Five Fantastic Heroines from Picture Books

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Emma Nichols

Staff Writer

Emma Nichols is a career bookseller. Though she expected to grow up to be a librarian, or a witch, she's quite happy with how things are working out. Officially, she specializes in children's books and manages their book fairs; unofficially, she is passionate about short stories and spreadsheets. When not evangelizing her favorite books to unsuspecting customers, she can be heard discussing books and bookselling on her podcast Drunk Booksellers. Her other hobbies include organizing her books, taking pictures of her cat, and binge-re-watching her favorite TV shows. Blog: The Bibliot Twitter: @thebibliot

My sister recently had a baby, the first in my nuclear family. She’s an adorable 3-month-old who I can already to tell will be a book lover. I know what you’re thinking: don’t push your book-reading agenda on this babe who doesn’t even know how to talk, much less read; but I swear, she is always reaching for a book and when we read together you’ve never seen a baby more engaged.

With this addition to our family, I find myself looking at kids books differently. Obviously reading has had a profound effect on my life; there are characters I met as a kid who I still consider close friends and role models. I want to make sure my niece is introduced to the best, most badass, and diverse ladies in literature right from the start. So, naturally, I’ve made a list of my current favorite heroines.

The Princess and the Pony by Kate BeatonThe Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton

For her birthday, Princess Pinecone wants a warrior horse fit for a warrior princess; instead she receives an adorable pony with a flatulence problem. But she learns brute strength is just one of many ways that warriors can be defeated. I think Pinecone will encourage my niece to love both kicking butt and making googley eyes at adorable animals.

This Is Sadie by Sara O’LearyThis Is Sadie by Sara O'Leary

Sadie might be small, but she’s got a huge imagination. Whether she is building a fort, bird watching, or adrift in the land of fantasy, she is always occupied and entertained. Sadie’s ability to be alone but never lonely is inspiring. Not to mention the illustrations in this book are Wes Anderson levels of charming.



I Am Jazz by Jazz JenningsI Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings

Gender identity is a complicated subject for adults to wrap their heads around, much less kids, but I Am Jazz, the true story of a transitioning transgender girl, depicts this difficult subject beautifully. I want my niece growing up to not only understand that she should be herself no matter the risk, but, on a more complicated level, to learn from the start that gender binaries are not an accurate view of the world we live in and everyone deserves love and respect no matter where they land on the vast spectrum of humanity.

Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah UnderwoodInterstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood

Exactly what it sounds like, this picture book is a rhyming retelling of Cinderella, set in space: fairy tales, sci-fi, and playful language—what more could you ask for? How about a heroine who is a space mechanic and prefers fixing space ships to ballroom dancing. I hope Cinderella will teach my niece to pursue her interests no matter the obstacles, and that not all fairy tales end in marriage.

Prickl yJenny by Sibylle DelacroixPrickly Jenny by Sibylle Delacroix

Jenny is feeling prickly. We all recognize this feeling—where nothing satisfies and you’re not quite sure what you want and everything comes out a contradiction. And you know what? That’s fine. Sometimes your feelings are inexpressable and negative. It’s ok to feel them, just know they won’t last forever.

And these are just five of my favorites. There are so many excellent characters just waiting to be introduced to my niece—good thing she already likes reading, because this will take some time.