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Holiday gift guide: 12 incredible books to inspire young girls to know their value

Ciarra Chavarria, who runs the Instagram feed @girlsreadtheworld, gives her top picks.

It’s gift-giving season again, and books never go out of style. So if you’re still wondering what to get the young girls in your life this holiday season, I’ve got you covered.

Check out these 12 fantastic books that will empower, motivate and inspire:

“Sometimes All I Need is Me” by Juliana Perdomo

Recommended age: 2-6

Read this if … you want an adorably-illustrated, empowering picture book!

In a nutshell: The main character in this book loves her family and her home — it makes her feel safe, warm and it smells like cinnamon tea! But sometimes being away from home is scary! But no matter what she's feeling, the little girl always remembers that she can get through anything. When she has a helping hand, friends or her grandma to help her, she's happy! But even if she doesn't and even if she's alone, she can take care of herself, too!

Why I love it: It’s SO empowering for young girls to read a book like this. Young readers will not only learn that they can seek out help, they have the power to love themselves, be themselves and support themselves, too!

Favorite quote: “I can love myself and become whatever I need. Sometimes, all I really need is me.”

“Maybe you Might” by Imogen Foxell and Anna Cunha

Recommended age: 4-8

Read this if … you want to inspire your girls to ignore those who tell them something can’t be done.

In a nutshell: Upon finding a seed, a little girl decides to plant it near a riverbed that everyone said was barren land. Even as people continued to tell her the plant would never thrive, she continued to care for it. It continued to grow into a beautiful tree full of delicious fruits that attracted more plants and animals.

Why I love it: This story blew me away with its stunning illustrations and powerful message that even when the naysayers discourage you, with some hope and perseverance, you might just change the world.

Favorite quote: “They say that you can’t change the world,\ that it’s not worth the fight.\ But help things grow, you never know…\...maybe you might,”

“A Sweet New Year For Ren” by Michelle Sterling and Dung Ho

Recommended age: 4-8

Read this if … you want a delicious picture book about family and celebration!

In a nutshell: Ren is used to hearing she’s too little, but this year, she wants to be part of her family’s Lunar New Year festivities. She watches her Baba hang decorations,her Mama go shopping, and her Uncle pull noodles. But when will it be her turn to help? Ren eventually discovers something that she’s just the right size for: making her favorite pineapple cakes.

Why I love it: This is a bright and beautiful story about family and togetherness centered around Lunar New Year, a holiday that’s celebrated by millions of people around the world. Plus there’s a recipe for those yummy pineapple cakes!

Favorite quote: “Our stomachs are full and happy, like our hearts.”

“Finding My Dance” by Ria Thundercloud

Recommended age: 4-8

Read this if … you’re looking for a thoughtful and empowering autobiography for your young dancer.

In a nutshell: “Finding my Dance” is the autobiographical story of professional Native American dancer Ria Thundercloud. Readers travel on Thundercloud’s journey with her, from the moment she receives her first jingle dress — a healing dress that would, her mother explained, bring blessings to those around her, to experiencing the challenges of learning different kinds of dance, to the eagle wings she receives. When Thundercloud has her own daughter, everything comes full circle.

Why I love it: This book beautifully combines Thundercloud’s passion for dance and experience as an Indigenous woman. It’s also gorgeous to look at.

Favorite quote: “I danced lifetimes before this one, and will dance lifetimes after it.”

“Loujain Dreams of Sunflowers” by Uma Mishra-Newbery and Lina Al-Hathloul

Recommended age: 4-8

Read this if … you want a powerful and moving story about how sometimes rules are meant to be broken.

In a nutshell: Louijain dreams of flying like her Baba does every morning. She especially wants to fly to see a faraway field of beautiful sunflowers. The only problem? Only boys are allowed to fly. But Loujain is determined to learn anyway.

This beautifully-illustrated book is not just a lovely story, it’s also an allegory of the life of real-life activist, Loujain Al-Halthloul, who was imprisoned for posting a video of herself driving in Saudi Arabia at a time when the country didn’t allow women to drive.

Why I love it: This book introduces readers to the idea that unfair rules can be changed.

Favorite quote: “You have to believe things will change. Otherwise they never will.”

“Marya Khan and the Incredible Henna Party” by Saadia Faruqi

Recommended age: 6-9

Read this if … you’re looking for your next favorite early reader series!

In a nutshell: Marya can’t wait for her birthday. She’s determined to finally outdo her neighbor and rival, Alexa, and have the best party ever. But Marya gets in over her head when she blurts out at school that she’s going to have an epic henna party. With the help of her family, and even her grumpy older sister, Marya might just pull it off — and make a new friend, too!

Why I love it: Marya is such a loveable and relatable character. She’s spunky, hilarious and she definitely makes mistakes.

Favorite quote: “I grinned. This henna party was just…perfect. Only then, the doorbell rang, and Marco’s pizza was delivered, and the party became even more perfect.”

“A Seed in the Sun” by Aida Salazar

Recommended age: 8-12

Read this if … you’re looking for a fantastic middle-grade historical novel that will inspire readers to speak out and follow their dreams.

In a nutshell: “ A Seed in the Sun” is a gorgeous novel about a young Mexican girl, Lula Viramontes, who is growing up in California in 1965. Lula comes from a family of migrant workers, and her parents work in the fields every day. When her mama falls ill, Lula and her older sister are sent to work while she recovers. Life isn't easy, and it isn't simple, especially when the farmworkers' union comes and disrupts everything. But maybe the disruption is exactly what Lula and her family needs - her mama can get treatment, her papa can find the key to controlling his anger and her siblings can get better opportunities. But what about Lula?

Why I love it: I love that this book gives so much context to Lula's story, from the history of the migrant workers’ protests, to the conditions of farm workers, to Lula's own family and life experience. Dolores Huerta is even a character in the book!

Favorite quote: “But I am more than my voice. I am a seed song. Ready to share it with others, ready to set it free.”

“The Marvellers” by Dhonielle Clayton

Recommended age: 8+

Read this if …you’re looking for a thrilling, diverse new magic school series.

In a nutshell: Ella Durand can hardly stand it. She’s been invited to be the first Conjurer ever to attend the Arcanum Training Institute for Marvellers. Even though her family’s a bit cautious (Marvellers haven’t always taken kindly to Conjurers, after all), Ella is excited. But when she arrives, it turns out her family’s worries may not have been unfounded. Even as she makes a few new friends and begins discovering new magical powers, Ella finds her new life at ATI more challenging than she’d anticipated.

Why I love it: The world-building in this book is next-level. I’m happy this book is part of a series, because readers will get lost in Ella’s world and be desperate for more.

Favorite quote: “Just remember you come from a mighty tree.”

“Frizzy” by Claribel A. Ortega

Recommended age: 9+

Read this if … you want a graphic novel to inspire your girls to embrace what makes them unique!

In a nutshell: Marlene’s hair is not easy. When she does nothing, it’s wild and frizzy, and she’s constantly being told to straighten it, to be more beautiful, more presentable. Marlene just wants everyone to leave her hair alone, but she doesn’t know what to do. With the help of a friend and her Tia Ruby, Marlene learns how to appreciate her curly hair.

Why I love it: As a curly-haired girl myself, I especially related Marlene’s journey to love her hair. But this one is for any girl who wants to appreciate what makes her special.

Favorite quote: “And thank you, Marlene. You taught me what it means to be brave and that it’s okay to be yourself.”

“Thirst” by Varsha Bajaj

Recommended age: 10-12

Read this if … you want a compelling middle-grade novel about how one girl ca ncreate waves of change.

In a nutshell: So many of us take water for granted, but as we all know, water is not guaranteed. Minni, the narrator of this book, knows this, too. She’s seen the way her family and neighbors have to struggle to get water from the communal tap, and she knows that the water mafia boss controls everything. But she doesn’t understand why people who live in fancy buildings nearby have water flowing from their faucets. After her Ma falls ill, Minni is sent to replace her as a maid in one of those fancy high-rises. Minni struggles to adapt to her new job while also keeping up with her precious schoolwork. Her new job unexpectedly gives her something else — a chance to help her community.

Why I love it: Minni is young, but her courage and determination make it clear that kids can make a big difference, too.

Favorite quote: “What I do know is that I’ve worked to right a wrong. And that the man who could have crushed us like ants no longer has that power.”

“In the Beautiful Country” by Jane Kuo

Recommended age: 10+

Read this if … you’re looking for a lovely novel about finding home in a new place.

In a nutshell: In Chinese, the word for America translates literally to “beautiful country.” So while Anna is sad to be leaving Taiwan, she can’t wait to go live in the U.S. She’s ready for a new life in a beautiful new home. But her new life isn’t what she expected — the language barrier, bullies at school and her parents’ restaurant that’s losing money are just the start of it. Despite the challenges, Anna knows her parents came to America for a better life. And Anna is determined to make one.

Why I love it: There are so many stories about the immigrant experience, but this one, told through the eyes of a young girl, is especially poignant.

Favorite quote: “My parents believe there’s something better for us in the beautiful country. I believe it, too.”

“The Ogress and the Orphans” by Kelly Barnhill

Recommended age: 10+

Read this if … you want a hopeful fantasy about the power of generosity and kindness.

In a nutshell: The small town of Stone-on-Glen used to be lovely. After the library burned down, and then the school, and the park...well, the light started to fade. But it wasn't all bad. After all, the mayor would save them all. But the orphans at the Orphan House weren't so sure. The mayor didn’t really seem to be taking care of them. In fact, the only thing that's been sustaining them has been the baskets of food left on their doorstep every few days — secretly, by the Ogress on the edge of town. But things come to a head when the townspeople decide that the Ogress is a problem.

Why I love it: This book is a charming and captivating fantasy and fairy tale, but it's also a clear allegory for our modern times - and is destined to become a classic.

Favorite quote: “I belong here, [the Ogress] said to herself. This is my home, too.”

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.