Robert Southey once replied in a letter to Charlotte Bronte “Literature cannot be the business of a woman’s life and ought not to be”
Well Mr Southey – here’s a list of some of my favourite prove-you-wrong women in children’s literature…
- Frances Hodgson Burnett – The Secret Garden, Little Lord Fauntleroy and A Little Princess
- Enid Blyton – too many books to mention! I loved her as a child
- Beatrix Potter – I think she needs no explanation
- Kate Greenaway – an incredible illustrator, growing up I had the book Kate Greenaway’s Book of Games and seem to remember lending it out when one of my friends at nursery had a Victorian themed party. Seriously if you’re kids are bored it has some great suggestions for games. It’s quite old fashioned (being Victorian and all) but some of the games children would still love today.
- J.K Rowling – So I’m not a die hard Harry Potter fan with capes and wands lurking around the house or a bolt of lightening tattooed across my forehead. I really enjoyed reading them though and I find the story of how her ideas came to her on a 4 hour delayed train truly inspirational.
- Judith Kerr – My boys still love her stories particularly of course The Tiger Who Came to Tea. When they’re older I’ll encourage them to read When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. An incredible semi-autobiographical book about a Jewish family fleeing Nazi Germany.
- Kate Pankhurst – I couldn’t get away with writing a list of women in children’s literature without including Kate Pankhurst and her series of books. I think it’s fantastic for children (boys and girls!) to read about great women in history. She’s a distant-ish descendent of Emmeline Pankhurst but what a positive way to continue the family name! Fantastically Great Women Who Made History
- Johanna Spyri – I’ve only known her for writing Heidi but she is yet another inspirational woman. She wrote for adult and children’s books. Her first story “A Note on Vrony’s Grave” was about a woman’s life of domestic violence.
- E. Nesbit – Author of Five Children and It and The Railway Children. What a complicated life she had! She met Hubert Bland a political activist, got pregnant, got engaged but lived in a separate homes, Then she found out he was having an affair with his mother’s paid companion (Maggie Doran) who he fathered a child with. Nesbit then moved in with her husband, his mother and became friends with Doran. She then became more involved with political activism. Then her close friend got pregnant with Bland’s child… Nesbit’s life story sounds like a novel in itself. She is often perceived to be “the first modern writer for children”. This is a great article explaining how The Railway Children came to be How Did E Nesbit come to write the Railway Children? – The Guardian and it recommends this biography by Julia Briggs which I will certainly be reading A Woman of Passion: The Life of E. Nesbit 1858-1924 – Julia Briggs
- Julia Donaldson – I could not write a list of inspirational authors without including this fabulous lady! It’s impossible to walk into a book shop or look for children’s books online without her name popping up. My boys love her and we read many of her books over and over again. Particularly “Toddle Waddle” – now when my 15month old wants us to read it…he makes quacking noises! I never realised the Gruffalo was based on a Chinese story about a girl and a tiger similar to this story . Personally, I always find it fascinating to find out where people get their inspirations from. It’s incredible to think that even a fleeting moment can change someone’s life or their perspective on things.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing this blog and don’t think I’ll ever pick up another story or book without wondering about the person’s background and where their stories came from. I’d like to believe that if Mr Southey were alive today, he’d be eating his words and if he had children in today’s times, I would hope that he would be reading them some of these wonderful books written by wonderful women without a second thought…