The Best Books to Give to Girls...and Fall in Love With All Over Again
One of the best parts of becoming a parent is the many things you get to relive. Even a trip to the supermarket can become a whole new adventure when you look through your child's eyes.
As they grow bigger, you get to explore new things together. Introduce them to your favorite sports, start them in classes you wanted to take when growing up (this is why they have cheerleading for 3 year olds), and invite them to fall in love with your old favorite stories.
Some mothers have their dog-eared copies of the Little House on the Prairie series tucked away for safe keeping. Others can't stop themselves from picking them up at a garage sale when baby is just a few months old. Or they'll even seek out the newest edition in the bookstore. The same rings true for Nancy Drew, Madeline L'Engle's Time Trilogy, and Anne of Green Gables.
There are books that we all remember and love. And then there are books that we missed, but would have loved. When it comes time to do our holiday shopping, and we think of books and great literature, no one is quite sure which of the newest best sellers have already been read or are gathering dust on the shelf and which will elicit excitement.
Older books may not be the eye-popping "Wow" gift everyone wants to give, but they are a memory to be cherished. And if you're a parent, they're another one of those wonderful ways to relive your childhood...by sharing great literature you read as a child (or wish you had).
Fantastic Girls Without the Fantasy
While everyone loves to dive into a good fantasy that we know would never really happen (there aren't any vampires in real life, or werewolves, or other mythical being) there's something to be said for books 'that could really happen'. Laura Ingalls Wilder set the stage for children's literature and realism when she published her memoirs...a series of books full of adventures that were originally turned down for not being sensational enough. Everyone loves Anne (with an E) Shirley. But there are many other series that don't roll off the tongue when you're trying to expand that reading repertoire. Here are just a few ideas if you're looking for realistic and innocent tales that still delight. (there are many more out there)
- Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery. We all know and love the imaginative Anne (that's Anne with E, of course), but what many people don't realize is that LM Montgomery went on and wrote about Anne's passage into adulthood, and motherhood...and then she even wrote a couple of books about Anne's children. There's Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, Anne of Windy Poplars, Anne's House of Dreams, Anne of Ingleside, Rainbow Valley and Rilla of Ingleside. Fans of Anne may also enjoy Montgomery's other work, the Emily of New Moon books, The Storygirl, and Pat of Silverbush to name a few.
- Betsy and Tacy by Maude Hart Lovelace. If you never knew Betsy and Tacy as a child, you're in for a real treat. Betsy and Tacy are only 5 years old when they meet, but their lives are full of adventures. They are permitted to go up on the big hill, they attend school, and in the end they meet a new friend. The series continues with Betsy, Tacy and Tib, Betsy and Tacy go Over the Big Hill, Betsy and Tacy go Downtown, Heaven to Betsy, Betsy in Spite of Herself, Betsy was a Junior, Betsy and Joe, Betsy and the Great World and Betsy's Wedding. It's a satisfying storyline, from age 5 to a wedding. Obviously, only the first few will keep your 8 year old interested. But at 12, your daughter might just fall in love all over again. And so will you.
- B is for Betsy by Carolyn Hayworth. These books are slightly outdated, but only slightly. There are no carseat laws, or even seatbelt laws, and it's perfectly acceptable to accept candy from strangers in these days. Once you get past that shocking news (My daughter was in tears, convinced that someone was going to die in a car accident, but recovered quickly when I explained that riding in a parent's lap was perfectly acceptable 50 years ago. She also re read the series on her own...twice.) it's a delightful tale that entrances readers. The books begin with B is for Betsy followed in order by: Back to School with Betsy, Betsy and Billy, Betsy and the Boys, Betsy's Little Star, Betsy and the Circus, Betsy's Busy Summer, Betsy's Winterhouse, Snowbound with Betsy, Betsy and Mr. Kilpatrick, Merry Christmas from Betsy, Betsy's Play School and Hello, Star. These books will appeal mostly to younger girls, 6-10.
- In Grandma's Attic by Arleta Richardson. Unfortuately, this series is only sporadically in print. The young heroine is a delightful cross between Laura Ingalls Wilder and Anne of Green Gables, she doesn't change homes as frequently as Laura, and doesn't have to worry about getting sent back to an orphanage like Anne, but she's just as strong willed as either one and twice as trouble bound. Not that she means to be. The series begins as a set of stories told by a grandmother to keep her grand daughter occupied. But somewhere along the way, the author (Arleta Richardson) stops bothering with the present tense and keeps the tale firmly rooted in the past, with Mabel and Sarah Jane. If you'd like to discover this treasure (which I admit I've re read a few times without my kids encouragement), start with In Grandma's Attic. This is followed by More Stories from Grandma's Attic, Still More Stories from Grandma's Attic, Treasures from Grandma, Sixteen and On Her Own, Eighteen and Away From Home, Nineteen and Wedding Bells Ahead, At Home in North Branch, New Faces, New friends and Stories from the Growing Years. Even as parents, Mabel and Sarah Jane manage to have fun and develop some great stories to share.
Fairy Tale Adventures
Who doesn't love fairy tales? The prince meets the princess, they fall in love, tragedy strikes, and our hero prevails...they ride off into the sunset and everyone lives happily ever after. Or, not so much. Depending on whether you read the original Brothers Grimm or not.
At any rate, we all love fairy tales but we only remember the vaguest of details. Fairy tale collections have gorgeous illustrations, and contain delightful short story renditions of old favorites. But if you like a good fairy tale, and want your daughter to read about a strong female protagonist give these titles a try.
- Beauty by Robin McKinley. This is a beautiful retelling, very close to the original tale. A longer, more fantasy intense version by the same author is called Rose Daughter.
- The Outlaws of Sherwood Forest by Robin McKinley. It may stray a bit from the fairy tale we all vaguely recall, and there aren't any cute Disney critters to soften the blow, but Robin and Marian are vibrant in this retelling. Robin isn't trying to be an outlaw, and he isn't trying to lead anyone. He's just making do with the situation.
- The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede. Cimorene is a princess, who wants to cook and clean and sword fight. Obviously, this is forbidden. So she goes out to seek her fortune, and finds herself face to face with Magician (and princess) eating dragons. You and your daughter will fall in love with this daring, not-so-typical heroine as she takes charge and dismisses her knights in shining armor in favor of finding her own way in the world.
Magic and Mythical Creatures
Kids are entranced by magic. After reading Harry Potter, we went in search of other magical worlds that weren't Harry Potter, or too grown up (and at the time, Eragon was definitely too grown up) We stumbled on some new favorites I'd never found but would have loved.
- Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George. Creel is an orphan, and her aunt abandons her to a dragon in hopes of a daring rescue (and a generous dowry). Unfortunately things don't go quite as planned when Creel manages to befriend the creature. She ends up with some magical slippers, and friends in high places, in this series about a girl with lowly origins rising on her own two feet.
- Half Magic by Edward Eager. This series is a century old, and still just as charming as ever. It begins with Half Magic, where a family of children discover a coin that is magical, but only grants half wishes.
- The House of Arden by E Nesbit. Really, any book by E Nesbit is a delight to discover. I never read them growing up, and I've made up for it since. These books are full of magical realism, the worlds are just imaginative...or are they? You never really can tell, which is where the charm lies.
I was never much of a mystery reader, myself. I loved Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown, of course, but beyond that, I was more into fantasy. But there are a few older mysteries that appeal to my space aged kids.
- Trixie Belden was popular around the time Nancy Drew was, but for some reason history favored Nancy. Young readers, however, may still enjoy the Trixie Belden books just as much as their parents ever did.
- The Secret Seven and The Famous Five by Enid Blyton are both a delightful series of books, mysteries from a simpler place and time. There may not be enough adventure for the older kids.
If you know what the girl in your life already reads and loves and is looking for, of course, you don't need this list. But if you want to find something new, try looking for something old. There's a good chance the older, established, but just as loveable novels have been overlooked. And since these have already withstood the test of time, they deserve a place of honor. Right up there somewhere between Junie B Jones and Twilight.