Great Girls Your Daughter Should Know

     I’m not a huge fan of the Twilight Series of books – long story short I think they have little literary merit (due to equal parts poor writing, poor plot development and poor character development) and are marketed to too young of girls for my taste.  That kind of literary fluff concerning the topics central to these books are best left to beach reads for older girls and women at best.  My friend Haley does a great job at expressing her dislike of the series and I can’t say I disagree. *as you read her letter please remember there is a difference between allowing a child to read what interests her and encouraging certain materials over another*.

    My daughters, should I have any, will be encouraged to read to whatever encourages them to read – as many will be quick to point out it’s better to read something like Twilight than nothing at all, which is true to a degree.  However, I hope before my girls pick up a beat up copy of Twilight out of the quarter bin of Goodwill (where I presume most copies will be in 15 years) I hope they’ve already been introduced to many more strong, relatable female protagonists.

    The following is a far from complete list of some of my favorites – they are warriors, scholars, mothers, daughters; they can be wildly in love and impressively practical; they are a little too perfect and incredibly flawed.  Most of them have happy endings, some of them don’t.  In an nutshell – these are girls who act like girls

    1. Mary Lennox from The Secret Garden
    2. Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy  from Little Women
    3. Sara Crewe from A Little Princess
    4. Laura, Mary and Ma Ingalls from the Little House on the Prairie Series
    5. Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables
    6. Beezus and Ramona from the Ramona Series
    7. Meg Murray from A Wrinkle in Time
    8. Hermione Granger, Tonks and Molly Weasley from the Harry Potter Series
    9. Coraline Jones from Coraline
    10. Cimorene from Dealing with Dragons (and the rest of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles)
    11. Elizabeth from The Paper Bag Princess
    12. Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle
    13. Nausicaä from Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
    14. Lireal/Sabriel from the Abhorsen Series
    15. Alanna from the Song of the Lioness Series
    16. Lucy and Susan from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
    17. Eff Rothmer from the Frontier Magic Series
    18. Jane from Jane Erye
    19. Lizzy Bennet and her Sisters from Pride and Prejudice
    20. Eleanor and Marianne from Sense and Sensibility
    21. Anne from Persuasion
    22. Eowyn from the Lord of the Rings
    23. Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing
    24. Kate from The Taming of the Shrew
    25. Hester Pryne from The Scarlet Letter
    26. Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird
    27. Princess Buttercup from The Princess Bride
    28. Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web
    29. Margaret Halefrom North and South
    30. Antigone from Sophocles’ Antigone

    If you’d like links to the books mentioned in this list hope over to the Great Girls Pinterest Board for these and other great suggestions!

    If you’d like an even longer list about women and girls real or fictional check out A Mighty GirlAnd let’s not forget – stories about strong girls are not just for girls, let’s encourage our boys to read these books too!

    This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links.

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      285 thoughts on “Great Girls Your Daughter Should Know

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      1. The two that I didn't see on this excellent list were Leslie Burke from “Bridge to Terebithia” and Sara “Wheeze” Bradshaw from “Jacob Have I Loved… But seriously, this list is amazing!

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      2. Don't forget Alanna the Lioness, Veralidaine Sarrasri, Keladry of Mindelan, and Alyanne of Pirate's Swoop from Tamora Pierce's Tortallan books. I would follow those women to the ends of the earth.

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      3. Rick Riordan has written a series about Egyptian mythology in the modern world. The pov is split between two siblings who are half British white and half African-American/Black. The girl is very sassy and strong willed and I like her. He also has another series with Greek mythology, some have mentioned Annabeth from the Percy Jackson series, but the other Greek series is called the Heroes of Olympus, I believe. Those books also have multiple pov's male and female, and one of the female leads Hazel, is African-American and the other Piper, is Cherokee. These books are found in the children's section of libraries but are still enjoyable to teens and adults too. Making it a book you could really enjoy reading with your daughter. The American Girl Series has Addy, from the Civil War era and Cecile from I think, 1900's New Orleans, who are both African American. They also have Kaya who is Native American, and Josephina who is from New Mexico before it became part of the U.S. I second reading Esperanza Rising as well. Amazing Grace, she is African American as well. These are all good books and I especially like the humor in Rick Riordan's books.

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      4. Rick Riordan has two series you would probably like to look into. The Kane Chronicles (about Egyptian Mythology in the Modern World), has split pov's from boy/girl twins who are half white British half African-American/Black. The heroine is very spunky and strong-I like her. His Heroes of Olympus series has split pov's as well, male and female leads. One of those girls is named Hazel and she is African American and another one is Piper who is Cherokee. The American Girl company has two series with African American girl leads; Addy from the Civil War era, and Cecile from mid 1800's or early 1900's New Orleans. They also have Josephina from New Mexico before U.S. expansion, and Kaya who is Native American. These books will be found in the children's section's of the book stores but will still be enjoyable for older girls (and their parents) as well. I also second reading Esperanza Rising. Rick Riordan's books also feature good male characters that are not all white either. They are Frank Zhang and Leo Valdez from the Heroes of Olympus, and of course, Carter Kane the twin from the Kane Chronicles.

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      5. Princess Buttercup from The Princess Bride are you kidding? that is the only movie that was better than the book I can think of. In the book Buttercup was an airhead who lacked all loyalty and was only pretty. Westley was a total jerk who hit her across the face for saying that she loved him more than the dread pirate Roberts ever could dream and an entire chapter was devoted to a previous princesses hats. No, Buttercup is no strong woman. A strong woman would have stolen the prince's best horse and made a run for it with his best weapons, intent on hunting down the killer of her love, or at the very least tried to get away from the prince at all. Instead it takes nightmares about giving birth to babies who die in her arms from her lack of love, how sick is that? BUT if you are talking Buttercup of the movie and re-written books thereafter, yes, she was moderately cool. The guy who did a lot of the movies writing wrote a book called The Princess Bride, the Cool Parts. That was not too bad.

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      6. I found this list on Pinterest. I was excited to see what books you'd recommended. Then I read your intro to the list and was put off by your remarks about Twilight. It matters not at all to me whether you like the Twilight books or not. What I take issue with is the way you denigrate them so thoroughly as a way to introduce the books you want to recommend. I like the Twilight books; I have also read a majority of the books on your list. My excitement at possibly discovering something new to read faded when I read your blog post. The classics on your list don't need to be justified by going into such detail about why you don't approve of some other book, especially since you provided a link to an article about why you think that way. I happen to disagree with you about the value of Twilight. It's subjective, and I think it's counterproductive to first alienate many of your readers, and then hope they can look past your off-putting remarks to see the excellent books on your list. I know that this is your blog, and you can say whatever you want to on it. I just think it's too bad that others may be put off as well before they can get to your recommendations.

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      7. Sorry you feel that way Elanna, having read many posts and articles on the merits or lack there of in “Twilight” I know I'm being rather gentle in saying “long story short I think they have little literary merit (due to equal parts poor writing, poor plot development and poor character development) and are marketed to too young of girls for my taste. That kind of literary fluff concerning the topics central to these books are best left to beach reads for older girls and women at best.”

        This is simply a list of books I would ask my daughters to read before reading “Twilight” or whatever the equivalent is in 15 years. An considering the response I've seen from this post, I'm pretty confident that the audience I meant to reach with this post has been and continues to be reached regardless of my opinions of “Twilight”.

        Thanks for stopping by!

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      8. Saw this image on Pinterest and thought it would lead to a blog discussion of domestic abuse as the Twilight Series is often the topic in domestic abuse prevention rallies in high schools. Something to think about ladies.

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      9. I fully agree – love both these series (Princess Academy just released a sequel recently – does that make it a series?) Both about girls/young women who are put into hard circumstances and show that even young girls can make a big difference if they stand up for themselves.

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      10. I agree – I enjoyed the song of the Lioness series and the Abhorsen series a lot – but i would put those as teen books – not for younger girls. It was really neat to see some lesser-know books on the list!

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      11. I was going to suggest Esperanza, but CaraDD beat me to it. Jacqueline Woodson writes great tween and older teen books featuring African-American teens. And, of course, the late Octavia Butler's sci-fi novels when your daughter is a little older.

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      12. Carey from Emily Murdoch's truly extraordinary If You Find Me, Astrid for dealing with questions about sexualty in A. S. King's Ask the Passengers (any book of King's, really). And Chris Crutcher writes mostly boycentric books, but they are boys to be admired, and they also have good female characters and deal with real issues. These are all mid to older teen books.

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      13. I agree Maren!! Love these girls and Molly bet you would absolutely love them! My second daughter was reading Goose Girl in her biology class because she couldn't put it down. I just finished reading Princess Academy again….love Miri!!

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      14. i'm an Enid Blython fan, so i would add the twins and five and seven to this list.
        also, i read a lot of south american authors, and i would recommend books by Isabel Allende. there are some for teens and others for YA and adults.

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      15. Great list! Eowyn is definitely high on my list. Tolkien did such an amazing job of making her powerful and assertive and brave, as well as giving her feminine qualities like the huge crush she has on Aragorn and her ability to nurture people. It sends such a great message to girls and women who read about her: you can be a woman and do amazing things, and you don't have to give up your femininity to do them.

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      16. Yay love Anne of Green Gables and its seven sequels! <3
        I would add Charlotte Doyle from “The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle” by Avi to the list.

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      17. Love this list! As well as the others suggested. As an elementary teacher, I read books with strong role models, both male and female- along with mutual respect modeled between both genders. When my oldest started dating, I knew I'd made a mark with the books I urged him to read by the girls he chose to date (smart, independent, playful, and kind). Definitely not Bella and Edward-esque type of relationships.

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      18. I love this list! And I love the emotion behind it. I have a nine year old daughter, and I am encourage her to read classics. Not just “classics” in the traditional sense, but modern day classics, like Harry Potter.

        I have read the Twilight series and found it interesting. I am being honest; I enjoyed it a lot. However, the writing is poor, and although I like the basic story, the plot and character development is one dimensional and the characters are often irritating – akin to tantrum throwing toddlers. So yes, I enjoyed the read, but I enjoyed it in the way one sculls a glass of fanta on a hot day, not the way one slowly devours a well aged red wine on a cold winter's night.

        Anyway, getting back to Harry Potter: My daughter is currently reading The Half Blood Prince (she is reading them aloud with her father as she has done with the earlier books) and I am wondering whether you or any of your readers have an opinion on whether she should wait until she is a bit older to read the last book. My gut tells me that she will probably interpret the last book on the level she is at the moment, and as she is older the story will become more deep and intricate as her emotional understanding develops. But any comments would be well recieved.

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      19. The best thing about Lyra (and Will for the boys reading this trilogy) is that the book starts before they lose their innocence, and end as they are becoming adults. So you see the changesthey go through as they mature.

        I was fortunate that the books publication dates coincided with similar stages in my life. So I “grew up” right alongside Lyra. 🙂

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      20. EVANLYN AND ALYSS! FINALLY, SOMEONE ELSE WHO READS RANGER'S APPRENTICE!!! I would also add Annabeth Chase, Piper McLean, Hazel Levesque, Reyna and Hylla Ramirez-Arellano, Zoe Nightshade, and Thalia Grace from the Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus series

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      21. I know this post is super old, but I can add a few. Lady Anne d'Arcy from the classic “The Red Keep” by Allen French, Sammy Lane from “The Shepherd of the Hills”, Rebecca from “Ivanhoe”, Angel from “Freckles”, Elnora Comstock the heroine of “Girl of the Limberlost”, Echo Sackett from “Ride the River” by Louis L'Amour”, and Elsie Dinsmore are all women I would want my daughters to meet. I read the story so long ago that it's foggy, but Karana from “Island of the Blue Dolphins” was great, if I remember correctly. Roberta from “The Railway Children” by E. Nesbit is a wonderful, wise, wise, strong and sympathetic heroine.

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