20 Kids' Books That Challenge Gender Stereotypes

Need a good way to start the conversation about gender with your kids? These books show that it's perfectly fine to be yourself despite gender stereotypes.

20 Kids' Books That Challenge Gender Stereotypes

Photo: Running Press Kids

Engaging, fun-to-read kids' books that challenge gender stereotypes and norms are difficult to find. That's why we came up with this game-changing list of affirming, powerful titles to keep little ones feeling strong, confident and empowered. All are available through Amazon, and several make excellent toddler book choices.

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While some of these titles were initially penned as books for gay children and LGTBQIA+ youth, we believe each presents important lessons for kids of all types. Empowerment, confidence and happiness belong to all children.

Angus All Aglow

Written by Heather Smith and illustrated by Alice Carter, Orca Book Publishers (Ages 3+).

Angus loves wearing sparkly things. The coolest part? He can actually hear them!

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One day, he's teased for wearing his grandma's necklace to school and he stops hearing the magical sparkle. Thankfully, this story of acceptance and friendship reminds us that all it takes is one act of kindness to bring the sparkle back.

Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress

Written by Christine Baldacchino and illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant, House of Anansi Press (Ages 4-7).

Morris loves his classroom dress-up centre, but his other classmates don’t understand why he loves to wear the tangerine dress. After all, astronauts don’t wear dresses.

Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress, books that challenge gender Merchant

With the help of his big imagination, Morris spends a sick day drawing the world as he sees it and finds the courage to stay true to himself. This classic picture book explores gender identity and self-esteem in one pleasant read.


Julian is a Mermaid

Written and illustrated by Jessica Love, Candlewick Press (Ages 4+).

In this adorable tale of self-expression, Julian decides he wants to be a mermaid after he sees three spectacularly dressed women on his subway ride home from the pool. Luckily, Abuela is there to help.

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From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea

Written by Kai Cheng Thom and illustrated by Kai Yun Ching, Arsenal Pulp Press (Ages 3-8).

Magically gifted Miu Lan is able to transform into anything. The problem is Miu Lan isn’t sure what to be (a boy or a girl?). While Miu Lan is uncertain about her identity, her classmates are wary of her.

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Through all her questions Miu Lan is certain of one thing, her mother’s telling words… that she can be anything from the stars in the sky to the fish in the sea.

Red: A Crayon’s Story

Written and illustrated by Michael Hall, Greenwillow Books (Ages 4+).

Red is a crayon, but he’s not a red crayon, even if his label says so. Everyone around him tries their best to help him be red, but no matter what they do, Red just can’t seem to get it right.

red: a crayon's story, books that challenge gender Merchant

This makes Red miserable, that is, until a brand-new friend helps him reveal his true colour and learn to accept his inner self: blue! It's also available in French.


Prince & Knight

Written by Daniel Haack and illustrated by Stevie Lewis, Little Bee Books (Ages 4+).

A prince is set to take the throne but can't quite find a perfect princess match. When his kingdom is threatened by a dragon, the prince works together with a brave knight to save his people.

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In the process, the prince forms a special bond with the knight and finds just what he was looking for after all. It's one of our favorite children's stories of all.

Pink Is For Boys

Written by Robb Pearlman and illustrated by Eda Kaban, Running Press Kids (Ages 4-8).

This book takes a journey through all of the colours. It is empowering, educational, and proves that colours are for everyone, regardless of gender.

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I Love My Purse

Written by Belle DeMont and illustrated by Sonja Wimmer, Annick Press (Ages 4-7).

Chalrie loves the bright red purse his grandma let him have. One day, he finally decides to take it to school and stands by his decision even when the people around him question why a boy would carry a purse.

Cover art for the book, I Love My Purse. Shows a boy with curly hair riding a skateboard and holding a bright red purse Merchant

As the days go by, Charlie’s self-assured determination to wear his purse ultimately gives his peers the courage to also be themselves and wear and do the thing they love.


Free To Be You And Me (35th Anniversary Edition)

By Marlo Thomas and friends and designed by Peter H. Reynolds, Running Press (Ages 3+).

This classic from our youth still holds up. The 35th Anniversary Edition has new illustrations, but keeps the same positive, joyful messages: Challenge stereotypes, celebrate diversity, be who you want to be, and have compassion for others, regardless of who they are.

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Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots?

By Carmela LaVigna Coyle and illustrated by Carl Gordon & Mike Gordon, Taylor Trade Publishing (All ages).

A young girl is very curious about what it means to be a princess: Do princesses ride bikes, wear hiking boots and do chores?

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Through her mother’s answers she learns that being a princess is about who we are on the inside, not the outside.

11000 Dresses

By Markus Ewert and illustrated by Rex Ray, Seven Stories Press (All ages).

In one of the first kids’ books to feature a transgendered child, Bailey (a young girl who is biologically a boy) is bullied because she dreams of wearing dresses.

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Things improve when Bailey starts making dresses with a friend. It’s a modern fairy tale about becoming the person you feel you are inside.


William’s Doll

By Charlotte Zolotow and illustrated by William Pene Du Bois, HarperCollins (All ages).

William wants a doll, but his dad wants him to play with basketballs and trains. His grandmother gets him his dream doll, explaining to William’s dad that this doll will help William to practice being a good father in the future.

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It's one of the most brilliant books for kids exploring stereotypes and gender. Plus, it's an easy and engaging read for children.

The Sissy Duckling

By Harvey Fierstein and illustrated by Henry Cole, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (Ages 5+).

Based on the award-winning HBO special, this is the story of Elmer, a boy duck who loves baking cakes while the other boy ducks build forts.

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When Elmer’s dad is hurt by a hunter, this “sissy” duckling becomes a hero, proving that everyone is special in his own way.

Not All Princesses Dress In Pink

By Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple and illustrated by Anne-Sophie Lanquetin, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (Ages 4+).

It turns out that there are all kinds of princesses and they don’t all have to look the same. Girls can jump in mud puddles, climb trees and play sports, and in this book they do it all while wearing pink tiaras!

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The Paper Bag Princess

By Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko, Annick Press (All ages).

The princess saves the prince for a change, but decides not to marry him after all because he’s, well, a jerk. A great first book to drive home the idea that girls can choose their own partners, and that being a princess is about way more than looking pretty in a ball gown.

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Maiden & Princess

Written by Daniel Haack and Isabel Galupo and illustrated by Becca Human, Little Bee Books (Ages 3-5)

This modern fairytale features a strong and brave maiden who is invited to a prince's royal ball. Instead of falling in love with him, she finds true love with a kind princess.

maiden and princess, books that challenge gender norms Merchant

Do you or your children speak Japanese? Good news—this one is also available in a Japanese language edition.

My Princess Boy

By Cheryl Kilodavis and illustrated by Suzanne DeSimone, Aladdin Books (Ages 4+).

Inspired by the author’s son, this gem features a happy four-year-old boy named Dyson, who loves wearing pink sparkly dresses, jewellery and a princess tiara.

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But he also wears jeans and climbs trees. He’s a boy and a princess and wears what he wants to.


Rosie Revere, Engineer

By Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts, Abrams Books (Ages 5+).

Rosie dreams of becoming a great engineer, but she hides all of her inventions under her bed for fear of failure. Her great-great aunt Rose (Rosie the Riveter) teaches Rosie that you only really fail if you stop trying.

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Rosie challenges typical gender roles and explores the possibilities for children, male or female, in science.

Henry Holton Takes The Ice

By Sandra Bradley and illustrated by Sara Palacios, Penguin Young Readers Group (Ages 3-5).

Henry’s family loves hockey, but Henry prefers figure skating. He wants to pursue his own passion, but first, he has to convince his family he’s just not interested in hockey gear. It’s like Billy Elliot on ice!

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I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up For Education and Changed the World

By Malala Yousafzai with Patricia Mccormick, Little Brown Books for Young Readers (Ages 10+).

Malala Yousafzai is the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize winner. This Young Readers Edition of her bestselling memoir shows that one person can inspire change.

I am malala, books that challenge gender norms Merchant

The book explores the role of girls and women across far-off cultures and lands, gender inequality and finding role models in the everyday people.

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This article was originally published on Dec 01, 2020

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