Her Story: Ladies In Literature 2019 with Lindsay Eagar

Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a special, month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader in which we celebrate the literary female role models whose stories have inspired and empowered us since time immemorial. From Harriet M. Welsch to Anne Shirley, Becky Bloomwood to Hermione Granger, Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a series created for women, by women as twenty authors answer the question: “Who’s your heroine?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!


About Lindsay Eagar

Lindsay Eagar is the author of critically acclaimed books: Hour of the Bees, Race To The Bottom Of The Sea, and The Bigfoot Files, out now. A Utah native, she lives in Salt Lake Valley with her husband and two daughters.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramGoodreads




My name is Treva, and I have had trouble with trolls.

Looking back, all my favorite role models as a child could best be described in one word: clever.

I’d already figured out that beauty would fade, charm would eventually be worn off, and wealth was fleeting, if it came at all. But to be clever, especially against the odds of being little and female, could get you out of some sticky situations in life.

One of my favorites of these clever characters is Treva from Jan Brett’s phenomenal picture book, Trouble With Trolls.

Treva lives in an idyllic Norway-esque world, all snow-covered pine trees and snowflake-knitted sweaters. Her blond hair is worn in two braids, like mine often was, her nose is upturned, like mine still is, and she had the coziest-looking socks I’d ever seen. All she wants is to climb up Mount Baldy with her dog, Tuffi, so she can ski down the other side to her cousin’s house.

But her trip is disrupted by greedy trolls who want to steal her dog, and with each one that she encounters, Treva manages to outsmart them.

Jan Brett’s illustrations are detailed and transportative. Her attention to the wildlife in particular means that whenever I think of her books, I instantly think of hedgehogs nestled in Christmas trees, knobbly-faced trolls among the logs in the fireplace, soft, wispy grass and dandelions blowing atop a far-off mountain. Anytime you pick up one of her picture books, you know you are in for a cozy, well-told story with fantastic pictures.

The clever youngest son is a fairy tale motif that’s familiar — he’s usually the one who solves the riddle not through sheer brainpower, but the simple, folksy common sense that’s required to survive when you’re poor and plain. To reiterate that, this isn’t about intelligence — this is about wits. The world is a dangerous place — but Treva showed me that if you can solve the puzzle, you can wriggle free of just about anything.

In my childhood, which started in the late eighties and stretched into the nineties, there seemed to be a boom of other clever girls gracing the pages of picture books and chapter books alike.

There was Princess Elizabeth in Paper Bag Princess, who outwits the dragon and rids herself of a boorish would-be husband who only valued her for her looks.

There was Ida from Outside Over There, who rescues her baby sister from goblins by playing her horn until they dance themselves into a stream.

Of course, there was Matilda and Ramona and Pippi and Violet and a host of other clever girls who grew up with me and still decorate the shelves of my office.

And now my own daughters have even more clever girls to emulate — Shannon Hale’s and Leuyen Pham’s Princess in Black, Tracy Baptiste’s Corinne La Mer, Roshani Chokshi’s Aru Shah.

As an energetic, boisterous, but anxious child, I found the cyclical nature of Trouble With Trolls pleasing. All things lost come back again in the end. Treva distracts each troll that tries to kidnap her dog with an article of clothing — her mittens for the troll with the big ears, her sweater for the grandmotherly troll trying to lug a big pot. And in the end, she outsmarts those trolls and gets all her clothing back — but all along, Treva was perfectly willing to sacrifice her things in order to keep her dog safe.

A pair of boots? Her pom-pom hat? Nothing compared to her beloved Tuffi. And that’s the cleverest thing about Treva — her willingness to sacrifice.

Because in the end, I think cleverness is not really about being tricksy or finding loopholes or solving complicated mysteries in order to earn the prize. It’s not about brute mental strength, but about issuing the exact right move at the exact right time.

“Oh, the cleverness of me!” boasts Peter Pan, and then waves his knife at a pirate he’s already antagonized as he flies through the air. His cleverness serves no one but himself.

Contrast that with Gretel, perhaps, who instructs her brother to hold up a bone instead of his own finger to trick a witch, and then uses a single opportune moment to shove the witch into an oven. Cleverness to save her brother. Cleverness to free them both.

Cleverness, I think, is ultimately about reducing everything to this simplicity — what do I want? What am I willing to lose in order to get it? Cleverness, maybe, is often mixed up with stubbornness, single-mindedness, or determination. For Treva, her cleverness doesn’t manifest in the form of brilliant wordplay or banter or any of the things we’ve come to associate cleverness with in the 21st century. It’s not about flashy language or big tricks or moments of brilliance used to boast to the world.

It’s simple. Watch for an opportunity to triumph, and then take it. As a kid, I found it a comforting task.

As an adult, I still do.

No beauty, brains, or brawn necessary.


 

Title The Bigfoot Files
Author Lindsay Eagar
Pages 384 Pages
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Genre Contemporary, Light Fantasy
To Be Published October 9, 2018 by Candlewick
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

Twelve-year-old Miranda Cho used to love being the daughter of a cryptozoologist, tagging along on monster hunts and gasping over every footprint, every bit of evidence that Bigfoot, or the Loch Ness Monster, or the Frogman was hiding just around the corner. But that was before Miranda found the stack of unopened bills and the notice of foreclosure in the silverware drawer. Now her mom’s job doesn’t seem wonderful — it seems embarrassing and dangerously irresponsible. So Miranda agrees to go on one last creature hunt, determined to use all her scientific know-how to prove to her mother that Bigfoot doesn’t exist. Then her mom will have no choice but to grow up and get a real job, one that will pay the mortgage and allow Miranda to attend the leadership camp of her dreams. But when the trip goes horribly awry, will it be Miranda who is forced to question everything she believes?

From the author of Hour of the Bees comes another unforgettable story that deftly blurs the line between reality and magic — and will leave you wondering What if?

One response to “Her Story: Ladies In Literature 2019 with Lindsay Eagar”

  1. Hello this guest post is everything!!!! I love the idea that female characters in these stories use their cleverness to save everyone rather than just for themselves. Thank you so much Lindsay for the post and Jen for sharing!
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