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Posted by Kate, March 30, 2016

Children’s books with strong girl leads

On Twitter’s 10th birthday, @Equal_matter tweeted to ask, “Why don’t you publish more books with girl leads – not princesses, or girls who play second fiddle to a boy character?” I was surprised. Looking at @Equal_matter’s feed, Nosy Crow seemed to have been singled out for the question. But, if anything, I rather worry that our publishing rather favours girl central characters, particularly in books for older children.

Anyway, I asked @Equal_matter if they would like a list, and they said they would, so here is a list (without princesses though I have something to say about that too, a bit later) of books published so far by Nosy Crow with “girl leads”.

Picture Books:

The Pip and Posy books by Axel Scheffler (these are very much an equal pair, but in The Super Scooter, The Bedtime Frog and The Scary Monster, the focus is on Posy more than on Pip, in that she is the character to whom the main thing in the story happens.)

Get Out of My Bath by Britta Teckentrup

Troll Swap by Leigh Hodgkinson

Mouse’s First Night at Moonlight School by Simon Puttock and Ali Pye

Snow Bunny’s Christmas Wish/ Snow Bunny’s Christmas Gift by Rebecca Harry

Christmas for Greta and Gracie by Yasmeen Ismail

Cinderella’s Sister and the Big Bad Wolf by Lorraine Carey and Migy Blanco

The Hubble Bubble picture book series by Tracey Corderoy and Joe Berger

Books for children aged 5 – 8, roughly in order of increasing age appeal by age (so the ones at the end are most likely to appeal to 8 year olds):

Hubble Bubble chapter book series by Tracey Corderoy and Joe Berger

Wigglesbottom Primary series by Pamela Butchart and Becka Moor

The Baby Aliens Got My Teacher series by Pamela Butchart and Thomas Flintham (Too Wee or Not To Wee, Shakespeare retold by the central character of this series, Izzy, is out on 7 April 2016).

The Secret Rescuers series by Paula Harrison and Sophy Williams

The Invincibles series by Caryl Hart and Sarah Warburton (the first of which is out on 7 April 2016)

Books for older readers (9+) roughly in order of increasing appeal by age (so the ones at the end are most likely to appeal to 12/13 year olds):

The Palomino Pony series by Olivia Tuffin

The Witchworld trilogy by Emma Fischel

The Olivia series by Lyn Gardner

The Campion Mysteries by Lyn Gardner (the first of which is out on 7 April 2016)

Petunia Perry and the Curse of the Ugly Pigeon by Pamela Butchart

The My Best Friend and other Enemies series by Catherine Wilkins

The Secret Hen House Theatre and The Farm Beneath the Water by Helen Peters

Cowgirl by G. R. Gemin

Dear Scarlett by Fleur Hitchcock

Saving Sophia by Fleur Hitchcock

The Twelve Minutes to Midnight trilogy by Christopher Edge

The Beneath by S. C. Ransom

The Small Blue Thing trilogy by S. C. Ransom

@Equal_matters asked us to exclude princess books. I know many children who go through a phase when princesses and fairies are big draws, and if books about fairies and princesses are what gets children reading, then I am all for them. I also think that not all books about princesses need to have saccharine, passive princesses. On our own list, I’d draw attention to the following books with particularly strong “girl lead” princesses.

Picture books:

Princess Daisy and the Dragon and the Nincompoop Knights by Steven Lenton

The Princess and the… series by Caryl Hart and Sarah Warburton

The Last Book Before Bedtime by Nicola O’Byrne (this has very strong Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood characters)

5-8 Fiction:

The Rescue Princesses series by Paula Harrison

Finally, I wanted to mention our fairy tale apps. Within the constraints of the traditional stories (and we decided we wanted to follow the basic narrative of the traditional stories), we have gone out of our way to make the girl characters engaged, strong, opinionated and valued for things other than their beauty. Little Red Riding Hood is my favourite example: she’s brave and clever and defeats the wolf and saves her grandmother all by herself. In Cinderella, the prince falls in love with Cinderella because they get on well and she has a lovely smile, rather than because she looks great in a gown. And Goldilocks is pretty strong-headed. Even in Snow White, which is a tough story to tackle from this point of view, we had her painting walls as well as washing up when she’s cleaning up the dwarves’ house.

Lots of girl leads there!