Stirring her-story

The runaway success of Chelsea Clinton’s She Persisted has ushered in a golden age of children’s books about inspiring real-life women. No matter what your kid’s interests are, you can find a relevant story with a female role model. 

Song for Gwendolyn Brooks

The magic of this biography has to be experienced to be believed. It reads like the Pulitzer-winning poet’s own works, imbued with a dignified warmth that’s perfectly complemented by Xia Gordon’s tender, graceful illustrations. See if you can get to the end without a tear in your eye. 

Ages 5 and up • $16.95

Hedy Lamarr's Double Life

This is a long one, but it tells a fascinating story: In the 1930s, Hedy Lamarr was a gorgeous movie star who had a secret passion for science and inventing. During World War II, she developed a system that helped the Allies keep their communications secret, a system that still underpins cell phones and other modern technology. STEM-focused kids will especially love the in-depth exploration of Lamarr’s invention.  

Ages 5 and up • $16.95

Dream Big, Little One

Typically, this genre is comprised of longer books telling complex, fascinating life stories. In this board-book adaptation of her best-selling Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History, Vashti Harrison demonstrates one way to bring in the toddlers by introducing 18 trailblazing black women with one pithy sentence each.

Ages 0–3 • $18.99

Dancing Through Fields Of Color

In the 1950s, Helen Frankenthaler overcame sexism and plenty of “mansplaining” — before that became a term, of course — to become a leader of Abstract Expressionism. Young artists can try out her groundbreaking soak-stain technique with an activity at the end of the book. 

Ages 4–8 • $18.99

I Am Billie Jean King

No compilation of books about real-life heroes is complete without at least one entry from Brad Metzler’s Ordinary People Change the World series. This latest one touches on issues of sexism, sexual orientation, social activism and more in an approachable style, using illustrations that look like old Calvin and Hobbes comics. See also: I Am Sonia Sotomayor.

Ages 5–8 • $14.99

Ed Dykhuizen is an associate editor at Minnesota Parent and father of three who lives in St. Paul.