Real-Life Heroines in Children’s and YA Literature

From a courageous suffragette princess to forgotten football legends, spirit-talking sisters and a WW2 spy, the world’s greatest writers to STEM superstars… March marks Women’s History Month and to celebrate our Kid’s Lit Writer in Residence has compiled an all-female booklist of real life heroines in children’s and YA literature. Prepare to be inspired!



Princess Sophia Duleep Singh in The Royal Rebel by Bali Rai

📍 ENGLAND & INDIA


Rebel. Princess. Suffragette. Forgotten heroine.The Royal Rebel takes you from the streets of Lahore to the frontline of the fight for women’s rights in this extraordinary true story of the life of Princess Sophia Duleep Singh, daughter of the last Sikh ruler of the Punjab, and goddaughter of Queen Victoria. Age 8+


Illustrated by Rachael Dean.


For another thrilling story about Princess Sophia Duleep Singh check out Sufiya Ahmed’s story, Princess Sophia Duleep Singh.



Mary Anning in Lightning Mary by Anthea Simmons

📍 DORSET, UNITED KINGDOM


One stormy night on the windswept Dorset coast, a group of villagers are struck by lightning. The only survivor is a baby – Mary Anning. From that moment on, a spark is lit within her.


Mary follows after her father, hunting for fossils uncovered by waves and landslips: ancient creatures, turned to stone. But tragedy and despair is never far away. Mary must depend upon her unique courage and knowledge to fulfil her dream of becoming a scientist in a time when girls have no opportunities for such ambitions. Age 9+



The Dick, Kerr Ladies Football Team in Kicking Off! Dick, Kerr Girls by Eve Ainsworth

📍 PRESTON, UNITED KINGDOM


It’s 1917, and Britain is at war. Shy teenager Hettie wants to help the war effort, and signs up to work in the local Dick, Kerr & Co. munitions factory. She’s nervous, but she has no idea quite how much her life is about to change … For, inside this factory are young women who are about to make sporting history. Can Hettie find the courage to join them, and in doing so, find her own place in the world?


Based on the thrilling true story of the Dick, Kerr Ladies team – football’s forgotten legends. Age 9+





Judith Kerr in When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr

📍 GERMANY, SWITZERLAND, FRANCE, ENGLAND


Anna is too busy with her schoolwork and tobogganing to listen to the talk of Hitler. But one day she and her brother Max are forced to flee their home in alarming secrecy, away from everything they know. Their father is wanted by the Nazis and they must leave everything they’ve ever known to find safety.


Fleeing Germany, wandering through Switzerland, arriving in Paris before settling in England in an unforgettable, life-enhancing story of hope, courage and survival, inspired by Judith Kerr’s own story of escaping Germany in the days before the Second World War. Age 9+



Noor-un-Nissa Inayat Khan in Noor-un-Nissa Inayat Khan by Sufiya Ahmen

📍 PARIS, FRANCE & ENGLAND


It’s 1940 and hundreds of families are being forced to flee Nazi-occupied France. Noor refuses to stand by while Nazi forces invade her home, so she travels to England and signs up to join the war efforts. It isn’t long before her talents are noticed and she is chosen by Winston Churchill to sneak back into France as an undercover agent. Can Noor keep her true identity hidden, report her findings back to London and help the Allies win the war?


Inspired by the thrilling story of British-Indian World War Two heroine, Noor-un-Nissa Inayat Khan. Age 9+




Adeline Yen Mah in Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah

📍 CHINA


The harrowing true-life story of Adeline Yen Mah’s gruelling upbringing, told against the background of the Nationalist/Communist struggle for control of China.


Jung-ling’s family considers her bad luck because her mother died giving birth to her. Things don’t get better when her father remarries to a cruel and vindictive woman. Jung-ling’s only solace is in books and she begins to blossom in a world that continually tries to keep her down. Age 9+




Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein in The Princess and the Foal by Stacy Gregg

📍 ARABIA


Princess Haya, daughter of the King of Jordan, loves her family more than anything. So when tragedy strikes at its heart, she is devastated. The Princess becomes ever more withdrawn until, on her birthday, the King gives her a life-changing present. An incredible new friendship grows and the heartbroken princess begins to dream of an extraordinary future.


Inspired by the extraordinary real-life story of Olympic equestrienne Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein. Age 9+




Jane Austen in The Austen Girls by Lucy Worsley

📍 KENT, UNITED KINGDOM


Anna and Fanny Austen have always been told they must marry rich, their futures depends upon it. But how can either girl know what she wants? Is finding love even an option? The only person who seems to have answers is their Aunt Jane. She has never married. In fact, she’s perfectly happy, so surely being single can’t be such a bad thing? The time will come for each of the Austen girls to become the heroines of their own stories. Will they follow in Jane’s footsteps?


Enter the world of Jane Austen as you’ve never seen it before! YA



Mary Shelley in Monsters by Sharon Dogar

📍 LONDON, SCOTLAND, FRANCE, SWITZERLAND


1814: Mary Godwin, the sixteen-year-old daughter of radical socialist and feminist writers, runs away with a dangerously charming young poet – Percy Bysshe Shelley. From there, the two young lovers travel Europe in the throes of revolutionary change. But Mary and Percy are not alone: they bring Jane, Mary’s young step-sister. And she knows the biggest secrets of them all…


A tale of passion, tragedy and forbidden love, this is the incredible story of Mary Shelley and about the creation of the greatest Gothic novel of them all: Frankenstein. YA





The Fox Sisters in We Played With Fire by Catherine Barter

📍 NEW YORK STATE, USA


When 15-year-old Maggie Fox is incriminated in a terrible event, no one believes her when she claims it was a ghost. When the family flee the scandal to spend the winter in upstate New York in a remote, freezing farmhouse, Maggie and her younger sister Kate turn their angry boredom into supernatural tricks. But when the house starts to make menacing sounds of its own, Maggie, Kate and Leah quickly find themselves in a wild whirlwind of spirits, sightings and séances.


Inspired by the true tale of the spirit-talking Fox Sisters. YA



Ada Lovelace in I, Ada by Julia Gray

📍 LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM


Ada Byron is rich and clever, but she longs to be free. Free to explore all the amazing ideas that come to her imagination, like flying mechanical horses and stories inspired by her travels. Free to find love and passion. And free to learn the full truth about her father, the notorious Lord Byron. Then Ada meets a man whose invention might just change the world – and he needs her visionary brilliance to bring it to life…


A poignant portrayal of the young life of Ada Lovelace, the 19th-century mathematician. YA

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