Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

As Beyoncé put it, “Who run the world? Girls!” From art to science to running a country, women and girls have so many wonderful things to contribute. And positive role models help kids realize just what they and their peers can accomplish. If you’re looking to inspire your children and build out your girl power picture book library, introduce them to these 11 amazing women authors and their lovely children’s books.

Juana Martinez-Neal

Peruvian author and illustrator Juana Martinez-Neal earned a Caldecott Honor for her book Alma and How She Got Her Name. (Check out our post Name Graphs Teach Reading for a great activity you can do along with the book!) Her stories are filled with love, strong female characters of color, familial bonds, and South American cultural themes. Her books often have English and Spanish versions, too. Check her latest book, Zonia’s Rain Forest, about an Asháninka girl and her life in the Amazon.

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Yuyi Morales

Yuyi Morales is a Mexican author and illustrator currently living in California. Her books are vibrant, touching, and often very funny. Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book is a perennial favorite of my students. Her books include biographies (Viva Frida), whimsical tales of children’s imagination (Niño Wrestles the World), and explorations of immigrant experience in the U.S. (Dreamers). Her books are often bilingual in Spanish and English.

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Carmen Tafolla

I cannot praise Carmen Tafolla enough. This former State Poet Laureate of Texas is a gift to children’s books. Her stories feature Latinx characters with joy and delight. My personal favorite, What Can You Do With a Paleta?, is a colorful bilingual romp that begs to be read and reread by children. As a fun follow-up, I often teach kids how to make paletas after finishing the book. I also highly recommend What Can You Do With a Rebozo? and That’s Not Fair!: Emma Tenayuca’s Struggle for Justice / ¡No es Justo!: La Lucha de Emma Tenayuca por la Justicia.

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Traci Sorell

Traci Sorell is a Cherokee author who writes books for middle schoolers, elementary age students, and preschoolers. Her books focus on the lives of Native American people. She celebrates the resilience of Indigenous Americans in every book. My personal favorites are We Are Still Here! Native American Truths Everyone Should Know and Powwow Day.

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Julie Flett

Julie Flett is an incredible Cree-Métis author and illustrator. Her books are often bilingual in Cree and English, and many come in board-book form, perfect for your youngest book lover. Her simple art heavily features native flora and fauna of Canada and is so simple and emotional, you’ll find yourself smiling at every page. Be sure to check out Black Bear Red Fox, We All Count, and We All Play. (You can read more about Julie Flett, Traci Sorell and others in our post on the value of reading Indigenous authors).

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Grace Lin

What can’t Grace Lin do? Adventure chapter books with incredible Chinese heroines and dragons? Check! Early readers for your five- to seven-year-olds? Check! Picture books about Chinese holidays, traditions, and love of family? Check! Adorable board books? Check! Grace Lin is one of the best authors/illustrators in the game, and everything she writes is magic. She’s on my bookshelf all year round, no matter what my students are learning about. I love A Big Bed for Little Snow, The Ugly Vegetables, and Ling and Ting: Not Exactly The Same. She even has a podcast for kids called Kids Ask Authors! Check out our red envelope story time activity featuring one of Lin’s books.

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Kat Zhang

In addition to “young adult” and middle-school-focused books, Kat Zhang is the author of the delightful Amy Wu picture book series. This collection of books features a small girl learning about her Chinese culture the way kids learn best—hands-on! At the end of each book is a recipe or activity that your family can learn, just like Amy.

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bell hooks

bell hooks was an author, speaker, professor, and social activist. She is generally best known for her essays and writing aimed at adults, but she also produced children’s books as well. Her books (usually written in verse) are a terrific introduction for children to understanding race, gender, and class. They’re written from a child’s perspective and even get my students up and moving! Dive into her works with Be Boy Buzz, Skin Again, and Happy to Be Nappy.

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Nadia L. Hohn

Nadia L. Hohn is a Canadian author and the daughter of Jamaican immigrants. Also an elementary teacher, she really understands how to write for children. Try her sweet Malaika stories. They focus on a young Jamaican girl and her relationship with her family, as well as her experiences immigrating from Jamaica to Canada. They are filled with so much love, color, and happiness. Hohn’s books are a treat for readers of every age!

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Oge Mora

Oge Mora’s books are, simply put, incredible. As an author and illustrator, she uses collage techniques to create the eye-catching artwork that makes her books so distinct. Her works have won numerous awards. Thank You, Omu! is a particularly touching book that exemplifies generosity and community. Mora is a relatively new author, and I eagerly await to see what her future holds.

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Vashti Harrison

In addition to being a stellar illustrator (Hair Love, Sulwe, and Cece Loves Science) Vashti Harrison is the genius behind the Little Leaders series. These books share the biographies of influential people of color throughout history. They are thoughtfully written, serenely illustrated, and a gem for every household. As a bonus, Harrison even has board books in the Little Leader series!

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Next time you’re on a trip to your local library or hunting for a new bedtime story to snuggle with, remember to check out these fabulous female authors. You never know who they might inspire your children to be!

Who are your favorite female children’s authors? Have a suggestion to include in our list? Let us know!