Please suggest great books for girls.
December 21, 2006 6:16 AM   Subscribe

Books for nine year old girl?

I've been shopping for books for a bright, verbal almost-ten year old girl and have been dismayed at how many of the new titles are just age-reduced "chick lit" about dating. Can anyone recommend books that include a female protagonist that are a little bit more...what?...empowering? (This thread was very interesting but concerns only poetry.)
posted by Morrigan to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (72 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
My 7 yr. old loves the American Girl series of books. They are interesting, positive, and chock full of history lessons. I still think they would be appropriate for a 9 or 10 year old. Linky
posted by internal at 6:28 AM on December 21, 2006

2nd try on the link.
posted by internal at 6:29 AM on December 21, 2006

Enchantress from the Stars. Science Fiction from the 1970's. Has a strong woman protagonist and a strong male character too. I loved it when I was a kid.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:30 AM on December 21, 2006

The Vesper Holly books by Lloyd Alexander should be in just about the right age range/reading level for a bright 10 year old, as they are listed grades 5-7. They're adventureish books with a strong, intelligent adult female protagonist. I remember absolutely LOVING them when I was a little girl, and passing them around to friends, cousins, etc. There are, oh, 3-4 at least of the Vesper Holly books.

The Anastasia Krupnik books by Lois Lowry might be a good pick, too. Anastasia is about 13, she reads a lot (and reads Freud) and deals with a quirky family, deals with a move to a new town, deals with a first boyfriend, etc. Another series of books about a smart, sassy female protagonist that I love to this day. My caveat is that parents may feel Anastasia is better at say, age 12-13, but I don't see anything unacceptable for a 10 year old.

Those are two off the top of my head. I'll keep thinking and let you know if I come up with more.
posted by bunnycup at 6:31 AM on December 21, 2006

Is she into fantasy? I'd recommend the Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix (Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen) - strong female protagonists and all a very enjoyable read. Maybe aimed at a little bit older than ten, but there's nothing inappropriate that I can remember. (occasional character death, ymmv)

other than that, one of my absolute favourite non-fantasy books is Wise Children by Angela Carter. Little bit of sex in this one, but it's more innuendo than anything if I recall correctly.
posted by corvine at 6:32 AM on December 21, 2006

(perhaps Wise Children is a little old, actually - it seems to be on the UK AS-level syllabus which is 16/17 year olds, and the amazon reviews are very love/hate. Well, I love it, and I'd happily let a smart ten-year-old at it, but again, ymmv.)
posted by corvine at 6:39 AM on December 21, 2006

I loved Island of the Blue Dolphins (Scott O'Dell) and The Egypt Game (Zilpha Keatley Snyder) at that age. Also all of the Wrinkle in Time books by Madeline L'Engle---the first one definitely has a female main character, and the rest all have strong females.

If she's a pretty advanced reader, you might try some light (by which I mean non-gory and sex-free) mystery novels written for adults. I liked (still do!) The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie King. Last suggestion: I've outgrown them now, but as a kid I liked the Mrs. Pollifax novels by Dorothy Gilman.

On preview---seconding Anastasia Krupnik.
posted by slenderloris at 6:42 AM on December 21, 2006

I loved the Ramona Quimby books when I was a kid, and the Maggie Marmelstein series was awesome. Seconding Anastasia Krupnik.
posted by amro at 6:44 AM on December 21, 2006

I second slenderloris - I've actually re-read The Egypt Game in recent years and I still love it. Also seconding the American Girl serieses. (Between the two, is it surprising I became an archaeologist?) I read most of Snyder's corpus before I was 13 or so.

I just checked the age level of Patricia Wrede's 'Dealing With Dragons' and it's listed at 12-15 age level. YMMV, but whoa for strong female lead.

I'll post more if I get my hands on my friend the children's librarian. The good ones know these sorts of things backwards and forwards and get requests like yours often enough.
posted by cobaltnine at 6:53 AM on December 21, 2006

Looking at slenderloris's post, I would also agree with The Egypt Game and A Wrinkle in Time. I really liked most of Zilpha Keatley Snyder's books.
posted by that girl at 6:55 AM on December 21, 2006

Yes for Anastasia Krupnik. My personal list is a little heavy on the fantasy:

-Jean Craighead George's nature books-- Julie of the Wolves, etc.
-Kate DiCamillo -- Because of Winn Dixie, Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, The Tale of Despereaux
-Ramona Quimby is good but maybe just a little bit young.
-Anne McCaffrey's YA books --Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, Dragondrums.
-the Firebirds anthology, and its sequel.
-Robin McKinley's YA, but not Deerskin, which many find disturbing.
-Gail Carson Levine
-Frances Hardinge, "Fly By Night"
-Joan Bauer
-Shannon Hale, "Princess Academy"
-Madeleine L'Engle, "A Wrinkle In Time"
-Megan Whalen Turner's "Thief" trilogy has a male protagonist, but it's fantabulous.
posted by Jeanne at 7:03 AM on December 21, 2006

I've been fighting this battle this year for relative childrens.
Despite having taught in the middle years, choosing books for kids is difficult because reading levels and interests vary widely. Keep notes on what she likes and doesn't like and whether it is due to difficulty level or topic, it will make next year's search easier.

That being said, I agree with many many of the above choiuces.
I would also suggest the Sally Lockhart series by Phillip Pullman. I love his description in that link.
posted by Seamus at 7:12 AM on December 21, 2006

The Road From Home is a good read. It's a recreated memoir of a girl's experience in the Armenian genocide.

The Whale Rider

Number the Stars

Island of the Blue Dolphins was a favorite of mine as a kid.

And man, there's some other books I really liked. I just have to think of what they were. What's the book, written by the guy who just uses one name, about a girl on a ship crossing the Atlantic who's accused of mutiny or something? Man that one was good.
posted by thirteenkiller at 7:13 AM on December 21, 2006

She may not be ready for this yet, but I loved Wise Child by Monica Furlong.

Definitely agree with Anne McCaffrey - I'd start with Dragonsong.
posted by Amizu at 7:14 AM on December 21, 2006

Madeleine L'Engle was my hero at that age. I read and re-read everything she wrote, then re-read again as I got older.
posted by desuetude at 7:19 AM on December 21, 2006

My neice, who is 13, enthusiastically recommends Erin Hunter's Warriors: The New Prophecy series. There is nothing religious about these books, despite the series title.
posted by paulsc at 7:20 AM on December 21, 2006

13Killer do you mean True Confessions Of Charlotte Doyle by Avi?
posted by Seamus at 7:20 AM on December 21, 2006

Jerry Spinelli
posted by milarepa at 7:21 AM on December 21, 2006

posted by milarepa at 7:22 AM on December 21, 2006

Madeleine L'Engle is a fabulous writer, and I heartily recommend (along with everyone else!) A Wrinkle in Time and A Swiftly Tilting Planet. My all-time favorite of hers, though, will always be An Acceptable Time, which features the granddaughter of Meg (heroine of the first two books) - there's something about the story that I find even more magical.

Also, The Westing Game is phenomenal for a sort-of mystery novel, but it's more of a mindbending logic game, a la Clue. Fabulous, fabulous book.
posted by AthenaPolias at 7:25 AM on December 21, 2006

What's the book, written by the guy who just uses one name, about a girl on a ship crossing the Atlantic who's accused of mutiny or something?

The author could be Avi; the title escapes me.

If this 9-y.o. is into old-timey stuff (horses! long dresses! butter churns!) rather than fantasy, let me recommend the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder -- autobiographical fiction about the westward migration of the late 19th century. Laura herself is a strong, appealing character. I couldn't get enough of them when I was that age, and I still reread them frequently.

N.B. the books have nothing to do with the dumb TV series from the 1980s.

Also N.B. there is some unpleasant but probably historically accurate anti-Indian stuff and "darky" stuff in some of the books.
posted by scratch at 7:26 AM on December 21, 2006

Seconding Wise Child and the prequel, Juniper, by Monica Furlong.

Also, Tamora Pierce is great for strong, young female leads. I loved the Song of the Lioness quartet and the Immortals quartet when I was 10 or 11.
posted by miagaille at 7:26 AM on December 21, 2006

I absolutely loved The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett. The protagonist is a 9-year old girl and definitely a strong character.
posted by Skybly at 7:30 AM on December 21, 2006

Oh, and Harriet the Spy! The book totally rules over the movie. A nice view of NYC life, too.

Which reminds me of Allegra Maud Goldman, the most explicitly feminist children's book I can think of. (Also takes place in NYC--Brooklyn, IIRC, in the 1950s. Lots of good (and funny) stuff in there about sexist/gender specific expectations that parents have for their children, as well as puberty and how it affects girls' friendships. Might be out of print now, unfortunately.
posted by scratch at 7:31 AM on December 21, 2006

Harriet the Spy is pretty awesome.
posted by hovercraft at 7:31 AM on December 21, 2006

Response by poster: Thank you for these great suggestions. My faith in children's lit is renewed.
posted by Morrigan at 7:33 AM on December 21, 2006

When I was 9 - 10 years old I loved:

- Anything by John Bellairs (spooky mystery books set in the 50's)
- The Tillerman series by Cynthia Voight
- The Vampire Diaries series by L.J. Smith (though in retrospect I can't believe I was allowed to read this & also the Christopher Pike books I used to read at that age)
posted by tastybrains at 7:34 AM on December 21, 2006

Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword and The Hero And The Crown are excellent books with strong female protagonists.
posted by Melinika at 7:37 AM on December 21, 2006

Seconding Tamora Pierce, Madeleine L'Engle and Pratchett!
posted by canine epigram at 7:39 AM on December 21, 2006

Help, Pink Pig! by C.S. Adler.
posted by youngergirl44 at 7:42 AM on December 21, 2006

Playing Beatie Bow was one of my favourite books.

I also read all the Enid Blyton boarding school books (St Claire's and Mallory Towers) and loved them (actually spent my own money on them!), but so many people complain about her nowadays that I don't know if I am just blinded by nostalgia.

Someone mentioned Lloyd Alexander, who is most famous for The Chronicles of Prydain: male protagonist but a pretty good female character, and great books.
posted by jacalata at 7:42 AM on December 21, 2006

Eva Ibbotson is wonderful for this age group. she has both light fantasy (Secret of Platform 13, Which Witch?), but not every 10 year old likes fantasy (I certainly didn't), and she's got some wonderful historicals too, like Star of Kazan and Journey to the River Sea.

If she's not into fantasy at all, definitely go for the Westing Game, Judy Blume's novels (the younger stuff), Paula Danziger (like Cat Ate My Gymsuit and those novels). Lauren Myracle's younger novels, like Fashion Disaster that Changed My Life, are wonderful.

Frankly, I strongly reccomend Meg Cabot's stuff, especially the princess diaries series, especially if she's not into fantasy.

If she does like fantasy, Tamora Pierce is great, as is Lloyd Alexander.

I would really reccomend going to your local public or school library and asking the childrens or YA librarian what they'd reccomend for a good 10 year old reader.

One thing though: Don't discount a lot of what you think is watered down chick lit as being disempowering unless you've actually read it. Not every book is Gossip Girl, and in fact, many of the books with the pretty candy colors on the cover are actually exceptionally well written and well crafted stories. Some of them may be fluffier than you'd prefer, but a lot of kids like reading stuff that's fun and fluffy, and not every book needs to be a lesson.
posted by kumquatmay at 7:46 AM on December 21, 2006

I totally loved Nancy Drew when I was around that age.
posted by chiababe at 7:51 AM on December 21, 2006

I recommend A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. It may be a little above her at 9, but I first read it somewhere between 9 and 12 (can't quite remember). The thing about it though is that it has become my favorite book and each time I read it while I was growing up, new things jumped out at me. As a child, I liked the scenes of Francie and her brother and some of the simpler family interactions and imagery. As I got older and more wordly, the story gave more to me.

There are some adult themes, but I think they are handled so gently and realistically that they should enrich a young reader (a theme that also shows up in the book: Francie's poetry as compared to what her teacher wants her to write).

It's just a wonderful story and I recommend it for any girl (and any boy, really), even if you have to wait a few years beyond 9 to give it to her.
posted by stefnet at 7:51 AM on December 21, 2006

Neil Gaimon's Coraline, Lewis Carol's Alice in Wonderland if she hasn't read it yet, pretty much anything by Beverly Cleary (I loved the Ramona and Henry books at that age), definitely Harriet the Spy, Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, oh, and maybe Cynthia Voigt.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 8:06 AM on December 21, 2006

I know I'm repeating a lot, but here are some of my favorite books from around that age (give or take a few years):

Matilda, A Wrinkle in Time, the Little House series, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler, The Westing Game, A Gathering of Days, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Ordinary Princess.

I think the book someone was trying to remember earlier was The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, by Avi.
posted by srah at 8:06 AM on December 21, 2006

Last Christmas I gave my 10 year old niece a copy of Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. She really enjoyed it.
posted by cabingirl at 8:15 AM on December 21, 2006

I'm unsure what constitutes a girl book vs. a boy one, but since I'm XX and loved these books, I'm gonna guess they're appropriate. :) Remember, kids prefer to read stories where the protagonist is about four years older than they are.

I second the above recommendations for books by Cynthia Voigt and/or Rhodes Dahl and enthusiastically add the following into the pile:

Lois Lowry's The Giver
Tove Jansson's Moominsummer Madness
Norton Juster's classic, The Phantom Tollbooth
posted by 10ch at 8:16 AM on December 21, 2006

Sorry, just re-read your question and now realize that your request was for female protagonists, not "books for girls"... I apologize. It seems that none of my above recommendations will do.

Take a look at the following "Battle of the Books" reading list for 4th-6th graders for some recommendations (looks like Phantom made the cut!). Then you can investigate any books that look interesting on amazon to determine the gender of the protagonist.

Good luck, I think your gift idea is a great one.
posted by 10ch at 8:25 AM on December 21, 2006

Ah yeah, Charlotte Doyle, that was it. Thanks Seamus!
posted by thirteenkiller at 8:27 AM on December 21, 2006

Anne of Green Gables series! Old fashioned but lovable. I loved the Little House on the Prarie and Oz series, too, though the Wizard of Oz is the least exciting of that series to me.

Also, just a note on the recommended ages for books: if the kid is bright, they are pretty useless--they seem at the very bottom of the spectrum, and a bright nine-year-old will be fine with 12-15, assuming the subject matter is interesting to her.
posted by dame at 8:31 AM on December 21, 2006

The mention of Lois Lowry reminded me of an absolute favorite of mine at that age: A Summer to Die. I haven't read it in many years, so I'm not sure if it's stood the test of time. Anyone read it recently?

I also very much recommend anything by Cynthia Voight.
posted by peep at 8:36 AM on December 21, 2006

A few I remember loving as a kid...
Girl of the Limberlost is a slightly older book but I think I read it at about her age.
As mentioned above, Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. The Changeling is another one of hers that I remember enjoying.
The All of a kind family series by Sydney Taylor.
The Pippi Longstocking books by Astrid Lindgren.
posted by jheiz at 9:16 AM on December 21, 2006

I have to echo 10ch's recommendation for The Giver by Lois Lowry. It was a great book then & it's still great when I reread it earlier this year at age 26.
posted by tastybrains at 9:22 AM on December 21, 2006

Although 10ch's suggestion of The Giver does not fall within your request for a female protagonist, it is a wonderful book, although it may perhaps appeal more to the child who tends more towards the introspective solitary type than the social popular type. I don't know enough about this girl to say what's she's like, but it's a lovely book nonetheless. I recall that my mother also loved the book, reading it about the same time as I did (not at the same age, but as my mother)
posted by that girl at 9:44 AM on December 21, 2006

There are a lot of great suggestions here. I read many of them in middle school, and often because they were nominees for the Mark Twain Award, which is a Missouri based award for young adult fiction. You can see the winners since 1972 here. The nominees are also available on that site.
posted by sulaine at 10:02 AM on December 21, 2006

Charles de Lint has a couple of YA books featuring a female protagonist, in the urban fantasy arena (no dragons, just magic). The Dreaming Place and The Blue Girl both come immediately to mind as being suitable. Jack of Kinrowan also has a strong female protagonist, but is a bit older (both the protagonist's age and general themes).

Nthing Patricia C. Wrede and Madeline L'Engle.

In the realistic/historical genre, Bette Greene's Summer of my German Soldier is fantastic but has some...disturbing scenes (nothing sexual, but some violence). The Diary of Anne Frank is...well, incredible. Zlata's Diary, by Zlata Filipovic, is also pretty strong (it's a girl's diary from the Sarajevo war). Ilse Koehn's Mischling, Second Degree is the story of a Jewish girl in WWII Germany who hides her Jewish heritage. (I know most of those are WWII era...but they're great!)

Slightly younger/easier than the ones I've mentioned: anything by Diana Wynne Jones. I particularly like Witch Week for a young girl. Deals with magic, persecution, boarding school life, and alternate history/worlds.
posted by fuzzbean at 10:10 AM on December 21, 2006

From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankewiler is one of my all time favorite books. About two kids (sister & brother) who run away from home and stay at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Anything by E.L. Konigsburg would be recommended.

I also really loved Secret Garden and The Little Princess by Tasha Tudor.

The All of a Kind Family series was one of my favorite. It's about an immigrant Jewish family with five sisters growing up on the Lower East Side in the early 20th Century. There are several books in the series. They are definitely an observant Jewish family, but they aren't religious books.
posted by brookeb at 10:30 AM on December 21, 2006

'Podkayne of Mars', by Heinlein. The Baen trade, with both endings, if you can find it still...
posted by baylink at 10:33 AM on December 21, 2006

Dancing Shoes, Theater Shoes & Ballet Shoes were among my favorites growing up. They are all by Noel Streatfield. The modern editions look kind of cheesy, but the books themselves are great. I also second the Westing Game, which I must have read about 100 times.
posted by ubu at 10:43 AM on December 21, 2006

Nine is about the right age to begin reading L.M. Montgomery: Anne of Green Gables will set your niece off on a very long road of happy reading. The Emily of New Moon books are also very good. What's best about these is that as the series progress, so does the age level. So while she might enjoy the first Emily book now, she'd be about 13 when she loved the last.

Libba Bray is a modern fantasy writer whose books A Great and Terrible Beauty and Rebel Angels are fun historical reads. A bit of romance, but nothing on the Gossip Girl level, nor anything as trite as The Clique.

Definitely look into the old-school (hardcover) Nancy Drew novels, as well as the previously recommended Philip Pullman and Roald Dahl. And, of course, there's always Harry Potter, though he's not exactly female.
posted by brina at 11:51 AM on December 21, 2006

Oh! And A Little Princess and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
posted by brina at 11:54 AM on December 21, 2006

I don't know if it's at the appropriate reading level, but Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is an excellent comic series about a young woman who saves the world from war and environmental devastation.
posted by concrete at 12:06 PM on December 21, 2006

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt was always one of my favorites.
posted by belladonna at 3:21 PM on December 21, 2006

I hate that this is so far down the list, but Catherine Called Birdy won the Newberry, and features a bright girl living in medieval England. Birdy's father is constantly setting her up with stuffy suitors, but Birdy squashes their interest by blackening her teeth, wiggling her ears, etc. It's such a wonderful, funny book that satirizes the typical romantic love stories where the entire plot orbits around the desire to marry off and have babies in the sunset.
posted by zoomorphic at 4:24 PM on December 21, 2006

When I was 10 I was reading basically anything I could get my hands on, this included The Babysitter's Club (seconding sperose's suggestion that the earlier ones are a thousand times better) and John Marsden's The Tomorrow Series.
Others are:
All books by Elizabeth Honey for older readers, especially Remote Man and 45+47 Stella Street and Everything that Happened.
Thunderwith - Libby Hathorn
The Mango Street Series by Margaret Clarke (Margaret Clarke also writes 'hair-raisers' that my friends and I loved under the name Lee Striker, and although her teen novels delve into the world of dating, they often deal with stacks of other issues that make them very real).
I'll leave it there, but I could go on for ages!
posted by cholly at 4:42 PM on December 21, 2006

Seconding: The Ordinary Princess (still one of my favorites), The Westing Game (which has pretty wide appeal), and especially Wise Child and Juniper. I first read those at about nine and frequently reread them for a good six years after that.

I'd also like to add one to fuzzbean's WWII-related suggestions:
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. It's about a Christian family in Denmark hiding their daughter's Jewish friend and eventually helping the whole family escape to Sweden. Some history, some religious tolerance, some danger and clever escapes, and a lot of just being a great novel about best friends.
posted by hippugeek at 5:27 PM on December 21, 2006

posted by Pollomacho at 7:49 PM on December 21, 2006

Hmmm... I was a bright ten year old just a couple of years ago. I loved Catherine Called Birdy, Ella Enchanted (much better book than the movie they made out of it suggests), and Tamora Pierce. Oh yeah. The Magic Circle books are just about the right level and there's about 8 of them. I suggest that series because they have the youngest reading level/issues- some of her other series follow the characters into adulthood and adult problems your ten year old's parents might not care for. Looking at my bookshelves, I'd also suggest LM Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables plus about a dozen other books in the same vein) and Louisa May Alcott. Also E. Nesbit. And Heidi, Pollyanna, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, etc. I personally loved classic children's books (obviously), but YMMV.
posted by MadamM at 8:23 PM on December 21, 2006

You might need to pick and choose, but I discovered Andre Norton around that age. I've never ceased to love her books, and have read them over and over again, despite the YA label.

None of it is Golden Age SF, but in the earlier books there are tips of the hat to that spectrum of the genre.
posted by Meep! Eek! at 8:52 PM on December 21, 2006

There have been a lot of great suggestions made. I'll add a few that I loved.

The Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace are really good and perfect for a girl of that age, especially the first five or so.

Betty Miles has a lot of great books out with strong female heroines. I'd especially recommend The Real Me, I Would If I Could, and Maudie and Me and the Dirty Book.

Nothing's Fair in Fifth Grade, by Barthe DeClements, was one of my absolute favorite books when I was that age.

The Girl With The Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts is excellent.
posted by SisterHavana at 9:00 PM on December 21, 2006

mildred d taylor's roll of thunder, hear my cry
it's a bit like "to kill a mockingbird", except the protagonist is a smart, brave, 12-year old black girl named cassie. it's *fabulous*- exciting and scary and inspiring-- i read it to sheds as a child. but it maybe a bit old for her... take a browse through to judge.
however, its prequel, song of the trees, is a gentler read, and the story happens when cassie is 9, so it might be perfect.
margaret marshall saunders' beautiful joe is good, if she's an animal fan.

enthusiastic seconding of some previously mentioned titles:
madeleine l'engle's - A WRINKLE IN TIME, or THE YOUNG UNICORNS- all her books are great.
BALLET SHOES (noel streatfield),
posted by twistofrhyme at 10:20 PM on December 21, 2006

Seconding a bunch of great recommendations:

-Ballet Shoes (all those shoes books)
-Anne of Green Gables
-Madeleine L'Engle
-Girl fo the Limberlost
-Little House on the Prairie
-Nancy Drew (the originals)
-A Gathering of Days
-Secret Garden/Little Princess
-Pipi Longstocking
-Louisa May Alcott

Oh, and I don't think this has been mentioned - I loved the Cherry Ames series - it's by the same ppl as Nancy Drew, but the protagonist is a nurse during WWII. Great! Some are out of print, but you can buy them used.
posted by Amizu at 12:08 PM on December 22, 2006

I'm late to the game here, but I'd like to specifically recommend Madeleine L'Engle's A Ring of Endless Light, though all of her works are fantastic. It's one of very few books from my youth that I still reread as an adult on occasion.
posted by vytae at 12:46 PM on December 22, 2006

Not just the Egypt Game but really anything by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. She was my favorite author in elementary and middle school. Titles with a female protagonist include The Changeling, Libby on Wednesday and the Velvet Room. Some of her books are set in modern-day while others take place in the past. Pretty much all have a slight fantasy twist but not in a Lord Of The Rings or Harry Potter way.

Regarding others' suggestions, Betsy-Tacy books are also great. She might be a little too young for the Giver although it's a fantastic novel. The Ramona books and Anastasia books were also so much fun.
posted by radioamy at 3:08 PM on December 22, 2006

The Narnia books by C.S. Lewis were mentioned briefly but I remember reading them when I was about 8 or so and being totally enthralled. I read my set of paperbacks so much that they fell apart and my parents had to get me a new set. The girls in the stories are just as (sometimes more) active, assertive, heroic, etc. as the boys. Lucy, who is a main character in 3 of the books, is almost the moral conscience of the whole thing. (You get just a taste of this in the movie.)

I also loved the Anne of Green Gables series (also mentioned) but preferred the Emily of New Moon series. Most L.M. Montgomery novels are good (watch out for a couple of the short story collections, they have some very outdated racial views)

And..Heidi! One of the most assertive little girls in literature.

A classic fantasy series is the Princess And... series by George MacDonald (such as The Princess and the Goblin), featuring and eight year old Princess Irene.

Of not so well known works I would recommend Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr - a somewhat dark fantasy story that really stirs the imagination.

(written by derMax's spouse, female)
posted by derMax at 3:56 PM on December 22, 2006

Adding: The Doll House by Rumer Godden (not to be confused with Ibsen), a wonderful story about dolls in a doll house...and the little girls that own them. Also by the same author, Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, which is about a doll house too. This one is a bit dated but still readable.
posted by derMax at 4:03 PM on December 22, 2006

From the girls' responses in our 5th grade book group I would highly recommend The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis. Everyone in the group read the whole story exploring the harsh realities of life for girls and women in Taliban controlled Afghanistan.
posted by ptm at 4:56 AM on December 23, 2006

I just wanted to recommend the Narnia books also but you should skip the first book and start with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Read The Magician's Nephew last. He wrote it last but it is usually listed as the first book because it is a prequel (sp?) to LWW. It's more fun to read it last.
posted by rcavett at 10:00 PM on December 23, 2006

I thought of a few more. And seconding Princess And ... series.

Ronia the Robber's Daughter by Astrid Lingren was a good one with a female protagonist.

Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott.
posted by Amizu at 6:28 AM on December 27, 2006

I'm surprised no-one's recommended the "Series of Unfortunate Events" series. Those are good.

Terry Pratchett has some especially-for-kids books, The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents(though that one's main characters are mainly male, there's also a girl with a decent, even if not large, part), The Wee Free Men, and A Hat Full of Sky(both of which center around a young girl). If she likes those she might like the rest of the Discworld series(which are more for adults than children, but there's not anything explicit IIRC although there are occasional suggestive things(like, a character(usually Nanny Ogg) making an innuendo)). Equal Rites, Wyrd Sisters, Witches Abroad, Lords and Ladies, Maskerade, and Carpe Jugulum(the "Witches" subseries, which all center around women(and in the case of Equal Rites, a young girl) who are cool, strong characters) as well as Mort, Soul Music, Hogfather, and Thief of Time(the "Death" subseries, minus Reaper Man since that one's really mainly only about Death, while Mort has Ysabell and Keli, and the others all have Susan as a main character), as well as Monstrous Regiment(which is a stand-alone, about a young woman who joins the military dressed as a man to look for her brother).

Actually I think all of Pratchett's books are good(at least the ones I've read), but those are the ones I think might be of particular interest.

On the comic books angle, there's Girl Genius. You can read (a lot of) it here, and there's links to places you can buy them on the right, under Shop if you do think they'd be suitable.
posted by sleeplessunderwater at 4:44 PM on December 27, 2006

I'm late to the thread, but at age 10-13, I read and re-read the Song of the Lioness, aka the Alanna series. I can still remember whole scenes, but maybe that is because I just re-read it again last year (at age 28).

I remember a lot of the suggestions here, and they are good.
posted by jb at 7:00 PM on January 13, 2007

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