A Book Review: Girls Who Choose God


Girls Who Choose God: Stories of Courageous Women from the Bible by McArthur Krishna and Bethany Brady Spalding, Illustrated by Kathleen Peterson

Girls Who Choose God is a book I wish I’d had as a child, and am thrilled to have for my children. Featuring 11 women from the Bible, this lovely book was conceived when my dear friend Bethany’s three-year-old daughter asked her, “Mom, where are the girls?” when looking through her cartoon book of scripture stories. Bethany wanted her daughter to know not only were girls there, but they have stories that are stirring in their boldness, unconventionality, morality, and dedication to changing the world for good. The women featured are,

Mahlah and her Sisters
Mary the Mother of Jesus
Samaritan Woman at the Well
Mary and Martha
A Generous Widow
A Healed Woman
Mary Magdalene

Each of their stories framed as a choice. For example, when Miriam sees Pharaoh’s daughter approach the basket in the river, the authors write, “Miriam had a choice to make. She could stay hidden to avoid getting in trouble, or she could speak to Pharaoh’s daughter in hopes of saving her brother.” The stories conclude with the choice the girl or woman made, and then provide a question for the reader. From Miriam’s story: “What choices have you made to bring your family closer together?”

I like that the women featured run the gamut from sister to prophetess, and I like that the questions are far-reaching, not at all pointing girls toward deferential female roles. There is Miriam’s question that may seem at first to point toward a role type-cast for women (nurturing families). But there is also Deborah’s question: “When have you chosen to be a leader?” And Esther’s question, “When have you chosen to stand up for others?” When I read this book with my kids they are enthusiastic about answering those questions, they see themselves as leaders, peacemakers, and helpers.

I love that the book uses inclusive language. Male names are not always first (“Eve and Adam” instead of “Adam and Eve”). The authors use the word God instead of Heavenly Father throughout the book. I notice a great effort they’ve made to use language to shine light on women playing the key role in stories that make up our spiritual heritage.

The women are described as people children can aspire to be, with qualities they might see in themselves. “Miriam was a quick thinker. [Her] boldness rescued her brother and reunited her family.” I am used to stories of prophets and heroes from the scriptures being almost always men, and it surprised me how I felt reading about the widow who gave her two mites: “Jesus admired her noble deed. He called his disciples over to learn from her actions.” To learn from her. Our girls need stories told in this way to help them see themselves as full agents in the gospel.  The words “bold” and “courageous” appear several times in this book, words usually used to describe people like David and Nephi, but now used to describe Mary and Mahlah.

I love that the authors included the Daughters of Zelophehad (Mahlah and her Sisters), because this is one of my favorite Bible stories. To me this story has delicious subversive potential, but the question that follows is so perfectly relevant to children (and adults): “When have you chosen to solve a problem peacefully?” I didn’t know of this story until I was an adult. I hope it becomes more well known through this book.

Girls Who Choose God is unique. I don’t know of another illustrated book on women in the Bible, and it’s definitely a first for an LDS audience. The illustrations are striking and accessible, and match the text perfectly in their portrayal of bold women. Excitingly, the Church has acquired the paintings and will install them in the Conference Center this year.  Finally, the authors are donating 100% of the profits to a charity called Interweave Solutions that supports educational and entrepreneurial endeavors for women.

I think this an important book for two reasons: it’s the first of it’s kind, and it’s providing something we have far too little of — examples of strong, godly women.  Stories matter.  They don’t determine what girls can dream of becoming, but they absolutely inform it, and these are stories I want my daughter to know.  It’s also a beautiful book, in prose and in the artwork.  I hope you have a chance to own it.


*If you’ll be at the Exponent Retreat this year, you can buy a copy from Bethany there.

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17 Responses

  1. Suzanne says:

    This is exactly the type of thing that can make a big difference. I’m thrilled to hear about this book. We need more of these types of things!

  2. Cruelest Month says:

    I’m using it in my primary class and love this book! It’s a pain to scour the internet for images of women I can use to supplement the 13 lessons in CTR A that contain no women or girls. Now I have illustrations and stories in one place. What a wonderful resource. I’m also buying it for kids in my primary class and my nieces and nephews.

  3. EmilyCC says:

    I’m so excited to get my own copy of this!! And, I’m delighted to hear that the pictures will be on display at the Conference Center.

    This is the sort of project I’d love to see more of because it provides an easy way to show our daughters and sons that women, too, are spiritual leaders.

  4. Heather says:

    I’m just giddy reading this. The women in the Bible are fascinating and well worth studying. I’m delighted to be able to share this with my girls.

  5. Caroline says:

    This sounds fantastic! I am definitely going to buy a copy.

    I love the fact that there are those thought provoking questions in the end. One of the children’s books I love most dealing with spirituality is a book called God’s Paintbrush by Sandy Sasso, and it likewise has wonderful open-ended questions throughout. The answers my kids give are enlightening and spark great conversations. Thanks so much for highlighting this book. Can’t wait to get it!

  6. Jess R says:

    I’m so excited about this book! I am buying one for my niece for Christmas. She’s only 6 months old, but you gotta start ’em young 😉

  7. DefyGravity says:

    This is too cool. I’m so glad something like this exists!

  8. Barbara says:

    I am so excited about this book. I’ve previewed a digital copy and it’s every bit as amazing and gorgeous as the review says. Please buy a copy (or ten) so that Deseret Book (the publisher) knows that there’s a huge demand for this type of book. You can purchase on the DB website and on Amazon. (Full disclosure: I know the authors…and they’re magnificent women.)

  9. spunky says:

    Thank you so much for this, Emily U! I am so excited for this! I bought a book for my daughters a while ago– Princesses of the Bible or something similar. It is good as it lists females in the bible, but positioning all of the women as princesses is not necessarily what I want to teach my daughters. I so, so excited for this book and will be ordering one or more— I can’t wait! Thank you!!

  10. charlene says:

    This is so great. I’m getting one for my daughter and probably one for my (non-LDS) niece as well 🙂 🙂

  11. Liz says:

    I think my daughter needs this, but also my sons! I’m so excited to get it!

  12. Violadiva says:

    It’s so important for little girls to see themselves in the scriptures, and for little boys to see the girls as well! I’ve been working on my collection of children’s story books that highlight the contributions of women in the scriptures and society and this one is a great addition!

  13. Rachel says:

    I ordered this book this morning, thanks to your recommendation. I get chills knowing that a book like this exists, and that it will be in my house, for my daughter and I to read and read and read.

    • Rachel says:

      A follow up:

      I just read it to my babe, and it is a remarkable book. I believe its remarkableness cannot be overstated. I started crying (the good kind of tears) on the first page, and continued until I was done. It was perfect, and truly is the type of book that I’ve been waiting for. I am so so glad that there will be more like them. I want every woman and girl I love to have a copy.

      Emily, thank you for writing a review. Thank you for telling me about this book.

  14. Suzanne says:

    I just ordered my copy. It was out of stock at amazon! I then checked Deseret Books and ordered it from there. I am presently in the primary presidency and fortunately we are “like minded” with regard to women’s issues. I am excited to use this in Sharing Time.

  15. MissRissa says:

    Cannot give enough stars to this book!!! I found it while looking into what it would take to write a book about female scripture heroines – buying it was way easier than writing it 😉 My 6 year old LOVES it! She loves the questions at the end, she loves hearing me give examples and praise of times she showed the characteristic featured, she loves the beautiful pictures! I hope they do one about the other scriptures, although granted, there are morse women in the bible than, say, the Book of Mormon! But church history would be a good one too!

  1. August 18, 2014

    […] Each of their stories framed as a choice. For example, when Miriam sees Pharaoh’s daughter approach the basket in the river, the authors write, “Miriam had a choice to make. She could stay hidden to avoid getting in trouble, or she could speak to Pharaoh’s daughter in hopes of saving her brother.” The stories conclude with the choice the girl or woman made, and then …read more […]

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