Gene Stratton Porter is one of the best beloved authors in my family. My mom and I first discovered her when we read A Girl of the Limberlost together when I was eight years old. That aching, beautiful story of a young girl hungry for her mother’s love and determined to make something beautiful of her life became one of the inner narratives that shaped who I wanted to become. I loved the violin like Elnora, I prowled the land in search of butterflies and moths like Elnora (and the Bird Woman, her friend), and I watched the natural world with the wondering, careful gaze that she taught me. A story to which I return with delight again and again.
A Wrinkle in Time
I read this book by myself and aloud with my family and found new creative fascination and spiritual insight with each read. L’Engle’s classic tale of the stubborn Meg, her abnormally intelligent little brother, and their gangly, gallant friend Calvin is an adventure tale to begin with, as the children travel galaxies in search of Meg’s scientist father who vanished in the midst of an experiment. Guided by the amusing and rather awe-inspiring Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which into the depths of the universe’s beauties, and its darkness, this is a story exploring the power of love to redeem, heal, and resist the power of evil. A book with humor, a tale rich in affirmation of the world’s beauty, this is a classic to be read again and again.
By Sydney Taylor
Few stories dwell so vividly and delightfully in my memory than the All-of-a-Kind Family books by Sydney Taylor. Set in New York City at the turn of the century, the books chronicle the adventures and foibles of a Jewish family with five lively daughters. The stories are a great introduction to Jewish culture and celebration, while also being rich in sisterly escapades and affection.
By Jennifer L. Holm
I listened to this story on audiobook one wild roadtrip with my family, and we all fell in love with the rollicking adventure of the prim and proper Jane, schooled at a lady’s academy in Boston, and bound by ship for the Washington Territory where she is to meet her betrothed, William.
By Carol Ryrie Brink
Oh, unforgettable Caddie. Brave, curious, red-haired, and glad, a girl not to be daunted by older brothers or the dangerous conflicts of a settler’s life in Wisconsin during the days of the Civil War. Brink is a warm, vibrant writer whose stories are excellent for read aloud.
By Elizabeth George Speare
Elizabeth George Speare is one of my favorite historical novelists, and this was one of her books that I read over and over, fascinated by the tale of a young girl among the English settlers kidnapped in an Abenaki raid during the French and Indian War. Sold to the French in Montreal, Miriam must use every ounce of skill and wit she has, including her genius with a needle to help her family survive and gain their freedom.
Little House on the Prairie
By Laura Ingalls Wilder
Maybe the first book I remember reading, the long-beloved story of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the little girl who grew up in homes across the prairie, as her Pa kept moving on, hungry for space. The books make clear what was necessary to survive in those hard days, the character required of the settlers, but they are also rich in their portrayal of family, of the hard-won comforts of home, the love like strong rope, weaving together the hearts of those who work, dare, suffer, and dream together.
Misty of Chincoteague
By Marguerite Henry
If you have a horse-loving girl who needs a book, this is the one. (My friends and I all went through a stage of being fascinated by horses.) With beautiful depctions of the real-life, annual round-up of wild horses on Chincoteague Island, this is the winsome story of Paul and Maureen, who live with their grandparents, training ponies, and saving up for a pony of their own. When Paul unexpectedly catches the illusive pony, the “Phantom,” along with her new foal, Misty, they get their wish for a pony of their own and a great adventure begins.
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
By Kate Douglas Wiggin
This is a classic American children’s novel about the imaginative Rebecca Rowena Randall, sent to live with her two dour, but good-hearted aunts in Maine when her family falls on hard times. Fresh, sweet, true, this is a story that has lasted for generations.
The Courage of Sarah Noble
By Alice Dalgliesh
The long-loved story of the young Sarah, a brave, small girl living in early Colonial America who travels with her father to set up their new farm in Connecticut. At first quite fearful of the nearby Indian tribe, the Schaghticoke, she soon discovers their kindness and begins to become their friend.
The Good Master
By Kate Seredy
This is one of those stories I still remember with great relish. Set in Hungary, and rich with its legends and color and a vivid depiction of its culture, it’s the tale of the impossible, city-bred Kate, her cousin Jancsi, and Jancsi’s father, the “good master,” who knows how to win Kate’s loyalty and give her the gift of life in the country. I love this description of Kate: “From the moment Kate arrived, things happened. She was afraid of nothing and full of ideas.”