Inspiring books for girls

With Christmas around the corner, there are a host of present types we all dread for our girls:

The noisemaker: A toy so cheerfully loud it will throw whales off track. Bonus hate points if the toy comes with batteries.

Painful pedicure: It’s sharp, it’s hard, it’s destined to mangle a toe (or more) when trod upon at three in the morning (I’m looking at you, Lego).

Female characters that will inspire and befriend  ...
Female characters that will inspire and befriend ... 

Insta-landfill: Made from the finest plastic $2 can buy, this toy reminds us why we have Boxing Day … so we can throw it out the day after Christmas.

Pink ghetto: Oh you have a girl? Let us give her lots of items unrelated to her interests but they’re PINK! ALL GIRLS LOVE PINK! Try explaining that to your eight-year-old when she unwraps an ashtray … in pink.

Pointed presents: We all get them, the dress that’s a size too small (for inspiration!), grooming products (start the new year with a new look!) or the self help title to address a problem you didn’t know you had.

Educational: One wonders if inventors of educational toys secretly hate children and toys (it’s okay, I hate toys too, I’m just wondering if it’s a new career possibility). They seem to have an uncanny ability for creating toys that are completely devoid of fun. 

Though books often fall into the educational category, you can find some amazing titles for the little women in your life, filled with inspiring characters destined to become their new best friends.

Great picture books for girls

Rani in One Grain of Rice – Demi


Maths and busting the system! Rani outsmarts the greedy Raj to feed her village in this enduring Indian folktale that shows the importance of intelligence, community and standing up for what you believe in.

Princess Smartypants  - Babette Cole

Perfect antidote to the Princessmania, Princess Smartypants is a mischievous and fearless girl who just wants to play with her pets and not get married.

Eloise – Kay Thompson

Eloise lives what could be called a life of predictable chaos on the tipy top floor of the Plaza hotel. With a successful mother, doting nanny and adventures around the world, Eloise lives a life many girls want (and, okay, I still do).

The Paperbag Princess  - Robert Munsch
A princess that challenges a dragon who’s kidnapped a helpless prince? And then decides she’s better off doing her own thing than deal with a superficial prince? Oh, there’s a reason Princess Elizabeth is considered the ultimate character for girls.

The Ice Queen  - Hans Christian Anderson

Gerda, the story’s protagonist, is not the only strong woman in this tale. As she tries to rescue her best friend Kai from the Snow Queen, she encounters sorceresses, a robber girl, a Laplander and a princess seeking a husband as intelligent as her.

Great chapter books for girls

Coraline  - Neil Gaiman

Better known for his work with comics and fantasy fiction for adults, Gaiman has also written a superb book for children. Coraline is ‘different’ and small for her age, and goes on an amazing adventure to save her parents and kiddie ghosts. She’s brave, resourceful and just a little bit cranky.

Pippi Longstocking – Astrid Lindgren
Destined to become a favourite for any girl between seven to 10-years-old, Pippi is the business. Larger than life, this red-haired daughter of a buccaneer captain knows the true value of her superhuman strength and kindness. 

Matilda – Roald Dahl

From the deliciously dark imagination of Roald Dahl, comes this story of an amazingly smart and kind girl who tricks the mean adults around her. Don’t stop here when it comes to Dahl - if you know a child, please buy them Dahl’s entire collection. They’ll thank you for it. 

Harriet the Spy – Louise Fitzhugh

She’s smart, she’s honest ... and she has to learn to say sorry. Through a controversial notebook, we learn how it feels to be upset, lose friends, get bullied and turn it all around. It is also part of the “awesome nannies” literary genre that I love so much.

Anne of Green Gables – Lucy Maud Montgomery

Oh Anne. She’s a flibbitygibbet. Once Anne Shirley enters your life, you never forget her. An orphan who transforms the life of a brother and sister farming family, her adventures, intelligence and ridiculousness carry on across nine books.

Heidi – Joanna Spyri

There’s a reason Heidi is a classic for girls. This Swiss masterpiece shows how the smart and kind Heidi literally changes the life of those she encounters.

Penny Pollard and Hating Alison Ashley  - Robin Klein

Sometimes the best characters are the ones with flaws. When it comes to Penny and Erica, we get them in spades and learn something even more important - in embracing the flaws of others, we learn to embrace them in ourselves. But forget the kids, let’s all enjoy the warm memory-lane glow we’re all having right now, thinking back to when we read these books.

Mary from The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

Sometimes great stories are about a character’s blossoming. From tantrums and rudeness, Mary Lennox develops friendships in her new adopted home in the moors and discovers not only a secret garden but a new lease of life for everyone.

Lyra from His Dark Materials – Phillip Pullman

Every universe needs a child genius, even the parallel ones. Lyra is that girl. In this epic fantasy coming-of-age tale, wild Lyra embarks on an amazing quest to save her friend and her uncle from an oppressive organisation and the mysterious ‘dust’.

Sophie’s World  - Jostein Gaarder

Sophie is smart, curious and ready to learn about the world around her. With the help of Alberto, 14-year-old Sophie learns about philosophy and her place in the world.

Inkheart - Cornelia Funke

A smart and curious tale about a smart and curious girl, Inkheart is part of a trilogy loved world over. Meggie is an avid reader who loves trouble as much as she loves books and her new-found power.

Wrinkle In Time – Madeleine L’Engele

Meg, outcast of a scientific family, awkward but a mathematical genius able to master anything, including both tesseracts and adolescence as she travels the universe and saves her father.

Harry Potter series - JK Rowling

Where would Harry Potter be without the unapologetically smart, studious, loyal, compassionate and tenacious Hermione Granger? Nowhere. That’s it, end of story, every child should have a poster of her in their bedrooms.

Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

Katniss Everdeen is inspiring young adult readers around the world for a reason: she’s strong and independent. Overcoming poverty and hardship, Katniss eventually becomes the ultimate female survivor. 

Children’s literature is bursting with amazing, strong and fearless female characters. No list could do them all justice and your favourite may not be listed – let us know in the comments below your favourite book for girls or head to your favourite library or book store to find a new classic.