Books for Girls: Timeless Virtues

One of my personal tests to determine whether a book heroine is “timeless” is if you, as a reader, remember her name, not just what she did.

For some of our most beloved female protagonists we even know the last name: Sara Crewe, Kit Tyler, Christy Huddleston, Jo March,  Anne Shirley, Laura Ingalls, Lucy Pevensie. Mary Lennox, Maria Merryweather, Fern Arable and Charlotte the Spider.  I feel as if I know these characters. 

As my daughter Rachel says, “They are like real people that I have in my cell phone contact list.  I feel as if I could call them up to ask them for advice”.

Fiery-tempered, imaginative Anne  (“with an e”) of Anne of Green Gables finds what her hearts longs for -belonging in her adopted family and community.  She wins the life-long friendship of Diana, whom she calls her “bosom friend”.  We watch Anne grow up and see her find her unique beauty, her intelligence, and her place in the world.  If Anne can do it, so can I.

Mary Lennox, the main character in The Secret Garden, is drawn by a mixture of compassion and curiosity to discover the sufferer secreted away deep inside the manor house: “The door of her room was ajar and the sound came down the corridor, a far-off faint sound of fretful crying… She felt as is she must find out what it was… The corridor looked very long and dark, but she was too excited to mind that.  So she went on with her dim light, almost feeling her way, her heart beating so loud that she fancied she could hear it.”  This young girl becomes the agent of restoration for a sick child and an entire household; not just a garden.  How about us? Aren’t we restorers too?

Christy Huddleston (Christy by Catherine Marshall) exhibits kindness, mixed with determined bravery as she leaves behind her citified, comfortable life to teach destitute children in the Appalachian Mountains.  What a culture shock she faces, but Christy rises to the challenge and grows into a mature young woman who changes Cutter Gap.  I am destined to change the world like Christy.

Hannah, my youngest child, loves Lucy Pevensie of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe because Lucy is the youngest sibling and yet sees with eyes of faith and doesn’t doubt.  In later adventures, Lucy sees Aslan when no one else can.

We may have missed certain books during our growing up years, or perhaps read them with only half our attention. It’s not too late; we can go back and scoop them up again.  If we didn’t get enough faith, hope, kindness, purity, courage, and destiny in our youth, it is all still waiting for us in these tales of inspiring fictional characters. Sharing these nourishing books with our daughters and granddaughters makes them come alive again for us.

I have never read Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin or Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink.  My 13-year-old friend, Emma, tells me Heidi by Johanna Spyri is a must-read also. So I have some catching up to do! Which girl heroines live in your heart? Drop me a comment and let me know.

My Top Ten in alphabetical order:

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (wonderful illustrator – Garth Williams)

Christy by Catherine Marshall

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (best illustrator – Tasha Tudor)

The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (best illustrator Tasha Tudor)

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

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Categories: Classics, Girl Fiction, Humorous, Inspiration, Read Aloud, Romantic Fiction | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

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23 thoughts on “Books for Girls: Timeless Virtues

  1. Wow I love these women too. When I saw the title of your blog, I thought ‘I hope she has Anne Shirley and Jo March on there!’ I also love Scarlett O’Hara. She’s hardly the most virtuous of women, but there’s just something fabulous about her. Have to admit (with shame) that I’ve never read Charlotte’s Web, but I’ll put it on my list now!

    • Scarlett O’Hara – I agree with you ! She is fab-u-lous! I wish she had wised up sooner and avoided all her heartbreak. I wanted to kick her in the shins throughout the story. 🙂

      • I think that, in general, women tend to be hard on each other. Scarlett is a selfish character who uses others for her benefit… the type of woman who most of us would see through and despise… so it says a lot for her that we love her!! Her other qualities must be very redeeming!

  2. Thank you for this post. Anne Shirley and Mary Lennox are my favorites. There are a few in the list that I am yet to read, but if they have a place with Anne of Green Gables and The Secret Garden, I am sure I will love them. My daughter is 20 months old and I have already stocked up her library with some of the above books. Must read for girls I say.
    Thanks again!!

  3. I’ve read all of them except The White Horse. I read Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge years ago, but I didn’t know she had written children’s books.

    One heroine I’ve always loved is Arrietty from the Borrowers series. She is brave and adventurous.

    One series I love is really written for adults, the autobiographical novels of Helen Forrester, a British writer from Liverpool who later moved to Canada. Her story begins with her childhood in Twopence to Cross the Mersey, but the story is much too intense for children. It would make gripping reading for older teens or mature middle-teens if read along with parental discussion. It is the often-heartbreaking account of how a young girl overcomes incredible adversity, managing to survive and begin to pull herself out of the pit she was placed in by circumstances and an unloving family. Her amazing story continues in Liverpool Miss, By the Waters of Liverpool, and Lime Street at Two. Thursday’s Child is a fictionalized account that finishes her autobiographical story, giving a glimpse into the brightening future full of love that Helen finally found.

    • Arrietty is wonderful, I agree! I will have to check out Helen Forrester. Also, Mrs. Mike – I just finished it and found it heartbreaking. Did you suggest this one to me?

      • I may have. You’re asking a senior citizen, so I’m not sure! 🙂 I definitely recommend it very highly! I read a quite similar book that was a “Christian” novel, but of the two I found Mrs. Mike more truly Christian in that it was true and good and honorable–not just preachy!

        • I am working on a blog post about Mrs. Mike. So wonderful, but also gut-wrenching in its tragedy! Do I recommend it for teens and up? I don’t know if teen girls would be ready for the real-life scenarios.

        • love those words: “true and good and honorable.” I may grab them up and use them to describe how I pick books to blog about!

          • I took them from Philippians 4:8: Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.

          • I would love to dissect those adjectives to see what the Lord was meaning for us to understand about His definition of “goodness”….

  4. Joan

    As one of the grandparents who just visited Anne country, I testify that is it never too late to go back and do what you missed. I have been reading Anne of Green Gables and watching the movies and, of course, visiting her beloved Avonlea with our granddaughters – a very special time! The Secret Garden was not missed – one of my favorites as a child.

  5. Peggy

    Yes! As a young girl, I loved Heidi. Anne Shirley is at the top of my list as an all-time favorite.

  6. Kris

    I had forgotten about “Christy” . Great book – thank you for the reminder. I think I will read it again.

  7. Val Adams

    Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher is a terrific book too!! I haven’t read everything on your list, but I still have time too. Great list of books. Do you have a list for boys too.

  8. Sue R.

    Mary Pattern in Captain, My Captain by Deborah Meroff (historical fiction – so she was a real life heroine making her story all the more memorable to me.) Also – Dalene Deibler Rose in her autobiography Evidence Not Seen. Katy Elliott in Stepping Heavenward.

  9. Carol

    I never read “The Little White Horse.” “The Secret Garden” was the first hard cover (nice copy) of a book I owned. My Aunt bought it for me when she was working at Book of the Month Club. Of course I still have it! Anne Shirley has to be my favorite. And I’m sad that my middle name is Ann…with no E!

  10. Yes! Yes! Yes! You have nailed it! I feel guilty admitting this, but I have never read “The Secret Garden”! Thank you for the reminder that it’s not too late! I’m going to ‘scoop’ it up! Well said!

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