I just stumbled on this entry of mine from a couple of years ago, which is perhaps not 100% Girlyconnish--it's much more about me than about books, in the end--but might be of interest to people here. This is the looking-at-books bit:
sylvanus_urban pointed me at a very thoughtful review of A Little Princess which makes most of the points I would make, except for one. I left a comment there and decided to expand on it further.I'd love comments on any part of this: the concept of age-appropriate behavior, interactions between girls of different ages in literature, personal experiences, whatever.
One of the key relationships in the book is between Sara Crewe and a maidservant known simply as Becky. When they meet, Sara is 10 going on 11 and Becky is about 14. Sara is the child of wealth; Becky is one step up from the gutter. When Sara falls suddenly upon hard times, on her 11th birthday, she is sent to live in the garret next to Becky's and to share in her chores. Nonetheless, Becky continues to treat her as a member of the upper classes, a treatment that Sara graciously accepts and repays as well as she can (though it's clear that Sara always keeps the best for herself, giving Becky her leavings; and this is not seen as mean, but as right and proper). When Sara comes into money again, she hires Becky on as her maidservant. To drive the point home, Sara always speaks nobly and eloquently, while Becky is given a coarse accent in which to voice her few stammered words. It's also implied that Becky is not very bright, though possibly she's just never been taught; either way, one of the things Sara never passes on to her is education, despite Sara's vaunted love of books and learning.
One of the things that kept nagging me about their relationship is that Becky is older. I think because I live in quasi-egalitarian here-and-now, where increased age is supposed to bring increased privilege and wealth, the idea of 14-year-old Becky fawning at the feet of 11-year-old Sara somehow struck me as deeply weird and wrong.