Monday, December 14, 2009

Book Suggestions for Spirited Girls - Older Readers

This is an even harder list to narrow down, so I am going to cop out on part of it and just give some authors;

Karen Cushman - Strong female characters finding out they are more than the people around them may give them credit for. Mostly set in the middle ages, but don't miss Rodzina, set in the days of the orphan trains. I especially like that one because she is NOT skinny or pretty or smart, and messes up quite a bit. Trina Schart Hyman illustrated manyof her covers, which is just an added bonus!

Gail Carson Levine - Probably best known for Ella Enchanted (a prime example of not judging a book by its movie), she gives a realistic twist to old fairy tales, making the characters more than three-dimensional and making them very easy to relate to, without taking them out of the world of castles and princes.

Nancy Springer - specifically, of course, the Rowan Hood series and the Enola Holmes books. Rowan Hood is the daughter of Robin Hood (unbeknownst to him at first), and upon the death of her mother becomes the unwitting leader of a band of very strong characters with their own strong personalities. Through the series they all learn a lot about love, honor, revenge, and friendship. Enola Holmes is the very intelligent younger sister of Sherlock Holmes, who was not exactly known for his high opinion of the female intellect. When her mother disappears and her brothers want to send her off to a finishing school, she begins a series of adventures, mostly just trying to stay free until she is of legal age, but also longing to have a relationship with her brother - adding a very nice dimension to what would already be highly enjoyable books.

Gerald Morris - While his main characters are usually male, all contain some strong females (as well as some simpering idiots). Any of the books in the Squire's Tale series can stand alone - and who can resist a title like The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf? - but it's best to start from the beginning and read them all.

Now for some specific titles:

Your classic tale of miss prim and proper learning there is more to the world than her sheltered upbringing would have her believe, and that right and wrong aren't always clear. In Avi's masterful hands this classic tale becomes a gripping Newbery Award novel that both boys and girls alike will not be able to put down.

Yes, by the same author as Pippi Longstocking, but Ronia does not have any superhuman strength or chest of gold. She does have a heart of gold, as well as a wild spirit, and entire band of robbers (of which her father is the leader) wrapped around her pinky finger - a good thing, too, since she has more sense than the lot of them! This is exactly how I picture my daughter to be a few years from now, barefoot and ragged and running through the trees. Another great illustration from Trina Schart Hyman.

Unfortunately out of print, and I couldn't find cover art, but used copies available from the usual sources. Maud wants to be a wool merchant, not a lady - but that's not the way things are done, so off to the castle she goes to learn all the important things in life, like needlework and courtly manners. She makes some friends, but a girl with a brain can only take so much lute playing, so she runs away, and...well, then the story really starts! A comfortable tale your young woman will go back to curl up with again and again.

Here's one for your older teen that should drag her away from the Twilight-and-such genre (for a little while, anyway). Vassar is NOT the tiniest bit free spirited when we first meet her, planning every year, day, hour of her life. Then her bohemian grandmother blackmails her parents (what on earth does she have on them, anyway?) into letting her drag Vassar across the world on a crazy, very definitely UNplanned trip. If she survives grandma's lack of forethought (or is it really?) and the disastrous situations they get into, she may learn quite a bit about a number of things, and maybe - just maybe - enjoy herself a little? many great books, and such a long post already! As always, feel free to add your suggestions! happy shopping!


  1. Yay for Ronia, one of my favorite books ever...but what about Tamora Pierce?

  2. I'm glad you mentioned Gerald Morris! He's a wonderful author who should be better known. Jennifer, I agree that Tamora Pierce belongs on the list too.

  3. Yes, Tamora Pierce! And I was going to add Ann Rinaldi, but I'll save her for a historical fiction list. Her girls are more gutsy in a quiet way (most of them, at any rate!) As are Shannon Hale's...and Sharon Shinn's...and...