I’ve never been a fan of the term “girl power.” Despite its ’90s riot grrrl origins—the “grrr stood for growling,” according to feminist scholar Anita Harris—girl power has become less an expression of feminine empowerment than a form of prepackaged consumerism masquerading as dumbed-down ideology. Get over the patronizing attitude, however, and My First Book of Girl Power is a pretty decent Who’s Who of DC Comics’ female pantheon for the board-book set. Just don’t expect a whole lot of depth—or diversity.
Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade is less about a 12-year-old adjusting to life as a superhero than it is about a superhero figuring out how to be 12 years old. Gawky, insecure, and a complete fish out of water, Landry Q. Walker and Eric Jones’s Kara Zor-el is the antithesis of her broodier, more volatile “New 52” counterpart.
Granted, it helps that this iteration of the Last Daughter of Krypton didn’t witness the destruction of her home planet in a cataclysmic explosion. In this alternate canon, Argo City survives after the force of the blast shunts it into a pocket reality known as Quasi-Space, where. Kara, like most preteens, engages her parents in a constant battle of wills. That is, until an impulsive decision sends her careening to Earth on an interdimensional rocket, with no hope of return in sight.
Still think that Wonder Woman’s Greek myth origins are “too complicated” for the silver screen, movie execs? I Can Read: I Am Wonder Woman gets down to the brass tacks, explaining Diana’s story so cogently even a five-year-old could follow. (Mine certainly did.)
The early reader covers the basics: Paradise Island, princess, Amazons, Gods-given powers. But it also throws in the magic truth-inducing magic lasso, Wonder Woman’s invisible jet, her civilian identity, and even her friendship with Superman and Batman—all in fewer than 32 pages, most comprising pithy sentences.
Eight-year-old Grace Gibson is the new girl in the town of Catastrophe, a disaster-prone locale where volcanoes erupt, giant robots run amok, meteors plummet from the skies, and escaped inmates from the Asylum for Crafty Criminals plot world domination on a near-daily basis. Grace has trouble fitting in at school, where her father’s the headmaster, until a chemistry experiment gone awry leads her to brew an arsenal of bubblegum with superpower-imbuing properties.
Determined to bring order to the chaos around her, Grace adopts the crime-fighting guise of Gum Girl. Along with Billy Fisher, her classmate-turned-best friend with a knack for getting into scrapes, Grace metes out justice with humor, optimism, and unflagging joie de vivre. Gum Girl may be pink and bubbly, but she also has brains, gumption, and gum to spare—plenty useful when the adults around you are as clueless as they are incompetent.
Princess at Midnight is the story of Holly Crescent, a preadolescent girl who lives a cloistered existence in a narrow townhouse somewhere in England. By day, she’s homeschooled by an overprotective father alongside her twin brother, Henry. At night, she’s magically transported to another plane of existence, where she reigns as princess of Castle Waxing. Instead of squaring off in the classroom with Henry, Holly engages in a land dispute with her kingdom’s sworn enemy, the Horrible Horde.
Princess Holly isn’t a milquetoast regent—she’s brash, irascible, and frequently unsympathetic; more Boudica than Belle. When ogres from the Horde attack her favorite picnic spot, Holly declares war. Her chancellor, a dragon, suggests drawing up a treaty to declare the area common property, but the princess will not be persuaded. “Share?” she barks. “I’m a princess, I don’t do sharing.” Someone fetch the smelling salts!