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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.

Check out my new web site, Second Generation Stories

  • May 25, 2012 5:58 pm

Anzia Yezierska immigrated from Poland as a child. She was a famous Jewish-American writer in the 1920s.

My new web site is Second Generation Stories: Literature by Children of Immigrants (

The site features book lists of dozens of authors who were born into immigrant families, or who immigrated to the U.S. as children. For example, Mario Puzo (author of The Godfather) was a child of Italian immigrants. William Saroyan, a playwright and fiction writer, was the child of Armenian immigrants.

The second generation often face unique challenges which cut across cultures. First-generation immigrant Americans tend to have strong ties to the home country, yet consciously chose to come to the United States. Their children, on the other hand, often have weak ties to the home country and had no choice about being raised in the United States.

The study of immigrant literature often throws first-generation immigrant writers into the same category as their children. In fact, the children of immigrants, second-generation Americans, may have very different perspectives from their parents.

Gift that Gives All Year: New Moon Girls

  • December 18, 2011 12:02 pm

If you’re looking for a great gift for the girl in your life, consider a membership to New Moon Girls, a moderated online community and ad-free magazine (6 issues per year). The magazine and online community, for girls ages 8-14, are both designed to build self-esteem and positive body image.

Every issue of the print magazine, which is run by an editorial board made up of girls, emphasizes inner beauty over outer beauty, and contains advice from girls to girls. A recent issue featured a profile of artist Frida Kahlo, an article on animals that use camouflage, and real-life examples of girls taking action to create a better world.

Sparking Revolution: Engaging Youth through Literature

  • September 17, 2011 1:13 pm

If you’re in the New York City area, I invite you to attend the South Asian Women’s Creative Collective literary festival on September 23-24 at Revolution Books. I will be speaking on a panel entitled “Sparking Revolution: Engaging Youth through Literature.”

Please follow this link for more information:

Women Scientists in Novels

  • April 29, 2011 5:15 pm

This post is a bit of a departure from the premise of my web site. The novels featured below are not published by small publishers, nor are they specifically for young people. Nevertheless, I thought they would be of interest to teachers, parents, and teens looking to read and recommend novels featuring women scientists.

The following novels are ones that I’ve enjoyed and consider to be “good literature.” The novels below are realistic works of fiction—not science fiction. The science in these books is prominent and a main part of the story.

Interestingly, most of these books feature two women scientists who are friends and/or colleagues.

If you have other books to add to this list, please feel free to leave a comment below.

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier — A historical novel based on the lives of two real women fossil hunters in the early 1800s: Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot. Anning, from a working-class family, started hunting fossils to sell as a way to increase her family’s income, and ended up finding several large skeletons of extinct marine reptiles. Philpot, a middle-class lady, hunted fossils to pass the time, and amassed a respected collection of fossil fish. The novel chronicles their friendship, as well as their efforts to be noticed and included in the male-only scientific community of the time. This book would be a good companion read with Persuasion by Jane Austen. Remarkable Creatures takes place in the English seaside town of Lyme Regis at the same time that Jane Austen lived and wrote. A portion of Persuasion also takes place in Lyme Regis.

The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh — A beautiful, absorbing, unusual book about an Indian-American cetologist (dolphin researcher) working in the Sunderbans, a group of tropical, tiger-infested islands off the coast of India. Piya, the cetologist, befriends an illiterate fisherman, Fokir, who has an amazing self-taught knowledge of river dolphins. Although they don’t share a language, they manage to communicate enough to collaborate on tracking the movements of these dolphins. The final storm scene is gripping and poignant.

Intuition by Allegra Goodman — Two of the main characters are women scientists: Robin, a single 38-year-old post doctoral student researching cures for cancer, and Marion, a married mother who is co-director of the lab where Robin works. The story revolves around Robin’s attempt to prove that the remarkable results produced by her former boyfriend are the result of false data. Is Robin motivated by jealousy, or by a dedication to scientific rigor? Why does Marion fail to support Robin in her quest for accuracy and truth? The characters in this novel are complex and the lab scenes are full of detail. This would be a great book to spark discussions of issues like jealousy, competition, ambition, and collaboration.

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver – There are two women scientists in this book: Deanna, a 47-year-old wildlife biologist who studies coyotes, and Lusa, a twenty-something entomologist interested in moths. During the summer of this story, these two women, who happen to live in an isolated Appalachian town, attempt to engage with and educate the farmers and hunters in their area about the importance of wildlife and nature. The story also deals with the fertility, mating, and reproduction that goes on among humans and animals during this one “prodigal summer.”

State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett — again, two women scientists are featured in this novel. Forty-two-year-old Marina Singh is a pharmaceutical researcher who is sent to the Amazon rainforest to track down 73-year-old Annick Swenson, an aloof researcher who has been living with an Amazon tribe for years, researching a fertility drug. Annick is a former medical school professor of Marina’s, but while Marina revered her teacher, Annick doesn’t remember her student.  While in the rainforest, Marina also wants to investigate the mysterious death of her colleague Anders Eckman. This novel has a strong plot and a fascinating setting.