Growing Reader

Tween

Teen

12 Girls from Fiction Who Are
Their Own Heroes

by Kari Ness Riedel

Fictional heroines from kids' books

The days where a young maiden waits longingly in the top of the tower for someone to come rescue her are long gone. Our girls — and boys — love to read books that reflect the strong and independent females they see in the real world, stories with young heroines who save themselves, and others, from the dangers of daily life or magical adventures with a combination of grit, intelligence, wit, and perseverance.

We’ve put together a list of some of our favorite female protagonists from children’s literature — a mix of popular favorites, classic heroines, and a few that you might not know about but should definitely explore with your young readers.

  • Under the Radar Picks

  • Lanesha

    from Ninth Ward, by Jewell Parker Rhodes

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    Lanesha is the epitome of hope, strength, and perseverance as she fights for her own life and the lives of her beloved Mama Ya-Ya and a new friend when Hurricane Katrina smashes into her home in the Ninth Ward. An incredible historical fiction account of current events with an inspirational heroine.

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  • Evie

    from Pennroyal Academy, by M. A. Larson

    Also available from:

    Evie is a true modern day princess who does not need a prince — or anyone — to save her. Her bravery, compassion, and cleverness help her battle witches, dragons, or any other foe that crosses her path. She is a princess that young readers will aspire to be.

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  • Nell Warne

    from The Detective’s Assistant, by Kate Hannigan

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    Daring, bold, and courageous are perfect descriptors for Nell, an 11-year-old orphan who comes to Chicago to work for her aunt who happens to be America’s first female detective. Based on a true story, this young protagonist is a fast learner with no fear who plays an instrumental role in solving real crimes.

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  • Mo LaBeau

    from Three Times Lucky, by Sheila Turnage

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    Mo is a plucky, determined, and hilarious young detective on a mission to find her mother and solve a crime that has overtaken her small North Carolina town. Mo’s charm and charisma mixed with her street smarts make her a force to be reckoned with.

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  • Stargirl

    from Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli

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    Stargirl is the ultimate individual. Bright, vivacious, and kind, she doesn’t care at all what others think about her unique clothing or her outbursts of singing “Happy Birthday” during lunch. She has a significant impact on the other kids in her new school. This story and her character spark readers to think about what it means to be you. Stargirl definitely does not need — or want —anyone else to rescue her.

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  • May

    from May B., by Caroline Starr Rose

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    May has been compared to Laura Ingalls Wilder — courageous, unselfish, and a true survivor. Set in the late 1800s, May is forced to leave her parents at a young age to work in another home. Her dedication to her family is an inspiring reminder that heroines come in all forms and don’t have to slay dragons to save the day.

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What other favorite heroines would you recommend to young readers?