Monday, February 28, 2022

Fictional Sheroes or Heroes by Jenn McKinlay

 JENN McKINLAY: When I was a kid, I read for entertainment but also for escape. Adolescence is hard, ya’ll. 


My favorite stories were the ones where the female protagonists were for lack of a better description – total badasses. And, of course, if they had a sense of humor as well, they were top tier. This is probably why comic books appealed to me so much. 


I spent an entire summer deep in a female pirate phase where I was obsessed with Anne Bonny and Mary Read, who were real lady pirates, but there was a preponderance of fiction about them at the time (late 70’s/early 80’s) and my town librarian, Mrs. Schneider, tracked down every single novel she could find for me – Yay, librarians! 


I stopped needing to have the sword wielding, uber strong female leads as I got older – probably, a good thing as female pirate is likely a worse job than female novelist most days – and I thought I’d put that crushing on a character thing behind me when I started listening to Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir and I met Eva Stratt. In short, she’s in charge of saving the world and I love her, in fact, much like when I read about those amazing female leads of my youth, I found I wanted to be her. 


Here’s a snippet between Eva Stratt and Ryland Grace:


“I gasped. "Wait a minute! Am I a guinea pig? I'm a guinea pig!" (Ryland Grace, protagonist)

"No, it's not like that," she said. (Eva Stratt, awesomest heroine)

I stared at her.

She stared at me.

I stared at her.

"Okay, it's exactly like that," she said.”


Andy Weir, Project Hail Mary





Isn’t she fabulous? Connecting with her was a feeling I hadn’t had since I was a kid and it made me remember the heroines who had struck deep chords within me – Meg Murry, Cassie Logan, Lucy Pevensie, Kit Tyler, Anne Shirley, Egwene al’Vere, and Nancy Drew – to name just a few.


So, Reds, it’s your turn. What fictional characters have spoken to you so compellingly in your life that you were inspired by them or wanted to become them? 


HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Lucy Pevensie, definitely! She stands by her story–she knows what she saw. Meg Murry, the best. 

Also, do you remember Donna Parker? Hardly literature, but I still think about the Donna Parker series.  She was very resourceful, and spunky, and her mother taught her “If you want something done well, you have to do it yourself.” Which, now, may not be quite true, but we know what Mrs. Parker meant. 


ANYWAY. Donna was a big planner, and she would think about whatever event she was planning (like the prom, or international day) the night before, and imagine it just before she went to sleep. She’d envision it, and then realize what needed to be done. (Coat racks! There are no coat racks!) I do that to this day. Thanks to Donna.


And here’s a snippet from Donna Parker, Secret Agent. 


“Look, Tommy!” Donna pointed to a corner of the paper. “Did you tack these to a drawing board when you worked on them?”

 Tommy shook his head. “Never. Why do you ask?”

“Look at these little holes in the corner. And they’re in the other three corners, too.”

 Tommy looked at her blankly. “Well, I didn’t put them there. What does it mean?”

“It means,” announced Donna, “That someone has tacked them up on something. And the only reason I know for that is so they can be photographed. Somebody wants a copy of these plans!”


Author "Marcia Martin" is no Andy Weir, and she never met an exclamation mark she didn't use, but she changed my life.




HALLIE EPHRON: Definitely Anne Shirley who was constantly getting herself into trouble. Only the first book, Anne of Green Gables. And none of the movies based on the books have been right. She was NOT pretty, and the movies have a hard time with that. And of course Dorothy Gale of the Oz books. And Booth Tarkington’s Alice Adams, first cousin to Eleanor Oliphant.


I also fell in love with Eloise, Kay Thompson’s cheeky little girl who lived a free-rein existence in the Plaza Hotel with Nana and a dog and a turtle, brought to life so indelibly by Hilary Knight’s illustrations. I read it and reread it, and traced Eloise’s route on the foldout map of the hotel. 


JENN: I loved Eloise!!!


DEBORAH CROMBIE: I never even heard of Marcia Martin,  Hank! Now I feel very deprived that I missed out on Donna Parker. I'm sure I'd have been a much more organized person.


 I never read Eloise, either, can you believe it? But Nancy Drew, of course. And Meg Murray was the absolute best. I devoured A WRINKLE IN TIME and all the books that came after–although I don't think any of them had quite the same impact. I loved Lucy Pevensie, too, although Susan was a bit of a stick. After that, my sheroes were the heroines in the Mary Stewart and Helen MacInnes books.


Jenn, I have Project Hail Mary on my Kindle. Moving it up the list!





HANK: Oh, Debs, I’m sure “Marcia Martin” is a made-up name.  It’s on the inside but not even on the cover! Anyone know?  (Oh, rats. I had to look it up. Her real name was Marcia Levin, and she died in 2006. :-(  )


JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Jenn, I loved PROJECT HAIL MARY. Weir’s second book was a bit of a let down for me, but he came roaring back with this one.


My favorite childhood/teen heroines were the ones in Anne McCaffrey’s Pern novels, which have the feel of fantasy, but are actually carefully crafted science fiction, as the descendents of human colonists who settled on the planet Pern struggle thousands of years later with a biological menace -  acid spewing, soil destroying worms that fall from the sky. What stops the “threads?” FIRE BREATHING DRAGONS that people ride! Ah, yisss. The first in the series, DRAGONFLIGHT, centers on a heroine snatched up from her life as a drudge to test as a possible dragon rider - and who imprints on the newly hatched Queen, making her the de facto leader of the community. I think I was twelve or thirteen when I first read it, and the tale of Lessa fighting past her fear and anger to claim her power was straight-up heroin in my veins. 



Jenn: OMG, how did I forget? I was a total Pern head back in the day. LOL.


RHYS BOWEN:  I loved George from the Famous Five series when I was about ten. She wore shorts, ran wild and did everything boys could do. Also she and her cousins were allowed to go camping alone on uninhabited islands!  In my teens it was Arwen from the LoTR. In fact I tried to change my name for a time to hers. I loved that the elf women were not wimps!




LUCY BURDETTE: Aside from the often mentioned Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys and Cherry Ames mysteries, I remember loving The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Caddie Woodlawn, and my very favorite, THE PINK MOTEL, also written by Carol Ryrie Brink. It's really a perfect prequel to the Key West foodie mysteries--just read the description from this old New York Times article and you'll see it would be a miracle if I hadn't written a quirky Florida series! (I just now noticed that Brink also wrote a book called The Highly Trained Dogs of Professor Petit. Isn't that a fabulous title?? Must go look it up...)


All right, Readers, it's your turn. What sheroes or heroes of fiction have you connected with as a reader? What impact did they have on your life?


128 comments:

  1. I was always reading something when I was a kid; thanks to Meg Murray [“A Wrinkle in Time”] I loved science fiction . . . Nancy Drew, of course, was the detective we all wanted to be . . . .

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  2. These are wonderful. I didn't read Wrinkle in Time until I was in grad school, for some reason.

    When I was younger, my heroines were Dorothy Gale, Jo March, Nancy Drew. Plus Laura Ingalls Wilder. But now I want to go look up all these ones I never read - including the female pirates!

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    1. Dorothy Gale! Yes, absolutely. I love how different the books are from the movies.

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  3. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. There was something about her free spirit and not being afraid.

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    1. In an old house in Paris... LOVED that book too, Dru! "... and she turned out the light, and closed the door. That's all there is, there isn't any more." And then of course there were umpteen more books.

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    2. "Afraid of a disaster, Miss Clavell ran fast, and faster." I loved her gravity-defying slant as she ran.

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    3. YES! Madeline was wonderful and I loved the illustrations.

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  4. Can't believe I forgot Jo March! Definitely formative. I know they keep making Little Women into movies but I do hope the book is still being read.

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    1. I don’t think I have read the Little Women. for all these years, I have thought it would be too sad.

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    2. Hank, part of it is sad - a realistic part of 19th century life and part of the author's - but it is also funny, inspiring and honest in a way that was shocking for its time.

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    3. You should read it, Hank! The movies are all very well but they never really capture the book.
      And I loved Jo's Boys, which is a sequel.

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    4. I read Jo's Boys, too. And wasn't there one more?

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    5. I remember loving Little Women so much I went on to read Jo's Boys, Eight Cousins, and Rose in Bloom.

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    6. And after Jo’s Boys came Eight Cousins

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  5. Well, growing up I wanted to be Superman or Spider-Man. As you might imagine, I don't leap tall buildings in a single bound and you can't say that I do whatever a spider can so neither had much of an impact on my life going forward.

    Never had any female fictional character that I wanted to be though I never had a problem reading/rooting for them.

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    1. I really wanted to be Spider-Man. That didn't work out from either. And we so appreciate that you read female protagonists!

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  6. Hmmm, female fictional character in books? I re-read the LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIES by Laura Ingalls Wilder over again and again. It didn't hurt that the TV show was on in the 1970s.

    I also loved Sara in A LITTLE PRINCESS by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Despite coning from a wealthy family, Sara is not self-centered, rude, or snobbish, but rather kind, generous, and compassionate. These are qualities I hoped to emulate.

    And thanks to 1970s TV shows, my other female fictional heroes were the Bionic Woman (Jaime Sommers) and Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman! I wanted to be smart, strong, brave and a super spy!

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    1. Smart, strong and brave--we should all aspire to that Grace! I too loved The Little House on the Prairie.

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    2. Oh I forgot to add that I also read the Wonder Woman COMICS and there were some spin-off Bionic Woman paperback books published when the TV show was on.

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    3. YES! I was a kid when those shows aired and definitely made the bionic noise when I ran and did a lot of spinning. LOL.

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    4. I loved the Bionic Woman and Wonder Woman!

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  7. Jenn, I still have a copy of Pamela Jekel's Sea Star on my bookshelf. Who could resist.

    Little Women was my life changer. It was the first time I realized you could make a living at writing. Okay, I had no idea how hard that would be, but for a time I dressed in long skirts, scribbled (operative word) reams of pages with a fountain pen and loved (and used to excess) graphic exclamation points. A little later I came across a book from Scholastic Services titled Take Me To My Friend by Hope Dahle Jordan. It was as suspense and coming of age novel that I remember to this day.

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    1. That is fabulous, Kait. I can still picture the covers of favorite books from childhood :)

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  8. Hallie, the Netflix version of Anne of Green Gables gets the awkward looks just right. That Anne is plucky, scrawny, vulnerable, and absolutely wonderful.

    Madeline spoke to me, as well, Dru. She lived in what looked like a convent with Miss Clavell, who wore what looked like the habit of a nun of Notre Dame, just like my Aunt Bobbie. (Who later became a heroine of her own kind, leaving the convent to marry a boy she knew from high school. He worked for the State Department and she went with him to Africa, Australia, and England.) Wonder Woman and Supergirl were sheroes, along with the oldest Bobsey Twin, Beany Malone, and of course Nancy Drew.

    I spent so much time in both our school library and the public library across the street, even the Bookmobile in the summer, and never once connected with a librarian to guide me to books. I was far too shy then, believe it or not.

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    1. Your aunt sounds amazing, Karen! What an extraordinary life.

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  9. Nancy Drew and the others, Meg Murray and Vicki Austen, Anne Shirley, Laura Ingalls, and then transitioned to my mother's Victoria Holt, Phyllis Whitney, Mary Stewart, and especially Helen MacInnes books. My daughters loved the Mary Downing Hahn MG books, and I did too.

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    1. Victoria Holt's Mistress of Mellyn was my first "adult" book. Quite thrilling at 12 to cross over to the adult section. There really wasn't much YA back in the day.

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  10. I wonder what 10--year-olds are reading now— does anyone know? I bet it’s quite different.

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    1. I don't think it's changed much since the Hooligans were reading at that level, so Magic Treehouse, Bone, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Dog Man, etc.

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  11. I was also quite affected by a series of horse books, I think the first one was called Golden Sovereign. They were about this spunky girl, called Connemara McGuire , I think and she had adventures.
    With horses. I totally wanted to be her.
    Now I’m thinking, wondering about the name of my first main character, Charlotte McNally. Hmmm.

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    1. I LOVED the Black Stallion books, Hank, but the protag was a boy, alas. I haven't heard of Golden Sovereign.

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    2. I was a horse girl. I totally get it. Black Stallion, for sure.

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  12. I was a lover of the Donna Parker books in my childhood, too! What no one else has mentioned -- and maybe this is unique to me -- is that back in my childhood, the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books were a lot more expensive than Donna Parker, Cherry Ames, Vicki Barr, and other not-so-famous labels. So I read Nancy Drew books through the library only, but my mom would SOMETIMES be willing to splurge for the purchase of one of those inexpensive ones. So I had the opportunity to read and re-read those.

    As for role models, though, Jo March topped the list. She was a strong, independent woman who aspired to be a writer. And while she had a strong moral compass, she wasn't perfect -- she sometimes made choices she later came to regret. I found that very relatable!

    For current bad-ass female protagonists, I recommend Donna Raybourne's Victoria Speedwell series and Alix E. Harrow's The Ten Thousand Doors of January (sadly a stand-alone, at least so far.) And as I've commented before, there is no one more bad-ass than Zelda, the "high-functioning adult with fetal alcohol syndrome" in Andrew David MacDonald's When We Were Vikings.

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    1. I owned a lot of Cherry Ames, Student Nurse, Susan! Loved them.

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    2. Susan, I was just thinking about Veronica Speedwell yesterday. Love that series.

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    3. Thanks, Susan! I am making a list - Love Veronica Speedwell, but haven't read MacDonald's Zelda. Excellent.

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  13. I remember reading anything and everything I could get my hands on. But yet nothing really stands out. I'm not sure how old I was when I read I Capture the Castle, and I've read it several times since, but I never had the same feeling about it as I did the first time. "Firsts" sometimes have their own kind of specialness.

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    1. Judi, I'm reading a book passed along to me by a friend: MAN AT THE HELM by Nina Stibbe. If you loved I Capture the Castle, you're definitely going to enjoy this novel.

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    2. So true, Judi. There is something magical about the first time you read a really great book.

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    3. Thank you for the suggestion, Julia, I'm looking for it now!

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  14. All the ones mentioned are great. There was also Ramona the Pest (and all associated books) by Beverly Cleary. Her older sister never gave her an inch, but that never stopped Ramona.

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    1. Beverly Cleary is still a hot ticket with the kids, which thrills me.

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    2. Now that is staying power. Wouldn't we all (writers that is) like such a legacy.

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  15. Trixie Belden, Jo March, Peggy Parker, Girl Inventor, LOTR Eowyn , Meg Murry and Vicky Austin. So many adventures to follow!

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  16. Jo March, first, last and always. I was 7 when I read Little Woman for the first time of many, but, funny, I always identified with Jo, about 16, and thought Amy - who was about 12 - was "the baby." After that, Laura Ingalls Wilder, whose frontier adventures I admired, and Betsy Ray, whose home town (a little like mine) adventures seemed so real to me in spite of being long ago. A coincidence that all 3 were grew up to be authors of their own stories? Nope. And I loved the sisters of All-of-a-Kind-Family.A lot of the wonderful books you mentioned came along just a little too late for me and I found them in my librarian days.I didn't like SF - no girls then! - and I did read all the biographies - not nearly enough such bios then - about real girls who "did things". I knew all about the queens of England, Clara Barton and Sacajawea, but also Elizabeth Blackwell, Rebecca Gratz and Elisabeth Vigee-LeBrun. But how did I miss Anne of Green Gables back then?

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    1. I loved the All-of-a-Kind Family books, Triss! I learned so much about Jewish holidays from those books, which I read through more than once. I've never heard anyone else mention them. And the biographies! Clara Barton and Jane Addams, in particular.

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    2. I remember reading Elizabeth Cady Stanton's bio! Definitely shaped me.

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  17. Forgot one. Does anyone remember Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer? Also turn of 19th century - a girl from a stuffy, upper class family boards with a couple of her teachers for a year, gains extraordinary freedom, and explores NY on her roller skates. I loved her independent spirit, open heart, adventures and the period setting

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    1. I do, Triss! For some reason, it's lumped together with the ballet shoes series in my memories, probably because they were all named after the footwear.

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    2. That's a new one for me, but I did read Pipi Longstocking.

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    3. Oh,Julia, Noel Streatfield's "shoes" books. Ballet, music, skating and maybe more. Another set of girls who "did something." I was always looking for them. I never wanted to read about girls who lived ordinary lives like mine.

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    4. Triss, I think there was a theater shoes one, too. I loved BALLET SHOES.

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    5. Yes to Ballet Shoes. Not sure I read the skating one, but now I wish I had.

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  18. Madeleine L'Engle was a sheroe to me--I read everything the library had of hers--her characters were so human--none of them perfect, nothing tidily 'ever-after' about them. Loved Mary Stewart and Helen MacInnes, too. Even when the endings weren't happy or hopeful (Helen MacInnes), the characters, the settings, made a real impact on me--how did they accomplish so much with simple words? As a much younger reader, I was drawn to books like the Black Stallion series--those kind of lonely characters drew me more than someone like Nancy Drew--pretty, smart, assured--no social worries or any other kind for Nancy!

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    1. I read all the Black Stallion books, too, Flora. It never occurred to me to mind that the heroes were boys. Also the Marguerite Henry books, Misty of Chincoteague and King of the Wind.

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    2. I definitely appreciated that her characters could be salty - like real people!

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  19. As I've said here before, Trixie Belden was the girl detective for me.

    And yes, I devoured ALL the Donna Parker books. There weren't that many, but she was a credible high school student with adolescent probs.

    And, while she came along well into my adulthood, The Paper Bag Princess is a heroine for the ages. Go Elizabeth!

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    1. I missed the Paper bag Princess - must catch up!

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  20. Love this post and the comments! I am on team Anne Shirley in a big way. Also: during college, I discovered Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon novels. Anna's a US park ranger who goes from national park to national park, solving crimes and kicking butt. I still want to be her!

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    1. Oh, I love both of those, Alicia! Women outdoors is definitely a sub genre I can get behind.

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  21. Julia, I loved the Anne McCaffrey books, too! I read all of them, and also all the Andre Nortons.

    No one else has mentioned Heidi. Did anyone else read that?

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    1. I read Heidi--after seeing the movie with Shirley Temple. One of my first experiences in how a movie adapts a story from a book.

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    2. I loved Heidi! Even today, whenever I make toasted cheese, I think of the Alm-Uncle cooking it on tines for Heidi's first meal.

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    3. I LOVED Heidi! I also had Heidi Grows Up and Heidi's Children, sequels I now learn were written by the original author's translator, since she died without writing any sequels. They were pretty good, as I recall, and definitely faithful to the characters.

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    4. I read Heidi SO many times

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  22. Rhys, the girls from the Famous Five and the Secret Seven will probably be on Kayti's list. Every time we went to England we brought her back every Enid Blyton book we could find, as you couldn't get them in the U.S. then. Then by the time she was a teenager, I was bringing her Doc Marten's :-)

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  23. This post brings back to many memories! Especially of my aunt/local librarian, who would put books she thought I'd like, behind her desk when I was in my very early teens. Forever Amber was one of them, although she made me promise I wouldn't show it to my mother. Ha! Hank, I had that same Donna Parker book. Loved it! Also a huge fan of LOTR, and especially Arwen. I also used to devour sports biographies. Back then (in the olden days) they ranged from Hank (A)aron to Babe Didrickson (Z)aharias. Fantastic post!

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  24. Oh, Oh, Oh, I love this! Eloise! My hero then, my hero now. The Kay Thompson Eloise books live on the shelves in our bedroom in my "Best Loved Books" area along with Margaret Maron, Louise Penny and Pat Conroy personalized books.

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    1. You are definitely Eloise, Kay! Same indefatigable spirit and creative spark!

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  25. I know he's not a YA author, but Alan Bradley's FLAVIA DE LUCE would be my modern-day young heroine. She's smart, quirky and uses her talents and her late uncle's laboratory to solve mysteries.

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  26. Childhood favorites included Caddie Woodlawn, Jo March, Nancy Drew, the Dana Girls. Texas Tomboy by Lois Lenski. Nancy and Plum by Betty MacDonald. This one was wonderfully melodramatic, much like The Little Princess. The Secret Garden. I also read various books in junior high that had girls as fire watchers, kayakers, etc.

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    1. I loved the Secret Garden. My boys loved it, too.

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    2. I just reread The Secret Garden in the first pandemic summer and absolutely adored it. The language is just gorgeous.

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  27. Still have my much-loved hardcover of Little Women. I find as an adult I appreciate all the sisters different strengths. I loved A Wrinkle In Time, The Secret Garden & A Little Princess. As I got older and delved into fantasy books David Eddings Belgariad & Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series became my favorites. I know Mr. Eddings based Polgara on his wife, she must have been extraordinary!

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    1. Totally! When I read Little Women as a tween I was all Team Jo, now I understand the others so much more.

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  28. Late to the party again!

    Lots of sheros here. When I was a kid, I remember my father's collection of science fiction novels where women were strong leaders.

    As a child, I mostly read fairy tales and comic books. My sheros were the Bionic Woman, Isis, and Wonder Woman. As I got older, I started reading more books. Nancy Drew was a shero to me. I did not read A WRINKLE IN TIME until recently (the book was a gift for my 10th birthday and someone took it). Beverly Clearly's RAMONA and LM Montgomery's ANNE OF GREEN GABLES were sheros. Also, PIPPI LONGSTOCKING because she got to go on adventures. There are many more sheros. Now I am seeing more novels with sheros.

    Diana

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    1. I think female driven narratives are stronger than ever, Diana. Thank goodness!

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  29. Yes, Lucy Pevensie! She was always a favorite in the Narnia books. I broke my heart when she couldn't go back to Narnia.

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    1. I know! Those books wrecked me on so many levels. LOVED them.

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    2. I always preferred Lucy and Edmund to the older ones - especially Susan. Lucy because she was insistent and Edmund because he showed remorse and changed.

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  30. Little Women and the Little House books and the Borrowers and Trip to the Mushroom Planet, and dozens I can't remember but loved reading. Then graduated to GWTW, Asimov and Heinlein, and Thurber. I don't know how I missed Nancy Drew; I've read a few in the last year or so, and I like her, as do my great-nieces.
    I also admired Hester Prynne and the Hunchback of Notre Dame, for standing up to others' wrong opinions. I did NOT like RED BADGE, but it was required reading.

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    1. Borrowers and Mushroom Planet - loved both series!

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    2. The Borrowers - that was such an imaginative series. Loved it.

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  31. I read everything concerning horses, never thinking about whether it included boy heroes, or girl heroines. In sixth grade, we spent a lot of time in the school library since our teacher was courting the librarian. (He married her, too.) Later that year, the principal was fired. Yes, it was an interesting school year. The first book I read from the adult library was Forever Amber, which sent me off into historical fiction in such a way, I never recovered...though the middle school librarian tried to convince me that Forever Amber was not good literature for a seventh grader. Somehow I think she was looking at something other than the plague. Hmm. There are high school classmates who say they have never seen me without a book in my hands. It's probably true. Now into my eighties, I read anything and everything. At this age, my whole world is in a book.

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    1. Me, too. Loved anything with horses! I think it's a remarkable thing to always be known to have a book in hand. Wonderful.

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  32. I read so many of these! Always loved detective/suspense stories, and I *still* reread Mary Stewart's novels for comfort. The woman could write, make you feel like you were there with her descriptions of places. And her protagonists are brave, but not perfect, young women, and definitely not superheroes.

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    1. Mary Stewart was a master. Loved her, Phyllis Whitney, Victoria Holt - all of them.

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    2. I reread My Brother Michael, which is my favorite, a year or so ago and it held up beautifully.

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    3. I SO agree. Not usually a big fan of romantic suspense but loved Stewart when i first found her in my teens and still do. Best IMHO are My Brother Micheal and This Rough Magic. Great heroines, great settings, great stories ( and the heroes aren't bad either. ) I made my husband read Michael when we knew we were going to Delphi. Somewhat to his surprise, he loved it too.

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    4. I too still reread Mary Stewart for comfort. Two of my favorites here--My Brother Michael and This Rough Magic, also Touch Not the Cat and Thornyhold. I don't know how many times I'd read My Brother Michael before I realized the main characters never even share a kiss--how's that for developing a romantic suspense novel? The first time I came away from reading it, the character of Michael broke my heart.

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  33. I loved the whole series of Little Women, Little Men, Jo's Boys and I think maybe it was a March cousin, but there is one called Rose in Bloom. I also loved all the Little House Books too. As a matter of fact my first short story (written in sixth grade) was influenced by the scene where the girls are alone and hear wolves on the roof!

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    1. Eight Cousins and then Rose in Bloom - loved them!

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  34. And not a western hero among them: where are Lone Ranger, Red Ryder, Hopalong Cassidy, Davy Crockett? I read the dime paperbacks featuring them. I also read and loved The Hardy Boys, though my library wouldn’t carry any of the boys or girls series, considering them trash. So it was hard but I got Tom Swift Jr. and Rick Brandt stories in a used book store when I found them. I also loved the Chip Hilton sports stories.

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    1. My brother read all Hardy Boys, Louis Lamour and Tarzan books :)

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    2. Annie Oakley was the only female Western hero we ever knew about.

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    3. I wanted to BE Annie Oakley (still do...). I listened to the record of the Annie Got Your Gun musical repeatedly.

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  35. Oh, and I really wanted to be Jim Hawkins from Treasure Island.

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  36. I loved The Paper Bag Princess and read it to my daughters frequently. But no one has mentioned Elizabeth Peters books! So many sheros, but my favourite is at the end of Borrowers of the Night where Vicky Bliss refuses to claim a hero and instead announces she has something better, a JOB! For 1973 that was just outstanding.

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  37. Interesting to see the same typo repeated: “shero” instead of “hero”. Wonder why?

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  38. It's funny, but many of my favorite childhood books weren't read until I was grown with children of my own. Some of those books were older and some not so old. Lucy, I found The Wolves of Willoughby Chase when I shared it with my kids, and I discovered The Children of Green Knowe books by L.M. Boston. Also shared with my children were The Chronicles of Narnia (Lucy!), the first few books of Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time books, Ursula K. Le Guin's Catwings set, The Westing Game by Ellen Raskins, The House with a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs (and other books by Bellairs), and, of course, Harry Potter. There were multiple characters in all of these books and series who have stayed with me (and hopefully, my children). I loved all of these books and reading them with my kids, but I have to put in a special plug for The Catwings series by Le Guin. I don't think they're known by as many of my friends as I'd like, and they are just the most wonderful books. Four short books in the series, they can be read by or to children in elementary school and read by and enjoyed by adults, too. There are some characters and books you want everyone to read, and Mrs. Jane Tabby and her four kittens born with wings who escape the dangers of the city to live in the country are five precious characters.

    I've also come to other children's and young adult books as an adult, some written after my children were grown. The Blue Balliett series of detecting kids, one with a penchant for pentominoes, and the first book is Chasing Vermeer (yes, that Vermeer, but a painting). Petra and Andalee and Calder Pillay are formidable sixth grad sleuths. Also, Blue Balliett's book Hold Fast is a book I want everyone to read. The character Early Pearl will take readers on a journey they won't forget, as her family loses their home in the city of Chicago, all the while the poetry of Langston Hughes playing an important role in Early's life. And, Blue Balliett's web site is one of my favorites. Book information, author information, and notes on the writing of the books, plus the best graphics every. https://blueballiettbooks.com/

    Ok, last but not least are some childhood favorites that left me with characters I love. First up is Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin in which eleven-year-old Rebecca Randall leaves the farm she shares with her mother and six siblings to live with two aunts in Riverboro, Maine. I was taken with Rebecca's independent nature and her comfortableness with herself, as well as her adaptability. And, one of my favorite childhood book characters was Beautiful Joe, a dog telling his own story in the book with the same name. Although this wonderful book by (Margaret) Marshall Saunders touches on animal abuse, it's the adventures of Joe that resonated with me then. It's based on a true story of a dog who lived in Meaford, southern Ontario. Oh, and Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins, and Ribsy were so fun to read about and were in tune with the times I lived in. Oh, I know there were more, but I have to do something else this afternoon but think about this post. However, it was a most enjoyable trip down memory lane. Thanks, Jenn!

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  39. Kathy, if Ursula K. Le Guin wrote it, I'll be looking for the books--never knew she'd written the Catwing series! Thanks!

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    1. Flora, they are wonderful little books. Let me know if you get them.

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    2. Kathy, I found them through my library system--including the first one in Spanish :-) Can't wait to read them!

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  40. Shalom Reds and fans,

    I read some of the aforementioned books as a child. However, I remember, when I must have been 11 years old, reading a book called A Question of Harmony, by Gretchen Sprague. The author was an acquaintance of my mother and the themes included music, race, teenage love and the meaning of the word “ambivalence.” This was the only book by Sprague that I read, but while Harmony appears to be her first, she went on to write more including several mysteries. Thank goodness for Amazon; I found a bookseller who is selling it with free shipping and I ordered it for my collection, to read again.

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  41. Growing up in poverty, reading was my greatest escape. I read anything readable. If I went back through that, I'D be writing a book. But as an adult, there's no hesitation with a female character. That would be Julia's Clare Fergusson. She is brave,passionate, and strong willed yet tender and compassionate. She also stands firmly behind what she believes to be truth. When she gives her heart, she gives it fully and forever.

    Although I Shall Not Want is my favorite book in the series, my absolute favorite line in all of the books is from Hid From Our Eyes."Clare had tumbled into love helplessly and unexpectedly three times in her life. It never got any easier and she never landed anywhere near her starting point." So Clare. She may not see something coming, but when it arrives, she puts her entire heart into it.

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  42. The bookmobile in my neighborhood had a shelf of biographies of larger-than-life, heroic women, and I read them all -- the stories of women like Clara Barton, Florence Nightingale, Betsy Ross, and Molly Pitcher. The books were written at a third grade level, and had pale blue covers. These women were my early sheroes. Eventually I moved on to fiction and Nancy Drew but she paled by comparison. So many authors mentioned that I don't recognize; I have lots of catching up to do

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