Literary Musings

Literary Orphan Girls: Plucky Heroines Melting Hearts, Overcoming Adversity

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the plucky literary orphan girl became a favorite trope in children’s literature. Perhaps it’s because children were indeed commonly orphaned in those days, or that parents got in the way of exciting narratives.

Here are seven of the most enduring orphan girls in classic children’s literature: The eponymous Heidi (does she have a last name?), Rebecca Randall (Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm); Sara Crewe (A Little Princess); Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables); Pollyanna Whittier (Pollyanna); Mary Lennox (The Secret Garden); and Emily Byrd Starr (Emily of New Moon).

These girls are on the cusp of adolescence, a vulnerable stage in the best of circumstances. Orphaned and foisted on spinster aunts, unrelated caretakers, distant relatives, and indifferent schoolmistresses, these girls learn to navigate the world on their own terms. Read More→

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15+ Classic Novels for Middle Grade Readers

These classic novels for middle grade readers, written by women authors of the distant and recent past, spark curiosity and take the reader on grand adventures. They also impart wisdom that can be enjoyed by all ages.

Books provide guidance, exploration, and companionship among so many other things – this is especially true for young readers. A good novel can expand our knowledge of the world; when the world feels overwhelming, a novel provides a comforting and familiar companion. Read More→

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The Friendship of Edna St. Vincent Millay and Elinor Wylie

When one thinks of Jazz Age literature, novels by F. Scott Fitzgerald or D. H. Lawrence might come to mind. Lyrical and provocative poetry was also part of Roaring Twenties culture. Two of the most beloved and provocative poets of the 1920s were Edna St. Vincent Millay and Elinor Wylie.

Both Millay and Wylie were dedicated lyrists and writers, despite their tempestuous personal lives. They both navigated the pitfalls of fame, scandal, and illness – all while leaving an indelible mark on American poetry. Read More→

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10 Facts About Harper Lee, Author of To Kill a Mockingbird

Presented here are 10 facts about Harper Lee (1926 – 2015), Southern author known for the novel To Kill a Mockingbird (1960). Considered one of the Great American Novels, To Kill a Mockingbird is the story of a small southern town embroiled in a racially charged trial, told from the perspective of a precocious young girl, Scout. 

The novel drew inspiration from Lee’s upbringing in Monroeville, Alabama. The novel has sold tens of millions of copies and is still widely taught in American classrooms for its moral teachings.  

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” (Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird)    Read More→

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South African Author Dalene Matthee: A Daughter’s Tribute

South African author Dalene Matthee (1938 – 2005) was best known for her four “Forest novels” presenting stories of the Cape Knysna Forest and its inhabitants. In 2023, I had the good fortune of interviewing Hilary Matthee, one of Dalene Matthee’s three daughters, for an issue of the Afrikaans magazine Taalgenoot.

Matthee’s writings have been translated into multiple languages, including French, German, Icelandic, and English. Matthee would usually translate the first versions of her work into English, believing that it was important to make sure the emotion came across in a “reserved” language.

In 1970, Matthee published her debut children’s novel The Twelve o’ Clock Stick. She published a collection of short stories next, The Judas Goat, in 1982. Several of her works have been adapted to film, including Circles in a Forest (1989), Fiela’s Child (1988 and 2019), and Dreamforest. Read More→

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