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  • Writer's pictureThe Publishing Post

Girl Power: Strong Female Characters in Children's Literature

By Rosie Barr, Rosie Burgoyne and Laura Taylor

In this issue, the Children’s team are celebrating all things Girl Power. From International Women’s Day on the 8 March, to Mother’s Day on the 14 March, there are so many reasons why loving and respecting the strong women in our lives is important. Empowerment starts with literature and it starts with children. Children’s literature provides windows and mirrors to its readers, so, we’ve chosen some of our favourite young female characters to inspire future generations today.

Madeline from Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

There are many reasons why Madeline is a classic of children’s literature. Greatest of these is the eponymous protagonist, who is just the kind of heroine children want to identify with, even eighty years after the book’s publication. Madeline is the smallest of the girls in her Parisian boarding school, but she’s also the most fearless. When the other girls are cowering from mice in the kitchen, Madeline is tempting them closer. On a class outing, instead of walking across a bridge, she balances on its railing. Then, of course, there’s the iconic line “To the tiger in the zoo Madeline just said, “Pooh-pooh.”” Time and time again, she does the right thing, even when it means defying the adults to do it. Clearly, she is different from the other girls, but this is no bad thing. In fact, her classmates want to be brave just like her (and to have the appendix scars to match!).

Scarlett from The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne by Jonathan Stroud

When this issue of Publishing Post lands in your inbox, this wonderful book will be three days away from publication. Get yourself to your favourite online bookshop (or library app) and reserve a copy now to be introduced to your new favourite anti-hero, Scarlett McCain. As a girl straight out of a great gun-slinging Western, she’s a murderer, a bank robber and an outlaw. Totally unbothered by putting her own needs first, Scarlett would never be caught signing her emails with ‘no worries if not!’ Yet, despite all this, she is also uncompromising when it comes to her own moral code. She is protective when she needs to be and (reluctantly) kind-hearted in a dystopian world where it’s every person for themselves. She’s a strong female character at her finest.

New additions to the Little People, Big Dreams series

The Little People, Big Dreams series, from Francis Lincoln Publishers Ltd (an imprint of Quarto), is a picturebook series, written by Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara, that celebrates key figures from history. Collectively, the series has sold more than 3.9 million copies worldwide.

The latest additions to this list of inspiring reads for young minds are two hardback picturebooks celebrating the achievements of Mary Anning and Malala Yousafzai. Joining the likes of Aretha Franklin, Frida Kahlo and Ella Fitzgerald, these biographies similarly champion prominent women in history in the series. Featuring joyful illustrations by Popy Matigot, the new Mary Anning title will teach children about the life of the first palaeontologist and fearless fossil hunter. The other new addition, coming Spring 2021, will be a biography about Malala Yousafzai, with illustrations by Manal Mirza. The book will feature Malala’s many achievements, such as being named the youngest ever Nobel Prize laureate and her activism for female education. The book is set to be yet another brilliant read for young girls

Both titles feature quirky illustrations, fun facts and a biographical timeline, making them two enjoyable and informative reads to get children dreaming big.

Lyra from His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman

Lyra Belacqua is introduced as a wild, rule-breaking girl who loves mischief and is fascinated with the explorations of her Uncle Asriel. However, her life running riot in Oxford comes crashing down when her best friend is abducted by a mysterious organisation known as ‘The Gobblers’. The adventure that follows spans many worlds and Lyra’s penchant for lying gets her into and out of trouble. Passionate, headstrong and loyal to her friends, she faces up to the forces of death, heartbreak and betrayal as she learns from her mistakes. It’s very hard not to love Lyra forever. Her growth throughout Pullman’s fantasy trilogy is the perfect young coming-of-age story.

Mildred from The Worst Witch series by Jill Murphy

Before Harry Potter, there was The Worst Witch. Facing up to the pressure of an all-girls school, bullying classmates and scary teachers, Mildred Hubble faces many trials and tribulations at Miss Cackle’s Academy of Witches. While her clumsy personality gets her into lots of trouble, Mildred is strong in a quiet sense. She tries, she fails, she discovers herself. Although she struggles with magic, her kindness towards her friends and her good heart shine through in Jill Murphy’s series.



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