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Heroine’s Journey novels

  • January 2, 2014 7:52 am

The Hero’s Journey pattern was identified by Joseph Campbell in his book,The Hero with a Thousand Faces (first published in 1949). It is a common pattern in many myths and stories from around the world. The basic pattern consists of these elements: call to adventure, crossing into an unknown world, path of trials, magical help, meeting friends and enemies, a final ordeal, gaining gifts, and return to the normal world as a changed person.

Although I only became aware of the hero’s journey pattern a few years ago, I was surprised to realize that I had already written a children’s novel following the hero’s journey pattern some years ago! This pattern is so common that I think everyone is unconsciously familiar with it.

Below are modern novels that exemplify the hero’s journey pattern, and that feature girls or women as the “heroes” . I have included my own as the first one.

Please feel free to comment if you have another “heroine’s journey” novel to suggest!

NOTE: If you are not able to see the pictures of the books, it may be because your ad blocker is enabled and blocking the pictures.

The Moon Over Crete by Jyotsna Sreenivasan. Eleven-year-old Lily travels back in time 3,500 years to ancient Crete, where women and men were equal. Lily has to figure out how to warn the Queen about an impending fatal attack by patriarchal warriors.


Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor. This adventure takes place in a parallel civilization in which “technology” is based on a symbiotic relationship with plants. The author is a child of immigrants from Nigeria, and the novel is filled with references to Nigerian culture.


A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer. One of the few non-fantasy books that follow the hero’s journey pattern, this novel tells the story of Nhamo, an orphan from Mozambique who flees a marriage to a cruel man and makes a treacherous, year-long journey to find her father’s family.


A Riddle of Roses by Caryl Cude Mullin. Meryl, a young bard-in-training, decides to go on a quest to become a bard the “old” way — by experience — rather than the “modern” way — by book-learning. She seeks an ever-blooming rose bush in Avalon, and returns home wiser, more confident, and ready to continue her travels. For ages 9 and up.

The Secret of the Ruby Ring by Yvonne McGrory. Lucy, a spoiled Irish girl, is transported to the Ireland of the late 1800s, where she learns to appreciate her own comforts and family. Kids who enjoy historical fiction should enjoy the details of Irish upper-class life in this charming novel.

The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester. A small-town girl discovers that she has an amazing gift. However, she and her family are shunned because of her gift, and she is sent to a mysterious “school” which turns out to be more of a re-education concentration camp. This book is a favorite among my middle-school students.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Coraline discovers a mysterious door in the old house she has just moved into. The door leads her to a new mother and father who, at first, seem to be everything a kid could desire in a set of parents. Will she be able to escape once she discovers the chilling truth? This book is quite scary for younger readers.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. This classic novel features tons of wonderful female characters, as well as a smart girl protagonist.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. If you’ve only seen the movie, you definitely want to read the book!

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim (for older teens and adults). Four women, tired of their lives in London, embark on a trip to an Italian castle. There, perhaps due to the magic of beautiful views, flowers, and rest, their lives are changed. This is an adventure of the emotions and spirit, rather than a physical adventure. This novel was a best-seller when it was first published in 1922, and was made into a movie in 1991.

My new novel, And Laughter Fell from the Sky

  • June 17, 2012 12:19 pm


My new novel, And Laughter Fell from the Sky, although not specifically for young adults, could be read and enjoyed by older teens. The novel is about two Indian-Americans in their twenties who are looking for happiness and fulfillment in the outside world, instead of realizing that they can create their own fulfillment. It’s also a love story with a theme of equality (although it’s not at all preachy about it).

Teachers might be interested in pairing this book with The House of Mirthby Edith Wharton, since my book was inspired by Wharton’s classic.

I’d love to hear from teens and teachers who’ve read the book. Feel free to leave a comment!

How Ella Grew an Electric Guitar

  • January 29, 2012 5:44 pm


This is a fun book to introduce kids to business. Eleven-year-old Ella, who has formed a band with three of her friends, desperately wants an electric guitar. In the process of trying to come up with the money to buy it, she learns about interest, the stock market, running a small business, marketing, and business loans. These concepts are introduced in a low-key way as part of the story.

My husband read this to our 9-year-old son, and they both enjoyed the story. My husband is an entrepreneur, and he felt the financial concepts in this book were sound.

One of the authors, Orly Sade, is a professor of finance, and the other, Ellen Neuborne, is a writer. They’ve done a great job of teaching financial concepts within the context of a compelling story.

I’ve included this book on my girls list.

Sita’s Ramayana

  • November 12, 2011 9:31 am


This graphic novel is an interesting retelling of the Hindu epic The Ramayana from the point of view of Sita, the queen of Ayodhya. The words are written by Samhita Arni, who as a child wrote an absorbing retelling of another Hindu epic: The Mahabharata: A Child’s View. The colorful, dramatic, appealing pictures are by Moyna Chitrakar, a folk artist who lives in West Bengal, India.

Sita is not known for being particularly active or assertive. In fact, her obedience and devotion to her husband Rama are legendary. Yet by focusing on Sita’s point of view, this retelling has something to say about a woman’s perspective on war and justice.

The story begins at the end, with the queen Sita entering the forest and begging the forest to shelter her. The forest wants to know why she was banished from Ayodhya, and she tells her story.

This retelling emphasizes Sita’s compassion for other women, including those who are considered enemies by the men. She believes that Lakshmana’s rash decision to cut off the demoness Surpanaka’s nose is the cause of her (Sita’s) abduction and the war in Lanka. “Violence breeds violence, and an unjust act only begets greater injustice,” Sita says.

When she is Ravana’s prisoner in Lanka, Sita becomes close to one of her demoness guards: Trijatha, who, unlike the other guards, feels compassion for Sita. It is Trijatha who tells Sita the story of the war between Rama and Ravana.

As much as Sita is overjoyed that Rama won the war, she still feels compassion for Mandodari, Ravana’s widow, as well as for all the other “enemy” women. “They would be queens no more, and their people had met death on the battlefield–for what? For one man’s unlawful desire. . . . It was such a high price to pay.”

The story also features a few other powerful females, including an apsara (divine female) who warns Hanuman about a sorcerer, and the goddess Chandi Devi.

In the end, of course, even Sita’s devotion to Rama cannot help her against the rumors that surround her because of her sojourn with Ravana. Sita finally makes a decision to leave Rama and return to her mother, the Earth.

I have included this book on my girls’ list.

The Wikkeling, by Steven Arntson

  • July 10, 2011 5:59 am

 This engaging, slightly spooky fantasy novel can be read on a couple of levels. Upper elementary kids (the target age is 9-12 years old) will likely read it as an adventure story. Henrietta and her friends, Gary and Rose, manage to vanquish the mysterious, menacing “Wikkeling” with the help of a gender-obscure cat named Mister Lady.

Kids will also enjoy the well-developed setting. Henrietta and her friends live in a dystopia in which technology, pavement, new construction, and advertising are taking over their world. Schools are driven by computerized, standardized tests, and everyone has instant access to the latest news about each other through their cell phones and other gadgets. (Sound familiar?) Henrietta and her friends also get a glimpse into what their neighborhood looked like a few generations ago. I was immediately drawn into the characters and setting, and I think kids will be, too.

Adults and older readers might get into the allegorical aspect of the story. The Wikkeling, we learn, was created by a couple of scientists for humanitarian purposes, to “harness the power of nature toward human industry.” The Wikkeling was brought to life by one word: “grow”. Unfortunately, this growth had no limits. The Wikkeling and its power destroyed its creators, and began taking over the world.

While the story ends with a satisfying resolution, there are enough loose ends that I assume this book is the beginning of a series.