By Jeanne Huybrechts, Chief Academic Officer, and Keira Pride, Library Services Manager, Stratford School
*Original artwork courtesy of a student at Stratford San Jose Middle School 


The evolution of Women’s History Month spans nearly five decades, beginning with  local week long celebrations (often organized by schools) surrounding International Women’s Day, which is on March 8. Over time, congressional resolutions led to presidential proclamations, and by 1995 March had become the designated month to honor women’s contributions to American history – to celebrate stories of remarkable women whose historic accomplishments had largely been relegated to the footnotes of history books. Early celebrations focused on the U.S. suffrage movement and highlighted contributions of a galaxy of pioneers – from Abigail Adams to Harriett Tubman – as well as women who were “firsts:” the first Supreme Court justice, first astronaut, first female Nobel Prize recipient*, etc.

A century after the nineteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution gave women the right to vote, and decades after that first weeklong celebration of women’s history, Women’s History Month celebrations have evolved to include recognition of contemporary women heroes – a new generation – as well as their predecessors, the pioneers.  It is in that spirit that we curated this month’s book selections — stories about women and stories by women: a beloved children’s book author whose most famous work was once “banned” from the library, an astronaut inspired by the first woman astronaut, and a Supreme Court Justice — the second, but not the last. Our list includes two compilations of short biographies of remarkable and inspiring women – Michelle Obama among them. Finally, inspired by Korean mythology, Dragon Pearl is the story of Min, a superhero on a mission, who overwhelms the vengeful with cleverness and bravery.

We hope you will enjoy reading these books with your children or perhaps hearing the stories retold once they have finished.

*Marie Curie was the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize. And she is the only person to earn prizes in both physics (1903) and chemistry (1911).

 Grades K-2

The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Sarah Jacoby

Once upon a time, most children’s books began with that sentence. And once upon a time, wonderful books that did not fit a certain mold were banned from libraries.

Children’s book author Margaret Wise Brown  wrote stories that were different – books that helped children understand their own feelings. She fervently believed that children deserved important books. Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny paved the way for contemporary writers to create books such as The Book With No Pictures, and Sam and Dave Dig A Hole.  Margaret Wise Brown did not accept the New York Public Library’s decision to ban her book and staged a peaceful protest on the steps of the library to make sure that she was heard. A hundred books later, this brave author has changed children’s literature, and the world, for good.

Mae Among the Stars written by Roda Ahmed, illustrated by Stasia Burrington

Mae Among the Stars is a beautifully illustrated picture book that will inspire other young girls to reach for the stars and aspire for the impossible.  When Mae Jemison was a child, she wanted to be an astronaut and dreamed of dancing among billions of stars.  Mae Jemison’s curiosity, intelligence, and determination, matched with her parents’ encouraging words, paved the way for her incredible success at NASA as the first African American woman to travel in space.

Grades 3-4

I Dissent : Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark written by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley

Get to know celebrated Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg!  This picture book biography of Justice Ginsburg traces her achievements in the field of law back to her girlhood years as she proves that disagreeing does not make you disagreeable. Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has spent a lifetime disagreeing: disagreeing with inequality, arguing against unfair treatment, and standing up for what’s right for people everywhere.  I Dissent demonstrates how her fearless objections to the inequality not only led the way to her career as a Supreme Court justice but also contributed to dismantling many discriminatory laws that prevented equal treatment.

Muslim Girls Rise: Inspirational Champions of Our Time written by Saira Mir,  illustrated by Aaliya Jal

These nineteen inspirational snapshots of modern Muslim women doing extraordinary work in their fields will inspire and motivate your young reader! While overcoming many obstacles, each earned in their given field – among them science, fashion, and sports. Shirin Ebadi, won the Nobel Peace Prize, only to have it  taken from her by the government because she is a woman. Yet she remains outspoken. Ilhan Omar fled Somalia at the age of eight, spending years in refugee camps. She found ways to get involved in her community, then made history as the first Somalia-American to the United States House of representatives. The complicated situations surrounding some of the women are described in a way that is easily digestible by children. Beautiful, vibrant art and quotes by each woman help show that inspiring, helpful people come from all kinds of backgrounds, beliefs and cultures.

 Grades 5-8

Dragon Pearl written by Yoon Ha Lee

Dragon Pearl is a fast-paced Korean-inspired space adventure.  It follows Min, a teenage fox spirit, who leaves a backward poor world to find her missing space cadet brother, Jun, as well as a powerful relic, the Dragon Pearl.  Like all fox spirits, Min has Charm – the ability to influence minds and shape-shift into whatever she wants.  Her quest involves leaving the comforts of home, hitching a ride on a spaceship, impersonating a space cadet, and going to a ghost planet.  Min will be forced to use more fox magic than ever before, and to rely on her cleverness and bravery to defeat vengeful beings and find her brother.

Become a Leader Like Michelle Obama – Work It, Girl Series written by Caroline Moss, illustrated by Sinem Erkas

This chapter book is part of a new series of biographies written for children about modern, inspirational women in various areas, including astronaut Mae Jemison and author J.K. Rowling. Michelle Obama’s life is detailed with everything from her humble beginnings in South Chicago, to her hard work at Princeton and Harvard Universities, leading up to her role as the first African American First Lady. The artwork, accompanied by inspiring quotes, has a unique and  powerful cut-out style. “Ten key lessons from Michelle Obama’s life” includes, “Don’t sacrifice who you are to be whoever someone else wants you to be.”