Courageous Girls: Diverse Stories for Young Readers

Lucía the Luchadora

These books introduce readers to girls and women who refused to take no for an answer, holding onto their dreams and letting their talents shine through even when the cards were stacked against them.

A Jar of Dreams

A Jar of Dreams
Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)
Language: English

"I never thought one small lady from Japan could make such a big difference in my life, but she did." So begins Rinko's story about the time that Aunt Waka came to visit. From Mama's new business to Papa's new courage in standing up to Depression-era discrimination against the Japanese, Rinko can barely keep up with the way that everyone in the house (herself included) is changing. Rinko and her relatives are unforgettable characters whose stories are told with an easy familiarity, warmth, and gentle humor.

A Place Where Sunflowers Grow

A Place Where Sunflowers Grow
Age Level: 6-9

This book, based on experiences of the author's mother and grandparents, tells the story of a Japanese American family relocated to an internment camp in Utah. Even in the harsh landscape of the desert, a young girl is able to find beauty in unlikely places, and to re-establish her identity through art, by drawing what she remembers of her life before coming to the camp. Historical notes included. Bilingual English and Japanese.

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music
Illustrated by: Rafael López
Age Level: 6-9
Language: English

Girls cannot be drummers. Long ago on an island filled with music, no one questioned that rule — until the drum dream girl. In her city of drumbeats, she dreamed of pounding tall congas and tapping small bongós. She had to keep quiet. She had to practice in secret. But when at last her dream-bright music was heard, everyone sang and danced and decided that both girls and boys should be free to drum and dream.

Elena's Serenade

Elena's Serenade
Illustrated by: Ana Juan
Age Level: 6-9

Elena wants to be a glassblower like her father, but there is a problem: "Who ever heard of a girl glassblower?" Elena decides she must go to Monterrey where the great glassblowers are, and sets off on her journey with a pipe in hand — dressed as a boy. Elena soon discovers her own hidden talents and the power of believing in yourself. Ana Juan's lovely illustrations convey the magic of Elena's journey. Also available in Spanish and Chinese.

Fly Free!

Fly Free!
Illustrated by: Eujin Kim Neilan
Age Level: 6-9

Product description: "Fly free, fly free, in the sky so blue, When you do a good deed, it will come back to you." Mai loves feeding the caged birds near the temple but dreams that one day she'll see them fly free. Then she meets Thu and shares the joy of feeding the birds with her. This sets a chain of good deeds in motion that radiates throughout her village and beyond. Set in Vietnam, Roseanne Thong's inspiring story is elegantly illustrated with watercolor on wood by Eujin Kim Neilan.

Fly, Girl, Fly!: Shaesta Waiz Soars around the World

Fly, Girl, Fly!
Illustrated by: Alexandra Bye
Age Level: 6-9

Shaesta Waiz, a refugee from Afghanistan, dreamed of doing great things. But first she had to leave a refugee camp with her family to make a new life in America, overcome gender stereotypes, be the first in her family to go to college, and overcome her fear of flying. And she did.

Galápagos Girl / Galapagueña

Galápagos Girl / Galapagueña
Illustrated by: Angela Dominguez
Age Level: 6-9
Language: Spanish (Bilingual Eng/Sp)

Valentina was born on an island formed by fire, surrounded by blue-green sea. As a Galapagueña, Valentina spends her days observing the natural world around her. She greets sea lions splashing on the shore, scampers over lava rocks with Sally-lightfoot crabs, and swims with manta rays. But Valentina also understands the fragility of this wondrous world, and she makes a solemn promise to protect the islands and her animal friends.

Girls Dance, Boys Fiddle

Girls Dance, Boys Fiddle
Illustrated by: Kimberley McKay
Age Level: 6-9

"Young Metisse may think she has two left feet when it comes to dancing, but her hands know how to coax beautiful music from a fiddle. If only everyone would understand. Girls Dance, Boys Fiddle is a funny but feeling story of a girl who has to challenge tradition to prove that she can fiddle with the best. Carole Lindstrom's thoughtful story is warmed and brightened by Kimberley McKay's vivid illustrations." — McNally Robinson

Hiromi's Hands

Hiromi's Hands
Age Level: 6-9
Language: English

Meet Hiromi, a young girl who wants to follow in her father's footsteps as a sushi chef in New York City. Although Papa is reluctant to take Hiromi to the fish market at first, he soon realizes that she is truly interested in his craft, and he begins to train his daughter, who will eventually become one of the first female sushi chefs in New York. Based on a true story, this story offers a kid-friendly and fascinating look into the art of sushi, as well as the possibilities that America offers in bringing different cultures together.

Lucía the Luchadora

Lucía the Luchadora
Illustrated by: Alyssa Bermudez
Age Level: 6-9
Language: English

Lucía zips through the playground in her cape just like the boys, but when they tell her "girls can't be superheroes," suddenly she doesn't feel so mighty. That's when her beloved abuela reveals a dazzling secret: Lucía comes from a family of luchadoras, the bold and valiant women of the Mexican lucha libre tradition. Cloaked in a flashy new disguise, Lucía returns as a recess sensation!

My Freedom Trip

My Freedom Trip
Illustrated by: Steve Jenkins
Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)

In this intense and moving book, Frances and Ginger Park share the story of their mother's escape from North Korea as a young girl. On the night that Soo prepares for her freedom trip, she bids her mother a tearful farewell and begins a journey during which she will travel by train and foot to reach the border with South Korea. Filled with suspense and heartache, the story is a tribute to those who set out for freedom — and those who stay behind.

Nim and the War Effort

Nim and the War Effort
Age Level: 6-9

Nim, a young girl living in San Francisco's Chinatown during World War II, is determined to collect the tallest stack of newspapers to support her school's newspaper drive and the national ongoing war effort. The story and its evocative illustrations depict the cultural traditions and quiet determination of a Chinese American family trying to embrace their American identity while the country is at war with Japan.

Seesaw Girl

Seesaw Girl
Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)

Jade longs to see the world beyond the walls of her family's household. But Jade lives in 17th century Korea, where girls and women are restricted. When she figures out a way to get to the outside world, Jade's observations and experiences reveal a different time and place, but also dreams and wishes that contemporary readers will recognize.

Tea with Milk

Tea with Milk
By: Allen Say
Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)
Language: English

At home, Masako speaks Japanese and sips green tea with her parents. But at her friends' houses near San Francisco, May speaks English and enjoys pancakes and tea with milk and sugar. When May's parents decide to return to Japan, she feels lost. May finally begins to find her way in the big city of Osaka, where she makes a special friend who also speaks English — and drinks his tea with milk and sugar. Allen Say brings tenderness and humor to his mother's unforgettable story in this beautiful tribute to his parents.

The Contest

The Contest
Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)

Product Description: Young readers will delight in the story of Rosy, a spirited and dark-haired girl, who, being half-Mohawk, is the first and only Native to enter an Anne of Green Gables look-alike contest. Convinced that being "kindred-spirits" and well versed in everything Anne is actually the true nature of the contest, Rosy bravely sets forth to do what she must to win. As Rosy overcomes setbacks with her health as well as financial hardships, readers will experience along with Rosy her discovery of the true value of friendship, family, and community.

The Library Bus

The Library Bus
Illustrated by: Gabrielle Grimard
Age Level: 6-9

It is still dark in Kabul, Afghanistan when the library bus rumbles out of the city. There are no bus seats ― instead there are chairs and tables and shelves of books. And there are no passengers ― instead there is Pari, who is nervously starting her first day as Mama's library helper.

Author Bahram Rahman grew up in Afghanistan during years of civil war and the Taliban regime. He wrote this story to tell new generations about the struggles of women who, like his own sister, were forbidden to learn.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
By: Grace Lin
Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)

Join Minli as she journeys to save her village and her family from a dreary fate. A storyteller's voice effectively brings to life this unforgettable award-winning novel, illustrated with exquisite Chinese paintings.  Readers of this book will enjoy Starry River of the Sky and When the Sea Turned to Silver.

Yasmin's Hammer

Yasmin's Hammer
Illustrated by: Doug Chayka
Age Level: 6-9

In Dhaka, Bangladesh, as two girls work hard all day to help support their family by chipping bricks into small pieces, older sister Yasmin seeks a way to attend school and learn to read so that she can have a better life one day. Includes author's note about conditions in Bangladesh, child labor, and how to help.