I just started reading The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag, which is second in a series of books by Alan Bradley.
The series has a unique heroine–11-year-old Flavia de Luce. Flavia loves chemistry, and she seems to find herself solving mysteries. Yes, she’s a little bit dark and thinks about her death occasionally while lying in the parish cemetery. But she’s wonderful. She’s loves to learn and pays attention to what’s going on around her. She might play horrible tricks on her sisters, but as a younger sister myself, I can say that they probably had it coming. (Love you, big brother!) She’s basically a genius British version of Nancy Drew with a dark side.
All of this to say that my life would be different without books and a few specific girlhood heroes. I grew up wanting to be just like Anne of Green Gables and Elizabeth Bennett. And if I had been able to read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (first in the FdL series) before it was published in 2009, I would have grown up wanting to be like Flavia de Luce, too. I might even have taken a bit more interest in my high school chemistry class.
I’m not exactly anti-Disney princess. Thanks to Beauty and the Beast, I knew I wasn’t the only girl in the world (even if I was thinking of an imaginary world) who ran around singing with books under my arm on a regular basis. I knew it was okay to stick up for the underdog and to sacrifice for your family. Well done, Belle!
But I will say that I’m very much in favor of finding other heroes for little girls. Anne of Green Gables taught me about the appropriate level of spunk and imagination for lots of different situations. I sometimes exceed the appropriate imagination level to this day, but it mostly ends with me being entertained and no harm done. I call it a win.
Elizabeth Bennett taught me to judge others carefully, even when the truth seems obvious. That one is a tough lesson even in adulthood, but I’m trying. And those are just a few examples.
I’m blissfully happy that people are still writing stories like this. Stories about people who may or may not fit in perfectly where they’re planted, but they’re worth looking up to and cheering for. They’re deeper than crushes and clothes and palaces, and they make you think in a slightly different way. I love being encouraged to think well. Thanks for the addition to my hall of favorites, Alan Bradley.