I’m now almost two decades into my professional journey educating children to become highly-competent and caring adults who will go on to fix the damage my generation has done to the world.  While I still love my profession, it is now more rare than it was a decade or so ago that I go to a lecture, workshop or conference and hear something truly, surprisingly new about raising children.  Often what is presented are old, but interesting ideas and theories that have been updated and repackaged for the next generation of over-eager parents.  

Last week I was at a talk by Peggy Orenstein author of Cinderella Ate my Daughter and Girls and Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape. Ms. Orenstein’s dry humor concerning the absurd pop culture that bombards girls at younger and younger ages made the distressing information palatable.  That said, at least for me, nothing seemed terribly new.   As a parent of two girls, I look at the Kardashians with the same scorn my mother did for Madonna’s Truth or Dare 25 years ago.  Same song, updated release. Then Ms. Orenstein said something that caught my attention:

“There needs to be a children’s book list created of the top strong, kick-ass female protagonist stories that ALL BOYS must read.  Girls read about strong males all the time, but boys, particularly our youngest boys, are far less likely to read about strong girls. And they need to, otherwise outside their mothers their education on women will come from Disney princesses and the Kardashians.”  

Or something very close to that and THAT was a great idea I hadn’t heard before.  However, in a culture that loves lists that tell you what to (or not to) do, I also couldn’t believe it didn’t exist.  I immediately consulted my iPhone and true enough, no such list.

So, 18 years in schools, 8 years as a mother of two girls and 45 years of loving all literature, here is my list of bad-ass girl books all boys should read:

1.  Stand Tall Molly Lou Mellon by  Patty Lovell:  My all time FAVORITE tough girl picture book
2.  Olivia series by Ian Falconer:  Olivia makes individualism the “it” female trait of the 21st Century
3.  Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts:  Quiet by day, brilliant inventor by night
4.  Not All Princesses Dress in Pink by  Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple: Girls are not confined to being just a “pink” princess
5.  Madame President by Lane Smith:  Because how can I not list it in this election year
6.  Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl:  The atypical, not the typical ladies you expect to see
7.  Pippi Longstocking series by Astrid Lindgren: The original bad-ass girl albeit context is a bit dated
8.  Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh:  Harriet has been making intelligence/curiosity cool for 50 years
9.  El Deafo by Cece Bell: The world of graphic novels has taken over and this is a cannot miss
10.  Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin:  A daughter sets out to change her family’s misfortune

Mothers of little brothers and big brothers too – listen up. Summer is coming so make a point to add a few of these books to your son’s reading list.


About the author:Eva Allison Frank spent over 18 years working in schools as a teacher, curriculum leader, coach, college counselor, assistant head of school, sometimes pastor, often mayor, and de facto parent therapist.  She is currently experimenting with this parenting thing on her 8 and 5 year old daughters. Follow her on http://www.evaallisonfrank.com and Facebook.


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