The most popular book in the library at the moment is Suzanne Collins’s gripping young adult novel, The Hunger Games. But long before Suzanne Collins was writing about fierce and fearless girls, the fine young adult novelist, Robin McKinley was writing books about, what she calls, “girls who do things.” In her first novel, Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast, her protagonist, ironically nicknamed Beauty, is neither beautiful nor is she interested in romance. She is, however, very smart and very brave. This book set the course for nearly all of McKinley’s future work. Her two most successful books are The Blue Sword (A Newberry honor book) and The Hero and the Crown (the 1985 Newberry Medal winner). Both novels are set in the magical kingdom of Damar—a cross between a classical fairytale and a middle-eastern Bedouin landscape. The Blue Sword was written first, but its story takes place many hundreds of years after the events in The Hero and the Crown. Readers may take up either novel without fear that it will spoil the other. Most importantly, as in Beauty, the heroes of both books are clumsy, often-overlooked girls who are also brave and smart and funny. And, like Beauty, they hold within them the power to save the world.
I know how important this idea was to me as a young woman. I also know that I’ll be giving these books to my daughter—and my son—as soon as they are old enough to read. I, for one, can’t wait and neither should you.