At a certain age, boys seem to outgrow the fairy realm and girls still love them. Also these books have girl protagonists.
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…
Best for: ages 8 and up
“Burd Janet threw the green mantle around him to shade him from fairy sight. Then she .. took out the earth from her garden. She spread it around the two of them in a great circle of protection against the Fair Folk.” This book is a collection of folk tales where the hero is female. However, this book is for boys as well, since they too need to know that women can be heroes.
Theme: Women’s Strength
Best for: Girls, age 11 and up
“Her band might somehow help folk to help themselves, Rowan thought, rather than just giving them gold stolen from rich men’s packs, gold soon spent. But she could not say that, for she loved everything about Robin Hood.” The book has a wonderfully clever premise — that Robin Hood actually fathered a daughter by an aelfen woman… If you love tales of Robin Hood, this is a perfect complement, bringing in the feminine…
Best for: girls 9 and older
“There was a soft chorus of ayes, and the three other Marys dropped to their knees and vowed as well to follow me through tumult and repose and never to marry until I have so done. Did any person have a luckier charm than these four steadfast friends?” This is one of many in a series called The Royal Diaries. What an absolutely fabulous way to learn history. Reading a diary is always fun, and even more so when it chronicles history…
Theme: Community, Honoring the Past
Best for: 11 and older
“Death is like an explosion,” Miss Sadie said, her accent thick, like the humid air that hovered heavy around me. “It makes people take notice of things they might have overlooked.” This is a serious historical fiction children’s book, covering some pretty intense topics, all set in 1936 and earlier. From bootlegging to the Ku Klux clan, from immigrants to war casualties, this book is no light reading.
Theme: Don’t be Gullible
Best for: Pre-teen girls
“Either the witch would be reasonable, or she would not. Imogene had read enough fairy tales to worry that a royal decree on the matter was less likely to soften the witch’s heart and more likely to make her stubborn.” If you are looking for a fun, light-weight summer children’s book, one to take on a trip, this new book is a good choice. It’s a silly little take-off on the princess-kissed-frog story, with amusing and sometimes dangerous twists of the plot.
Theme: Growing up
Best for: Girls 9-12
“There’s such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I’m such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne, it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn’t be half so interesting.” It is a cliche to say things are timeless, but books like this really are. There’s nothing awkward reading it today. The emphasis on character development, and the growing pains of a young girl…
Theme: Valuing the Past
Best for: Girls up to 12
“We speak the same language, but sometimes it’s hard to believe. Some things have changed so much that it’s hard for us to understand each other at all.” Finally — a multicultural story to enrich my list of children’s books. This book reminds me how much we deprive children of interesting experiences when we don’t invite them into other worlds.
Theme: Finding One’s True self
Best for: ages 12-14
“It’s important to know stories. I felt the earth shift to make a place for you when you were born, and I came to tell you stories while you are young.” Just as Ani’s aunt knows the power of story, and passes it to her niece, so author Shannon Hale passes that same power to today’s young readers…
Best for: Girls 11 and up
“Miri woke to the sleepy bleating of a goat. The world was as dark as eyes closed, but perhaps the goats could smell dawn seeping through the cracks in the house’s stone walls. This beautifully written tale weaves fantasy, adventure and great lessons into a memorable read. Don’t let the title put you off!
Theme: Knights, Women’s Equality
Best for: girls age 12 and up
“Maude said I should use my Gift of healing. She said I had the power to heal more than most people. She said if I didn’t heal, I wouldn’t make up for the killing I did as a knight.” In this series of four books, Tamora Pierce weaves an odd world of knights, magic, and the feminine in a way I haven’t encountered before…
Theme: Survival, Resilience
Best for: Classroom use, Home School, grade 5 and up
“Everyone in our tribe had two names, the real one which was secret and seldom used, and one which was common, for if people use your secret name, it becomes worn out and loses it’s magic.” This work of historical fiction, about a young girl left alone on an island, chronicles the ways she managed to survive..
Theme: Being Oneself
Best for: ages 10 and up, especially girls
“Being a dragon’s princess is a perfectly respectable thing to do, so my parent’s couldn’t complain. And it would be much more interesting than embroidery and dancing lessons.” An easy-to-read adventure with dragons, wizards, and a princess who breaks the mold…
Theme: Thinking for Yourself
Best for: Girls over 11
“Decisions were a delight after the curse. I loved having the power to say yes or no, and refusing anything was a special pleasure.” This lightweight modern fairytale explores what happens when a young girl can no longer think or choose for herself. An apt pre-teen subject….
Theme: Self-Reflection, Service to Others
Best for: 12 and older
“The secret is not to dream,” she whispered. “The secret is to wake up. Waking up is harder. I have woken up and I am real. This powerful fantasy book by Terry Pratchett has so much depth to it that one realizes it needs several reads…
Best for: 5 – 8 years old
I love the Fairy Realm series, stepping from our human world into the world of the fairies, where magic, beauty, goodness, and yes, also a bit of evil, mingle together…
Theme: Adventure in New York City
Best for: Girls age 10-12
Here’s a very funny, easy to read, yet somewhat profound children’s book that I stumbled across in my local bookstore. Obviously others found it before me, as it is a Newberry Medal book.
Theme: Women’s Historical Fiction
Best for: Girls, age 12 and up
A wonderful book to use as class reading for bringing history, especially women’s history, alive. Set in fourteenth century England, the story of an impoverished orphan and her role in the society of the day is compelling…
by Frances Hodgson Burnett, first published 1905. “Perhaps there is a language which is not made of words and everything in the world understands it.” A Little Princess is one the best children’s books I’ve read so far. It turns out I’m not alone in my assessment, as it continually rates in the top 100 lists among teachers, education associations, and others. Illustrating through example the power of kindness and good thoughts, this book is a masterpiece…
by Jeanne Birdsall, published 2005 “This is what made a book great, she thought, that you could read it over and over and never get tired of it.” The Penderwicks is another children’s book recommended by my young friend Meera. It reminded me somewhat of her other recommendation, The Saturdays, because…