I love strong female characters because they mirror the girls and women in my own life. I am surrounded by amazing women and I want to see them in the books I read with my kids.
This list is subjective for sure, and only comprised of characters I have read and would read with my children. A few teen-ish books also made it onto the list because they’re books I know many tweens are already reading. (Yes, I’m looking at you Hunger Games!)
And now, let the countdown begin…
#20) Alice from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Alice's curiosity and wide-eyed wonder inspire anyone to explore the unknown and take an adventure. She is a classic character who isn't afraid to try new things and see where her next journey will take her.
#19) Meg Murry from A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
She doesn’t fit in and isn’t the most confident but what 12-year-old is? This makes her realize that not fitting in is a strength — and her determination to save her brother makes her a true hero.
#18) Olivia from Olivia by Ian Falconer
Olivia is fabulous! She is herself and never apologizes for that.
#17) Dorothy from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Oz can be a scary place, but Dorothy knows she can be brave with the help of her new friends. Her adventurous character reminds everyone that exploring is great, but there really is no place like home.
#16) Ginny Weasley from The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Ginny not only stands up for friends. She stands up to her brothers (who describe her as small but powerful). In the series, she proves time and time again that she knows who she is and what she needs to do.
#15) Princess Magnolia from The Princess in Black Series by LeUyen Pham
Who says you have to be all this or that? Princess Magnolia loves girly things and being a superhero! She reminds readers to just be themselves.
#14) Liesel from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Liesel starts out as weak and unable to use words or books herself, but as the story unfolds she becomes a master at words and understands not only their power for good — but their power for evil as well. It’s this sensitivity that makes her so amazing.
#13) Rosie from Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty
Rosie creates machines to help people from junk, bits, and bobs. When the going gets tough, she gets an extra boost of confidence from her great aunt!
#12) Harriet from Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Now, Harriet may have gotten herself into trouble with her notebook full of secrets, but she learns about honesty, friendship, and the importance of character along the way — great teaching tools for any reader.
#11) Emily from the Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi
After she finds out she is the Stonekeeper and must use her newfound power to save her mother, Emily kicks it into high gear, discovering herself and how strong she really is no matter what obstacle comes her way. As her journey continues, she finds out that it's up to her to save the entire world, and this powerful young girl is up for the challenge.
#10) Beatrice Prior from The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth
Brave doesn’t seem like a strong enough word for Tris. She is more than brave — she seems propelled to do the right thing no matter what stands in her way.
#9) Pippi from Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
Pippi is the self-proclaimed strongest girl in the world…and she lives with a monkey named Mr. Nilsson! If that’s not reason enough for her inclusion on this list, you’ll have to re-read this classic to find a million more.
#8) Ramona Quimby from The Ramona Series by Beverly Cleary
Ramona is far from perfect but she has a huge heart, a creative mind, and never loses sight of who she is.
#7) Princess Truly from Princess Truly in I Am Truly by Kelly Greenawalt
Brimming with confidence, this diverse character has no problem loving herself. Princess Truly teaches your child about self-acceptance and self-love, showing that she can do whatever it is she sets her mind to. Talk about princess power!
#6) Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Anne Shirley has to have puffed sleeves, bravely saves her best friend’s sister, and even walks along the rooftop to show she isn’t afraid. She stands up for herself, her friends, and for what is right many times over —showing her strength and confidence each and every time.
#5) Cleopatra from the Cleopatra in Space series by Mike Maihack
Time traveling and saving the galaxy? What can't this girl do? Cleopatra shows the universe who's boss when her 15-year-old self travels into the future to save all of humanity. With a lot of drive, determination, bravery, and a little sass, this traveling queen knows who's boss and plans to show the world just that.
#4) Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins
When I read how Katniss volunteered to take her sister’s place as tribute, I cried. When I saw the scene on film, I cried. And now, years later, writing about it, I still have chills. Sure, she fights and shows strength in so many other ways, but that one act is central to her character, and why she is one of the best female characters you will find on this list.
#3) Matilda Wormwood from Matilda by Roald Dahl
There is something incredibly calm and self-assured about Matilda. She knows her family is filled with idiots, she knows she’s not an idiot, and at a very young age she goes about educating herself because no one else seems to care.
#2) Nancy Drew from the Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene
If there's a mystery to solve, Nancy is on the job. With a magnifying glass and a keen sense of wonder, Nancy Drew can decipher any question and her bravery is no match for the cases thrown her way.
#1) Hermione Granger from The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
I could wax poetic about Hermione Ganger for days. Her intellect is apparent from the start, as is her drive to succeed. She saves Ron and Harry countless times during the series, but her most heroic act is saving her parents. I don’t want to ruin this for anyone who hasn’t read the final book, but let me just warn you there will be tears. You will be awed not only by the depth of her strength but by the depth of the love that fuels it. Oh, one more reason Hermione is my #1 pick? For the time she punched Malfoy. (I know hitting is wrong, but I know you cheered while reading that too!)
Check out bloggers Amy Mascott and Allie McDonald's book, Raising a Rock-Star Reader: 75 Quick Tips for Helping Your Child Develop a Lifelong Love for Reading. Get expert advice and learn new strategies for your young readers.