Girl-led adventure series for young kid

My great niece is a bit over three years old and has fallen in love with the Dinosaur Cove books, which center on the adventures of two young boys who surreptitiously explore a world full of living dinosaurs. The books are a bit unscientific and I’m not crazy about the fact that in the several books I saw, the closest thing to a female character was a mother Ankylosaurus.

Please recommend a decent adventure book series putting girl characters forward. The reading level of the Dinosaur Cove books is perfect (about 60 large print pages, divided into 6 or so short chapters, and with some supplementary illustrations). Bonus points if the books feature educational content and showcase diverse characters. Thanks!

You might consider Ursula Vernon’s Hamster Princess series. Vernon takes classic fairy tales and turns them hilariously on their heads, due to the fact that Harriet wants to be an action hero and not a princess.

Thanks for the tip! It sounds like a charming series and a big step up from Dinosaur Cove. Maybe not so educational but very fun.

I’d love some other suggestions.

I was going to recommend the Magic Tree House series, centered around a brother-and-sister team of adventurers. My son read these in elementary school up through around third grade (including for class assignments). But I noticed that your great-niece is still three … but then, she is apparently already sitting still listening to you read the Dinosaur Cove books. Maybe thumb through or check out a few Magic Tree House books at your local library or bookseller, see what you think.

Another series I am aware of but have not actually looked at myself are the Thea Stilton books (a spinoff of the popular Geronimo Stilton books). The five lead characters in that series are all female. I recall my daughter’s 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms having many copies of both Thea Stilton and Geronimo Stilton titles. Again, you might want to check them out to see whether they’re a little ahead of where your grand-niece is.

Thanks Bordelond! My great niece is very attentive and can easily pay attention to a short chapter book. She can also remember the plot if you set it down and come back to it later. And she likes the more complicated narratives of the chapter books. I just want better role models in them for her.

Thanks for the tip about the Magic Tree House series. Does the brother make all the decisions in that? That’s not the type of gender role modeling she needs.

The Thea Stilton series sounds great.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar: by Eric Carle

The Wonderful Things You Will Be: by Emily Winfield Martin

I recall the brother and sister working collaboratively, as opposed to the sister being a sidekick.

The Princess in Black series fills your bill precisely.

They’re up to nine books now:

And they tick literally all of your boxes. My younger girl is 8, and has been reading them since she was 3. She still has them and looks at them occasionally because the illustrations are so fun.

Here’s a random sample page showing the text size and writing style.

Highly recommended.

Yep, Annie’s definitely not a sidekick or second banana.


Another one that might work at three, but might need to wait until four or so, is Zita the Spacegirl. Don’t worry about getting books a bit too high level, the kid will keep growing.

Zita the Spacegirl is excellent. I’d say age 5 and up.

At the age of 8, add Cleopatra in Space.

Good to know. I’ll check them out.

Thanks for the suggestions. Both are good books but not exactly exciting adventures. She’s also interested in longer narratives where more stuff happens.

Thanks @Cervaise and @echoreply. I’ve never heard of the Princess in Black but they sound perfect. The books that she’s interested in now are targeted at early readers around 6-8. She isn’t reading on her own yet but she likes those more “grown up” stories where kids have fun and explore on their own.

In that case, try “The Worst Witch” by Jill Murphy. Our daughter loved the series when she was about six.

In fact, Annie is the braver and more daring of the 2 siblings; Jack is more cautious, more nerdy.

Now you’re talking, @bob_2! Thanks!

Duly noted. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a little nerdiness. Thanks!

I’ll also recommend Princess in Black, and Ursula Vernon. When she’s just a bit older, Vernon has some wonderful other kids’ books, including Castle Hangnail, wherein a Spoooky Castle in want of a new evil overlord finds itself in the hands of a young girl with witchy powers.

The Princess in Black author, Shannon Hale, also has some great Squirrel Girl titles, but also are probably best for just a couple of years older. They’re not too scary for a kindergartener, but maybe for a three-year-old they are.

My wife likes Squirrel Girl. Not yet for my niecelet but thanks. I didn’t realize that Squirrel Girl and Princess in Black are by the same author.

Oh! There’s a series that’s absolutely goddamned terrible, but only if you’re a grownup. I’ve seen a ton of little girls fall in love with the series and even use them to learn to read. It’s the Rainbow Magic series by Daisy Meadows, starring vapid girls and their vapid fairy friends fighting the vapid Jack Frost. They’re perfect for the age range, and are all about girls having adventures together, and given that I’m 100% not the target audience, I gotta recognize how much the target audience loves 'em.

As long as we’re thinking forward, around that age you could add the Akiko books.

I’m happy to say that my son, who is about the least sexist adult I know, loved the Akiko books when he was around 7-9 years old, although I think a lot of the subtext that is especially great for girls went over his head.

Well, sort of. The widely-read and popular comic book The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl was written by Ryan North, and for most of its run was drawn by Erica Henderson. In addition to that series, there are a couple of Squirrel Girl younger-reader novels, which are written by Shannon Hale, the co-author of the Princess in Black series. She’s extremely prolific; my daughters have read a lot of her stuff. They also like her Rapunzel’s Revenge comic, which transplants the fairy-tale heroine into an Old-West-like setting (she uses her long braid as a lariat, for example).

I’m going to mildly disagree that these books are full-stop terrible. Yes, they’re painful and irritating to read as an adult, because the characters are nonexistently thin and the writing is blunt and the plots are formulaic in the extreme. But for a very young developing reader, this is all a plus. It’s kind of like how the TV series “Blues Clues” discovered that children like a story that is repetitive and predictable, because it allows their still-developing minds to logically process and anticipate the narrative, and there’s definite pleasure in feeling like you’re smart enough to understand the story. The Rainbow Magic stories work in much the same way: in every single book, the fairies lose their magic items and then have to find them one by one. And there are two interchangeably indistinguishable human-girl protagonists not because their characters matter but because having two of them means they talk through their ideas and plans for finding the magic items out loud with one another in dialogue. I don’t disagree that they are intensely annoying reading for the parent, but my daughters devoured them when they were three and four. Then, before the end of their sixth year, their interest absolutely fell off a cliff, and they’ve never looked at the books again. Which I’m happy about. But I concede that they do have their purpose.

Which reminds me — another comic-book series that’s good for a young reader is The Courageous Princess.

My daughters first read the three-volume series when they were four. But then they kept picking it up and reading it again, all the way to the age of nine or ten (at which point princesses are “not cool any more”). That’s why my comment above reminded me of this: my girls have read and re-read it several times over the years, unlike the Rainbow Magic stories. Courageous Princess is a rewarding series at multiple ages; there’s a good arc for the title heroine, and a fun adventure, which the younger reader enjoys, and then the older reader starts to notice how the story is built out of bits and pieces of lots of other stories, from Wizard of Oz to Aladdin. Definitely recommended.