As much as I love current YA fiction, growing up in the 80's I read a lot more 'classic' children's tales than contemporary authors. The below five were my very favourite Girls Own authors - let me know if you've ever read any, and what you thought!
Note: I would ALWAYS recommend starting from the first book in each series but have provided my favourite for each one just out of interest.
See my accompanying Boys Own post here.
5. Trebizon by Anne Digby
These are by far the most modern books in the list, being published between 1978 and 1994. They follow Rebecca Mason from her time as a new girl at Cornish boarding school Trebizon until the Fifth Form, with various sporting successes, mysteries, and romance along the way. They're fairly short, quick reads, with wonderful descriptions of hockey and tennis matches in particular and interesting characters.
First book: First Term at Trebizon
Favourite book: The Tennis Term at Trebizon - It's a really hard call as I love all of them, but it's the final term for the older girl Rebecca admires, Pippa Fellowes Walker, who's one of my favourite characters so this gets the nod.
4. Sadler's Wells by Lorna Hill
I've only ever tracked down the first 10 of these 14 but have reread them time and time again. Unusually for a children's series the main characters change frequently - books 1 and 2 follow Veronica as she moves to Northumberland after her father's death to live with her cousins, and tries to find her way to Sadler's Wells ballet school. While Veronica comes into many of the other books, they focus on various others, including her cousin Caroline and her daughter. Gorgeous descriptions of the countryside and well-rounded characters make this a brilliant series.
First book: A Dream Of Sadler's Wells
Favourite book: No Castanets at the Wells - Caroline is perhaps my favourite character and the story of how she ends up at the Wells but struggles to fit in is beautifully told.
3. Chalet School by Elinor M Brent-Dyer
Many years ago, this would have been my absolute favourite series, but a tiny bit of the magic has worn off ever so slightly. The first books which see Madge Bettany move to the Austrian Tyrol to set up a school with sister Joey as her first pupil are absolutely fantastic, but some of the later ones with Joey grown up and as a mother of many children seem to have knocked the more interesting parts out of her character, while a few plots tend to be too similar to earlier books for my taste. In fairness to EBD, the length of the series (roughly 60 books, depending which editions you're reading as a few were split up after being published) probably made this inevitable.
First book: The School at the Chalet
Favourite book: The Chalet School in Exile. Simply breathtaking. Exciting, thrilling, romantic, and fun, this is a phenomenal tale of the school's move from Austria to the Channel Islands as war brews on the continent. Featuring some brilliant characters, including a conflicted Nazi schoolgirl, this really does stand out as one of my favourite ever school stories.
2. Abbey Girls by Elsie J Oxenham
The Abbey Girls series is dated, features some incredible snobbery, and some of the attitudes on display from 'nice' characters can be staggering. None of those things matter too much because in a series spanning 38 titles (plus various tie-ins) Oxenham consistently creates wonderful plots, fantastic characters and beautiful friendships. I also love folk dancing, which is a major part in some books and features at least slightly in pretty much all of them. Warning: Possibly the most confusing reading order ever seen outside of the world of comic books.
First book: Girls of the Hamlet Club
Favourite book: The Abbey Girls Again - The debut of bored London secretary Mary-Dorothy, who goes on to be a fairly major character, and her spoilt little sister Biddy (who reappears at times but was woefully underused in my opinion.) Wonderful character development as established character Jenny Wren takes the pair under her wing.
1. Drina by Jean Estoril
I love the other four series mentioned but this is the one which I can go back to time and time again, picking up any book at random and enjoying it just as much as the first time around. The characters are amazing and very realistic, especially orphan Drina - who over the course of 11 books goes from first learning to dance despite her grandmother's opposition to the idea to rising through the Dominick ballet school, her childhood friend Jenny - whose life follows a very different course, and her grandparents.
First book: Ballet For Drina
Favourite book: Drina Ballerina - Almost impossible to split all 11, but this wraps up the series so beautifully that I'll go with it.
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