On my Instagram, I routinely post about books, partly adult novels and business/political literature. Equally, I share a lot of illustrated children books and I recently received several private messages asking me which ones I liked the most.
The list is perpetually moving because my children’s areas of interests evolve and because with their maturity comes a different level of understanding. Also, Maya, who is now 5, borrows books from her school library every week so we are regularly exposed to new authors that way. Then, there are friends’ recommendations, social media, bookstores, blogs etc.
I try as much as possible to expose them to books that reflect our values and that are age appropriate. That means that as a feminist, I want to teach my daughters that they are worthy, strong and capable. But there is also room for fairytales and dreams in our household. To me, everything is about balance. The same applies to cartoons. Although I have been listening to this story (movie, book and even audiobook in the car!) and its affiliated song for almost three years now, I actually love Frozen. It is a beautiful story about a sister’s love with two strong female characters who end up saving themselves. I love Moana for the same reasons. She is a refreshing change from the stories I grew up with where the girl (always white and often blond) was just lying there and waiting for a saving prince. At the end of the day, I think of myself as a strong woman and yet I was raised before this new era of hands-on princesses so I do not think that traditional fairytales will affect my daughters’ self confidence, as long as they are also presented with a different perspective.
I enjoy reading to my girls and I love the fact that the children’s book market is now a lot more diverse and socially conscious. Today, there is a whole range of books that aim at redefining the way gender role is presented to children. There is also a very clear desire from many authors to shine a light on historical figures whose achievements were not celebrated as widely as they should have been (Ada Lovelace or Katherine Johnson come to mind), and to introduce those characters to children at a younger age. This is a remarkable shift from the way children literature was written until recently.
All in all, the books on this list are a mix of everything I value as a mother and as a human being: good morals, gender equality, arts, pride and compassion.
If you have any children’s books that you love, please do share them in the comments below. Sharing is caring!
The Princess and the Dragon and the Nincompoop Knights
I simply adore this one and so do my girls. Princess Daisy is a brave and bold princess who defies her kingly dad to confront a scary dragon that terrifies the kingdom.
Katie in London
I love the way James Mayhew writes and how he introduces arts and culture to children. Katie visits London and takes the young reader along with her. Lovely and delicate illustrations that will transport you into the charms of London.
The Selfish crocodile
The cutest story about selfishness and how we all need each other in life.
The Little People, Big Dreams collection
I talk about this series of books very often. The editor keeps enriching the collection with new portraits and the stories are always short and well written, even though the authors touch on difficult societal issues in the background, such as discrimination, poverty or segregation. The angle is usually the following: a little girl has a dream and believes in herself to achieve her goal.
Our favourites are Maya Angelou, Frida Khalo, Coco Chanel, Amelia Earhart, Mother Teresa and Emmeline Pankhurst.
Quarto Kids have recently posted on their Instagram that they will soon release two new books: one on Stephen Hawking and the other one on Muhammad Ali. Those will mark their first issues celebrating iconic men and I cannot wait to add them to our home library .
Great Women who changed the World
Another compilation of portraits. It took me a while to get into this one as I was not a big fan of the format for bedtime stories. I found the pages too busy with too many colours, and illustrations that seemed to compete with each other on the same page.
I recommend choosing one or two characters per evening for children who do not read yet. Going for more can be overwhelming. Once my girls are able to read independently I think this is one they will like because the portraits are very short and they will be able to go through different characters easily.
Little Leaders – Bold women in Black History
From Oprah Winfrey to Florence Joyner and Misty Copeland, this is a compilation of portraits with gorgeous illustrations. Oh…and the characters happen to be Black.
Katie and Mona Lisa
Another one by James Mayhew. Mona Lisa feels sad and lonely so Katie tries to bring back her smile by taking her to visit other paintings. To do so, Katie climbs into the paintings.
PS: This lead to my daughter Maya asking me if she could climb into a painting next time we go to the museum… I thought it was the most adorable thing! Hopefully she won’t try that at the Louvre…
The Smartest Giant in Town
This is the current favorite in our car and to be honest I am at my wit’s end with this story. We listen to it on the way to and back from school. If it turns out that we have to make a stop somewhere along the way then we have to repeat it again. Argh! My daughters get severely obsessive when they love a story. But who doesn’t love Julia Donaldson? A lovely story about kindness and compassion. A firm favorite!
Big Hair, Don’t Care
Pride and self confidence. A lovely book with very little text, colourful illustrations and a powerful message. Whenever my daughter starts obsessing about Elsa’s blond hair I pull this one out and it gets the job done beautifully.
Ada Twist Scientist
Ada is a curious and inquisitive child who knows how to keep herself busy with experiments of all kinds. She shows all the traits of a future scientist. In the same collection, we also own Iggy Peck, Architect and Rosie Revere, Engineer.
There are countless initiatives that aim at closing the gender gap in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and Ada is doing her part by showing that science can be fun!
I also encourage you to read this TED article titled “Why boys should read girl books”.
Please do share your family favorites in the comments section below and do not hesitate to share this article widely with your friends and families.