While some might consider it to be sexist to say it, on average, girls appear to be more interested in reading the boys. As a result, someone might think that pointing out books that appeal to girls is a waste of time. Given their penchant for reading, they’ll find books without guidance.
But our culture has changed over the years, and the cautious, dedicated parent might be (understandably) a little chary about the effects of the current craze for vampires and werewolves on their daughters. Mass produced series books (the American Girl books come to mind) are morally murky, formulaic, and not always well written. Some well known books are fast becoming historical oddities and taught only in school — if at all.
And so, I’d like to suggest books for girls that are of a moral nature and which you either might not know about — or have forgotten.
The Island of the Blue Dauphins
When Scott O’Dell proposed this book to his publishers, they were concerned. There were no boys of any consequence in the book. They declared that boys wouldn’t read the book about a girl, but girls would read about a boy. Couldn’t he make the main character a boy? But the story was based on a true incident, and Mr. O’Dell insisted. In addition, one of the internal struggles of the main character is based on the fact that she is a girl, and not a boy. He couldn’t write the same book if he caved to his publisher’s demands.
And so, he crafted a beautifully written book that won the Newberry Award in 1961, and for good reason. Your boys may not touch this book, but your girls will love it.
The Little House Books
Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” series needs no introduction from me. Girls everywhere enjoyed the family in which Pa was the only boy in sight — at least until Almanzo came along.
But you might not know that it spawned several other series that — astonishingly — are just as well written and interesting as the original books! Celia Wilkins wrote an engaging collection about Caroline Quiner, Laura’s mother. Melissa Wiley wrote another half dozen books or so about Charlotte Tucker, Laura’s grandmother, and Martha Morse, Laura’s great-grandmother. Roger Lea MacBride wrote 8 books about Laura’s daughter, Rose. He was personally acquainted with Rose Wilder, and his books (like these others) have the same authenticity of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. (Beware: Thomas L. Tedrow wrote fictional and (in my opinion) dreadful books about Laura and Rose that should never have seen print.)
You can find these books by going to Amazon.com (who is not paying me to say this), selecting books from the drop down, and typing in one of the following: “The Caroline Years”, “The Rose Years”, “The Charlotte Years”, or “The Martha Years”. If your daughters like Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books, they’ll thank you.
The Vesper Holly series
Lloyd Alexander wrote over 40 books for children. While he is probably best known for his “Prydain Chronicles”, a series of five books — two of which won Newberry awards — he also wrote a series of six books about the irrepressible Vesper Holly. Narrated in the first person by her long suffering guardian, Professor Brinton “Brinnie” Garrett, these books are a hoot. Smart, accomplished, brave, resourceful, and wise beyond her years, Vesper can do almost everything but have a dull adventure. Typing in “Vesper Holly” gets you a list of all her books on Amazon.com.
The Grandma’s Attic books
The first four Grandma’s attic books by Arleta Richardson were followed by five more books about Mable O’Dell are, like the Little House books, true stories — or at least as true as memory can make them. They are equally engaging — perhaps even more so — because Mrs. Richardson imbues her stories with a surprising humor that may make you laugh out loud. I read all these books aloud to my children, and even the boys like them!
Killing Mr. Griffin and Daughters of Eve
Lois Duncan died in June of this year (2016). She wrote many suspense and supernatural suspense books, but these two books are her best. They are for older girls and unsuitable for younger girls. While there is no bad language or sexual situations, they are serious stories in which the main characters, otherwise good children,are egged on either by manipulative peers or misguided adults and consequently make serious mistakes because of their immaturity and bad judgement. As the characters grapple with what they have done, there are no happy endings. These are cautionary tales that should be required reading in every school.
So, when next I lay fingers to keyboard, should I bring up more books for boys, for girls, or both? Or should I try something else?