Sarah's List of Books Every Girl Should Read

I started a book list the other day, thinking back upon books I read in childhood that are the ones I end up thinking of when trying to recall a "perfect" book. These "perfect" books all come with great female protagonists, all of whom, I wanted to BE when reading their story. That's what make a good book really great for me. Hemingway put it best when describing good books,
“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was."
So here are some of my favorite books for girls. I'm compiling this list for my own future reference as I build my personal library, but also for the future reading of my baby sister... and my own someday-daughters.
  • The Ordinary Princess by M. M. Kaye 
    • I was watching a Disney movie recently, and getting rather disgusted with the perfect princess image Disney has crafted and the myriads of girls I know who try to find their Disney Princess doppelganger.  ("You are YOU!" I want to shout.) I started thinking "Hmm.. I should write a fairy tale about a princess who's just an ordinary girl." And then I was delighted (and slightly disappointed) to remember that someone had that idea already and did it very well. Amy, the Ordinary Princess, has plain brown hair, and freckles and is just so perfectly ordinary that you can't help but love her!
  • Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards
    • Written by the Julie Andrews, under her married name Edwards, Mandy is one of those magical books that you wish were real. How many girls have played Orphans? My sister and I did... How many girls play House? Well, Mandy is an orphan, but not one that is tragic about her circumstances. One day, she discovers an abandoned cottage, which she adopts and tends. Wonderful things ensue.
  • The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge 
    • There was a 2008 movie titled The Secret of Moonacre, which was based on this book. The movie was good but the book was, predictably, much better. Elizabeth Goudge crafts the perfect whimsical fairy tale complete with love, magic, redemption and perfect names like "Maria Merryweather" and "Miss Heliotrope." Maria has red hair. She is therefore, my perfect heroine. Also, horses. Every girl has her horse phase; this book fits the bill with unicorns and horses and ponies. 
    • J. K. Rowling cites this book as her favorite from childhood. This may be all the recommendation you need. 
  • The Betsy-Tacy Series by Maud Hart Lovelace
    • Betsy and her friends Tacy and Tib are some of the most real girls in fiction that I know. This series ranges from the time they were 5, to when they all find husbands, so its easily rationed out as your girls grow. The girls are imaginative and fun loving, and get into all sorts of scrapes, but grow up into graceful women. 
  • The Anne Books by L. M. Montgomery (anything by her really)
    • My true literary love, Anne of Green Gables, (and its follow up books) should be read by not only every little girl, but every tween, teen, college student, and grown woman alike. I've read through the series countless times, each time finding my own stage of life mirroring a different Anne book. (I'm currently still in the Anne of the Island stage). Anne Shirley is charming, imaginative and resourceful, and grows up to be an amazing mother of six. 
    • The Emily Trilogy as well as several other stand alone books are well worth reading as well.
  • Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeld (and all the other Shoes books)
    • As a girl who dreamed of being a ballerina, but knew practically that it wasn't an option, I read every ballet story I could get my hands on. Ballet Shoes  is the best of the best. About three orphans (again with the orphans) who become a family and find their strengths (and weaknesses) in the local performing arts school, this book set in 1930's England is oh-so-charming and sweet. Kathleen Kelly, Meg Ryan's character in You've Got Mail even thinks so. There are other books in the series as well, most set in the performing arts community, from Theater Shoes (which actually ties back to Ballet Shoes) Skating Shoes, and Dancing Shoes. 
    • There's an excellent movie adaptation of this book that I highly recommend as well, with Emma Watson as the oldest Fossil sister, Pauline. 
  • The Secret of the Ruby Ring by Yvonne MacGrory
    • My roommate tells me that I read books that no one has ever heard of. In most cases, she's the only one who's never heard of them, but in this case, I've yet to find another person who's read the Ruby Ring books. Originally published in Ireland, this is a mix of Irish history/magic time travel/girl-with-an-attitude-gets-life-adjustment story. Magic=Good. Ireland=good. Heroine with red hair=great! 
  • Moorchild by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
    • This book was probably one of the most influential books in shaping my middle-school to early highschool fairy craze. It's incredibly believable in its knowledge of fairy lore, which is fantastic for the girl who needs to know what happens when a changeling child is swapped for a human child. This book has got raw scots magic, (think moors, obviously!) and bagpipes and adventure. 
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
    • While most of these recommendations are good for elementary to middle school girls, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is the only one I would recommend specifically for older girls. Francie Nolan's story of growing up in pre-WWI brooklyn is heartachingly beautiful. Here you find love and loss and what it means to live a life of imagination and beauty... and also the best descriptive passages about coffee that I've ever read. 
So, what about you--do you have a favorite book that you think every girl should read? Let me know in the comments!

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