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Holiday gift guide: 10 incredible books to help young girls to know their value

Ciarra Chavarria, who runs the Instagram feed @girlsreadtheworld, shares her top picks.
Books are a great gift for children and can help readers appreciate just how unique and amazing they are.
Books are a great gift for children and can help readers appreciate just how unique and amazing they are.Ciarra Chavarria

The holidays are fast approaching, and that means gift-giving time is upon us!

Books are a wonderful way to teach our future leaders about confidence and resilience. So, if you’re scratching your head over what to get the young girls in your life, check out my top-10 favorite books that are jam-packed with girl power:

“You Are Enough: A Book about Inclusion” by Margaret O'Hair

Recommended age: 4-8

Read this if … you want your children to embrace their uniqueness.

In a nutshell: Twelve-year-old Sofia Sanchez is a model and actress known for advocating for those, like her, who have Down Syndrome. “You Are Enough,” inspired by the real Sofia, takes readers on a journey through her world where she discovers all the amazing people around her. This adorable book encourages readers to embrace their differences and to just be themselves.

Why I love it: When this book says it’s about inclusion, it isn’t kidding. The illustrations include children with hearing aids and prosthetics, children who have vitiligo, albinism, and other visible disabilities. It features children and adults of all colors, shapes and sizes.

Favorite quote: “Never say no to being yourself. Feel your own beauty, inside and out.”

“Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem” by Amanda Gorman

Recommended age: 4-8

Read this if … you want an empowering anthem that will inspire your girls to change the world for the better.

In a nutshell: This book is exactly what it promises to be: a children’s anthem that’s geared toward making our world a better place.

It hammers home the message that while change is scary, it’s also a gateway to goodness, kindness and love. The illustrations are a perfect accompaniment to this incredible message for our children.

Why I love it: Two words: Amanda Gorman. Her incredible poetry sings from every page, and it’s glorious.

Favorite quote: “I’m bright as the light each day brings. There is love where my change sings.”

“The Big Bath House” by Kyo Maclear

Recommended age: 4-8

Read this if … you want a joyful and engaging picture book that celebrates family and normalizes all body types.

In a nutshell: Based on the author's experience of spending summers in Japan, “The Big Bath House” is a sweet memory of a little girl spending time at the bath house with her family. As the little girl goes through her day, readers experience the bath house with her, from dressing in her yukata, to washing her hair, to entering the steaming baths, to the walk home in the cool night air.

Why I love it: In addition to introducing readers to the traditional Japanese bath house, this book is also a love letter to family, and to bodies! It’s delightful to see the little girl’s relationship with her grandmother and family, and it’s refreshing to see all bodies represented as a completely normal part of life.

Favorite quote: “Someday you’ll find the words, but for now, you have this. This day at the big bath house.”

“Lift” by Minh Lê

Recommended age: 4-8

Read this if … you want a charming and imaginative read about sibling rivalry — and love.

In a nutshell: Iris loves pushing elevator buttons (what kid doesn’t?) and looks forward to it every day. So, when her parents suddenly start letting her little brother push the button, Iris feels betrayed. In fact, she gets so mad that she accidentally breaks the elevator! But when she takes the old button and tapes it up next to her closet door, she discovers that it’s an entrance to dazzling new worlds! She loves going on adventures on her own, but she comes to realize that maybe, just maybe, they would be even better with company.

Why I love it: I love the comic book look and the sparse language that really make the illustrations in this one shine. I also can’t get enough of the sweet story of Iris learning what it means to be a big sister.

Favorite quote: “After all, everyone can use a lift sometimes.”

“May Your Life Be Deliciosa” by Michael Genhart

Recommended age: 4-8

Read this if … you’re looking for a book that celebrates family and traditions in the most delicious way!

In a nutshell: “May Your Life Be Deliciosa” takes readers on a journey with the narrator Rosie, as she makes tamales with her family on Christmas Eve. The narrator's Abuela leads the way, turning each step of the tamale-making process into a blessing for her family around her as she recalls memories of her own life.

Why I love it: You can’t really go wrong with books about food and family — but throw in the extra layer of culture and tradition, and this one is bound to be a holiday classic. In addition, the bold, striking illustrations perfectly complement the storytelling in this stunning picture book.

Favorite quote: “Es una talamada! A party in the kitchen!”

“Black Ballerinas” by Misty Copeland

Recommended age: 4-8

Read this if … you’ve got an aspiring ballerina, or you just want to be inspired by amazing Black women.

In a nutshell: Written by Misty Copeland, “Black Ballerinas” is an anthology of incredible Black ballerinas in the last century. The women in the book inspired Copeland herself, and each story includes Copeland’s personal reflections and is accompanied by gorgeous watercolor illustrations. Whether you’ve got a young ballerina in your life or not, this book is a must-have for any shelf.

Why I love it: This book is absolutely gorgeous, from the cover to the very last page. Yes, this book is for children, but trust me, you’ll want this on your coffee table, too!

Favorite quote: "What’s wonderful about being a ballerina is being able to tell a story without saying a single word.”

“Jojo Makoons: The Used to be Best Friend” by Dawn Quigley

Recommended age: 6-10

Read this if … you’re looking for your next favorite early chapter book heroine!

In a nutshell: First grader Jojo Makoons is worried that her school best friend, Fern, doesn’t want to be her best friend anymore! Could it be because she cuts the toes off her old socks? Or because she isn’t good at rhyming? Jojo decides she needs to try to make some more friends, so she follows her Kokum’s (grandma’s) advice and uses her imagination to come up with some clever ideas. Will they work?

Why I love it: Jojo is proud of who she is — of her name, her Ojibwe culture, of her creative way of looking at the world. She knows she isn’t perfect — but she’s perfectly fine with that!

Favorite quote: “If you can say Tyrannosaurus Rex, you can say nindizhinikaaz.”

“Tales of Fearless Girls” by Isabel Otter

Recommended age: 7+

Read this if … you’re looking for some girl-powered fairy tales!

In a nutshell: “Tales of Fearless Girls” features fairy tales gathered from countries and cultures around the world —Scotland, Fiji, Iran, North America and more. But what’s unique about this collection is that there are no damsels in distress here. Instead, each story has been written to highlight girls who are brave, kind and clever, standing up to demons, defeating elves and winning kingdoms!

Why I love it: Fairy tales with a feminist twist are always my jam. But it’s the talking points and background on each of the stories included at the back of the book that really makes this one a stand-out.

Favorite quote: “And real girls don’t need to be rescued by anyone!”

“Amari and the Night Brothers” by B.B. Alston

Recommended age: 8-12

Read this if … you’ve got a tween who loves magic and fantasy.

In a nutshell: Amari's brother Quinten has disappeared. There's been no word from him in over a year, but Amari just knows in her gut that he's still alive. When a hidden message in Quinten's room leads her to a summer training at the (previously unknown to her) Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, Amari knows that she's on her way to finding her brother. But it's not going to be easy…

Why I love it: This book is pretty much everything you’d want in a middle grade fantasy — it’s got magic, imagination and heart, and Amari is a stunning protagonist!

Favorite quote: “I wanted you to know just how vast and wondrous the world really is.”

“The Many Meanings of Meilan” by Andrea Wang

Recommended age: 9-12

Read this if … you’re looking for a richly-layered middle grade novel about family and identity.

In a nutshell: What’s in a name? Meilan Hua certainly knows. In Chinese, her name can mean many things — beautiful orchid, basket, the color blue, mist. Growing up in Boston’s Chinatown, she’s surrounded by family and friends who know and appreciate this. But when the family matriarch, her Nainai dies, a feud with the extended family results in Meilan, her Gonggong and her family moving to Redbud, Ohio, which is just about as far from Boston’s Chinatown as you can get. Suddenly, Meilan becomes Melanie (at the request of her principal) and she’s not sure at all who she is anymore.

Why I love it: I fell in love with Meilan from the first page. With humor, heartbreak and a little bit of Chinese magical realism, Meilan and her story will resonate with so many readers.

Favorite quote: “My name tastes strange in my mouth, bitter and sharp and sweet all at once. I scream my name above the shriek of sea dragons, ‘Huā Měilán!’”

Ciarra Chavarria runs the Instagram feed @girlsreadtheworld, where she regularly posts her latest finds. She’s also a lawyer and the mom of two super cool girls who live in New Jersey