I've made it a point to include just one book from each author. Then, if you like it, you know where to look for more gems.
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, by Avi. Charlotte Doyle goes aboard ship, and participates in a mutiny.
Tree Girl, by T.A. Barron. Fantasy. A girl lives at the edge of the sea with an old man, who warns her of the ghouls in the forest. Of course she ends up exploring...
The Midwife’s Apprentice, by Karen Cushman. A girl has slept in the dung heap to keep warm, and the midwife brings her home to do errands. Though she has no name and believes herself stupid, her caring and help bring her friends and wisdom. (I think I've loved everything by Karen Cushman. I also loved Catherine Called Birdy.)
A Girl Named Disaster, by Nancy Farmer. 12 year-old Nhamo runs away in a stolen boat to avoid being forced to marry. The river she is on empties into a huge lake, where she overcomes huge challenges to survive.
Shadow Spinner, by Susan Fletcher. A re-telling of Sheherazade.
Wise Child, by Monica Furlong. Set in Scotland in the middle ages, Wise Child is taken in by Juniper, who teaches her to read, to work with healing herbs, and even a bit of magic.
Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George. Julie must leave her village in Alaska, and figures out how to live with the wolves. [I first heard this story read in a 6th grade classroom, when I was doing observations before my student teaching. I was distressed that teachers felt it was ok to read books in which girls are sexually molested, but none in which there is consensual sex. Julie's parents are gone, and the family she's living with has her marry their mentally limited son. He's teased into demanding sex. She runs away to avoid it.]
An amazing story of a girl raised by dolphins, and then (sadly for her) found. I cried so hard.
Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine. Ella is strong, her curse (to be obedient) is dangerous, her adventures are many. Marvelous re-spinning of Cinderella.
Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter, by Astrid Lindgren. By the author of the classic Pippi Longstocking. I like this one much better. The robbers live in mountain strongholds. Ronia befriends a boy from the rival robber band.
The Ruby in the Smoke, by Philip Pullman. It’s 1872, Sally Lockhart is 16, an orphan, and caught up in the mystery of her father’s death. (Yes, this is the author of The Golden Compass. And I think the 4 Sally Lockhart books are better than the books in the His Dark Materials series.)
Homecoming, by Cynthia Voigt. Dicey is about 12 when her mother walks into a mall and never comes back, leaving the 4 kids in the car. Dicey leads the others across Connecticut, and then further, looking for a home.