Stories About Girls, Part 5

Reading Time: 18 minutes

Welcome to Part 5 of Stories About Girls!

Boys Read PinkBoys Read Pink

Image: Ms. Yingling, used with permission.

Today I just read a wonderful blog post from Ms. Yingling Reads entitled “Boys Read Pink.” Ms. Yingling is a middle school librarian, and last year she had a “Super Secret Evil Plan” to check out aggressively girly books to boys. This year she told her 6th-graders that February would be “Boys Read Pink” month—and when she didn’t start it right away, the boys asked her about it! It’s a great story that illustrates that boys will read books about girls, despite what marketers seem to believe. So whether you’ve got daughters or sons, I hope you’ll find some books on this list that your kids will enjoy.

On this list I have several Newbery winners and honorees. In this list I’ve included a wealth of middle-grade books, and several of these deal with some difficult topics like divorce, death and serious illness. Some of the stories involve missing parents, irresponsible parents and one in particular has downright reprehensible parents. I’ve included old books and new books so there’s a lot of variety to choose from.

While there are oodles of books I haven’t put on my lists yet (including many I’ve already read), this may be a good place to pause briefly so I can read more books I have on my own list. So I’ll leave you with this, dear readers: what books do you think I should have on my lists? Contact me via Twitter or email and send in your suggestions! If I haven’t read them myself, I’ll get in touch with you for a short blurb about the book and why you think it’s perfect for this list. Look for a compilation of reader recommendations soon!

And in case you missed them, here are links to the other lists:

Lucia and the Light by Phyllis RootLucia and the Light by Phyllis Root

Lucia and the Light by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Mary GrandPré

I told my older daughter that I’d been making lists of stories about girls, and she insisted I include this one on the list—it’s a picture book (though with quite a bit of text) about a little girl in the Far North, inspired by Nordic legends. One day in the winter, the sun doesn’t rise. And when the family waits and waits but it never rises, Lucia sets out to find the sun with only a bit of bread, a tinderbox and a milk-white cat. There are trolls involved, of course, and Lucia must be both brave and resourceful to bring back the sun. The writing is magical but what really brings the book to life are the pastels by Mary GrandPré, probably best known now for her illustrations for the Harry Potter series in the U.S. Lucia and the Light is a warm story for a cold night.

Target age: 5 and up

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'BrienMrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien

Whether or not you’ve seen the old animated movie “The Secret of NIMH,” you really ought to read the book that inspired it. There’s a reason it won the Newbery Medal and it’s still just as good forty years later, though who knows what hyper-intelligent rats would be able to do with today’s technology. It’s also the sort of book that makes for a fun animal adventure for kids, but has depths of meaning that only older readers will appreciate. Though it’s not, strictly speaking, about a girl, I have it on this list because the central character is a female mouse who is a caring mother facing seemingly insurmountable odds. She takes some big risks but always has her children’s safety in the forefront of her mind, and she shows that sometimes a little gumption and persistence can be a pretty good match for genetics and natural abilities. Read my full review here.

Target age: middle grades

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace LinWhere the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Grace Lin has written some excellent kids’ books (many of which could go on this list) but Where the Mountain Meets the Moon may be my favorite so far. It won a Newbery Honor in 2010, and is a mash-up of many different Chinese folktales, folded into a larger tale about a little girl named Minli who is off on a journey in the hopes of changing her family’s fortunes. It’s a great way to learn about some old Chinese stories and it’s a nice commentary on the power of stories and dreams. Read my full review here.

Target age: middle grades

Amelia Rules! by Jimmy GownleyAmelia Rules! by Jimmy Gownley

Amelia Rules! series by Jimmy Gownley

Amelia Rules! has been around for a while—nearly a decade, I think, but it’s not one that was really on my radar until more recently. Featuring fifth-grader Amelia McBride and her classmates, the series is funny and imaginative but also deals with some more serious subject matter: Amelia’s parents are divorced, and her aunt Tanner was a famous rock star who hung up her guitar at the height of her career. Amelia and her friends can be a bit snarky, but overall it’s a great comic book about a pretty realistic little girl. Click through for my full review.

Target age: 7-12

A Wrinkle in Time series by Madeleine L'EngleA Wrinkle in Time series by Madeleine L'Engle

A Wrinkle in Time series by Madeleine L’Engle

This is a classic series by Madeleine L’Engle (and another Newbery heavyweight). It’s hard to describe if you’re not familiar with it, but it’s a strange mix of science fiction and fantasy, a realistic coming-of-age story with a healthy dose of unreality. My wife used the phrase “at the intersection of Judy Blume and Ray Bradbury” to describe L’Engle (as well as When You Reach Me, which was certainly inspired by this series) and I think it’s a good fit. Meg Murry, along with her friend Calvin and younger brother Charles Wallace, go on a journey through space to rescue her physicist father who had been experimenting with tesseracts and time travel when he disappeared.

The books are filled with mysterious beings, disturbing villains and the unlikely heroine Meg, who is good at math but otherwise feels plain, untalented and awkward. One thing I appreciate about these books is the way that L’Engle incorporates her own faith into her characters’ stories—it feels like a natural part of the characters and their lives rather than a heavy-handed, preachy intrusion; these are characters who happen to be Christians and it therefore has a bearing on their actions and conversations, but the story wasn’t just a clumsy repackaging of a sermon.

I haven’t read the series as many times as my wife—it’s one of her all-time favorites—but I do remember reading all of them in junior high and then re-reading them as an adult, and they’re definitely worth adding to your list if you’ve never read them. For a really fun and silly take on the first book, check out the 90-Second video version (though it probably won’t make much sense unless you know the story already).

Target age: middle grades

The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron (illustrated by Matt Phelan)The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron (illustrated by Matt Phelan)

The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron (illustrated by Matt Phelan)

10-year-old Lucky Trimble lives in a tiny desert town in California that makes my own town of 800 look like a metropolis in comparison. She’s considering running away—her guardian, Brigitte, seems to be making plans to return to France and Lucky doesn’t know what to do. The Higher Power of Lucky is a deeply moving book that tackles some weighty subjects in a kid-friendly way—though there has been some controversy over it as well. It won the Newbery Medal in 2006 and is definitely worth a read. Click here for my full review.

Target age: middle grades

Anne of Green Gables series by L. M. MontgomeryAnne of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery

This is the other little orphan Annie. When sister and brother Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert decide to adopt a boy to help them around the farm, they get sent a scrawny red-headed girl instead. Anne is full of imagination and is a hopeless romantic, and although the first book in the series was published over a century ago, Anne is a kindred spirit to any creative child who loves stories and make-believe. It’s hard to pick an exact target age for it—probably middle grades for those reading it on their own, but it could be read to much younger children and older readers may also enjoy it quite a lot.

When I got married, we went to Prince Edward Island for our honeymoon. Why? Because my wife had read the Anne of Green Gables series and had always wanted to visit its setting. It’s the sort of series that inspires that deep level of immersion into its world, because Anne is the sort of girl who really gets into her imaginings. And though Montgomery was writing in a much earlier era, I think she gets an accurate portrayal of what it’s like to “geek out” about something (even if she doesn’t use that exact phrase herself).

My wife is now reading through the series with our second-grader and they’re both really enjoying the experience.

Target age: middle grades and up

The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam RexThe True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex

The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex

When the Boov took over the Earth and forced all the Americans to relocate to Florida, one little girl named Gratuity Tucci didn’t trust the rocketpods they sent and decided to drive to Florida herself. Along the way there’s an alien named J. Lo, a cat named Pig and the deep, dark secret of the Happy Mouse Kingdom. It’s a science-fiction romp with a lot of unexpected twists and turns. Trust me—it’s a blast. Here’s my full review.

Target age: middle grades

The Memory Bank by Carolyn Coman & Rob SheppersonThe Memory Bank by Carolyn Coman & Rob Shepperson

The Memory Bank by Carolyn Coman & Rob Shepperson

When I first started reading The Memory Bank I was horrified by the way it starts: oblivious parents abandoning a little girl by the side of the road and telling the older sister to “forget her.” It’s not a funny matter, and it’s not written to be funny. Of course, Hope, the older sister, can’t simply forget her little sister, and spends the rest of the book dreaming about Honey and searching for her, hoping to be reunited. The story is told in a fascinating combination of text and sections of wordless illustrations, and the result is something truly magical. Read my full review here.

Target age: middle grades

An Elegy for Amelia Johnson by Andrew Rostan & Dave Valeza & Kate KasenowAn Elegy for Amelia Johnson by Andrew Rostan & Dave Valeza & Kate Kasenow

An Elegy for Amelia Johnson by Andrew Rostan & Dave Valeza & Kate Kasenow

Amelia Johnson is dying of cancer. She asks her two best friends to deliver her last words to six friends and family members—but she may have something more in mind as well. This is a graphic novel for teens and up that touches on various serious subjects: death, romance, faith, abortion, family. The book isn’t available until the end of March but is available for pre-order. Click for my full review.

Target age: Teens and up

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