By Katherine Handcock, A Mighty Girl Communications Specialist
In our blog Beloved Books: Twenty Mighty Girl Classics, we shared twenty Mighty Girl books from 1950 and earlier that have become favorites of multiple generations. Naturally, though, there are many equally wonderful stories that were written more recently! These are the books from the 1950s to the 1980s that many members of our community grew up reading — and are now beginning to pass on to their own Mighty Girls.
Although all classics remain popular because they break new ground, these modern classics show the changes to the way Western culture viewed girls and women. The Mighty Girls in these pages tackle difficult social issues, go on hitherto unimagined adventures, and dare to define themselves in daring ways. More diverse characters begin to fill their pages, as well, with more girls of color finally filling the roles of heroes instead of bystanders or companions. Most of all, the girls in these books are no longer portrayed as eccentrics for being daring, courageous, and smart: in fact, for these Mighty Girl authors, that’s just as expected!
So take a look at our list and see if your favorite Mighty Girl book from your own childhood is on here! One way or another, it’s sure to spur you to share your own list of modern classics with the Mighty Girls in your life.
Of course, the books featured in this post are only a handful of the wonderful Mighty Girl books available. To browse our collection of over 2,000 girl-empowering books for children and teens, visit our Books section.
Classic Mighty Girl Stories
For many Mighty Girls, Elizabeth is the first Independent Princess they encountered! When Princess Elizabeth’s castle is destroyed, her fine dresses burned, and her fiance Ronald stolen by a ferocious fire-breathing dragon, she’s not going to let any of it slow her down. Donning a paper bag, she sets off to defeat the dragon with keen wit and sure determination. But how will Prince Ronald will feel about Elizabeth's daring adventure? This clever twisted fairy tale’s sense of humor and unusual ending are sure to make your Mighty Girl laugh!
Mrs. Twiggley, the fearful woman who lives in a tree, sends her dog out to do the shopping, and hides when people visit, is a perennial topic of gossip in her small town. At best, she’s considered eccentric; at worst, utterly disgraceful. But when a hurricane begins to flood the town, the disaster forces Mrs. Twiggley to deal with her neighbors — and her neighbors to see the value in Mrs. Twiggley’s ways. A charming story about tolerance for differences and facing fears, with a very warm, happy ending, it’s sure to be a favorite.
How many things can a cardboard box be? In the mind of Christina Katerina, the possibilities are endless: a castle, a clubhouse, a race car, anything could become the start of the next game. Anyone who has watched — or been — a young, imaginative child with a plaything full of potential will love this book, which perfectly captures the creative play of children, as well as the occasional exasperation that it brings on in parents!
Ramona doesn’t set out to be trouble, especially not to her beloved big sister, Beezus. It’s just that, once her imagination gets going, she can’t seem to stop... In this volume, Ramona takes single bites out of a whole box of apples, “accidentally” invites fifteen kindergarten classmates to a party, and antagonizes a librarian. But when she threatens to ruin Beezus’ birthday party, it’s time that Ramona — and Beezus — learn some truths about what it means to have a sister.
Fans of Ramona will also want to check out the Ramona Quimby Box Set, which includes all eight Ramona books.
It all starts with a runty pig, rescued by a determined farm girl. This story of Wilbur the pig and his relationship with the brilliant spider Charlotte and the compassionate Fern is considered one of the most beloved children’s books of all time. The heartfelt story about compassion, community, and celebrating — and then mourning — a friendship became an instant classic, and it’s sure to touch your own Mighty Girl just as deeply as it did its first readers.
Fans of the book can also check out the live action film adaptation (age 4 and up).
Smart, sensitive Matilda is stuck with a family that doesn’t appreciate her — and a headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, who’s determined to break the will of every child in her school. Fortunately, her teacher, Miss Honey, sees her tremendous potential. But when it turns out that Miss Honey is just as beaten down by Miss Trunchbull as her students, Matilda will have to make use of some unexpected abilities to see justice done. A terrific book for reading alone or aloud, this is sure to be a popular story!
Fans of Matilda can also check out the film adaptation (age 8 and up).
This Newbery Award-winning novel tells the story of 12-year-old Claudia who decides to run away from home and brings her little brother Jamie along for the ride. She chooses the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City as their new home and they quickly settle into living secretly in the museum. But when a new exhibit arrives the children fall into the middle of a mystery that takes them on another grand adventure. A classic, suspenseful read that stands the test of time!
Five busy and mischievous girls are the stars of this book, which is the first of a series. It’s pre-World War I, and Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte, and Gertie share a single room in the apartment rented by their parents. Life as poor Jewish immigrants isn’t easy, but the girls barely notice as they go on their own adventures to the library, the market, and their Papa’s shop. Full of imagination, love, and fun, this book is sure to be a favorite.
Ronia is the proud and beloved daughter of Matt, the leader of a band of robbers — but she’s most at home alone in the quiet of the forest. There, she meets Birk, the son of Matt’s rival, who also prefers time wandering the woods to life in a robber band. But when Matt discovers their friendship, Ronia will have hard decisions to make: does she side with her father or her friend...or is there a way to manage both? Fans of Pippi Longstocking will want to check out this fun coming-of-age adventure.
It’s Denmark in 1943, and word is leaking out that the Nazis intend to detain the Danish Jews before shipping them to concentration camps. 10-year-old Annemarie doesn’t know why anyone would want to hurt her neighbors, including her best friend, Ellen Rosen, who Annemarie’s family conceals as one of their own. It will take the efforts of the Danish Resistance — and the entire community — to see the Jewish population of Denmark, nearly seven thousand people, safe on Sweden’s shores. This beautiful story of the heroism of ordinary people is sure to be thought-provoking.
When 12-year-old Karana tries to rescue her brother from being left behind on her tribe’s old island, she ends up stranded on the island herself, alone and desperate to survive. Feeding herself, building shelter, and making clothes are one thing; managing the loneliness of total isolation is even more difficult. But despite the trials Karana faces, she discovers courage — and peace — in her imposed self-reliance. This Newbery Medal tale of survival will have your Mighty Girl debating what she would have done in Karana’s position.
Sixteen people — including one extremely smart 13-year-old girl, Turtle — are offered the opportunity to live in an exclusive condo. Shortly after, they discover that they are also invited to the reading of Sam Westing’s will, where two million dollars rest on finding Westing’s murderer before the other potential heirs! Suspicions, lies, and alliances flurry through the group as Westing gets to play one last game. This complex, layered mystery story will have your Mighty Girl — and you! — guessing to the end.
16-year-old Kit Tyler migrates to colonial Connecticut from her home in Barbados in 1687 but feels lost in this new home as the other colonists don’t trust a girl with so much spunk and spirit. Soon, Kit finds a friend in Hannah Tupper, an old Quaker woman. But Kit’s friendship with Hannah is soon complicated by the fact that the colonists believe Hannah to be a witch and now Kit may also be guilty by association. In this Newbery Award-winning novel, readers will discover a heroine to admire for both her unwavering sense of truth as well as her infinite capacity to love.
11-year-old Yuki is spending her days in a dusty Japanese internment camp in the middle of World War II. Her father, who was arrested for questioning by the FBI, is a prisoner miles away, while the rest of the family struggles with meager supplies in a camp ringed by barbed wire and armed soldiers. And yet, even within these terrible times and intimidating fences, Yuki finds friendship, courage, and love. Based on Uchida’s own experiences, this story will open your Mighty Girl’s eyes to a lesser-known aspect of American history.
People in town think Meg is a loose cannon, her brother Charles Wallace is dumb, and her father ran off and left their scientist mother — but Meg doesn’t believe a word of any of it. So when an unexpected stranger appears in their kitchen and tells Meg about a tesseract — the “wrinkle in time” which her father was researching for the government — Meg decides to set off through space and time to find him. Her adventures with Charles Wallace and neighbor Calvin will require all of their strengths to accomplish! A Wrinkle in Time is the first of a quintet of science fiction classics, which are also available in a box set.
Fans of the book can also check out the graphic novel adaptation by Hope Larson.
It’s taken all the love and determination that 9-year-old Cassie’s family has to protect her from the awareness of racism and violence in the 1930s Deep South. But when night riders start threatening African-Americans in her community, the truth can’t be hidden any longer. Cassie will have to harden her heart, but in the process, she’ll gain new perspective on her father’s deep attachment to the precious land they own. This stunning novel that shows prejudice and violence through the eyes of an innocent will bring a new perspective to your Mighty Girl.
In a Southern US town, Scout Finch grows up carefree — until her father becomes involved in the legal defense of a black man accused of raping a white woman. Through the eyes of a child, the reader sees the worst of Maycomb — racism, violence, and injustice — but also the best — compassion, determination, and, above all, the importance of standing up for what you believe is right. Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is the perfect opening to talk about prejudice, hope, and the beauty in the world around us.
13-year-old Julie is torn between being Miyax, who follows her family’s traditional Inupiat Alaskan ways, and being Julie, the modernized teenager. But when an arranged marriage becomes dangerous, Julie runs away, determined to reach her pen pal’s San Francisco home. With no food or shelter, though, and no one to help her except a pack of wolves, Julie begins to see the value of the traditions that she’d previously disdained. This Newbery Medal tale that celebrates individuality and self-sufficiency is sure to appeal to any adventurous Mighty Girl.
Julie’s story continues in the sequel, Julie.
Mary Call promised her dying father that she would keep her brothers and sisters together, living in the Appalachian mountains that were so dear to him. At first, it seems like she can manage, but as it gets more and more complicated to prevent people from discovering his death — and as the landlord who holds the title to their home pursues his courtship of her sister even more ardently — Mary Call will have to find new reserves of determination and cleverness to fulfill her promise. This National Book Award finalist, full of the cadence of Appalachian speech, will captivate your Mighty Girl.
Esperanza Cordero is a Latina girl coming of age in a world that’s full of joy and laughter, but also oppression and struggle. In a series of vignettes, many in free verse, she decides that the house on Mango Street is only temporary, a place she must stay until she can find a better life, away from the poor neighborhood where she grew up. At the same time, she is determined not to forget those who she leaves behind, but to come back and help lift them out of poverty as well. Full of clever, funny observations and insightful views of gender roles and culture, this remarkable novel is sure to fascinate teen readers.
With so many new Mighty Girl books coming out every year, there's no doubt that this generation will have its own list of classics to write. Until then, why not introduce your Mighty Girl to some of the great books of your childhood? Together, you can discover how good writing — and great Mighty Girl characters — can be relevant years after they were published.
Additional Recommended Resources
- You can find more books that have been favorites for years — or decades — in the first part of this blog, Beloved Books: Twenty Mighty Girl Classics or in our Classics section.
- To show off your love of literature, browse our selection of Literary Themed clothing.
- To bring a love of literature to your walls, visit our selection of Literary Themed posters or our selection of Wall Quotes.
- If your Mighty Girl is a book lover, check out our blog Celebrating A Love of Reading: Great Gifts for Mighty Girl Book Lovers.
- For a selection of great story collections, check out our blog The Whole Story: Mighty Girl Box Sets and Collections.