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Beloved Books: Twenty Mighty Girl Classics

classic-books

By Katherine Handcock, A Mighty Girl Communications Specialist

While there are dozens of great new Mighty Girl books getting published every year, there are also many girl-empowering stories that have been passed down for generations! Times may have changed, but these classic characters still speak to the girls of today just as they did to their grandmothers.

With that in mind, we're showcasing our favorite classic Mighty Girl stories. These are books that you’re likely to remember from your own childhood — in fact, you may have even been first introduced to them because an adult you know loved them as as child!

Of course, there are so many of these classic stories that it was hard to narrow down our list, so with that in mind, we’ve split our list of favorites into two parts. In this post, we’re highlighting our twenty favorite stories from 1950 and earlier and we follow-up with a selection of our favorite modern classics in our post Beloved Books, Part 2: Twenty Mighty Girl Modern Classics.

The classic stories featured below have already been passed down through multiple generations — now is a great time to introduce them to a new generation of Mighty Girls!

Classic Mighty Girl Stories

Madeline

Madeline

Written by: Ludwig Bemelmans
Illustrated by: Ludwig Bemelmans
Recommended Age: 3 - 8

In a Catholic boarding school in Paris live “twelve little girls in two straight lines” — and Madeline, the smallest of them, is the one with the biggest personality. Madeline is brave enough to sniff at mice, wave off the tiger at the zoo, and handle an emergency trip to the hospital in the middle of the night. After all, now she has a brand new appendectomy scar as proof of her adventures! This Caldecott Honor book is the first of Madeline’s exciting adventures.

Fans of Madeline will want to check out Mad About Madeline, a collection of all six Madeline stories plus special behind-the-scenes looks at Bemelmans’ family and creation of this beloved character. To view more Madeline books and other Madeline-related items, visit our Madeline Collection.

Twig

Twig

Written by: Elizabeth Orton Jones
Illustrated by: Elizabeth Orton Jones
Recommended Age: 6 - 10

Where most people only see dandelions and dirt, imaginative Twig sees a whole world in her backyard, complete with companions Old Girl, the cat, Old Boy, the ice-cart horse, and the Sparrows. When she finds an empty tomato can, Twig has a brilliant idea: she’ll turn it into a little house, just perfect for a fairy! And when Elf the elf shows up, he provides the introduction to an adventure in fairyland.

Betsy-Tacy

Betsy-Tacy

Written by: Maud Hart Lovelace
Illustrated by: Lois Lenski
Recommended Age: 6 - 11

Betsy lives on a street with no other little girls — until the day Tacy moves in across the street! Soon, the two are fast friends, and so close that people stop thinking of them as two people and start thinking of them as Betsy-Tacy. Whether they’re off on real-life adventures, like the first day of school, or imaginary ones, like riding on a feather, these two friends are always there for each other. And when Tib, another little girl, moves in at the end of the year, it’s sure to mean even more adventures!

The Hundred Dresses

The Hundred Dresses

Written by: Eleanor Estes
Illustrated by: Louis Slobodkin
Recommended Age: 6 - 10

Maddie goes to a Connecticut school where the girls love to show off their special school dresses. Wanda Petronski, a Polish girl from a shabby neighborhood, only wears one worn blue dress to school, but she swears that she has a hundred fine dresses at home, in every color and fabric. One of her classmates, Maddie, stands by as her peers tease Wanda mercilessly. After Wanda’s family moves away, Maddie deeply regrets not having supported her and decides that she is “never going to stand by and say nothing again.”

The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden

Recommended Age: 7 - 12

Orphaned Mary Lennox is sad and lonely when she comes to her uncle’s house, but her interest is soon piqued by the secrets the Yorkshire house conceals and the cries she hears late at night. When she discovers an overgrown garden, walled and forgotten for years, sour Mary discovers a new cause: bringing life back to the desolate place. And as her sickly cousin Colin joins her in her quest, it may be that healing the garden will heal both of them as well.

This title is also one of four included in the new gift set, Puffin In Bloom Illustrated Classics Collection.

Strawberry Girl

Strawberry Girl

Written by: Lois Lenski
Illustrated by: Lois Lenski
Recommended Age: 8 - 12

10-year-old Birdie Boyer knows why her family has moved to the Florida backwoods: strawberries! She can’t wait to start picking them, but there’s lots for her family to contend with before they’ll have a harvest. Together they face the Florida heat, droughts, and cold snaps — and most worrisome of all, competitive, possibly dangerous, neighbors. But perhaps the challenges they face will make those strawberries all the sweeter for Birdie.

The Princess and the Goblin

The Princess and the Goblin

Written by: George MacDonald
Recommended Age: 8 - 12

In this clever fantasy story, Princess Irene’s discovery of a secret staircase in the castle’s tallest turret, and the miner’s son Curdie’s accidental overhearing of a fiendish plot by two of the goblins who live under the mountain, bring them together to foil a disastrous scheme! It will take all their cleverness and courage to succeed — plus a little help from Irene’s magic ring, and a willingness to accept that, sometimes, you must believe in things you cannot see.

Heidi

Heidi

Written by: Johanna Spyri
Recommended Age: 8 - 12

Heidi’s grandfather is cold and forbidding, but even he can’t remain aloof in the face of the bright, loving little girl! In fact, Heidi’s joy in life and compassion touch the hearts of everyone around her — her grandfather, Peter the goatherd, and her friend Clara are only those most affected by her caring soul. This delightful story featuring an intelligent and charming Mighty Girl also captures the special connection a girl can have with a place — in this case, Heidi’s beloved mountain home.

This title is also one of four included in the new gift set, Puffin In Bloom Illustrated Classics Collection.

The Middle Moffat

The Middle Moffat

Written by: Eleanor Estes
Illustrated by: Louis Slobodkin
Recommended Age: 8 - 12

Jane Moffat doesn’t know who she is the family: not the youngest, not the oldest, just boring Jane. So she decides to reinvent herself as the mysterious “middle Moffat.” But in between secretly trying to help the town’s oldest man reach his one hundredth birthday, she has to deal with stray dogs, basketball teams, and reading every book in the library. Sometimes, it takes a lot of adventure to figure out what makes being plain old Jane so special.

Emily of New Moon

Emily of New Moon

Written by: L.M. Montgomery
Recommended Age: 8 - 12

When Emily’s beloved father dies, she has to go live with her stern Aunt Elizabeth at New Moon Farm. Despite Elizabeth’s stiff demeanor and the unpleasantness of her new classmates, Emily is determined to hold her head high. Fortunately, her determination and quick wit soon have her making new friends and discovering unexpected surprises. Before long, Emily may just start thinking of herself as Emily of New Moon.

Little House On The Prairie

Little House On The Prairie

Written by: Laura Ingalls Wilder
Illustrated by: Garth Williams
Recommended Age: 8 - 12

Laura Ingalls' journey to Kansas in her family’s covered wagon tells a fascinating story of the day-to-day courage and determination of the families that settled the American Midwest. Whether they are building a log house, digging a well, or tending a garden they hope will sustain them through months of solitude, this story will give your Mighty Girl new perspective on the challenges that faced settlers — and how much responsibility fell on the shoulders of the Mighty Girls of the day.

Fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder will find her whole story told in this Little House Box Set and you can find many more Little House-related items in our Laura Ingalls Collection.

Pippi Longstocking

Pippi Longstocking

Written by: Astrid Lindgren
Recommended Age: 8 - 12

In the wacky Villa Villekulla lives a very extraordinary girl! Pippi Longstocking, the strongest girl in the world, lives alone with her monkey Mr. Nilsson, and her arrival is going to turn Tommy and Annika’s life upside down. Full of incredible hijinks, daring deeds, and expectation-defying adventures, any child would want to follow Pippi just to see what happens next!

Fans of Pippi should also check out The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking, which collects the three full-length Pippi books into one volume. You can also find more Pippi books, films, and toys in our Pippi Longstocking Collection.

A Little Princess

A Little Princess

Recommended Age: 8 and up

Sara Crewe grew up the child of a wealthy father, treated like a princess by her peers. But when her father’s wealth is suddenly lost, Sara finds her old friends and admirers have vanished, and she’s subjected to nothing but scorn. But Sara is convinced that it isn’t riches and privilege that makes a girl a princess; instead, it is determination, spirit, and generosity — attributes that can never be taken away.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Written by: L. Frank Baum
Illustrated by: W. W. Denslow
Recommended Age: 8 and up

It all begins when a tornado sweeps Dorothy away to the magical land of Oz, a land where she’ll make the most unusual friends and have to face unexpected dangers. As Dorothy searches for the way to go home — and her companions seek the end of their own quests — she must also evade the angry Wicked Witch of the West. Everyone assures Dorothy that the Wizard can solve her problems but perhaps it’s Dorothy who has the power to get herself back home.

If you or your Mighty Girl loves Oz, you should also check out the 5-book box set and, of course, the 1939 film. For many related books, toys, and costumes, visit our Dorothy Collection.

The Secret of the Old Clock

The Secret of the Old Clock

Written by: Carolyn Keene
Recommended Age: 8 and up

Curious teenager Nancy Drew has a nose for crime — inherited from her father, a criminal defense lawyer. When a wealthy town resident dies, Nancy’s suspicions are raised: he seemingly left no will, despite having promised his struggling relatives that they would inherit, and his heirs presumptive are money-obsessed social climbers. Nancy and her friend Helen will have to be clever and courageous if they want to unravel this mystery!

Fans of Nancy Drew can also get this Nancy Drew Starter Box Set, which features the first five books of the series -- or find more Nancy Drew-related items in our Nancy Drew Collection.

Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables

Written by: L.M. Montgomery
Recommended Age: 9 and up

Brother and sister Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert decided to take in an orphan boy to help on the family farm; they’re not expecting spirited, flame-haired Anne to show up instead. But Matthew is quickly charmed by Anne’s unique personality and vivid imagination. It may be that this unexpected girl will be the best thing to ever happen to their family.
Fans of Anne Shirley can also check out this box set featuring all the Anne novels, as well as films, toys, and posters in our Anne of Green Gables Collection.

This title is also one of four included in the new gift set, Puffin In Bloom Illustrated Classics Collection.

Pollyanna

Pollyanna

Written by: Eleanor H. Porter
Recommended Age: 9 and up

Orphaned Pollyanna has nowhere to turn but to her bad-tempered aunt, but she doesn’t let her situation dull her bright view of life. In her new home of Beldingsville, there are many people she feels she can help, and soon she’s brightening many lives with her optimism. But when Pollyanna suffers a serious accident, her cheerful outlook is finally shaken. Maybe it’s time for the whole town — including formidable Aunt Polly — to help Pollyanna instead.

Little Women

Little Women

Written by: Louisa May Alcott
Recommended Age: 10 and up

As the four March sisters are faced with the challenges of life without their father, who has gone to serve as an Army Chaplain in the Civil War, each of them has to reconcile being a socially acceptable “little woman” with her own hopes and dreams. At the center of the story is Jo, a hot-tempered aspiring writer who struggles to conform to expectations; despite her resentment and frustration, though, her love for her family shines through it all.

For more books related to Little Women and its author, visit our Little Women Collection. This title is also one of four included in the new gift set, Puffin In Bloom Illustrated Classics Collection.

A Girl of the Limberlost

A Girl of the Limberlost

Written by: Gene Stratton-Porter
Recommended Age: 13 and up

Elnora lives on the banks of the Limberlost Swamp in Indiana with her embittered mother, who blames Elnora for her husband’s death while she was in childbirth. Elnora’s dream is to get an education, but her mother is determined to prevent it, and avoids earning the money Elnora needs for tuition, books, and school clothes by refusing to cut the timber on their land. Determined Elnora won’t give up, though, and finds unexpected ways to succeed — ones that might even win over her mother.

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice

Written by: Jane Austen
Recommended Age: 13 and up

In the Bennet household, a family of five sisters, finding a wealthy husband might be critical to the family’s survival when Mr. Bennet passes away. But intelligent, spirited Elizabeth is less concerned about a man’s annual income than his mind and personality. She takes an immediate dislike to new arrival Mr. Darcy, no matter his wealth or appearance. But is her first impression correct, or is she herself also acting on both pride and prejudice?

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