Great Heroines For Boys


Boys? Yes, I’d like to recommend some books with female leads that your son would enjoy reading. If your next question is “Why?,” then ask your daughter why she liked Harry Potter. She might say it was a good story, great characters, and a fantastic world. Who cares if the main character was a boy? In fact, girls will pick up a book with a hero or heroine equally. According to my excellent librarian resources, boys will actively avoid books with a girl as the main character. What’s the problem? I have no idea.

Why should you encourage your son to read books with heroines? That’s easy. You want your son to grow up knowing that a strong female for a friend, wife or boss is normal and good.

Instead of getting into the psychology of it all, let’s change it. And the best way is to get ’em while they’re young. Here are a few adventure graphic novels that feature girl go-getters. I picked comics because when my son was young those were the only kind of books he selected on his own.

Giants Beware! By Rafael Rosado and Jorge Aguirre
Claudette wants to battle giants. She’s a great heroine, and breaks the mold. But what makes this book stand out is her two companions. Her little brother Gaston would rather be a pastry chef than a killer, but saves the day when he needs to, and Claudette’s best friend Marie is a girly-girl who loves etiquette, but is brave and clever. In many books with a strong female lead there is rarely another main girl, and the boys are usually competitive. The threesome are silly adventurers, complete with a sweet ending. One of our GeekMoms is reading it to her kids now.

The Courageous Princess By Rod Espinosa
This is almost ten years old and a classic of graphic novels: Talking animals, a fearsome dragon, a long journey, an anthropomorphic rope, and a princess who has integrity while saving herself.

Zita the Spacegirl By Ben Hatke
My son said over breakfast this morning, “Here you egg.” A quote by Strong-Strong, beloved character from Zita. This book is fast-paced with weird aliens, comedy, betrayal, rescues, and cuteness. Zita is brave but alone in this strange world, trying to find her friend. She and her new alien companions save the day.

Akiko on the Planet Smoo By Mark Crilley
Another space adventure that was part of a book club with both boys and girls. This comes as a graphic novel and book series. There are some slight differences between them (not sure why). ALL the kids in the club loved the story. Akiko is a human girl who is taken up to space to help some aliens in trouble. She’s a cool character. And Spuckler- we loved this guy. If you read Akiko out loud, do him in a John Wayne voice. It works.

Angelic Layer By Clamp.
A manga (Japanese comic) about a world where the premier entertainment is fighting dolls (called Angels) using mental control in huge arenas. The main character is a little girl who gets into the game wanting her battle Angel to be “a short girl, but brave and happy.” I can’t say I ever got into this series, but both my kids were addicted at a young age. My son would tell me about the fighting moves ad nauseam.

The Stonekeeper (Amulet, Book 1) By Kazu Kibuishi
The art is entrancing, and the main characters are a brother and sister. When a tentacled monster grabs their mom, Em and Navin are the only ones to save her, entering a dark universe with a magic necklace to help. Scary at times (which makes it cool.)

Nightschool By Svetlana Chmakova.
Definitely for the older son in your life; this is my family’s favorite graphic series. A secret world within our world where different factions sometimes battle, sometimes work together to keep the really bad things away from humans. Epic fights along with cute comedy, and a reluctant heroine Alex, who is powerful beyond what anyone expects. You can read my full review here.

This list gets progressively for older kids, so please flip through them before handing it to your impressionable boy (especially the manga which has provocative poses.) And of course, your girls will love them too!

Any more recommendations?

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16 thoughts on “Great Heroines For Boys

  1. Some other (non-graphic novel) suggestions:

    The His Dark Materials series by Philip Pulman
    The Old Kingdom Trilogy by Garth Nix

  2. Ooh, some fabulous suggestions by the OP and the comments. One that came to mind while reading this articles is the Nicolas Flamel series. There are basically 4 main characters an older husband and wife team and a younger brother and sister team. Both the women are smart and strong. Both the men are too. And I know that series has been very popular with boys and girls (and women and men).

  3. My son (3.5) has been obsessed with the Marvel GN adaptation of the Wizard of OZ. I don’t know if Dorothy qualifies as a great heroine, but it is a classic story and the art in this one is great.

  4. More for young adults, and not graphic novels, but consider Terry Pratchett’s books featuring Tiffany Aching, a young witch-in-training on the Discworld. Starting with “The Wee Free Men”, they offer a brave and resourceful heroine and enough action and humour to keep kids interested.

  5. Our family loved “The Benedict Society” books with 2 boys and 2 girls and we still talk about the characters, esp the plucky Kate and her red bucket. Great for older elementary or family read-aloud (we listened to some on audio tape).

    And my pre-teen son just started “Maximum Ride” and is already riveted by the heroine.

  6. As a boy who read lots of books with female protagonists when I was a kid…

    -A big +1 for Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom books, especially Sabriel; excellent fantasy with an excellent main character. The two subsequent books are worth reading, but I wasn’t as impressed with Lirael as with Sabriel, and Sam irritated me. But definitely worth it for the Yrael payoff.
    -For non-kid/older-kid fare, A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge. Best space opera I’ve ever read. Has two main sub-plots that eventually merge, and female protagonists for, like, one-and-a-half of them. Bonus points for also having the coolest alien species of all time.
    -Tamora Pierce’s books, especially the ones set in Tortall, and especially especially the Protector of the Small quartet. The Song of the Lioness quartet was also very good, but featured an awful lot of sex (albeit largely of the fade-to-black variety), mostly with totally unappealing dudes. Which sort of bothered me, because Alanna was way too good for them.
    -Terry Pratchett was already mentioned, but the books featuring Susan (especially Hogfather and Thief of Time) should get a mention. They’re less kid-focused than the Tiffany Aching books, but there’s nothing kid-inappropriate in them.
    -The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, by Patricia C. Wrede. Cimorene is maybe my favorite fantasy protagonist ever. Book 4 is slightly disappointing, but by that point you just gotta see it through.

    One anti-recommendation: Don’t bother with Mercedes Lackey. People kept recommending her because I like Tamora Pierce’s work, but that’s because Pierce’s characters are appealing, her stories are compelling, and her gender politics are appealing. In contrast, Lackey’s characters are consistently whiny and pathetic, her stories tend to be awfully cliched, and her gender politics are often jarringly problematic, especially since they’re found in such an obviously by-a-woman-for-women series.

    (Anybody remember that book where the male villain was transformed into a woman by an evil demon he’d summoned, brutally raped, and then he committed suicide because he couldn’t deal with the fact that he’d liked it? Blech.)

  7. What about all the Tamora Pierce fantasy novels featuring strong fantasy heroines ? They are for kids, but I actually read them in my 20s 🙂

    1. I was going to mention them but I didn’t get the chance. So I’ll just have to second you suggestion.

  8. I love this post so much! I was actually just discussing the very same thing on my own (very obscure, read only really by friends) blog today.

    The fact that Hunger Games had such a diverse following makes me so happy. The boys in the audience (and the men) weren’t saying, “hey, that’s a girl”. They were saying, “wow, this is an awesome story!”. That’s what we need.

    You can’t change the world if you only change the girls. I love so many of the books you posted about here – especially Zita and the Amulet graphic novels. Boys and girls alike in my classroom are devouring these. I need to check out some of the others I didn’t know.

  9. Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull (brother/sister team, equally interesting)
    Overlander Chronicles by Suzanne Collins (main character is a boy, but a great girl heroine in there too)
    Leven Thumps series by Obert Skye (again, main ch. is boy, but girl figures prominently)
    *The True Meaning of Smedkay* by Adam Rex — exciting and hilarious, main ch. is girl
    Chronus Chronicles by Anne Ursu — main ch. is girl, centered around Greek mythology
    For older readers: Icemark Chronicles by Stuart Hill

  10. I’d recommend the Castle Waiting graphic novels for older boys. The first volume is a string of somewhat satirically, often humorously twisted fairy tales, from Sleeping Beauty to The Musicians of Bremen to Iron Henry to Jack and the Beanstock…and then there is the sequence of stories about a very interesting, very fun, and very heroic order of nuns.

    For the younger boys, I recommend Rapunzel’s Revenge, a graphic story by Shannon and Dean Hale. It’s a Wild-West-style retelling with an Annie-Oakley-style princess who uses her long braids to wrangle bad guys and right other wrongs.

    If you’re interested, I review both books here:

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