Children's Books Special: The best fiction for girls

Our young reviewer, Poppy Fraser, curls up with the best recent fiction for girls of all ages
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The Independent Culture

Ottoline Goes to School, By Chris Riddell (Macmillan £8.99) 5 stars

Ottoline, a young girl with an outrageous fashion sense, and her friend Mr Munroe, a strange hairy character resembling a dog, do everything together until the day Ottoline meets another young girl, Cecily, and her horse, Mumbles. As the two girls grow close, Ottoline longs more and more to go to Cecily's wonderful school, the Alice B School for the differently gifted. When her parents agree to enroll her she is delighted, but Mr Munroe feels left out. Ottoline embarks on many adventures, but can she and Mr Munroe work together and solve the biggest challenge of all: to catch a ghost that's haunting the school?

This was a beautiful book, with amazing illustrations, but I do feel that it was aimed at a younger audience as I devoured it in under an hour! However, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and think that it's a great book for any young girl – or boy.

Before Green Gables, By Budge Wilson (Puffin £9.99) 4 stars

Having not read any of the other "Anne of Green Gables" books, I did worry that I wouldn't be able to get into this novel. But I really loved every page of it, and feel that it is suitable for 8- to 14-year-old girls everywhere. It is set before Lucy Maud Montgomery's original books, and describes the life of Anne Shirley, from her birth to when she moves to Princes Island.

Anne is orphaned as a baby and various families offer to take her in on the condition that she works hard with the household chores. She finds her only friends in her own reflection and in the echo of her voice. In the end, however, nobody will accept Anne any longer and she is sent away to an orphanage. Here she doesn't fit in, and is delighted when eventually she is offered a home on Princes Island, a place which she has longed to go to since her teacher told her about it and its wonderful way of life.

The Book of a Thousand Days, By Shannon Hale (Bloomsbury £10.99) 3 stars

When Princess Saren refuses to marry Lord Khasar, her father locks her in a tower for seven years with only her maid, Dashti, for company. We learn this through Dashti's diary, and about how Dashti must pretend to be the princess and talk to the princess's love, Khan Tegus, for her through a hole in the wall.

When Dashti finds a gap in the cellar wall they escape and run to Khan Tegus. Nobody recognises the princess though, and all they can do is get jobs in the Khans' kitchens. However, when a friend of the Khan's is injured in battle, Dashti is invited to sing healing songs to him, and before long he begins to remember her as Saren from the tower, and the lies are revealed.

This was a very enjoyable book; however I do feel that it was confusing in parts, as it had an extremely complex plot and many different characters.

Sovay, By Celia Rees (Bloomsbury £10.99) 4 stars

Sovay is a young woman living a peaceful country life, until her father is accused of being a spy and flees to France with her brother, leaving her all alone. She takes to becoming a highwaywoman, but not for money: for the love and passion and the exhilaration of it. This takes her on a journey to London, where she mixes with high class society and meets new friends. However, when she is invited to the mysterious Thursley Estate by the elusive Mr Dysart, she gets involved in a twisted organisation and must flee to France in search of her father, to clear his name and stop the evil Dysart.

The book was very exciting and kept me reading on right until the last minute, despite a slightly drawn-out middle. A good read, just not an easy one to leave and come back to – more of a snuggling up winter book than a summer holiday read.

My Sister Jodie, By Jacqueline Wilson (Doubleday £12.99) 4 stars

Here is yet another Jacqueline Wilson novel, and again she doesn't fail to impress. Even though it has a pretty formulaic story, the same type of characters as in her other books, and the same type of plot, it was still a great book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and it's a nice one for various ages.

The story is about 11-year-old Pearl, the younger of two sisters, who is forever having to be looked after by the older Jodie. Thirteen-year-old Jodie has always been the cool, popular one, but that changes when their parents get jobs at a posh boarding school. Here, Pearl is the one who makes friends and Jodie is seen as an outsider. However, on the school fireworks night, Jodie does something that Pearl will never forget, and it's then that Pearl realises how much she undoubtedly does need her big sister.

That's Life Lily, By Valérie Dayre(Faber £5.99) 2 stars

This book completely confused me: there were so many different stories going on, I wasn't sure which one was true. There was the story in Lily's notebook, and there was the story of Lily's family holiday – but I got very mixed up between the two.

For the first part of the book you read Lily's diary of how she is abandoned by her parents in a service station and how she survives with only a dog and a shop owner for company. The book occasionally switches to Lily writing the diary on a beach with her parents as a made up tale in her notebook, but then it switches back to the diary as if it were real. Not the best of books in my opinion; I couldn't properly relax reading it and found that I had to re-read parts over and over again until I could work out what the author really meant.

Love Divided, By Vanessa St Clair (Piccadilly £6.99) 5 stars

This is a beautifully written yet classic teen book: a great chick-lit, romance novel that shows how cultural differences can split a relationship in half. I genuinely loved reading this book, and it was easy to leave and dip in to; a great holiday read.

It follows Lucy, a teenager who has always looked up to Mally, the most popular and most gorgeous boy in school. However, one day she nearly collapses with shock when he saves her from some teasing boys and they fall madly in love. They do absolutely everything together, but as Mally's father puts pressure on him to get good grades, the differences between their cultures begin to pull them apart. Mally must follow his family's strict Muslim traditions, while Lucy is left alone. They must decide whether to make it or break it, and whether their relationship can ever work.

The Dragonfly Pool, By Eva Ibbotson (Macmillan £10.99) 5 stars

This novel follows Tally, a young girl who is sent away to Delterdon, one of the strangest boarding schools in Devon, to escape the bombings during the Second World War. When the school is offered an opportunity to join a folk dancing competition in Bergania, Tally offers to lead her class there, and create a new and strange dance. In Bergania, Tally befriends a young prince, Karil, and soon he needs her to hide him from the German soldiers which are out to get him once his father dies.

After reading Eva Ibbotson's bestseller Journey to the River Sea, I didn't think that she could get any better, but she has! This was a great book that I just could not put down, and it amazed me right up until the end. I don't know quite how Ibbotson did it, but this book seemed to come alive inside my head, and enticed me to read on and on.

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