One of the fun perks of being married is that now I have a niece. I’ve known her for several years already, of course, and watching her change to the very grown-up age of eight has been fun. Of course, having always wanted to be an aunt, I get very excited around Christmas, because I can think of all kinds of fun things to get her, and it gives me an excuse to buy stuff at the American Girl Doll store (I can’t really justify buying clothes for my American Girl Doll, so this is a good substitute). However, I want to make sure she gets some smart, thinking-girl gifts as well.
Conveniently, my boss recently recommended A Mighty Girl, a website billed as “The world’s largest collection of books, toys and movies for smart, confident and courageous girls.” What a wonderful find! I love all the stuff, and not only does it makes me want some of the fun science kits, my reading wish list has just grown out of control. I continually strive to be a smart, confident and courageous girl, so even I find their recommendations inspiring.
My favorite books span my decades, and I still return to them when I’m feeling stressed. Their challenges and triumphs remind me that even though they and their challenges are fictional, they overcome their challenges with strength and humor and grace. Frances Hodgson Burnett’s book A Little Princess was my childhood comfort story, and no, I have not seen any movie adaption, because I don’t to ruin my mental images of the story (I also remain terribly loyal to the illustrations of my 1975 copy). Sara Crewe’s story is definitely one that few of us can directly relate to (diamond mines – I wish!), but the fact remains that she stayed gracious and positive and creative throughout her personal struggles. I think we can all learn lessons from that. Robin McKinley’s book The Blue Sword captured my early adulthood fantasies the way that no other book had, not even The Lord of the Rings. Harry Crewe, the woman warrior destined to wield the Blue Sword, was tall, blonde and independent, and the story of her birthright inspired me to be strong and athletic and powerful. And discovered maybe a decade ago by my mother, Elizabeth Peters’ character Amelia Peabody was not only a Victorian Egyptologist and lived part of the year in Egypt, but also over the course of several books and several decades, she solved murder mysteries, was thrown into at least one dire circumstance per book, was married to an eminent Egyptologist, raised a mysterious (yet sexy!) son, and strong-armed everyone she met into doing what she wished them to do. And in the best possible humor, whether intended or not!
These books may not seem very “grown up” to some people, but I love creative, well-written stories with strong female characters. I’m also looking forward to reading a new book, The Number 7, by new author Jessica Lidh. Written for teen readers, the book’s mystery, Holocaust past, and Swedish history during World War II make it of interest to me. It also helps that Jessica Lidh is my friend April’s sister! April has told me in the past about the book, and I’ve been awaiting its publication – this month! I haven’t read it yet, but it was on my list to Santa, so hopefully that will be next month’s reading. I can’t wait! I don’t know if my niece will end up with the same love of books that I have, but I will do my best to make sure she at least gets exposure to strong girl stories. There are so many out there, all collected onto one website, that there is no way she should be at a loss for good role models as she gets older. One of her Christmas presents is a book listed on A Mighty Girl’s website. It isn’t Bicycle Madness, but if anyone wants a gift hint, well, here’s the link!
Do any of you have favorite “mighty girl” books or stories? Where did you get your inspiration from when you were young? Or did you find your might later in life? And what tips would you offer to an aunt of a young girl?
12 thoughts on “Books for Girls, Not Necessarily Bike-Related”
A Little Princess is my favorite book. I have read it countless times since I was 7 or 8. It helped form my whole personality and approach to life. I had a beautiful edition illustrated by Tasha Tudor that my grandmother gave me.
I love Tasha Tudor illustrated anything! I agree with you about forming an approach to life. Rereading A Little Princess always reminded me to be kind, even during the worst of times. Especially during the worst of times. : )
She was true to herself throughout and despite her experiences.
I should add: check with the librarian at that local public library. Make sure it is the librarian you are asking for recommendations.
I am a librarian by training and professionally but not a children’s librarian.
Oh i didnt realize that you are a librarian, that is cool! I worked in a library while I was in high school. It was so hard being around the books all the time. I was a book shelver and always got in trouble for reading on the job!
I’m not up to date with young girl’s book tastes…I have 3 different nieces from 3 different sisters (and 4 nephews in total) ranging from age. 28 to 6 yrs. old.
As young teen I enjoyed…..Little Women by Louisa May Alcott…yea written in 1800’s. You see I grew up with 4 sisters and I brother. So there 4 girls in that novel book family.
I identified most strongly with Jo, the rebellious, natural writer…
I believe other book characters/actual books were: Pippi Longstocking, Ramona (by Beverly Cleary).
One series to try is by Canadian children’s book author Jean Little, ….she features a disabled child in some of her books as the central character…very ahead of her time. Jean herself is blind. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Little
Of course, as a 10 yr. child at that time, I no clue how ahead she was as children’s book author. I just remember her reading to our class…and she took out her glass eye. She did bring her cute little white terrier dogs to the library.
As a slightly older teen, I read Judy Blume’s books. Some of them controversial …at that time.
I loved Little Women and identified with Jo as well. I recently thought about Judy Blume, and wondered about what I woukd think of the books as an adult. I didn’t love them as a kid, although I did like Ramona. And the Betsy Tacy Tib books! I still have those, and the Little House on the Prairie books.
I wonder which kids books from now will be classics in 20 years or so.
Oh and the glass eye is pretty cool!
I forgot about the Little House on the Prairies series.. yes, we read them too. A real classic by now since they were written well over 7 decades ago?
As a piece of trivia: I grew up in a German Mennonite region in Ontario. A good Mennonite friend of mine has a bookstore of used books. She and hubby only sell certain books. They find Little House series very popular among Old Order Mennonites (black clothing, bonnets for women and horse drawn buggies. No cars. Whereas my friend and hubby own and drive a car.)
Anne of Green Gables series …which is a Canadian children’s series also.
Although i know Anne of Green Gables is hugely popular, I preferred Emily of New Moon.
I did not realize there were German Mennonites in Canada! How interesting! I can see how they would like the Little House books.
Oh my goodness! I also have had The Blue Sword since I was in elementary school and I still re-read it and enjoy it just as much. The prequel The Hero and the Crown is also really fun, with another strong girl character who ends up saving the world 🙂 Another I really enjoy is The Green Rider. It’s one I’ve read again and again and has an “unlikely” girl growing into a heroine.
I have Hero and the Crown as well, but like Blue Sword better. I’ll have to read the Green Rider, I don’t know it. Thanks for the suggestion!