Thursday, January 29, 2009

Classic book series for girls

Growing up, I was a voracious reader. On Saturdays, my father would deposit me at the Yaohan bookshop while he went to his office in the next building for a couple of hours of work. I would happily plonk myself on the ground and devour book after book until he came to get me. I couldn't have been more than 9 years old then, but we never thought about security issues. I guess it was a more innocent world back then.

Inevitably, there were certain books which became favourites. When I first learned how to read, the Enid Blytons were a clear forerunner, as was common among most children those days, but they quickly gave way to writers whose characters had much more depth. Enid Blyton is ok light reading for very young kids, but in my opinion, her characters are often as one-dimensional as those in Mediacorp drama serials.

I loved stories of gutsy female characters and their lives (even though some of them are just a tad pious). I especially loved (and still love) series because there's something about ongoing installments that allow you to trace the evolvement of characters over time, something single books sometimes don't have the luxury to do.

Kids these days have such a wide variety of exceptional books to choose from, but I thought I'd share some of my favourites which are true classics and will never go out of style. Although there's no rule that boys can't read them, they would definitely appeal more to girls. Some of these books, I collected as a child and kept them, but since pocket money was limited, most of them I added to my collection when I was already an adult. I think books are an everlasting investment, they can be passed on and they only grow more precious with age.

So here are my four all-time classic book series for girls:

1) The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Ingalls Wilder published the first book "Little House in the Big Woods" in 1932 at the ripe old age of 65, so let that be a reminder that you're never too old to live your dreams! The series was the first to paint a clear picture of the difficult and fascinating life in the American frontier in the late 1800s.

I was given the first book when I was 8 (the one on the top of the pile) and I just fell in love with the characters. I went on to become addicted to the tv series and have since acquired many of the related books on Wilder's life (I even have the Little House cookbook!) but nothing comes close to the original book series.

2) The Melendy Children series by Elizabeth Enright

Elizabeth Enright is an award-winning author, having won the Newberry Medal for Thimble Summer and the Newberry Honor for Gone-Away Lake, both great books. But her books about the Melendy kids were the ones that captivated me. First published in 1941, the series is a family of four kids with their widowed father and a loving housekeeper. All four kids are very distinctive and believable characters, and their adventures are told in a humourous and engaging manner.

The series comprises four books (in this order) - The Saturdays, The Four-Storey Mistake, Then There Were Five, and Spiderweb for Two.

3) The Anne series by LM Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables was the primary reason why I spelled the "Anne" in Lesley-Anne with an "e" instead of Lesley-Ann. How to forget Anne's soliloquy: "If you call me Anne, please call me Anne spelled with an e... When you hear a name pronounced can't you always see it in your mind, just as if it was printed out? I can; and A-N-N looks dreadful, but A-N-N-E looks so much more distinguished."

LM Montgomery is a delightful story-teller and I lived and breathed Anne when I read about her. The full series chronicling the disarming redhead's life to adulthood is covered over eight books.

4) The Gemma series by Noel Streatfeild

Noel Streatfeild's unique writing style is that she writes about kids growing up on the stage, based on her own childhood experiences. Her most famous book is probably Ballet Shoes, which has been adapted for television. Girls who love dance or music or drama are likely to enjoy her stories. The Gemma series is not as well known, but I loved reading about how the Robinson family deals with the artistic talents of the kids and the backroom scenes of the arts industry in the UK.

There are four books in this series: Gemma, Gemma and Sisters, Gemma Alone, and Goodbye Gemma.


Anonymous said...

Hi Monica,

I know why I cannot write to save my life - I did not read enough classic stories as a girl. Luckily, I read Three Investigators, Famous Five, Secret Seven , Nancy Drew and later some romance novels to save my O level grade B3 English. My limited reading only managed to deliver me a C6 for GP. I strongly believe that both quality and quantity reading = language grade. Can I know what does your boy, Andre read ? Have you written anything about boys reading? My 8 year old son reads some non fiction but not so interested in any fiction story series that I try to encourage. Recently, I introduced Geronimo Stilton, he seems to like it, although in the beginning his idea about this series was "stupid rat stories". I wish that reading addiction can be as easy as addiction to computer games.


monlim said...

Hi Stella, nice to have you here! I haven't written about books for boys because I must admit I'm rather clueless there. I think boys tend to prefer adventure/mystery stories that never appealed to me (my hubby says he likes series like the Hardy Boys growing up).

Andre is not that fond of reading too, unless it's Tin Tin! Geronimo Stilton is fun cos of the pictures and graphic elements, though I think the story/plot is generally nothing substantial. And yes, I wish reading was as easily addictive as computer games too!

Lilian said...

I didn't read any of the books you mentioned, but the Little House TV series was staple in my home for many, many, years. Who can forget the Olesons and Nasty Nellie, oh how I hated her and her mom. I actually bought this entire series as a present for my best friend, who homeschools her 4 girls, and they love the books so much. I think I recently bought them the Anne of Green Gables series too. But I know my boys will never read these.

I loved Enid Blyton and then moved on to the "Little Women" books. Just love the stories about Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy. No classics for me, save for abridged versions of books like Great Expectations, Taming of the Shrew, Midsummer Night's dream...

Boys books?: Hmm, Brian liked adventure/fantasy and for a while his favourite author was Brian Jacques. He also likes Artemis Fowl, Septimus Heap series, and books like Inkheart, Philip Pullman books, Peter Pan (by Dave Barry), Charlie Small. From a recent school bookfair, he bought a thriller I think, by James Patterson. And of course favourites for both boys and girls; books by Roald Dahl, Judy Blume, Louis Sachar, the Harry Porter series, Narnia series. Nothing very cheem.

Alcovelet said...

I was about to ask for boy stories too, till I read your comments.

About girl books, I've never ever read any of what you listed! Too "good girl" for me lah! It was all murder and mystery for me, like Sherlock Holmes and the rest.
The thought makes me want to delve back in and read up a storm again!

monlim said...

Lilian: I was just discussing favourite authors with Lesley-Anne and she too love Roald Dahl, Narnia, etc. I think those are timeless for any gender! I did figure that boys would probably like Artemix Fowl, etc, somehow they like the fantasy/mystery stuff. I have Artemis Fowl and the Unfortunate Events series but Lesley-Anne doesn't like those.

I love the Little Women series too! Also Jane Eyre, What Katy Did and all the old-time classic girl books.

monlim said...

Ad: I was never that into mysteries but in sec school, I did go through an Agatha Christie phase - a few of us girls would buy different titles and lend each other (easier on the pocket) and argue about how improbable some of the plots were! (Like Death on the Nile, shoot himself in the leg??) But no doubt, Dame Christie is a super writer - we missed meals to finish her stories!

elan said...

Wow, you mentioned all my favourite books. I thought I was the only person who read Gemma, your editions look just like mine, I guess its because we're almost the same age. Yes, the many happy hours I spent lost in the world of the Little House, Little Women, Katy Did and Anne books..... The only ones I have not read are the Mendeley children, I must go look for them and read them too.

Boy books - my 2 boys like Brian Jacques and the Star Wars series. When they were younger, they loved Animal Ark books and Geronimo Stilton, they still do but they have read almost all the books already and I stopped them from getting anymore because they are too "babyish".
My boys seem to get stuck in a rut reading every book in 1 series and refusing to try anything else. They are voracious readers and thank God we never had to persuade either of them to read. It is probably because my husband and I are avid readers too and the whole family spends many blissful hours lounging around side-by-side in our TV-less sitting room reading the whole day away.
Come to think of it, that's probably why they like reading so much. 6 years ago, after our TV broke down, we decided not to repair it or get a new one. (We still have a tiny one hidden in a cupboard upstairs to watch Chinese DVDs on in the school holidays) - what to do, that's the only way we get them to enjoy learning Chinese. We've never missed it and it has made a tremendously positive change in our family life, I highly recommend it.

monlim said...

Elan: Yay, I've found a fellow fan! How old are your boys? Sounds like Brian Jacques is a name that keeps popping up for boys. It sounds great - you not having the tv, I'm becoming less and less enamoured by it but no way I can eliminate it in my house, there will be protests all round! I wish you could come to my place and instil your sons' reading habits in Andre...

elan said...

Hi Mon:
My sons are in P5 and P6 (both in GEP, which is how I chanced upon your blog). I'm really so glad to have found your blog, like meeting a kindred soul!
The TV was really eating into our family time - I just spent all my evenings watching inane shows and ignoring my husband so it was MOI who suffered the loss of it most acutely at the time but it has really improved our quality of life and I am really happy we did got rid of it.
My sons were too young to protest at the time (4 and 6 years old) I think. So it feels pretty normal for them to just pick up a book the minute they step in the house, under the table while "doing homework" ( so have to sit with them to do homework), before dinner, during dinner (I have to put my foot down on that one) after dinner,in the bathroom, before bed,under the blanket with a torch (had to stop that one), while putting on socks to go to school ( also have to stop that one), in the car, at restaurants... - yes real bookworms.... it's a real struggle to pry them away. I try to limit them but not very convincingly since the above also exactly describes my childhood behaviour. My mum would have called this "payback time". We had lots of fights about me reading too much. My husband says he was the same too. I guess its in the genes!

Anonymous said...

I have come across some writings about how to get boys into books and reading all in a favourite series a good start . It is that "I must collect them all" mentality. I have tried many ways to promote reading to my eight year old. One good way is to plant both of us in the library to read non fiction books, but once out of the library, reading gives way to play, TV, computer.... and many other attractions. And what about holding a book instead of a PSB / gameboy set / mobile phone on MRT (train), many of us, even adults in Singapore prefer the more visual stimulating alternatives. Stella

eunice said...

Monica,I LOVE the Little House Series and Anne of Green Gables (think I still have a set somewhere). I liked Pollyanna and What Katy Did series. Anyone read the Flambards series? Loved it and read it many, many times.They made a TV series based on the books but as with most times, the books were better.

As for boys reading, Sean is into the CIA (Cows In Action) series. Quite silly but if it gets him to read... the other was Captian Underpants series, Ben 10 and Pokemon series. Yes, i do realise they are not much on content but after discussing with his teacher, I felt that if he liked it then why not. The only series I stopped him reading was Horrid Henry.

breve1970 said...

Besides Anne of Green Gables, my other all time favourite is Pollyanna and of course, the equally successful sequel, Pollyanna Grows Up by Eleanor H. Porter.

Nostalgic! Feel like I am back to the good old days in primary school. Like Lilian, I didn't read any of the Little House books but watch the TV series every Sunday (I remember it was screened on Sunday afternoons... sorry but I was quite besotted with Michael Landon then).

Hannah has started reading Pollyanna and Anne books but Hayley is still struggling with her alphabets and spelling at K2 now:(. What a world of difference between the sisters! Sob!

monlim said...

Michael Landon and of course in my mind, Laura will always be Melissa Gilbert with pigtails :)

Don't stress too much over the girls, every child is different. Hayley may just surprise you and go through a learning spurt at a later stage.

breve1970 said...

Thanks for your encouragement, Mon!:)

Anonymous said...

hi monica,
this is my first post, i found your blog when i searched for model maths. I am reading it a lot since i found it a week ago.I have 2 kids, daughter almost 9 and son 5.My kids goto the indian international school but i want to shift them to the singapore system cos i like them to learn the singapore math..
really nice to read your accounts of everyday activities with kids and your fellow bloggers,lilian in particular.
I am a full time working mom and i am getting a lot of insight into the acedemic aspects of kid's education now.
It is my dream to blog about my kids and their everyday life accounts and some achievements, but right now i am happy to be atleast reading and following some.
Hope i get inspired one day to start a blog and find time to maintain one..
My daughter is also a very keen reader and my son is really good with blocks..
She is reading too much of the Fairy series these days and Geronime Stilton series.
Keep up the good work.


monlim said...

Veena: Very nice to have you here! Hope you're enjoying life in Singapore. I do like the way maths is taught in Singapore schools but I'm not sure about the rest of it! But then, I don't know what school is like in the Indian International School either. Would you care to share? I'm sure it must be very interesting.

Blogging is a great way of preserving memories of your kids and it really does sharpen your thoughts as well. As you write, sometimes your ideas become clearer. So I would really encourage you to try it!

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