The best thing we can do for students is to provide multicultural experiences through reading. The second best thing we can do is provide access to the women and kids and all peoples who have shaped our world. Today, we do just that. We celebrate 33 new and up-coming book birthdays for female biographies. Here are just a few you may add to your collection as they are birthed onto the bookshelf:
A biography of the first Black woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and the first Black woman to run for president with a major political party.
Before there was Barack Obama, before there was Kamala Harris, there was Fighting Shirley Chisholm. A daughter of Barbadian immigrants, Chisholm developed her political chops in Brooklyn in the 1950s and went on to become the first Black woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
This “pepper pot,” as she was known, was not afraid to speak up for what she thought was right. While fighting for a better life for her constituents in New York’s 12th Congressional District, Chisholm routinely fought against sexism and racism in her own life and defied the norms of the time. As the first Black woman in the House and the first Black woman to seek the presidential nomination from a major political party, Shirley Chisholm laid the groundwork for those who would come after her. (Amazon)
This brilliant memoir-in-verse celebrates a hero and honors the foot soldiers who fought to make Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a national holiday.
Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ’Round is a deeply moving middle grade memoir about what it means to be an everyday activist and foot soldier for racial justice, as Kathlyn recounts how, drawn to activism from childhood, she went from attending protests as a teenager to fighting for Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday to become a national holiday as an adult. A blueprint for kids starting down their own paths to civic awareness, it shows life beyond protests and details the sustained time, passion, and energy it takes to turn an idea into a law. (Amazon)
Black activist Opal Lee had a vision of Juneteenth as a holiday to celebrate Black joy and "freedom for all."
Every year, Opal looked forward to the Juneteenth picnic—a drumming, dancing, delicious party. She knew from Granddaddy Zak's stories that Juneteenth celebrated the day the freedom news of President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation finally sailed into Texas in 1865—over two years after the president had declared it! But Opal didn't always see freedom in her Texas town. Then one Juneteenth day when Opal was twelve years old, an angry crowd burned down her brand-new home. This wasn't freedom at all. She had to do something! But could one person’s voice make a difference? Could Opal bring about national recognition of Juneteenth? (Amazon)
Pioneering chef Alice Waters kickstarted the organic food movement.
Whenever young Alice Waters tasted something delicious, like the sun-warmed berries from her family’s garden or a crisp, ripe apple picked straight from the tree, she would remember it for the rest of her life. Later, as she tasted many more wonderful foods, she realized what made them so good—they were fresh and ripe, grown or made the old-fashioned way.
When Alice grew up, she opened a restaurant called Chez Panisse. As part of her quest to make delicious food, Alice sought out small, local farmers to provide the meat, dairy, and produce. The restaurant made her famous, but it did much more than that—it started a food revolution.(Amazon)
Biography in verse shares the story of the pioneering Jewish woman physicist whose scientific prowess changed the course of World War II.
At the turn of the 20th century, Lise Meitner dreamed of becoming a scientist. In her time, girls were not supposed to want careers, much less ones in science. But Lise was smart—and determined. She earned a PhD in physics, then became the first woman physics professor at the University of Berlin. The work was thrilling, but Nazi Germany was a dangerous place for a Jewish woman. When the risks grew too great, Lise escaped to Sweden, where she continued the experiments that she and her laboratory partner had worked on for years. Her efforts led to the discovery of nuclear fission and altered the course of history.
Only Lise’s partner, a man, received the Nobel Prize for their findings.. (Amazon)
A rousing picture book biography of the only woman whose name is printed on the Declaration of Independence.
Born in 1738, Mary Katharine Goddard came of age in colonial Connecticut as the burgeoning nation prepared for the American Revolution. As a businesswoman and a newspaper publisher, Goddard paved the way for influential Revolutionary media. Her remarkable accomplishments as a woman defied societal norms and set the stage for a free and open press. When the Continental Congress decreed that the Declaration of Independence be widely distributed, one person rose to the occasion and printed the document—boldly inserting her name at the bottom with a printing credit: Mary Katharine Goddard. (Amazon)
Building a better world...
Every night when Sonia goes to bed, Mami asks her the same question: How did you help today? And since Sonia wants to help her community, just like her Mami does, she always makes sure she has a good answer to Mami's question.
In a story inspired by her own family's desire to help others, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor takes young readers on a journey through a neighborhood where kids and adults, activists and bus drivers, friends and strangers all help one another to build a better world for themselves and their community. (Amazon)
Visual biography of Mary Anning, the Victorian fossil hunter who changed scientific thinking about prehistoric life and would become one of the most celebrated paleontologists of all time.
Mary Anning grew up on the south coast of England in a region rich in fossils. As teenagers, she and her brother Joseph discovered England’s first complete ichthyosaur. Poor and uneducated, Anning would become one of the most celebrated paleontologists ever, though in her time she supported herself selling fossils and received little formal recognition. Her findings helped shape scientific thinking about extinction and prehistoric life long before Darwin published his famous work on evolution.
With engaging text, photographs, and stunning paleoart, Fossil Hunter introduces this self-taught scientist, now recognized as one of the greatest fossilists the world has ever known. (Amazon)
The only picture book biography about unsung hero Patsy Takemoto Mink, the first Asian American woman elected to Congress.
From a young age, Patsy Takemoto Mink learned that striving for goals came with challenges. But she also learned to never give up. As the Japanese proverb says: fall down seven times, stand up eight.
That spirit helped Patsy through school. She wanted to become a doctor, but at the time, medical schools didn’t admit women. So Patsy carved her own path. She went to law school, ran for a seat in the United States Congress, and helped create Title IX, the law that requires federally funded schools to treat boys and girls equally. Although many people tried to knock her down, Patsy—a historic trailblazer who spent her life fighting for fairness—always got up again! (Amazon)
A biography of a famous flier distinguished by its uncommon lens.–Publishers Weekly
Long before Amelia Earhart became a superstar, she was a girl who longed to touch the stars. But the dresses women had to wear at the time made those dreams seem almost impossible. Amelia didn't let that stop her. As a young aviator breaking records and expectations, she learned to fly her plane with flair. Later, she dared to create a trendsetting fashion line for active women like herself. Soaring in Style tells the groundbreaking story of how Amelia Earhart defied expectations in the air and on the ground to become America's first celebrity fashion designer. (Amazon)
First-ever picture book about female Revolutionary War activist Prudence Wright, who rallied the first and only group of "minute women" to fight the British.
Prudence Wright had a spark of indepence.
Annoyed when the British king held back freedoms in colonial Massachusetts, feisty and fearless Prudence had enough. She said no! to British goods, determined to rely on her resourcefulness and ingenuity to get by. And when British troops continued to threaten the lives of her family and community, she assembled and led the "minute women" of Pepperell to break free of tradition. (Amazon)
How Mary Wilkins Ellis’ childhood passion for flying led to an exciting career in the air.
As a child, Mary Wilkins Ellis longed to fly, but she had to wait until she was 16 before she could have her first lesson. She soon became the youngest licensed pilot in her English county, but then all civilian flight was banned when Germany launched its attacks on Britain in 1940. Mary was grounded.
One day she chanced to hear a radio appeal for Britons with pilot’s licenses—even women—to join the Air Transport Auxiliary and ferry brand new fighter planes to Royal Air Force bases. Mary immediately applied, and spent the rest of the war delivering hundreds of different kinds of aircraft—most of which she’d never flown before—forming lifelong bonds with her colleagues, surviving many close calls, and helping to save her country from destruction. (Amazon)
First Woman Olympian with disability to medal, First Therapy Horse:
"Lis Hartel became paralyzed after contracting polio in 1944. Her dreams of riding horses and competing in the sport of dressage were shattered. After months in the hospital, doctors told her she'd never ride again. Lis tried anyway. How do you stay on a horse without using your legs? How do you give the subtle cues needed in dressage with limited mobility? With hard work–and an unlikely horse named Jubilee. After years of training together and creating a new way of communicating, Lis and Jubilee danced into the competition ring, and eventually all the way to the Olympics. Lis Hartel was the first woman with a disability ever to win an Olympic medal, and the first woman to stand equally beside men on the Olympic winners' podium in any sport." (Amazon)
Make way for Ruth Bader Ginsburg! It's RBG like you've never seen her before!
Using a unique mix of first-person narrative, hilarious comic panels, and essential facts, Dean Robbins introduces young readers to an American trailblazer. The first book in an exciting new nonfiction series, You Are a Star, Ruth Bader Ginsburg focuses on Ruth's lifelong mission to bring equality and justice to all. Sarah Green's spot-on comic illustrations bring this icon to life, and engaging back matter instructs readers on how to be more like Ruth! (Amazon)
An unsung hero of early animation.
Lotte Reiniger, as a little kid, loved reading fairytales and fell in love with puppetry. At school, she learned about Scherenschnitte, or papercuts, which helped her create her signature style of silhouettes. She grew up to make more than 40 films throughout her long career, most of which were fairytales that used her stop-film animation technique of hand-cut silhouettes. Reiniger is now seen as the foremost pioneer of silhouette animation and the inventor of an early form of the multiplane camera. (Amazon)
The story behind the classic lullaby, Twinkle, twinkle little star.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are.
Did you ever wonder who wrote that famous verse?
In the days when most girls were brought up to run a home, Jane Taylor had a different kind of education in the English countryside. She was inspired by nature and the stars and dreamed of becoming a writer. But in the late 1700s, it was not considered proper for women to be writers. Jane and other female poets were shunned, unable to use their own names when published.But Jane did write, and she never forgot her love for the beauty of nature and the glow of stars, or her desire to write for children. Her published poetry became universally known for generations to come: Twinkle, twinkle little star. (Amazon)
Real-life adventure, daredevil and groundbreaking journalists Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland race against each other–and the clock as they circle the globe by ship, train, and foot.
Nellie Bly was an energetic and eager reporter, but she wasn't able to think of a good story for her editors. Wishing she was on the other end of the earth, Nellie had an inspiration–she would travel around the world, just like in the fictional adventure book Around the World in Eighty Days. When a fellow journalist, Elizabeth Bisland, heard about Nellie's plans, she decided to up the stakes–by beating Nellie in her own race! (Amazon)
I Am Mozart, Too is a picture book biography about Wolfgang's older sister, Maria Anna Mozart. She was a child prodigy and a secret composer.
Nannerl and Wolfie love playing the harpsichord together. They are so talented, the Mozart siblings perform all over Europe for packed audiences in beautiful concert halls. Even Empress Maria Theresa requests that they stop in Vienna to play especially for her.
But then Nannerl does something naughty: She starts writing music of her own. Papa fumes. Girls are not allowed! Girls belong behind the curtain.
While Wolfie’s solo career takes flight, Nannerl must settle for a life offstage. But it doesn’t stop her from pursuing her dreams in secret. (Amazon)
Celebrate the life-changing power of art in this inspiring biography of American artist Alma Thomas.
Meet an incredible woman who broke down barriers throughout her whole life and is now known as one of the most preeminent painters of the 20th century. Told from the point of view of young Alma Thomas, readers can follow along as she grows into her discovery of the life-changing power of art.
As a child in Georgia, Alma Thomas loved to spend time outside, soaking up the colors around her. And her parents filled their home with color and creativity despite the racial injustices they faced. After the family moved to Washington DC, Alma shared her passion for art by teaching children. When she was almost seventy years old, she focused on her own artwork, inspired by nature and space travel. (Amazon)
Civil War nurse Clara Barton led heroic efforts during the Battle of Antietam and earned the name "The Angel of the Battlefield"... and founded the American Red Cross.
During the Civil War, Clara Barton—one of the first women to receive permission to serve on a battlefield—snuck her supply wagon to the head of a ten-mile wagon train to deliver provisions to the Antietam Battlefield. On the bloodiest day in American history, Clara and her team of helpers sprang into action as they nursed the wounded and dying, cooked meals for soldiers, and provided doctors with desperately needed medical supplies and lanterns so they could operate through the night. (Amazon)
An inspirational story of a singular woman and what her vision and compassion have brought to life.
“Justice is not three hots and a cot. Justice is having your own key.” —Kip Tiernan
When Kip Tiernan was growing up during the Great Depression, she’d help her granny feed the men who came to their door asking for help. As Kip grew older, and as she continued to serve food to hungry people, she noticed something peculiar: huddled at the back of serving lines were women dressed as men. At the time, it was believed that there were no women experiencing homelessness. And yet Kip would see women sleeping on park benches and searching for food in trash cans. Kip decided to open the first shelter for women—a shelter with no questions asked, no required chores, just good meals and warm beds. (Amazon)
Fatima al-Fihri had one wish . . .
To learn. She wanted to know everything: how birds flew, why the sky was blue, and how flowers grew. But more than anything, she wanted a school for all, where anyone could study and become whatever they wanted, like teachers, scientists, and doctors.
As she grew older, Fatima carried her one wish inside her, through good times and bad. Fueled by her faith and her determination, she worked hard to make her one wish come true. For over a thousand years, Fatima’s one wish—her school—served students and scholars from around the globe, and it continues to do so today!
With lyrical texti, this life portrait of an extraordinary Muslim woman shows the importance of never giving up on your dreams. (Amazon)
Trailblazing scientist discovers clouds and how they work, changing everything we know about weather today.
Joanne Simpson, a girl, sailed her boat beneath the puffy white clouds of Cape Cod. As a pilot, she flew her plane so high, its wings almost touched them. And when World War II began and Joanne moved to the University of Chicago, a professor asked her to teach Air Force officers about those very clouds and the weather-changing winds.
She was told, "No woman ever got a doctorate in meteorology. And no woman ever will."
But she sold her boat. She flew her last flight. And studied clouds—and became the first woman in the world to earn a doctorate in meteorology. (Amazon)
Middle-grade biography about Sophie Blanchard, the first woman to work as a professional aeronaut in France.
Before Amelia Earhart, there was Sophie Blanchard, the first woman to earn her living in the air. While no one knows the fate of Earhart, a terrified crowd of thousands looked on as French aeronaut Sophie Blanchard met her end in a tragic blaze of glory over the streets of Paris in 1819.
But first, Blanchard made nearly 70 spectacular flights, survived a revolution, and become a court favorite of the emperor Napoleon (who gave her the title, "Aeronaut of the Official Festivals") and later of the King of France. Set against the backdrop of the history of flight, watch as Balloonmania-- a phenomenon that riveted all of Europe-- took hold and inspired a great many artists authors, and dreamers. (Amazon)
Discover new realms of outer space and how an immigrated to America became a ground-breaking scientist.
In 1916, Albert Einstein had a theory. He thought that somewhere out in the universe, there were collisions in space. These collisions could cause little sound waves in the fabric of space-time that might carry many secrets of the distant universe. But it was only a theory. He could not prove it in his lifetime.
Many years later, an immigrant scientist named Gabriela Gonzalez asked the same questions. Armed with modern technology, she joined a team of physicists who set out to prove Einstein's theory. At first, there was nothing. But then... they heard a sound. Gabriela and her team examined, and measured, and re-measured until they were sure—completing the work that Albert Einstein had begun 100 years earlier. (Amazon)
Jackie Kennedy loved the arts. And America loved Jackie Kennedy.
The first lady knew she had the country's attention--what would she do with it? Encourage Americans to appreciate art, of course! She turned the White House into a historical site filled with some of America's most treasured artifacts and pieces of art. She brought Shakespearean theater to the White House and ballerinas to the South Lawn. And most epically, she brought the Mona Lisa to the states (much to the chagrin of many Parisians) to encourage Americans to visit museums—and it worked! An inspiring story about one of the nation's most influential first ladies. (Amazon)
A middle grade nonfiction novel-in-verse.
A moving true story of how young Ukrainian Jewish piano prodigies Zhanna (alias “Anna”) and her sister Frina outplayed their pursuers while hiding in plain sight during the Holocaust.
She wouldn’t be Zhanna. She’d use an alias. A for Anna. A for alive.
When the Germans invade Ukraine, Zhanna must leave behind her friends, her freedom, and her promising musical future at the world’s top conservatory. With no time to say goodbye, Zhanna, her sister Frina, and their entire family are removed from their home by the Nazis and forced on a long, cold, death march. When a guard turns a blind eye, Zhanna flees with nothing more than her musical talent, her beloved sheet music, and her father’s final plea: “I don’t care what you do. Just live.” (Amazon)
This award-winning memoir translated from Italian to English tells the powerful story of Lia Levi’s life during World War II.
1938, Italy. Six-year-old Lia loves to build sandcastles at the beach and her biggest problem is her shyness and quiet, birdlike voice—until prime minister Mussolini joins forces with Hitler in World War II, and everything changes.
Now there are laws. Jewish children cannot go to school. Jews cannot work or go on vacation. It’s difficult for Lia to understand why this is happening to her family. When her father loses his job, they give up home and move from city to city as war and danger comes to stay. Lia and her sisters are sent to hide at a convent. Will she ever be “just a girl” again? (Amazon)
The inspirational story of Mary Sherman, the world's first female rocket scientist.
Growing up in the 1920s on a dirt-poor farm in North Dakota, Mary Sherman's life was filled with chores--until she finally began school and discovered she loved to learn.
Mary excelled at science, especially chemistry, and leaped at the chance to work in a laboratory during World War II designing rocket fuels. And when the US decided to enter the space race, Mary was chosen over her male colleagues to create the fuel to launch a rocket carrying America's first satellite.
With courage and perseverance, Mary's hard work and calculations paid off, opening up a brand-new frontier for exploration. (Amazon)
We all know Helen Keller's story—but what else do you know about her?
Did you know she was an activist, a rebel, a performer, a romantic… and so much more! Most stories about Helen Keller focus on the story of her deaf-blindness and scholarship, but there is more to Helen than her disability. This bouncy, rhyming story is an excellent tool for teaching children to see beyond the surface with everyone they encounter. (Amazon)
Perfect for fans of STEM
Pioneering astronomer Maria Mitchelllonged to travel beyond her small island of Nantucket. But she wasn't sure how. Her father taught her to look to the stars for guidance.
If you knew how to read them, he said, the stars could tell you where you were, and where you needed to go. They spent hours scanning the night sky together through a telescope on the roof.
Maria learned how to use astronomers' tools to measure and track time by the stars. But what could she do with her skills? Then, one day, she heard that a prize was being offered to the first person to find a new comet. Could this be the opportunity she was waiting for? (Amazon)
Inspired by the author’s family account of the harrowing journey faced by millions of migrants in the aftermath of the division of India and Pakistan.
Azra knows that wherever she goes, her doll Gurya will follow. When a train takes her far away from home, when a new flag flies in Dehradun, when there is no place left in it for Azra, will she take a piece of home with her?
But when Abba comes home and says they must leave right now, Gurya gets left behind. Will Azra be strong and face the long journey alone? (Amazon)
Hop on the bike with Bessie Stringfield, the motorcycle queen of Miami
The folks, they lined up to meet the Motorcycle Queen, seated side saddle on her motorbike machine.
In 1929, 18-year-old Bessie Stringfield hopped on her motorcycle and headed out on an adventure, an unusual choice for a young Black woman at the time. Paying her way by winning motorcycle races, she criss-crossed the country through small towns, big cities, and wide open spaces.
But not everyone was happy to see Bessie. More than once, Bessie found herself making some quick exits on the back of her bike to escape Jim Crow. A trailblazer in the world of women's racing and motorcycling, Bessie Stringfield was a figure who will inspire all children to pursue their dreams. (Amazon)
You may embrace student choice. Serve up engaged learning. And help even students embrace Alexandria’s mission: Your Library Without Limits. This year, you might share the first seven titles on our list, set a timer, and host a March Madness meets Women’s Day library activity.
Kids in small-groups might read a title and chime in on what makes the book a “best book” for International Women’s Day. See a great GN-style book review template you can print for this activity created by BooksBabiesandBows.com.
What’s even nicer? You can celebrate this activity and add some celebratory gamified learning fun as well. Celebrate how women have impacted our world by adding a library visit end game. Here’s some of our favorites:
While you play, take a minute to see just how many book connections these three educational providers offer for teachers. You can enjoy a game today —or perhaps add a game link inside your library, using Alexandria’s OTHER button. You will love how easy it is to add a link and help educators bring more joy to their teaching.– Jo Sadler, Alexandria's Virtual Librarian