Books are powerful teachers in a child’s life. Stock your daughter’s shelf with stories about smart, adventurous, self-assured heroines, and let her be inspired. Here are 10 of our favourite titles — no wimpy princesses included.
by Neil Gaiman
Coraline’s family moves to a seemingly normal new apartment, until Coraline discovers a door that opens up to a hidden apartment. Upon exploring, she learns that the hidden apartment is home to an eerie version of her own apartment, including her parents. At first she likes the new world better, but when her button-eyed parents reveal that they want to change her and never let her leave, Coraline has to fight with all her courage and all the resources she can find to save herself.
by Gail Carson Levine
Ella of Frell was born under a “gift” of obedience, meaning she has to obey any order given to her. She believes the curse “makes a rebel of her,” and she doesn’t accept her fate. When her mom dies, leaving her to her absent father and horrible stepsisters, Ella tracks down the fairy who put the curse on her. Join Ella on a journey of fantastic proportions.
by Astrid Lindgren
Pippi has made readers want to live a life like hers since the 1940s. In the original story, Tommy and his sister Annika are baffled by their new neighbour. Pippi has a horse that lives on her porch, a monkey for a roommate and a penchant for adventure. As a leading lady, Pippi is tops: She is brave, intelligent and more concerned with having adventures than finding clothes that don’t have holes in them.
by Patricia C. Wrede
Thought princesses were all bad? Not in this collection of adventure stories. Princess Cimorene journeys to get away from her dreadfully normal kingdom, fights with swords, learns magic and acquires a quirky love interest.
Harriet the Spy
by Louise Fitzhugh
Eleven-year-old Harriet’s spy missions send her on a daily route to find out and write down everything about her neighbours and classmates. When her classmates read her notebook, everything falls apart. Her parents take it away, and she also loses her best friend — her nanny — just in time for her classmates to reel against her. Harriet uses her determination and self-assuredness to get them all back. Both Harriet and her friends learn valuable lessons in the end.
by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Lovers of Latin American literature will love reading this magic-realism-infused tale with their kids. Set during the Great Depression, the story follows young Esperanza on a journey from Mexico to California, where she must remake her life in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Her travels and experiences illustrate the Mexican proverb, “He who falls today may rise tomorrow.”
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Stick Figure: A Diary
of My Former Self
by Lori Gottlieb
Eleven-year-old Lori lives in Beverly Hills and wants nothing more than to be the skinniest girl in the world. Her efforts land her in the hospital, where she gains an understanding of what really matters to her. Far from being a passive, superficial protagonist, Lori is intelligent, self-aware and witty. Her journal reflects her thoughts and exposes the issues that affect young women in a young, relatable voice.
Not One Damsel in Distress: World Folktales
for Strong Girls
by Jane Yolen
This book might be the princess antithesis. Thirteen folk tales with exciting plots and even more interesting heroines offer a bedtime-story-worthy introduction to world culture and feminism. Meet some fierce females who battle evil hippos, save villages from serpents and find their way out of tangled woods.
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Anne of Green Gables
by Lucy Maud Montgomery
The darling of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, makes a big statement in the orphanage, the classroom and at Green Gables when she is mistakenly adopted by two siblings in their late 50s. Her precociousness gets her into trouble, but her good heart ends up changing the lives of everyone she meets. Step into Anne’s world, where imagination and exploring are first priority. (Smashing slates over bad-mannered boys’ heads is a close second.)
by Roald Dahl
By the age of 5, Matilda has read all the books in the library. Unfortunately her parents are dim-witted crooks and don’t appreciate her intellect. Matilda uses their absence as an opportunity to play pranks on them, and when she starts going to school, she plays them on her evil headmistress, Miss Trunchbull. Her pranks become more cunning when she realizes she has telekinetic powers. Her teacher, Miss Honey, is on Matilda’s side and teaches her to use her powers for the good.