When I decided to curate a list of books similar to Anne of Green Gables, I knew I wanted to go beyond the "plucky orphan" and "turn-of-the-century rural" tropes. As I've said previously, I want my "books for kids who like..." book list series to both help kids find titles that interest them and help them break out into new genres.
I've include both old-fashioned fun titles on this list as well as more contemporary stories with strong heroines finding their place in the world. I am certain all the books will be loved by kids who like Anne of Green Gables and other books by L.M. Montgomery. I also manage to include books that take place all around the world!
These books like Anne of Green Gables all make fantastic read aloud books, too. And take note of my first recommendation, it has become one of my all time favorite books to put in the hands of parents.
Oh! And lest I forget, this list may be dominated by heroines, but boys will love them, too. (Note: book covers and titles are affiliate links.)
When Mischief Came to Town by Katrina Nannestad. In early 20th century Denmark, an orphan girl meets her grandmother for the first time when she goes to live with her after the death of her mother. Inge Maria is a free spirit and even though trouble seems to follow her wherever she goes (hilarious trouble, to be sure) the townspeople and her grandmother can’t help but fall utterly in love with her. I thought Nannestad masterfully handled Inge Maria’s grief over her mother’s death, her joyous attitude towards new experiences, and her headstrong imagination. If you are a fan of Anne of Green Gables, you will love this book.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly. In 1899, Calpurnia loathes the expectations set for 12 year old girls; she'd much rather read Darwin's The Origin of Species and catch and study wildlife with her naturalist Granddaddy. I loved this tale of a girl coming of age at a time when natural science and engineering discoveries were changing the world. Be sure to pick up the sequel, The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate.
The Runaway Princess (series) by Kate Coombs. I thought it would be fun to put a fantasy on this book list. (Scroll down for another fantasy adventure recommendation.) Princess Margaret does not want to be married off. Her parents have set up a contest in which they will bestow her hand to the hero who defeats a dragon, witch and band of bandits. “Meg” will have nothing to do with this so she escapes her tower and sets off to warn the impending victims, who are actually harmless. Be sure to pick up the sequel, The Runaway Dragon.
Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell. Ever since her mother's death when Wilhelmina Silver was five, Wilhelmina has run free on her father's farm in Zimbabwe. When her father dies she is put under the guardianship of the kindly Captain Browne, but his new wife has no patience for Wilhelmina and her wild ways so Wilhelmina is sent off to a boarding school in England where she is the epitome of a fish out of water. She runs away from the school and attempts to live on her own. Will is a tough and resilient girl but even she needs friends. Her resourcefulness and moral courage eventually lead her back to the school where she learns how to bridge the gap between her wild side and the formality of England. I loved this story for its vivid sense of place—Zimbabwe and in Britain—and for the complex inner life of Will.
All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor is a classic series about a Jewish family with five girls growing up on the Lower East Side of New York City in the early 20th century. This book is on every “must read books” list you can imagine and the old-school adventures of the family are heart-warming and entertaining. Not to be missed by any child, Anne fan or no.
The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd. Emma and her brother and grandmother live at the family bakery, the Boneyard Cafe, and Emma gives tours of the local graveyard in her Tennessee town. Emma is part of a long line of women who have a "destiny dream," all of which are recorded in a special book. Emma is eagerly awaiting her own dream and hopes it will help her resist the greedy developer who wants to take over her family's livelihood. Lloyd is a talented author who brings a contemporary folktale-like flavor to her writing.
Our Only May Amelia. May Amelia and her family are Finnish-American settlers in 1899 Washington. May Amelia has seven older brothers and as the only girl in the area she is certainly outnumbered but holds her own and has little patience for acting in a ladylike manner. May Amelia's mama is about to have a baby and her fingers are crossed for another girl. The cast of characters, from May Amelia's sophisticated town aunt to her crotchety grandmother are intensely engaging and pioneer life is exposed in all its nitty-gritty glory.
The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis is the funny and poignant story of Deza Malone and her family as they struggle during the Great Depression. I listened to this on audiobook and it was quite wonderful. Deza is a likable, smart protagonist who observes the ironies, joys and hardships around her. Her scamp of a brother, Jimmie has a gorgeous singing voice and could become a star if he could just stay out of trouble. Her father survives a boating accident, not fully intact, and when he moves away to find employment the rest of the family must go in search of him. Curtis paints a vivid portrait of the 1930s filled with interesting characters.
Mischievous Meg by Astrid Lindgren. Fans of Anne Shirley will immediately recognize a kindred spirit in Meg, who occupies the middle ground between Anne and the author's most famous character, Pippi Longstocking. Meg is big-hearted but is always getting into mischief when a new idea strikes her fancy. When Meg parachutes off the roof, I could help but be reminded of Anne walking the ridgepole! Your kids will fall in love with the exuberant Meg and her little sister.
The Great Cake Mystery Precious Ramotswe's Very First Case by Alexander McCall Smith. Precious is the heroine of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency book series for grown-ups and in this book she solves her very first case in Botswana as a juvenile. When her friends’ lunchtime treats go missing Precious is on the job and when she discovers the surprising thief a nice chuckle is had by all. This charming, book full of old-fashioned detective fun is nice way of exposing young readers to other cultures and includes a reading guide, glossary, activity ideas and even a recipe!
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin. This is possibly my favorite chapter book ever and I consider it a modern classic. Minli's family lives in poverty and Minli sets out on a quest to find the Old Man of the Moon and change her family's destiny. Along the way she is accompanied by the Jade Dragon and her journey is filled with twist and turns of fate. Lin deftly weaves together Minli's quest, her father's stories and wonderful illustrations to create a memorable tale. Don't forget the companion book, Starry River of the Sky and When the Sea Turned to Silver.
The Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Uma Krishnaswami. I actually checked out and read the sequel, The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic first. However, it seems better to put the first book on a reading list! Dini loves Bollywood movies but when her mother announces they are going to live in India, she is disappointed they will be living in a small village instead of Bombay. Dini is sure that now she will never meet her idol and Bollywood star, Dolly Singh. In an extraordinarily fun, convoluted and charming series of events Dini gets her wish. Krishnaswami has many picture books you will want to look for, too.
Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards. Like Anne Shirley, Mandy is an orphan looking for a place to call home. Outside the walls of the orphanage she finds an empty cottage which she lovingly turns into her own. Channeling Anne of Green Gables, part The Secret Garden, fans of both classic books will enjoy finding a kindred spirit between the pages of Mandy.
The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond. Violet's father was killed in a car crash before she was born and she sometimes feels like an outsider with her blond-haired mom and sister, despite their close, loving relationship. Violet decides she wants to meet her African-American grandmother, a well-known artist. She goes for a visit to Los Angeles to stay with her "new" relative and meets cousins and aunts who thoroughly welcome her into the family.
A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park. Okay, so this does not have a strong heroine, but the book was nagging at my mind as a book that needed to be on this list of books like Anne of Green Gables. I like to recommend this book as a read aloud because let's be honest... not too many children are going to get excited when you hand them a book and say, "Here's a great book about making pottery in 12th century Korea." But great, it is. Tree-Ear, an orphan, lives under the bridge with the disabled Crane-man. The two survive from day to day but Tree-Ear is fascinated by the local revered potter, Min. Circumstances collide and Tree-Ear becomes Min's apprentice. Tree-Ear must learn patience, an appreciation for hard work, as well as suffer Min's bad temper. When Min sets about creating pottery to impress an emissary, Tree-Ear is determined to help him succeed and undergoes an important, life-changing journey. An utterly fantastic book.
Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard by Jonathan Auxier. This is the follow up book to the very popular Peter Nimble and the Fantastic Eyes, and I may have enjoyed it a bit more but then I am partial to a strong heroine. Sophie is a 12-year-old bookmender faced with a government bent on rampant censorship. A mysterious book suggests that Sophie has an important role to play and when Peter and his very odd cat show up she tumbles into a riotous adventure that will keep your kids turning pages well into the wee hours of the night.
Understood Betsy. Eleanor Roosevelt named author Dorothy Canfield Fisher as one of America's ten most influential women. Educators will recognize her as the woman who introduced the Montessori method to American classrooms. That philosophy is recognizable in Understood Betsy. Until she goes to live on a rural homestead with her cousins, nine year old Elizabeth has "never found out a single thing for herself alone." In the country, she takes joy and pride in learning and becomes a very capable and happy Betsy.
Thimble Summer. Elizabeth Enright's book is a wonderful choice if you are looking for chapter books about strong independent girls. Nine year old Garnet's family farm has been suffering from lack of rain but when she finds a silver thimble and the rains come, Garnet's wonderful summer begins. Enright's writing is superb and the descriptions of Garnet's everyday farm life are enchanting.
Don't forget about L.M. Montgomery's other books:
More lists with books for kids who like Anne of Green Gables:
- Chapter Books for Kids with Old Fashioned Flair
- Gentle Chapter Book Read Alouds
- Books like Little House on the Prairie
- Classic Children's books from the 1900s
- Classic Books for Tweens
- Strong Princess Chapter Books
- 51 Must-Read Chapter Books for Kids