mother says, “If you keep trying, and practice, there’s nothing you can’t do.”
3) Amazing Grace (Mary Hoffman/Caroline Binch) *
Grace loves acting, which is why she is very excited about her class’ upcoming play, Peter Pan. When her friends tell Grace she can’t play Peter Pan because she is a girl and Black, her Grandmother takes her to the Ballet. Grace gets to watch an African-American dancer portray a role traditionally played by white dancers.
Grace learns not to be limited by her gender or race. This book is a great way to teach girls to defy all kinds of glass ceilings.
It also helps children empathize with others who do not look like them. It brings awareness to white privilege in a developmentally appropriate way. Brave girls of all races will gain perspective from this read. A great way to start the conversation!
4) The Lion Inside (Rachel Bright/Jim Field) *
One of my absolute favorites! This book tells the story of a mouse who is often overlooked and overheard. She needs to find her voice, so she gathers the courage to ask the king of the jungle for help. Standing in front of the sleeping lion, the mouse takes a deep breath. He wakes up and squeals! Turns out, everyone is scared of something.
Clearly, the mouse’s courage is an instant hit for Brave Girls. The story is filled with excellent secondary messages of finding one’s voice, facing tough challenges, and even friendship. I love this story so much!
5) The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade (Justin Roberts/Christian Robertson)
This is a great story about how anybody, even the smallest girl in the smallest grade can make a change.
Sally McCabe notices that things aren’t right at her school. And one day, she raises her hand saying, “I’m tired of seeing this terrible stuff. Stop Hurting each other! This is enough!” Students and teacher slowly join her, and things change on school grounds.
Though some of the language can be a bit hard for younger kids, the story totally makes up for it with an amazing message. The book also gives a great chance to ask your Brave Girl for reasons why she would speak up.
Brave Girls don’t respect the status quo. When something needs to change, Brave Girls make it happen! Even the smallest ones in the smallest grades.
6) The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes (Mark Pett/Gary Rubinstein) *
This one became my daughter’s instant favorite. Preschoolers and early grade-schoolers think in black and white terms, also called all-or-nothing thinking that says, “I’m either good or bad.”
The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes is a wonderful way to show to your Brave Girl how everyone is flawed in their own way. And, how mistakes can be liberating.
The pressure to be perfect is too much to carry, and it’s unnecessary! When girls think they can’t make mistakes, they take fewer risks. Being safe and “perfect” has never gotten anybody anywhere.
As girls grow up, one fear that keeps them from advancing is “looking stupid.” This fear can be paralyzing. But when girls know that mistakes are a part of life, they speak up in class, ask questions, and attempt things they thought they couldn’t do – only to learn that they actually could!
7) A Peacock Among Pigeons (Tyler Curry/Clarion Gutierrez) *
In this awesome story, a peacock tries to be like a pigeon because he was raised by them. After all his efforts fail, he realizes that he can’t blend in with the crowd, and that he doesn’t need to. Peter the peacock meets other colorful birds who are all special in their own way. One day he sees one that he especially fascinating. He moves closer and, realizes this beautiful bird is, in fact, his own reflection in the water.
In a world where girls are constantly met by impossible standards, this book shares a beautiful message about being yourself, and loving yourself just the way you are. When we stop fighting ourselves, we can put all that energy into changing the world in much more meaningful ways.
8) Happiness Doesn’t Come From Headstands (Tamara Lewitt)
Girls are still taught to be perfect. It’s a goal that can never be reached. Even the most perfect “Pinterest-mom” isn’t good at everything.
In this story, Leela, who loves all things Yoga, struggles to do a handstand. Everyone else seems to master it, but she still can’t do it! Leela practices and practices, but finally accepts that happiness doesn’t come from mastering everything.
In the meantime, she figures that she is good at many other things, and that she can enjoy those while she continues to practice handstands.
It takes determination to learn hard skills. But it also takes internal strength to feel secure when facing imperfections. It’s ok not to be the best at everything! Being OK with wherever a girl is in life frees her up from stress and worry. It lets her be free to be Brave!
9) That is NOT a Good Idea (Mo Willems/Martha Rago)
Who doesn’t love Mo Willems? I added this one because it challenges perspective. This book is a great conversation starter about stereotypes.
In the story, a fox lures a goose to his house, for dinner. The goose appears to make bad decision after another, only to reveal at the end that she knew very well what she was doing. Brave
Girls make brave choices! Though many parents may want to follow up with a book about caution, this book manages something that is very hard to do in picture books, and that is working with a very unexpected twist.
The story can lead to conversations about courage, planning, caution, and many other great topics for Brave Girls!
10) Poppy Louise Is Not Afraid of Anything (Jenna McCarthy/Molli Idle)
A good follow-up to the previous book on this list, Poppy Louise is fearless. She is the kind of child that keeps parents on the edge of their seats. As opposed to being brave, which involves balancing courage and caution, Poppy doesn’t seem afraid of anything! But at the end, Poppy feels afraid.
This book is wonderful for teaching kids that being afraid at times is ok. Fear helps us be cautious. The absence of fear makes us careless, even reckless. Brave Girls listen to all their feelings, including fear. It’s ok to be scared sometimes!
11) Sidewalk Flowers (JonArno Lawson/Sydney Smith)
This book is beautiful. With no text, the whole story is illustrated. It simply follows a father and daughter who walk home. Starting in black and white, the color in the illustrations increases as the story unfolds. Along their way home, the little girl picks up flowers. She starts leaving them at certain spots on the side of the road. When they arrive home, the girl gives a flower to her mother. At the end, she has one flower left, which she wears in her hair.
This powerful story beautifully illustrates the power of our journey. The girl in this book would not have been able to spread the joy with her flowers if she had not persisted in picking them up one by one – and even more, if she had not noticed them. Staying in the present moment, this girl was able to recognize beauty on her way home. She made a difference to many, just by enjoying her journey, and by including them in it. A great addition to a Brave Girl reading list!
12) The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do (Ashley Spires)
Ashley Spires teaches wonderful lessons in each of her books. In this one, Lou’s friends want to play something that is not in Lou’s skill set yet. She finds very creative excuses to avoid her challenge. Eventually, Lou makes an attempt to learn this new skill. When she fails, she learns that it will take more time (and several tries) to be successful.
The book is a great way to speak to your Brave Girl about being OK with being imperfect. It also teaches courage to face a challenge. Lou did a great job at procrastinating, which is also a habit that serves to be recognized.
13) The Most Magnificent Thing (Ashley Spires)
The only author that is on this list twice is Ashley Spires. I could not pick just one of her books – both teach such fundamental lessons! In this one, “a regular girl” loves to make things. She plans out her new project, and gets to work. Attempt after failed attempt, the girl becomes increasingly frustrated. She becomes so angry, that she decides to take a walk. Once calm, she is able to look at her work with a new perspective. She notices that she can learn from each attempt, as each one was a little different.
Though eventually she figures it out, and manages to make the thing she wanted to make, the book also shows that each attempt was useful in a different way.
This book teaches one of the most valuable life lessons: persistence. But further, it teaches that no attempt is time wasted. Even though only her last attempt appeared successful, each attempt was one step in her process. This is a HUGE message for Brave Girls who want to change the world!
14) OH NO (Or How My Science Project Destroyed The World (Mac Barnet/Dan Santat) *
I love this book because it is about a girl who is larger than life! Her ideas and inventions are so good, and so powerful, that she can’t contain them. Everything she does surpasses expectations. She is, however, by far not perfect. She learns from her mistakes, as she works hard to fix them.
This is a book I definitely want as part of my Brave Girl’s library. It’s a book to come back to as she gets older. When your girl makes mistakes, or when she faces a tough challenge, this is good one to come back to. I am so grateful to the authors for giving us such a cool story!
15) Monster Trouble (Lane Fredrickson/Michael Roberston) *
Winifred Schnitzel is a Brave Girl by definition. And when monsters keep her up, she does what she has to do. She develops all kinds of tools and traps to keep them out. But they keep coming! Exhausted, she gives up. She stops fighting her monsters and goes to sleep, only to find out that the solution to keeping them away was the simplest one: Monsters hate kisses!
This is a great book for kids that are scared at night. It instills courage and makes monsters look a look harmless. After reading this book to your Brave Girl, play it out! Take turns being Winifred and the monsters. It will give you an excuse for lots of kisses, while also empowering her.
For deeper meaning, there is freedom in accepting what we can’t change! This often takes more courage than fighting the monsters. And it can help us beat them too!
16) The Princess in Black (Shannon and Dean Hale/LeUyen Pham)
Maybe I’m cheating by adding this chapter book, but I simply couldn’t skip it! For Kindergartners and up, this book challenges the image of the all-pink princess, without completely getting rid of it. This glass slippers wearing princess has a secret. Princess Magnolia (as everyone knows her) is also The Princess in Black. Nobody knows that they are the same person.
A fun read, this book incorporates princesses and superhero tales. How could it not be part of the Brave Girl reading list!
BONUS: What Does a Princess Really Look Like? (Mark Loewen/Ed Pokoj)
Alright, alright… I’m cheating! And this is not book #17 because it would be weird to put my own book on my favorites list. But since I have your attention, let me tell you about this Brave Girl!
I wrote this book for my daughter. I was concerned that boys had stories about heroes that solve the world’s problems while girls got stories about princesses that… well, didn’t do anything much. This narrative needs to change!
So this is Chloe. She loves everything princess, and decides to create her own. Throughout the story, Chloe discovers that princesses are not just pretty. They are strong, responsible, vocal, and determined. She also learns that her princess isn’t perfect! But then realizes that it’s the imperfection -her quirk- that makes her unique. Lastly, Chloe realizes that she did not create the princess she wants to be. Instead, she based the princess on who she already is.
I hope you check it out. My wish is that all girls hear this message!