I am unabashedly *into* Star Wars. I saw Phantom Menace in the theater, and then for each successive prequel offering, ran marathon showings of all the films in release date order in my living room for some similarly-minded, die-hard fans before heading into New York City to see the new film. So one can imagine my excitement when Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out. My husband and I saw it opening night, even—GASP—hired a babysitter so we could be there two hours early to get good seats. We were so super psyched.
But nothing had prepared me for that breath-taking, soul-sparkling moment…
ALERT: there will be spoilers (but seriously, the movie has been out for months, so really, if you haven’t seen it yet, you don’t care enough to be seriously bothered by said spoiler, right?)
…when the lightsaber flies through the air into the hands of an awesome, inspiring, butt-kicking heroine.
I love Rey. She’s funny and kind and smart and loyal and fearless and unstoppable and KICKS MAJOR BUTT. She’s the kind of heroine I want for my daughter. The only problem is my daughter is not really ready for a PG-13 movie with some pretty scary stuff in it.
I spent a fair amount of time wringing my hands over whether to take my daughter to see the movie. (It’s a cultural watershed moment, seeing a Star Wars film in the theater! This movie is exactly what my inner child needed to see, so clearly my actual child similarly needs it!) I had a lot of friends engage in similar hand wringing. Some chose to take their young kids to see the film. I chose not to. Rey will be there for my girl when she’s ready for her. And until then, I can share with her these awesome, inspiring, butt-kicking heroines:
If you haven’t seen the movie Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind, please stop what you’re doing right now and go watch it. Many of Miyazaki’s films feature butt-kicking, unstoppable heroines, but Nausicaa stands out for being kind and smart and brave and just a good person with a positive attitude. She gets angry, and she doesn’t take being pushed around, but she’s also decent and optimistic. And did I mention she kicks butt?
But I’m an author, so I’m going to focus on books.
Graphic novels are where it’s at if you’re looking for some awesome adventures featuring butt-kicking girls.
The amazing Zita the Spacegirl series by Ben Hatke is about a girl (Zita) who, along with her best friend, is sucked through a portal into an alien world full of…aliens where she gathers a band of wonderfully weird sidekicks to help her find her friend and get home, but instead inadvertently becomes an interstellar superstar.
I loved Giants Beware by Rafael Rosado and Ninja-rella, both of which seem to be part of series of which I will have to read more. In Giants Beware, Claudette, her best friend Marie, and little brother Gaston escape the confines of their cloistered city and enter upon a journey full of witches and river kings to fight the Evil Baby-Feet-Eating Giant. Ninja-rella is an action-packed twist on the Cinderella story.
There’s also the incredible PrinceLess series of comic books by Jeremy Whitley, featuring an amazing princess who decides to befriend the dragon meant to guard the tower she’s confined in and go on an adventure to save her sisters, who have been similarly locked up in ridiculous locations so that they can be rescued by princes who they’re supposed to then marry. You might have to go to a comic book store for these—at least, that’s where we went for our copies.
There are some great picture books out featuring awesome girls going on adventures and facing fears of all stripes. If you’re looking for something to share with your young adventuress, check out:
Journey by Aaron Becker
Sheila Rae, the Brave by Kevin Henkes
Marilyn’s Monster by Michelle Knudsen
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood
Petronella by Jay Williams
I haven’t read deeply enough into the various chapter book series offerings (please, recommend some to me!), but if you’re looking for a great place to start, try The Princess in Black series by Shannon and Dean Hale.
And for longer, read-together books, check out
The BFG by Roald Dahl
The Girl Who Could Not Dream by Sarah Beth Durst (though be warned there’s some scary nightmare stuff in this one…literally:)
Igraine the Brave by Cornelia Funke (I haven’t yet read this one, but it was recommended to me by my awesome children’s librarian Miss Meg, which is basically my gold star standard:)
Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible by Ursula Vernon (this is my new favorite book:)
And once you’ve read these, take a look at all the girl-centered book recommendations available at A Mighty Girl. Please leave your favorite action-adventure heroine books in the comments!