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Growing Reader

Early Chapter Books With Fierce Female Characters

by Dena McMurdie

fierce-females-chapter-books
Background credit: archie26/Shutterstock

As a mom of two daughters, I’m always on the hunt for books featuring strong female characters. But finding early chapter books with bold leading ladies can be surprisingly difficult.

After much searching (and some trial and error), I’ve found several books that inspire and engage my girls. The next time you’re looking for a good book for a great girl in your life, give one of these a try.

  • Princess Pulverizer Series

    by Nancy Krulik, illustrated by Ben Balistreri

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    This early chapter book series has eight fun-filled books about a princess who wants to become a knight. To achieve her dreams, she has to complete a Quest of Kindness. With the assistance of a dragon and a knight in training, she roams the kingdom, rescuing people and mythological creatures from danger. She fearlessly defeats evil wizards, pirates, witches, and many other villains with humor and heart.

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  • Dory Fantasmagory Series

    by Abby Hanlon

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    My kids love this series! All three of them devoured the hilarious Dory Fantasmagory books and loved every page. Dory is a little girl with a wild imagination and a talent for trouble. Her vibrant personality and wacky adventures will have growing readers in stitches.

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  • The Haunted Library Series

    by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Aurore Damant

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    A girl and a ghost team up to solve mysteries in this early chapter book series for kids. Claire lives above the town library with her parents. When she meets Kaz, the resident ghost, the two become fast friends and form a detective agency. Together, they solve slightly spooky mysteries around their town.

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  • Junie B. Jones Series

    by Barbara Park, illustrated by Denise Brunkus

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    Junie B. Jones has been a reader favorite for generations, and it’s not hard to see why. Junie B. is a spunky girl with loads of personality that practically bounces off the page. At the same time, young readers can easily see themselves in Junie B. as she navigates her first few years of elementary school.

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  • The BFG

    Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake

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    Even after being snatched from her bed by a giant, Sophie remains upbeat. She befriends her kidnapper and together they work to stop the vicious, child-eating giants. Sophie is quick-witted, brave, and an excellent diplomat. She will do whatever it takes to save the lives of innocent people everywhere.

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  • She Persisted Series

    by Chelsea Clinton and others, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger and Gillian Flint

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    Fans of true stories will love this early chapter book series featuring fierce female characters from history. From athletes and scientists to politicians and activists, this series covers some of the most influential and inspiring women from different backgrounds. Based on the bestselling picture book by Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger, these books are perfect for kids who want to learn about women who made history.

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  • Secret Spy Society Series

    by Veronica Mang

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    Three best friends stumble across a secret spy society that includes history’s greatest female spies. Before long, the girls are donning their detective hats and learning the fine art of sleuthing. Young readers looking for a thrilling and action-packed adventure will find it here.

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  • The Treasure Troop Series

    by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Tim Budgen

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    This exciting adventure series is like The Westing Game for the younger set. When Marley’s elderly treasure-hunting neighbor passes away, he leaves behind a mysterious puzzle. Marley and her friends must solve each clue to find the treasure and experience the adventure of a lifetime.

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  • Magic Tree House Series

    Mary Pope Osborne, illustrated by Sal Murdocca

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    Not one to sit on the sidelines, Annie is a fearless adventurer who always wants to be in the middle of things. In this fast-paced series, Annie barrels headlong into one historical escapade after another, always managing to narrowly escape from dangerous situations.

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  • Astronaut Girl Series

    by Cathy Hapka and Ellen Vandenberg, illustrated by Gillian Reid

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    Blast off on an out-of-this-world escapade with this fast-paced early chapter book series featuring a science-loving girl and her friends. This energetic crew will get lost in space, orbit the sun, dodge asteroids, and travel to Mars. Growing readers interested in outer space, science, and friendship stories will love this series!

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  • Star Friends Series

    by Linda Chapman, illustrated by Lucy Fleming

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    Friendship, magic, adorable animals, and a high-interest story in just over 150 pages make this series an excellent choice for newly independent readers. When Mia and her friends meet the Star Animals, they learn that they have unique magical abilities. Soon, the girls get pulled into a mission to defeat the dark magic causing trouble in their town. The girls will have to work together and trust their new animal friends to succeed.

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2015 and updated in 2021.