Meet Deb Eleanor’s Childhood Inspirations

My friend Erin Blakemore wrote a lovely book, The Heroine’s Bookshelf, that has had me thinking from the day I first read it.  The Heroine’s Bookshelf is a collection of literary heroines and their authors, talking about the traits that made them special and how we can learn from them. For the next few weeks, Erin’s having a celebration of Heroine Love over at her blog – guest bloggers talking about the heroines that made a difference in their lives (and giving away prizes, to boot!).  Today I’m over there talking about one of my favorite literary heroines – I’ll tell you who in a minute.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this since I read her book, who would be the heroines on my bookshelf?

Unsurprisingly, I found most of these women in books, so I had to narrow it down a little bit. I settled on a list of four fictional characters from books I read when I was little who made a difference in my girlhood, who helped make me the woman I am now.






Anne FrankAnne Frank – The Diary of Anne Frank

There’s a reason Anne Frank’s diary endures the way it does. It’s so much more than a historical record, it’s a record of her girlhood, and I remember being so very, very excited that someone else in this big, confusing world, let alone someone who had lived in an entirely different country decades ago, was feeling exactly the things I was feeling. Who doesn’t need that when they are 13?




Book cover - From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. FrankweilerClaudia Kincaid – From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

I am fairly sure that every person who reads this book then spends a ridiculous amount of time fantasizing about what it would be like to run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Frankly, I still spend at least part of my time when visiting a museum trying to figure out where I would sleep and where I would hide my backpack. But the things I admire about Claudia are her clear-headed planning, her inventiveness, and her curiosity.

Also, I totally dream of getting all the coins out of a fountain and using them for lunch at an automat.



Book cover - A Wrinkle in TimeMeg Murray – A Wrinkle in Time

I will be forever grateful to Madeline L’Engle for giving us Meg. There are a great number of stories in which a girl who seems mousy or unremarkable or awkward on the outside has her swan transformation, but they usually involve a makeover montage set to a pop song and eyelashes that I could never hope to have.

Meg, on the other hand, transforms from her “before” persona to her “after” by demonstrating her love for her family and her intelligence. What better role model is that?



Harriet the SpyHarriet M. Welsch – Harriet the Spy

This is my girl – one of my favorite books, and the character I’m celebrating over at Erin’s blog today.

Harriet M. Welsch: Writer, observer of human nature, friend, and all-around weird kid. Harriet was the person who taught me to write down the ideas, questions, and stories that were always floating around my mind, and the first character who helped me realize that my endless wondering about the way that people worked was the first step on the way to an actual career path – writing.


Read my post about Harriet the Spy over at the Heroine Love festivities, and enter to win one of a whole passel of heroine-worthy prizes!

Who are your fictional heroine loves?

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15 thoughts on “Meet Deb Eleanor’s Childhood Inspirations

  1. You know I love me some Claudia Kincaid. Just recently read that book out loud to my daughter — her first time, my zillionth. It’s equally as wonderful as I remember it, and Claudia’s a spectacular role model to have.

    As for Anne… yes, she is a role model and a true heroine. Yet while I too marvelled over the similar things she and I felt as young girls, it was a constantly painful realization, since the ending of her story hung over every word. Excitement was tempered by throat-clenching horror in that one.

    It’s interesting, I remember reading and loving A Wrinkle in Time… but it didn’t stick with me at all. As for Harriet the Spy, can you believe I’ve never read it? I know, so wrong. I’ll have to get it and read it out loud to my daughter, so I can experience it with her.

    • It is wrong – but that’s the joy of having a daughter -you get a second chance at all the wonderful books you missed, and at the ones you did love!

  2. I adored Nancy Drew – but loved George Fayne equally. Bess wasn’t my cup of tea. One of my favorite books (and anti-heroine) was (and I still have a copy) The Bad Times of Irma Baumlein. I related to Irma even though we didn’t have much in common. Irma told a whopper of a lie to get the other kids in school to like her. She said she had a 3 foot tall doll with “cerulean blue eyes.” I’ll never forget that word and how proud I was for being able to read it. The lie grew, and she stole a mannequin from a department store to cover her lie. The guilt ate her up. I connected with her wanting to belong, and be special and well, if you’ve read my book, you know the theivery part isn’t that far off from my own life. KIM

    • I thought about Nancy, but she was a little too perfect for me. George and Bess were way more fun.

      I haven’t read Irma or Seventeenth Summer, but I love reading middle grade and YA – will have to check these out!

  3. Eleanor sent me a copy of The Mixed Up Files – taking pity on me for not having read it as a kid. I loved the book – every twist and turn. Thanks to my Mom and Dad, I was a member of the Weekly Reader book Club – and the Scholastic Book Club (before it was a flyer full of crummy Barbie books and other assorted literary dreck.) I’ve written many times about how my childhood books molded me, taught me.

    Have any of you read “Seventeenth Summer?” by Maureen Daly and written in 1942. It’s about a girl growing up and her first love. I read it in the 70s as a Junior High Schooler and it was completely relevant. I guess I was retro even as a kid! K

  4. The three that popped into my head were Francie Nolan from A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN, Laura Ingalls Wilder from THE LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE books, and Anne Shirley from the ANNE OF GREEN GABLES books. It’s no wonder these are my childhood “heroines” – I grew up in Brooklyn (Francie) yet apparently still wanted to be a pioneer girl (Laura), and I had a vivid imagination and was always making up games/stories (Anne.) 🙂

    • Good ones! Have you read THE HEROINE’S BOOKSHELF? Francie and Laura are in there, and I’m fairly sure Anne is too. It’s inspired me to re-read the Little House books this year!

    • Never read Trixie! I got to re-read Harriet when I was writing the post for Heroine Love and it was SO fun. She’s amazing.

  5. Love, love, love this post, Eleanor (and just FB shared it). I have so many: Francie Nolan in A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables, Jane Eyre . . . I’m going to buy The Heroine’s Bookshelf–sounds wonderful.

    • Thank you, Melissa! And yes, you should DEFINITELY get Heroine’s Bookshelf – you will love it – I think she has the three you mentioned in there!

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