Carrots for Michaelmas: Musings of a Catholic Wife, Mother, and Occasional Redhead

10 Books You Must Read to Your Daughter (Or How to Keep Your Daughter From Ending Up Like That Horrid Girl in Twilight)

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 11th 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…

If you enjoyed this post you might also be interested in 10 Books You Must Read to Your Son.


284 Comments so far
Leave a comment

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. ❤

Comment by Sheena

Thanks, Sheena! I’d love to get together with you and your precious gals soon 🙂

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

I would recommend the Phantom Tollboth, a great book that highlights the importance of learning and adventures.

Comment by bibliopirate

I haven’t read it, but it’s been recommended to me again and again. I’ll just have to get on that!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

I read (and watched) the Phantom Tollbooth when I was young and LOVED it. I need to read it again!

Comment by Vanessa @ Strickly Speaking

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!

Comment by Adra

Thanks, Adra!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

I have enjoyed the Pellinor series, but I haven’t yet fully analyzed them yet : )

Comment by Sonya Cronin

I haven’t read those but I’ll check them out!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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.

Comment by Jenna

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.

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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.

Comment by Kristin Morrissey

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.

Comment by Amy

Thanks, Amy! And we’re going to be in TX in March. Hope we’ll get to see you and your amazing family!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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!

Comment by claire

I think I read the same article! Really good. Miss you, too! Saw your mom at Mass on Sat. night. She’s awesome.

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

She’s not too young for Pride & Prejudice.. see?

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.

Comment by Jenelle

that. is. amazing.
thanks! 🙂

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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.

Comment by Brittany

Girl books I enjoyed:

Juvenile Lit:
“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).

Comment by Marianna

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.

Comment by Michaela@bct

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.

Comment by Adra

PS anything my Madeleine L’Engle

Comment by Marianna

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 🙂

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

[…] Popular Posts 10 Books You Must Read to Your Daughter […]

Pingback by 10 Books You Must Read to Your Son « Carrots for Michaelmas: Musings of a Catholic Wife, Mother, and Occasional Redhead

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. 🙂

Comment by Karen Edmisten

Thanks, Karen! I received Through the Year with Mary for Christmas and it’s wonderful 🙂

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

Thanks, Haley!

Comment by Karen Edmisten

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.

Comment by Beth

Thanks for the suggestions, Beth. I keep hearing good things about the Prydain Chronicles!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

I second the notion for A Wrinkle in Time!

Comment by mlektd

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…

Comment by Gwendolyn

Don’t forget The Secret Garden and A Little Princess. Both about girls who overcame adversity in their own ways.

Comment by Herbwifemama

I second these. My 9 yr old read them recently and we both loved them.

Comment by Catherine

I third it! Wonderful books with strong female leads. 🙂

Comment by Jeniffer Smith

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?

Comment by Missy @ It's Almost Naptime

Don’t tell me such things about Louisa, haha! I’m going to forget you told me. I love Little Women so much.

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

There are many books on there I haven’t even read. Thanks for posting a new reading list for me 🙂

Comment by Jen Starks

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!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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.

Comment by springlering

Thanks for the suggestion!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

Think younger…Pippi Longstocking is the epitome of a powerful ,adventurous girl!

Comment by Sally Adebayo

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!

Comment by redherringjeff

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.

Comment by jenniestevens

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.

Comment by kmarmstrong

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. =)

Comment by loraena

Yes! Kristin Lavransdatter is so good! I hope you like it.

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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.

Comment by Stephenie

I can’t wait til Lucy’s old enough to enjoy Little House. They are just delightful!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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!

Comment by Tiffiny Wolf

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!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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.

Comment by Beth

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.

Comment by Jill

I recently acquired Emily of New Moon but haven’t cracked the pages, yet! Now i’m excited!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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!

Comment by Julie

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.

Comment by Kerissa Lyman

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.

Comment by Ellen

I’ve never read it! Thanks for the suggestion, Ellen!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

The Paper Bag Princess is a MUST! The best for girl empowerment!!

Comment by Amy JUdd

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.

Comment by Susan Goldie

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.

Comment by Michelle

I’ll second this. My 9 year old reads it every couple of months.

Comment by Kristin Morrissey

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!

Comment by Emily

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!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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….

Comment by Robin

I never read a Judy Blume book…did I miss out?

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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.

Comment by Liz S.

I don’t have that one, but I remember reading it as a kid! We’ll have to find a copy. Thanks!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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.

Comment by Margot

I keep hearing about this one! I’ve just got to get it from the library.

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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.

Comment by Erin

Well L is 6 months old now so I better get on this! 🙂

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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!

Comment by menaywilde

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.

Comment by myshuttereddreams

Good recommendation!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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.

Comment by the1adelas

I haven’t read those! I’ll look them up 🙂

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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.

Comment by Cortney

ABSOLUTELY my FAVORITE book of all time!!! And such a strong female character overcoming a lot of adversity!

Comment by Jenn @ My Fabuless Life

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

Comment by Elizabeth Sherman

I haven’t read The Ordinary Princess, although I’ve read some of Kaye’s other books. I’ll have to find a copy!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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! 🙂

Comment by Shireen

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!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

“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.

Comment by Emilee Pugh

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.

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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. 🙂

Comment by Michaela@bct

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.

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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.

Comment by Susan

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.

Comment by Sherry Gorse

The Betsy-Tacy books have been recommended to me so many times. They are on my list to acquire! Thanks, Sherry!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

The Lovely Bones.
Dark Blue
Anything by Judy Blume (for younger readers)
Tiger Eyes

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.

Comment by Mary

I’m partial to Cold Comfort Farm, but that’s more of a late high school/college book!

Comment by Carina

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.

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

You forgot The Awakening by Kate Chopin!

Comment by Lindsay T

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!!!!

Comment by Colleen Ivins

I remember really enjoying Helen Keller’s The Story of my Life as a girl.

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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.


Comment by sarah

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.

Comment by April

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!

Comment by Yvonne

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.

Comment by Christina

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!

Comment by storybookforest

There are some great suggestions in here! Thanks! I definitely want to get the Eleanor Estes book.

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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!

Comment by A Reader

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.

Comment by Whitney

I keep hearing about the Prydain chronicles. And I LOVED L’Engle as a little girl. Thanks for reminding me!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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!

Comment by Sarah Silvester

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.

Comment by Jenn@myfabulesslife

Thanks, Jenn! Have you read the prequel to Limberlost titled Freckles? It’s great, too!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

I didn’t even know there was a prequel. I’ll definitely have to pick it up!

Comment by Jenn @ My Fabuless Life

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.

Comment by Alison

Mandy was one of those ones that really made me LOVE reading. To this day, one of my favorite books of all time.

Comment by Jenn @ My Fabuless Life

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!

Comment by Kateri

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.

Comment by Whitney S.

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.

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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. 🙂

Comment by Paige

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.

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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.

Comment by Ellen Renwick

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.

Comment by Daja

Ah! The Continuing Story was just the WORST. I agree, Montgomery would be appalled!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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.

Comment by Arielle Sprinkle Brents

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!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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.

Comment by Sarah

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”!

Comment by Lisa Lint-Vander Zouwen

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.

Comment by lara

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!

Comment by booklover

What a great discussion! I would like to add Sharon Creech to this list. Her YA novels are wonderful.

Comment by Laura

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.

Comment by Melissa L.

Thanks for the kind words, Melissa! And for following!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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.

Comment by Jo Ann

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.

Comment by Kristen

These were my favorite books growing up! I recently reread them and fell even more in love with them! They are a must!

Comment by Katie

The Paper Bag Princess! This is Beyond a staple in my home! It is a childrens book, but packs in a powerful message!!!

Comment by Whitney Jones

I love this book too. Fun story with an important message.

Comment by Emily

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.)

Comment by maryann

Ok, I promise to read Ella Enchanted and ignore the movie entirely 🙂 Thanks for the suggestion!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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!

Comment by Keara

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.

Comment by Emily

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.

Comment by Emily

I was about to suggest these books too! Glad someone already did!

Comment by amie

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.

Comment by kimber

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. : )

Comment by Sherry Gorse

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!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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.

Comment by Erin Seaman

I keep hearing rave reviews of the Penderwicks from everyone I love! MUST get my hands on them!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

LOVE this post!

Comment by Mrs.Stopnik

[…] Father) about all the books you should read to your daughter. He was inspired by this post by Carrots for Michaelmas. I just love the subtitle to her list: 10 Books You Must Read to Your Daughter (Or How to Keep […]

Pingback by “How to Keep Your Daughter from Ending Up Like that Horrid Girl in Twilight” | rosiesaysblog

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.

Comment by Anapam

Yes of course the Narnia books. And the Lucy character is one of the best!!

Comment by Anapam

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.

Comment by sbcrookSusan

The Westing Game! One of my very favorites as a kid. Off to Amazon to order that gem, thanks for the reminder.

Comment by pinksuedeshoe

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.

Comment by Maria C

I totally agree about the third Anne movie – no one else I know can understand why I make such a fuss!

Comment by Laurel

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

Comment by Molly Predis

Thanks for the recommendation, Molly! Yay, Catholic mamas!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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!).

Comment by notellynotrouble

A Vindication on the Right of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft (Mary Shelley’s mom!)

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Comment by Allison Mosier

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!

Comment by Diane

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!

Comment by Maria

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! 🙂

Comment by Kristin

[…] 10 Books You Must Read to Your Daughter (Or How to Keep Your Daughter From Ending Up Like That Horri… {The post that has the Best. Title. Ever.} […]

Pingback by Weekend Links, 3.10.12 — Giving Up on Perfect

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!

Comment by Colleen

So many commenters have suggested the Betsy-Tacy books! I simply must get them!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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!

Comment by Sarah

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. or or even amazon has them.

Comment by Saraphinah Benavides Conner

I’ve never heard of All Things Girl! I’ll check it out, thanks!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

I would add Madeline L’Engle’s wonderful books, too.

Comment by greenishmonkeys

I love those! It’s been so many years since I’ve read them.

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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.

Comment by Stacy

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.

Comment by diello

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.

Comment by Leigh

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!

Comment by Bobbi

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.

Comment by DJ

I agree on the American Girl books. Some of my favorites in early elementary school and great role models for girls!!

Comment by Jenn @ My Fabuless Life

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…

Comment by Stacie

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.

Comment by Luna

Thank you 🙂

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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. 😉

Comment by Gina

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.

Comment by Dr Sarah

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.

Comment by Chic Mummy

Oh yes! I love (still to this day) Tamora Pierce. Great strong female characters 🙂

Comment by Judy

I think the most brilliant book about relationships and self love is Shell Silverstein’s “The Big O Meets The Missing Piece”.

Comment by Melissa

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.

Comment by caroline starr rose

I forgot to add anything by Karen Cushman is a must!

Comment by caroline starr rose

Love this list — and thanks so much for spreading the word about Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter. A-MAZ-ING books. Life-changers.

Comment by kellitrujillo

I know, right?! I can’t imagine why they aren’t more popular.

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

Nancy Drew? The Hunger Games? Harriet the Spy? Ramona? Narnia?

Comment by Beth

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!

Comment by Hiboumama

ah! Kindred spirit!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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.

Comment by Tanya

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!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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.

Comment by Jennifer B

Nice list. I would add the Diary of Anne Frank and The Hiding Place (by Corrie Ten Boon).

Comment by shelly

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 🙂

Comment by Paige W

Hi there
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.

Comment by Tess

I’m am SO not looking forward to the “but all my friends are allowed to…” conversations in a few years! 🙂

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

Also check out the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett about a brave girl witch. Starts with The Wee Free Men.

Comment by Suzy

Great list! I loved “A Secret Garden” and “The Little Princess” when I was young…

Comment by kidscommunicate

Reblogged this on Kids Communicate and commented:
I can’t wait to share some of these with my daughters…

Comment by kidscommunicate

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!!!

Comment by Monica

Oh, Anne the Continuing Story, If only I could erase you from my memory!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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…).

Comment by Beth

I recently re-read Rilla and it is so wonderful, isn’t it!?

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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!

Comment by Sleeping Mom

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!

Comment by Catherine

the Harry Potter books series deals with occultism overload and magic. How is that with Catholicism and Mary’s example?

Comment by hails

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.

Comment by Chic Mummy

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Comment by stacie

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).

Comment by Anna

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!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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.

Comment by Susan Goldie

Thanks for the recommendations!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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:)

Comment by Katie

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

Comment by Chelsea

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!!


Comment by Sylvia Scott

Wonderful suggestions, wonderful advice. Thanks, Sylvia!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

Anything Thomas Hardy. (esp love tess of d’urbervilles).

Comment by

I recently acquired a gorgeous copy of Tess! Yay!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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!

Comment by Rebecca

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

Comment by Angela Knapp

[…] love this post over at Carrots for Michealmas:  10 books you must read to your daughter (or how to keep your daughter from ending up like that horri….  I love Twilight books as much as the next gal, but seriously Bella is pretty […]

Pingback by Weekly Reading {March 12} | fadedfarm

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)

Comment by Adra

Was just telling my MIL about The Egypt Game today as we were talking about this list. Loved that one!

Comment by Jenn @ My Fabuless Life

My daughter is very much enjoying The Sisters Grimm series.

Comment by Robyn Coburn

Thank you for sharing–these are WONDERFUL suggestions and I agree completely.

Comment by Amy Wilcox

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.

Comment by Beth

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.

Comment by Susannah

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!

Comment by Kris

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…

Comment by Antje

Also, it’s a children’s book, so you can read it while you wait for her to be old enough for Kristin. =)

Comment by Antje

I’ve never even heard of these! Thanks, Antje!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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!

Comment by christy

I love this, but, alas, I don’t have a daughter (yet?). I hope you plan on doing a similiar list for sons!

Comment by Jenny May Pittman

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!

Comment by Judy

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.

Comment by Rachel

You need to add the Hunger Games. Katniss Everdeen is an amazing female character.

Comment by Rebecca

Great list! My own favorite is Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss. Thanks!

Comment by Megan

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.

Comment by Alice

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!

Comment by pinksuedeshoe

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch: for when they are young and into picture books. It is about an independent woman.!!

Comment by Beth

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.

Comment by NintendoLegend

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.

Comment by Beth

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!

Comment by Dorothy

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!

Comment by Cassie

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. helps in deciding books, or any other kind of media too.

Comment by Mom in California

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.

Comment by Anapam

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.

Comment by AMS

[…] 10 Books You Must Read to Your Daughter (Or How to Keep Your Daughter From Ending Up Like That Horrid Girl in Twilight) January 29, 2012, 5:31 pm Filed under: Books , Children , Motherhood | Tags: anne of green gables , books , daughters , girl of the limberlost , Harry Potter , jane austen , jane eyre , kristin lavransdatter , little house on the prairie , little women , Lord of the Rings , Motherhood , read , till we have faces , twilight 10 Books You Must Read to Your Daughter (Or How to Keep Your Daughter From Ending Up Like That Horri… […]

Pingback by Need to Read | Pearltrees

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

Comment by Toya

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!

Comment by Emily Walters LeBaron

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.

Comment by Sharie

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!

Comment by ALW

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 🙂

Comment by Megan

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!??!? 🙂

Comment by smallerstuff

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.

Comment by Jennifer Johnson

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! 🙂

Comment by Kim H.

[…] posts: 10 Books You Must Read Read To Your Daughter (Or How To Keep Your Daughter From Ending Up Like That …  {Carrots for Michelmas via Simple Mom} I like book lists, especially those made from mothers with […]

Pingback by Sunday Surf: March 11-17 | Old New Legacy

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.

Comment by alison

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!!

Comment by psych13

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!

Comment by Laura Nikolas

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!

Comment by Wendy B.

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.

Comment by Lisa McC

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.

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

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.

Comment by Candace

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.

Comment by Candace Lazzaro

“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.

Comment by Becky

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 ( 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. 🙂

Comment by Julie

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!

Comment by carrotsformichaelmas

Rebecca is one of my sister’s favorite books too. Thanks for the reminder – I’ve got to read it!

Comment by A Quiet Reader

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).

Comment by RJ

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!!

Comment by flowergirl4ever

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!

Comment by Em Windsong

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 ( 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 –

Comment by Carolyn

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….

Comment by Renee

Great list!
I would add the Hunger Games for sure!
And probably the Book Thief.

Comment by Sarah

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. 🙂

Comment by Natalie

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.

Comment by Beth

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!

Comment by Tori

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!

Comment by Patricia Wagner

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.

Comment by M

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.

Comment by Molly

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.

Comment by Kate

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.

Comment by Ali

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: