BOLD GIRLS of my past!

With the current celebration of the strong, confident, brave and intelligent women and girls through the BOLD GIRLS incentive driven by Childrens Books Ireland, I started thinking about the BOLD GIRLS in the literature of my own past.
Being completely enchanted by books from a very young age, I was given free range to chose and read whatever I liked. (Not every child has this opportunity and I am completely grateful to the grown-ups of my world for providing this.) Among my favourites, there were quite a few BOLD GIRLS.
Of course, there were the classics. Mary in The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, whose cross disposition I read (seemingly)in a completely different way to those around me; she just wanted a life that spoke of her own nature and not to have to 'behave as a young lady should' like she was being told. The books of Louisa May Alcott that spoke to me of following your own heart. Heidi and the freedom and happiness she found in the mountains...the list is quite comprehensive here. I was read these, and read them myself without being instructed as to what they meant in regard to being a girl. (This is very important when giving books to children...DON'T tell them what they are 'supposed' to glean from them. Children have their own minds, and very intelligent ones, at that. They may well come out of a story with a different understanding than you might imagine. Much better to listen to what children have to say.)
Beyond the classics, there were brilliant, wondrous girls emerging from books that fired my imagination and wonder. Not as many as there are today, and the history we were taught gave a glancing blow at best to the women who changed the world. But in the realms of fiction, here are a few that stuck with me...they made me laugh, they made me cry, they made me think and dream...
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans is, of course, one of the best loved characters of all time. I was immediately taken by her bold and determined attitude as she seemed to take on the world. Whatever she came up against, Madeline brushed herself off, stuck out her chin and got on with life (sometimes much to the amused frustration of Miss Clavel.)
First published in 1964, Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh completely delighted me. Her pure fearlessness is inspiring.She was precocious and sneaky and utterly enthusiastic about her spy missions. She was also completely oblivious to the hurt they were causing those around her, initially. Even bold girls need to know when it's time to make amends. Regardless of her own embarrassment, Harriet steps up and makes things good again. Doesn't stop her spying, though...
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare was an amazing introduction to historical fiction for me, and to the incredible women and girls that lived there. Kits is an independent, rebellious, yet kind girl who comes from a place of privilege into a small Puritanical town to find herself accused of witchcraft. She still will risk everything, even her own safety, for those who need her.
Meg in A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle is a character who still haunts my memories and my dreams. She is seen as a troublesome and stubborn girl, but capable of doing great things. When her scientist father disappears, Meg has no hesitation at the thought of stepping into the complete unknown to find him. In doing so, she finds herself on the journey of a lifetime... Also, A Wrinkle in Time is filled with female characters that are amazing, wild and wonderful.
I want to end with a very special book and an extraordinary character from my reading past. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell was published in 1960. It is based on the true story of a girl who was left on a small island off the coast of California and lived there alone for 18 years. Karana jumps ship to go back for her brother, stranded on a small island. As it turns out, he has been killed by a pack of feral dogs and Karana is left alone. She must now make a life for herself by taking on all the traditional male rolls in her tribe; hunting, fishing, building; in order to survive. Her journey is amazing and the story is spell-binding. One of the most 'telling' things about Island of the Blue Dolphins comes from O'Dell himself. When he sent the book to his publisher, they sent it back straight away, saying that if he was serious about the story he should change the main character to a boy, because girls were only interested in romance. O'Dell thought this was silly, so he went to another publisher who accepted it the next day.  Thank goodness!
I'm sure you all have BOLD GIRLS from your childhood book collection. So, tell me; what did you read?


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