So now we have a baby daughter. Look how she slumbers. She doesn’t even know that I stay up at night worrying about her self-image. And, oh horrors! What if someday she wants to read Stephanie Meyer’s literary atrocity, the Twilight series? You know the one, the books featuring a non-descript female protagonist who, in addition to having no interests or talents of any kind (other than smelling delicious to a sparkly 100-year-old vampire), is helpless, boring, and basically suicidal when her 100-year-old sparkly vampire boyfriend breaks up with her? Yeah, those books. So, I’m coming up with a reading list containing female characters that could put a smack down on Bella Swan any day of the week and reveal what a real woman looks like.
1. The Anne Books by Lucy Maud Montgomery: Anne of Green Gables and the 7 sequels that complete the series were a staple of my childhood. Anne is fantastic. She’s clever, charming, resourceful, imaginative (to a fault), and hysterically funny. And she goes to college and gets a BA during the Edwardian era. So that’s impressive. I actually saw the miniseries first and read the books later. IMPORTANT: Anne of Green Gables the film and Anne of Green Gables the sequel (Anne of Avonlea) are wonderful but for Pete’s sake DO NOT watch Anne the Continuing Story. Pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s an absurd and wretched thing that dishonors the very name of Anne. Really. Part of you will die.
2. The Little House Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder: I was probably a little too obsessed with the Little House books in my day. I may or may not have worn lace-up black boots, braids, and read under an old-timey quilt next to an antique hurricane lamp most of the time between the ages of 6 and 8. File this one under the category of “capable women doing cool stuff.” Laura Ingalls is awesome, obvi.
3. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: I have a distinct memory of finishing the last pages of Louisa May Alcott’s finest mere minutes before heading to the theatre to see the 1994 film on Christmas Day with my mom. What girl doesn’t adore the awkward and gutsy Jo March? I have to confess though that when I read it last year I realized I’m probably more like Amy—not because I have the slightest visual artistic talent but because we’re both selfish. I love that each of the four sisters are so different and yet each one exudes a positive kind of femininity, although, to be fair, Meg’s “I-don’t-worry-my-pretty-little-head-about-it” attitude isn’t quite what I have in mind for my daughter. Warning: after reading this I was rather bitter that I didn’t have sisters. Just a heads up.
4. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: You’d be hard pressed to find a book series with better female characters. There’s a quote swimming around the internet attributed to Stephen King: “Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend.” I concur. I love that Rowling can depict a strong, brave, capable, intelligent, and compassionate woman in such a variety of characters: a middle-aged stay-at-home mom of seven, a pink-haired dark wizard catcher, an elderly spinster teacher, and an overachieving teenaged student, to name a few. If my girl emulates Hermione Granger, Luna Lovegood, Ginny Weasley, Nymphadora Tonks, Minerva McGonagal, or, of course, my beloved Molly Weasley, I’ll be a happy mama. And it doesn’t hurt that the whole plot pivots around the sacrifice of one amazing mother (Lily Potter) for her son. Anyone who’s down on these books can’t have read them.
5. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis: This complex book is a retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth and Orual, the main character (Psyche’s older unattractive sister), is an incredibly complex character. It’s not so much that Orual should be a role model, but her spiritual journey is worth reading and the book is sure to lead to some good discussions about what a good woman should be. It’s notable that Lewis had lots of help from his wife, Joy Davidman, when writing this book. Otherwise, it’s hard to imagine how a man could be so amazingly insightful about a woman’s mind.
6. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien: OK, so definitely not a girlie book (not that any book in this list has an exclusively female audience), and there’s very few female characters. However, the ones it depicts are fantastic. Galadriel? Eowyn? Yes, please. The book also exudes so many virtues that it seems hardly possible that having completed it your daughter will care two cents about Stephanie Whats-Her-Name. See? I can’t even remember because I’ve read Lord of the Rings. Also, it’s full of real men which is an important thing for a girl to be able to recognize. I’ll take Faramir, thanks.
7. Anything Jane Austen wrote: Want your daughter to know a thing or two about interesting women? Read all six of these novels to her. After reading them, one should know exactly what kind of woman to be and what kind of woman to avoid. Elizabeth Bennet has more clever things to say in one page of P&P than Bella Swan could mumble in her entire miserable existence. And none of Austen’s heroine’s decide to curl up and die when they’re “crossed in love.” Philosopher Alasdair McIntyre supposedly said, “I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like Jane Austen.” I quite agree.
8. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte: A plain little orphan stands up to terrible relatives, survives a childhood of neglect and abuse, strengthens her mind with education, is the intellectual match of one of the most imposing and fascinating male characters in British literature, and makes the prettiest girl in the county look like a spineless nothing in comparison, among other impressive exploits. Supposedly, Charlotte Bronte bet her sisters (and fellow authoresses) that she could write a successful novel around a female character that was neither pretty nor charming. She won, obvi.
9. A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter: Lesser-known book published in 1909, but a real treat. Stratton-Porter’s main character, Elnora Comstock, is so wonderful and endearing. Also she collects moths, so that’s cool (or at least Phillip Ammon thinks so). The prequel, Freckles, is also charming and delightful.
10. Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset: This three-part saga by Norwegian author Sigrid Undset won the Nobel prize for literature and is one of the finest works you will ever read with a female protagonist rarely paralleled. Kristin is an amazingly human character with as much depth as any female literary character I have encountered. Her spiritual journey is fascinating and the saga is set in 14th century Scandanavia which makes it way more awesome to my medieval-loving heart. However, there are some sexual themes which might make it inappropriate for younger girls. Absolutely worth reading and discussing.
At three months, I don’t think Baby Lucy is ready to dive into these, yet. In the mean time, this mama will be praying lots of rosaries. Anybody else have so many more worries about raising a girl?
Did I leave anything out? What are your recommendations? Any advice on how to raise strong, capable, intelligent, compassionate, confident women? I’m all ears...
Update: You might enjoy this followup post:
Twilight is the last book anyone should read! And you should definitely avoid her from seeing princess movies, they are so full of fake dreams!!!
I love Jane Austen and Harry Potter!
And you don’t think Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings are full of things that aren’t real? Yes, they are fun and I really like Lord of the Rings, but it has just as much fantasy as princess movies.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with letting them watch princess movies as long as you let them know that, no, this isn’t reality, just fun. There’s nothing wrong with having a little fun with your children and letting them dream a little. Life shouldn’t be so serious all the time.
My daughter grew up to be a very strong woman and we watched princess movies. I just took the time with her so she didn’t think life would really be that way. (But, they do show that life does have good and bad things that happen.)
They need to be taught that they can be strong women, but they can also have some fun in life.
So having your children watch Disney princess movies is fake dreams??? Are you that cynical that you think your 3 year old will watch Sleeping Beauty and grow up needing to rely on a man? If that is your train of thought never read to or have your children watch ANYTHING that is fiction… Young children should read/see things to open their imagination and let kids be kids not get them ready for the “real world”. I grew up and realised that I was never going to be Snow White but that didn’t “scar” me to going crazy and thinking that I must do everything to find a man. My mother never needed to sit next to me saying REMEMBER THIS ISN’T REAL! Did you not have a child hood? Did you honestly after 12 think your prince charming was coming?? Did anyone need to tell you otherwise?? Come one people…
No one can really know the affect that Disney movies or fairy tales have on any individual. You sound like those people that say “advertising doesn’t work on me.” No one actually thinks a prince charming is going to rescue them. Oftentimes the damage is very subtle(if there is damage at all). Haven’t you ever asked yourself why men always get to be the heroes and women the victims? Fantasy is fantasy, but when there is common narrative that repeatedly victimizes women then you really do have to take a step back and think about the content of some of these archaic stories that came from a time period when women were virtually slaves. You can watch Disney movies all you want and enjoy them too, but I think to just dismiss them as “for the children”(as if no child could be happy without experiencing the magic that is disney) and to judge someone else for being skeptical of the content is kind of ridiculous.
Or these fairy tales depict the very real core desire of women to be cherished and valued enough by the man in their life to be worth rescuing, and the very real core desire of men to be strong and courageous enough to be loved by a woman they can protect and rescue.
And besides all that, this isn’t about you. It’s about encouraging a young girl to dream, to know she’s worth rescuing, to know there are people in this world worth fighting for, and be brave enough to do some fighting of her own.
Agree 100% with Brit. Geesh.
I disagree with “Haven’t you ever asked yourself why men always get to be the heroes and women the victims?” Have you not seen Brave, Tangled, Mulan, Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas? I would say half are like you described, the other half are strong women who don’t put up with any crap and not just after a man to care for her. For that matter add in Tiana from Princess and the Frog.
Uh, not to sound like a snob, but I have a degree in Cinema Studies with a minor in Social Psychology and, yes, everything you just mentioned is proven to have an incredibly negative effect on both girls and boys. You’d have to be blind to everything in our society not to notice how images like these effect children’s (and adults) views on themselves, others, and society. No, children do not know the difference between fiction and reality, yes, they do ended up scarred by being bombarded by impossible female standards on life and beauty (as well as a lack of exposure to reality before being thrust into it) and it is absolutely the job of a parent to sit next to their child and tell them what real beauty looks like and what is more valuable about a woman than the man she marries and her waist size. Don’t agree? Do some research. Look into, you know, that thing, *science*. Why do we treat these topics as if they are a matter of opinion, when there are facts proving the results of these films?
I find it amusing that so many comments say Disney princesses aren’t detrimental. Whether they are or aren’t, many of you had made it a point to not yourself, or your daughters read Twilight because it has a needy, man obsessed, weak female character. That is fiction too! I read Twilight, and do I think it’s a great book for encouraging young girls/women, no. Would I suggest it to younger girls who are influenced more than maybe older girls, no. Do I think reading it will turn your brain into sausage and you’ll be defeated as a strong woman, no. This is the same thing for the Disney movies. While many of the movies did have a protagonist, strong female…the classics did not. They may be subtle, but they do teach girls that true happiness is found in the arms of man, and every princess gave something up to reach her destiny of being with a man either in the form of a voice, consciousness, etc. There are some more recent princesses who were brave, and stronger roles, and the man was just a bonus. But, even Mulan had to dress as a man to receive respect for most of the movie. Did she still receive respect after she was found out? Eventually, after she was left in the freezing cold alone. My point is not to down these movies, but I hope you understand that anything fiction can provide influence on realistic life. Bringing up strong women, should be less affected by such things, no matter what they watch, read, or hear. A parent (I’m not one) should teach these lessons outside of the media. As a side note to the social psychologist, I studied Sociology and you are correct imo:) There’s a difference between entertainment, and study, let the girl decide what she wants to absorb and enjoy. Teach her to be knowledgeable to know the difference. Being a young adult now, reality did hit hard for some things including my first traumatic break up. That is reality too. Twilight, Disney and anything else out there have good and bad, just like life does, imo. Also Lyra in His Dark Materials was mentioned. I love that story and Lyra, but it has also been attacked over and over for being anti-Christian. Many people do not allow their children to read it, and I highly doubt any more movies will be made. Thought that was interesting since this blogger is Catholic.
I think you make some really good points, Dana. As a mom, I think it’s up to the parents more than anything to help your kids understand the subliminal messages they’re bombarded with every day. And I just wanted to say that I’ve read the Lord of the Rings about a hundred times and honestly my favorite characters aren’t the girls, but the hobbits- especially Merry, Pippin, and of course Sam. I love them because they each face such tall obstacles, but dig deep and find they had more courage than they ever thought possible. To me, if my daughter learns the value of not giving up, no matter what the odds are, I’ll be content I did my job.
Well said Dana. As a mom of three girls (ten and under) I agree completely! It’s entertainment. Not life lessons. For those who look to these movies and characters for life lessons are looking at the wrong things. We should look to the REAL people in this life who have made a difference. Not fictional characters.
well they sure shaped my life…
Nancy Drew and better – Trixie Belden books. made me learn to dig deeper and always hunt for the truth and question everything.
I think you have made some astute points. My one comment to add to that is regarding whichever book is supposedly anti-Christian – I haven’t read it. This isn’t an attack on you personally, just sharing my opinion on the matter. 🙂 My personal take on life, learning, and especially faith, is that we should teach our children to question, inquire, explore and learn for themselves. That is how lessons truly stick and how they define who they are. Being exposed to different view points opens up opportunities for us as parents to have those important discussions, share our thoughts and values, and ask our children what they think, encouraging them to truly contemplate. If we restrict reading or other venues of learning that push boundaries and raise questions, we are denying them the opportunity to think for themselves, and not just memorize and recite what we think is the “right” way of life. Those same principles are what I feel is also lacking in our nation’s education system: we should be teaching our children to think, not memorize and fall in line. And the faith of the blogger shouldn’t be a box she is then confined to in her reading choices. Right? Wouldn’t that be “falling in line”? Seems that she has an open mind – a sign of a strong woman, and a positive trait to pass on to her children! 🙂
Teresa Grodi says
I am less concerned about female roles in princess movies than I am about the way in which they portray child-parent relationships, or the “unrest” of the child for anything resembling a normal life. I think these thoughts probably fueled my ambitions to just get outside of my home and “be somebody” more than anything. The Little Mermaid lies to her father, makes a pact with the devil, runs away from home, and, as far as the plot goes, she made the right decisions and her dreams come true. Jasmine’s father is bumbling and out-of-step with the times, so she was right to disobey him too. In Tangled it was right to rebel against her mother, because she actually turn out to be a wicked, non-mother who stole her anyway. Although I love Beauty and the Beast and think it’s an excellent movie for my children to watch, did they really have to throw in that song about everyone in a village living a normal life as silly or just plain gross? Actually, ever Disney princess movie I can think of starts with the tension between the female lead and her culture/family. Somehow she has to be different and break out of her family and culture, usually through disobedience. What are these films saying about family life? What are they telling our kids? “Your parents don’t know nearly as much as you, so you should just make your own decisions, whatever the cost! They’ll see that you’re smarter and in true control of your life in the end.” I don’t like that. I’m sure there was a time in history where this wouldn’t have deterred kids from their families, but today’s culture is ripe for obedience and distrust of parents and authority, and it’s really going to be a battle we are fighting every day with our children, as we attempt to train them up as capable adults.
I’ve had a really hard time finding any kids shows that respect family life (with the exception of Daniel Tiger, Peppa Pig, and Travel with Kids). Every other show is just a gaggle of kids running around together. No mention of parents, and if parents are mentioned, it’s usually in a negative or really passive way. There’s no family culture portrayed to our children. They really are just being groomed to be thrown in a classroom with 30 other kids their calendar age from the time they are born… Ugh.
I am really looking for good movies that have families in them as well. Like I mentioned, we really like Travel with Kids (PBS) because it’s two young boys traveling around the world with their parents. Daniel Tiger is precious and everything in Peppa Pig (although stereotypical at times) is rather unassuming and always happens in the context of family. If anyone else has any suggestions of family-culture kids’ shows, I’d love to hear them!!
BUT, if you want to talk about an extremely misogynistic Disney movie that portrays its entire cast stereotypically…. my kids are never watching Peter Pan (the Disney movie) again!
Another good kid’s show with a great family relationship is Doc McStuffins. The parents are loving to one another, the kids are respectful to each other and their parents. I love that one…and Daniel Tiger too. Just wanted to add that one to your list! 🙂 -Jess
I grew up watching every Disney princess movie known to man and as far as I’m concerned, I grew to be a strong, independent woman. The only thing I dream of is having a library like the one in Beauty and the Beast. Those movies aren’t full of fake dreams, if you take the time to watch them, they have their own lessons and morals. Whenever I have kids, my daughter is going to watch them. And for the record, I’m in love with Jane Austen’s books. I’ve read P&P maybe ten times.
So one other book I would add, and I apologize if someone else mentioned it is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – the book! Frank L. Baum’s mother- in – law was s suffragette in the early twenties and had a very influential effect on how he saw women. He was a man very ahead of his time. Dorothy is portrayed as the strong hero who saves Tin Man, Lion and Scarecrow as opposed to just throwing water on the witch. Definitely a wonderful book showing the strength of women!
Last time I checked, Harry Potter, LOTR, most Jane Austen books, and just most of these books in general had happy endings. Most of the Disney movies have dark tragic moments, they had to work for things, and even ignoring that, they are likeable good characters, who are great role models with few exceptions.
Now on to the incluence of the movies, my mom didn’t actually like Mulan, Pocahantus, Hunchback of Notre Dame, or most of the movies that came after those, so I grew up with Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White, along with most disney haters favorite punching bag Ariel. I don’t care a whit about how I look, yeah I’m fairly average, Does it matter? Nope. I don’t view any guy I know as stronger than me, except in the literal yeah we arm wrestled and he beat me kind of way. And I’m sorry but you sound really negative which is another thing that I don’t have a problem with.
I don’t know about most kids but if you but I never had a problem discerning fairy tales from reality, neither did my sister, or any of my friends.
I hope that my children will be as kind as Snow, as hardworking as Cinderella (and more appreciated), as passionate as Ariel, as smart and unique as Belle, as brave as Mulan, as creative and happy as Rapunzel, as down to earth as Tiana, will to sacrifice themselves for the people they love like Pocahontas (though that one will be limited due to historical inaccuracy and the fact that the real girl is far more fascinating) and unwilling to tie themselves down to somebody they don’t love like Jasmin.
They believe in true love and they worked hard for it, and they earned their happy ending.
Well said! Couldn’t agree more!!! Please places off your high horse….we don’t want our girls to watch Disney but we let the schools/ tell our children, everyone wins, everyone can play on the team, no one fails at anything ect I believe these cartoons (remember) do teach our kids things, like hard work and dedication gets you places.
Alissa Dabdrea says
Read anything by TAMORA PIERCE! She wrote (to name a few)
The lioness quartet and many others that I can’t remember. I read them when I was growing up. AWESOME! The lioness quartet is about a girl that dresses up as boy to go to become a Knight. GREAT STORY 🙂 all of her books are fabulous and have strong, smart, and awesome female leads. I must say I was spoiled with books my whole life (grandmother owns her own bookstore), yet of all the authors I’ve read, he is and will always be a favorite.
I agree with everything you said about Tamora Pierce, except that he is a she. She has written many wonderful books which I continue to re-read as an adult.
I’d also recommend Diana Wynne Jones and Susan Cooper, both British children’s authors. Mary Grant Bruce is an Australian children’s author – her Billabong series is based around a resourceful and intelligent young woman named Norah. Not sure if they are available in print but I’ve downloaded some of these books from one of the free Kindle book sites.
The Higher Power of Lucky, Dealing with Dragons and The Paperbag Princess are all good reads as well. The last one is a must and all of these are accessable for elementary and middle school readers.
I remember enjoying the Tamora Pierce Lionness books but just to warn everyone the main girl character is a young teenager and has sex with the prince very early in the series. I remember finding it very shocking and wouldn’t want my daughter to read it as a young teenager herself.
Alissa Dabdrea says
Read anything by TAMORA PIERCE! She wrote (to name a few)
The lioness quartet and many others that I can’t remember. I read them when I was growing up. AWESOME! The lioness quartet is about a girl that dresses up as boy to go to become a Knight. GREAT STORY 🙂 all of her books are fabulous and have strong, smart, and awesome female leads. I must say I was spoiled with books my whole life (grandmother owns her own bookstore), yet of all the authors I’ve read, he is and will always be a favorite.
Morgain McGovern says
You forgot the books “The Secret Garden (1911)” &
“The Little Princess (1905) ” by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Sara Crewe, her sweet fourteen year old attic friend, and sour faced Mary and Colin?? I loved her stories. And the Illustrations!! Magnifique!
I have read and adored all but the last two (only because I haven’t read them yet…I will now!) and I can say this is a list I would love my ladies to get ahold of. <3
Thanks, Sheena! I’d love to get together with you and your precious gals soon 🙂
Ms. H says
I don’t know if it’s been mentioned yet, but Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli is another fantastic title with an astounding heroine. The sequel, not so much, but the original is the anti-Twilight. (It’s also nice because there’s a realistic element of romance, but the message is far bigger than the burgeoning relationship between the two protagonists.) My very feminist eight grade English teacher gave me a copy. …And now I am a very feminist 12th grade English teacher! )
YES!!! Stargirl is literally one of my most favorite books of all time!!!
Heather B from SC says
Yes, Stargirl is great for the around eleven and up set. It’s brilliant, and it made me totally cry.
I would recommend the Phantom Tollboth, a great book that highlights the importance of learning and adventures.
I haven’t read it, but it’s been recommended to me again and again. I’ll just have to get on that!
Vanessa @ Strickly Speaking says
I read (and watched) the Phantom Tollbooth when I was young and LOVED it. I need to read it again!
I was going to recommend this as well! Regardless of gender, it’s a fantastic story that teaches that your world is what you make of it.
Great, GREAT reading list. I’ve read about half, and agree so wholeheartedly that I’ll be ordering the remainder from Amazon in very short order. Thank you!
Sonya Cronin says
I have enjoyed the Pellinor series, but I haven’t yet fully analyzed them yet : )
I haven’t read those but I’ll check them out!
The Pellinor books do have a strong female lead who does struggle but eventually realizes her strength and goes on to succeed.
This series does have a ‘strong’ female lead, but I’d be cautious in recommending it to most people, because in the end she succeeds by embracing both the ‘Dark’ and the ‘Light’ .
What a great list! “Till We Have Faces” has been one of my very, very favorites for many years now, all thanks to a wonderful college professor. He and I continue to have discussions about the lessons learned from this book as well as many other C.S. Lewis and other Inklings books. With that said, I think one of the greatest series I will read to both of my children in the future is “The Chronicles of Narnia.”
I also think you should consider letting Lucy read, when she’s much older, “The Hunger Games.” This series has mixed reviews, yes, but I see it sending a message of a girl who prioritizes family and country over love interests. Though she has weak moments (she’s human, we all have weak moments), she is overall a strong and inherently beautiful young woman. I can’t wait for Wimberly to be old enough to read (and understand) this series.
Jenna, I can’t believe I forgot Narnia! Good call. And I’m dying to read The Hunger Games. I’ll have to read the first one before the movie comes out and then we can discuss.
Kristin Morrissey says
I have a 9 year old daughter and I read the Hunger Games, though she has not yet. I agree completely that the main character is simultaneously strong, flawed, unique and normal. Though the hype around the series is a little much, I’m thrilled that our culture is embracing a story with such a strong female lead.
This is so wonderful.
And I can be quite worried about raising my girl, as well. All of the excess, the gaudiness, and the superficiality of our culture’s definition of femininity, all of the passive princess talk (save me! rescue me!) floating around above our heads….
I am going to jot this list down!
And you have inspired me to read more Jane Austen this year.
Thanks, Amy! And we’re going to be in TX in March. Hope we’ll get to see you and your amazing family!
I LOVE this. I read a pretty convincing article recently that argued Hermione Granger may be one of the most healthy young female role models to come out of pop culture in the past 10 years. I can’t help but agree. I’m also a Phantom Tollbooth fan. But I guess that’s more for any child, and less of a girl empowerment book. 🙂 This made me so happy. Miss you!
I think I read the same article! Really good. Miss you, too! Saw your mom at Mass on Sat. night. She’s awesome.
Heather B from SC says
Past ten years? Past EVER. Hermione and Ginny are all of Rowling’s female characters are strong and powerful and confident in themselves… the few who are not are used a pawns for evil, which is a lessen in and of itself. There are lots of strong female characters in her books that make varied choices… some are geeky and some are sporty and some are even wicked and sneaky, but these are good lessons: I like to talk with mine about these books and say “whoa re you going to be? Which one do you want to be like? Why?”
She’s not too young for Pride & Prejudice.. see? http://www.amazon.com/Pride-Prejudice-BabyLit-Board-English/dp/1423622022/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1327937052&sr=8-1
My nine-month-old has this, and thinks the pages taste yummy. I think it’s awesome. Really, though, it’s just a counting book… 1 English Village, 2 Handsome Men, 3 Charming Houses, etc.
that. is. amazing.
10,000 Pounds a Year! My one-year-old got this for her birthday from her Godmother, and it is definitely her favorite book! We read it over and over again.
Girl books I enjoyed:
“Hadder MacColl” by Patricia Calvert, “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” (folk-tale), “Mother Holle” (folk tale), “The Railway Children” by Nesbit, “Nightbirds on Nantucket” by Joan Aiken, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain, “Joan of Arc” by Mark Twain, “The Witch of Blackbird Pond” by Elizabeth George Speare, “A Voice from the Border” by Pamala Smith Hill, “Quest for a Maid” by Frances Mary Hendry, “Gift of the Magi” by O Henry (Christmas), “The Black Arrow” by R.L. Stevenson, “Caddie Woodlawn” by Carol Ryrie Brink, “Jack and Jill,” “Eight Cousins,” and “Little Men” by LM Alcott, “Toinette and the Elves” by Susan Coolidge (Christmas), “Mandy” by Julie Andrews Edwards, “Magic for Marigold” by LM Montgomery
Lit and History:
most shakespeare but especially “A Merchant of Venice” and “Twelfth Night,” “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom, “Crime and Punishment” by Dostoevsky, “Anna Karenina” by Tolstoy, “The Pastor’s Wife” Savina Wurmbrand, “The Long Loneliness” by Dorothy Day, any biography of Edith Stein, “A Room of Ones Own” by Virginia Woolf, “Death Comes for the Archbishop” by Cather, “Howards End” by E.M. Forester, “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte, and “Grace Notes” by Bernard MacLaverty.
(PS I never cared for the Anne of Green Gables books, the Girl of the Limberlost, Freckles, or anything by Jane Austin, so don’t be too offended if you can’t convince your baby girl to love them).
I absolutely second the Black Arrow. I got it in a box set of classics (don’t think it would have occurred to anyone to get it for me otherwise) and absolutely loved it.
Caddie Woodlawn was SUCH a favorite growing up, good call! And The Witch of Blackbird Pond is another that’s stuck with me. I also want to recommend Watership Down by Richard Adams, the Dealing with Dragons series (the heroine, Cimorene, is the type of person I’ve always aspired to) by Patricia C. Wrede, The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (definitely when your daughter’s a bit older), The Good Master and The Singing Tree (sequel) by Kate Seredy–both tell the story of Kate, a young girl trying to figure things out with the extended family that’s taken her in, and The Singing Tree is especially memorable for its depictions of how people were affected by World War I.
So many great suggestions!The Kate Seredy books, The Good Master, and The Sining Tree are wonderful! And Caddie Woodlawn. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl should be read too.
Eight Cousins was one of my very favorite books!
PS anything my Madeleine L’Engle
These are fantastic suggestions, Marianna! And there’s a few titles that I haven’t ever read. I think I could handle it if Lucy doesn’t like Girl of the Limberlost or Freckles, but I might cry if she doesn’t like Anne or Austen. I’ll just have to send her for a visit to Aunt Marianna and Uncle Brandon’s while I recover 🙂
Karen Edmisten says
Haley, such a great list, love it. And I have long adored Till We Have Faces. It’s so powerful.
Soooo on board with you re. Twilight ….
That picture of your Lucy looks almost exactly like my girls as babies.
I don’t think that a mama with a reading list like this needs to worry about her girls. 🙂
Thanks, Karen! I received Through the Year with Mary for Christmas and it’s wonderful 🙂
Karen Edmisten says
Yes to all these! And all the Betsy-Tacy books, plus the other Deep Valley books by Maud Hart Lovelace (especially Emily of Deep Valley). Bella at Midnight by Diane Stanley. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander.
Thanks for the suggestions, Beth. I keep hearing good things about the Prydain Chronicles!
The Prydain Chronicles are my absolute favorite books ever! Lots of great morals without being preachy. I can’t wait to read them to my daughter. Thank you for the great list of books! 🙂
OK, I keep hearing about the Prydain Chronicles. Maybe I should add them to my summer reading 🙂
I second the notion for A Wrinkle in Time!
was JUST going to suggest the Betsy-Tacy books. Loved them as a little girl and have been meaning to get my hands on a copy of the set!
I for one loved Anne, the Continuing Story (I’m a sucker for a war romance) but you just have to separate it completely from the original series. In itself, I thought it was a good film but yeah, it basically has nothing to do with the storyline…
London La Quinta says
I want to 2nd the Betsy-Tacy series. They are set at the beginning of the 20th century, yet the girls all go off to university or get jobs after high school. Some girls even work after marriage. I can’t say enough about this wonderful series that I discovered as an adult. My favorite: Emily of Deep Valley.
I’ve never read the Betsy-Tacy books but I know I’m missing out! They are certainly on my list of “to reads.” 🙂 Thanks!
Don’t forget The Secret Garden and A Little Princess. Both about girls who overcame adversity in their own ways.
I second these. My 9 yr old read them recently and we both loved them.
Jeniffer Smith says
I third it! Wonderful books with strong female leads. 🙂
Missy @ It's Almost Naptime says
I heart Beverly Cleary. Ramona & Beezus were dear friends of mine as a child.
I’d also add biographies of strong women to the list.
I recently read that Louisa May Alcott detested little girls, she only wrote the book for the money. Interesting, huh?
Don’t tell me such things about Louisa, haha! I’m going to forget you told me. I love Little Women so much.
Jen Starks says
There are many books on there I haven’t even read. Thanks for posting a new reading list for me 🙂
Glad you enjoyed it, Jen! I’m loving the cloth diapers that Claire helped me register for! In fact, I’m using disposables on an out-of-town trip this week and they are leaking everywhere. Can’t wait to get back to my GroVias!
Eva Cusack says
Sorry to jot in at such a random place in the discussion thread. I couldn’t really figure out how else to comment. Apology aside, I love your list and have read all but one which I’ll make tracks to read soon. I’m especially pleased you have Kristin Lavransdatter on your list as I found this to be one of the most beautiful books ever written about not just a woman but also her soul, it moved me no end and I was so sorry when I finished reading it. I too want to pass on a love for all these authors and these works however I’ll be adding ‘Heidi’ by Johanna Spyri to the list. A wonderful account of a young girl’s love of nature, family, friends: young and old, life and God. A girl with courage, joie de vivre, gumption and brains. A real heroine.
Love your blog Hayley! Thanks for being so honest and generous with your thoughts.
Thank you, Eva! 🙂
Just came across this on Pinterest today. I would suggest The Blue Sword, The Hero and the Crown, and Belle by Robin McKinley (actually, probably anything by Robin McKinley, but those three are my favorites). Good, strong female leads.
Thanks for the suggestion!
I have to second this! I love Robin McKinley so much, I named my daughter Aerin afterThe Hero and the Crown!
Oh yes yes yes to Belle!!! That’s my all-time favorite book. I actually went and bought it from my high school library when I was a teenager because I had borrowed it six times in a row and my librarian wanted me to find something else. 😛
Sally Adebayo says
Think younger…Pippi Longstocking is the epitome of a powerful ,adventurous girl!
Yes! Pippi Longstocking! I remember her being an intelligent, funny, and unique character, and great for younger kids that don’t need the romance from a book like The Hunger Games.
There’s a newish series out called Clementine, by Sara Pennypacker which is very good. It’s basically an updated Ramona and Beezus.
Also, Lyra from the His Dark Materials (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass) series, by Phillip Pullman was a very strong, capable, compassionate and clever girl.
Finally, Coraline, by Neil Gaiman. You can tell this was a book written by a father to his daughters. Bravery and self reliance are difficult qualities to teach. 🙂
Great list! I’ve read a lot of them, and I’m adding the others to my list. I have two daughters and am always looking for positive role models for them. It just kills me the people our world seems to be presenting for them to look up to…Thanks for sharing!
I was scrolling through hoping that SOMEONE would mention His Dark Materials! Best young heroine out there. She is funny, and smart, and strong, and passionate, and naive. Lyra is freaking awesome.
I’ll toss my hat in for His Dark Materials, Lyra and I walked through our pivotal years together. It’s a wonderful series of a girl always striving to do the right thing, in an unjust world, and in spite of her human flaws.
Yes, Dark Materials is great, Lyra is awesome and grows so much throughout the series too. There was another somewhat “dark” ya series called “Abhorsen” years ago that I loved the main character too. I think it was by Garth Nix.
Yes yes yes to His Dark Materials! Lyra is a fantastic protagonist. I was thrilled when my younger cousin lent me the books. They get better as they go too.
I’d also recommend (my younger cousin has great taste) the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett. Side-splittingly funny and Tiffany is a great strong girl learning to be a witch (which turns out to be a lot of tough dirty work and not much magic).
Heather B from SC says
I’ve only read the graphic novel of Coraline, and the demonology aspect made me nauseated. I can’t endorse that one, but I haven’t read the other ones, so I don’t know them…at least Coraline chooses to escape in the end…
Wow, you’re so right. I concur with ALL your comments (especially about “The Continuing Story” killing a part of you). The only thing I haven’t read is your #10, which I think I’ll promptly go get. =)
Yes! Kristin Lavransdatter is so good! I hope you like it.
Oh, great list. I love it! Like you, I worry about the images of young women (and even little girls!) in so many books. All those horrid Barbie and Princess books that just belong in the recycling bin! I have started reading the Little House books with my girls, and I love them just as much now as I did as a kid.
I can’t wait til Lucy’s old enough to enjoy Little House. They are just delightful!
Tiffiny Wolf says
I can truly say that the majority of these I have read and they have formed the platform for my literary backbone! In fact, I have made a practice of re-reading little women every march since I was in college. Anne of green gables? The mere mention of ” puffy sleeved dress” sends me into sobs every time! One that I would include is “woman of independent means”…it’s another one that you learn something new from every time you read it… I have a 3 yr old son and am counting the days til I can pass Dow these literary heirlooms to a little girl of my own!
I have a 3-year-old boy, too! I just started reading Little House in the Big Woods to him and was pleasantly surprised that there is so much in it that would interest a little boy. But we do have to read it while he’s taking a bath, otherwise he gets too distracted. Thanks for the recommendation!
Put Little Britches on your future list for your son then……I bought a copy, haven’t read it yet but it’s supposed to be a male version of the little house books-more action packed. There are a whole series.
Little Britches is a fantastic book! My mom read it to me and my brother when we were young and we loved it. I’ve gone back and re-read as an adult and look forward to reading it to my kids.
100% agree with all the ones I have read (I’m only missing two, and I definitely will read them now)!
Anne is definitely #1 in my book, but I would also add the Emily books by L.M. Montgomery, too. (And you’re totally right about Anne the Continuing Story, it isn’t even worth one watch.)
I would also recommend Up a Road Slowly, by Irene Hunt. I read it as a twelve-year old girl and have loved it ever since.
I like the Emily series even better than the Anne series, though I love them both. And I would also add The Hunger Games, as others have suggested.
I recently acquired Emily of New Moon but haven’t cracked the pages, yet! Now i’m excited!
The Emily of New Moon trilogy is AMAZING. She’s like Anne in the fact that she is an orphan, a writer, and loves to name places. But she is definitely her own character. I re-read all my LMM books constantly…EVERYTHING by LMM is good, though Anne Shirley will always be #1. 🙂 I agree with everyone else about Chronicles of Narnia, A Little Princess, Secret Garden, Mandy (Julie Andrews Edwards), etc. Another author I love is Gail Carson Levine. Probably best known for Ella Enchanted, but she also wrote The Princess Tales (classic fairy tales retold where the girl character is never helpless or boring) and The Two Princesses of Bamarre, which is all about finding strength. There are so many more that I can’t think of at the moment. My daughter is due in 4 weeks and I’m quite excited about reading all my books to her!
Also The Giver, The Messenger, and Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry (not sure if these were mentioned, I couldnt get through all 500+ comments). The lead is not always a girl, but just like boys benefit from books about girls, I think it goes the opposite way as well. The Giver especially has some very important messages about society and what we value.
I read Up a Road Slowly as a girl (at first because the main character, Julie, and I share our name) and it affected me quite a bit. I have always wondered if it was the strength of the writing or that name connection, so it is interesting to hear someone else who enjoyed it!
I loved that book as well as her other books, ‘No Promises in the Wind’ and ‘Lottery Rose’! I read a lot as a young girl and loved the books that really moved me. I also read and recommend for younger readers, The Boxcar Children, any books by the author of Misty of Chincoteague, Nancy Drew, Dana Girls, A Little Princess, Daddy-long-legs. There are others but my memory is as good as it used to be. I’m trying to find good books myself. My daughter is 7. I was reading most of these books at her age.
Kerissa Lyman says
so many great suggestions here! but i think the very best has been left out…….the BIBLE! there are many stories about amazing women who are great role models. and then there is Jesus, who is the best role model there is. the Bible is the true guide to life.
I found this list via Pinterest–love that site. I would add one of my favorites from when I was a girl (cough, a lot of years ago now but I have a 3 year old so am pretending to be young). “The Maude Reed Tale” is a story of a young girl in old England who wanted to be a wool merchant but her parents sent her to court to become a lady. I LOVED that book.
I’ve never read it! Thanks for the suggestion, Ellen!
Amy JUdd says
The Paper Bag Princess is a MUST! The best for girl empowerment!!
Susan Goldie says
Absolutely agree with this and would add a book called Cinder Edna. She is Cinderella’s next door neighbour who, when it is time for the ball, has a dress on layaway from the money she earned cutting grass, and takes the bus to the ball. She is totally charming and self-sufficient.
Absolutely must-read “The Paper Bag Princess” to counter act the princess-materialistic culture forced on our young girls from every direction. I just read it at the store and cracked up laughing at the awesome ending! I bought it for a 2 year old so make sure it’s in your library soon! 🙂 Fantastic blog post, I look forward to reading more. I also would recommend “My Name is NOT Isabella” – fantastic for young girls! I can’t recall the author, but I read through it at Barnes & Noble.
I’ve heard so many folks recommend “The Paper Bag Princess” so I will definitely be adding it to our library 🙂
Heather B from SC says
It is such a good one! I had memorized it by nine and did it as a reading to get into a talent class.
Yes, that’s one of my all-time faves! It’s great for little girls who aren’t reading chapter books yet (and little boys, too.)
“The Paper Bag Princess” is essential – and a fantastic (young) children’s book. Buy it today – it is GIRL POWER!!!
Because Of Winn Dixie by Kate Dicamillo is fantastic for younger girls. Very strong female who had to go through hard things, but kept her head up and learned to be responsible. I love all things Kate Dicamillo, but that is I think the strongest female role in any of her books.
Kristin Morrissey says
I’ll second this. My 9 year old reads it every couple of months.
I found your blog through a friend’s post on facebook! As a mom of seven year old twin girls, I couldn’t agree more. I love these books! Anne is by far my very, very favorite character ever. I have read the books so many times, I feel like she grew up with me. I can’t wait to read the Green Gables series (along with Little House on the Prairie and many others you listed) with my own girls!
I read one or two of the Anne books every year! They’re perfect company when I’m in bed with a cold or something. My husband gifted me the audiobook for Anne’s House of Dreams this Christmas and I’m so excited to hear it because I haven’t read that one in forever!
The Little House books were a huge part of my childhood but I read most of the Judy Blume books over and over. I think Judy Blume almost wrote handbooks for adolescent girls….
I never read a Judy Blume book…did I miss out?
Liz S. says
One more suggestion to add to your growing list: What about Miss Rumphius? It’s a picture book, so she’ll be able to enjoy it a little sooner. My mother read it to me, and the basic message “You must do something to make the world more beautiful” has stuck with me.
I don’t have that one, but I remember reading it as a kid! We’ll have to find a copy. Thanks!
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch is an awesome read for young girls. I give it to the older ones when they’re old enough to date.
I keep hearing about this one! I’ve just got to get it from the library.
For babies, read The Paperbag Princess By Robert Munsch. In simpler board book for younger babies. I started reading it to my daughter when around 6 months, one of her favourites.
Well L is 6 months old now so I better get on this! 🙂
I love it!!! Thank you so much for wanting your daughter to be a strong independent individual. 6 of my favorite books are on this list, so maybe that is why I turned out to be the way that I am haha. growing up my sister and I looked up to the strong women in books like these, not to idiots in reality television, and it was AMAZING how much more mature and advanced we were to those around us. Get her addicted to reading at an early age, and you will never regret it!! It it THE one thing that can help them have a better future. I was already reading at a second grade level by kindergarten, and I was a lover of reading my entire life from then on!! Make it something you do together, and it will also add some great quality bonding time in as well. That was how my sister and I bonded, through reading books together.
If you need any advice or anything, don’t hesitate to email me. Though I don’t know you, I have plenty of experience with girls. Not only through many baby cousins, but I have MANY teachers in my family so I know a tihng or two about educating children and what can help them succeed!
I used to run the childrens department of our local indie bookstore (yes that included the teen section and… unfortunately… all the delights of peddling Twilight to impressionable young girls). I always recommended Tuck Everlasting. Great story of a girl finding herself and pushing the limits of the world around her and yes she falls in love with a boy who lives forever but ***SPOILER WARNING!!!*** instead of throwing her life into the arms of teenage love she decides to live her OWN life and not run away with the handsome immortal boy.
I’m glad someone recommended Tuck Everlasting. The whole time I was reading Twilight I kept screaming in my head that someone needs to give this girl a copy of Tuck Everlasting. One of my all time favorite books and definately stuck with me. On a side note, it’s been awhile since I read it (about 10 years before I read HP) but when I read about Molly Weasley she reminded me of the mom in this book.
Found ya via Pinterest. A hard to find YA fantasy series (but you can order it at Barnes & Noble) is The Shamer’s Daughter by Lene Kaaberbol. The books are exciting, and they also get you really thinking about the consequences of your actions. Fair warning: a few stronger terms (at least damn; I can’t recall if something else) and the girl has a bad relationship with her absent father. However, I recommend these books to everyone I know with a tween daughter.
I haven’t read those! I’ll look them up 🙂
A young girl facing and conquering adversity…A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Easily my all-time favorite book. Probably not for a very young teen, but mid to late teens, absolutely.
Jenn @ My Fabuless Life says
ABSOLUTELY my FAVORITE book of all time!!! And such a strong female character overcoming a lot of adversity!
Couldn’t believe it took sooo long for someone to add “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”!! I was beginning to question myself!! I think Francie is one of the greatest heroines of all. She is smart, a voracious reader, insightful, ambitious, loving, and courageous……talk about surviving life’s “little vicissitudes”. There is a controversial rape scene in the book and has been on many banned book lists because of it, so it is strictly for an older girl, but a must-read for any self-respecting ‘wanna-be woman’…..
Elizabeth Sherman says
Love this! The Little House books were the books that really made me be a reader. Two years ago I was able to go to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home in Mansfield, Missouri (one of the first things on my list of things to do before I die). Anyway, some of my other favorite books:
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
I haven’t read The Ordinary Princess, although I’ve read some of Kaye’s other books. I’ll have to find a copy!
Oh yes! GREAT book suggestions! The Ordinary Princess is a favorite of mine!
Anna G says
OH! I totally forgot about Island of the Blue Dolphins!! I first read that book for school in about 4th or 5th grade, and I thieved an old copy of it from one of my classrooms. I found it several years back (I’m 23 now) and read it again. It was even better than I remembered!
I adored the Ramona books (Beverly Cleary), Matilda (Roald Dahl), and the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle Series. I can’t wait to read these to both my son and daughter. After all it’s important to raise a aware and sensitive man as well as raising an informed and intelligent daughter! 🙂
I quite agree! I adored Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. Maybe my 3-year-old son would be ready for it if I could get him to sit still long enough!
Emilee Pugh says
“What Katy Did.” Changed my life; gave it perspective. Also, more of a little girl book, but “Once Upon a Marigold” is really good. The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Hobbit, and the Yearling. I remember my Dad reading them to me.
If I could add one more to my list, I think it would be Narnia. I love them so! And my daughter is a Lucy just like Lucy Pevensie.
What a fantastic list (found it on Pinterest). I’ve read and loved all but the last two, which I will now be looking out for, and I first read Till We Have Faces when I was about 12 or 13. Didn’t fully understand it, but it was one of my favourite books for ages. Must read it again now I’m 33! 😀
And I agree with your thoughts about Faramir, and lots of the other suggestions people have made too.
So now I have to follow your blog. 🙂
I think you’ll love Til We Have Faces as a re-read! I re-read it late in college and finally “got it” for the first time. Still amazed that a man could write SO WELL from a woman’s perspective.
When my son was born 11 weeks ago, I was taken off guard, sure I was going to have a girl that I could raise to be a self-assured woman who would change the world. But then I realized that little boys have just as much potential to eradicate sexism once and for all. SURELY things will change and both men and women will begin to reject unfair stereotypes like we’ve done for all sorts of other oppressed groups, right?? Anyway, my comment is that I plan to read all of these to my son as well. He should be equally as comfortable with strong female protagonists and learn to recognize women in literature as something more than a pair of boobs. After all, he’s going to be in the same classes and offices as your daughters.
Also, and not that TV should ever take the place of books, Avatar: The Last Airbender is the most amazing animated television show I’ve ever seen with female characters the like of which you’ve never seen before. They truly kick ass with not an ounce of gratuitous sexiness.
Sherry Gorse says
I love this list. I haven’t read 5 or 10! I’m especailly intrigued by the CS Lewis one! My favorite book series growing up were the Betsy-Tacy books by Maude Hart Lovelace. They are about girls growing up in Mankato, MN around the turn of the last century and are semi-autobiographical.
The Betsy-Tacy books have been recommended to me so many times. They are on my list to acquire! Thanks, Sherry!
The Lovely Bones.
Anything by Judy Blume (for younger readers)
that’s just off the top of my head.
Great list!! I think it’s also helpful to include some more modern works. Love that you mentioned Harry Potter! We’re too quick to shove “classics” at our kids… it’s great for them to read classic books, of course, but I think they also need books that they can relate to, that are relevant to their own place in time.
I’m partial to Cold Comfort Farm, but that’s more of a late high school/college book!
I haven’t read that one! I did see the movie with Kate Beckinsale but I have no idea if it’s remotely faithful to the book.
Lindsay T says
You forgot The Awakening by Kate Chopin!
Colleen Ivins says
I don’t see Helen Keller or Anne Frank.Those two young women shaped my life.I have 3 daughters. and 3 granddaughters. Can’t wait to delve into this list!!!!
I remember really enjoying Helen Keller’s The Story of my Life as a girl.
I’m going to second – Up a road slowly by Irene hunt, that was mentioned by a commenter, Also Jacob have I loved by Katherine Paterson, and any book by Cynthia Voigt. These were ones that I also enjoyed as a child/teen. I was also agree with commenter about Hunger Games. I also read more of the Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary books. Also a book that stuck with me when I was a teen – was Go ask Alice.
All good books to consider. Right now my 6 yr is more into the magictree house series. She loves the Harry Potter movies (will do the books soon) and commenter mentioned Avatar the last airbender (tv show not movie – although my daughter has seen both)
There are many good books out there – Takes to this post to pinterest I can work on finding more books.
All great books for young girls and also for boys. I have one boy and two girls and have introduced many of these books to him as well. Books with strong female characters are just as important for him as they are for my girls. Thank you for the list.
Found this via Pinterest, and it’s fantastic! I’ve read almost all of them and will be adding the ones I haven’t read to my list.
Just wanted to add… Dealing with Dragons by Patricia Wrede. Great YA book!
I really like this list and only have read about half of the books. I look forward to reading the others posted. I mostly worry about my daughter being as much of a people-pleaser as I was and not demanding respect from men. I plan on trying to place strong women in her life as much as possible. I also wonder, should I show her all the unpleasant views of women? Just to show her what she may be up against?
Something I want her to read as a teenager is a book called “I kissed dating goodbye” by Joshua (can’t remember the last name). It is a completely wholesome look at what dating should be about and from a man’s perspective. Definitely worth reading as a mom, if not as a duo.
Your list was great to begin with and is amazing now! In addition to all the treasures already listed I have a few more that are well loved at our house. The first two are for little girls: “The Wolves in the Walls” Neil Gaiman and “The 100 Dresses” Eleanor Estes. For early elementary girls: “Addie on the Inside” by James Howe and “Alchemy and Maggie Swan” by Karen Cushman. For upper elementary school girls: the Warrior’s series by Erin Hunter, “Last Survivors Trilogy” by Susan Beth Pfeffer and Gemma Malley’s trilogy that starts with “The Declaration.” Then middle school (and beyond) holds The Young Royals series by Carolyn Meyer and all the classics already listed!
There are some great suggestions in here! Thanks! I definitely want to get the Eleanor Estes book.
Anna G says
This reminded me of all the Dear America books that I used to read as a young girl. Not only did they introduce me to some wonderful female characters that happened to be about my age at the time, but it also got me really interested in history. There are also a bunch of similar fictional diary-style books of prominent royal historical figures such as Elizabeth I of England, Isabella of Spain, and Cleopatra. Of course, in the same vein are the American Girl books.
A Reader says
Kudos to you! I think this is one of the best things a parent can do preparatory to raising a child- making a list of good books their children can read. This is not to restrict their choices, but to help them make a good start specially when there’s fluff like the twilight series flying around. I’ll remember to do this when I grow up too!
I think you should add the Prydain chronicles by Lloyd Alexander to this list. Eilonwy is an amazingly strong, intelligent, female character. And funny to boot. Also, any book by Madeleine L’Engle. My favorite is A Ring of Endless Light. A wonderful book for any teen or preteen girl.
I keep hearing about the Prydain chronicles. And I LOVED L’Engle as a little girl. Thanks for reminding me!
Sarah Silvester says
Yes, I was given “A ring of endless light” when I was 12 or so, and it remains one of my most favourite books plus my introduction into the Austin family, and the world of Madeleine L’engle. Vicky Austin is not perfect, but she is interesting, and different, and a writer, and she stays true to herself. I love your suggestions. I need to get the gumption to start reading aloud to my daughter (she is almost 4!), I feel like she’d be a bit bored – but I won’t know unless I try! Thanks for such an inspiring list:) Some on my future reading list now!
Love all of these and love your blog (just found it via Pinterest). Two other great ones that I read when I was young were Island of the Blue Dolphins & Mandy by Julie Edwards.
So excited to see Girl of the Limberlost. I had completely forgotten about that book.
Thanks, Jenn! Have you read the prequel to Limberlost titled Freckles? It’s great, too!
Jenn @ My Fabuless Life says
I didn’t even know there was a prequel. I’ll definitely have to pick it up!
My fave of all time is Mandy… So few have heard of it.
Little princess, secret garden… Faves too. Lots on the list i haven’t read but must get to. As an adult don’t forget Francine Rivers. I love her books.
Jenn @ My Fabuless Life says
Mandy was one of those ones that really made me LOVE reading. To this day, one of my favorite books of all time.
I really loved Daddy Long Legs (Jean Webster), not only is the main female character witty and strong but it makes you want to write real letters again.
I am actually reading it yet one more time this days… Thank you free kindle e-books!
Whitney S. says
Your list is wonderful and I’m happy to have read most of them and will enjoy sharing them with my daughter when she gets old enough. And while I am a rabid Jane Austin fan, I have to bring up that Fanny Price, from Mansfield Park, is probably the only Austin character that I dislike – a lot. In fact, she’s a lot like Bella in some ways. She’s so inspidily insistent on just letting things happen to her. The only time she stood up for anything was in rejecting Henry Crawford but that mostly because she was still hoping beyond hope that Edmund would not marry Mary Crawford, rather that the better reason that they were a terrible match. And even in the end, when Edmund does marry her, it feels more like he did it out of the fact that Mary didn’t want to marry him rather than being with the person best for him. Ugh.
Through all my re-reads of Mansfield Park I’ve grown to love Fanny but dislike Edmund. I think due to Fanny’s innate disposition, she actually acts pretty courageously in defying everyone to do what she thinks is right and to refuse to marry a man she doesn’t respect. But Edmund…well, he’s just kind of lame. Mary Crawford, Edmund? Really? She’s obviously terrible. Any man that likes her can’t really be worth getting.
This is a great list. 🙂 Not a mother, but found your entry through a friend on Facebook. I’m definitely an avid reader, though. I would reiterate suggestions of Hunger Games, Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, and “The Witch of Blackbird Pond.” All amazing books. Also amazing books, for a younger reader, are the American Girl series. I cannot speak for all of them, as I haven’t read them all, but they are all six book series in different time periods and all about strong, courageous young women fighting for the right thing. They’re amazing. All the heroines are nine/ten, but the books can be easily followed by younger kids and are super short. And…Wow, I could probably list an entire library, but I cannot seem to think right now. I read a lot when I was little…still do…Good luck introducing her to the wide, wide world of literature. 🙂
I LOVED the American Girl books. Especially the Addy, Felicity, and Molly books. I saved all mine and can’t wait til Lucy is big enough to enjoy them.
Ellen Renwick says
My daughter, now almost 25, has read and loved both the Twilight books and the Potter series. I made it thru all the Potter books – thought Rowling got a little tedious at times, but had to drag myself thru the first Bella book, holding my nose the entire time. And I love to read! I told my daughter there was no way I could stomach any more of that twaddle, if she wanted sexy vampires to read Ann Rice. (So far, she has ignored this advice and just purchased The Hunger Games books and The Girl Who …books – none of which I’ve had time to read) This same daughter read the Jean Auel books at 12-13, owns 4 horses, a pick-up, a horse trailer, and has a great job as an MRI tech and has no real interest in having a boyfriend right now – “when would I have time for one?” she asks. I read “King of the Wind” and “Misty of Chincoteague” to her, along with the Thoroughbred series books, Lord of the Rings, and Little Women. Hiding all my own fears and worries, I raised her to be proud of her accomplishments. She plays piano, was a dancer in her teens(soloed), has been riding since age 8, earned a black belt at 10, spent a couple summers cowgirling on a WY ranch, and earned summa cum degrees in both radiography and MRI. She is clear-thinking, competent, and kind. Bet you can tell she makes me proud! And April March – I also read the Little Women, Little Men, and Jo’s Boys books to my younger son, at his request. And Sherry Gorse, thanks for the reminder! We read the Betsy-Tacy books too, and loved them.
I LOVE THIS!!!! Oh my word! Wonderful. You included all my favorites (except that I have never read Harry Potter and don’t intend to), including Girl of the Limberlost!
I completely agree with you about that horrible Anne, The Continuing Story. What in the world was that?! I was actually so very disappointed that Megan Follows even agreed to play that role. I bet Lucy Maude Montgomery rolled over in her grave.
Ah! The Continuing Story was just the WORST. I agree, Montgomery would be appalled!
Arielle Sprinkle Brents says
The Continuing Story does kill a part of your soul– I lost my copy on purpose. I love the list and have read all but the last two and agree completely with all of them. Have you ever read The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery. If not– go do it– now. Believe me you will be glad you did.
Haha, lost your copy on purpose! I love it. I haven’t read The Blue Castle but I’m itching for some more Montgomery. Thanks for the suggestion!
The Little Princess! “Every girl is a princess” Teaches a good lesson on how to love people as they are.
The Secret Garden – loved this one when I was a little girl.
Lisa Lint-Vander Zouwen says
I’m so pleased to see you included “A Girl of the Limberlost”. It’s been a favorite of mine for years and I hope my daughter loves it like I do.
If I were to add one book, it would be “To Kill A Mockingbird”!
This list and comments brought back so many memories. I loved the emily books, ramona, matilda, narnia, little house. I would also suggest the wolves of willoby chase. For maybe 10 or 11 yrs old.
Great suggestions! I would also recommend anything by Diana Wynne Jones, whose fantasy books are full of imperfect (therefore more realistic), powerful female characters. I especially suggest the Howl’s Moving Castle trilogy. Also, as long as you can be sure your daughter is reading the Twilight series in full mockery mode, I believe she will be safe from harm. I myself have read them but so far feel no ill effects. My book role models still include many of the female characters above, especially those from Harry Potter. One last suggestion would be To Kill A Mockingbird. Other than that, great list!
What a great discussion! I would like to add Sharon Creech to this list. Her YA novels are wonderful.
Melissa L. says
Ok, I think we are kindred spirits! La, la, la LOVE your list and I’m excited that there are a few titles I haven’t read- I so enjoy getting my hands on new books that have the potential to become old friends! I’m now going to follow your blog simply by reading your list and your comments about each book (Anne the Continuing Story <>; soul-killing dribble),
Another commenter posted about the Jean Auel books and while the last few books are not nearly as gripping and sometimes even tedious, the first few portray a strong, smart, rock solid yet human girl growing up in a VERY challenging environment. There are some sexual overtones to parts of the book (maybe the author was frustrated in that department?) but I also remember reading some of it and just sort of normalizing those things; it’s part of life.
Thanks for such a wonderful post to encourage, not only great reading, but positive self image to our daughters.
Thanks for the kind words, Melissa! And for following!
Jo Ann says
I read The Little Engine that Could to my kids when they were babies and continued until they could read it themselves. Pay attention to the gender of the trains. The trains that will not “lower themselves” to help are male. The Liitle Engine that does, is female. 🙂 Young readers will enjoy The Kingdom Keepers series. Girls and boys protecting Walt Disney World.
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede are great. The main character is a princess whose parents won’t let her do magic or fight with swords or learn to cook, so she runs away to live with a dragon. When the princes come to “rescue” her, she chases them away. She’s quite the spunky female character.
These were my favorite books growing up! I recently reread them and fell even more in love with them! They are a must!
Whitney Jones says
The Paper Bag Princess! This is Beyond a staple in my home! It is a childrens book, but packs in a powerful message!!!
I love this book too. Fun story with an important message.
I came across this list on Pinterest, and I love the books on it, both in the original post and in the comments. I have read the majority of them and there are some really amazing books here! It gets me excited to eventually read them with my baby daughter.
I was so disappointed, however, to see that no one has listed Ella Enchanted yet! This was my very favorite book growing up, and the heroine is so inspiring for a young girl. Ella is actually cursed to HAVE to do what people tell her to, and yet does everything in her power to live her own life and break the curse. She even tries to sacrifice her own life, love, and happiness for the safety of the kingdom and the love of her life. She is strong and courageous and brave.
(Please DO NOT confuse the book Ella Enchanted with that wretched movie with the same name. The movie belongs in the garbage, completely destroyed the book. The book is classic and so much fun for a young girl to read.)
Ok, I promise to read Ella Enchanted and ignore the movie entirely 🙂 Thanks for the suggestion!
I kept reading to make sure that Ella Enchanted was mentioned. Talk about a girl over coming trials. I have read thos book more times than I can remember and have gotten others to love it took. In mentioning her other books I think The Two Princess of Bamarre needs to be mentions. It is about what sisters will do for each other. It’s fabulous.
I was scrolling through the comments to see if anyone had mentioned this book! I can’t believe it took this long! One of my favorites and I’ve read it so many times that my book is very beat up (loved). But yes, totally ignore the movie.
Maybe someone has mentioned this one, but my absolute favorite when I was younger (and even today, as I like to revisit it every now and then) is Ella Enchanted. I like to put it in the kick-ass Cinderella category. Ella doesn’t need a male figure to save her; she saves her self, and those she loves!
Other favorites include: A View From Saturday, A Wrinkle in Time, and Walk Two Moons (all late-Elementary/early middle school level); also, anything by Margaret Atwood (not children’s books, but she usually has a strong heroine in there somewhere).
Loved reading your post – brought back memories of my mom reading the Anne series and the Little House on the Prairie series!
If you like “Ella Enchanted” you should check out the rest of the author’s books, I loved “Fairest” which is am awesome spin on “Snow White.” Most of her books center on fairy tale stories but one, “Dave at Night.” Completely different from her other books, the main character is an orphan boy, Dave, and takes place in the 20’s, I loved it.
I recommend author Shannon Hale, I love her books, they are well written, enjoyable and mostly about strong women (one book focuses on a male main character). Her books include “Book of a Thousand Days” (my personal favorite), “Princess Academy,” and the Books of Bayern – a 4 book series – “Goose Girl,” “Enna Burning,” “River Secrets,” and “Forest Born.” She also wrote two graphic novels with her husband.
I was about to suggest these books too! Glad someone already did!
Her adult books are more hit and miss, but the YA books are great. I would also recommend the Bayern series. I’ve had so many people say that they were expecting to hate it and loved it instead. Lots of strong women in these books.
I have 5 girls, and will read Shannon Hale to/with all of them. I especially love “Princess Academy” and “Book of a Thousand Days”. Such strong, independant thinking, yet still feminine, gentle and loving female leads.
5 girls sounds wonderful, Marie! I hope I get to have that many!
Love love love all of Shannon Hale’s books!!! Definitely a great fairy tale addition to this list.
Sherry Gorse says
There’s also “I Capture the Castle” by Dodie Smith, if you don’t mind a pagan ritual or two. It’s an odd little book. Sort of like Jane Austen meets… I don’t know. Something pecular. 🙂 The main character is (of course) an aspiring writer who lives wither her extremely eccentric and impoverished family in a house built onto the ruins of a castle. There was a movie made recently, but I didn’t like it. Dodie Smith also wrote 101 Dalmations and its super weird sequal with telepathic flying dogs. : )
I read 101 Dalmatians a million years ago and I really enjoyed the film version of I Capture the Castle, so I’ll have to read the book! Thanks!
Erin Seaman says
The Penderwick series by Jeanne Birdsall – about 4 sisters who are all so different but bring amazing things to the table. Wonderful role models and easily readable by 4th or 5th grade, much earlier if you read to them.
I keep hearing rave reviews of the Penderwicks from everyone I love! MUST get my hands on them!
LOVE this post!
I’d add Philip Glass’ Golden Compass trilogy. Lira is one of the best girl characters ever written. I almost named my daughter after her. She is a tomboy who gets to run amok in an academic environment. She is contrasted with her finely dressed and coiffed parent who is trying to do horrible things to kids in the name of religion. Independently thinking Lira would kick Hitler’s butt any day.
Yes of course the Narnia books. And the Lucy character is one of the best!!
Absolutely need to read Ella Enchanted by Levine, but, DO NOT see the movie – totally ruins it. Also, The Westing Game by Raskin. Anything by Konigsburg.
The Westing Game! One of my very favorites as a kid. Off to Amazon to order that gem, thanks for the reminder.
ANYTHING by Gail Carson Levine, but Ella Enchanted, The Two Princesses of Bamarre, and Fairest, in particular. I remember discovering Ella Enchanted in the library in 5th grade, and falling in love. All of those books made me feel like I could do absolutely anything!
Maria C says
I found this list from a friend on Pinterest, and it’s incredible. I’m only 23, so not quite to the point of needing it for my daughter, but still find it enjoyable. A great one for a younger girl (as a lot of these are pretty advanced) is my favorite childhood book “Ella Enchanted.” Please not the movie which destroys the beauty and emotion in this story. It is a retelling of Cinderella in a way, but so much more.
I totally agree about the third Anne movie – no one else I know can understand why I make such a fuss!
Molly Predis says
So I just found your blog via pinterest. I’m a Catholic Mom too. My husband highly recommends the book STRONG FATHERS, STRONG DAUGHTERS for anyone raising a girl. Also, he is ridding our house of all things disney princess. It is more challenging than we would have thought considering we don’t buy any but people are always buying it for her. Love your list
Thanks for the recommendation, Molly! Yay, Catholic mamas!
These are great! I especially like your statements about Jane Austen: “Elizabeth Bennet has more clever things to say in one page of P&P than Bella Swan could mumble in her entire miserable existence.” My daughter will definitely be reading these (and not Twilight!).
Allison Mosier says
A Vindication on the Right of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft (Mary Shelley’s mom!)
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
You’ve got to check out “Cinder Edna” and “A Bad Case of the Stripes.” Great books for the early school years. BTW, Cinder Edna is Cinderella’s neighbor and can’t understand why she’s always crying and waiting for someone else to fix her problems. HA!
While I agree with the list, my favorite, Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell is not on the list and needs to be. It is about a girl who survives on an island after trying to go back to take care of her younger brother. I also really recommend all of the Anne books, Secret Garden and A Little Princess. Also lots of biographies on strong women, Nelly Bly, Eleanor Roosevelt, Sacagawea, Mother Teresa, the list goes on and on…So excited for this posting!
Island of the Blue Dolphins is the first book I remember reading as a young girl that truly moved me. Must read!
Thank you for this list, and all the commenters for adding to it! 🙂
The Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace is a great series about one girl’s life from age 5 to when she gets married. They deal with all of the things girls grapple with in life, and in the early 1900s!
So many commenters have suggested the Betsy-Tacy books! I simply must get them!
I’m glad that I saw a comment mentioning my beloved Betsy-Tacy series! I read them first when I was about 6 and have been reading them ever since (I’m now 34) and I enjoy them as much as ever! Betsy was such a wonderfully funny, earnest, and real girl and she often became obsessed by boys, beauty, popularity but in the end she always found her way back to the “real Betsy.” Wonderful books! I haven’t trolled through all of the comments as that could take considerable time but let me also mention a few I haven’t specifically seen on here: “The Chronicles of Prydain” by Lloyd Alexander (Princess Eilonwy is a very strong and capable female), also, his series starring the very adventurous and unconventional Vesper Holly (the first book is “The Illyrian Adventure.” Philip Pullman’s Sally Lockhart character is smart, resourceful and brave and the series of books involving her are delightful (though suitable for a much older child–unless your daughter grows up to be as incorrigable a reader as I was! and the first Sally Lockhart book is “The Ruby in the Smoke.” If you love L.M. Montgomery I hope you have also read the Emily series and “Pat of Silverbush” and “Mistress Pat.” Also, the poetry of Emily Dickinson is an excellent place to start as well. I could go on and on as I love to read! Books and reading have always been a passion for me and my memories of being read to by my mother, and when I was a little older, reading books with her, are memories I will always cherish.
I have two daughters, and I am always praying that they understand the complexity of womanhood – strong, yet tender. And you’ve got a great list of books that show women in that light.
Thanks for sharing!
Saraphinah Benavides Conner says
Love all the book suggestions! I was/am an avid reader and grew up on most of these (particularly Luisa May Alcott, Jane Austen and the Laura Ingalls Wilder series) — I would add NANCY DREW there are about 101 for the complete set – easy reads and all girl detective work.
For the other Catholic moms out there – are you aware of the series “All things Girl” ? simple truths from JPII’s theology of the body are used to develop christian virtues amidst every tween’s concern for fashion, beauty, and friends. bezalelbooks.com or atgseries.com or even amazon has them.
I’ve never heard of All Things Girl! I’ll check it out, thanks!
I would add Madeline L’Engle’s wonderful books, too.
I love those! It’s been so many years since I’ve read them.
And if you read the Time Quartet, definitely also read When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.
My daughter and I enjoyed reading The Little Princess by Frances Hodgsen Burnett. It’s good for young girls and depicts a strong, female character who strives to do what is right.
The Hunger Games series – strong female character with little interest in romance.
The Millennium series (The Girl Who…) – strong female character, albeit with some messed up baggage. Definitely NOT for young audiences, though, due to a couple of graphic rape scenes.
Love! Thank you! And I loved Harriet the Spy, Judy Blume Books, All of a Kind Family (and all the others in that series), and Nancy Drew.
Didn’t make it through all the comments, so this may have already been suggested, but the whole Betsy-Tacy series of books by Maud Hart Lovelace are wonderful. Baby Lucy can grow up with Betsy and her gang, as the books follow them from about age 5 right up through Betsy’s first year of marriage. I grew up with them, and I’m a better woman for it!
As my daughter started reading chapter books, around second grade, she received an “American Girl Doll” named Julie Albright. The doll came with a chapter book about Julie. I came to read a number of American Girl books. The books include a number of Historical fiction series with very strong girls represented. The characters are smart, strong, and resourceful. The lead characters all come up against a big problem, and they overcome these obsticles through perseverance and courage. A great series for young girls.
Jenn @ My Fabuless Life says
I agree on the American Girl books. Some of my favorites in early elementary school and great role models for girls!!
I’ve been reading A Little Princess to my 8 y.o. daughter and remembering what a great role model young Sarah is.
LOVED your list and there are several I’ve yet to read…
Saw this on pinterest and I absolutely agree with your version of ‘Twilight’. I haven’t read 5,9+10 but will list them. Have you heard of Sue Grafton’s alphabet series? The lead character is a female detective named Kinsey Millhone (before mobile phones and internet). In junior high I read the Trixie Belden series.
Right now, our almost 8yo son is already having image issues of his own 🙁
Goodluck with your baby girl. She’s beautiful.
Thank you 🙂
Thank you for mentioning Trixie Belden! I knew my previous reply to a comment a couple of posts above yours was leaving out several of my favorites but I felt I was running on and on (as I tend to do when it comes to books!) and I neglected my beloved Trixie and the Bob-Whites of the Glen!
Have you read the sorta-recent “The Penderwicks”? A family of 4 daughters raised by their widower professor father. The author is intimate with Edith Nesbit, C.S. Lewis … and even Jane Austen. LOVED it and the sequel is just as well done. My children are a couple of years younger than the Penderwick girls. If they turn out half as good, witty, well-read and ridiculously imaginative as them in a few more years, I’ll be seriously thankful. 😉
Dr Sarah says
Don’t think anyone’s mentioned Tamora Pierce, so *definitely* check her stuff out. Starting with her ‘Song of the Lioness’ series, about a girl who disguises herself as a boy to train as a knight, and going on from there.
Oh, yes, and Mercedes Lackey’s stuff. ‘Fairy Godmother’ and the other Five Hundred Kingdom books are truly superb, but she has lots of other stuff (and I really mean lots – one of the most prolific authors out there), most of which is really good, although some of it is a bit too hit-you-over-the-head-with-the-feminist-message obvious to the point where it interferes with the writing style. But absolutely worth checking out her stuff.
Chic Mummy says
I loved the Tamora Pierce books as well. I have them saved for my daughter when she is older. Her latest series is a great strong female character as well.
Oh yes! I love (still to this day) Tamora Pierce. Great strong female characters 🙂
I think the most brilliant book about relationships and self love is Shell Silverstein’s “The Big O Meets The Missing Piece”.
caroline starr rose says
Here are a few contemporary titles to add to your list: Out of the Dust, A Northern Light, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (modern, not comtemporary, but I’ve always felt like Francie Nolan would have been a true friend, if she were real, and all), With a Name Like Love, Sparrow Road, The Year We Were Famous, and Ruta Septys’s Between Shades of Gray. My middle-grade novel , May B., also has a strong female lead.
caroline starr rose says
I forgot to add anything by Karen Cushman is a must!
So glad to see Karen Cushman mentioned… Catherine, Called Birdy is a fabulous story of a Middle-Ages girl whose father assumes he can force her into the arranged marriages that were so popular in those days. Her spirit is indomitable! Matilda Bone, another great one… anything by KC. The picture book Rumpelstiltskin’s Daughter, by Diane Stanley, is fabulous. And along the lines of young heroines becoming ambassadors and politically active, another HUGE vote for Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy. If you struggle with the idea of princesses, her take on what should be taught is amazing (diplomacy, strength, etc.)
And a word about the princess thing in general… (from someone who vowed never to allow a Barbie or Little Mermaid in in the house but now has a very strong-willed, vocal 14-yrold who, of course wanted to play with those very things)… that stuff is out there and the trick is not to ban them, but to use them as teachable moments. Watching movies together and asking questions like, “Why did she do that?” “What do you think…?” “How could she have handled that differently?” “What would have happened if…” “What would you have done?” I also don’t hesitate to share my opinions with her (she knows I detest Ariel as a weak, selfish girl who puts herself and family in jeopardy.) Other good ones: Wildwood, Speak (for YA), Chains (Laurie Halse Anderson takes a look at the beginning of the Revolutionary War through the eyes of a young slave girl- EXCELLENT!!!!!) Oh, and the Evolution of Calpurnia Tate- turn-of-the-century girl with an old-fashioned mother and a grandfather who helps her develop her scientific reasoning skills. Another good one!
Love this list — and thanks so much for spreading the word about Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter. A-MAZ-ING books. Life-changers.
I know, right?! I can’t imagine why they aren’t more popular.
Nancy Drew? The Hunger Games? Harriet the Spy? Ramona? Narnia?
Where were you when I was a kid? I wore very similar boots and learned to sew and bake bread and make enough preserves to make Laura Ingalls and Anne proud! Great list. I have a 1912 edition of the Girl of the Limberlost that is from my grandparent’s time. Very cool!
ah! Kindred spirit!
So jealous of your copy of A Girl of the Limberlost!! Definitely an all-time favorite of mine.
I agree with all but the Jane Austen one. Mariane in Sense an Sensibility becomes ridiculously distraught after she finds out Willoughby is engaged to someone else. She gets seriously ill and almost dies as a direct result of his abandonment.
Tanya, I completely agree that Marianne is a basket case. However, I don’t think that Austen is at all proposing that we should emulate her. Characters that make mistakes can often reveal more about virtue than perfect characters!
I agree on the Jane Austen front. That’s all I could think too is that Marianne almost died because of her overwhelming despair over losing Willoughby.. but I still think overall it has a good message because she recovers and realizes that they would never have truly been happy together and finds love elsewhere. Much better than twilight were Bella doesn’t even try to get over Edward and then when she’s starting to “recover” somewhat ends up running back to continue her obsession with him
Jennifer B says
Haven’t seen this series recommended yet – “Swallows and Amazons” by Arthur Ransome.
It’s about a group of kids and their adventures in boats in England in the 1930’s. They are a bit quaint, and heavy on good old fashioned imagination and clean adventure.
They were out of print in the US for along while but are back in paperback now. My 10 year old daughter has LOVED reading this series.
Nice list. I would add the Diary of Anne Frank and The Hiding Place (by Corrie Ten Boon).
Paige W says
I’m not sure if this has been posted, but I’d include “Ella Enchanted” in this list for sure! It’s a Cinderella type story with a strong, vibrant, defiant and beautiful female lead character. Easy to read in late elementary school or early middle school, but my copy has been re-read many many times 🙂
I love the list of books you have recommended, i too grew up reading most of them. My almost 11 year ol daughter asked me why I didn’t allow her to read the series as all her friends at school have read it. I told her that she was way too young and that I thought she would get more out of reading the Ann of Green Gables series which she loves as well as the Enchated woods. I admit that I have read the Twighlight series and when she is much older she can do the same but definitely not now.
I was given a book for Christmas by my cousin in South Africa called “BRINGING UP GIRLS” by Dr. James Dobson. Get a copy if you don’t already have one, it makes really good reading.
I’m am SO not looking forward to the “but all my friends are allowed to…” conversations in a few years! 🙂
Also check out the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett about a brave girl witch. Starts with The Wee Free Men.
Great list! I loved “A Secret Garden” and “The Little Princess” when I was young…
Reblogged this on Kids Communicate and commented:
I can’t wait to share some of these with my daughters…
I love this list, more for myself at the moment, and any future children I have later on. Great suggestions in the comments too! And thank you for calling out the hard truth about the so-called third Anne movie. “Part of you will die.” So true. It was a painful experience for me and I wish I never saw it!!!
Oh, Anne the Continuing Story, If only I could erase you from my memory!
I LOVE your comment about the last “Anne” movie. I felt exactly the same way. I get literally angry every time I think of it. I don’t mind that filmmakers feel the need to add or subtract from a story to make it film ready, but when they fundamentally change a character or a message or virtue of a book, it makes me angry. One of the virtues of Rilla of Ingleside was the “stiff upper lip” with which the women sent their men off to war. When Diana started blubbing all over the place pleading with Fred not to go, I was done (and don’t even get me started on Anne in France…).
I recently re-read Rilla and it is so wonderful, isn’t it!?
Sleeping Mom says
I love it! Sadly I actually read the Twilight books because I wanted to know what the hype was all about. I should’ve stopped with the first one. I found the writing poor, and Bella too helpless and weak. The only thing she had going for her was that she liked reading but everything else I found terrible about her!
I agree about that Anne movie too. I don’t think I even finished it I was so disappointed. Love, love, love the books though. The only suggestion I have for raising strong capable girls is getting them interested in sports. My daughter is a gymnast and soon to be a black belt in karate and she is growing up wanting to be smart and capable so far (touch wood!). She is an avid reader and Hermoine Granger is who she wants to emulate. I also have frequent conversations about how it is fine to like fashion and earrings and all that fun stuff but it doesn’t make you who you are (she actually isn’t interested in any of those things yet but you never know, one day she might be and I want my voice to be rattling around her head!). I tell her that your character is the only thing you truly own so you need to protect it. It is such a worry though when there are so many things they are bombarded with!
the Harry Potter books series deals with occultism overload and magic. How is that with Catholicism and Mary’s example?
Chic Mummy says
I laughed out loud with your description of the Anne of Green gables sequel, the continuing story. I grew up with the books, and unusually, loved the mini series just as much, so when I saw there was a new one, with the same actors, no less, I was so excited! Then I saw it, and as you said, I think part of me died that day!
Great choices for your books, and you’ve encouraged me to search out a few.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
I agree with this list. And I love the whole idea behind it. I told my husband about the list and he laughed out loud and said he had to see it. I haven’t read the Harry Potter series (not because I think it’s terrible, but because I struggle to get interested in modern fiction of any kind) and I haven’t read the last two, but I still agree with the list. I have to add that LM Montgomery’s books in general, not just the Anne series are superb! For all my book snobbishness (I’m a librarian) she is my favorite author. I particularly recommend the Emily trilogy. Also, one correction – Anne lived during the Victorian era which makes her BA more amazing!! The movies were moved up several decades and make it seem she got it during the Edwardian era, but the books are actually set much earlier. And that last movie was an absolute travesty – you are so correct!!! I would add to your list The Chronicles of Narnia and Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels, especially North and South and Wives and Daughters (Gaskell was a close friend of Bronte’s).
So glad you liked it! And after several recommendations from commenters, I MUST read the Emily books. Thanks for the correction, you are so right!
And I LOVE Narnia. I’ve read a little bit of TLTWATW to Lucy already. I recently finished Cranford by Mrs. Gaskell and hate to admit it but…I actually liked the recent miniseries better! Eek, don’t hate me. But I’m dying to read North and South!
Susan Goldie says
There is a series of books called “The Unicorn’s Secret” by Kathleen Duey (not to be mistaken with “The Secret Unicorn”) that I loved reading to my daughter. They are recommended for ages 7-10. They follow a young girl called Heart and her “horse” Avamir. The series is set in a medieval-like past and has several strong female characters. I loved this series so much that the night we were just about finished the books and it was time for my daughter to go to sleep, I took the book downstairs and finished it on my own. 🙂
Another series that is suitable for slightly older readers (12/13) is The Breadwinner. This series follows a young girl in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. She is forced, when her father is arrested, to pose as a young boy so she can go to the market and earn money for her family. It goes on for 3 books and gives children a great sense of how fortunate we are in non-war-torn countries and how oppressive certain forms of government can be.
Thanks for the recommendations!
I loved Harriet the Spy and The Diary of Anne Frank. I read those books over and over again. I think that Harriet the Spy shows a girl who loved to learn and was curious (to a fault). And come on Anne Frank I just think she was an amazing person. A lot of people think it is a sensitive subject but I started reading this around 4rth grade and it made me want to learn more about her and the bravery of her as well as so many other people:)
My grandmother and I shared a love for The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Aslan is a wonderful and inspirational character whether you read into the Christian undertones or not, and the whole book is about learning to love and growing up responsibly
Sylvia Scott says
Amazing! I feel as if I just read the column I would have written if I had had the time. How I agree with you — your list comprises almost all my favorites, especially the lesser-read Lewis and Undset! I also love “The Secret Garden”, “The Little
Princess”, the “Ramona” series, and “An Episode of Sparrows”. Probably the single most important character portrait of a young woman with difficult decisions to make is “Good Morning, Miss Dove”. It’s hard to find, but is glued to my memory forever. It was recommended by the KONOS Character Curriculum — I don’t think I would have ever found it, otherwise. To tell you anything about it would be to unwrap the gift I’m trying to give you…. And always and forever, the Narnia Chronicles.
As far as advice, I’ve only had boys and they are almost grown — but I’m sure the best you can do is pray and model the type of woman you want her to be.
Thank you for giving me a lovely evening of remembering wonderful books!!
Wonderful suggestions, wonderful advice. Thanks, Sylvia!
Anything Thomas Hardy. (esp love tess of d’urbervilles).
I recently acquired a gorgeous copy of Tess! Yay!
I, too, enjoyed L.M.Mongomery’s Anne of Green Gables books BUT the Emily books are, in my opinion, even better! I love this list and plan to visit my local library so I can read the ones I’ve missed!
Angela Knapp says
I recently bought my daughters The Daring Book For Girls, and the Double Daring Book For Girls. they are not stories but teach young girls things that are overlooked these days, from how to change a tire, tips on public speaking, to things like modern women leaders, queens of the ancient world, turning your backyard into a farm and notable women in math and science. There is also The Dangerous Book For Boys
I responded to a few comments, but to condense it all, I love your list, and would add the following (that I did not see recommended by others; I agree with a great deal of the other recommendations already put forth above):
Watership Down by Richard Adams
The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
The Good Master and The Singing Tree by Kate Seredy
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Black Stallion series (the fact that it the main character was a boy certainly never deterred me; the books advocate resourcefulness)
Black and Blue Magic and The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (I’m sure there were others by her that I read as well, but I have fond memories of those two)
Jenn @ My Fabuless Life says
Was just telling my MIL about The Egypt Game today as we were talking about this list. Loved that one!
Robyn Coburn says
My daughter is very much enjoying The Sisters Grimm series.
Amy Wilcox says
Thank you for sharing–these are WONDERFUL suggestions and I agree completely.
One of my favorites as a child was “Dealing with Dragons” (and the other three in the set) by Patricia Wrede. A princess runs away to be a dragon’s librarian and chief cook? Another one that lets you have the fun of pretending to be a princess in a good way is “An Ordinary Princess.”
Others: The Boxcar Children (stick to the original ones — the first 19, I think) and Kathryn Lasky’s books about the Starbuck twins. These don’t focus on female figures, they’re pretty evenly divided between the boys and girls, but the children in them are independent, intelligent, and resourceful and I remember reading them a lot as a child.
I simply have to add the Anastasia Krupnik books by Lois Lowry. I enjoyed those so much and I went back and read them a few years ago and really admired the way Anastasia’s parents kind of let their kids find their own paths. Love.
I applaud your list, although I don’t personally dislike Bella Swan quite so ferociously. The only 2 books I think every person should read are “the Alchemist” by Paolo Coehlo, and ” The Little Prince ” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. And the best female protagonist book is “Th Memoirs of Cleopatra ” by Margaret George. She portrays Cleopatra in a very real , flawed, human , lovable, inspiring way. Good luck!
I’m particularly excited to check out that Norwegian book! One of my absolute favourite books of all time is Ronja Rovardottar by Astrid Lindgren (so Swedish, not Norwegian) and you should absolutely add it to your list! Ronja is a fantastic, independent girl who faces her fears head-on, experiences real conflict, is stubborn and tempestuous, learns about friendship and forgiveness, has human parents with flaws, looks deeper than prejudice, and has an ocean’s depth of love and loyalty. I seriously considered naming my daughter after her, but my grandmother’s name got first priority. Maybe I’ll have another girl…
Also, it’s a children’s book, so you can read it while you wait for her to be old enough for Kristin. =)
I’ve never even heard of these! Thanks, Antje!
Whoa such a great list!
And I read and loved The Girl of the Limberlost too-I never knew anyone else ever read it! I read and loved all those books as a girl-ok I read Sigrid Undset when I was 16 and it changed my life! As did Jane Eyre, and Little House, and Jane Austen of course. They’re all life changing books that really form a girl’s mind to what’s important in life. No Twilight!
Jenny May Pittman says
I love this, but, alas, I don’t have a daughter (yet?). I hope you plan on doing a similiar list for sons!
Wish granted! http://carrotsformichaelmas.wordpress.com/2012/01/31/10-books-you-must-read-to-your-son/
I might also add The Hunger Games to the list, but probably when your daughter is a little older. Katniss Everdeen is an amazingly strong female role who gets things done not really because she wants to, but because she wants to protect her little sister. Definitely not a Bella Swann that’s for sure!
I came across this list via Simple Mom and it is inspiring. Sadly I don’t have a girl but it got me thinking of the importance of having my boys read stories that feature strong women as well. I want to be able to raise boys who appreciate strong, intelligent, assertive girls.
You need to add the Hunger Games. Katniss Everdeen is an amazing female character.
Great list! My own favorite is Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss. Thanks!
Found this on Pinterest. Great list! Not sure if anyone mentioned this, but Shannon Hale’s Bayern series is excellent! There are some great, strong girls to look up to in those books.
This list is fantastic, I saw it on Pinterest and just had to check it out. My daughter is 3, but I’ve already started her on the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. (Check out the “My First Little House” illustrated versions by Renee Graef, so good and just plain pretty.) I’d have to add Number the Stars, a favorite from when I was a little girl about sacrifice and love even when everyone else is doing something else. The Upstairs Room, also about WWII, and the first book I ever bought myself at age maybe 11?, and a Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Awesome list though, and all the books in the comments make it that much better. Thank you!
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch: for when they are young and into picture books. It is about an independent woman.!!
A big thank-you for being another female voice acknowledging and publicizing the atrocities committed in Meyer’s works against an entire gender. Or two.
Princess Academy is one I am looking forward to reading to my daughter. Ignore the princess part and fall in love with a girl who saves her whole community by finding her strengths.
What an incredible list! I was going to add “The Secret Garden”, but I see that others have as well. I had a hard time putting my finger on what it was about Bella that I really didn’t like…thanks for putting it into words for me!
Nancy Drew was and is a good friend to me. The first 56 are the best not a huge fan of any after that. I believe these van inspire girls in so so many ways! Not everyone enjoys them but if you are looking for a strong, smart, resourceful and talented girl Nancy is one to try!
Mom in California says
I saw this in a comment, but it’s worth mentioning again. The Good Master, by Kate Seredy. Besides having the amazing, flawed and brave girl, the beauty in family and faith rituals are captivating. Betsy-Tacy also is great. These are some of my 10 year old daughter’s favorites, as well as others on your list. I try to preread as many modern books as I can for her. commonsensemedia.org helps in deciding books, or any other kind of media too.
For the younger crowd (pre-k to about 2nd grade) I really like the Junie B Jones books. It’s not high art or classic literature, but Junie B is a kick–a wonderful, independent girl and it really resonates with that age group. They have te added bonus of being one of the few kids’ series that consistently make me, as an adult reading it, laugh out loud. Interestingly enough my K aged son LOVES these books.
Love, love, LOVE your list! I can’t wait to start reading these to my son, frankly. Another one to check out sometime, if you can find it, is Mrs. Mike. It was made into a film in the 1960s, I believe. It’s the story of a girl from Boston who gets sent far north into the Canadian prairie to live with a distant relative and ends up falling in love with a Mountie and learning how to adapt and persevere in truly challenging physical and social conditions.
Before every girl becomes a teenager they should “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” by Judy Blume and “She’s Come Undone” by Wally Lamb
Emily Walters LeBaron says
Was so glad to see Limberlost and Kristen Lavransdatter on this list- loved all of them. Another series I loved as a kid was Dancing Shoes, Ballet Shoes, etc., by Noel Streatfeild. They were written in the 30’s and are mostly about sisters (some brothers too) who discover and develop their talents (in one case a girl who loves to fix cars!)… Great for younger readers, maybe 10 or 11ish I’d say…
Also, Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, and Narnia!
Great list. I would add “The Paper Bag Princess”, “Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon”, “A Bad Case of Stripes”, and “Grace for President”. I’ve read these dozens of times to my daughter and my son.
I would add The Secret Garden and A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. They both promote strong girls, creative minds, and strength through adversity. Plus, they’re beautifully told, charming stories that have stayed with me my whole life!
Great list! A lot of these books I read growing up but now I have a few more to get to!
I have a son and a baby girl and since having my daughter and watching Miss Representation, I am a lot more conscious of gender stereotypes and raising her to be a strong, confident, caring woman. Its a lot of pressure and I’m glad we can just take it one day at a time 🙂
I worry incessantly. 🙂
Love this. Many faves on your list. LOTR — Eowyn is the best ever — “I am no man.” My daughter is almost 2, so a bit young for reading many of these, but we’ve listened to Little Women, Anne & Secret Garden on car-rides – she loved it!
Also love the suggestions of Hunger Games & Golden Compass additions.
Meg Murray was & is my kindred spirit. I love reading thanks to Wrinkle in Time. The power of love & the individual are huge values of mine to this day. Ramona was another childhood fave, if not as powerful a lifetime influence. 🙂
PS – I lent 2 different neighbor girls Wrinkle & Compass – why stop with my own daughter!??!? 🙂
Jennifer Johnson says
I’ve also read the Phillip Pullman series “His Dark Materials”. A very strong female protagonist in a fantasy setting. Think Narnia without the religious overtones. A wonderful read.
Kim H. says
Not ready yet? I disagree…I started reading to our daughter at a very early age, and began with Pride and Prejudice! I will admit that my motive was to sneak in some reading time for Mommy during feedings and such, but in my opinion, it still counts! 🙂
When she’s little, read her “The Paper Bag Princess” by Robert Munsch. When a dragon burns down her castle and kidnaps Prince Ronald, Elizabeth puts on the only unburned thing she can find, a paper bag, and sets out to outwit the dragon and save Ronald. When Ronald is less than grateful at being rescued, she dumps him, and lives happily ever after, without him.
My girls love this book.
This is the first time I have come to your blog. It was recommended by a friend and I was intrigued by this title in particular. Though you and I have never met, I have a strong hunch that we are kindred spirits, as Anne would say. Your 10 books are almost exactly what I would have picked. I don’t have daughters yet, but when/if I do, I can’t wait to read them these books. 🙂 Excellent list!!
Laura Nikolas says
Yes! And I would add the Betsy-Tacy Series by Maud Hart Lovelace. My mom read them to me when I was young. Smart little girls with wild imaginations who speak their mind!
Wendy B. says
Saw your list on Pinterest, and I have to say – you are so spot on with this!!! I did a post along the same lines (one for teen boys, one for teen girls) because sadly many of these great books are nowhere to be found on YA shelves – next to popular tendy series like Twighlight. Here are my lists – they contain some of your titles and a few others. I wish I’d put Kristen Lavrensdatter on the girls list – an all time FAVORITE series of mine too!
Lisa McC says
I have read all 3 Kristin Lavransdatter books, and they are not what I would read with my child… unless she were well over age 16 or 18, and then w/ some discussion. It’s a bit like ‘Gone with the wind’ meets Dostoevsky (for some serious soul-searching) in medieval Norway. But really, the main female character, Kristin, wants the bad boy. She bypasses the virtuous male character more than once, and knowing she’s making a mistake, chooses bad boy again. Not a role model I want for my daughters. Granted there is a lot of soul-searching — certainly more than there is in ‘Gone with the Wind’. But Kristin wants what she wants more than wants what is good.
How about the author Patricia St John? Now THERE are some meaty female characters that weigh important decisions and make hard choices. Ones that a mom can gladly discuss with a daughter – young & old.
Lisa, I absolutely agree that Kristin makes some terrible decisions and is NOT a good role model. And I think that’s the whole point of the saga. Her bad choices and lust for Erlend have overwhelming consequences and affect not only her, but her children, as well. Virtue is communicated in a complex and incredible story in which the characters don’t always make the right decision. And I can’t think of a story in which the “fruit of sin” is as well conveyed as in KL. In fact, sometimes I think it’s almost too heavy-handed in the moralizing. But, I think virtue and vice as manifested in a certain character, though imperfect, is what’s so wonderful about good literature and why there’s so much to learn from it! I read them for the first time when I was 12ish and many of the lessons stuck with me.
Never read 5 (although with all the Lewis I’ve read I don’t know how I missed that one), 9 or 10. Have read the others and most of them are in my own top 10 books. Thanks for the endorsement.
Candace Lazzaro says
Never read 5 (although with all the Lewis I’ve read I don’t know how I missed that one) 9 or 10 but most of the rest would make my top 10-20 books.
“Rebecca” by Daphne Du Maurier was an awesome read for me in my pre-teen years.
The main character in this book learns much about self-confidence as she seeks to find her way out of the pressing feeling that she is living in someone else’s shadow.
I also love that it teaches that the people we sometimes look up to, who seem to have it all, are usually just as messed up as we are – if not more. A good book to teach that you don’t need to “keep up with the Jones’s” to be happy.
If you love Anne books (which I do too, so SO very much– I decided you were “the race that knows Joseph” right off because of this, lol) Librivox (www.librivox.org) has them on audio for FREE. I as a grown woman listen to these as part of my “chill out/get ready for bed” routine on my iPod/headphones.
Karen Savage (gypsygirl) is the one you want. Search for her versions. Do not use the others, they are terrible!
Karen Savage’s versions are EXCELLENT. Her voice is soothing yet dynamic, beautiful — and what I like best is that she does all of the voices of the characters in such a way that they truly leap off the pages and does full justice to the prose. I listen to Anne of the Island, Anne’s House of Dreams, and Rilla of Ingleside on regular rotation. She also has recorded Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea. Some of the others (Anne of Windy Poplars, Anne of Ingleside, Rainbow Valley for example) are still under copyright so cannot be used on Librivox yet.
Librivox actually has a LOT of these books available as free audio books, which might be great for little ones at night for storytime. 🙂
Oh, Julia! We’re kindred spirits for sure! I’ve listened to Karen Savage read Rilla already and she has a great version of Pride and Prejudice! I listen to audiobooks on my ipod to help me fall asleep. My other fave is Jim Dale who reads the Harry Potter series.
I’ve never played them for my littles, though. I should definitely see if there are some good ones to help my 3-year-old settle down at night!
A Quiet Reader says
Rebecca is one of my sister’s favorite books too. Thanks for the reminder – I’ve got to read it!
I second (third, fourth, whatever) the Lloyd Alexander books and Phantom Tollbooth.
For kids (boys or girls) I’d recommend James Thurber’s childrens books…the man plays with words like no one else I’ve ever read. He’s so imaginative, so clever and so enjoyable to read!
For you, since you like Jane Eyre, please please read Jasper Fforde’s series (the Thursday Next books, and the Nursery Crimes). My favorite books ever (except LOTR).
I love and agree with all of this!! The only two I would have too add is, Alice in Wonderland and the Secret Garden! Both give great examples of brave young women! My daughter is 9, and we have already read some on your list as well as some others! She loves to read, and that makes me happy!! It has not been easy to shield her from Twilight, even at her ages so many parents let their children jump on this wagon…WHY I often scream!!
Em Windsong says
two I read when i was younger ( i’m not ‘old’ enough for kids yet(!) so i guess it wasn’t all that long ago… all the same…)
‘There will be wolves’-Karleen Bradford is set in the time of the crusades where a girl with a bit of education and ;book learning’ is accused of being a witch, and the only way she can ‘save herslef’ is to join a holy crusade, it was a wonderful book of courage and inner strength young Ursula faces.. not really a book for the ‘youngers’ as there are some scenes that will bring up a few questions, she stands for what she believes in, regardless of the cotizens around her who believe differently..
while on ths subject of wolves… you must’nt forget
‘Julie of the Wolves’ an alaskan tale of a girl who runs away from her village bound for San fFansico; but gets lost along the way, and must learn the ways and behaviors of a wolf pack in order to be ‘adopted’ by them and survive the winter. a tale of survival, of strength, julie’s vast knowledge of the alaskan wild could teach anyone a thing or two about the wold outside their door, she embodies resourcefulness, yet is ‘young’ enough to connect with even a 2/3rd grader.
also: ‘The True confessions of Charlotte Doyle’- Avi an amazing book about a young victorian ‘lady’ who is sent on a sailing ship bound for home to her highborn family… however, a mutiny and a ‘cursed ship’ beg her to question the standards of decency and moral codes she has unknowingly accepted her entire life… Charlotte is a dear soul who moves from meek sheap who accepts all she is told, to an independant free spirit who has consiously chosen right from wrong, despite the odds against her.
DONT FORGET! my lovely Jackie Faber in the ‘Bloody jack’ series ( i believe there are… seven?) a young street girl in the aproximate time of the french war/revolution who boards a navy ship to try and get away from the street life… except, she poses as a boy… massive adventures of all sorts, she literally made me laugh alloud quite a few times… possibly not THEE best role model for the younger ones, but at heart, miss jackie is a resourceful, fun loving, rebelious and fiesty herioine im glad to call my ‘friend’
these few are on my shelf at all times, and i think i’ve read them at least 5 times each!
Yes! “True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle” has stuck with me into my adulthood as a great book for young women. I also second all mentions of “Caddie Woodlawn” and the “Wrinkle in Time” series.
My husband and I had the same struggle finding inspiring books for our nieces so we created this resource site on literature for girls — A Mighty Girl (www.amightygirl.com). We just launched it a few days ago and I know we’re missing lots so please send us your ideas on books to add.
And, I’ve seen a lot of people mention Phantom Tollbooth. It’s certainly a fabulous book but also check out “The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making” — many people compare it to a Phantom Tollbooth with a female protagonist – http://www.amightygirl.com/the-girl-who-circumnavigated-fairyland-in-a-ship-of-her-own-making
I have three girls, my oldest is 13 and a voracious reader. Has been for years. She flew through the Harry Potter series and LOVED them (she’s re-read it coutless times). She was so so on the The Lord of the Rings books. Now we got nothing, so your list is very timely. There seems to be a big void of appropriate books for kids her age. I must admit, I let her read the first twilight book, she liked it but I won’t let her read the rest, just too dark. The sad thing is my 11 year old tells me there’s kids in her class that have read the Twilight series. Have their mom’s read these books?? Come on….
I would add the Hunger Games for sure!
And probably the Book Thief.
I’ve read most of those and will add the ones I haven’t to my list of “to reads” I would add ” A little Princess” by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I have to admit I really lilked the Twilight books could lose the movies though. I like Bella she’s a real girl and while I would hope that my daughter won’t just curl up and die if her boyfriend leaves her, even if he’s the love of her life, I still liked that they were willing to sacrifice for one another and that is almost lost in today’s culture. Love is about the other person not about you. Adore all of these books and charecters though. 🙂
Such a great list! I would add “The Hundred Dresses” by Eleanor Estes – and anything by her, for that matter. I especially loved all her books about the Moffat family.
The Little House books are such a big part of my childhood; I love them all dearly. And I hope my little girl reads To Kill a Mockingbird as soon as she’s ready. It’s my favorite book (besides the Bible) and I think Scout is a wonderful character for girls to identify with.
I loved Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones. The storyline is amazing and the main character is a strong and smart woman. If you liked Harry Potter then you’ll like this as well!
Patricia Wagner says
I haven’t seen this one yet, my daughter and I loved this one, predates Anne of Green GAbles I think, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms. Also, many others by the same author, including Timothy’s Quest!
Lots of good suggestions. I want to recommend a set of films… Although my girls and I also love books like those you’ve listed. I’d recommend the works of Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli. Films like Naausicaa, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro, Castle in the Sky, Spirited Away (to name a few) have very strong female protagonists and life lessons. All his movies have heroines as the central character. The stories also teach love, peace and environmental protection.
I think the Hunger Games trilogy is actually quite good: Katniss is a model of strength, resourcefulness, responsibility, and sisterly-love. She’s also very realistic- flawed, a little oblivious to social graces, single-minded in her purposes, a bit vengeful. But she is so real, and so intrinsically good that I see her as a good role model for girls.
I love this list! One of my favorite female characters comes from A Series of Unfortunate Events (Books 1-13!). Violet Baudelaire is valued for her genius in a lot of more traditionally ‘masculine’ things like inventing complicated contraptions. She often works with her siblings in ingenious ways to get her family out of trouble. Her looks are hardly ever mentioned, except for a ribbon she uses to keep her hair out of her face when she’s concentrating.
A book recommendation: The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine. The protagonist is a shy, timid girl who charges out of her comfort zone, sword in hand, to try to save her sister’s life. She grows so much and kicks a lot of ass. The book itself is very interesting as well! The ending is happy but not what you’d expect.
There are a lot of comments to pour through, but has anyone mentioned “Charlotte’s Web” by E. B. White? Fern is a sweet female character with a unique connection to nature which worries her mother, but she is not phased by it – if she is even aware that it makes her different. Plus there’s Charlotte, and while she’s not human, she too is female and strong and kind and diligent in her work and love for Wilbur.
I love your comment about Anne the Continuing Story! I could not agree more! And I like your list. This will give me some good evening reading while I wait for my little girl to grow up and I can read them.
Thanks, Juli! I just want to pretend AtheCS never happened. Happy reading 🙂
I don’t have time to read all the comments but I couldn’t stand it if no one recommended Ella Enchanted to you. It’s a retelling of Cinderella (who is one of the more feminist friendly princesses anyway) but it’s amazing. I love that book and it’s all about how your talents can change your circumstances mixed in with a lot of self-sacrifice but the main character is so wonderful and real.
Thanks, Karli! It’s definitely on my to read list now 🙂
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munch is a must for every little girl!
I keep hearing that, Cathy! Thanks for the recommendation. I will definitely get it for Lucy 🙂
I got chills when I saw A Girl of the Limberlost – I didn’t know anyone else had ever read this book! My grandma gave it to me when I was 10 and I read it at least 2 times a year (do I’ve read it about 40 times). I would also add Mists of Avalon to this list.
It is the best! I read it as a girl and then found a used copy three years ago and fell in love with it all over again. Your comment makes me want to reread it right now. What a sweet memory that your grandma gave it to you! I’ve never read Mists of Avalon, so I’ll have to add that one to my ever growing ‘to read’ list 🙂 Thanks!
What a great list. I read a great book when I was a preteen called so much to tell you by John Marsden. It was a fantastic book about a young mute girl. It made a big impact on my young life.
Thanks, Beth! And I’ve never heard of So Much To Tell You. I’ll have to check it out! Thank you for the suggestion 🙂
I love this list. I have read several books on this list and the ones I have not I will be checking out. I have a 15 month old daughter, who I want to raise to love books and be a strong woman. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for stopping by, Brittany! Glad you enjoyed the list and best of luck with your precious daughter 🙂
Kate F. says
I am sad that, as avid of a reader as I have been since third grade, I have missed out on many of these. Why? Because I was too busy reading the forsaken Babysitter’s Club. Blah. I want better for my three girls!! Thank you for this list, and all the others from the comments. I wanted to add Patricia MacLachlan’s “Unclaimed Treasures”. It is one of my all-time favorite books.
Best of luck with your girls, Kate! And thank you for the recommendation. I’ve read some of Patricia MacLachlan’s books, but not Unclaimed Treasures. I’ll check it out!
I highly recommend “Mists of Avalon” by Marion Zimmer Bradley. It’s the women’s version of the King Arthur tales, and it brings a whole new light to the stories.
I LOVE anything King Arthur so I’ll have to look for this one for sure! Thanks for the suggestion!
Great list! I would also recommend the Nancy Drew series, which my mother enjoyed as a child and then passed on to me.
Thanks for the suggestion, Whitney! 🙂
I found this list through a friend on Pinterest, and I love it! I’ve read most of these and I plan to put the rest on my list to read (which is very long at the moment).
I was huge into fantasy when I was a teen (just a few years ago) and I read a bunch of good fantasy books with strong female characters.
A Wrinkle in Time (and the rest of the series) – Madeline L’Engle (one of my favorite books I’ve ever read)
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles – Patricia Wrede (who doesn’t love a story about a princess who loves dragons?)
The Harry Potter Series – JK Rowling (I originally wanted to be like Hermione, but Ginny Weasley is hands down the anti-Bella. She kicks butt when her love interest has to leave)
The Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis (my favorite character was Susan, which is sad, but it taught me a lesson about people changing)
The Nancy Drew Series – Carolyn Keene (slightly scary for younger kids – I was afraid the first time I read them in elementary school, but they’re all about the girl power – however unrealistic)
I can’t think of any more at the moment but this would be good for girl power fantasy.
Sarah, there are some great recommendations in your comment! I LOVE Madeline L’Engle and have recently been wanting to reread most of her books which I haven’t picked up in years. And I agree about Hermione and Ginny. I love them both. Such strong, wonderful, and yet feminine characters. And looking back over my list, if I had picked 11, I think I would have chosen the Chronicles of Narnia (although I did include Til We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis). Thanks for stopping by and adding to the list 🙂
I completely agree with Sarah about Patricia Wrede’s “Enchanted Forest Chronicles.” Great stories about strong female characters – and there are a lot of them. Loved the books so much that we now have 2 cats named after characters in the book – Kazul and Morwen!
you for the one got a series…. THE ENCHANTED FOREST CHRONICLES.
As a teen girl who has loved to read and reads every I would suggest:
“There’s a Girl in the Boys Locker Room”-Louis Sachar
“Dark Blue”- Melody Carlson
“Walk Two Moons”- Sharon Creech
“7 Best Things ^Smart Teens Do”- John C. Friel & Linda D. Friel
Any of the American Girl Books
Series of Unfortunate Events
“Riding Freedom”- Brian Selznick
And all the Harry Potter you can cram down her throat
I think I read Walk Two Moons but now I can’t remember a thing about it! I’ll have to revisit it. And I loved the American Girl Books! They’re wonderful. Great suggestions!
One book I highly recommend is Raging Quiet. It helps teach the dangers of jumping to assumptions about people and about looking past what society expects.
Can I throw in a late recommendation for the Wizardry series by Diane Duane? They get a little convoluted later on, but the first three (So You Want to be a Wizard, Deep Wizardry, and High Wizardry) really engaged me as a young’un. They feature a very strong female protagonist with complex themes, plus a bonus prophetic parrot named Machu Picchu.
I haven’t heard of that series before. I’ll have to check it out! Thanks.
I definitely agree with this!!
“Julie of the Wolves” –a good example of “capable women doing cool stuff” as a girl escapes an unwanted, abusive marriage and uses her wits and fortitude to make her way across the Alaskan tundra herself. (5th grade+)
“Ella Enchanted” –which shows how, even in situations where people try to use and control you (something all women experience at least once), you can remain strong, independent, and funny. Also has excellent examples of bad relationships to avoid presented in a child-appropriate way courtesy of fairy curses. (5th grade+)
“Diary of Anne Frank” (the unedited one)–having grace in horrible situations; getting along with family, even when they drive you crazy; and dealing with the confusing feelings of growing up, changing, and liking boys are a few of the things reading this book will teach your daughter as she also learns about an important, though dark, part of our history. (7th-8th grade+)
Great suggestions, thanks!
Cassandra Sanchez says
Awesome list of books! I will defenietly be reading these books to my precious Jocelyn. We are big fans of the Renessiance Era…my son’s name is Tristan (from King Arthur’s knight) and we fell in love my daughter’s name. After reading the Twilight series and seeing the movies (and having a daughter) I really don’t want her to look up to Bella Swan. Pinning this for my daughter and future granddaughter (many many years from now)
Cassandra Sanchez says
I also have to say that we too are Catholic and my husband and I were married on Immaculate Conception. So we thought it was appropriate to name him Tristan Gabriel and he shares a birthday with my husband. My daughter has my middle name Jocelyn Celeste and the same intials as her daddy. Just wanted to share…
Love those names, Cassandra! Gabriel is a name I’d like to use someday. And I love anything Arthurian!
Since you teach ballet, you have to read Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield! Pauline, Petrova, and Posy are three amazing little girls who are excellent role models.
I read it only a year or two ago and LOVED it! There’s also a movie version that isn’t half bad (but not as good as the book, like usual). I will definitely read it to Lucy! 🙂 Thanks for reminding me about that one.
The Mandie series by Lois Gladys Leppard and the Elsie Dinsmore series by Martha Finley
Sarah Carts says
I think that Anna Karenina should make the list!
I heartily agree with those that recommended the Dealing With Dragons series.
I was surprised not to see “The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle” by Avi on the list or the comments anywhere. My absolute favorite book ever, about a young “lady” crossing the ocean alone, who becomes captain due to a series of events.
I am so looking forward to sharing it, and so many of these others, with my daughter as she gets older!
I remember reading Charlotte Doyle when I was a little girl and loving it!
The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald.
I love The Princess and the Goblin! That would be a great addition to the list, Christine 🙂
I read some of the comments but not all 382 (when I posted). One I did not see was “The Diary of Anne Frank” One of my favorite books as a young girl. Would recommend it to any girl!
I love FableHaven by Brandon Mull such a good aventure adn imigantion book showing the importance of being brave and that you can do alot if you put your mind to it
I love this list. I have read most of them and will read those that I haven’t soon. I can’t wait to share them with my daughter when she is old enough. There were a few things missing from the list that were a huge part of my childhood. The Boxcar Children series showed excellent family dynamics and loving siblings. The Nancy Drew mysteries kept me up for hours with a flashlight beneath the coveres.
Also, Until Our Last Breath by Michael Bart for the slightly older kids is wonderful. True story told by the son of a Holocaust survivor about strength, perseverance, and true love that lasts a lifetime, not a tween spring fling.
I don’t know if it has been mentioned in all of these comments, but “A Thousand Splendid Suns” is a truly inspiring book for all women. I’d wait until she’s in high school or college but it is a must-read. Thanks for such an amazing post!
I don’t think anyone has mentioned that one, Briana. Thank you!
For girls of a younger age, I’d suggest “Jane and the Dragon” by Martin Baynton. It’s the story of a girl who wants to grow up to be a knight, instead of a lady in waiting, and it’s a wonderful tale about bravery and how you should choose your own path. It was my favorite book when I was little (like two), but my friend’s daughter loves it and she just turned four, and I still love it and I’m about to turn 24! It’s one of those books that sticks with you.
Please add Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time” to your list. Fantastic female character in there too!
I love Madeleine L’Engle 🙂
Another amazing book to read to younger children would be Peter Pan. Sure it’s full of fantasy but Wendy is such a good roll model who makes wise decisions for herself and her family.
I love Peter Pan 🙂 It’s the first book I read out loud to my babies during those long nights of newborn wakefulness.
I learned how to read when I was 4, and it has been one of the greatest parts of my life ever since. Though I don’t have daughters of my own (yet!), I thought I’d pass along some of my favorites, and affirm some of those already listed.
1. Ella Enchanted is still one of my favorites, though The Two Princesses of Bamarre by the same author is one of the most lovely books ever, in my opinion.
2. The Edge on the Sword by Rebecca Tingle – Early English history, with a great heroine.
3. The Starplace by Vicki Grove – My copy is falling apart from so many readings.. deals with racism in an honest and refreshing way.
4. Chasing Redbird by Sharon Creech – I liked it better than Walk Two Moons!
5. The Mandie Series by Lois Gladys Leppard – Clever mysteries and smart, lovable characters
6. ANYTHING by Ann Rinaldi.. she may be the best historical fiction writer I’ve ever found. My personal favorite is Time Enough for Drums.
7. Stardust by Neil Gaiman – The movie was ok-ish and enjoyable, but the book is amazing.
8. Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw – This is for a highschool age girl, but still a must. Mara has flaws, but she works through them.
9. Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris – So good
10. I second Tamora Pierce.. I read all of her books throughout middle and highschool, and still check them out from the library every now and again.
11. And Condors Danced by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
I could go on an on, but this list is already quite long for just a comment. Apologies for the length, but I hope your daughter grows to love books as much as I do. And these are books good enough for you to read while you wait for her to be old enough! 🙂 Best Wishes!
Great additions, Kymberly! I almost forgot about Mara, Daughter of the Nile. That was one of my favorites growing up.
Every little girl should read “The Wee Free Men” by Terry Pratchett. It’s adorably whimsical but admirably direct in it’s message that courage, strength and wisdom are the truly admirable qualities in life. And it’s an equally fun read for mom and dad. The story is set in a fantasy world that’s still rich in real-world philosophy and scenarios, with an incredibly endearing set of characters (many of which are strong, no-nonsense women), brimming with quintessential girl-power heroinism, and rooted in the resounding message of the power of female will and courage. Overall the story reads as a modern fairy tale where nobility makes a princess rather than a crown, magical swords bare little virtue over a sharp mind and you can slay your own dragons.
So, I’ve been dying to read Prachett for years and haven’t gotten around to it yet. Now, I’m paralyzed by the decision of which one to read first, haha! Sounds great.
I LOVED the Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce when I was a girl. Alanna has a twin brother, and both are being sent off; Alanna to learn magic and her brother to become a knight. Alanna longs for the adventurous life of a knight, so she disguises herself as her brother and they trade places. Alanna was courageous and awesome and I remember getting absolutely lost in those books.
I’m not familiar with that one, Seanna. I’ll check it out!
I was hoping to see the Alanna books suggested. LOVED these when I was in jr. high. I recently re-read them and they are still so good!
When she’s old enough that these books become age appropriate, share “The Hunger Games” with her. Katniss is a very strong female lead in a world full of troubles. It’s a heart-wrentching trilogy, if you haven’t read it yet beware. But the females in the book are quite brave and strong.
I just read The Hunger Games a couple of months ago and enjoyed them. I think there’s lots to discuss in them and I plan on sharing them with my kids when they’re ready for the material. Thanks, Kara!
I’m surprised that nobody’s suggested the Baby-Sitters’ Club series for younger readers (second/third grade?). The writing is simplistic, but the girls are strong, capable, and diverse; they run their own baby-sitting agency while they deal with serious issues, like divorcing parents, abandonment, juvenile diabetes, death of pets and family members, and blended families.
I love “The Princess and the Kiss” for younger girls. It’s a short book about purity. Although its a princess story, it’s not all about the handsome prince lacking personality. Cute book with meaning to read to your little girls.
Thanks, Nadine! I’ll check it out.
Pippi Longstocking was the forst one that came to my mind. I loved it as a kid and am lookinmg for3ard to reading to my daughter (currently 2) when she is older. Thanks a great list I will need to explore more.
Never read it! So many great suggestions that I haven’t read and sometimes haven’t heard of in these comments. Thanks, Katrina.
the book of souls says
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all of those books that i have read are amazing, especially the anne and potter books, my favorite. i can also suggest the pern series, specifically the harper trilogies first two
also rebbecca, ella enchanted, and a book called the blue sword by robin mckinley, all women overcoming adverity
Thank you for the suggestions, Tegan! 🙂
Another really good one for when girls are in upper elementary school is “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’Dell. It’s about a young girl who’s entire village gets killed or stolen from their island. She is forced to learn how to survive on her own.
I also really enjoyed “The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle.” It’s about a privileged girl coming over to America on a ship. She eventually learns the value of hard work on the ship. It’s also good because she has to learn to live with people who are lower than her on the social ladder. This is kind of a hard read if I remember correctly.
Another good one is “Running out of Time.” It’s set in 1996 I think. You start out thinking it’s set during the 1800s, but then find out that all these people actually live in an exhibit. The adults all know, but the children do not. There ends up being a cholera (I think) outbreak but the owners of the exhibit won’t provide the required medicine because it’s not historically accurate. One of the mothers sends her daughter out into the real world and she is forced to find help.
I grew up reading and watching princess stories, but I also LOVED reading and watching stories about strong women. I think a healthy balance can be struck when it comes to the whole princess thing.
I’ve read Island of the Blue Dolphins and Charlotte Doyle but not Running out of Time. The plot you described reminds me of “The Village.” Have you seen it?
Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Princess stories. I think Fairy Tales are wonderful for children. I think there are some Disney princesses that could use some help but I agree that it’s all about balance.
While I completely agree with your opinion of Twilight, I had to say that you’ve not even broached the topic of bad female leads! You think Twilight is bad? Try reading the 50 Shades series. That makes the Twilight books look poetic and the main character look like the ultimate roll model! Yeesh… Literature is going downhill fast!
Love your list, great recommendations!
Thanks, Theresa! I’m sure there’s worse out there than Twilight. But I think the issue is that Twilight is widely read by preteen girls while 50 Shades is not (at least I hope not!).
I love this list I am going to remember it for my 3 week old niece. I can’t wait for her to learn to read! Your list is fantastic.
I would also add:
The Betsy-Tacy Series by Maude Hart Lovelace
Betsy is a brave writer (similar to Jo March) her books are about herself and her two (in the second book Betsy and Tacy meet Thelma, called Tib) and it is about their friendship. It takes the reader from the girls adventures at age 6 to Betsy’s work as high school newspaper editor, her solo trip around Europe right before WWI (Betsy and the Great World is my favorite) to her marriage at the end of the series. The stories are based on Maude Hart Lovelace’s life. She started telling them to her daughter as bedtime stories and they eventually became some of my favorite books.
I gotta get those books!
I adore your selection of books for girls and have read many of them to my three daughters (ages 8 to 16). I am guessing that you have only heard about twilight or maybe just saw the movies. I enjoyed the books very much. Bella grows up with a lovable flake of a Mom, cooks dinner for her Dad, makes straight A’s and chooses a guy who worries about her soul and insists that they wait to have sex until they are married. She leaves the protection of her friends to save her Mom. Edward leaves her to protect her and she grieves the loss; she never tries to kill herself or even mentions suicide. Breaking Dawn ,the final book, is one of my favorite books. Bella protects her child at all costs and saves everyone — with her mind. I get that the movies don’t have time to tell a complete story, but I think the books are excellent. Nobody hate me, please, that’s my honest opinion.
Oh yeah, I like Disney princesses, too. I play up their gutsy decisions and fearless determination to my girls. Just to be clear, I don’t tell them that a man is needed to complete their identity. I just want them to know that love exists and ,even though no one is perfect, any man worth having MUST respect her, care about others more than himself, and be good with animals and children, and love God.
I would never disparage the decisions of any Mom who wants to do what is best for her daughter, I just wanted to share my opinion. I do agree about the third Anne movie, though; it made me cry. Anne made adventures out of everyday life, she didn’t need to go to war. Also, we don’t get to see her awesome family. I know the screenwriter backed himself into a corner by setting the original movie in the Victorian era, but I still think he should have found a way to follow the basic storyline of the books.
Oh that last Anne movie. You’re right. So unnecessary! There’s so much great material in the books…I just….sigh. Don’t get me started.
I wrote another post a few weeks ago about my issues with Twilight. http://carrotsformichaelmas.com/2012/06/20/why-you-cant-read-twilight-a-letter-to-my-daughter/
You probably won’t like it if you were a fan of the books, but there it is. I actually did read the books (not all of the last one) and if I remember correctly, Bella jumps off a cliff while mourning Edward’s abandonment…or to get his attention? Can’t remember. Either way seems bad.
I personally don’t have a problem with fairy tales and princess stories, although I know some do. Thanks for your comment!
I’m sorry, but I couldn’t not comment on this. I completely agree with the books on this list (I completely adore Hermione Granger and Luna Lovegood and I love Katniss from The Hunger Games) and I believe females should be strong, independent, courageous, and empowered, but I also love the Twilight series. Sure Bella is not the strongest female protagonist ever, but you don’t go into the Twilight books looking for that, you read them for the love story. So when your daughter grows up and she wants to read the books….let her! Just tell her that she might not want Bella as a role model, but to enjoy the books for what they are…entertainment!
And in response to the Disney Princesses comment….I grew up watching princess movies and I turned out just fine! Have you ever seen the princess movies? Mulan risks her life fighting for her country because she doesn’t want her father to have to fight….if that doesn’t say courage than I don’t know what does!!
Hi, Molly. Thanks for your comment. If you enjoyed the Twilight series, you probably won’t enjoy my post about why I don’t want my daughter to read it: http://carrotsformichaelmas.com/2012/06/20/why-you-cant-read-twilight-a-letter-to-my-daughter/
But it does give a more detailed response of my issues with the series. In fact, it’s the “love” aspect that I have the biggest problem with. I think it’s a terrible representation of what love is and should be (that’s all in the post). And of course when my daughter is in her teens she can read them if she desires (I mean, how could I really stop her). Furthermore, I don’t think that just because something is “entertainment” means that it is positive. Something can be entertaining as well as dreadful (as a fellow fan of the Hunger Games I’m sure you’ve considered that.)
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, same person who wrote a secret garden. My little sister and I adored it.
I loved it, too!
Although you make some good points…. I think you could cut Stephanie Meyers a bit of a break…. The books were not meant to be some literally masterpiece. She is a bit of an inspiration herself… She was NOT a writer .. she was just a mom.. like all of us. ( when was the last time any of you wrote a best seller?) She had a dream… and sat down to write a story… that’s all it is.. just a fantasy. Something from her imagination…. That is something I hope my daughter has… vision. She started something and finished it!!!!. As far as poor Bella …. Yes.. she went through some moments of weakness.. ( haven’t we all?) but she also shows strength … as a mother herself … she is protective of her unborn child even when it threatens her own life… She goes on to continue to protect her family. And Edward is an honorable guy and they resist temptation and wait until marriage. Just to add… these books got some young girls to start reading in the first place… These were the fist books that any of them had picked up and the read was easy…. ( unlike The Lord of the rings) The average person could get through all 4 books in about 2 weeks. I get the point of your list…but I think it sounds a bit High and mighty.
Thank you for your insights, J. Indeed, the books are NOT intended to be some literary masterpiece. So I figure, why waste time on them? And her unfortunate lack of writing skill is embarrassingly apparent in her works.
I don’t think that it’s unreasonable to criticize her books on the grounds that I have not written a bestselling book. I am a reader of books and I think I’m entitled to an opinion as anyone else. When a friend asks you what you thought of a bad movie, do you respond, “I’m not qualified to say because I’ve never directed a feature film”? Or do you give your opinion?
If you enjoyed the books and want your daughter to read them, great! You’re the parent!
In my case, I’m simply not impressed with the fact that Miss Meyer “finished something” because the product isn’t impressive. Many people write and finish good books and those are the sort I would like her to read.
I think your point that Bella is protective of her unborn child has merit! It’s a redeeming quality. But with so many great characters in real literature to offer my daughter, why present her with a generally boring and flat character like Bella?
As for getting some kids to start reading, I think that what you attract people with you attract them to. It seems hardly positive that Miss Meyer got girls interested in reading mediocre books. There are many many easy books that are well-written and interesting.
There are so many awesome books on this list. And even more when you take all the replies into consideration. I have to add a few that I’ve read with my own daughters recently that were keepers.
A Mango Shaped Space by Wendy Mass
Savvy by Ingrid Law
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron
Rules by Cynthia Lord
Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson
Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie Tolan
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
Mon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
These are all excellent strong-female books that are acceptable for a precocious 8 up through about 14. I tried to scan all the comments, but my apologies if I’ve repeated some.
I haven’t heard of most of these (I love that!). Thank you so much 🙂
yes, yes, yes!!!!
Calpurnia Tate is gorgeous, amazing, funny, and one of the best books to be published for kids in the past ten years. Moon Over Manifest is lovely, too.
agreeing with the posts above calling for Star Girl by Spinelli, Princess Academy by Shannon Hale, and the Penderwicks by Birdsall.
For your tiny little one, I don’t think I saw anyone mention Neil Gaiman’s Blueberry Girl, which is one of my favorite picture books of all time.
A Wrinkle in Time is another must read.
Love that one, Krista!
I’m not sure if anyone else has suggested these, but Princess Academy and the Books of Bayern by Shannon Hale are pretty decent, and The Mysterious Benedict Society Series by Trenton Lee Stewart is fantastic. Kate and Constance are two of the strongest and resourceful literary girls I’ve ever read about, and they are both very young.
I keep hearing great things about the Mysterious Benedict Society! I must must must get my hands on those. Thank you!
I recommend The BFG and Matilda by Roald Dahl (everything by him, actually), all the Pippi Longstocking books are fantastic, and the Anastasia books by Lois Lowry. So, so good.
Kind of a random note here. First, I want to say, I definitely recommend reading these books to your daughter, and encouraging her to look up to strong women.
But I did want to make one comment on Twilight. Yes, Bella is not as interesting as some people. She’s not as beautiful as some people. She’s not as smart as some people. She’s not as rich as some people. She screws up, makes mistakes, and doesn’t fit in. But in the end she is still loved, valued, and cared for. And sometimes when you’re a young girl and you feel not as interesting, not as pretty, or not as smart as the people around you, it can feel good to read a story that tells you that you can still find a life where you are loved and valued not just in spite of your oddities, but because of them.
Just a thought on another way to put Bella into some context if she ever does want to read those books.
Kelsey, thanks for your insightful comment. I actually think that your thoughts regarding Twilight are the best I’ve read in these comments. You make a good point. But I think there are books that also present characters who are misfits that young girls will connect with for their awkwardness and “oddities,” as you said, that are really well-written and timeless. Haven’t come across a better argument in favor of Twilight! Bravo!
I definitely agree. 🙂
Your list and those added by others are all amazing suggestions. I have a 4 year old daughter & will definitely start reading some of these books to her!
I have one suggestion for when your daughter is older. I read this book (and all of th other books by her) when I was a junior in high school for a project for school. One of my favorite books that I re-read about once a year is “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand. Although her objectivist philosophy is controversial (even to a fan like me there are parts i do not agree with) I believe that parts of it are necessary for a young woman (or man). She instilled in me the sense that I can do or be anything that I want. My father has called me “Dagny” since I was 17 (the name of her female protagonist) as we both enjoy Rand’s work.
Despite some of the controversies, Rand enforces hard work, confidence, intelligence, feminism, and many many other important aspects of becoming a strong woman. This is one on the list that I will suggest my daughter reads as well. If you have the chance, preview it first. It is quite lengthy (over 1000 pages) and can be a bit slow at times, but for me at least it is a book that definitely deserves a shot. (I will warn you Rand is an agnostic, however, I grew up Lutheran & in a house hold of strong faith. Any reading of Rand I did at that age did not cause me to question my personal faith–that’s part of the reason I suggested it be for later in life).
Two other books I read regularly and have since I was in high school, are “The Thornbirds” & “Gone With the Wind”. There is also a sequel to “Gone With the Wind” (written by a different author) that I think is quite good at finishing the transformation that Scarlett begins at the end of ” Gone With the Wind”. All of these books have strong female leads that go through transformations that I think show a young woman that changes happen & no one is perfect.
Thanks, Amy! Haven’t read Atlas Shrugged, although I’ve read some of Rand’s other works (can’t say I’m a huge fan!). I read Gone with the Wind when I was in third grade actually (seems weird now, haha) and I’ve always loved it. Way better than the movie!
I haven’t read many of the above comments so if I repeat opinions that have already been stated I apologize. 🙂
I read (and own) the Twilight series. And I have read them at least three times. They are good for a quick read, something of a guilty pleasure of mine. The movies are just grotesquely mooshy. Ick. But as far as letting a future daughter of mine read them, I would if she wanted to. If I told her no she probably would anyway if she inherits any of my …um, issues with authority. I don’t think they’ll damage her and I would be interested to see what her opinion of them is. Now…the last one I might hold off on depending on what age she was when the interest surfaces due to some questionable loves scenes. But even then, those are very tame.
My very favorite Disney movie was Mulan. I believe that is the first Disney princess movie where the female character wasn’t a damsel in distress. It came out when I was in the 5th grade and it still has a special place in my heart. And I have heard some good things about the new Disney/Pixar movie Brave.
I read a lot of the Babysitter’s club. The Boxcar Kids were a favorite of mine as well. All of the CS Lewis Chronicles of Narnia books (I believe there are 7). I read a lot of Nancy Drew when I was in middle school. I agree that the Harry Potter series is fantastic. As an adult I am still in love with the series. Gone with the Wind is a good book, I just finished it a month ago. Scarlett is a very strong character but I go between wanting to slap her and being proud of her for what she is doing in spite of disapproval. Although Melanie is another example of a strong woman who sticks by her moral code and her friends throughout all in a more soft spoken way, but very strong in her own right.
Great list! Thanks for sharing. 🙂
I almost forgot about the Boxcar Children ! Thank you!
I love Anne of Green Gables ! However, may I ask why you are so adamant about not watching the continuing story film ? Why did you not like that one ?
Have you not seen it yet?! (Please say yes!)
They made a complete departure from the books and created an entirely new “dramatic” story line in war times (Anne goes to war?). Furthermore, the actors are all too old and Anne has a gravelly smoker voice. Not sure if the actress smokes, but it’s dreadful. I’ve tried to block out the whole experience!
Haha, I’ve seen it. Of course it’s not like the original books – but then again, most movies that were once books never turn out the same. Yes it did veer off from the Anne stories, and I didn’t really like it that much either. It was just funny, because I happened to come across your blog & saw this post a day after I watched the third movie. The first one is undoubtedly my favorite. Anne of Green Gables totally inspired me as a little girl and broadened my imagination ever so greatly. Love that Anne !
Not sure where you stand on religious beliefs, but if you are concerned for your daughter to grow up with great influences, the Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers is a fantastic place to start. It’s a trilogy that starts following a Messianic Jewish girl who was thrust into a world of slavery. Her effects on the family she works for are unparalleled. I’m a big reader, and I love good, classic books, but have yet to find one that challenged me to be a better person than the characters in those stories. It’s virtually impossible to read those books and not be changed. Check them out, you might be surprised how good they are. And did I mention that they’re easy to read? Winning. All around.
Sounds great, Laura! I’ll check it out 🙂
I think you should add anything by Tamora Pierce, she has scads of fabulous books featuring incredibly strong female characters. They are fantasy and an incredible formative part of my adolescence and adulthood. I think any of her heroines are fabulous role-models and appeal to a wide audience.
Except that Pierce’s main heroine, Alanna the Lioness, falls into bed at the first flirtatious smile of any cute guy!! Three, that I can recall. I read this series just this last month based on comments like this on this post, and though the books were entertaining and fun, I can’t believe this kind of thing is in a children’s book, and I most definitely will not want Alanna as a role model for my girls!!
I found this list via Pinterest and think it is a great list. I am a huge fan of Jane Austen and have read P&P literally 20 times. I got Little House on the Prairie on cd to listen to in the car and there many times we had to sit waiting in the car while she listened to the book. I am not sure if these books were mentioned but they are favorites of my 6yr old daughter Luci. Judy Moody, The Magic Tree House(I love this series bc it gets them interesed in reading and history), The Magic Ballerina( the series is written by a real ballerina) Judy Blume, also the American Girl books are great for strong girls and learning about history. We are now listening on cd The Golden Compass and my daughter is loving it. We first saw the movie and now listening to the book which I try to reframe from doing but I didn’t realize it was a book till after we watched it. The others I would name seemed to have already been listed.
For the on going talk about Barbie and Princess I will say to each their own and would never want to criticize someone else’s opinion and would not want those to do it to me. I grew up with all the princesses and with Barbie and I am a very strong willed woman. My daughter is all about princesses. She also is interested in other things like Little house on the prairie and history books. She loves to wear a tutu, tiara, and bejewled up to her neck in necklaces but is also out there climbing trees and playing in the mud with her guy friends. We live on a farm and she is out there helping to feed and take care of the animals. Children should not be censored into what books they cannot and can read. They should be allowed to explore all sorts of worlds and characters and be allowed to judge fore themselves what type of person they want to be. We need to be there to guide them but never push them along their path.