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The 10 most inspiring girls in children's books

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When we're young and impressionable, the books we read can have an extraordinary effect on us. These children's book characters inspired us to be brave, to be brilliant and, in short, to be better people...

Do you have your own favourite children's book character that we've missed? Let us know in the comments section below

Words: Kayleigh Dray, Photos: Rex Features

1. Hermione - Harry Potter

By JK Rowling

Harry might be The Chosen One, but Hermione was, in Ron Weasley's words, brilliant. She was clever, she was witty, she was level-headed, and, while she wasn't all that great with a broom, she mastered the art of disapparating, at the tender age of 17. Amazing work. Throw in the moment she punched Draco Malfoy in the face and you have a winner. Sure, the books bore Harry's name, but Hermione was the one we wanted to be - if only for the dress robes…

2. Matilda

By Roald Dahl

Another book, another girl who uses her knowledge of books to the absolute max. Matilda makes sure she's the hero of her own story, rescuing (and punishing, where necessary) grown-ups left, right and centre. Sure, she's a little bit naughty sometimes - but all the best people are. And who else could have defeated the Trunchbull?

3. Elizabeth Allen - The Naughtiest Girl

By Enid Blyton

Sensing a pattern here? Naughty children are clearly the most inspiring when we're growing up; they push boundaries, they challenge authority and they usually come out on top. So it was with Elizabeth Allen, Enid Blyton's best and most vivacious character ever. She stopped bullies in their tracks, scored countless goals for Whyteleafe, rescued a drowning child from a lake AND she did it all while having an amazing time, making friends and becoming the most famous girl in school.

4. George Kirrin - The Famous Five

By Enid Blyton

Say what you like about Enid Blyton, but the woman knew how to create some seriously inspiring children's characters. George (AKA Georgina) was self-sufficient, intelligent and endlessly brave, solving countless mysteries and challenging our opinions on gender identity. As she said, in practically every single book, she was every bit as good as a boy - which, in a time when girls were fussed over and seen as vulnerable, was no small thing. We especially loved that she owned her very own island. Something to aspire to, right?

5. Arya Stark - A Game Of Thrones

By George R. R. Martin

The A Song of Ice and Fire series might be for adults and, yes, it may feature extremely adult content, but the most inspiring character of all is a little girl. Arya Stark is another little girl who challenges gender rules, preferring to master a sword rather than a sewing needle - and vowing never to be married off to secure a kingdom. She's quick-witted and has proven herself able to handle any situation, proving to be one of George R Martin's most popular characters of all. We just hope he lets her live...

6. Mary Lennox - The Secret Garden

By Frances Hodgson Burnett

When we first meet Mary on the pages of The Secret Garden, she's disagreeable, unlike able and sour... but that's all down to loneliness and a fear of the outside world. Over time, we witness her transformation into a happy, friendly and, above all, determined little girl - who uses her common sense to rescue her cousin from his darkened sickroom and break into the secret garden. And you know what? The fact that we watch her evolve like this, the fact that we witness her transformation, makes it all the easier to feel inspired by her. Because if Mary Mary Quite Contrary can make a change for the better, so can we all.

7. Scout Finch - To Kill A Mockingbird

By Harper Lee

Just six years old, little Scout seems an odd narrator for To Kill A Mockingbird, a serious novel about racial discrimination - but the courageous young girl is more than up to the job. Physically strong - and extremely intelligent - Scout learns to question the world around her and the prejudices people hold, about women, about ethnic minorities and about anyone who they view as "different" to them. She helps to defend her father Atticus from a baying mob, questions her teacher when she makes vicious comments about African Americans and, come the end of it all, becomes someone her father (and the reader) are very proud to know. All rise for Scout Finch!

8. Jo March - Little Women

Most people have Jo pegged as Little Women's most inspiring character, and it's easy to see why. She's brave, she's bold, she refuses to now to the conventions of ladyhood. She cuts off all her hair, just to raise money for a train ticket and get her Marmee to her father's hospital bed. She refuses to marry Laurie, even though everyone expects her to say yes to such a good match - she sees him as a friend. She channels her creative spirit, packing up and heading to New York to pursue a career as a writer. And, yes, she writes a novel. Rebellious, outspoken and genuine, we love Jo for her flaws - and for teaching us that you don't have to grow up and do what everyone expects you to.

9. Alice - Alice In Wonderland

By Lewis Carroll

A lot of people assume that Lewis Carroll's tale of a girl falling down a rabbit hole is a load of drug-addled nonsense, but they couldn't be more wrong; Alice is one of the most inspiring children we have ever had the courtesy of meeting on paper. She isn't afraid to speak her mind, telling the Queen exactly what she thinks of her. She isn't afraid to go off exploring (something no 19th century girl would have done), diving straight after the White Rabbit when she disappears down the rabbit hole. And let's not even talk about her open-minded was and willingness to learn, adapt and grow. All hail Alice, we say.

10. Lyra – His Dark Materials

By Philip Pullman

Lyra is adventurous, talented and knowledgeable - not to mention rebellious. We love that she stands up for what's true and right. We love that she demands people respect knowledge. And we especially love that she obeys no one unless she thinks she has good reason to do so. Who better to stand up to the all-powerful Church, eh?

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