Have you ever found yourself searching for picture books where a woman or girl is the central character? Turns out sheer numbers are to blame. A startling study revealed that from 1900 to 2000 males were the central characters in 57 percent of children’s books published per year. Only 31 percent had female central characters. The publishing industry still has a way to go, but there have been efforts towards greater female inclusion.
Here is a list of motivating picture books that encourage young ones to pursue their artistic dreams, with every story starring a woman or girl (affiliate links used in this post).
Pocket Full of Colors: The Magical World of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire From her imaginative childhood to her career as an illustrator, designer, and animator for Walt Disney Studios, Mary Blair wouldn’t play by the rules.
Me, Frida Me, Frida: As Frida Kahlo begins to explore San Francisco, she discovers the inspiration she needs to become one of the most celebrated artists of all time.
The Dot: One little dot marks the beginning of Vashti’s journey of surprise and self-discovery.
Through Georgia’s Eyes: Lyrical and vivid, this is a portrait of Georgia O’Keeffe, a woman whose eyes were open to the wideness and wonder of the world.
Yayoi Kusama: From Here to Infinity!: This colorful book tells the story of an artist whose work will not be complete until her dots cover the world, from here to infinity.
In Her Hands: The Story of Sculptor Augusta Savage: Weaves together known historical details to create a compelling portrait of this unique Harlem Renaissance sculptor.
Extra Yarn: A young girl and her box of magical yarn transform a community.
Ruth Asawa: A Sculpting Life: Known as the “Fountain Lady” of San Francisco due to the many fountains she designed, Ruth Asawa experimented with unconventional mediums, using lines, space, and wire to create dimensional sculptures.
Sonia Delaunay: A Life of Color: Delaunay and her six-year-old son Charles have a fantastical adventure in their car, modeled after her 1925 design for a Citroën convertible.
Vinnie and Abraham: This story chronicles Vinnie Ream’s life from her arrival in Washington D.C. at the start of the Civil War through her apprenticeship with a famous sculptor and friendship with Abraham Lincoln.
Dorothea Lange: The Photographer Who Found the Faces of the Depression: Dorothea Lange: The Photographer Who Found the Faces of the Depression: Documenting with her camera and her fieldbook those most affected by the stock market crash, Dorothea Lange found the face of the Great Depression.
Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines: From her first experiments with light and lines to the height of her success nationwide, this is the story of an inspiring American artist.
Books About Authors/Performance Artists/Filmmakers
Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World: A biography of the pioneering environmentalist.
Amazing Grace: Grace loves stories, whether they’re from books, movies, or the kind her grandmother tells. So when she gets a chance to play a part in Peter Pan, she knows exactly who she wants to be.
It Can’t Be Done, Nellie Bly!: Nellie Bly was a newspaper reporter for The New York World, but instead of writing about “ladylike” subjects, Nellie wrote about the social problems of her day.
Just Being Audrey: This is Audrey Hepburn as a little girl, an actress, an icon, an inspiration; this is Audrey just being Audrey.
Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré: An inspiring biography of this storyteller, puppeteer, and New York City’s first Puerto Rican librarian.
Gloria Takes a Stand: Brings to the page a spirited look at Gloria Steinem’s influential life.
Lights! Camera! Alice!: The Thrilling True Adventures of the First Woman Filmmaker: With daring and vision, Alice Guy-Blaché introduced the world to a thrilling frontier of imagination and adventure, and became one of filmmaking’s first and greatest innovators.
Books About Musicians/Dancers
This Is It: When a young dancer is nervous about her upcoming auditions, her shadow springs to life and leads her on a joyous exploration of their city. Soon enough, the young girl finds confidence in her skills, her body, and her ability to shine.
My Name is Celia/Me llamo Celia: Enter Celia Cruz’s life as she becomes a well-known singer in her homeland of Cuba, then moves to New York City and Miami where she and others create a new type of music called salsa.
When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson: Marian Anderson is best known for her historic concert at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939, which drew an integrated crowd of 75,000 people in pre-Civil Rights America.
Stompin’ at the Savoy: The Story of Norma Miller: Captures the sound and spirit of Norma Miller’s voice as she recalls her early years and coming of age as a determined young dancer during the heyday of swing.
Jingle Dancer: Tells how a contemporary Native American girl turns to her family and community to help her dance find a voice.
Firebird: Misty Copeland tells the story of a young girl—an every girl—whose confidence is fragile and who is questioning her own ability to reach the heights that Misty has reached. Misty encourages this young girl’s faith in herself and shows her exactly how, through hard work and dedication, she too can become Firebird.
Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay: The extraordinary true tale of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay, an orchestra made up of children playing instruments built from recycled trash.
Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music: Inspired by the childhood of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke Cuba’s traditional taboo against female drummers.
Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker: A portrait of the passionate performer and civil rights advocate Josephine Baker, the woman who worked her way from the slums of St. Louis to the grandest stages in the world.
Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin: Inspiring book offers hope and confidence to all children who are yearning to master something difficult.
Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova: One night, young Anna’s mother takes her to the ballet, and everything is changed. So begins the journey of a girl who will one day grow up to be the most famous prima ballerina of all time, inspiring legions of dancers after her.
Other Girls That Create posts: How Real Stories Help Girls and Creator Spotlight: Jessica M. Rinker and Daria Peoples-Riley
(Header photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels)
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