Somewhere in the blogosphere, a contentious kidlit enthusiast has been compiling a list of the 200 “coolest girls” in children’s books.
Here’s her (and her readers’) top ten:
1 Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
2 Lyra from the His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman
3 Jo March from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
4 Laura Ingalls from the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
5 Harriet M. Welch from Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
6 Hermione Granger from Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
7 Turtle from The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
8 Arrietty from The Borrowers series by Mary Norton
9 Meg from A Wrinkle in Time (and sequels) by Madeleine L’Engle
10 Nancy Blackett from Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
We’ll accept that these poor US-based people have not yet had the pleasure of reading the Swashbuckler trilogy, or, obviously, Lily Swann would have been number one.
But who’d like to explain to me how Anne of those infernally boring green gables is cool?
I’m happy to accept that her lesser-know fictional colleague, Emily of New Moon by Montgomery is pretty cool. But Anne’s a wuss. A dull, wimpy, uninteresting wuss.
Give me, any day, the obnoxious Mary Lennox of The Secret Garden, Katy doing what she did, or indeed the mischievous Jo March.
Lyra? Yes. She’s way cool.
I’m glad Hermione got a run, although Harry and Ron would snort pumpkin juice out their noses at the idea of her being cool. I have high hopes of Hermione.
It’s an hilariously dated list, reflecting the respondents own childhood reading of the Victorian classics, in which, we’d have to admit, cool was normally not an attribute of female protagonists. For God’s sake, that goody-two-shoes Sara Crewe from A Little Princess made number 18. Not a cool bone in her body. And don’t start me on Fancy Nancy Pantsy Drew.
Where’s Kit from Cue for Treason? Eloise, surely the coolest child that ever ordered room service? Olivia?
I vote for the scalliwags and swashbucklers, like Nancy Blackett. The black sheep. The girls who swam against the current of their times. The heroines who made their readers believe that anything was possible – even writing children’s books.