Princesses, Magic and Adventure – Fiction Books for Girls (and Boys)!

When I became a mother to a daughter, I became a bit more aware of the messages that some of the classic books send to little girls (and boys). I grew up on princesses, and damsels in distress. To six year old me, it seemed fairly reasonable that I should focus on happily ever after, once I had been ‘rescued’ of course.

I wanted to share the books and stories of my childhood with my daughter. But I wanted to make sure that the messages she got were a fairer mix. She could be the princess of her story, if that is what she wanted. She could also be the hero though, wave a sword and do the rescuing.


A friend gave me a copy of an amazing little book called “The Paper Bag Princess”, which was written by Robert Munsch. In this story, the princess digs deep against the odds and does the rescuing. There is no happily ever after with her prince. Though she does live happily ever after anyway. The story tickled me and delighted my daughter who wanted it read all the time.

Another feisty character is Babette Cole’s “Princess Smartypants”. Being forced to find a suitor, Princess Smartypants makes it quite an impossible task. After all, she is having too much fun living life on her terms and hanging out with her gaggle of pets.

These books were excellent for my daughter when she was in pre-school and still held their charm into primary school. A great series of books for older kids (late primary to middle school) are the Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Patricia C. Wrede’s Cimorene is the perfect princess for those girls who don’t want to sit on the sideline. She is a self-rescuing, smart, and very practical princess!

Adventures in a Strange Land

Going classic, L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” are both great stories featuring an adventuring girl and a wide range of strange new friends.

Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle In Time” has to get a mention here. Best for ages nine and up, this story has been turned into an awesome movie too. The book follows Meg, her gifted brother Charles Wallace and a friend Calvin as they move through worlds looking for Meg’s father. Parts of the book get a little creepy, but more like a tame episode of Dr Who. There are some religious themes to this one as well.

My other absolute favourite series, for intermediate to high school aged kids are the Fairyland books by Cathrynne M Valente. The first book is called “The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making”, which is the best book title I have ever seen. The book follows September as she is whisked away from her boring life by the Green Wind to have an adventure. She makes her way around Fairyland making friends and enemies and doing noble deeds. As an adult, I loved these books. They are so rich, and just like falling back into childhood. There are so many great passages about growing up, or perhaps not needing to.

Can you really mention books about a girl who goes to a strange land without mentioning “The BFG” by Roald Dahl? Oh the horror of the bean-eating giants, and snozzcumbers! This one is probably my favourite Dahl story, though “Matilda” is also very good.

Another childhood favourite for me was Mary Norton’s “The Borrowers”. I was fascinated by the idea of little people living in my walls. I related to Arrietty quite a lot as well – that sense of growing up and out-growing your place, and then trying to find where you fit.


Stephanie Burgis’ “The Dragon With a Chocolate Heart” was a book my husband picked out. Our daughter loves anything with dragons, so she was immediately drawn to this story. It’s an excellent book about facing changes and challenges and learning more about who you are because of that.

Tiffany Aching is a frying pan welding witch-to-be in Terry Pratchett’s “The Wee Free Men”. This one is best for middle to high school aged kids. It’s hilarious and had our daughter in stitches, while also providing an entertaining adventure.

Jill Murphy’s Mildred Hubble is the worst student at Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches in “The Worst Witch”. This one is also a Netflix series and it’s one of our favourites to binge.

For younger children, Julia Donaldson’s “Room on the Broom” is a magic adventure with a lovely witch and the many friends she makes as she travels on her broom. It’s an easy read, which is good because you’ll be re-reading it a lot!

Now, although these books have girl characters in the lead, that doesn’t mean they are stories solely for girls. Remember that many books are read by both girls and boys that have male lead characters in them – Harry Potter, anyone? So, feel free to introduce boys to these awesome stories too.

Pick up some of these titles today!

The Paper Bag Princess

Paper Bag
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Princess Smartypants

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Room on the Broom

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The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart

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The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

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The Worst Witch

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kymmageWritten by Kym Moore

When she isn’t herding kids or cats, Kym loves to drink craft beer, or share a whine and a wine with friends. She is also partial to a well-made cocktail. Her happy places include sitting on couch watching British Comedy and daydreaming. Lots of daydreaming.

Favourite artist: Bowie


  1. Alezandra 03/08/2019 at 10:31 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this article and the book reviews. I’ve personally read the Princess Smartypants – which I read to my 4 year old son. It’s good to see a Princess not having to be rescued or needing to choose a prince and going for things that she wants.

  2. candyjanenz 03/08/2019 at 3:52 pm

    These all look like great books to read. I loved the wizard of oz when I was younger as well as the Anne of Green Gables series which also had a strong female who was the main character. Stories for children are great that have a good message as well as characters you would want your children to look up to.

  3. SarahBlair 02/08/2019 at 4:40 pm

    I love that girls are becoming more of a hero in a story rather than the damsil in distress, we need to show our girls that they can ‘Save’ themselves instead of waiting for Prince Charming to swoop in and fix everything! (because they might be waiting for a very long time!!) These books sound great, I was looking for some good books to get for miss 7s Christmas prezzies and these are looking very promising!!

  4. Mands1980 31/07/2019 at 9:52 am

    My kids love all the books which have a DVD with the to read along to the story such as wonky donkey, room in the broom, the farmer and the dell. My son has been reading 5 minute Marvel Avengers stories lately which he enjoys. The enchanted forest chronicles seems good for my daughter it sounds interesting she isn’t a very big reader but would love to get her into books she is interested in. I love reading about new books that interest my 3 children.

  5. MuddledUpMolly 30/07/2019 at 9:57 pm

    Some of these titles are most certainly classics! I have a copy of the Paperbag Princess and I look forward to being able to read it with my little girl 🙂 Our son has just recently got into reading in a big way and it is awesome to see him developing a love of reading just like me! Today I saw the preview for the witches academy on Netflix so it may be something we have a look at when we can tear ourselves away from our books!

  6. Shorrty4life1 27/07/2019 at 9:36 pm

    This was a very interesting read with a great variety of stories. Both my children absolutely love the golden books. For my daughter she finds them easy to read and not too big. For my son he loves me reading them to him as they are not too long and they are fun books to read not boring.

  7. Jen_Wiig 25/07/2019 at 5:56 pm

    Wow some of these books sound amazing to the point I’d read them myself, I love sharing stories with my boys and we will read just about anything especially if it involves an adventure. Love how a few of these listed have a female heroine whose not your typical princess and although I have sons I’d stills hare a story like this with them as it would show them that girls/woman are strong and independent too not just into dressing up and makeup.

  8. Micht 25/07/2019 at 11:36 am

    Alot of interesting reading options here…i also am weary of what messages some stories on tv or in books are giving so watch those things closely for my girls. Because we are a family with very strong Christian beliefs, we steer clear of witch stories so that wont be an option for us but i would consider the dragon and the girl who circumnavigated fairyland sounds intriguing . . We have loved books like Ferdinand the Bull and the Chronicles of Narnia… and of course Guess how much i love you for my little one . So good to have kids spend time with books…reminds me of my own childhood when the imagination was everything!

  9. Bevik1971 24/07/2019 at 3:51 pm

    My daughter actually has Room on a Broom on DVD, it’s such a cool story 🙂 She is 6 and is a really good reader and loves chapter books now, especially Rainbow Magic Fairy books she gets them out at the school and local library and we read chapters at night in bed 🙂

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