After seeing the luminous new musical “Anne of Green Gables” based on the Lucy Maude Montgomery novels and being impressed by its accurate portrayal of Anne, I started to think of other girls and young women in literature that are feisty and/or sassy. Jo, in Little Women, immediately comes to mind; then there’s the irresistible Pippi Longstocking created by Astrid Lindgren.
Feisty as well as humorous girls in series books include: Beverly Cleary’s Ramona, Megan McDonald’s Judy Moody, Meg Cabot’s Allie Finkle, Sara Pennypacker’s Clementine and Barbara Park’s Junie B. Jones. Another mischievous girl in literature is quirky Blossom Culp, the time-traveling, psychic heroine of the Richard Peck series. The better titles in this series are Ghosts I Have Been and The Ghost Belonged to Me.
On a more serious note there are young women in historical fiction that show remarkable fortitude. For younger children there is the American Girl series. One of the girls in this series is 9 year old Kaya, a young Nez Perce girl living in 1764 before Europeans arrived in the northwest. Another is 9 year old Addy who, along with her mother, decides to escape the plantation where they have been slaves after Addy’s father has been sold.
For older children there is Island of the Blue Dolphins in which 12 year old Karana endures years of fending for herself after she had jumped ship in order to stay with her younger brother who was left on the island. Her brother is subsequently killed by the wild dogs that inhabit the island, and Karana is left to fend for herself. Although written over fifty years ago, this story of survival is still an exciting read.
In a similar vein, 13 year old Miyax, in Julie of the Wolves, is lost on the Alaskan tundra after running away from home. She comes in contact and forms a close bond with wolves who help her survive. On the Wisconsin frontier in 1864, irrepressible and adventurous Caddie Woodlawn tackles life head first. It’s interesting that these three brave young women are based on actual people.
Another book based on a real person is Pam Munoz Ryan’s Riding Freedom, about Charlotte Parkhurst, who spent most of her life masquerading as a man, known as Charley, in order to become the best stagecoach driver in California.
There are many other sassy, feisty girls found in children’s and young adult literature who will appeal to all ages and these make a fine antidote to the many prissy princessy titles that seem to be currently in vogue. Who is your favorite fictional feisty heroine?