Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Cool girls in print: a blatantly stolen blog idea

Following a Google link for dreary work reasons, I happened upon this post from April last year:

Last week, I started a list of Cool Girls from Kid Lit. Here is what I specified for "cool" criteria: "they should be smart and strong and independent, people who would make good role-models for girls today."

I love the idea, so I'm starting my own:

1. Jo March, Little Women
My absolute heroine. Feisty, independent, stubborn, romantic and indefagitably loyal and honorable. Cutting off her hair ('your one beauty!') to save her family was such a marvellous gesture. And I liked that she had big fat flaws to balance her virtues. And, of course, she was a writer and loved books.

2. Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables series
All of the above qualities (second sentence). I liked Gilbert a lot more than Jo March's beaux (as they called them in those days).

3. Ramona Quimby, The Ramona series
A spunky little tomboy with a naughty streak who always made her parents and sister laugh with her malpropisms and misadventures. Her heart was in the right place, though.

4. Josie Alibrandi, Looking for Alibrandi
Hmmm ... spunky, smart, feisty (a pattern emerging?) and incredibly likeable.

5. Alice, Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass
As may be obvious from the blog title, I just love Alice to death. Of course, I also love Lewis Carroll's writing and the alternative universes he has created. The way he plays with language! Humpty Dumpty! ('A word means just what I intend it to. No more, no less.') The Red Queen! Richard E. Grant said recently that he read the book as a newcomer to England and immediately saw it as a delightful way of understanding the culture: they all play quite precisely by a set of rigid social rules or conventions, but the rules often don't make sense and the people are actually quite eccentric. But, okay, Alice ... she's adventurous, smart, stubborn and fiercely independent.

6. Judy, Seven Little Australians
It's a VERY long time ago that I read this, but I remember her being a Jo March-ish character, full of rebellion but actually incredibly decent. Pity about that father of hers ...

7. Dicey, Homecoming
Her flaky mother abandoned her and her brothers and sisters in a parking lot and 12 year-old Dicey kept them together and organised them to walk halfway across the country to find the grandmother they'd never met. With no money, no transport, no protection.

BAD role models

1. The Sweet Valley High twins, Jessica and Elizabeth
Every novel started with a description of their blue eyes, blonde hair and perfect bodies and by explaining that Elizabeth was the Good One and Jessica was the Bad One. Talk about madonna/whore syndrome all in one family ... Yes, I read these novels as a kid anyway. I had Barbies, too.

2. Veruca Salt, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
What a revolting little spoilt brat! But in such a melodramatic, pantomime villainess kind of way that I just loved her. Especially in the movie (the old one, that Roald Dahl apparently hated). What a brilliantly bratty song and dance routine she had ('I want it NOW!'). Sigh.

Feel free to add to this or argue ...


Pippi Longstocking (thanks Lucy Tartan and Kirsty - how could I forget this one?!)


Harriet the Spy (I wanted to BE Harriet the Spy - surely the girl grew up to be a killer journo - thanks Eleanor Bloom!)


I've just remembered my favourite Judy Blume book, Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself. It's set in Miami Beach just after World War II. Sally is ten years old and she lives in a fantasy world in her own head, dreaming of being film star Esther Williams and spying on a man who looks suspiciously like Hitler, who she still fears may come to kill all the Jews in America.

From Judy Blume's website:

I was just seven years old when World War II ended, but the war had so colored my early life it was hard to think of anything else. No one I knew had actually experienced the war first hand. No bombs dropped on America; my family and friends weren't starving - we had cozy homes and enough to eat. And yet, as I listened to my parents whispering in the darkness, I couldn't help worrying that it could happen again. War. And this time the bombs could drop on our houses. Nevermind that Adolf Hitler was supposedly dead. I knew that he'd wanted to kill all the Jews in the world. And I was a Jew.

Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself is my most autobiographical novel. When I was nine and ten I was a lot like Sally - curious, imaginative, a worrier. I was always making up stories inside my head. In my stories, which I never wrote down or shared, I was brave and strong. I led a life of drama, adventure and fame. I think the character of Sally explains how and even why I became a writer.

cross-posted at The Paper Drunkards


lucy tartan said...

Great idea.
I wonder if most women have mixed feelings about Veruca Salt.

I suggest Pippi Longstocking, for the first list.

Ariel said...

You may be right there ... after all, there is the rock band named after her, which was started by two women. I'm sure the name was intended as a kind of rock chick version of 'girl power'.

And Pippi Longstocking is a great addition! Just perfect.

Kirsty said...

Oh, I clicked through to suggest Pippi Longstocking. Looks like it's unanimous.

I remember really liking Nancy Drew as a kid, but a revisit in recent years proved terribly disappointing. Nancy simply seemed to be in the girl detective caper while she was waiting to get married to Ned. I wonder how Trixie Belden would fare?

Ariel said...

Yup, I've officially added her now. I never got into Nancy Drew, though I did read a couple of Trixie Belden. I remember quite liking her but don't really remember her now, so she must have been quite forgettable.

audrey said...

Ooh ooh ooh! *sticks hand up in air frantically*

You forgot Cassandra Mortmain from I Capture The Castle! BEST HEROINE EVER!

Also, I loved the Ramona Quimby books...

genevieve said...

The dawsily light alone makes Ramona quite famous (I never actually read one from cover to cover, my daughter told me about most of them.) That and the brick crushing game with Henry. And the pyjamas at kinder.
Laura Ingalls is my top one, but I'm not sure if she qualifies because she's REAL. Also Isobel, from Amy Witting's books (not exactly kids' books though.)
You might like to put Pollyanna in the bad role models if you've got a spare moment. (Though I have a sneaking affection for Katy, I'm not sure why.)