A selection of fiction books with empowering girl characters on a light blue background with orange squiggles and doodles

Image: Alicia Fernandes/Penguin

Jaz Santos vs. the World by Priscilla Mante (2021)

Jasmina Santos-Campbell is part of a star football team called the Bramrock Stars. You may have heard of them and if not, you soon will. They’re going to be famous; Jaz knows they are. They must become famous because that will make Jaz’s mum Mãe want to come home... In the meantime, Jaz has her hands full getting seven very different girls to work together. Despite their differences, the girls are determined to be taken seriously and show the world that girls can play football!

Matilda by Roald Dahl & Quentin Blake (1988)

Matilda Wormwood is an exceptionally gifted young girl. She learns to speak at the age of one and is reading classic books such as Great Expectations by the tender age of four. The problem is her family doesn’t care. They ignore and dislike her, call her a ‘scab’ among other nasty things. Despite this, Matilda continues to display immense girl power and later actual magical powers! Roald Dahl’s famous bookworm is a force to be reckoned with, and she ends up teaching her parents and evil headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, a lesson they’ll never forget.  

Listen, Layla by Yassmin Abdel-Magied (2021)

School’s out for summer and Layla is delighted! She’s been planning to spend it getting her inventions ready for the grand design competition – she is the greatest Sudanese-Australian inventor after all. But then Layla’s grandmother in Sudan falls ill, and so she and her family rush to be with her. Although Layla is glad to be with her family, she can’t help feeling a bit conflicted. There are also protests emerging in Sudan and Layla wants to get involved. Can her ideas help save the day?

Clean Up! by Nathan Bryon & Dapo Adeola (2020)

Science-mad and wannabe astronaut Rocket is off to the Caribbean with her family to visit her Grammy and Grampy. She can’t wait! She’s going to see turtles and dolphins and surf the waves like pro-female surfer Imani Wilmot. But when she gets there, she’s shocked to discover all the pollution that is ruining the island and endangering the sea life. So, Rocket forms a plan to help clean up the island! This empowering story will encourage all young readers to fight for their future!

The Ship of Shadows: Secrets of the Stars by Maria Kuzniar (2021)

In Maria Kuzniar’s sequel, we continue to follow the all-woman crew of The Ship of Shadows. Aleja is now a crew member, and she and her fellow pirates are keen to set sail and find the second piece of the magical map that’s been eluding them. Then Aleja starts experiencing strange visions which could be the key to everything. But can this newfound information be trusted? And if Aleja does see it through, is she prepared to pay the price?

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi (2016)

Thanks to her pale skin and hair, Alice is an odd bod in the world of Ferenwood, where colour and magic combine. Despite her seeming lack of magic, Alice braves a journey into the frightening land of Furthermore in search of her beloved father. This is a darker twist on a fairy tale with a hero full of wit and courage – a slightly more grown-up version of her namesake, Alice in Wonderland.

Northern Lights – The Graphic Novel Volume 1 adapted by Stéphane Melchior & Clément Oubrerie (2015)

Fierce and fearless – Lyra Belacqua – the hero of Philip Pullman’s award-winning fantasy is a force to be reckoned with as she adventures into the frozen north to rescue her friend. This is the first of three graphic novels making up the book, and it's a visual treat, perfect for introducing the quick-witted and wily Lyra to any reluctant readers.

Mabel Jones and the Doomsday Book by Will Mabbitt & Ross Collins (2017)

The most recent instalment in Mabel Jones’ adventures sees our heroine go on a quest to the sinister city of Otam in order to uncover the Doomsday Book. Wacky and witty with lively illustrations, the brilliant wordplay and puns will delight young adventurers.

My Mum Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson & Nick Sharratt (2018)

Despite being all grown up, Tracy Beaker is just as feisty, bold, imaginative and big-hearted as ever! But now she is a mum to her very own mini-me, Jess. And life is good. Tracy and Jess make the ultimate team; they look out for each other and do everything together. But then Tracy and her super-rich and famous boyfriend Sean want to get married. Which means big changes in their family unit…

Death in the Spotlight by Robin Stevens (2018)

Intrepid investigators – and this time aspiring actors – Hazel Wong and Daisy Wells find themselves in the spotlight when a body is found at the Rue Theatre in London. As well as uncovering the mystery, Daisy has her own, very personal revelation; one that brings her and Hazel even closer together as friends. Budding detectives will love this whodunnit that celebrates female friendship and being true to yourself.

First Prize for the Worst Witch by Jill Murphy (2018)

Hubble, bubble, toil, and trouble! Our favourite worst witch has managed to make it to Year Four. And although she’s still disaster-prone, that hasn’t deterred Mildred Hubble from setting her sights on becoming Head Girl. An honour that has gone to her arch-enemy Ethel Hallow’s family for the last 200 years. Can Mildred stay out of trouble long enough and prove she’s worthy of the coveted position? 

DC Super Hero Girls: Wonder Woman at Super Hero High by Lisa Yee (2016)

Teenage girls will find plenty to identify within this, the first in a new series of DC Super Hero stories with strong female leading characters. In an attempt to hone her superhero skills, Amazonian princess Wonder Woman enrols at Super Hero High School. But being the new girl isn’t easy, especially when you’re getting nasty notes from an anonymous sender, your roommate shares too much about you on social media and you’ve no experience with the opposite sex.

Seriously Sassy by Maggi Gibson (2009)

Wannabe singer/songwriter and saviour of the world Sassy Wilde has a lot on her plate. Between working on her demo disk and campaigning about the environment, she has to puzzle over boys, friendships and parents. A brilliant read for fans of Jaqueline Wilson, Sassy is a great hero for modern readers grappling with the same issues, while also showing that it’s cool to care.

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