9 Picture Books Featuring Courageous Characters

Want your child to read about characters who are strong, smart, or brave? These titles are the answer.

By Jodie Rodriguez
Aug 03, 2017



Aug 03, 2017

We all want our kids to emulate qualities of bravery, strength, and intellect. Modeling these characteristics for our kids is ideal but books can also help to solidify the lessons we want our kids to learn.

In fact, according to the 6th Edition Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report, families seek out books featuring characters who display these traits. "Characters who are 'smart, brave or strong' or 'face a challenge and overcome it' are the most popular among kids and parents," according to the report. 

Here are nine books featuring characters who show strength, exhibit bravery, or are incredibly smart.

1. A little mouse says she isn't afraid of anything in Sheila Rae, The Brave by Kevin Henkes. Neither big dogs, the dark, nor thunder and lightning can rattle her. One day, Sheila gets lost and her little sister, Louise, steps up to the plate and shows that she too can be brave as she saves the day. Whether you have a child who feels super-brave or not-so-brave, this story will touch her.

2. Not all princesses need knights in shining armor to rescue them. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch is the story of a young princess whose castle is destroyed by a fire-breathing dragon. She loses her clothes, possessions, and her prince. Princess Elizabeth sets out to rescue the prince from the dragon and achieves her mission. Your child will learn how being strong, brave, and smart affect decision-making, and the importance of standing up for yourself.

3. Imagine being a slave and yearning for your freedom. That's what Henry wants in Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine. Henry shows great smarts and bravery when he comes up with a plan to mail himself in a crate to the North where he can be free. Henry's Freedom Box is based on a true story of the Underground Railroad. It's a history lesson and character lesson wrapped up in one book for your family.

4. Sometimes it can be challenging being brave and finding the courage to be yourself. Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun: Having the Courage to Be Who You Are by Maria Dismondy is the story of a young girl who has an uncommon favorite food. Her love of ketchup and spaghetti on a hot dog bun becomes the reason another child teases her. Your kids will learn that even when others aren't treating us the way they should, we can still stand up for ourselves and reach out to others.

5. What do Harriet Tubman, Sally Ride, and Helen Keller all have in common? All of these women persisted through life. She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton highlights 13 amazing women in history who have shown great strength, bravery, intellect, and lots of persistence to make fantastic strides. Your kids will be inspired to do great things with their lives and persist through their challenges.

6. Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty is the story of a young creative boy who loves to build things, and is so resourceful with building materials he once built an arch out of pancakes. His teacher, however, is not impressed with architecture in general, until one day when she needs Iggy's skills to rescue the class. Your children will be giggling and rooting for Iggy Peck throughout the story.

7. One of the most courageous young women of recent years is Malala Yousafzai. For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai's Story by Rebecca Langston-George chronicles the challenges Malala faced in speaking out on her belief that all girls deserve an education -- something she was almost killed for doing. Malala's courage, strength, bravery, and intellect will shine through to your kids.

8. This next story is a great example of a character with incredible strength. Wilma Rudolph was born premature and suffered from polio during childhood. She overcame these obstacles to become the fastest woman in the world. Your kids can read all about her in When Wilma Rudolph Played Basketball by Mark Weakland.

9. Finally, the last book on the list is one that every young child can connect with their own life. Childhood is full of firsts — from the first bike ride to the first time you make a new friend. A great deal of bravery is needed to accomplish these firsts. Jamie Lee Curtis leads readers through this courageous journey in My Brave Year of Firsts: Tries, Sighs, and High Fives.

Inspire your kids with these great reads and help them discover characters they can look up to, and also aspire to emulate.

Shop These Recommended Reads

Raise a Reader Blog
Age 10
Age 9
Age 8
Age 7
Age 6
Age 5
Age 4
Age 3
Courage, Bravery, Heroism
Determination and Perseverance
Character and Values
Confidence and Self-Esteem
Child Development and Behavior
Helping Others
Kindness and Compassion