20 Kids’ Books With Strong + Smart Female Characters

By July 31, 2015 Books, Literature, and Comics, Media, Motherhood
Stack of Library Books

Today is Harry Potter’s birthday. It is also J.K. Rowling’s, who is very possibly one of the world’s most successful female writers. Yes, Harry Potter is about the BOY who lived but it would be unfair not to count the series as an ensemble piece chalk full of strong girls and women. When I first read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone I was enamored with Hermione, finally a girl who was like me. Smart, brave, and to be honest a little frumpy. I related to that frizzy hair. Let’s not forget Professor McGonagall, Tonks, Fleur, Luna, and let’s not forget Molly Weasley and her daughter Ginny.  Harry held the company of many intelligent women throughout the seven books.

Anyway, in honor of one of my personal favorite author’s 50th birthday, this is a round up of some really great books featuring girls who get ish done and love themselves and disprove the urban myth that friendships between girls have to be catty. These girls are strong, smart, and clever. They overcome, climb over, out wit, and out run. These are all books that I can either personally recommend or books that have been recommended to me by sources I feel are trustworthy. This post contains affiliate links. Happy reading!

Picture Books

1blueberry girl coverBlueberry Girl : The story of an infant who grows into an adventurous, bold, young woman. Beautiful art and poetic lilting prose makes this book an homage to bright, brave little girls everywhere.

2IlovemyhairI Love My Hair : A little girl falls in love with one of the attributes that makes her special while bonding with her mom during an evening braiding session.

3midnightlibraryThe Midnight Library: A female librarian owns the night by keeping her library open from midnight to dawn where she is joined by her patrons, the creatures of the night.

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Grace for President: A little girl decides to be America’s 1st female president after she learns there has yet to be a women in the oval office.

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Rosie Revere, Engineer: By day, Rosie is a quiet girl who doesn’t ask for too much attention but by night she’s a brilliant inventor with her heart set on engineering. When Rosie finds out her aunt dream is to fly, she sets out to build the ultimate flying machine.

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Madeline : Madeline is the a classic children’s book about a little girl living in a boarding school in Paris with 11 other girls.

marisol mcdonald

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match: Marisol is a mashup of different cultures. Her red hair and beautiful brown skin, her peanut butter and jelly wrapped into a burrito, and she loves to match stripes with polka dots. This on is a story about loving your true self in a world that’s desperate to label you.

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Me…Jane: The story of a young Jane Goodall and her stuffed toy chimp Jubilee as told and illustrated by Mutts creator, Patrick McDonald.

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The Paper Bag Princess: The Paper Bag Princess is a story of a damsel not so much is distress. When she’s captured by a dragon, she sets out to outwit the dragon and rescue her prince instead of the other way around.

9chairformymother

A Chair For My Mother: Three generations of a family in the form of a grandmother, mother, and a child set their heart on a new comfy chair after their possessions are all burned in a house fire. They work to make this dream a reality by saving coins in a big glass jar.

Chapter Books

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Girl with a Brave Heart : Set in an unnamed Middle Eastern country, this is a Cinderella story with a twist that doesn’t involve a prince, just time, patience, persistence and a kind heart.

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Where the Mountain Meets the Moon: A little girl living in poverty with her family leaves to find the Old Man on the Moon so he can change their fortune.

howls-moving-castle

Howl’s Moving Castle Sophie is a normal girl, the oldest of three sisters, but when she accidentally gets cursed she’s turned into an old women and seeks out a moving castle, the known home of a wizard named Howl who could help her undo the spell.

Esperanza_Rising_cover

Esperanza Rising: Esepranza lives on a beautiful ranch in the Mexican countryside but when tragedy finds her family, she is forced to move to California to work as a migrant farm worker.

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Matilda : Unloved and uncared for but brilliant beyond her years, Matilda, finds a way to stand up against the bullies in her life with her superhuman genius.

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Ronia, The Robber’s Daughter: Ronia is raised amongst robbers who live in a castle that was split it half by lightning. When a rival band of robbers moves into the other half, her idea of who is good and who is evil is challenged. This story is about sticking up for what you know is right even when no one else agrees.

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Tua and the Elephant : A Thai girl makes a friend in an elephant and does everything in her power to free him.

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Ivy + Bean : A series of books revolving around two girls who are so different they seemingly have nothing in common but end up becoming inseparable partners in crime.

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Roxie and the Hooligans : Roxie is ready for anything, anything except being stuck on an island with a herd of bullies and two escaped criminals. Proof that girls are made for quick thinking and adventure.

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Julie of the Wolves : Thirteen year old Miyax, known as Julie to her pen pal, is running from an unhappy marriage. Attempting to make it from Alaska to San Francisco she ends up alone without any provisions on the harsh tundra, where she adapts and learns to live amongst a pack of wolves.

What brilliant kids books featuring strong female characters did I leave out? Any girl strong recommendations?

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You Are Five

By July 28, 2015 Family and Friends, Le Guppy, Letters to My Daughter
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Dear Harper,

Sunday was your birthday. While you slept, exhausted from a successful Superhero birthday party, your clock ticked from four to five. Congratulations baby, you’ve made another complete rotation around the sun. Sweet baby Harp, that’s what we call you but the truth is you aren’t a baby anymore.You are five.

In just a few short weeks you’ll be an official kindergartener at a school that is easily ten times larger than the small fishbowl of your preschool. You don’t seem concerned. Mostly you are excited for a new backpack and new friends and learning how to read. You’ve been Miss Independent from the very start and you rarely look back so I’m not surprised by your ability to embrace big changes with excitement. But me, I’m not quite as adaptable.

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At night, I still listen to hear you breathing, waiting for your telltale snore. Sometimes I peer into your bed and expect to see a little bald baby. Instead I find this older  you, blond hair down to your butt and a tan to give the Coppertone girl a run for her money. Long, lanky arms and legs stretched out into every possible direction. Almost always naked; that’s one thing that has not changed. You refuse to be contained. And while you are deep in a dream, I find other things to stay up worrying about. Bullies, playground accidents, cars carelessly blowing through stop signs, tardy bells, the ubiquitous and unfair body standards placed on girls, lice, the stomach flu. I envy your ability to see nothing but the best possibilities.

Four had some hiccups. There were a million doctor’s visits and a million and one timeouts, a lot of hurt feelings, sleepless nights, and hours clocked in unfamiliar waiting rooms. The good thing is that we seem to have gotten both your migraines and your temper tantrums under control (although I always have to keep a granola bar in my purse to keep you happy and un-hangry). Even though it wasn’t always easy, I’m proud of the amount of maturity, bravery, and grace with which you carry yourself almost always.

Little Girl in Pink Cowgirl Boots

This year you grew, and grew, and grew. Now when you stand next to me, you tuck right into the crook of my elbow. At your well-check you came in at 42 inches even which means you can go on almost every ride at Disneyland and you will undoubtedly be taller than me. You are heavy and long in my arms and sometimes it feels impossible to carry you, but I do it anyway, because I’m happy you still ask me to pick you up and hold you close.

Your speech has improved  and  now the only letter that gives you the business is that pesky L which still comes out as a youthful W.  You used works like antagonize, evidently, and obviously like you were born with a dictionary in your head. You can count to 100 and beyond and are starting to work out simple math problems without any help. You’ve also started sounding out letters into words.

Right now you dig riding your scooter, your new jazz dance class,  park playing, comic-books, Batgirl, board games, Hello Kitty, Disneyland days, making stuff with Dad (especially when it involves power tools) , Princes Leia, swimming, and your pink cowgirl boots. Every single day you are more you and I love learning who that is.

Happy Birthday, Munch.

Love, Mama

Playlist for Harper : July 2014 to 2015

Note: This is the first year that you really had songs she requested by name or lyric (besides one or two in previous playlists) so I decided I would incorporate a few of those frequent requests from this year to preserve that moment in our dance party timeline.

1: Featherstone {The Paper Kites} 2: Suddenly I See {KT Tunstall} 3: Hooked on a Feeling {Blue Swede} 4: Double Dutch Bus {Frankie Stevens} 5: Geronimo {Sheppard} 6: Let’s Dance {David Bowie} 7: She’s a Rainbow {The Rolling Stones} 8: While You Were Sleeping {Elvis Perkins} 9:Dream {Priscilla Ahn} 10: When You Come Back Down {Nickle Creek}

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Midwest or Bust!

By July 24, 2015 Family and Friends, Le Guppy, Travel
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I’ve mentioned , probably many times, in the past that I am from the Midwest. More specifically, my particular brand of moxie was cultivated in the steel mills of Gary, Indiana. Despite the fact those roots are stretched across nearly 2,100 miles, there is a part of me that still craves green trees and rich, dark soil, and a bright blue sky piled with clouds. Taking Harper to visit my family, to eat a meal at the table where my grandfather used to sit and eat his oatmeal, and watching her learn to make kuchen from my grandmother is good for my soul. It reminds me where I am from and where I’m headed. Harper was 11 months old the last time she was there, but she had this freaky ability to pretty much map out the house in her head before we had even landed in Chicago.  And she loves it. She loves the trees even though she thought they were broccoli from the airplane. She loves their little dog Lucy who was happy to oblige Harper’s excess of energy. She saw fireflies for the first time and even held one in her hand. She played games with her very patient older cousins. There was a day trip to Milwaukee, countless games of Solitaire, smashed pennies with Nana’s help, a Target run, a trip to the Albanese Candy Factory,  and a view of Chicago that can only been seen from the 94th floor of the John Hancock building. And perhaps most importantly, a trip to Miller Beach to explore my most favorite place in this wide, wide world.  Then we said goodbyes and boarded the Amtrak at Union Station in Chicago in route to Michigan.

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My mom is from Michigan, and when I was a kid we spent our summers exploring five unkempt acres of land in Harrisville and at a cottage on the coast of Lake Huron. Now, we are far away and none of us have three months to spend together because there are bills and babies and other adultly things but we still feel the pull back to that place and know it’s important for us to be together, and for our kids to be together. We ate a lot of Superman ice cream, met a cow, played with cousins, ate wild raspberries, made trips to the Harrisville State Park for showers, ran from roosters, rode in the backs of trucks, swam in the cold cold lake, sized up our boots with Paul Bunyan, explored dirt roads, went deer spotting, and feel in love with the idea of nothing for miles but trees. As Harper would  say “No houses, no cars, no signs, no mailboxes. We’re lost.” And isn’t that the best way to be?

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Red Wine + Herb Pork Tenderloin

By July 21, 2015 Food and Recipes
Red Wine and Herb Pork Tenderloin

As Harper quickly approaches the fifth year of her life and all day kindergarten five days a week I’ve been doing what I can to prepare. Some of that preparation is coming up with meals of the set it and forget it variety without setting Harp up to lose that sophisticated palette I’ve so lovingly curated. I mean having a kid that begs for spicy Himalayan food and tacos piled high with fresh guacamole and pico de gallo is a big positive in a house of adventurous eaters. This slow cooker pork tenderloin in red wine sauce is one of those “fancy” meals that requires very little prep and produces big but not overbearing flavors.

Herbed Pork Tenderloin in Red Wine Sauce

4 Servings

  • 2 pound pork roast (I used a tenderloin but any pork will work with this, chops included)
  • 1 medium onion halved and sliced thin
  • 5 gloves garlic cut into chunks
  • 2 cups vegetables and/or potatoes
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 tsps olive oil
  • 2 Tbsps soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsps brown sugar
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Fresh black pepper, to taste
  • 1 Tbsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 Tbsp dried parsley
  • Red chilli flakes, to taste

In the bottom of the crock pot mix together the two cups of wine, two tablespoons of brown sugar and two tablespoons of soy sauce.  I used a Chianti because I already had a bottle open but any red wine you would be willing to drink should work (dessert wines excluded). Don’t buy cheap wine specifically to cook with. Those same flavors that are unpleasant when you drink it will still be present in the food you cook with it.

Red Wine and Herb Pork Tenderloin

Toss all your veggies and/or potatoes including about 75% of the onions into the bottom of the crock pot. If you are using less hardy veggies, say zucchini or bell peppers, I would wait to throw them into until the last hour of cooking so they don’t get mushy.   And now, turn your attention to your pork. Pat it dry with some paper towels. (At this point you can dredge the the pork in flour and salt and pepper and sear it in a pan if you want but I hate using extra pans so I usually skip this step).  Rub the whole thing down with your olive oil and liberally salt and pepper both sides. Combine the parsley, red chilli flakes, Italian seasoning, granulated garlic and sage together. Now, take your  spice mixture and rub it onto all the surfaces of the meat.

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Place the pork in the crock pot, rolling it a round to get the whole thing coated with the liquid and cook on high for 5 hours or low for 7-8 hour. If you want to thicken your sauce before serving, dissolve a little cornstarch into cold water and integrate it in the last hour of cooking.

Pork Loin 4rs

And yeah, I know this isn’t the best ever picture but to be honest my house smelled so good I just wanted to eat it.

If you try it, let me know what you think. And, while we are talking about it does anyone have any quick but delicious recipes?

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