Girl Scientists in Middle-Grade Fiction

Middle-grade literature is full of great girl scientists with inquisitive minds. Their relentless curiosity about the world around them makes for some unforgettable stories about discovery and science, while providing important role models for women in STEM.

The Case of the Missing MoonstoneThe Case of the Missing Moonstone, by Jordan Stratford

In this parallel-universe 1826, girl scientists who will grow up to be Ada Lovelace and Mary Shelley have their own detective agency. Armed with scientific prowess, the girls, still Ada Byron and Mary Godwin, take on Victorian London to solve mysteries. This book will pique reader interest in historical women scientists.

Counting by 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Willow Chance has an extraordinary mind—she is, after all, a genius. Willow’s precociousness is evident in her keen attention to detail and scientist’s mind: she loves medicine and nature. This coming-of-age story explores the idiosyncracies of growing up as an often-obsessive scientific genius in a sometimes unforgiving, sometimes wonderful world.

The Curious World of Calpurnia TateThe Curious World of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly

In this long-awaited sequel to 2010 Newbery Honor Book The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (2009), the title character returns to follow in the shoes of her scientist grandfather and Charles Darwin. Living in Texas at the turn of the century, Callie is thrilled by discovery but inhibited by the restrictions of women in her society. Girls in 1900 aren’t expected to become scientists, but Calpurnia is ready to prove them wrong.

The Fourteenth Goldfish, by Jennifer L. Holm

Ellie gets an unexpected visitor one day: her grandfather, but as a 13-year-old boy. The Fourteenth Goldfish is much more than this farcical premise. It’s also the story of Ellie discovering a love for science. Funny and thought-provoking, the narrative brings Ellie to her passion for science as well as a better understanding of her grandfather.

Higher Power of LuckyHigher Power of Lucky, by Susan Patron

Lucky is another scientist girl who takes particular pleasure in gathering specimens and observing the natural world that surrounds her tiny desert town of Hard Pan, California. Lucky’s cool logic filters her world of overheard 12-step meetings, sudden dust storms, and colorful neighbors.

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy, by Karen Foxlee

After her widowed father moves to a snow-covered city to work at a sprawling museum, Ophelia meets a Marvelous Boy who tells her a fairytale story of a Snow Queen. But Ophelia does not approach all this fantastical business with her head in the clouds. Instead, she applies strict scientific reasoning to every conflict she faces.

Wonder at the Edge of the WorldWonder at the Edge of the World, by Nicole Helget

Hallelujah Wonder braves the many obstacles of being a woman scientist in nineteenth-century Kansas. On her way to Antarctica to finish her famous father’s quest for the truth, Hallelujah runs into ethical questions about slavery, showing that girls have important roles in science throughout time—even if they’re not in most history books.

A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle

Meg Murry was the original girl scientist. L’Engle broke stereotypes in this classic work by putting a smart, capable girl front and center in a science fiction novel. Meg is tenacious and determined, and doesn’t shy away from her scientific prowess.


About the Author:

Hannah Nesbat is Booklist's intern for books for youth. A senior at Northwestern University, Hannah studies American Studies, but she spends all of her time talking about children's books. A California native, Hannah is still adjusting to living with seasons and still thinks she likes sun the best.

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