International Women's Day: Strong Heroines in Middle Grade

By: Cheryl Long

International Women's Day: Celebrating Strong Heroines in OwlCrate Jr Picks! 

Here at OwlCrate Jr we know the power of  representation and visibility —  seeing yourself in the trial, tribulations and achievements of a character has a powerful resonance to a child’s identity and self confidence. Knowing someone out there feels like you, looks like you, struggles like you, is fundamental to growth and acceptance.


We get to see the impact of amazing stories on children everyday, and it is one of the best parts of this job!


So in honor of International Women’s Day 2023 we’d like to share some of the incredible leading female characters that have been featured in OwlCrate Jr book picks in past boxes. These are the young girls that will become the leaders, policy makers, and shakers of tomorrow!


Let us know some of your own favourite leading heroines in the comments!


Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston

Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston: 13-year-old Amari Peters knows there is more to the disappearance of her older brother Quinton, but cannot understand why the police won’t provide more help. One night she discovers a ticking briefcase in her brother’s closet, a briefcase meant just for her. Quinton has left Amari an invitation nomination to the secretive Bureau of Supernatural Affairs that Quinton was apart of. Suddenly she is launched into a world of mermaids, dwarves, yetis and magicians as she competes for a place within its walls. Amari will discover great secrets about herself — hello, illegal ability! — and her brother as she fights for the truth and a placement within the school. Amari is a wonderful character to read! Her anger, her ability to always say/do the wrong thing, her strength … she’s amazing!


The Grace of the Wild Things by Heather Fawcett

The Grace of Wild Things by Heather Fawcett: It’s hard to capture the essence of Anne Shirley, but Heather Fawcett has done the near impossible here in her Anne of Green Gable retelling. Orphan Grace has escaped her orphanage to run away to the witch that lives in the nearby woods… a witch known for eating children! But Grace has a proposition for her. Since Grace herself is a witch, maybe the witch will take her on as an apprentice … which she does, kind of. If Grace can complete all one hundred and a half spells in the witch’s grimoire within one year, Grace can stay. If not, the witch will steal her magic! For all the same reasons you love Anne Shirley, you too will love Grace.


Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk

Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk: When Ellie’s family loses almost everything in the Great Depression, they move to an untamed section of mountainous forest known as Echo Mountain. But being thrust into the harsh realities of having to build everything from practically nothing (shelter, food, clothing, tools), is something Ellie and her father take to wholeheartedly. In fact, Ellie loves her new mountain life. She loves plants, she loves helping her father, she loves learning about this environment and feels a great connection to the plants, animals and land. But when her father is accidentally hurt and falls into a coma, her mother and sister blame Ellie for his accident. Determined to find a cure, Ellie turns to the environment she loves, testing out various concoctions and home remedies on her father. Her quest eventually leads her to the “old hag” higher up the mountain, who shares a similar penchant for the environment and healing. Ellie is a phenomenal character of determination, grit, honesty, and strong sense of self. Her journey at times is lonely and uncertain and is something many readers can identify with. Ultimately a hopeful and tender story, with a speck of the supernatural, Echo Mountain is a treasure.


Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend

Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend: Few literary heroines stick out to me quite like Morrigan Crow and the fantastical world that Jessica Townsend has created. Mog is so guarded, yet incredibly vulnerable and sweet, that you can’t help but cheer for her along her journey to find a place to belong and people to trust. Being born a cursed child, Morrigan has grown up being blamed for every bad thing to ever happen in her community - and worst of all, she is destined to die on her eleventh birthday. Not being shown any kindness her entire life, she is most surprised when a man shows up the night before her death to save her! Whisking her off to the world of Nevermoor, she must now compete for a spot in the Wundrous Society — a school of magic and prestige.


Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls by Kaela Rivera

Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls by Kaela Rivera: I loved Cece Rios! She is such an amazingly relatable character to me - and likely to many younger siblings living in an older siblings shadow! When a powerful dark spirit — a criatrua — kidnaps her sister Juana, Cece turns to dark magic herself (brujas) in order to bring her back. Allying with the legendary Coyote criatura, she will venture deep into Devil’s Alley and face many dangerous tests along the way.



Kiki Kallira Breaks A Kingdom by Sangu Mandanna

Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom by Sangu Mandanna: Looking for a story that beautifully portrays the struggle with anxiety? Look no further than Kiki Kallira! To help cope with her worrying mind, Kiki enjoys drawing worlds full of great detail, imagination, and Indian myths & legends. But one night she ends up falling inside her notebook’s pages and realizes the characters — and evil god — she has created really exist! And she must overcome her fears and anxieties in order to save both her created world and the real world from the evil god set on destruction.


The Girl and the Ghost

The Girl and the Ghost by Hana Alkaf: Suraya was gifted a pelesit from her witch grandmother when she was little and this ghostly companion, whom she named Pink, has been her only friend. But when she begins to bond with a new friend, Pink gets very jealous. Dangerously jealous. It is up to Suraya to find a solution before Pink’s dark side consumes them both. Suraya’s character growth in this story is wonderful to read! Starting out shy and timid, she digs deep within herself finding bravery and strength she didn’t realize she possessed.



The Mirrorwood by Deva Fagan
The Mirrorwood by Deva Fagan: Fable was cursed as a child by a Blight that leaves her without a face of her own, which means that in order to move about without notice, she needs to steal other people’s faces. One fated day, her greatest fear of being found out comes true when a Blighthunter named Vycorax chases her into the treacherous Mirrorwood, and these two enemies have to work together to find a way to break Fable’s curse and slay the demon prince that has enchanted the woods and everyone trapped inside them. Fable and Vycorax are a fierce female duo readers will cheer on from the beginning of this action-packed and sinister fairy tale to its epic conclusion