The Picky Reader: This One’s For The Girls

This month, I’d like to highlight picture books with “girl appeal” that feature active girl characters. You know, books that might feature dolls and poufy dresses and the color pink, but in which the girl characters aren’t defined or confined by their femininity.

I have to thank two people – first, fellow Mommybites blogger Jean Stehle for inspiring this month’s post. Jean lamented the shortage of fun yet substantial girl books for her two-year-old daughter and told me to get cracking with some recommendations.

Second – bookseller Stephanie Seales for giving me a fabulous tour of Eight Cousins Bookstore in Falmouth, Mass., AND for recommending the first title. Here is the store, the outside and (fabulous!) interior:






If you’re on the Cape or your ferry to the Vineyard is delayed, I recommend a visit!

Ashburn, Boni. I Had a Favorite Dress. Illustrated by Julia Denos. Abrams, 2011.

In this fashion-forward and eco-conscious picture book, the narrator’s dress is remade into different articles of clothing each time she outgrows or damages the previous ones. It is a celebration of creativity as well as conservation. Julia Denos’s art is as whimsical as always. Thanks again, Stephanie!

Idle, Molly. Flora and the Flamingo. Chronicle, 2013.

Get ready to move! In this wordless lift-the-flap picture book, Flora befriends a flamingo and mimics its movements, until the two are dancing together jubilantly at the end. Young readers will want to dance and spin right along with Flora.

Howe, James. Brontorina. Illustrated by Randy Cecil. Candlewick, 2010.

Brontorina, a giant Apatosaurus, wants to join a ballet class. Despite some logistical challenges, Madame Lucille recognizes Brontorina’s passion and finds a creative solution. It’s another dancing-themed book that encourages readers to follow their dreams.

McDonnell, Patrick. Me… Jane. Little, Brown, 2011.

Readers meet anthropologist Jane Goodall as a little girl, playing with her stuffed chimpanzee and enjoying the natural world. The final spread features a photo of her as a grown woman extending a hand to a live baby chimp. Darling… and inspiring.

Falconer, Ian. Olivia. Atheneum, 2000.

Okay, okay, I know you don’t live under a rock and you’ve already shared this book with your daughters. Aren’t Olivia’s flights of fancy delightful? I like that she tries on every outfit in her closet before deciding what to wear, while also dreaming of serving as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. If for some reason you’ve missed the Olivia series, RUN to the library right now.

Go, girls! Happy reading.

Holding books for children to the highest standard, Elaine Dimopoulos teaches writing and children’s literature at Boston University, Simmons College, and Grub Street. Find her at

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