Beyond Fairy Tales: 8 Children's Books With Strong Female Characters

    Children’s books are built on a multitude of stereotypes – princesses locked up in high castles while their prince charming comes to save the day, oh another, school girls who believe in frivolous chitchat and only dressing up, girls getting eaten up by big bad wolves  (male, again), male characters who can fly and have superb adventures (Peter Pan), Gulliver’s Travels (need I go on?); even nursery rhymes that have made the fairer sex, well, fair and weak (remember little Miss Muppet?)

    Well, we’ve decided pick eight books for kids with strong female leads to help change this stereotype. We’ve found a decent lot, but here’s what we’ve loved, for kids of all ages and tastes.

    Matilda by Roald Dahl

    Matilda (Dahl Fiction) Book

    This is a story about a young girl who took to reading books at a very young age to get over the hypocrisy in her life (and she developed special powers and messed around with the naughty kids and bad people in hilarious ways).

    What’s Special: It’s an ode to all the children out there who believe that they can do anything and can surely dream big. It’s also one of Roald Dahl’s best creations; much loved and a must read.

    Age Group: 6 years and above

    Price: INR 312 for paperback

    The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials) by Philip Pullman

    His Dark Materials By Philip Pullman

    If your children are into fantasy, this is the perfect book to get them going. Written by one of the most interesting fantasy writers there are, this three-part series is sure to let the imagination soar with tales of courage, friendship and loyalty.

    What’s Special: There’s a lot of British wit in here, sprinkled with twists in the tale. It’s full of adventure, has some pretty cool battles in it and is something that can help your child dream.

    Age Group: 10 years and above

    Price: INR 595 for the hardcover.

    P.S. – It’s also available in a Graphic Novel format for those who like to visualize as much as read.

    Escape From Aleppo by N. H. Senzai

    Escape from Aleppo Book

    This is the story (fiction) of a young teen who escapes from war-torn Syria, her home, and heads towards Turkey. It’s a gripping tale of her travels to reach safety.

    What’s Special: You come to know more about Middle Eastern culture and are up-to-date on the situation in Syria (at least it tries).

    Age Group: 11 years and above

    Price: INR 878

    The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

    Buy The Book Thief (Definitions Young Adult)

    What’s really interesting is that Death narrates the tale of this young German girl who is left with foster parents in Nazi Germany. It has won numerous awards and with good reason; it is a powerful testament of what took place during that time.

    What’s Special: It gives the reader an insight into what happened in Nazi Germany and how people went beyond their comfort to help those in trouble. The young girl inspires us in many ways, including continuing her education and reading books, even under the book ban.

    Age Group: 14 years and above

    Price: INR 299

    Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

    This tale about a young girl battling all odds and wanting to make a name for herself, is marked with inner turmoil, strength, friendship, love and loyalty. While she gets to marry the love of her life, there’s a lot more complexity to the story, with multiple characters playing roles of different strengths.

    What’s Special: Well, it is one of the best works of English fiction and the female lead is strong, intelligent, caring, sensitive and has the most romantic relationship that one reads about.

    Age Group: 15 years and above

    Price: INR 192

    Good Night Stories For Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli

    Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women

    This children’s book is chock-full of bed time stories, 100 to be exact and illustrated by 60 female artists, and is about the fascinating lives of 100 extraordinarily talented women from across the globe, past and present.

    What’s Special: The illustrations are brilliant, and the stories are really inspiring – of women who have helped shape the world we live in. While the title does mention that it’s for girls, get them for your boys; it’s as relevant to them as it is to the girls!

    Age Group: 6 years and above

    Price: INR 674 for the hardcover

    Coraline by Neil Gaiman

    Coraline by Neil Gaiman is a story that that is creepy, funny and bittersweet, but can be read and enjoyed deeply. While the book has been written for kids, readers young and old will cherish it because they will find something that is sure to startle them. The story is of a young girl who controls her own destiny.

    What's Special: Without wanting to give too much of it up, when Coraline finds out that there's an alternate world that's so similar to her own, she loves it in the beginning. When she discovers that her alternate mother and father want her to stay with them and never let her change, she is against it. The story makes you realise how important it is to stay true to yourself and always evolve. 

    Age Group: 10+  years

    Price: INR 216

    Violet Baudelaire from A Series Of Unfortunate Events

    The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events) Book

    In a series of rather unfortunate events, a lot of misfortune follows the three Baudelaire orphans and the eldest sibling is Violet, who is smart, polite and very resourceful. 

    What's Special: What makes this special is that despite Violet and her siblings being tormented in so many ways, she is able to lead them out of trouble and is always cheerful and optimistic. 

    Age Group: 10+

     Price: INR 175 for paperback


    There are a lot of Indian authors that you can check out as well. Take the book ‘Pashmina’ for example, which is a graphic novel that talks about Indian culture. Another one, “Mayil will not be quiet” is written by Niveditha Subramaniam and Sowmya Rajendran (peep into the mind of a young girl through her notebook) or even “Girls of India’ series by Sunila Gupte that introduce readers to Indian history.