Kindred Spirits – 13 Female Leads in Children’s Literature

Melody Gearheart, the new limited series from Steal
Melody Gearheart, the new limited series

Melody Gearheart joins a long tradition of young female main characters in literature and comics. Here’s a list of some favorites.

1. Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland

Published in 1865 Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, later shortened to Alice in Wonderland, perhaps established the girl heroine in children’s literature. Alice is drawn into a world of absurdity and nonsense she then tries to find her way out.

The sequel Alice Through the Looking Glass sees Alice in a mirror world with similar inhabitants as in Wonderland.

2. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Dorothy and her companions in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Dorothy and her companions in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The first book in Frank L. Baum’s popular series was made even more famous with the 1939 film starring Judy Garland. Dorothy Gale is transported from Kansas to Oz in a tornado. There she meets a scarecrow, a tin man, and a talking lion, each needing something missing from their lives, a brain, a heart, and courage. They travel to the Emerald City to meet the Great and Powerful Oz while being pursued and harrassed by the Wicked Witch of the West.

3. Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables
Anne of Green Gables and Diana

Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne Shirley is an orphaned girl with a vivid imagination who comes to live with the very unimaginative sister and brother, Marilla and Matthew. Her joie de vivre is infectious as her personality is let loose on the small Canadian province of Prince Edward Island.  She even melts Marilla’s stern cold heart.

4. Little Orphan Annie

Little Orphan Annie collected by IDW Publishing

This American comic strip by Harold Gray ran from 1925 to 2010. A poor homeless orphan, Annie is adopted by the extremely wealthy Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks. She has a wide range of adventures with her dog, Sandy.

The strip was extremely popular spawning a radio series, two movies in the 1930’s and a highly successful Broadway musical.

5. Pippi Longstockings

Pippi Longstocking
Pippi Longstocking

Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking (Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraim’s Daughter Longstocking) is the super strong nine year-old. She lives by herself as her seafaring Captain father is often away at sea. She has four friends, her horse, her monkey named Mr. Nielsson, and the neighbor kids Annika and Tommy.

Pippi has had many movies, tv series, and cartoons based on her.

6. Heidi

Heidi and her Grandfather
Heidi and her Grandfather

The Swiss classic by Johanna Spyri features another orphan girl. Her aunt leaves Heidi with her Grandfather to move to the city to start a new job. The grumpy grandfather soon warms to his granddaughter but her aunt returns a few years later to bring Heidi to the city to become a companion for an ailing rich girl. Heidi and the girl, Clara, soon become the best of friends. It’s a story of how a young girl’s upbeat personality affects those around her.

Heidi has been featured in a several movies and television programs. The most famous being the movie starring Shirley Temple.

7. Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Ingalls
Laura Ingalls and her mother

The phenomenal hit of the 70’s Little House on the Prairie was based on a series of autobiographical books by the Laura Ingalls Wilder. The series details the pioneer life in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and South Dakota of Charles and Caroline Ingalls and their daughters Mary, Laura, Carrie and Grace. They face hardships like illness, hunger, and extreme weather along with the joys of everyday life.

Besides the long running television series other books were written and published by other writers.

8. Goth Girl

Goth Girl by Chris Riddell
Goth Girl by Chris Riddell

Let’s move into the modern era with the rest of the list. Chris Riddell’s Ada Goth is the only child of Lord Goth. They and their servants live in the expansive Ghastly-Gorm Hall. Ada is inquisitive, self-reliant, fearless, and kind. A delight to read for children and adults alike (especially those with an interest in 19th century literature so they can appreciate the subtle jokes).

9. Theodosia Throckmorton

Theodosia and the Eyes of Horus
Theodosia and the Eyes of Horus

In the series by R. L. LaFevers Theodosia Throckmorton basically lives at the Museum of Legends and Antiquities in London, which is run by her often absent parents. She comes to realize that she’s the only one who can read the curses and magic writing on the Egyptian artifacts. Thus begins her journey to become an expert in Egyptian magic.

10. Zita the Spacegirl

Zita the Spacegirl
Zita the Spacegirl

In this graphic novel trilogy by Ben Hatke, Zita is an Earth girl who gets swept away on a cosmic adventure to save her best friend. Determined to find her way back home she faces overwhelming challenges and setbacks. Zita is resourceful and brash, a powerhouse heroine.

11. Hilda

Hilda and the Black Hound
Hilda and the Black Hound

Hilda is the star of this graphic novel series by Luke Pearson. Hilda is an adventurous, open minded, and thoughtful young girl. She meets hidden elves, giants, wooden men, dark hounds, and so much more. Along with her friends she sets out on a series of exciting adventures.

Hilda has been made into a Netflix series.

12. Phoebe and Her Unicorn

Phoebe and Her Unicorn
Phoebe and Her Unicorn

This daily comic strip by Dana Simpson is about the relationship between Phoebe and the unicorn Marigold Heavenly Nostrils. They make an interesting pair, Phoebe is a daydreaming nine-year-old, Marigold is an arrogant unicorn, yet they are the best of friends.

The comic strips have been collected in several books.

13. Coraline


This dark fantasy by Neil Gaiman tells the tale of Coraline and what happens when she opens the small door in her room. She is brought to the Other World, which is a duplicate of her world. Yet all the people here have buttons for eyes. The Other Mother wants to sew buttons on Coraline’s eyes and keep her forever.

Coraline was adapted into a graphic novel and an animated movie.

Add Melody to this list and head over to Stela and read Melody Gearheart.

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