Great reads for girls who like STEM and the adults who love them. All these titles are either new or recent: many are available as as less-expensive ebooks, and many are available outside the US. Suggested age ranges are rough estimates from the publishers. Updated February 22, 2017: 2 additional titles for 10+.
Violet the Pilot is just what it sounds like, about a great inventor and adventurous girl. Rosie Revere, Engineer is similarly fun about the same kind of girl; sadly Ada Twist, Scientist won’t be out until September 2016. Hello Ruby: Adventures In Coding doesn’t require a computer or knowledge of one: it introduces programming concepts (please read your daughters this book so I can hire them in 15 years J). The Curious Kid’s Science Book: 100+ Creative Hands-On Activities for Ages 4-8 is not only for girls but contains both language about and photos of girls. Sage and the Ladybug Hug shows what would happen if you were as small as an insect; the author also wrote the well-respected Sage Carrington books (see below under Ages 10 and up). Rhoda’s Rock Hunt follows a girl on a summer camping trip with her aunt and uncle. 11 Experiments That Failed is light and fun and may raise memories of your own early science fairs. Mad Margaret Experiments with the Scientific Method (In the Science Lab) is an entertaining introduction to the scientific method. (I could wish the “mad” term had been left off, though it is raised and dismissed, but still. Geek stereotypes.) The Clever Girl is about a girl who builds robots. A Little Bit of Dirt: 55+ Science and Art Activities to Reconnect Children with Nature is not just for girls but includes them and is really good for getting kids outside. Rachel Carson and Her Book that Changed the World tells the story of Carson’s groundbreaking book on our relation to our planet. Stone girl, bone girl: the story of Mary Anning tells the story of a great fossil hunter. One Grain of Rice: a Mathematical Folktale shows a smart little girl outsmarting a greedy ruler with math. Maria’s Comet tells the story of America’s first woman astronomer (there’s a different book about the same woman in the Age 10 and up list below). Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya founded the Green Belt movement and fought deforestation in Africa; Seeds of Change: Wangari’s Gift to the World is another book about the same brilliant woman. Ada Lovelace: Poet of Science is the story of the first computer programmer. Me…Jane is the story of Jane Gooddall, as is The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps. Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell tells the story of the first woman to receive a medical degree in the US. Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor is told in the first person and beautifully illustrated. The Gardener tells the story of a rooftop gardener ahead of her time. I want to be an Astronaut is just what it sounds like, I Wonder tells the story of a mother and daughter asking questions during a walk in the woods. Velma Gratch and the Way Cool Butterfly is a great story of a younger sibling developing her own interests — in science. Summer Birds: the Butterflies of Maria Merian is the story of a girl who didn’t believe insects were evil, as she was told. Life in the Ocean: the Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle tells how one girl fell in love with the ocean in her back yard, The Gulf of Mexico. Look Up: Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Astronomer tells the story of a woman initially hired to be a “human computer” for male astronomers who made crucial discoveries of her own. Mary Anning and the Sea Dragon is the story of a paleontologist from 200 years ago. Robot, go Bot! is about a girl making a robot and speaking to it (better for the early end of the age range). Oh no! Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World is a funny Dr. Frankenstein-like creator and her robot. Interstellar Cinderella is a great upgrade to the fairytale with a rockship-repairing heroine. Little Robot is the story of a young girl and her friend (the heroine is an all-too-rare nonwhite character). Night Flight: Amelia Earhart Crosses the Atlantic tells the story of the second person to make a solo crossing.
Ages 8 and up
Start Making!: A Guide to Engaging Young People in Maker Activities is for the parents of kids age 8 and up. Guide and materials lists for each activity. Noa The Little Scientist (Girls in Science Collection) shows an young scientist solving problems (very positive reviews from readers in this age group). Yes I Can! I’m Clover Anne! (I Can Be An Engineer) shows a girl learning that she can become an engineer by solving an engineer’s kind of problem. Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine tells the story of Lovelace writing the first computer program. Sea Turtle Scientist is ready when a turtle comes ashore to lay her eggs. Mary Walker Wears the Pants: the true story of the doctor, Reformer, and Civil War Hero tells the story of the only woman to win the Medal of Honor, along with everything else she did. Hedy Lamarr and a Secret Communication System tells Lamarr’s famous story. Sparki the Programmable Arduino STEM Robot Kit for Kids is a more expensive but fun and very interactive learning tool. Riparia’s River is the story of a young environmental activist learning about pollution. Marvelous Mattie: How Margaret E. Knight Became an Inventor is the story of an inventor sometimes called the female Edison. A Symphony of Whales is based on a true story of a girl who helped save a school. Marty McGuire Digs Worms! is a stroy about a third-grad science experiment gone awry – at first. The Complete Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist is the collected series of popular stories about a young scientist who gets out of trouble with her brain. Sally Ride: Life on a MIssion is the story of the astronaut — and of the physicist, and tennis player, and many other things she also was. In The Elephant Scientist, Caitlin O’Connell observes elephants and makes discoveries about how the communicate, and changes attitudes toward them. The heroine of Infinity and Me learns how to think about infinity through objects in her own world. Amelia to Zora: Twenty-Six Women Who Changed the World includes scientists and explorers. Fly High! The Story of Bessie Coleman is the story of the first African-American to earn a pilot’s license (good story about the usefulness of math, too). A is for Abigail: An Almanac of Amazing American Women includes explorers and scientists.
Ages 10 and up
The Unstoppable Wasp is a comic with a teenage female genius scientist (new in 2017 from Marvel). Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science is a novel in verse about three girls in three different time periods who grew up to become groundbreaking scientists. Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers who Changed the World highlights the contributions of fifty notable women to the STEM fields from the ancient to the modern world. Sage Carrington, Eighth-Grade Science Sleuth (Volume 1) and the sequel Sage Carrington, Math Mystery in Mexico City (Volume 2) are fun and interesting. Brave New Girls: Tales of Girls and Gadgets is an anthology of sci-fic stories about and for girls. Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women are great stories about inventors of things important and fun. Caprice Helps Design the Software shows software in action through a girl influencing business decisions. Girls Who Looked Under Rocks tells the story of six women naturalists and their discoveries. Maria Mitchell: The Soul of an Astronomer was America’s first professional woman astronomer. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is a Newberry-winning story of a young evolutionary biologist. Bone Detective: The Story of Forensic Anthropologist Diane France is a science-based thriller. Technology: Coll Women Who Code introduces girls to what goes into coding and making things with code. Rosie the Riveter: Women Working on the Home Front in World War II tells the story of women taking on jobs women had mostly not held before. Trailblazers: 33 Women in Science Who Changed the World is a great compendium of bios of women scientists. Almost Astronauts: 13 Women who Dared to Dream is the story of the women who challenged the rules about astronauts as military pilots (who at the time could only be men). Emi and the Rhino Scientist is about a woman scientist working to preserve an endangered species of rhino. The Red Blazer Girls gang solves STEM-driven mysteries. The Sky’s the Limit: Stories of Discovery by Women and Girls is in addition to being good itself us a good group of stories from which to pick a topic for further reading.
Middle-school-age-ish: Illuminae science fiction, romance, and a lot of science with a girl in the lead; Olivia Twisted has been called a retelling of Dickens’s Oliver Twist with a female hacker lead. Bluescreen is a cyberthriller set in a near future in which everyone is fitted with a “djinni,” a smart chip implanted into the brain; a Mexican-American woman is the heroine. Fly Girl tells the story of a young woman in the WWII-era WASP corps. If you know a girl who wants to be a veterinarian, give her Race Across Alaska: First Woman to win the Iditarod Tells Her Story. Chasing Secrets is a medical mystery set in 1900 San Francisco with a 13-year-old girl who isn’t supposed to be interested in science. The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer has the added bonus of being a graphic novel. Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History is an good starting place to get an idea of whom you might like to read about next. Mechanica updates the Cinderella story with a girl who discovers a workshop in her basement.
High school and later
Math Girls is a light romance novel with lots of math. Seriously. A huge hit in Japan and developing a following in the US; if you like this, the author has several other titles that also teach math, most newly translated. Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren, on plant life, lab life, and human lives. The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science Is Still a Boys’ Club is told by one of the first two women to get a bachelor’s degree in physics from Yale – who then abandoned her dream of becoming a scientist, and why, and what to fix. A Woman of Science: An Extraordinary Journey of Love, discovery, and the Sex Life of Mushrooms tells the story of a pioneer in her field (I did not make up that title). If they like murder mysteries, Critical Mass is about physics, memories of World War II, and women scientists, and The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is about a precocious 11-year-old chemist and detective in 1950s England. In Real Life follows a successful gamer girl as she learns about the complexities outside the gaming world. Hidden Figures: the American Dream and Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race tells an overlooked story (and perfect report and project material, just saying…); related titles include Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars and Rocket Girl: The Story of Mary Sherman Morgan, America’s First Female Rocket Scientist. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is the story about medical ethics and how a woman’s cells, taken without her knowledge, live on in cures. Ada’s Algorithm: How Lord Byron’s Daughter Ada Lovelace Launched the Digital Age is a good bio of Ada Lovelace, though the sexism of the title isn’t necessary (she doesn’t need to be identified as anyone’s daughter!). Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World includes but is not limited to STEM role models. Game Changers: the Unsung Heroines of Sports History is not about STEM role models, but women pioneers in sports share many characteristics with women pioneers in STEM. An interesting read if you know a girl who likes both.
Breaking Through!: Helping Girls Succeed in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math is a parents’ guide to working with and for girls of all ages. She Loves Science: A Mother’s Guide to Nurturing the Curiosity, Confidence, and Creativity of Her Daughter was written by an engineer who wanted to engage her daughter. If your daughter likes physics and you are curious about what she is curious about, read Seven Brief Lessons on Physics. The Top Five Rules of Engagement for Parents Raising a Girl in STEM is an inexpensive ebook written by a technologist and parent for other parents.
Like many books for children, these titles, while strong as a group, have fewer non-white characters than I would like. If you know if good books on this general topic that show more children of color, please let me know about them at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will add them to these lists. You’ll find helpful information and support at https://ngcproject.org/underrepresented-girls The Common Sense Media site has a good list of books with characters of color (not STEM- or girl-specific, though some are there).