Boys can’t wear pink? All girls want to be princesses? Don’t let others define what’s “right” for different genders. Here are 20 kids’ books that redefine what’s ‘normal’ for genders.
From an early age kids are bombarded with messages that rigidly define gender: Boys like pirates and sports and being rough, and girls are sweet princesses who love all things pink and sparkles. Even many children’s books still promote harmful gender stereotypes for both boys and girls; limiting how they play, dress, and express themselves.
But these 20 books break the mold and show the importance of diversity in gender roles, giving all kids a chance to see the many ways they can be themselves, whether they’re a boy who loves pink sparkly things, or a rough and tumble girl who loves sports—or even the other way around.
1. When the Bees Fly Home by Andrea Cheng. Sensitive, artistic Jonathan isn’t sturdy enough to help his father with bee keeping, but when a drought hits, the family struggles to make ends meetand Jonathan uses his art skills to save the day.
2. Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood. A plucky retelling of Cinderella with a fairy godrobot and a princess who dreams of fixing up rocket ships.
3. Little Kunoichi, The Ninja Girl by Sanae Ishida. Little Kunoichi is a ninja in training who finds that ninja skills don’t come easily. She needs determination, perseverance and hard work to unleash her power.
4. 10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert. Bailey dreams about beautiful, magical dresses every night, but during the day no one wants to hear about it. Until a new friend helps Bailey make her dreams of dresses come true.
5. All I Want To Be Is Me by Phyllis Rothblatt. A book that reflects the diverse ways that young children express and experience their gender identity.
6. Jacob’s New Dress by Sarah and Ian Hoffman. Jacob loves to play dress up, when he can be anything he wants to be. But what Jacob really wants is to wear a dress to school.
7. Play Free by McNall Mason and Max Suarez. Girls can wear pants, boys can wear dresses. None of that should make any messes. A story of gender expression and acceptance and a special playhouse where everyone is free to be who they are.
8. Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty. Rosie Revere creates great inventions from odds and ends and dreams of being an engineer. Afraid of failure, she hides her creations away, until her great-great-aunt Rose shows Rosie that only true failure comes from quitting.
9. Princesses Can Be Pirates Too! by Christi Zellerhoff. No Girls Allowed? Not only can girls be pirates too, they can do it in a crown and a puffy pink gown!
10. Swamp Angel by Anne Isaacs. Angelica Longrider, also known as Swamp Angel can lasso a tornado, drink an entire lake dry, and wrestles a bear in this tall tale set on the American frontier.
11. Roland Humphrey is Wearing a WHAT? by Eileen Kiernan-Johnson. Roland Humphrey loves wearing pink and sparkles and doesn’t understand the “rules” for what boys should like. If girls can like sports and ballet, why can’t he?
12. Players In Pigtails by Shana Corey. A fictional account of the All Girls Professional Baseball League formed during WWII, about a girl named Katy who is determined to make it to the big league.
13. Dogs Don’t Do Ballet by Anna Kemp. Biff is a dog who loves music and moonlight and walking on his tiptoes. Biff also thinks he’s a ballerina. But dogs don’t do ballet— do they?
14. Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino. Morris is a little boy who loves outer space and painting beautiful pictures and most of all, his classroom’s dress up center. A story about creativity and the courage it takes to be different.
15. I Look Like a Girl by Sheila Hamanaka. Young girls imagine themselves as a dolphin in the sea, a horse on the mesa, a wolf and tiger and “what is wild, in the heart—so I can be me.”
16. Madam President by Lane Smith. A little girl spends a day imagining what it would be like to be president, a reality that may be not so far off.
17. Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman. Grace loves stories, all stories. So when her school decides to perform Peter Pan, Grace longs to play the lead, despite all the naysayers. Grace’s grandmother helps her see that she can be anything she wants.
18. My Name Is Not Isabella: Just How Big Can a Little Girl Dream? by Jennifer Fosberry. Isabella imagines herself as different women who made history and ends the day empowered to be herself.
19. My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis. Sometimes Dyson wears dresses. Sometimes he wears jeans. He likes to wear a princess tiara, even when climbing trees.
20. Shopping With Dad by Matt Harvey. When mom heads to work, a little girl and her dad go shopping, where an enormous sneeze sets off a small calamity.
Image from: Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress