Let’s hear it for the Amelia Bloomer Project . Named for the 19th century feminist activist, the project is devoted to preparing an annual list of defiantly “anti-princess” books for girls, from preschool to young adult. Working since 2002, this task force of the American Library Association sifts through hundreds of books each year to single out those that spotlight girls and women who overcome obstacles to defy social expectations. Spanning time periods and cultures, the selections feature characters ranging from hockey stars to political activists to witches, scientists, and even a chicken, all of whom find ways to stand up for themselves and often for others. The books must also be well written and appealing to young readers. Here are just a few of their recommendations culled from the last few years.
Jann Brett’s Daisy Comes Home , about a hen who goes from being pecked-on by the other hens to equality after her adventures down the Lei River. This one’s a picture book.
For Preschool to 2nd Grade
Elizabeth Baguley’s Meggie Moon . When Meggie Moon walks onto the junkyard and demands equality, Digger and Tiger, who never play with girls, discover that girls have great ideas for adventurous games.
Cari Best’s Sally Jean, The Bicycle Queen . Sally Jean’s parents can’t afford to replace her beloved bicycle when it gets too small for her, so she figures out how to build a new one by herself.
The Best Bee-Keeper of Lalibela , by Christina Kessler. Though a young girl in Ethiopia is told that making honey is men’s work, she resolves that hers will be the best in the land and using her wits she proves it.
Of Numbers and Stars , by Anne D. Love. Did you know that the most influential mathematician and philosopher of ancient Egypt was a woman? This book is about her: Hypatia.
Lynne Barasch’s Hiromi’s Hands , the true story of Hiromi Suzuke, who defies tradition to become one of New York’s first female sushi chefs.
For Middle Readers
Hayley Wickenheiser: Born to Play , Elizabeth Etue’s biography of the first North American woman to play professional hockey and help her team win a gold medal.
Mitali Perkins, Rickshaw Girl , a Bangladeshi girl finds a way to help her impoverished family in spite of social strictures on girls in her village.
The Case of the Left-Handed Lady , by Nancy Springer. Enola Holmes, Sherlock’s brother, uses her brain and a talent for disguises to locate a kidnapped heiress.
Deborah Reber and Lisa Fyfe, In Their Shoes: Extraordinary Women Describe Their Amazing Careers . Profiles of 49 women who have chosen different careers: what their jobs are like, how they got them. Also, Ladies First: 40 Daring American Women who were Second to None . This one, by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel, contains short profiles of women pathbreakers in the arts, sports, sciences, and more.
And lots more for even older readers. For the Amelia Bloomer Project’s complete bibliographies since 2002, check their website at libr.org/ftf/bloomer.html .