Monday, 12 October 2015

5 Books for Brave Girls

We talk a lot with our girls about being brave. We talk about how we practise being brave by not freaking out over little things, so when big things come along we will have a habit of everyday bravery.

My favourite kind of book for my girls is one in which the heroine has to triumph not only over things external to herself (like Nazis), but internal obstacles (like timidity, pride, or selfishness). Because these are the things our daughters struggle with daily. And, let's be real: so do we.

We want our daughters to be the Irena Sendlers and Sophie Scholls of the future. Right now they're not faced with smuggling Jewish babies out of the ghetto or secretly publishing anti-Nazi newspapers. Right now they have to get along with each other and deal with the disappointments that come with everyday life. And believe me, this is hard enough for little girls who were born 22 months apart (not to mention the twins, who were born 3 minutes apart)!

Here are some of my favourite books for encouraging a love of bravery in your girls, featuring heroines who don't find bravery an easy thing.

1. The picture book heroine

Lizzie Nonsense
by Jan Ormerod
Age: 0+
Lizzie lives in the outback, cheering up her mother and baby brother and helping keep them safe while her father is away cutting and selling sandalwood. So lovely. Read my detailed review here.

2. The historical heroine

Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie
by Peter & Connie Roop & Peter Hansen
Age: 3+
Abbie Burgess was the daughter of a lighthouse keeper, living off the coast of Maine, who took over her father's duties for nearly a month during a terrible storm in 1856. This simple telling communicates the warmth of the Burgess family and Abbie's sacrifices to keep the light burning.

3. The everyday heroine

Understood Betsy
by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
Age: 5+
Everything frightens Elizabeth Ann, but when she is sent to stay with her cousins at Putney Farm due to a family illness, everything changes - including her.

4. The royal heroine

Journey for a Princess 
by Margaret Leighton
Age: 10+
A ninth-century Saxon Princess (King Alfred the Great's youngest child) has to overcome both shyness and enemy threats on an epic pilgrimage to Rome. This is a novel about how to identify true love and your place in history.
Unfortunately, this is currently out of print, but you can read it for free online by setting up an account at Open Library (that's what I did).

5. The adventure heroine

Pendragon's Heir
by Suzannah Rowntree
Age: 14+
This is a glorious, page-turning historical fantasy adventure through Arthurian legend. It dares to explore big questions related to bravery, like whether it's ever ok to "do evil that good may come". I could identify with Blanche, who at first would rather read about a sword fight than participate in one, but grows to love honour more than comfort. Highly recommended for fans of Narnia and Middle Earth: this novel will take your daughter back to the very myths that inspired them.

More recommendations
For all ages:
The Wise Woman by George MacDonald
Verity of Sydney Town by Ruth C. Williams
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Phoebe the Spy by Judith Berry Griffin
Dare the Wind by Tracey E. Fern and Emily Arnold McCully

For older readers:
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Mr. Standfast by John Buchan
Salute to Adventurers By John Buchan

Finally, if you're one of the few who haven't read Little House on the Prairie, do start there. My top five slots could all have been taken up by Little House books.