Sunday, February 23, 2014

Girls and Books - My Childhood Favorites

I was a voracious reader as a little girl. I remember visiting the Thornton Public Library each week and working my way through first the young reader and then young adult sections. Finally, the librarian gave up and let me start checking out adult books, guiding me to some great choices.

Characters, specifically female characters, became my best friends. I immersed myself in their lives. I loved their courage, their feisty personalities, and their dramatic situations. They could do anything! Through books, I was able to do have adventures that were just not possible in real life.

Cracking open a "new" library book, with that oh-so-distinct library smell, was one of my favorite things to do.

Here are my favorite childhood heroines - maybe you can add your own?



Laura Ingalls Wilder

The books were classics, with the television series beginning in March 1974. I found out recently that the books, based on the true stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder, were actually co-authored by her daughter Rose. They rearranged some events to make a more appealing timeline for the story. Spunky Laura followed her pioneer parents out of the big woods and across the plains. They encountered hardship as they forded creeks and lost their dog. Pa got stuck in a blizzard. Laura faced off and then befriended Native Americans. And she was satisfied with the smallest things - an orange and a shiny penny in her stocking for Christmas. I loved that she wouldn't take any grief from bullies and spoke her mind. That is why Laura tops my list.

Anne Shirley

Her eloquence astounded me. She would speak in long, beautiful, prosaic sentences. She had a bosom buddy. She was an orphan, but had an air about her that belonged to the aristocracy. Anne also got herself into predicaments, like when she accidentally served raspberry cordial to her best buddy Dianna and ended up getting her drunk in the afternoon. But, Anne had a true heart, and never let her cursed red hair get her down.

Nancy Drew

I wanted to be Nancy Drew. I would knock on the paneled walls of my 1960s suburban home and search for mystery. I loved her sweaters, plaid skirts and sensible loafers. I loved her friends Bess and George. To be a girl with such freedom! Nancy's dad had complete confidence in the teen letting her go on mysterious jobs with her own car and some good advice. They have computer games now for Nancy Drew mysteries, and they transport me back to my childhood obsession with all things mystery.

Cherry Ames

These were a more obscure series of mystery novels with a nurse as the main character. Cherry Ames was a nurse with crisp white uniforms and a "rosy complexion." There were 27 books in the series, published between 1943 and 1968. Many of the books were set during and after the war. Said one reader, "She was modern. She taught you that you could do anything. She was smart, and she was courageous, and she had a dedication to her calling. She would never, ever leave the side of her patients, even in a bombing raid." 

Mrs. Mike

My transition to adult-level reading began with one book - a thick, old-looking, hard cover book titled Mrs. Mike. It told the tale of a woman who married a Canadian Mountie and moved north with him into the wilderness. She was very brave - and did all sorts of things her proper upbringing could never have imagined. I remember, specifically, an amputation scene that sent chills up my spine. The book was realistic and inspiring. I was reminded that life could be very difficult, but that we can rise to the challenge when needed.

I'm sure there are many more. But these women molded my young mind and heart. They are books I've shared with my own daughter. What are your favorites?
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