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Who run the world?

March is Women’s History Month. These inspiring nonfiction books for primary and intermediate readers relate how determined girls pursued their dreams — and their faith in a better future — to become trailblazers in the arts, sports, STEM, and social justice. For more recommended reading about extraordinary women, click on the tag Women’s History Month.

Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is known for her distinctive polka dots, and Sarah Suzuki’s picture book biography Yayoi Kusama: From Here to Infinity explores her fascination with them, beginning in childhood. In defiance of her mother’s — and society’s — expectations, at twenty-eight Yayoi leaves Japan for New York City, where she still lives, works in many different media, and  “remains devoted to her dots” as “a way of thinking about infinity.” Ellen Weinstein’s precise, clean-lined illustrations make creative use of Kusama’s whimsical Pop Art palette and the dot motif. (MoMA, 5–8 years)

Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon explores the early life of Gibb — the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. When her marathon application is dismissed due to her gender, she joins the race anyway, wearing a bulky hoodie as a disguise. Annette Bay Pimentel’s straightforward text builds drama and suspense. Micha Archer’s vibrant mixed-media and collage art portrays a variety of settings; a mile marker diagram tracking Gibbs’s progress is a nice touch. (Penguin/Paulsen, 5–8 years)

As a young child, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai wishes for a magic pencil that could change the world: “First, I would erase war, poverty, and hunger. Then I would draw girls and boys together as equals.” Knowing that a magic pencil isn’t a reality, Malala begins speaking out against oppression and advocating for girls’ education. In Malala’s Magic Pencil (illustrated by husband-wife team Kerascoët), Yousafzai encourages readers to dream and hope for change but emphasizes that dreaming is not enough — you have to take action. (Little, Brown, 5–8 years)

In The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science, Joyce Sidman introduces readers to the seventeenth-century German naturalist, whose illustrations of the life cycles of butterflies and moths included groundbreaking scientific details. Excellent reproductions of the gorgeous botanical prints allow readers to appreciate their accurate scientific detail and artistry. Merian’s story, from childhood through her often unconventional and adventurous adult life, is accompanied by Sidman’s own photographs of butterflies. (Houghton, 9–12 years)

From the March 2018 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, associate editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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