Historical fiction is a genre that takes a special talent in weaving the tale. The details have to be spot on to be believable and enjoyable. For the educator, the gems in historical fiction are sometimes hard to find because of this fact. However, when a book is found that makes history turn into a magical adventure, this book is not to be let out of anyone's sight. One book in particular that comes to mind is The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly. This is the story of Calpurnia's love of nature and frustrations of the limits society places on her because of her gender. In 1899, a girl's place was at home with chores and needlework. What more should a girl do, right? For eleven year old Calpurnia that is just not enough to keep her happy. For her, is much more fascinating and lures her to explore creatures along the riverbank, in the trees and everywhere. The only person to encourage her love of nature is her grandfather who gives her the Darwin's book "The Origin of Species." The tale is wonderful and inspiring in its prose. Definitely a book that can inspire young girls to follow their passions, even if society tell them it's not their place.
In the picture book category for inspiring girls of all ages it would only be proper to mention Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride written by Pam Munoz Ryan and illustrated by Brian Selznick. Both Ryan and Selznick have contributed much to children's literature but this book often goes unnoticed. The story is about Amelia Earhart visiting the White House as a guest of then First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Both to these women are revered as trailblazers of their time. In this fictional tale, Earhart takes the First Lady for a private plane ride. This book entices the reader to imagine what that ride might have been like for both women. What fans of both women wouldn't do to have had the opportunity to hear that conversation between the two. It's magical and makes for an interesting story time.
Both books mentioned above are classified as historical fiction but the next one is an actual biography that is wonderfully written by David Adler, who incidentally has written excellent biographies for children. One of his best works is America's Champion Swimmer: Gertrude Ederle (illustrated by Terry Widener). Who is Gertrude Ederle? In 1924, Gertrude decided to go against the odds and become the first woman to swim across the English Channel. Everyone around her said it couldn't be done, especially by a woman. The water is too choppy, they said. "The water is too cold", they said. "It's dangerous.", the said. Gertrude did it anyways. After a twenty-one mile long swim which took fourteen hours to complete, she set a world record. Her perseverance is a testimony to all girls that once a dream is in sight, there's no turning back. One simply has to go for it.
There are so many other wonderful books that can and should inspire girls to carve out their own destiny. The three here should be a good start at introducing girls to strong women who had big dreams and accomplished them despite being told they couldn't. As a popular meme that is posted on Facebook and other social media states: Here's To Strong Women. May We Know Them, May We Be Them, May We Raise Them. The easiest way to achieve this is to read books about them, learn from them so we can be like them and share their stories so that more girls will grow up to be strong women.