Empowering Chapter Books for Young Girls

Girl with books

About a year-and-a-half ago, I wrote a post at Fatherhood Etc. titled Empowering Books for Young Girls. I wrote it in response to a great post at Towards the Stars. That post listed the Top Ten Empowering Books for Girls. The list was all teen and tween, while Anna was in 1st Grade at the time, so I made one of my own for younger girls.

This list is by no means exhaustive. It’s just a handful of books (or book series) that Anna really enjoys, and that feature girls around her age as either the primary or secondary protagonists.

Anna has always been a strong reader, and now that she’s in 3rd Grade, she’s reading more and more chapter books on her own. I included the Ramona series in my original list since we were reading it to her. Since then she’s discovered several other series she really enjoys.

And I’ve started writing my own chapter book series inspired by my daughter, so this list is for me too …

Junie B. Jones Books

Junie B. Jones. (and Junie B., First Grader).

Barbra Park’s brilliant series follows Junie B. Jones from the first day of Kindergarten through the bulk of her first grade year. She makes friends, learns to deal with meanie boys and tattletales, and navigates the complicated rules of family and school while never losing her boisterous spirit. Park wrote the whole series in first person from Junie B.’s point of view, complete with comical misspellings and hilarious misunderstandings.  We’ve read this whole series through twice and love it. It has been such an inspiration that I even mention Junie B. in my elevator pitch.

Ivy and Bean

Ivy and Bean.

Annie Barrows’ series tell the story of two unlikely friends—Ivy, a quiet, intelligent “girly girl,” and Bean, a rambunctious, adventurous “tomboy.”  Neighbors and schoolmates, the series follows their escapades and all the mischief they get into. Anna discovered this series at her old school and loves it.

Cam Jansen and the Spaghetti Max Mystery

Cam Jansen Mysteries.

David Adler’s extensive series of mysteries follows the exploits of 5th grade detective Jennifer “Cam” Jansen, and her best friend Eric. Cam gets her nickname from her photographic memory (i.e. camera), which she uses throughout the series to record valuable clues.  Julia read these to her students as an elementary school teacher, and bought several of them for Anna. I haven’t read them yet, but I’m looking forward to them.

How to Lose Your Cookie Money

Willimena Rules.

Valerie Wilson Wesley’s series is about an African American girl named Willimena (Willy to her friends) who’s a 3rd grader and a Girl Scout Brownie. I hadn’t heard of this series before, and found it looking through Anna’s chapter books today. The one book I found that we own—How to Lose Your Cookie Money—has her pictured on the cover in her Brownie uniform. (When I showed that to Anna, she loved it!) I’d been looking for a series with a Girl Scout character, and one of the girls in my chapter book is African American. A fortuitous find!

Amber Brown is not a Crayon

The Amber Brown Series.

A series of realistic fiction novellas by Paula Danziger—and later Bruce Coville and Elizabeth Lilly—following the title character through her third and fourth grade years. The series deals with difficult but common circumstances—like divorced parents and friends moving away—as seen through the eyes of a an eight—(and later nine)—year—old. Another bookshelf discovery, like Willimena Rules, Amber Brown strakes me at first glance as an updated Ramona Quimby for a latch-key generation. I look forward to reading them with Anna and talking about them afterward. She knows kids facing similar challenges, and characters in my own series might face some of them as well.

This is just a handful of series on Anna’s shelf. I know that there are other out there. Do you have any to suggest? If so, please leave them in the comments. Thanks!


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