Books for the Headstrong (Little) Female in Your Life
I, arguably, spent the majority of my childhood and teenage years liking books more than people. It wasn’t that I actively disliked people, I just found them a little harder to understand sometimes.
I grew up in a house with a drama and English graduate for a mother and an English graduate – and teacher – for a father. In short, books were always in pretty good supply. To sing my parents’ praises, I was reading very well when I was still very young. My mum read the first two Harry Potter books to me and my older brother, but by the third one I was reading it on my own; I was about five or six. Crazy. Like I said, it’s more a credit to my parents than anything else. We pre-ordered the fifth Harry Potter book, so it came through the letterbox on release day. Eight year old Becca sat down on the sofa and read it all in one day. She was determined and a little rude as I’m fairly certain we had house guests that day. I was a very easy child to buy for come Christmas – “books please” – so relatives? You are welcome.
I was a very headstrong child (a sign of things to come) and often found more “kindred spirits” in the characters I read about in books than I did on television or in films. I thought I’d share the ones that have stuck with me the most. This first post details the books 1995-2005 Becca would recommend. Later this week, I’ll be sharing what 10-18 year old Becca suggests, followed by adult Becca’s recommendations. I’ve linked paperback versions of each of the books – just click on the title.
Little Becca’s Book Recommendations
Anne of Green Gables – L M Montgomery
Anne Shirley is one of the most iconic book characters of all time. Bright red hair, freckles, a fiery temper and an imaginative mouth and brain that just won’t quit. I fell in love with Anne, her “bosom friend” Diana and adoptive family, the Cuthberts, along with Prince Edward Island. L M Montgomery’s book series follows young, orphan Anne all the way through to adulthood. They’re funny, heartwarming and occasionally heartbreaking. I also avidly watched the adaption staring Megan Follows and thought no one could replace her as “my Anne”. Until I watched Netflix’s Anne with an E and fell in love all over again. The Netflix adaption is incredible and has fantastic child actors, along with genius portrayals by Geraldine James and R.H Thompson. Watch it.
Matilda – Roald Dahl
I spent a good deal of my childhood afraid of Pam Ferris. Her portrayal of Miss Trunchbull was terrifying to young me, but that didn’t stop me reading and watching Matilda a lot. Matilda was a bookworm and child genius and, despite her unpleasant upbringing, understanding and kind. She also had magic powers, so there’s that. Matilda shows children how far a little self-belief and hard work can go. Scary as she is, Miss Trunchbull does come up with some cracking insults -“you stagnant cesspool” for example. On the subject of quotes, the very beginning of the book is home to what I believe is one of Dahl’s finest: “a person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.” Miss Honey is the teacher we all wanted when we were small and, fun fact, the film version of her was my first ever “crush” as a child. How wholesome. Matilda has made something of a comeback in recent years (did it ever really leave?) with the fantastic musical adaption. Tim Minchin has written some funny, clever and beautiful songsthat fit in perfectly with Dahl’s quirky story.
Ballet Shoes – Noel Streatfield
Take three adoptive sisters that are as alike as chalk and cheese, add gorgeous language (little Becca couldn’t get over the fancy words like “taffeta”) and quirky side characters and you have yourselves a damn good novel. The Fossil sisters are all doorstep babies who decide to make a vow every year: “We three Fossils vow to try and put our names in history books because it’s our very own and nobody can say it’s because of our grandfathers”. What a fantastic message to send young people! In Ballet Shoes, the reader follows Pauline, Petrova and Posy as they discover their passions and find their place. With one becoming an actress, another a pilot and the last a ballet dancer, there’s something for everyone. Streatfield also doesn’t shy away from showing the girls’ flaws and insecurities. The BBC made an adaption several years ago starring Emma Watson, Emilia Clarke, Eileen Atkins, Richard Griffiths and Victoria Wood that’s well worth a watch.
THE HARRY POTTER SERIES – JK ROWLING
Oh JK. JK, JK, JK. Joanne, if I may. You magnificent woman. These books pretty much defined my childhood and there’s something magical about a book series that adults love just as much as children. The stories were great, the world was wonderful and the characters? Iconic. Hermione Granger, Minerva McGonagall, Molly Weasley, Ginny Weasley (book Ginny, that is) and Luna Lovegood were the strong female characters I needed growing up. With flawed, lovable characters, terrifying enemies (Umbridge. anyone?) and fully realised storylines, the Harry Potter series is a winner. I will never not have space in my heart for the wizarding world. Oh and in case you were wondering – Ravenclaw.
I, of course, have my original copies of Harry Potter on my bookcase. Including that initial, pre-fame Philosophers Stone cover where Dumbledore is inexplicably middle-aged with a brown goatee! However, I also have this beautiful hardback set which came in a Hogwarts trunk, complete with stickers to decorate. It wasn’t cheap, but is only marginally more expensive than other hardback sets. You can find it here.