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Eighty Books for the 21st Century Girl

Members of the Women's National Book Association throughout the United States selected this list of eighty important books in 1997 as part of the organization's 80th anniversary celebration.

Picture Books | Early Readers | Intermediate

Young Adult | Non-Fiction


Picture Books

Ludwig Bemelmans.  Madeline

Madeline, smallest and naughtiest of the twelve little charges of Miss Clavel, wakes up one night with an attack of appendicitis.

Jan Brett.  Trouble with Trolls

While climbing Mt. Baldy, Treva outwits some trolls who want to steal her dog.

Barbara Cooney.  Miss Rumphius

Great-aunt Alice Rumphius was once a little girl who loved the sea, longed to visit faraway places, and wished to do something to make the world more beautiful.

Paul Goble.  The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses

Though she is fond of her people, a girl prefers to live among the wild horses where she is truly happy and free.

Mary Hoffman.  Amazing Grace

Although a classmate says that she cannot play Peter Pan in the school play because she is black, Grace discovers that she can do anything she sets her mind to do.

Gloria Houston.  My Great-Aunt Arizona

An Appalachian girl, Arizona Houston Hughes, grows up to become a teacher who influences generations of schoolchildren.

Anne Isaacs.  Swamp Angel

Along with other amazing feats, Angelica Longrider, also known as Swamp Angel , wrestles a huge bear, known as Thundering Tarnation, to save the winter supplies of the settlers in Tennessee.


Wendy Kesselman.  Emma

Motivated by a birthday gift, a 72-year-old woman begins to paint.


Douglas Larche.  Father Gander Nursery Rhymes:  The Equal

Rhymes Amendment

Robert McCloskey.  Blueberries for Sal

Little Sal and Little Bear both lose their mothers while eating blueberries and almost end up with the other's mother.

Emily Arnold McCully.  Mirette on the High Wire

Mirette learns tightrope walking from Monsieur Bellini, a guest in her mother's boarding house, not knowing that he is a celebrated tightrope artist who has withdrawn from performing because of fear.

Patricia C. McKissack.  Mirandy and Brother Wind

To win first prize in the Junior Cakewalk, Mirandy tries to capture the wind for her partner.

William Miller.  Zora Hurston and the Chinaberry Tree

This lyrical, beautifully illustrated book illuminates a little-known episode in the childhood of renowned African-American writer Zora Neale Hurston. William Miller presents an uplifting account of how Zora was inspired by her dying mother to pursue her dreams.

Lauren Mills.  The Rag Coat

Minna proudly wears her new coat made of clothing scraps to school, where the other children laugh at her until she tells them the stories behind the scraps.

Robert N. Munsch.  The Paper Bag Princess

When a dragon burns off her clothes with his fiery breath, Elizabeth puts on a paper bag and follows the dragon.

  Robert D. San Souci.  The Samurai's Daughter:  A Japanese Legend

Sarah Stewart.  The Library

Elizabeth Brown loves to read more than anything else, but when her collection of books grows and grows, she must make a change in her life.

Jane Yolen.  Owl Moon

On a winter's night under a full moon, a father and daughter trek into the woods to see the Great Horned Owl.


Early Readers

Lenore Blegvad.  Anna Banana and Me

Anna Banana's fearlessness inspires a playmate to face his own fears.


Jeannette Caines.  Just Us Women

A young girl and her favorite aunt share the excitement of planning a very special car trip for just the two of them.

Omar S. Castaneda.  Abuela's Weave

A young Guatemalan girl and her grandmother grow closer as they weave some special creations and then make a trip to the market in hopes of selling them.

Beverly Cleary.  Ramona the Brave

Six-year-old Ramona tries to cope with an unsympathetic first-grade teacher.


Robert Coles.  The Story of Ruby Bridges

For months, six-year-old Ruby Bridges must confront the hostility of segragationists when she becomes the first African American girl to integrate Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans in 1960.

Ingri D'Aulaire and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire.  Pocahontas

An easy-to-read biography of the Native American princess who saved the white settlers at Jamestown and travelled to England to meet Queen Elizabeth.

Alice Dalgliesh.  The Courage of Sarah Noble

Remembering her mother's words, an eight-year-old girl finds courage to go alone with her father to build a new home in the Connecticut wilderness and to stay with the Indians when her father goes back to bring the rest of the family.

Kevin Henkes.  Sheila Rae, the Brave

When brave Sheila Rae, who usually looks out for her sister Louise, becomes lost and scared one day, Louise comes to the rescue.

Russell Hoban.  A Bargain for Frances

Frances foils Thelma's plot to trick her out of a new china set.

Patricia C. McKissack.  Flossie and the Fox

A wily fox, notorious for stealing eggs, meets his match when he encounters a bold little girl in the woods who insists upon proof that he is a fox before she will be frightened.

Jean Merrill.  The Girl Who Loved Caterpillars

In this retelling of an anonymous twelfth-century Japanese story, the young woman Izumi resists social and family pressures as she befriends caterpillars and other socially unacceptable creatures.

Peggy Parish.  Amelia Bedelia

A literal-minded housekeeper causes a ruckus in the household when she attempts to make sense of some instructions.

Faith Ringgold.  Aunt Harriet's Underground Railroad in the Sky

With Harriet Tubman as her guide, Cassie retraces the steps escaping slaves took on the Underground Railroad in order to reunite with her younger brother.

William Steig.  Brave Irene

Plucky Irene , a dressmaker's daughter, braves a fierce snowstorm to deliver a new gown to the duchess in time for the ball.



Natalie Babbitt.  Tuck Everlasting

The Tuck family is confronted with an agonizing situation when they discover that a ten-year-old girl and a malicious stranger now share their secret about a spring whose water prevents one from ever growing any older.

Judy Blume.  Are You There God?  It's Me, Margaret

Faced with the difficulties of growing up and choosing a religion, a twelve-year-old girl talks over her problems with her own private God.

Carol Ryrie Brink.  Caddie Woodlawn

Chronicles the adventures of eleven-year-old Caddie growing up with her six brothers and sisters on the Wisconsin frontier in the mid-nineteenth century.

Frances Hodgson Burnett.  A Little Princess

Sara Crewe, a pupil at Miss Minchin's London school, is left in poverty when her father dies but is later rescued by a mysterious benefactor.

Frances Hodgson Burnett.  The Secret Garden

Ten-year-old Mary comes to live in a lonely house on the Yorkshire moors and discovers an invalid cousin and the mysteries of a locked garden.

Sharon Creech.  Walk Two Moons

After her mother leaves home suddenly, thirteen-year-old Sal and her grandparents take a car trip retracing her mother's route. Along the way, Sal recounts the story of her friend Phoebe, whose mother also left.

Louise Fitzhugh.  Harriet the Spy

Eleven-year-old Harriet keeps notes on her classmates and neighbors in a secret notebook, but when some of the students read the notebook, they seek revenge.

Carolyn Keene.  The Nancy Drew Mysteries

The Secret of the Old Clock    Nancy Drew's keen mind is tested when she searches for a missing will.

E. L. Konigsburg.  From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E.

Frankweiler    Having run away with her younger brother to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, twelve-year-old Claudia strives to keep things in order in their new home and to become a changed person and a heroine to herself.

Madeline L'Engle.  A Wrinkle in Time

Meg Murry and her friends become involved with unearthly strangers and a search for Meg's father, who has disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government.

Astrid Lindgren.  The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking

Escapades of a lucky little girl who lives with a horse and a monkey--but without any parents--at the edge of a Swedish village.

Patricia MacLachlan.  Sarah, Plain and Tall

When their father invites a mail-order bride to come live with them in their prairie home, Caleb and Anna are captivated by their new mother and hope that she will stay.

Lucy Montgomery.  Anne of Green Gables

Anne, an eleven-year-old orphan, is sent by mistake to live with a lonely, middle-aged brother and sister on a Prince Edward Island farm and proceeds to make an indelible impression on everyone around her.

Scott O'Dell.  Island of the Blue Dolphins

Left alone on a beautiful but isolated island off the coast of California, a young Indian girl spends eighteen years, not only merely surviving through her enormous courage and self-reliance, but also finding a measure of happiness in her solitary life.

Katherine Paterson.  Bridge to Terabithia

The life of a ten-year-old boy in rural Virginia expands when he becomes friends with a newcomer who subsequently meets an untimely death trying to reach their hideaway, Terabithia, during a storm.

Katherine Paterson.  Jacob Have I Loved

Feeling deprived all her life of schooling, friends, mother, and even her name by her twin sister, Louise finally begins to find her identity.

Johanna Spyri.  Heidi

A Swiss orphan is heartbroken when she must leave her beloved grandfather and their happy home in the mountains to go to school and to care for an invalid girl in the city.

Sydney Taylor.  All-of-a-Kind Family

The adventures of five sisters growing up in a Jewish family in New York in the early twentieth century.

Laura Ingalls Wilder.  The Little House Series

Little House in the Big Woods

A year in the life of two young girls growing up on the Wisconsin frontier, as they help their mother with the daily chores, enjoy their father's stories and singing, and share special occasions when they get together with relatives or neighbors.


Young Adult

Louisa May Alcott.  Little Women

Chronicles the joys and sorrows of the four March sisters as they grow into young ladies in nineteenth-century New England.

Maya Angelou.  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Tenderly, joyously, sometimes in sadness, sometimes in pain, Maya Angelou writes from the heart and celebrates life as only she has discovered it. In this moving volume of poetry, readers discover the multi-faceted voice of one of the most powerful and vibrant writers of our time.

Jane Austen.  Pride and Prejudice

In early nineteenth-century England, a spirited young woman copes with the suit of a snobbish gentleman as well as the romantic entanglements of her four sisters.

Avi.  The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

As the lone "young lady" on a transatlantic voyage in 1832, Charlotte learns that the captain is murderous and the crew rebellious.

Charlotte Bronte.  Jane Eyre

In early nineteenth-century England, an orphaned young woman accepts employment as a governess and soon finds herself in love with her employer who has a terrible secret.

Emily Bronte.  Wuthering Heights

Heathcliff comes to the brooding mansion of Wuthering Heights as an orphan child. Cathy is the daughter of the wealthy family that takes him in. They fall in love but cannot be together, and yet they cannot stay apart.

Willa Cather.  My Antonia

Against Nebraska's panoramic landscape, "My Antonia" recreates the life of an immigrant girl who becomes, in the memories of the narrator, the ideal of strong and resourceful womanhood and a figure of salvation.

Vera and Bill Cleaver.  Where the Lilies Bloom

In the Great Smoky Mountains region, a fourteen-year-old girl struggles to keep her family together after their father dies.

Karen Cushman.  Catherine, Called Birdy

The thirteen-year-old daughter of an English country knight keeps a journal in which she records the events of her life, particularly her longing for adventures beyond the usual role of women and her efforts to avoid being married off.

Anne Frank.  The Diary of a Young Girl

The journal of a Jewish girl in her early teens describes both the joys and torments of daily life, as well as typical adolescent thoughts, throughout two years spent in hiding with her family during the Nazi occupation of Holland.

Bette Greene.  Summer of My German Soldier

Sheltering an escaped German prisoner of war is the beginning of some shattering experiences for a twelve-year-old Jewish girl in Arkansas.

Ursula K. LeGuin.  The Tombs of Atuan

Arha's isolated existence as high priestess in the tombs of Atuan is jarred by a thief who seeks a special treasure.

Lois Lowry.  Number the Stars

In 1943, during the German occupation of Denmark, ten-year-old Annemarie learns how to be brave and courageous when she helps shelter her Jewish friend from the Nazis.

Philip Pullman.  The Golden Compass

Accompanied by her daemon, Lyra Belacqua sets out to prevent her best friend and other kidnapped children from becoming the subject of gruesome experiments in the Far North.

Betty Smith.  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A poignant tale of childhood and the ties of family, "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" will transport the reader to the early 1900s where a little girl named Francie dreamily looks out her window at a tree struggling to reach the sky.

Cynthia Voigt.  Dicey's Song

Now that the four abandoned Tillerman children are settled in with their grandmother, Dicey finds that their new beginnings require love, trust, humor, and courage.



David A. Adler.  A Picture Book of Helen Keller

A brief biography of the woman who overcame her handicaps of being both blind and deaf.


Elen Butts and J. Schwartz.  May Chinn:  The Best Medicine

Biography of one of the first female African-American doctors in the United States.

Catherine Dee.  The Girls' Guide to Life

Uses information, activities, and creative writings to examine a variety of issues important to teenage girls, including how they are treated at home and at school, what they think of their bodies, sexual harassment, pay equity, and more.


Vivian Sheldon Epstein.  History of Women series

History of women artists and scientists through the ages.


Bryna Fireside.  Is There a Woman in the House... or Senate?

Biographies of ten pathbreaking women who have served in Congress: Jeannette Rankin, Margaret Chase Smith, Shirley Chisholm, Bella Abzug, Barbara Jordan, Patricia Schroeder, Millicent Fenwick, Barbara Mikulski, Nancy Kasselbaum and Geraldine Ferraro.

Jo Giese.  A Woman's Path

In candid, first-person stories and stunning photographs, "A Woman's Path" celebrates the diverse life paths of women of all ages across the country.

Esther Hautzig.  The Endless Steppe

During World War II, when she was eleven years old, the author and her family were arrested in Poland by the Russians as political enemies and exiled to Siberia. She recounts here the trials of the following five years spent on the harsh Asian steppe.


Tayomi Ignus.  Book of Black Heroes, Vol II:  Great Women in

the Struggle

Frances Karnes.  Girls and Young Women Leading the Way:  20

True Stories About Leadership   Recounts the experiences of twenty girls and young women who have led the way in such community action as feeding the hungry, recycling, saving the bluebirds, and promoting literacy.

  June Larkin.  Sexual Harassment:  High School Girls Speak Out

Nancy Smiler Levinson.  She's Been Working on the Railroad

Relates the story of women who have worked on the railroad in ever-increasing numbers and expanding range of jobs from the mid-1800s to the present.


Victoria Sherrow.  Phillis Wheatley:  Poet

The life of the woman who, although a slave, gained renown throughout the colonies as the first important black American poet.


Ellen H. Showell.  From Indian Corn to Outer Space-Women

Invent in America    An examination of women from American history and present times who have invented, and a motivation for students to enhance creativity and achieve their dreams.