Since 2002, the Amelia Bloomer Project has created an annual booklist of the best feminist books for young readers, ages birth through 18. We are part of the Feminist Task Force of the Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association.
The year 2008 was a watershed year for women across the globe. Women in the United States garnered a series of firsts: the first female governor of North Carolina, the first Democratic female presidential candidate, and the greatest number of women Senators in the U.S. Senate. In the larger world, Dara Torres became the first woman over 40 to swim in the Olympics, while Eri Yoshida became Japan’s first female professional baseball player. Dr. Peggy Whitson became the first female commander of the International Space Station, while Lieutenant General Ann Dunwoody became the first United States female four-star general. Fahmida Mirza became the first female Speaker of Pakistan’s National Assembly, while Quentin Bryce became Australia’s first female Governor-General.
However, these “firsts” must still be seen in context. Conditions are far from universally improved around the world. While the incoming American president lifted the global gag rule against abortion and signed the Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act, he also bartered away Medicare support for women’s reproductive health. The stigma of “pink collar” careers and the reality of unequal pay still exist, even as women are becoming power brokers and filling top positions in companies worldwide. Across the globe, women are still intimidated, denigrated, and, more often than men, subjected to mental, emotional, and physical violence. Not all women have the right to vote or the right to make choices about their reproductive health. What rights they do have often exist only at the whim of those in power. At the same time, media and literary images of girls and women as mere sexual commodities continue to rain down upon our youth, often portraying them as nothing more than “hoes” and “bitches.”
Exemplary books that celebrate the strengths of girls and women and nourish their potential are needed now more than ever. The Amelia Bloomer Project produces an annual list of books for young readers, birth through age 18, that contain significant feminist content. We need not just cardboard “feisty” or “spunky” female characters, but tales of girls and women who have broken barriers and fought to change their situations and their environment.
Members of the 2008-09 Amelia Bloomer Project committee evaluated over 400 submissions, discussed 128 titles, and finally, selected some 68 books for children and youth that comprise the best feminist books published between July 2007 and December 2008. These books show girls and women–past and present, real and fictional–breaking stereotypes to follow their dreams and pursue their goals, challenging cultural and familial stereotypes to gain an education, taking charge, and making plans for community, regional, national, and world change. We rejoice in the history of feminism and highlight strides toward equality in U.S. history. We hope that these books inspire readers to make the world a better place for all.
While savoring these accounts of real-world accomplishments, we also rejoice in the stories and graphic novels that dare to imagine other worlds and lives. We honor the authors, editors, illustrators, and celebrate the publishers large and small who make these books possible. We fervently hope that they will bring more feminist works into the light. We-girls and boys, women and men-now more than ever need positive feminist role models. We need to be reminded that brave women and men paved the way to the rights we enjoy today. We need to see a new future with greater equality for all–regardless of gender. We need real life heroes and positive, fully realized female superheroes. We are truly the change we seek: we must find within ourselves the bravery and conviction to keep fighting for all who make these books possible.
The Amelia Bloomer Project is a committee of the Feminist Task Force of the Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association. The 2008-09 committee members are as follows: Angela Semifero, Marshall District Library (MI); Barbara Ward, Washington State University (WA); Beth Olshewsky, San Marino Unified School District (CA); Christie Gibrich, co-chair, Bowles Life Center Branch Library (TX); Dana Campbell, Corvallis-Benton County Public Library (OR); Francesa Burgess, Brooklyn Public Library (NY); Jane Cothron, co-chair, Lincoln County Library District (OR); Laurene Zaporozhetz, Murray State University (KY); Maureen McCoy, Brooklyn Public Library (NY).
Breen, Steve. Violet the Pilot. Illus. by Steve Breen. 2008. Unpaged. Penguin/ Dial Books for Young Readers, $16.99 (978-0-8037-3125-7) PreS-Gr.2.
Rejected by classmates for her love of science and mechanics, Violet’s wild invention saves the day when others need her help.
Dipuchio, Kelly. Grace for President. Illus. by LeUyen Pham. 2008. Unpaged. Disney Book Group/ Hyperion, $15.99 (978-078683919-3). K-Gr.3.
Grace’s bid to be class president becomes a true contest when the most popular boy in school runs against her.
Henson, Heather. That Book Woman. Illus. by David Small. 2008. Unpaged. Simon & Schuster/ Atheneum, $16.99 (978-1-4169-0812-8). PreS-Gr.3.
In all kinds of weather, “that book woman”-a librarian on horseback-delivers books to a skeptical Cal and his family in the Kentucky mountains during the Depression.
Lipp, Frederick. Running Shoes. Illus. by Jason Gaillard. 2008. Unpaged. Charlesbridge, $16.95 (978-1-58089-175-2). PreS-Gr.3.
With her new shoes, Sophy runs through the rice fields of Cambodia to the local school, where, as the only girl, she strives to achieve her dream of an education.
Mackall, Dandi Daley. A Girl Named Dan. Illus. by Renee Graef. 2008. Unpaged. Sleeping Bear Press, $16.95. (9781585363513) Gr. 2-4.
Dandi’s dreams are shattered when the people who awarded the prize for her winning essay on becoming a batboy for the Kansas City A’s baseball team discover that she is a girl and withdraw her prize.
Wharton, Kate. What Does Mrs. Claus Do? Illus. by Christian Slade. 2008. Unpaged. Ten Speed Press/ Tricycle Press, $15.99 (978-1-58246-164-9). PreS-Gr.3.
While Santa is well-known, the actual manager of Claus Enterprises is Mrs. Claus, who can do anything to which she puts her mind and energy.
Anderson, Laurie Halse. Independent Dames: What You Never Knew About the Women and Girls of the American Revolution. 2008. Unpaged. Simon & Schuster $16.99 (978-0-689-85808-6). Gr.1-6
As spies, cannoneers, poets and protesters, the founding mothers of the American Revolution fought for freedom in their own patriotic ways.
Bardhan-Quallen, Sudipta. Ballots for Belva: the True Story of a Woman’s Race for the Presidency. 2008. Unpaged. Abrams Books for Young Readers, $16.95. (9780810971103) Gr. 2-5.
During the late 1800’s when only men could vote, Belva Lockwood earned a law degree, successfully argued cases before the Supreme Court, and ran for the office of President of the United States.
Dray, Philip. Yours for Justice, Ida B. Wells: The Daring Life of a Crusading Journalist. 2008. Unpaged. Peachtree, $18.95 (978-1-56145-417-4). Gr. 1-4.
Born into slavery, Ida B. Wells became an educator, author, and renowned civil rights activist who was instrumental in stopping the practice of lynching in the South.
Klier, Kimberly Wagner. You Can’t Do That, Amelia! Illus. by Kathleen Kemly. 2008. Unpaged. Boyds Mill Press/ Calkins Creek, $16.95 (978-1-59078-467-9). PreS-Gr.3.
Young Amelia Earhart, refusing to be discouraged by the protests of her family, dreams of flying airplanes and works to bring her dreams to life.
Krull, Kathleen. Hillary Rodham Clinton: Dreams Taking Flight. Illus. by Amy June Bates. 2008. 38p. Simon & Schuster/ Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, $16.99 (978-1-4169-7129-0). PreS-Gr.4.
Hillary Rodham Clinton used her energy, intelligence and determination to follow her dreams and make a difference in the world around her.
Nivola, Claire. Planting the Trees of Kenya: the Story of Wangari Maathai. 2008. 32p. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $16.95. (978-0374399184 / 0374399182) Gr. K-3.
When she discovered that her native Kenya had lost most of its trees, Wangari Maathai launched a movement to replant them, bringing hope and new resources to the women of the country.
Plourde, Lynn. Margaret Chase Smith: a Woman for President. 2008. Unpaged. Charlesbridge. $16.95 (978-1-58089-234-6) Gr. 1-4.
Although lacking a college education, Margaret Chase Smith used her many accomplishments as a Congresswoman to support her candidacy for President in 1964.
Stone, Tanya Lee. Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the right to vote. Illus. by Rebecca Gibbon. 2008. Unpaged. Henry Holt, $16.95 (978-0-8050-7903-6). PreS-Gr.3.
Seeing the injustice of the limited opportunities of the women around her, Elizabeth Cady Stanton challenged her place in life and fought for her rights and the rights of all women.
Tafolla, Carmen, and Sharyll Teneyuca. That’s Not Fair!: Emma Tenayuca’s Struggle for Justice/ ¡No Es Justo!: La Lucha de Emma Tenayuca por la Justicia. Illus. by Terry Ybáñez. 2008. 38p. Wings Press, $17.95 (978-0-916727-33-8). PreS-Gr.4.
Growing up surrounded by the injustice migrant workers face, Emma Tenayuca leads over 12,000 pecan shellers in Texas to fight for better wages and living conditions.
Winter, Jeanette. Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa. Illus. by Jeanette Winter. 2008. Unpaged. Harcourt, $17.00 (978-0-15-206545-4). PreS-Gr.3.
Beginning with just nine seedlings, Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan woman who loved her country, fulfilled her dream of bringing peace and prosperity to her land by organizing the women to plant trees.
Winter, Jonah. The Secret World of Hildegard. Illus. by Jeanette Winter. 2007. Unpaged. Scholastic/ Arthur A. Levine Books, $16.99 (978-0-439-50739-4). Gr. 2-4.
During the Dark Ages, when most people were illiterate and women were seen as having little value, Hildegard transformed the world around her through her music, her scholarship, her preaching, and her visions of the face of a female God.
Murphy, Pat. The Wild Girls. 2007. 304p. Viking, $16.99. (9780670062263) Gr. 6-9.
Joan and Fox (aka Newt and Sarah) write stories that tell the truths of their lives, win a writing contest, and learn that even as girls, their descriptions can open the world not only for themselves, but for others.
Qamar, Amjed. Beneath My Mother’s Feet. June 2008. 198p. Atheneum, $16.99. (9781416947288). Gr. 5-8.
In contemporary Pakistan, Nazia drops out of school to help provide for her family, sacrificing her dreams and jeopardizing her future.
Schwabach, Karen. The Hope Chest. 2008. 274 p. Random House, $16.99 (978-0-375-84095-1). Gr.4-8.
Eleven-year-old Violet follows her older sister to Nashville, Tennessee, where she works with the suffragists who are trying to persuade an all-male legislature to ratify the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote.
Sheth, Kashmira. Keeping Corner. 2007. 281p. Disney Book Group/ Hyperion, $15.99 (978-078683859-2). Gr.4-9.
Widowed before she has even moved into her husband’s house, 12-year-old child-bride Leela is forced into “keeping corner”-an entire year of confinement and mourning in isolation. Through the visits of her teacher, Leela begins to learn about the outside world, gaining an interest in philosophy, sciences, and the news of Gandhi and the Great War as it affects India in 1918.
Springer, Nancy. The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan. 2008. 183p. Penguin/ Philomel, $14.99 (978-0-399-24780-4). Gr.6-11.
Surviving on her own in Victorian London, Enola Holmes-Sherlock’s younger sister-receives a mysterious pink fan from a friend who needs her help to escape an arranged marriage.
Benjamin, Michelle, & Maggie Mooney. Nobel’s Women of Peace. 2008. 146p. Second Story Press, $10.95. (9781897187388). Gr. 5-8.
In the history of the Nobel Peace Prize, only twelve women have won, from Bertha von Suttner, one of the first peace activists in the twentieth century, to Wangari Maathai, winner of the prize in 2004.
Donovan, Sandy. Hypatia: Mathematician, Inventor, and Philosopher. 2008. 112p. Compass Point Books, $34.60 (978-0-7565-3760-9). Gr.4-up.
Hypatia’s death at the hands of a Christian mob in Alexandria, Egypt, robbed the ancient world of a brilliant philosopher and mathematician, whose theories and discoveries still inform the ways in which we view the world.
Getzinger, Donna. Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. (American Workers series). 2009. 128p. Morgan Reynolds Publishing, $28.95 (978-1-59935-099-8). Gr.5-up.
The fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in 1911 killed 146 people, bringing together the women’s suffrage and labor movements and emphasizing the need for laws guaranteeing worker safety.
Mysko, Claire. You’re Amazing: A No-Pressure Guide to Being Your Best Self. 2008. 164p. F+W Publications/ Adams Media, $8.95 (978-1-59869-713-1). Gr.5-up.
A workbook celebrating girls’ lives presents strategies to deal with the pressure to be perfect that abounds in today’s society.
Simoni, Suzanne. Fantastic Female Filmmakers. 2008. 122p. Second Story Press, $10.95 (978-1-897187-36-4). Gr.6-up.
From pioneers of the early 1900s through today’s innovators, women filmmakers broke boundaries to create important stories and explore new filmmaking techniques.
Bunce, Elizabeth C. A Curse Dark as Gold. 2008. 395p. Scholastic, $17.99 (978-0-439-89576-7) Gr. 7-up.
When an eerie stranger offers to spin straw into gold, Charlotte must discover the benefactor’s name and history before the price of his generosity destroys her village.
Cashore, Kristin. Graceling. 2008. 471p. Harcourt, $17.00 (978-0-15-206396-2). Gr.8-up.
The king’s bully, Lady Katsa, despised for her Grace as a highly trained killing machine as well as her gender, works secretly to right wrongs and protect those in
Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. 2008. 374p. Scholastic, $17.99 (978-0-439-02348-1). Gr.7-up.
When her little sister loses the lottery and becomes the tribute for the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death shown on government-sponsored reality television, 16-year-old hunter Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her place, and challenges the system in the process.
Dean, Claire. Girlwood. 2008. 246p. Houghton Mifflin, $16.00 (978-0-618-88390-5). Gr.6-12.
In this tale of ecology and magic, Polly Green tries to save her family and the wilderness she loves.
Engle, Margarita. The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom. Henry Holt, April 2008. 192 p. ISBN 978-0-8050-8674-4 / 1-8050-8674-9 $17.95 Gr.7-up.
Through three wars for Cuban independence, Rosa, called a witch by her enemies, heals sickness with herbal medicines and helps all, regardless of race or nationality.
Headley, Justina Chen. Girl Overboard. 2008. 352 p. Little, Brown, Young Readers, $16.99 (978-0316011303). Gr. 8-12.
After a debilitating accident derails her pro-snowboarding dreams and costs her the only place she feels she can be herself, 16-year-old Syrah Cheng must re-examine who she is and where she wants to go.
Klages, Ellen. White Sands, Red Menace. 2008. 337p. Penguin/ Viking, $16.99 (978-0-670-06235-5). Gr.5-10.
Just when Dewey Kerrigan is settling into a new life in Alamagordo with the Gordons, conflicts in the family over women’s limited career choices and involvement in the atomic bomb control movement as well as the arrival of Dewey’s long-lost mother threaten Dewey’s dream of attending university.
Lockhart, E. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. 2008. 345p. Disney Book Group/ Hyperion, $16.99 (978-078683818-9). Gr.6-up.
When Frankie learns that she cannot join the all-male secret society at her exclusive prep school, she takes matters into her own hands.
Okorafor-Mbachu, Nnedi. The Shadow Speaker. 2007. 336p. Hyperion/Jump at the Sun, $16.99 (978-142310033-1) Gr. 7 & up.
Following the detonation of the peace bomb, worldwide civilizations collapsed. In sub-Saharan Africa, Ejii comes of age in a village where women have no value and no rights. With the example of a wandering woman warrior, Ejii works to claim her powers and uses her new abilities to prevent war between the peoples of the different worlds.
Scott, Elizabeth. Living Dead Girl. 2008. 176p. Simon Pulse, $16.99 (978-1-4169-6059-1). Gr.10-up.
Kidnapped as a young child, and sexually and emotionally tortured for years, a girl who has lost everything-even her name-must find the inner strength not only to save herself, but also to end the cycle of abuse and torture before the man who kidnapped her captures another girl.
Vaught, Susan. Big Fat Manifesto. 2008. 308p. Bloomsbury, $16.95 (978-1-59990-206-7). Gr.8-12.
Senior Jamie Carcaterra, a.k.a. “Fat Girl”, uses her high school newspaper column to expose discrimination against fat people; the controversy that ensues spills over into the community attracting national attention.
Venkatraman, Padma. Climbing the Stairs. 2008. 247p. Penguin/ G.P. Putnam’s Son, $16.99 (978-0-399-24746-0). Gr.7-12.
Against the backdrop of the movement for India’s independence from British rule, Vidya is determined to gain her own independence from her family and continue her education.
Winston, Sherri. The Kayla Chronicles. 2007. 188p. Hatchette Book Group/ Little, Brown, and Company, $16.99 (978-0-316-11430-1). Gr. 7-11.
Kayla and Rosalie’s plan to expose the sexist selection process for their high school dance squad backfires when Kayla makes the team.
Anderson, Marisa (Editor). Rock ‘N’ Roll Camp for Girls: How to Start a Band, Write Songs, Record an Album and Rock Out! Illus. by Nicole Georges, Marisa Anderson, Amanda Paulk, and Jodi Darby. Forward by Carrie Brownstein. 2008. 192 p. Chronicle Books, $14.95 (978-0-8118-5222-7). Gr.8-up.
Learn the nuts, bolts and business of creating a rock band-an introduction especially for girls who want to push the boundaries-and play some awesome rock ‘n roll!
Armstrong, Mabel. Women Astronomers: Reaching for the Stars. 2008. 179p. (Discovering Women in Science series). Stone Pine Press, $16.95 (978-0-97289295-7). Gr.7-up.
From Babylonian priestess En Heduanna to Sally Ride and Carolyn Shoemaker, women astronomers faced obstacles and prejudices as they studied and reached for the stars.
Ball, Heather. Astonishing Women Artists. 2007. 120p. Second Story Press (Orca). $10.95. (9781897187234) Gr. 7-10.
These trailblazers overcame obstacles and took control of their own lives and art to share their unique visions and inspire others.
Baumgardner, Jennifer. Abortion & Life. 2008. 175p. Akashic Books, $16.95 (978-1-933354-59-0) Gr. 9-up.
Fifteen women who made the choice to have abortions discuss their lives and the thorny issues surrounding termination of pregnancies.
Gourley, Catherine. Images and issues of women in the twentieth century. Vol. 1-5. 2008. Lerner/Twenty-first Century Books. Gr.6-up.
- Volume 1: Gourley, Catherine. Gibson Girls and Suffragists: Perceptions of Women from 1900 to 1918. 2008. 144p. $38.60 (978-0-8225-7150-6).
- Volume 2: Gourley, Catherine. Flappers and the New American Woman: Perceptions of Women from 1918 through the 1920s. 144p. $38.60 (978-0-8225-6060-9).
- Volume 3: Gourley, Catherine. Rosie and Mrs. America: Perceptions of Women in the 1930s and 1940s. 144p. $38.60 (978-0-8225-6804-9).
- Volume 4: Gourley, Catherine. Gidgets and Women Warriors: Perceptions of Women in the 1950’s and 1960s. 144p. $38.60 (978-0-8225-6805-6).
- Volume 5: Gourley, Catherine. Ms. and the Material Girls: Perceptions of Women from the 1970’s through the 1990s. 144p. $38.60 (978-0-8225-6806-3).
Traces the political and cultural roles of women throughout the twentieth century, including media representations, landmark accomplishments, and social movements.
Greensite, Gillian. Rape at College: How to Help a Friend. 2008. 32p. Teal Ribbon Publications, $2.99 (978-0-9792701-3-0). Gr.10-up.
Rape, a crime that crosses gender and age boundaries, can happen to anyone, and everyone-especially students-needs to know how to help when someone he or she knows becomes a victim.
Hein, Jessica, Heather Holland, and Carol Kauppi (Editors). GirlSpoken: From Pen, Brush & Tongue. 2008. 202 p. Second Story Press/Orca Books, $18.95 (978-1-897187-30-2). Gr. 7-12.
Share the challenges and celebrations of being a girl in today’s world through this collection of artwork, stories, and poetry.
King, Billie Jean, and Christine Brennan. Pressure is a Privilege: Lessons I’ve Learned from Life and the Battle of the Sexes. 2008. 187p. Life Time Media, $19.95 (978-0-9816366-0-1). Gr.8-up.
Tennis great Billie Jean King writes about her victory in the 1973 Battle of the Sexes, shares strategies of putting her beliefs into action, and gives tips and advice for the next generation.
Kiviat, Katherine, and Scott Heidler. Women of Courage: Intimate Stories from Afghanistan. 08 August 2007. 127 p. Gibbs-Smith. $19.95 (978-1-4236-0253-8). Gr.8-up.
Portraits and intimate interviews of Afghani women show the courage required for them to survive-and possibly thrive-in the sexist culture of their war-torn country.
Mortimer, Gavin. The Great Swim. 2008. 325p. Macmillan/ Walker, $24.95 (978-0-8027-1595-1). Gr.10-up.
In 1926, four female American swimmers faced both physical and mental challenges in the contest to be the first woman to swim the English Channel.
Norgren, Jill. Belva Lockwood: Equal Rights Pioneer. (Trailblazer Biography Series) 2008. 112p. Twenty-First Century Books, $31.93. (978-08225-9068-2) Grades 7-12.
Long before women were able to vote, Belva Lockwood became the first women to practice law and argue before the Supreme Court before she ran for president of the United States on the Equal Rights Party ticket in 1884.
Redd, Nancy Amanda. Body Drama: Real Girls, Real Bodies, Real Issues, Real Answers. 2007. 272p. Gotham Books, $20.00. (1592403263 / 978-1592403264) Gr. 7-up.
This maintenance manual for girls’ bodies provides answers for many questions, including what is ‘normal’ and how to look and feel your best.
Rudahl, Sharon. A Dangerous Woman: the Graphic Biography of Emma Goldman. Illus. by Sharon Rudahl. 2007. 115p. New Press, $17.95 (978-1-59558-064-1). Gr. 10-up.
Explore the life and loves of labor activist and free-love advocate Emma Goldman as told in comic book format.
Shivack, Nadia. Inside Out: Portrait of an Eating Disorder. Illus. by Nadia Shivack. 2007. Unpaged. Simon &Schuster/ Atheneum Books for Young Readers, $17.99 (978-0-689-85216-9). Gr.9-up.
While hospitalized for treatment of bulimia, Shivack uses an illustrated journal to document her battle with Ed, her eating disorder.
Valenti, Jessica. He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut and 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know. 2008. 219p. Perseus Books/ Seal Press, $13.95 (978-1-58005-245-0). Gr. 9-12.
This catalogue of the 50 most common double standards that women deal with daily includes tips and solutions about how to respond to them and challenge the underlying sexist perceptions.
Waisman, Charlotte S., and Jill S. Tietjen. Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America. 2008. 259p. HarperCollins, $29.95 (978-0-06124651-7). Gr. 4-up.
This timeline shows the often unrecognized contributions of hundreds of women who changed America through their work in the sciences, education, arts, politics, and social activism, from the 1500s to the present.