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Books that Celebrate

Fantastic Females

Favourite texts for primary classrooms that celebrate strong and inspiring female characters.

This month, we've been asking our community of primary teachers, children's authorslibrarians and book lovers to nominate their favourite text that celebrates great girls or women (real-life or fictional).


This is what they told us... 

Brightstorm

Vashti Hardy

Nominated by: Nicki Cleveland (@MissNCleveland), HLTA & school librarian

 

"Middle-grade fiction is packed with fantastic female characters, but the book that stands out to me is Brightstorm, the dazzling debut by Vashti Hardy. I was utterly enthralled with the world Vashti created, and it’s inhabitants, with four fantastic females taking the lead throughout:

Maudie Brightstorm is the resilient, determined older sister who refuses to let the fact she’s a girl hold her back from her dreams of becoming an engineer.

Harriet Culpepper is the forthright, feisty captain, determined to change sky travel into an environmentally friendly way to travel.

Felicity Wiggle is the very motherly figure, who proves categorically that tea can fix most things.

Eudora Vane is a devious, dangerous and, for the unsuspecting, very deadly villain.

Stunning scenery, eccentric characters and a plot that never lets up combine to create a riveting read that I couldn’t put down. Brightstorm made me laugh, and cry, with the young explorers as their sky-ship carried them from the heat of the Second Continent to the frozen Third Continent, aboard The Aurora with its crew members that come together like family around the Brightstorm children. Great for fans of Cogheart, The Circus Of Marvels and The Uncommoners."

Sky Song

Abi Elphinstone

Nominated by: Kiran (@KSunray3), primary teacher and subject leader.

 

 "Hope, courage and belonging. Sky Song is a beautifully crafted story that invites the reader to go on an epic adventure to save Erkenwald. With wandering limbs, fierce hearts and heads full of wild ideas, Erkenwald is a setting where Eska, Flint and Blu discover the true meaning of belonging and the true power of hope. 'Gentleness is a mighty word because you have to be strong of heart to be kind.' With these wise words, Eska discovers she can be adventurous, determined and bold, Flint discovers tears are just a warm-up for courage and Blu discovers how brave and clever she actually is. Sky Song glistens and will dazzle readers."

 

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Roller Girl

Victoria Jamieson

Nominated by: Roy James (@royjamesmoss), Librarian & Reader with KS2

 

 

"This graphic novel oozes individuality. It’s the story of Astrid, a middle-grade girl on the cusp of adolescence - I think we can all relate to what such a difficult time in our lives that was - coping with all the problems that come pre-prescribed. Rollergirl packs much in: friendship, mother/daughter relationships, being yourself and self-belief (also hair-dye), all under the backdrop of roller derby (to say it’s a sport not for the faint-hearted is an understatement). Packed within the pages are wonderful role models, and it’s REAL and NORMALISED. This book is realistic, and that’s why I’ve chosen it; none of the characters need ‘superpowers’ to be seen as strong, they just are! My favourite character though is Astrid’s mum: hard-working, accepting, loving, understanding and a single parent. Real. Normal. Awesome."

Flora & Ulysses

Kate DiCamillo

Nominated by: Ally Sherrick  (@ally_sherrick), children's author of books including Black Powder (available here) and The Buried Crown, expected in April 2018 (pre-order here)

 

"There are some brilliant ‘fantastic female’ heroines out there, but Flora Belle Buckman is top of the tree of my recent reads. A rescuer of squirrels from out-of-control vacuum cleaners, a reader of comics with titles like The Illuminated Adventures of the Amazing Incandesto! and a ‘natural-born cynic’ who detests her mother’s favourite shepherdess lamp with a vengeance. Holy Bagumba! What’s not to love?"

 

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A Galaxy of Her Own: Amazing Stories of Women in Space

Libby Jackson

Nominated by: Scott Evans (@MrEPrimary), Primary Teacher and blogger http://thereaderteacher.com 

 

"I have chosen this book because when I selected it from the shelf and turned the page, it was everything I wanted it to be (and more!): informative, interesting and most of all, inspirational. If you want to show children excellent examples of how people - in this instance, women in space - can aspire to achieve and succeed (often against the odds) then I could not think of a better non-fiction book out this year that could demonstrate this so well!"

 

 

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Letters from the Lighthouse

Emma Carroll

Nominated by: Ginny Bootman (@bootman_ginny), year 5/6 teacher and senior manager 

 

"This wonderful story shows the influence that women had during World War 2. Women of different ages are seen to be working together to make a difference to the war efforts. This story also shows the suffering that children endured during World War 2, through the experiences of the main character Olive and the way in which her suffering is easily misconstrued by those around her."

 

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Twister

Juliette Forrest

Nominated by: Trudy Fletcher (@trudyrocke), primary teacher and English lead

 

"I recommend 'Twister' by Juliette Forrest. This book celebrates the bravery of a young girl called Twister who at the start leads a happy life with her pet Beam. Things suddenly change for Twister and through tough and often dark moments you see her grit and determination to never give up. She is truly a brave girl and one to be admired. The story is full of magic and danger but the adventure you take with Twister enables you to consider how you might react given the circumstances portrayed through each page. A truly awesome girl whose courage inspires us all. A must read! I read it all in virtually one day and look forward to more books by this author.

A Witch Alone

James Nicol

Nominated by: Vashti Hardy (@vashti_hardy), children's author (check out Vashti's new book Brightstorm, available here)

"A Witch Alone offers a wonderful host of brave, intelligent, powerful female characters who are a joy to spend time with, as well as some more 'love to hate' dastardly individuals too! There are fabulous females across the pages spanning the generations from young witch Arianwyn to her wonderful Grandmother and many others besides."

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Anthology of Amazing Women

Sandra Lawrence & Nathan Collins

Nominated by: Jo Cummins (@BookSuperhero2), year 3 teacher and English manager

 

"'Anthology of Amazing Women’ is truly just that! It’s packed full of awe-inspiring women from across history, the present time and from around the world, all recognised for excellence in their individual fields. A diverse and original line-up will fascinate readers as they learn about megastars like Beyoncé and lesser-known heroines such as Elena Cornaro Piscopia - the first-ever woman to receive a Ph.D degree. The witty and gorgeous illustrations complement the text brilliantly."

The Adventure Island Series

Helen Moss

Nominated by: Sam Hay (@samhayauthor), children's author whose books include Star in the Jar (available here

 

 

"There are so many great examples of fantastic females in the current crop of middle-grade fiction that it’s almost impossible to choose just one. Luckily my kids have jumped in and asked if they could nominate Emily Wild from the Adventure Island series by Helen Moss. According to my son, Emily has ‘awesome skills’ - she’s brave, strong, great at surveillance and can row a boat better than anyone! My daughter says the best bit about Emily is that she has exciting adventures, but still feels like a ‘real girl!’ Both my kids say they’d like to be mates with Emily Wild. I can’t think of a higher recommendation for a fantastic female! "

Journey to the River Sea

Eva Ibbotson

Nominated by: Karen Morris (@KLovesbooks1), tutor for Primary Education with QTS at Edgehill University

 

"This is a wonderful yarn, featuring not just one but two high-spirited female role models. Maia, a determined heroine, overcomes numerous challenges and a questionable step-family, whilst her governess, Miss Minton, uses hidden talents and inventiveness to outwit incompetent villains and defy stuffy conventions. Both characters challenge small-minded colonial-types and lazy stereotyping as they embrace the adventures offered in this new extraordinary world. The plot rattles along at a good pace and paints brilliant scenes of life along the Amazon. Maia’s true friends are unconventional and engaging, contrasting well with the nastiness of the Carter family. Ibbotson’s humour and storytelling skill ensure that the book never preaches but encourages us to travel with ‘courage and an open mind’. Much needed advice for young readers today!"

 

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The Wolf Wilder

Katherine Rundell

Nominated by: Veronica Price (@vonprice), primary school HLTA

 

"If you are looking for examples of fantastic females in a story, you can't do better than the mother and daughter 'wolf wilders' in this extraordinary work of fiction, set in the freezing forests of Russia about a hundred years ago. Part fairy tale, part perilous quest, this book will keep you gripped to the final page. A tale of love, bravery, friendship and loyalty personified by Feodora who sets out to rescue her mother from the tyrant General Rakov." 

Cogheart

Peter Bunzl

Nominated by:  Christina Reid (@Chrikaru), year 3 teacher and also by Kayleigh (@snailycanfly), teaching assistant.

Christina says: "I would nominate Cogheart by Peter Bunzl. Lily is a rebel from the start, determined to find her own path rather than following expectations. When her father disappears she takes it into her own hands to find out what happened and save him if she can."

Kayleigh says: "Cogheart is one of the best children's books I've come across in a long time; it's a fast-paced steampunk mystery and adventure. The best way I can describe this AMAZING debut is a blend of Frances Hodgson Burnett's classic A Little Princess, with a dash of Katherine Woodfine's Clockwork Sparrow, with a little Phillip Pullman thrown in for good measure! That said, Cogheart is a fantastically original book and is so well written that the characters jump off the page and it plays out like a film in your head. One of the things I loved about it is how Bunzl switches perspectives so (seemingly!) effortlessly between the three main characters, including mechanical fox Malkin, and how right up until the end you are kept guessing as to how the plot will play out. This makes it a perfect book for the target age range of 9+ as well as for grown ups and those with a higher reading age, which is quite a rare feat!"

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A Whisper of Horses

Zillah Bethell

Nominated by: Alison (@booksfortopics), owner of booksfortopics.com

 

"This is a story about a girl who pursues her dreams and learns how to navigate the choices that shape her identity. The tale is set in a dystopian future where the walled-in city of  “Lahn Dan” is ruled by a dictating government that organises society into three unequally treated classes. At the centre of the story is Serendipity, a fantastic female who acts with integrity and demonstrates courage and perseverance as she follows her dreams and the freedom they represent. Serendipity shakes off the notion that identity is defined by class or lineage and trusts her instincts to forge out her own destiny instead, opting to search for independence and discover her own place in the world."

 

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Izzy Gizmo

Pip Jones & Sara Ogilvie

Nominated by: Andy Shepherd (@andyjshepherd), children's author whose debut 'The Boy Who Grew Dragons' is expected in June 2018 (available to pre-order here)

"Izzy Gizmo written by Pip Jones is a wonderful story about a little girl who loves inventing. Sara Ogilvie’s illustrations bring her inventions to life in stunning detail. I love how we see Izzy full of ideas, but are also shown her frustration when things go wrong. It makes her so relatable and we were willing her to persevere. This book is a joy to read aloud and there is so much for children to spot in the pictures. A refreshing character who shows the real ups and downs of problem-solving and what it takes to succeed in the end."

Longbow Girl

Linda Davies

Nominated by: Hannah Nolan-Neylan (@nolney2000), upper KS2 teacher

"Longbow Girl by Linda Davies is a tale of daring deeds and treacherous trials for a time-travelling Welsh child - but is a young girl from a remote farmstead up to the challenge of saving her family?"