Women's History Celebrated in Children's Books

Here is a sampling of some of the excellent children's books that celebrate women's history and the women who made, and are making, history.

01
of 10

Irena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto

Irena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto
Irena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto. Holiday House

While Irena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto, like many picture books, includes an illustration on every double-page spread, it has much more text than most picture books. Author Susan Goldman Rubin presents the true story of Irena Sendler and her heroic efforts to save Jewish children during the Holocaust with drama and accuracy.

Irena Sendler was a young Catholic social worker when German forces entered Poland on September 1, 1939. By 1942, Irena Sendler was actively involved in the Council for Aid to Jews and began to enter the Jewish quarter disguised as a nurse to help Jewish children escape. She also kept a written record of the children in the hope they could be someday reunited with their families.

The illustrations, dark and dramatic oil paintings by Bill Farnsworth, help to reinforce the tension inherent in the story. Although the book is only 40 pages long, the writing and the subject matter make it a good book for children 9 to 13 in upper elementary and middle school.

In the Afterword, the author provides information about how Irena Sendler's actions came to be known and honored. Other helpful extras at the book's end are a two-page detailed Resources list, which includes books, articles, videos, testimonies, Source Notes and more, plus a detailed index.

Holiday House published Irena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto in a hardcover edition in 2011; its ISBN is 9780823425952.

02
of 10

A Woman in the House (and Senate)

A Woman in the House (and Senate)
A Woman in the House (and Senate). Abrams Books for Young Readers, an imprint of ABRAMS

What is A Woman in the House (and Senate) by Ilene Cooper all about? The subtitle sums it up: How Women Came to the United States Congress, Broke Down Barriers, and Changed the Country. I recommend this 144-page book for tweens and teens. In eight sections, with 20 chapters, Cooper covers the subject from the suffrage movement to the 2012 elections.

Abrams Books for Young Readers, an imprint of ABRAMS published the hardcover edition of A Woman in the House (and Senate) in 2014. The ISBN is 9781419710360. The book is also available in several e-book formats.

For detailed information, read my full review of A Woman in the House (and Senate).

03
of 10

Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees

Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees - Picture Book Cover
Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees. Charlesbridge

While there are a number of children's picture books about Wangari Maathai and her work, I like this one the best because of both the vibrant illustrations by Aurélia Fronty and the well-written and substantive biography by Franck Prévot. I recommend the book for ages 8 to 12.

Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees begins with her childhood in Kenya and covers Wangari Maathai's education and studies in the United States, her return to Kenya and the work that made her a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Wangari Maathai not only worked to plant trees to counteract deforestation, but she also worked for democracy and peace in her country.

The list of awards and recognition for the book include: Children's Africana Book Awards Best Book for Young Children, Booklist Top Ten Biographies for Youth, USBBY Outstanding International Books, IRA Notable Books for a Global Society, Amelia Bloomer Project List and CBC-NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People.

Chalesbridge published the book in 2015. The hardcover edition ISBN is 9781580896269. The book is also available as an ebook. For more information, download the Charlesbridge Wangari Maathai Activity & Discussion Guide.

04
of 10

Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters

Let It Shine - cover of nonfiction children's book
Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters. Harcourt

Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters by Andrea Davis Pinkney provides a fascinating look at the accomplishments of 10 women, from Sojourner Truth to Shirley Chisholm. Each profile is presented in chronological order and is accompanied by a stunning allegorical portrait by artist Stephen Alcorn. I recommend the Coretta Scott King Book Award Honor Book for kids in upper elementary and middle school.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt published the hardcover edition (cover pictured) in 2000; the ISBN is 9780152010058. In 2013, the publisher released a paperback edition; its  ISBN is 9780547906041.

For detailed information, read my full review of Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters.

05
of 10

For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai's Story

For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai's Story - Book Cover
For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai's Story. Capstone

It's not easy to tell the true story of a young girl who is shot in the face in a way that is both age appropriate and true to what actually happened, but Rebecca Langston-George succeeds in her picture book biography of young activist Malala Yousafzai, illustrated digitally by Janna Bock..

The 40-page narrative nonfiction book focuses on Malala's upbringing in Pakistan with a father who valued, and provided, education for both girls and boys, and a mother who was not given the opportunity to learn to read and write as a child.

When the Taliban outlawed education for girls in Pakistan, Malala spoke out about the value of education. She continued to attend school despite threats from the Taliban. As a result, she was shot and nearly lost her life.

Although it was no longer safe for her in her own country, even after her family relocated to England where she had been taken for treatment, Malala remained a staunch supporter of education for both girls and boys saying, "One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world."

In 2014, at the age of 17, Malala Yousafzai was honored with the Nobel Peace prize. The young girl who spoke out is the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

Capstone published the hardcover edition of For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai's Story in 2016. The ISBN is 9781623704261. The ISBN for the paperback edition (publication date July 1, 2016) is 9781491465561.

06
of 10

Remember the Ladies: 100 Great American Women

Remember the Ladies: 100 Great American Women book cover
Remember the Ladies: 100 Great American Women. HarperCollins

In words and pictures, Remember the Ladies: 100 Great American Women highlights the lives of 100 memorable women over four centuries. Author and illustrator Cheryl Harness presents the women in chronological order, providing both historical context and a colorful illustration for each. I recommend the book for ages 8 to 14.

Remember the Ladies: 100 Great American Women was first published in a hardcover edition by HarperCollins in 2001; its ISBN is 9780688170172. HarperTrophy, an imprint of HarperCollins, published a paperback edition in 2003, with an ISBN of 9780064438698.

For detailed information, read my full review of 

07
of 10

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement

Voice of Freedom Fannie Lou Hamer - Picture Book Cover
Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement. Candlewick Press

It speaks to the quality of both the text and the illustrations that Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement won three major 2016 children's  book awards. The book was recognized as a 2016 Caldecott Honor Book for the excellence of the mixed media illustrations by Ekua Holmes. Holmes is also the 2016 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award winner. The book by poet Carole Boston Weatherford is also a 2016  Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award Honor Book.

The nonfiction 56-page book in picture book format is an excellent picture book biography for ages 10 and up. Candlewick Press published Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement in 2015. The hardcover ISBN is 9780763665319. The book is also available as an audio CD; the ISBN is 9781520016740.

08
of 10

Untamed The Wild Life of Jane Goodall

Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall cover art
Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall. National Geographic Society

Untamed The Wild Life of Jane Goodall by Anita Silvey is a 96 page biography of the well-known and respected scientist. The book covers the childhood and career of Jane Goodall. The carefully researched book is greatly enhanced by the abundant high quality photographs of Jane Goodall at work in the field and the photographs of Goodall as a child, as well as the special sections on her work with chimpanzees.

I recommend Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall for ages 8 to12.  For young children, from 3 to 6, I have another recommendation: , the picture book biography of Jane Goodall by Patrick McDonnell,

National Geographic Society published the hardcover edition of Untamed The Wild Life of Jane Goodall in 2015; the ISBN is 9781426315183.

For detailed information, read my full review of

09
of 10

Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors?

Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors? - cover of picture book biography
Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell. Henry Holt and Company

Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors? by Tanya Lee Stone, with illustrations by Marjorie Priceman, targets a younger audience than the other books on this list. Children 6 to 9 will enjoy this intriguing picture book biography of Elizabeth Blackwell, who, in 1849, became the first female to earn a medical degree in the United States.

Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company, published Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors? in 2013. The ISBN is 9780805090482. In 2013, Macmillan Audio released a digital audio version, ISBN: 9781427232434. The book is also available in several e-book formats.

For detailed information, read my full review of Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors?

10
of 10

The Librarian of Basra A True Story of Iraq

The Librarian of Basra - children's picture book cover
The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The Librarian of Basra: A True Story of Iraq, written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter, is a nonfiction picture book that can be used as a read-aloud for grades one and two, but I particularly recommend the book for ages 8-12. The story of how one determined woman, with the help of others she recruited, saved 30,000 books from the Basra Central Library during the invasion of Iraq in 2003 is inspiring.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt published the hardcover edition in 2005; its ISBN is 9780152054458. The publisher released an e-book edition in 2014; its ISBN is 9780547541426.

For detailed information, read my full review of The Librarian of Basra: A True Story of Iraq.