At a certain age, boys seem to outgrow the fairy realm and girls still love them. Also these books have girl protagonists.
Theme: Historical Fiction Coming of Age
Best for: 12 – 14
“I have escaped! I have achieved the first stage of my emancipation! In a little while I will go on to Baltimore–and from thence I will begin my new life.” This beautifully written historical fiction children’s book is quite hard to put down.
Theme: Historical Fiction
Best for: 9 – 12
“The title ‘Joint Reign’ is a foolishment and emphasizes what I have always contended: that men are more fortunate than women. Joint reign! It is I who inspects, examines, weighs and wrings her brain …” Coming on the heels of an historic election, it is interesting to go back in history and understand more about the obstacles women faced hundreds of years ago.
Theme: Coming of Age Fairytale
Best for: 9 to 12 girls
“The first time I tried my hand at magic, I grew roses out of my nose. This was not my intention… Magic is unpredictable, finicky, and dangerous, especially in the wrong hands.” This children’s book is best thought of as a modern-day Grimm’s fairytale. It has all the elements of Grimm stories, including the grim part…
Best for: Girls 9 – 12
“Leila breathed in the heavy scent of masala, nicked with the sharp undercurrent of gobi and war my oily parathas. She knew most of the dishes on her plate, and was determined to try everything…” The best part of this children’s book is the ending, where the resolution unfolds so skillfully, that only then did I realize the mystery … .
Theme: Light Mysteries
Best for: 8 to 10
“I did not write a long letter to Aunt Veronica. All I did was introduce myself and tell her that the only reason why I had not written before was that my father had never told me of her existence.” The earliest writing of Alexander McCall Smith, this series of mystery books for children is easy to read, silly, and good entertainment.
Theme: Raising Chickens
Best for: 9 and up
“Mom says she has no intention of ever being a farmer, even though she knows how to drive a tractor and prune grapes.. But if I’m going to live on a farm, I guess I might as well be a farmer…”This is a totally lovable book, and a very likable heroine, who is trying her best to learn all about chickens, one chicken at a time.
Best for: Girls 9 and up
“This semester you will be taking a very difficult course… You will be learning all about How to Find Your Way…You will be graded on the following: pluck, enthusiasm, spirit of adventure, brilliance, and self-reliance.” The moment I saw the motto of “The Great Rapscott School for Girls of Busy Parents” I knew I’d love this children’s book. Quoting Amelia Earhart, “Adventure is worthwhile in itself,”…
Theme: Coming of Age
Best for: 12 and up
‘Tiffany had never been able to find out much about the librarians. They were a bit like the wandering priests and teachers who went even into the smallest, loneliest villages…It was said they could tell what book you needed just by looking at you…” The mastery of this children’s book is the way everything is woven artfully into one exquisite whole, even while each part, each character, stands out clearly…
Theme: Parental Love
Best for: 8 and up
“An ache spread through Lexie, blurring her thoughts and stabbing her heart. All she really knew was how desperately she missed Mama. Grandma blamed Mama for everything. It wasn’t fair.”
What makes good parenting? Is love enough, or is something else needed? We address this head on…
Theme: Overcoming Hardships
Best for: 5th grade
“We are going to Colorado! Pa told us. He just came home from his first trip to Colorado Territory and announced that he and Ma and I were moving west to strike it rich.'” Set in 1858, this delightful historical fiction is an easy and informative read, based on a real incident in Colorado history…
Best for: girls 9 to 12
“Today Bamarre needed a hero more than ever… I was no hero. The dearest wishes of my heart were for safety and tranquility. The world was a perilous place, wrong for the likes of me.” Ogres, dragons, fairies, specters, gryphons, and sorcerers fill the pages of this adventure, dedicated to sisterly love.
Best for: 9 and up
“My name is Zita, and I am the thirteenth of thirteen princesses. My twelve sisters have become the subject of legend, even in faraway kingdoms, but I am sure that you have never heard of me.” Thus begins a wonderfully written children’s book, with an entrancing retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, one of the Grimm fairytales…
Theme: African-American History
Best for: ages 8-11
Sarah looked at Addy. “You is coming to school, ain’t you?” “Momma say I can go,” Addy answered. “That’s good,” said Sarah. “We learn to read and write…You gonna like school. You’ll see.” Written in dialect, an African-American girl’s journey from slavery to freedom unfolds in this series of historical fiction children’s books.
Theme: Growing up
Best for: Girls 8 to 10
“As she handed me back my most worn-out underwear, I realized she wasn’t going to be at camp with me at all. Not even to help me put my things away…Or tuck me in, under my thin sleeping bag.” In this children’s book, we go away with Eleanor to summer camp, which starts out dreadful, and ends up wonderful. It’s a great book for any young girl going off to sleep-away camp for the first time
Theme: Best Friend Dramas
Best for: 10 to 11 girls
“Then she said, “I don’t want you to be mad at me! You’re as important to me as paper is to pencil!” “You hurt my feelings,” I said. My voice was quivery, too. We both sat there, very miserable….” With the same simplicity, humor, and sensitivity that Sternberg’s other books have, this children’s book takes on the ‘bff’ problem of young girls head-on…
Theme: Historical Fiction
Best for: 10 and up
“Any outrage as big as hiring a librarian was bound to bring everybody out of the woodwork. The hitching rail was chock-a-block with horses and wagons, and there was a farmer’s tin Lizzie…a Ford Model T.” Humor, eccentric characters, and a love of old cars flows through this historical fiction children’s book. The story unfolds creatively and unpredictably…
Best for: 9 and up
“Twelve! And I haven’t had a single real adventure. How will I ever get to be a famous knight?… I’m going to die of boredom, you wait and see! Maybe not overnight, but definitely before my next birthday!” I love this children’s book. It has all the elements of fun, especially if you are a fan of books about knights. There’s humor, adventure, magic, and wonderful heroes and heroines…
Best for: ages 11 and up
“Mattie felt a sudden dizziness. Just for a second or two, it was almost as if she herself were tumbling through the air. And once again the boundaries that separated human beings from birds seemed to dissolve.” A wonderful creative look at the early life of Robin Hood and Maid Marian, with lots of equality for women thrown in…
Theme: Coming of age FairyTale
Best for: Girls 12 and up
“So her days and nights passed and rolled into weeks and months, and she lived in the enchanted palace with the bear. Each afternoon she would turn from whatever she was doing to see the bear standing, watching her…” With beautiful descriptive language of the landscape and the characters, this retelling of the classic fairy tale has a surprising ending…
Theme: Queen of England
Best for: 12 to 14
“So my sister was now queen. And because she had triumphed, I was next! This was the moment, standing in the knot garden, when I realized that someday I, too, would become queen of England…” In this historical fiction children’s book, we get a very good look at the way power can corrupt even the best of people…
Best for: ages 11 and up, especially girls
“Granddaddy and I sat motionless for a good five minutes and then quietly collected our things and moved on. On the way back, he spotted the rarest and most delicate object in the wild, an old hummingbird’s nest, fragile and expertly woven, smaller than an eggcup.” Imagine a children’s book which mixes together life in a rural southern town in 1899, a big dose of Charles Darwin, the natural world, and the coming of age of a young girl. If you think this is an implausible mixture for a children’s book…
Theme: Courage, Racial Discrimination
Best for: 11 and older
“Would Mama like the colors I picked? Would she be mad about me taking them pieces from her apron? I turned the quilt in the air, looking at it this way and that. Soon I would be running out of thread.Wasn’t but a few inches hanging down like the tail of a kite.” Gee’s Bend is indeed a real place. The women of Gee’s bend have a tradition of creating quilts that dates back to early American history. In recent years, their quilts were discovered…
Theme: Healing Power of Nature
Best for: all ages
“Soon all the lively goats came leaping up the mountain, the nimble Distelfinck bounding ahead of the others. Heide was at once in the midst of the flock, which pushed her hither and thither with loud, stormy greetings.” It has been far too long since I re-read the classic children’s book, Heidi, and once I picked it up, it was impossible to put it down…
Theme: Inner Power and Mystery
Best for: 12 -14
“There are those who, unmistakably, have a powerful talent, able to access the sensory energy of the world around them.They can even learn to work with it, harness it, utilize it to make change. Your sister is showing clear signs that she has these talents.” A blend of inner power, African-American life in Chicago, and the thrill of solving mysteries makes this a very unusual book.
Theme: 13th Century Life
Best for: girls 12 and older
“I am commanded to write an account of my days: I am bit by fleas and plagued by family. That is all there is to say.” It’s not often that I read a somewhat serious children’s book that makes me laugh out loud. This book certainly does that, due to the main character, a sharp, funny, sarcastic, and somewhat willful 13th century teenager.
Best for: 4 and over
“Dolls are not like us; we are alive as soon as we are born, but dolls are not really alive until they are played with. ‘I want to be played with,’ said Holly… ‘I wish! I wish!'” It is utterly entrancing in each story to be inside the heart and mind of a doll, or the little girl or boy who is taking care of the doll. Each story is unique, each doll is different, and yet …
Theme: Recovering from Loss
Best for: girls 11 and up
“She’s white as a snowball but she’s warm, not frozen. She’s squishy and soft and sweet as a marshmallow. But she’s delicate as an orchid graceful as a ballerina miraculous as an angel. I can’t believe my luck.” I found this book mesmerizing. I loved the very real descriptions of the effect of the kitten on the young girl, and how she continued to work on opening her dad’s heart, who is grieving…
Theme: Grieving and Healing
Best for: ages 9 and up
“The knuckleball wasn’t just a pitch. It was an attitude toward life; it was a way of being in the world. It was a philosophy. “You don’t aim a butterfly,” her father used to say. “You release it.” This is a book anyone could love. Boys who love baseball could surely appreciate it. Girls who want to try something out of the ordinary could love it. I certainly loved it…
Theme: Following Your Dream
Best for: Girls 9-12
“They had walked up a drive with a notice: QUEEN’S CHASE. HER MAJESTY’S BALLET JUNIOR SCHOOL, and stood gazing at the big cream-stuccoed and porticoed house with pavilions on either side…” The classic British author, Rumer Godden, probably had one very specific audience for this little children’s book: young girls who love the ballet. However, times have changed…why wouldn’t a boy who loves dance enjoy this equally well?
Theme: Loyalty and Overcoming Anger
Best for: 10 and older
“Like a larger embrace, her comrades encircled her. Far more than the strands of the ring bound them all together. And it was this thought that made Rowan’s heart feel warm and full.” This particular book was interesting in that Rowan loses touch with her magical powers for most of the book, as she seeks vengeance. Without saying it directly, young readers are allowed to explore the price one pays for carrying hatred in their hearts…