A parent who runs a local book club asked me if I could put together a great list of books for girls. There is such a range of reading abilities and maturity found in girls transitioning to the teenage years. Some tend to be only interested in adventure (try Brian Jacques’ Salamandastron), while others are right into romance (try The Shadow of the Bear by Regina Doman). For this reason I have put together a list including quite a mixture of themes.

I have done my best to tack on virtues to each book, since this is often looked for in book clubs. These tags do not describe all the virtues contained in the story, but they do alight to the character and theme of the book.

Finally, I recommend the books on this list, but not every book written by the authors. AVI, for example, has a couple children’s books that were poorly reviewed, but his Confessions of Charlotte Doyle is an exciting read. Raina Telgemeier’s Drama is controversial and not on this list, though Smile is an excellent bildungsroman.

* * * * * 

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E. L. Konigsburg
Genre: mystery, adventure, family
Virtues: perseverance, prudence
*A quick read with surprising twists, realistic characters, and an unexpected mystery.

Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
Genre: bildungsroman, family, romance
Virtues: temperance, love, self-control, family values
*The story of four sisters whose friendship helps them through difficult and happy times as they grow into young women.

Julie of the Wolves, Jean Craighead George
Genre: adventure, animals
Virtues: fortitude, perseverance
*An unforgettable adventure about a girl who survives in the arctic with the help of a pack of wolves.

Narnia Series, C.S. Lewis
Genre: fantasy, adventure
Virtues: honesty, valour, magnanimity, faith
*Reading Narnia is like entering another world. (Don’t forget to compare the book with the feature film!)

Sarah, Plain and Tall, Patricia MacLachlan
Genre: drama
Virtues: patience, leadership, determination
*A short and touching story about family and being accepted by others.

Ella Enchanted, Gail Carson Levine  
Genre: romance, adventure, fantasy
Virtues: prudence, obedience, generosity
*A light and easy read with a delightful touch of magic and romance. (And there’s a movie!)

Bud, Not Buddy, Christopher Paul Curtis
Genre: historical fiction, adventure
Virtues: honesty, humility, faith
*Bud’s faith in finding his father against all odds is inspiring and funny.

Adam of the Road, Elizabeth Janet Gray 
Genre: historical fiction, adventure
Virtues: perseverance, hope
*Adam’s dog is stolen, and he must search Medieval England to find him. 

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, Robert C. O’Brien
Genre: fantasy, animal fiction
Virtues: fortitude, justice, diligence
*Mrs. Frisby must rescue her home from the farmer’s plow but comes across a group of highly intelligent rats with problems of their own.

The Trumpeter of Krakow, Eric P. Kelly
Genre: historical fiction, adventure
Virtues: fortitude, loyalty
*Joseph and his family must protect a secret treasure.

The Door in the Wall, Marguerite de Angeli
Genre: historical fiction, adventure, humour
Virtues: faith, charity, temperance
*A 14th century boy goes on a rollicking adventure despite losing the use of his legs.

Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery
Genre: drama
Virtues: loyalty, leadership, friendship
*Anne is whimsical, funny, endearing and often up to something with her big dreams and wild imagination.

The Root Cellar, Janet Lunn
Genre: time travel, historical fiction, adventure
Virtues: friendship, responsibility
*Rosie is a lonely orphan who finds friends in the most unexpected way.

The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster
Genre: adventure, fantasy, humour
Virtues: perseverance, magnanimity
*If you like plays on words and stories both silly and serious, this is your book. A great classic for adults and kids.

Number the Stars. Lois Lowry
Genre: historical fiction
Virtues: faith, courage
*A short and moving story about an ordinary girl living in an extraordinary time.

Salamandastron, Brian Jacques
Genre: fantasy, action, adventure
Virtues: bravery, honour
*In the Redwall books you will find war, adventure, great friendships, humour, mystery, and lots of exciting action.

Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine Paterson 
Genre: drama
Virtues: integrity, friendship, courage
*Two friends create an imaginary world that will shape their real lives more than they can know.

The Breadwinner, Deborah Ellis
Genre: drama, war fiction
Virtues: magnanimity, selflessness
*Parvana lives in Afghanistan in the time of the Taliban and must disguise herself as a boy to help her family survive.

Time Cat, Lloyd Alexander
Genre: time Travel, historical fiction
Virtues: compassion, wonder
*Imagine discovering that your cat can time travel!

Tuck Everlasting, Natalie Babbitt 
Genre: fantasy, drama, romance
Virtues: loyalty, honesty
*Winnie falls in love with her neighbour Jesse, but discovers he has a difficult and dangerous secret.

The Black Stallion, Walter Farley 
Genre: animal fiction, adventure
Virtues: faith, respect, trust  
*A young boy is shipwrecked on an island and must survive with the help of a wild and untamed horse.

The Island of the Blue Dolphins, Scott O’Dell
Genre: historical fiction, drama
Virtues: serenity, patience
*This book is based on the true story of a woman who was left alone to live on San Nicolas Island off the coast of California.

Peter and the Starcatchers, Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson  
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
Virtues: Courage
*The adventurous story that happens before the arrival of Peter Pan to Neverland.

Smile, Raina Telgemeier 
Genre: drama, humour, graphic novel
Virtues: Courage, Empathy, Friendship
*What would you do if suddenly everything went terribly wrong in your life?

Maniac Magee, Jerry Spinelli
Genre: American Fiction, Tall Tale
Virtues: honesty, compassion
*The story of a young boy who won’t stop running, and nobody can figure out why.

Because of Winn-Dixie, Katie DiCamillo   
Genre: drama, animal
Virtues: forgiveness, stewardship
*From the author of “The Tale of Desperaux”

Where the Red Fern Grows, Wilson Rawls 
Genre: Drama
Virtues: loyalty, integrity
*The story of a young boy’s incredible loyalty to his hunting dogs

Holes, Louis Sachar
Genre: drama, humour, tall tale
Virtues: honour, kindness
*Very few of my students have read this book and not liked it. It is well-paced, intriguing, exciting, and masterfully entertaining.

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, AVI
Genre: adventure, action
Virtues: honesty, courage, trust
*A young girl travelling to her new home on Rhode Island finds herself caught in a dangerous war between captain and crew.

Dear Canada Series, Various Authors 
Genre: fictional autobiography, diary, historical fiction
Virtues: courage
*Stories of young women who braved some difficult, exciting, and terrifying moments in the history of Canada.

The Shakespeare Stealer, Gary Blackwood
Genre: historical fiction
Virtues: honesty, integrity
*A young orphan boy must act as a spy to steal plays from Shakespeare himself.

Jocelyne Freundorfer is an elementary librarian for three Catholic schools in Canada.She is also a freelance writer and editor of theelementarylibrarian.blogspot.ca.

Jocelyn Freundorfer is Canadian freelance editor and an invited speaker on motherhood. She and her husband run the G and J Show, a podcast on marriage, family and living your best life.