PRINCESS CIMORENE, THE ENCHANTED FOREST CHRONICLES, PATRICIA C. WREDE
Here’s the deal: Princess Cimorene hates embroidering, hair-curling, and learning the proper way to set a table — not to mention the proper times to scream when being abducted by a giant. So she runs off to become a dragon’s princess, where she fits in just fine, organizing the library, practicing her Latin, making cherries jubilee, learning spells, and refusing every misinformed prince who tries to “rescue” her. She is the toughest, coolest princess who has ever been committed to print, and I love her.
COSIMO PIOVASCO DI RONDO, THE BARON IN THE TREES, ITALO CALVINO
The protagonist of the novel. He is the son of the noble Generalessa and Baron Arminio Piovasco di Rondò and lives in the fictional Italian village of Ombrosa. When the reader meets Cosimo, he’s a stubborn and independent 12-year-old who enjoys tormenting his tutor, the Abbé Fauchelafleur, and causing general mischief with his little brother, Biagio. However, after a battle of wills in which Cosimo refuses to eat the snails that his sister, Battista, has made for lunch, Cosimo climbs into one of the family’s oak trees and declares that he’s never coming down. In his first year of living in the trees, Cosimo dedicates himself to discovering his new home and meeting his neighbors. These include the neighbor girl, Viola—with whom Cosimo falls immediately in love—the fruit thieves, and the peasant farmers. He soon learns to hunt, and his love of inventing means that Cosimo rigs up all sorts of things to help him live comfortably without ever having to set foot on the ground. Though Cosimo lives in the trees, he never truly leaves humanity, and instead sticks close to Ombrosa and his family. As an older teen, Cosimo travels to Olivabassa to live with exiled Spanish nobles who also live in the trees, where he falls in love for the first time with a young woman named Ursula. Here, he begins to exercise his love of Enlightenment philosophers and tries to put their ideas into practice by helping the nobles craft letters to their king. Throughout his life, Cosimo organizes a number of societies and groups with the goal of bringing people together around a common purpose. He protects the trees, protects sheep from wolves, and is possibly one of the founders of the local Masonic lodge. Cosimo’s goal, according to Biagio, is to create a perfect society using the teachings of some of his favorite Enlightenment philosophers, whom he studies throughout his life. His dedication to his studies, however, mean that he’s unprepared for the romance he develops with Viola when she returns after more than a decade. Though their love is passionate, it’s also emotionally taxing for both of them and ultimately dissolves. Cosimo experiences periods of madness in his old age, but remains a respected figure in Ombrosa. He dies after dropping himself into the ocean from a hot air balloon.