Photo by Sarah Horrigan. Flickr Photo:

Photo by Sarah Horrigan.

1. Matilda: Matilda, by Roald Dahl

Matilda was always one of my role models growing up. I loved books and was one of the few in my class that looked forward to the school day. Unlike my own encouraging experience, Matilda had to contend with a cruel and ignorant family, but with the support of the lovely Miss Honey she persevered with her educational (and, as it turns out, magical) development. Matilda demonstrates the power of learning and of continued determination during even the darkest of days.

2. Laura Dyson: The Laura Line, by Crystal Allen

School life for Laura is hard and doesn’t seem to be getting any better when her teacher suggests a field trip to her grandmother’s shack. Through her grandmother, Laura reluctantly learns about her family’s past and discovers her own, unique character, a world away from the bullied person that she became at school. In this story, Laura shows that exploring your past can provide new ways of seeing yourself and new possibilities of who you can become.

3. Katniss Everdeen: The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

Katniss Everdeen is a complex character, shaken at times by her own mortality and the impact that her actions have on those around her, but she is strong and brave. The reader is introduced to Katniss during a Reaping in District 12 as she potentially sacrifices her own life to save her younger sister. Her strength and desire to do what is right persists through the books. While the films are great, I would strongly recommend reading the books!

4. Karana: Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell

Karana is left on a deserted island after trying to save her brother, left alone on the shore. While her plan to take care of her brother ends in tragedy, Karana shows ingenuity and tenacity in her desire to survive, remembering what she had been taught before and teaching herself new lessons through trial and error. While at times heart-breaking, this story shows the power of hard work and hope during difficult times.

5. Annemarie Johansen: Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry

In the terrors of the Second World War, Annemarie and her family protect their Jewish friends in Nazi-occupied Denmark. While anti-semitic Nazi propaganda divides local communities, Annemarie is loyal to her friend Ellen and her family, putting her life in danger to help them escape the dangerous changes happening in their country. A courageous girl, Annemarie takes her life in her hands to do the right thing, no matter what it might cost her.

6. Lanesha: Ninth Ward, by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Set during the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, twelve year old Lanesha calls upon the hope and strength that was given to her by her Mama Ya-Ya to help them both survive the storm. While the storm ravages the area, Lanesha’s faith in herself, love, courage and strength provide the tools through which survival is possible. Lanesha harnesses all the love that her local community has provided her in this tale of overcoming adversity.

7. Mira: Artichoke Hearts, by Sita Brahmachari

Written as a diary, Mira talks to the reader directly from this book. In this complex month of her life, Mira falls in love and realizes that her beloved grandmother is dying. As she struggles with her elation and guilt, Mira realizes that the love has many layers and that life is complicated, involving the good and the bad, each making us who we are.

8. Marin: Dream Catcher, by Stella Calahasen

Troubled by awful dreams, Marin visits a Cree tribal elder. Through these visits she develops a connection with her culture and to the Great Spirit Kici Manitow. With the help of her family, Marin makes her first dream catcher. Through engaging with her culture and history, Marin finds her place within the world and develops an appreciation of her connection to the land and the animals around her.

9. Audrey Brown: The Deptford Mice Series, by Robin Jarvis

Robin Jarvis was my favourite author growing up. Sent in an abandoned house in London, a colony of mice live in the Skirting, avoiding wherever possible the dark magic that emanates from the drains in the cellar. Through the three books, Audrey Brown develops from a vain and selfish creature into someone that is forced to be strong to protect those she loves. While life is not kind to her, Audrey uses the tough times to make her a better person.

10. Lyra Belaqua: His Dark Materials Trilogy, by Philip Pullman

Lyra is independent and creative. While sometimes lacking in tact and sensitivity, she is a true friend to Will and Roger, even following them to the edge of the known world in order to help them. As the reader makes their way through the trilogy, Lyra grows up from a strong-willed little girl to a powerful young woman. Each of the worlds that Lyra journeys through is complex and dominated by those who wish to control the instability of adolescents, yet Lyra faces it all with determination and loyalty.

-Sarah Raine
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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