Helaine Becker's latest book is Pirate Queen: A Story of Zheng Yi Sao, illustrated by Liz Wong.
From the beginning of time, women’s accomplishments have been scrubbed from the history books. It’s beyond infuriating to be told, “girls don’t” and “girls can’t”—only to discover girls and women can do and have done!
These wonderful books for young people help set the record straight. Some are biography, some are fiction, but all are wonderful depictions of accomplishment.
And please don’t say these books are good for “girls.” Girls already KNOW what we can do. It’s everyone else who needs to be clonked over the head with the news. Get boys these books and give ‘em to adults of every gender to start changing the paradigm.
Fierce: Women Who Shaped Canada, by Lisa Dalrymple
Jaw-dropping true stories about real Canadian women who accomplished unbelievable things. Dalrymple dug into unpublished research to uncover these untold stories about amazing women like Cougar Annie, Ttha´naltther and Mona Parsons. You’ll be gobsmacked.
Stand on the Sky, by Erin Bow
A thrilling tale of a young girl in the steppe lands of Mongolia who becomes an Eagle Hunter, against all odds, to help win a cash prize to help her sick brother. Bow travelled to Mongolia to experience first hand the life of the Kazakh community where eagle hunting has been a way of life for centuries. And she nails it—I was lucky enough to also spend time with Kazakhs and experience the eagle hunting culture, and Bow’s depictions are perfect. Even better, the story is a rich, nuanced, universal tale of familial love.
Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein, by Linda Bailey, illustrated by Julia Sarda
So there she was, in a socked-in country house, with some of the biggest egotists of her era. And Mary Shelley whips off a novel so important it has had cultural reverberations that are still, well, reverberating. A stunningly illustrated celebration of a major literary figure.
Small World, by Ishta Mercurio, illustrated by Jen Corace
With lyrical text and a powerful STEAM message, Small World is a picture book with heart, grace and wit.
Canadian Girls Who Rocked the World, by Tanya Lloyd Kyi
Super popular, and with good reason! Learn about music exec Denise Donlon, pop star Avril Lavigne, athlete Marilyn Bell and tons of other influential Canadians.
Meet Viola Desmond, by Elizabeth MacCleod, illustrated by Mike Deas
This award-nominated biography tells the story of the civil rights activist who now adorns our ten dollar bill, in an accessible graphic novel style presentation.
Amazing Hockey Stories: Hayley Wickenheiser, by Lorna Schultz Nicholson
If this story of a hockey great doesn’t inspire you, you’re not human.
A Royal Guide to Monster Slaying, by Kelley Armstrong
A 100% engaging romp for fans of fantasy and feisty heroes! Twelve-year-old Rowan is destined to be Queen; her twin brother, Rhydd, to be Royal Monster Hunter. Rowan would give anything to switch places, but the oldest child is always next in line, even if only older by two minutes. Tragedy shatters the longstanding rule, and Rowan finds herself hunting monsters of all stripes, taming jackalopes and unicorns, and kicking gryphon butt.
On Our Way to Oyster Bay: Mother Jones and Her March for Children's Rights, by Monica Kulling, illustrated by Felicita Sala
Monica Kulling writes great books (see Mary Anning’s Curiosity, an inspiring pioneer-of-STEM story), but this one made my list because it hits all my buttons: social justice, strong women, history—AND I grew up in Oyster Bay, where this story takes place. Sagamore Hill, Teddy Roosevelt’s summer home, is only a few miles from my childhood home, and I’ve been there a thousand times. It has a pet cemetery. And yes, great oysters. Blue Points.
The most powerful pirate in history was a woman who was born into poverty in Guangzhou, China, in the late 1700s. When pirates attacked her town and the captain took a liking to her, she saw a way out. Zheng Yi Sao agreed to marry him only if she got an equal share of his business. When her husband died six years later, she took command of the fleet.
Over the next decade, the pirate queen built a fleet of over 1,800 ships and 70,000 men. On land and sea, Zheng Yi Sao’s power rivaled the emperor himself. Time and again, her ships triumphed over the emperor’s ships.
When she was ready to retire, Zheng Yi Sao surrendered—on her own terms, of course. Even though there was a price on her head, she was able to negotiate her freedom, living in peace and prosperity for the rest of her days.
Zheng Yi Sao’s powerful story is told in lyrical prose by award-winning author Helaine Becker. Liz Wong’s colorful, engaging illustrations illuminate this inspiring woman in history.
An author’s note provides historical context and outlines the challenges of researching a figure about whom little is known.
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