“When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.” – Kathleen Kelly, You’ve Got Mail
Three years ago one of my posts went viral for the first time. I shared about using good literature to raise strong daughters. I featured heroines that had a lot more backbone and a lot less vampire-obsession than Twilight‘s Bella Swan and it seemed to strike a chord. It’s been viewed hundreds of thousands of times and over 700 folks chimed in to share about their favorite books in the comments.
But here’s where I went wrong: I only included 10 books, so I thought I would expand the list a bit and share 10 MORE books that are essential reading for girls. Boys will enjoy them, too, but we’re focusing on nurturing strong daughters in this post. I included mostly classics (because I think books become classics for good reason) but there’s one or two more modern works that should be classics in the list, too.
There’s plenty of terrible role models our daughters will encounter so why not offer some good ones they can carry with them forever?
1. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
In the original list I included Lewis’s Till We Have Faces which I think is his best work, but the combox was in uproar that I didn’t include Narnia. And for good reason, there are some fantastic heroines in the series. I have a soft spot for “Queen Lucy the Valiant” and that’s partly why one of my daughters is named Lucy.
2. Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
I didn’t pick this book up until I was in my twenties, but I absolutely fell in love with the Fossil sisters. It’s a delightful read about a set of highly resourceful, talented, and ambitious orphans who must struggle to take care of each other and pursue their dreams. It also comes highly recommended from Kathleen Kelly.
3. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
One of the first science fiction books to feature a female protagonist, A Wrinkle in Time follows the adventures of Meg Murry who is looking for her father who mysteriously disappeared.
4. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Mary Lennox is a self-centered, spoiled child who transforms into a strong-willed, feisty girl who learns to care about others with the help of a hidden garden and two friends. This Mary, Mary Quite Contrary is such an unforgettable character.
5. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
I TRY not to include two books by the same author on any of my book lists but having just re-read both TSG and ALP, I couldn’t leave out the splendid Sara Crewe. Orphaned as a young girl, Sara is at the mercy of her cruel former headmistress who treats her like a slave. Her imagination and kindness give her the strength to survive.
6. The Railway Children by E. Nesbit
All of E. Nesbit’s children’s books are charming, but this one is my favorite. Roberta, Phyllis, and Peter move from their fancy London house to an old house in the country after their father is framed for a crime and the family loses their income. Roberta (or Bobbie) helps hold their family together and fights to prove her father’s innocence.
7. Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery
I adore the Anne-with-an-E, of course, but I was just recently introduced to Emily. Like Anne Shirley, Emily Starr is an orphan and an aspiring writer, but she has her own delightful personality that distinguishes her from the well-known Anne.
8. The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
Princess Irene is the target of a plot by the dreadful goblins living under her father the king’s domain. She befriends a young miner named Curdie and ends up saving him from peril. Irene and Curdie are both brave and selfless and this fairytale is not to be missed.
9. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This one is a classic for good reason. Who doesn’t love Scout?
10. The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
When I read The Penderwicks for the first time, I couldn’t believe that I had found a recently published book that I loved as much my classic favorites. But this series is just spectacular. The Penderwick sisters have a wonderful father, but their mother passed away soon after the youngest sister, Batty, was born.
As Kathleen Kelly would say, “Read it! I know you’ll love it!”
There’s more essential books out there. What would you add to the list?
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