Recently, I had the chance to visit our summer camp, where I observed a program about female authors. The 6-8-year-old girls in the program each took a turn describing their favorite book to the group. Hearing them describe the books that they love made me think about the books that I read when I was the same age as our campers. 

When I was between the ages of six and eight, my favorite books were The Boxcar Children books, several of which were written by Gertrude Chandler Warner. In these books, four siblings worked together to solve mysteries. I loved that the youngest children in these books, who were close to my age, were just as helpful as the older children, and that the girls were just as creative, brave, and resourceful as the boys. At that age, it was exciting to see young characters achieving so much—it certainly made me think I could succeed at almost anything I tried to do. 

When I was between nine and eleven years-old, my favorite author was Louisa May Alcott. I loved Jo, of course, from Little Women, for her determination, independence, and spirit, and because she stayed true to herself, even though she sometimes didn’t seem to fit in with other young women. Then there was Nell, from Little Men, a girl who decided that because she was intelligent and liked to help people, she would ignore what everyone expected her to do and would instead become a doctor. When I was this age, I remember feeling like I had to be exactly like everyone else at my school—so I loved that Alcott wrote about characters who refused to do what was expected of them. 

When I was twelve, I discovered Tamora Pierce’s books, and I had a new favorite author. I read every book she wrote, and I loved them all. She wrote fantasy novels, but the characters in her books were very realistic. They dealt with puberty, had to study, spent time dreaming about the future, had complicated relationships with their friends and family members, and sometimes doubted themselves. Each of her main characters was a strong young woman who refused to be limited by her society’s expectations. As a young teenager, it was helpful to see characters who were approximately my age deal with the same things I was dealing with, and it was even more helpful to see them eventually overcome the obstacles that stood in their way. 

When you were the same age as our summer camp girls, what books (by female authors) did you like to read? Why did they matter to you at that age?