Monday, August 22, 2011

Books for Girls

Edited 19 February, 2014--now with many more recommendations, and divided into categories based on maturity level of the reader!

Following on from my post on Books for Boys, another friend asked for some girls' book suggestions. Once more I should reiterate that I don't believe in segregated bookshelves, with the girls having to read the books over here, and the boys getting to read the books over there. Girls need to read boys' books. Girls need, very badly, to see the world through the eyes of men. And if a gentler, sweeter book is any good at all, then a boy ought to get some profit out of it as well. Let's hear it for "mixed reading"!

Still, there were a few books that I left out of my list of reading for boys. So for those who want some more distaff-specific reading, here's a very brief supplementary list:

For the Very Young
  • Anything by Beatrix Potter
  • The Milly-Molly-Mandy books by Joyce Lankester Brisley 
  •  Grimm's Fairy Tales
  • A Little Princess and Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett (and I recommend The Secret Garden if you want to have a good talk about Eastern mysticism in Victorian literature)
  • Heidi by Johanna Spyri (if your little girl doesn't want to move straight to Switzerland and sleep in a loft after this book, she isn't human. An absolutely wonderful book)
  • Anything by Patricia St John, but especially The Tanglewood's Secret, Treasures of the Snow, or Star of Light
  • Anything by Edith Nesbit, but especially The Railway Children, The Phoenix and the Carpet, and The Enchanted Castle. Discussion points: Fabian socialism.
  • Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield. I haven't read others of hers, such as Thursday's Child, but really loved Ballet Shoes and would be surprised if the others weren't also good.
  • Smoky-House or The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge, which are tailor-made for little girls. 
For Developing Readers
  • The Princess and the Goblin, The Princess and Curdie, The Light Princess, and The Wise Woman/The Lost Princess by George MacDonald 
  • The Princess Adelina by Julie Sutter
  • Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
  • Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
  • Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin 
  • Seven Little Australians and sequels by Ethel Turner
  • What Katy Did and What Katy Did at School by Susan Coolidge
  • The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • The Bridge, Crown and Jewel, and The Two Collars by Jeri Massi. This fantasy/adventure trilogy for girls is published by Bob Jones University Press and gets exponentially better with every book: The Bridge is a light fantasy romp, Crown and Jewel is a more epic adventure, and The Two Collars is heartrending, profound, and magnificent--even as a twelve-year-old who hated sad endings, I could tell it was worthwhile.
  • Anne of Green Gables and the rest of the series by LM Montgomery (Rilla of Ingleside, the last book, is one of the best WWI books I have ever read)  
  • Watch for a Tall White Sail by Margaret Bell (sweet coming-of-age story in the Alaskan wilderness) 
  • Margaret's Story by Marjorie Douglas
  • The Dove in the Eagle's Nest by Charlotte Yonge 
  • The Harvest of Yesterday, Lady Sybil's Choice and anything else by ES Holt
  • The poems of Christina Rossetti
For the Discerning
There are a few books I would only recommend with very high reservations. The Secret Garden is one. Pollyanna by Eleanor H Porter is another; its main effect on your little girl might be to convince her that she can solve all the grown-ups' problems by being cute enough, after which you'll have endless trouble. Little Women and everything else by Louisa May Alcott should be approached with great suspicion, I believe. One lady on the internet commented about Alcott:
I am still unlearning her attitudes toward boys and men (I got really into them and read everything short of her thrillers). Boys do not like being treated with her condescending sentimentality and “your heart is your stomach.” That said, stick to Little Women, Eight Cousins, etc and ignore her sequels.
Eventually, Alcott said that she was “tired of writing moral pap for the young,” which tells you how much of her moralizing was actually sincere. ("Heather D" commenting on Femina)
And of course there are all the great books I haven't mentioned at all in either of these lists, from Winnie-the-Pooh to Anthony Trollope. Oh, well!


Christina Baehr said...

These will also be on my reading list for my girls:
Understood Betsy - Dorothy Canfield Fisher
The Silver Brumby - Elyne Mitchell (and sequels)
The Armourer's House, The Queen Elizabeth Story - Rosemary Sutcliff
Number the Stars - Lois Lowry
Anything by Emily Sarah Holt and Mrs Rundle Charles
Also, I have reservations about Ethel Turner and her penchant for profoundly unhappy families.
Decided not to start an Elsie debate here, eh? ;)
I remember loving The Very Big Secret by Enid Blyton, but the plot did involve some rather large-scale deception, as I recall.

Suzannah said...

Understood Betsy! Oh, I forgot that!

I haven't read a lot of Ethel Turner, just the "Misrule" books. Are all of them like that?

I was going to say something about Elsie, but forgot. I only read about three of the books, very quickly, a number of years ago so I'm not sure I'd be qualified to say anything. I mean, they do have a reputation for moralising sentimentalism but there are a lot of people out there who'd slap that label on anything that even mentions Christianity.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your list and comments. I really appreciate when someone is willing to flesh out the 'more to the story' part, instead of just saying it's a classic and a must-read.
I'll be bookmarking your list.

Thank again and blessings on your journey.

Anonymous said...

I realize you are in Australia, but no American child's life is complete without Marguerite Henry's Misty of Chincoteague, or any of her other works.....

Suzannah said...

Oh yes, those slipped my mind entirely! Thanks for reminding me.

Anonymous said...

Margaret E Bell! I was trying to remember her name the other day. I think Daughter of Wolf House was my favorite. Of course it's been 20+ yrs since I've read them, they aren't in the library anymore.


Suzannah said...

I hadn't heard of other Margaret Bell books. I wasn't aware there were any others! Thank you so much for mentioning that other one--Daughter of Wolf House--I must look it up!

Andrew of the House of Lacey said...

Hi Suzannah, I am wondering if you could direct me to the problems in Louisa May Alcott's writing. I have currently been re-browsing her her books and was struck with the good themes and quotes that jumped out at me. However, something tickled the back of my memory, reminding me that I had heard something, somewhere, about Alcott's writing needing to be taken with a dose of caution. So here I am, but the link you have titled, 'should be approached with great suspicion,' doesn't take me anywhere.
Can you help?

Suzannah said...

Hi Andrew,
The link should go here:

I once read a brilliant indepth explanation of Alcott's Transcendentalism and how it impacted her stories, but the article seems to have fallen off the 'net. But I go over some of my concerns in my review of The Chase :).

Andrew of the House of Lacey said...

Ah, thank you. I love the food analogy at the bottom of THE CHASE review! So would I be right in concluding that you view all of Alcott's work as just that. Food, some of it good, but having been deep-fried?
I was interested to note and recognize some of the issues that you pointed out, her traces of feminism for instance.
Some of the things she says however, and disregarding the fact as to whether or not she believed them herself, are quite splendid.
I found myself gripping the book and grinning like a cat when I came across the section in GOOD WIVES where Professor Bhaer engages in debate with the Enlightenment philosophers.
Do look it up! Whatever faults Alcott may have had and whatever traces of poison she has got mixed in with her literary, deep-fry, I think that God must have allowed some traces of vitamins to come out too.

Again, thanks for your help. :)

Andrew of the House of Lacey said...

Alas, absent minded professor myself!
If you do have the inclination to look up the Enlightenment part I referred to, it is in Chapter 11 of GOOD WIVES, about mid-way through.
I forgot to state this reference in my previous post.

Radhika Sharma said...

I also like the book even whenever i read something very catchy i share Book Lover Quotes I am love with the novels and all..


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