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6 Memorable, Feisty Heroines in Children’s Literature

Children’s literature often contains great wisdom. We celebrate these strong, female characters who inspire kids (and kids at heart) everywhere with their bravery, individualism, heart, and wit.

Pippi Longstocking, star of the novels by Astrid Lindgren, is known not just for her extraordinary physical strength but for her independence and confidence.

Pippi-Longstocking-Astrid-Lindgren“The children came to a perfume shop. In the show window was a large jar of freckle salve, and beside the jar was a sign, which read: DO YOU SUFFER FROM FRECKLES?

What does the sign say?” ask Pippi. She couldn’t read very well because she didn’t want to go to school as other children did.
It says, ‘Do you suffer from freckles?’” said Annika.
Does it indeed?” said Pippi thoughtfully. “Well, a civil question deserves a civil answer. Let’s go in.”

She opened the door and entered the shop, closely followed by Tommy and Annika. An elderly lady stood back of the counter. Pippi went right up to her. “No!” she said decidedly.

What is it you want?” asked the lady.
No,” said Pippi once more.
I don’t understand what you mean,” said the lady.
No, I don’t suffer from freckles,” said Pippi.

Then the lady understood, but she took one look at Pippi and burst out, “But, my dear child, your whole face is covered with freckles!”

I know it,” said Pippi, “but I don’t suffer from them. I love them. Good morning.”

She turned to leave, but when she got to the door she looked back and cried, “But if you should happen to get in any salve that gives people more freckles, then you can send me seven or eight jars.”
Astrid Lindgren, Pippi Longstocking

Ramona-the-Pest-Beverly-ClearyRamona Quimby, the mischievous main character of the series by Beverly Cleary, makes children everywhere feel more understood (why can’t you have jelly on your mashed potatoes if you’re allowed to eat those things separately?) and reminds adults of how it feels to look at the world through fresh, curious eyes.

“Ramona, we do not put jelly on our mashed potatoes.” “I like jelly on my mashed potatoes.”Ramona stirred potato and jelly aroud with her fork. “Ramona you heard what your mother said.” Father looked stern. “If I can ut butter on my mashed potateos, why can’t I put jelly? I put butter and jelly on toast,” said Ramona. Father couldn’t help laughing. “That’s a hard question to answer.” “But Mother-” Beezus began.”I like jelly on my mashed potateos,” interrupted Ramona, looking sulky.”
Beverly Cleary, Beezus and Ramona

“She was not a slowpoke grownup. She was a girl who could not wait. Life was so interesting she had to find out what happened next.”
Beverly Cleary, Ramona the Pest

Laura-Ingalls-Wilder-Little-House-on-the-PrairieLaura Ingalls Wilder wrote a fascinating account of her childhood on the frontier in the Little House on the Prairie series that holds a timeless appeal even today. The stories of her adventures remind us that the challenges children face are universal and her tenacity is inspirational, whether in the face of blizzards, a schoolyard nemesis, or the struggle to be good when you don’t feel like it.

“It can’t beat us!” Pa said.
“Can’t it, Pa?” Laura asked stupidly.
“No,” said Pa. “It’s got to quit sometime and we don’t. It can’t lick us. We won’t give up.”
Then Laura felt a warmth inside her. It was very small but it was strong. It was steady, like a tiny light in the dark, and it burned very low but no winds could make it flicker because it would not give up.”
Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Long Winter

“Perhaps Mary felt sweet and good inside, but Laura didn’t. When she looked at Mary she wanted to slap her. So she dared not look at Mary again.”
Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House on the Prairie

Harriet the Spy is the imaginative and intrepid heroine of Louise Fitzhugh’s novels whose inquisitive nature and pithy observations get her into trouble with her classmates. Her difficulty with social connections, particular food habits, and searing honesty may be especially relatable to children on the autism/Asperger’s spectrum, but they are relevant to anyone who has ever felt like an outsider.

“Everything bored her. She found that when she didn’t have a notebook it was hard for her to think. The thoughts came slowly, as though they had to squeeze through a tiny door to get to her, whereas when she wrote, they flowed out faster than she could put them down. She sat very stupidly with a blank mind until finally ‘I feel different’ came slowly to her mind.

Yes, she thought, after a long pause. And then, after more time, ‘Mean, I feel mean.'”

Louise Fitzhugh, Harriet The Spy

“[Harriet] hated math. She hated math with every bone in her body. She spent so much time hating it that she never had time to do it.”
Louise Fitzhugh, Harriet the Spy

“I feel all the same things when I do things alone as when Ole Golly was here. The bath feels hot, the bed feels soft, but I feel there’s a funny little hole in me that wasn’t there before, like a splinter in your finger, but this is somewhere above my stomach.”
Louise Fitzhugh, Harriet the Spy

Hermione Granger, the cleverest witch of her age, according to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, is more than just a brilliantly talented student of magic. She’s fiercely intelligent, a loyal friend, and the defender of underdog. Harry and Ron know they’d never make it without her, and Hermione would never let them.

“Books! And cleverness! There are more important things — friendship and bravery.”
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

“Actually I’m highly logical which allows me to look past extraneous detail and perceive clearly that which others overlook.”
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

“You do realize that your sheets are changed, your fires lit, your classrooms cleaned, and your food cooked by a group of magical creatures who are unpaid and enslaved?”
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

“Have you ever seen anything quite as pathetic?” said Malfoy. “And he’s supposed to be our teacher!”
Harry and Ron both made furious moves toward Malfoy, but Hermione got there first – SMACK!
She had slapped Malfoy across the face with all the strength she could muster. Malfoy staggered. Harry, Ron, Crabbe, and Goyle stood flabbergasted as Hermione raised her hand again.
“Don’t you dare call Hagrid pathetic you foul—you evil—”
“Hermione!” said Ron weakly and he tried to grab her hand as she swung it back.
“Get off Ron!”
Hermione pulled out her wand. Malfoy stepped backward. Crabbe and Goyle looked at him for instructions, thoroughly bewildered.
“C’mon,” Malfoy muttered, and in a moment, all three of them had disappeared into the passageway to the dungeons.
“Hermione!” Ron said again, sounding both stunned and impressed.”
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Katniss Everdeen is the reluctant leader of the resistance in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy. She thinks of herself as a pragmatic survivor, but she always chooses her loved ones over her own safety. She is an example of resilience and courage in the face of overwhelming despair.

“I volunteer as tribute.”
Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

“At some point, you have to stop running and turn around and face whoever wants you dead.The hard thing is finding the courage to do it.”
Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire

“If he wants me broken, then I will have to be whole.”
Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay

“But one day I’ll have to explain about my nightmares. Why they came. Why they won’t ever really go away.
I’ll tell them how I survive it. I’ll tell them that on bad mornings, it feels impossible to take pleasure in anything because I’m afraid it could be taken away. That’s when I make a list in my head of every act of goodness I’ve seen someone do. It’s like a game. Repetitive. Even a little tedious after more than twenty years.”
But there are much worse games to play.”
Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay

Who is your favorite heroine of children’s literature?

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