Imagine being a child and snuggling up close to one of your parents for a bedtime story. You’re thrilled by the fun illustrations and the playful prose you’re hearing. Then, all of a sudden, your mom or dad reads your name. Any child would be overjoyed and feel so special to find that their name also belonged to a character in a children’s book! Expecting parents, doesn’t that seem like a heartwarming prospect? Of course, it does. We decided to wax nostalgic and look back at some of the most beloved children’s book characters for baby name inspiration for your little girl.
Luckily, because children’s books are intrinsically amusing, there is no shortage of exciting names to pull from. We’re going to do our best to steer clear of names like Strega Nona, but we hope some of the names we recommend surprise and inspire you. Pulled right from the illustrated pages, here are 35 baby names for girls inspired by beloved children’s books.
The Story of Babar: The Little Elephant was first published in France in 1931. 100 years later and this children’s book is still fascinating children and charming their parents. Babar’s cousin, Celestine is one of the most memorable from the book. We like the shortened form of the name, Celeste which is French and means “heavenly.”
Illustrated and written by William Steig, Brave Irene was first published in 1986. In the story, Irene Bobbin our fearless heroine must track through a bitter snowstorm. Irene is a name with vintage-charm that has Greek origins and means “peace.”
Beverly Cleary‘s Romona series features one of the most beloved characters of all time the titular Romona. Romona is a name with Spanish origins that means “mighty” or “wise. The name fell out of fashion in the US in the 1960s, but since the 2010s, she’s been on the rise. Romana is now a top 1000 name for girls and we expect its popularity to continue to grow.
Willa of the Wood is a relatively new addition, but the fantasy novel has been a hit since it came out in 2018. Willa is such a hopeful adventurer and we’re in love with this character’s name. Willa has German origins and means “valiant protector.” Willa certainly is a valiant protector of those woods!
Maisy Mouse was dreamed up by illustrator Lucy Cousins and she’s created about a gagillion stories in the series. Maisy is such an adorable name! The origins of Maisy can be traced back to English, Scottish, and Greek traditions. The name means “child of light.”
Okay, we’re about to do a double feature here because these children’s books feature two very attractive and cute names. The Ivy and Bean series now has ten volumes. The character, Ivy is quiet and intellectual the polar opposite of her close friend and neighbor, Bean. The name Ivy is English in origin and means “faithful.”
If Ivy is subdued and studious, Bean is rambunctious and unkempt often instigating the adventures and mischief the pair end up in. Bean is a very cute name that actually has roots as an occupational name for a bean farmer. Bean is a lovely gender-neutral name that we’d love to see some weird parents run with.
For most little girls, especially those growing up in New York City, the Eloise series is a staple. Written by Kay Thompson in the 1950s, the character of Eloise was based on her childhood imaginary friend. The name Eloise has a sophisticated, yet playful sound to it. Eloise has French origins and means “faithful warrior.”
Another French name, Charlotte means “free man.” The name belonged to one very special spider who wanted to save her friend Wilbur from slaughter. Charlotte’s Web was published in 1952 and it’s still as beloved today as it was a half-century ago.
While we’re talking Charlotte’s Web we’d be remiss if we didn’t add the enchanting name Fern to the list. Fern was able to speak to the animals on the farm and became their ally. As you might imagine, Fern has English origin and means exactly what you think it does.
Pam Muñoz Ryan‘s Esperanza Rising is a historical fiction novel for young adults about the adversity Mexican farmworkers faced during the Great depression. Esperanza is such a hopeful and inspiring character who has a beautiful name. Esperanza has Spanish origins and means “hope.”
Readers didn’t know what to do with Lewis Carroll‘s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland when it was first published in 1865. Luckily, both adults and children just leaned into the madness and weirdness and over the years it’s become a classic. The name Alice has Old German origins and means “noble.” If you’d like to impart some whimsy and a touch of class on your daughter, consider this classic name.
Jane Cannon’s 1993 picture book, Stellaluna tells the story of a young fruit bat who is separated from her mother and taken in by a nest of birds. We love this story and the name Stella. The name has Latin origins and means “star.”
Published in 1880, Johanna Spyri’s Heidi is one of the best-selling books ever written and is considered the best-known work of Swiss literature. This gentle story about one of the most good-natured children ever written is timeless and so is the name. The name Heidi has Germanic origins and means “of noble birth.”
The Wizard of Oz holds a special place in the hearts of any child who’s ever read this fantasy novel. A touch scary but with plenty of heart and adventure, the original illustrations in it are delightfully odd. Our beloved hero, Dorothy has a fantastic name. The name has Greek origins and means “God’s gift.”
Madeline L. Engle‘s A Wrinkle in Time features one of the best children’s book characters ever, Meg Murry. She’s brave, inquisitive, and precocious. When your child is old enough to move on to this novel, they are going to be in love. Meg has English origins and means “pearl.”
Rita Williams-Garcia‘s One Crazy Summer won a ton of awards after its release in 2010 including the Coretta Scott King Award and the Newberry Medal. It tells the story of three sisters, Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern. Delphine is the oldest at 11 and narrates. The story is both moving and at times humorous making it beloved by young readers. Delphine is a beautiful name with Latin origins which means “woman from Delphi.”
Go ahead and name your daughter after Pippi Longstocking! The Swedish book series by cherished author Astrid Lindgren has been making children smile since the 1940s. While the name Pippi might be a little much for some parents, you can also consider the name Astrid if you feel inspired by the books. The name Pippi means “lover of horses.” If you’re leaning toward Astrid, the name has Norse origins and means “a fair god.”
For a youngster learning to read, you couldn’t choose a funnier book than Peggy Parish‘s Amelia Bedelia. Amelia, who just wants to please her employers, can’t seem to follow instructions very well and her constant errors due to literalism are very humorous. Amelia has German origins and means “work.”
Portia and her brother, Foster adventure around a bog that once was called Tarrigo Lake. The siblings are charmed with the stories and inhabitants of Gone-Away Lake. First published in 1957, this children’s novel captures the power of the imagination and childhood Summer exploring. Portia has Latin origins and means “doorway.”
Shirin Yim Bridges’ Ruby’s Wish is based on the author’s grandmother, who unlike other Chinese girls, dreamed of going to university instead of getting married. Ruby is a brave, headstrong character who works hard to earn her family’s praise. The name Ruby comes from Latin and means exactly what you think it does.
Every girl’s favorite Cinderella retelling, Ella Enchanted is a blast full of mythical creatures and fantasy. It’s fulfilling for children to read Ella overcome hardships and outsmart her foes. The name Ella can be found in Hebrew, Norman, and Greek traditions. The name means “beautiful” or “fairy maiden” or “goddess.”
Harriet the Spy was first published in 1964 and featured one tenacious and ambitious little girl who dreams of becoming a writer. She’s a truly extraordinary child who spies, plots, and even gets philosophical in her musings. The name Harriet is a form of Henry with GErman origins which means “home-ruler.”
Mary Lennox from Frances Hodgson Burnett‘s The Secret Garden is one of the most beloved characters and children’s novels of all time. Orphaned Mary, with the help of a robin, finds a key to a secret garden and tends to it. As the garden grows, so do her friendships and mental health. It’s a beautiful classic. The name Mary means “bitter” or “beloved.”
Betsy is a vintage diminutive form of Elizabeth, a name that means “pledged to God.” Dorothy Canfield Fisher‘s Understood Betsy inspired this magical name.
Elizabeth Enright‘s Thimble Summer tells the story of Garnet Linden in Depression-era Wisconsin. She finds a silver thimble in a dried-up riverbed near her family’s farm. The drought that has threatened her family’s livelihood is broken shortly after. Garnet is a jewel name from French that means “pomegranate.”
Meggie is a Welsh diminutive form of Margaret, a name that means “pearl.” Cornelia Funke‘s Inkheart features a main character named Meggie and is part of a young adult fantasy series. Meggie would be a great addition to the many Meg-names in the US today.
Noel Streatfeild‘s Ballet Shoes tells the story of three adopted sisters and is considered one of the greatest classics for kids. Pauline is the eldest of the sisters and has an independent streak. She’s also a talented actor. Pauline is the French diminutive form of Paula, meaning “small.”
We are revisiting Ballet Shoes once more for the name Petrova who is the middle of the sisters. She was adopted from Russia. Instead of more delicate pursuits, Petrova is interested in engineering. Petrova is a name of Greek origin, a form of Petra, meaning “stone.”
The youngest of the three adopted sisters in Ballet Shoes is Posy. She was adopted from a ballet dancer and is delivered to her adopted family with a pair of ballet shoes in her basket. She’s a child prodigy dancer. Posy is a name of English origin that means “a bunch of flowers.” It’s one of our favorite names on this list.
Ludwig Bemelmans‘ Madeline series has been charming children for generations. Madeline is the smallest of the girls in her Paris boarding school. The name Madeline is an English form of Magdalen, a name that means “from Magdala” or “high tower.”
Lucy is an English form of Lucia, a name of Latin origin that means “light.” Lucy is the youngest of the four Pevensie siblings in The Chronicles of Narnia series. She seems to believe in Narnia much more than her brothers and sisters.
In Katherine Paterson‘s Bridge to Terabithia, Leslie is the imaginative and inventive girl who concocts the imaginary kingdom of Terabithia. Although she meets a tragic end, she’s still the novel’s most lovable character. Leslie is a unisex Scottish name that means “garden of holly.”
Claudia Kinkaid is a star character in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. She convinces her brother, Jamie to run away to the Metropolitan Museum and there discover a mystery of the art world. Claudia is a name that originated in Latin and means “lame.”
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Meindert DeJong‘s The Wheel on the School is a compelling story for children to learn the power of asking “why?” Published in 1954, the story involves a group of school children who want to create space for storks to nest on the roofs of homes in their village. As they look for a wagon wheel for the birds to land on, they meet a number of colorful characters. The only girl at the school is named Lina. The origins of Lina can be traced to the Arabic term for “young palm tree” or as a pet form of names like Angelina, Melina, and Evangelina.
There you have it! 35 names for girls inspired by some of the most popular and beloved children’s books of all time. If you’d love for your child to find her name in a story she’ll grow up reading, consider these impressive names.
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