Summer Reading 2012: Books for Girls

summer reading

summer reading

By Devon Corneal 

It’s almost June and you know what that means. School will be out. Children will be left to their own devices. During hours of endless sun and aimless wandering, you will hear, over and over again, “I’m bored. There’s nothing to do.” There are only so many times you can say, “Go play, Mommy’s having a gin and tonic.” before you’ll feel like a bad parent. I’m here to help. It won’t solve all of your problems, but having a stack of books at the ready gives you something to offer when the whining gets to be too much. Throw some books in the beach bag, keep them on the porch, or put a pile next to your kids’ beds.

Books for girls aren’t limited to “Little House on the Prairie” anymore. It used to be that great girl books were predictable — a sweet little girl, a loving family, the occasional animal, fairy or princess and you were off to the races. Not anymore. There is great fantasy and dystopian fiction out there with strong female protagonists; the animals now have a little attitude; and your friends can easily be dead or alive.

I remember animal books being pretty dull when I was a kid (with the exception of “Bunnicula” and “Charlotte’s Web”) — but Polly Horvath has come up with something quite lovely in “Mr. and Mrs. Bunny — Detectives Extraordinaire.” This whimsical tale of two rabbit detectives feels like a classic, but it is anything but old-fashioned. Two fedora-wearing bunnies (please do not refer to them as arctic hares, they won’t appreciate it) help a young girl named Madeline find her kidnapped parents, not knowing that the resulting adventure will involve exceedingly clever foxes, a brilliant but unstable marmot and breaking secret codes. It’s a romp worth reading.

If you’re more interested in a true classic, and your daughter hasn’t yet read “Charlotte’s Web,” now’s the summer for it. In its 60th anniversary year, the tale of Wilbur, Charlotte, Fern and Templeton is as touching as it ever was. As Wilbur notes, Charlotte is “in a class by herself.”


Finally, science fiction for girls! “Starters” by Lissa Price is creepy, disturbing, troubling and highly addictive. Girls interested have a worthy heroine in Callie Woodland, an orphan in a future in which teenagers rent their bodies to the elderly who long for a taste of youth again. This book makes you question what you’d do for money, for friendship and for family. When you’re done, you’ll think you know the answers, but remember, you’ve only heard one side of the story.


If fantasy is more your thing, and your teenage daughter hasn’t yet devoured Cassandra Clare’s series “The Mortal Instruments,” please, please, please buy it for her. “City of Lost Souls” is the fifth book in the series and continues to expand and explain the world of shadowhunters, demons, angels, vampires and werewolves. Clare twists thwarted lovers, impossible families, plots and counterplots and the possible end of the world together in a compelling story that already has me eager for Book #6. This is young adult fiction at its best.


For younger fantasy readers who aren’t quite ready for the edgier aspects of “The Mortal Instruments,” Lauren Oliver’s “Liesel & Po” is wonderful. Liesel, a lonely girl who lives in an attic, Po, a lonely ghost and Will, a lonely alchemist’s apprentice are all going to get a little less lonely when they meet under the most unusual of circumstances. Their journey is beautiful, wrenching and illuminating. A story of friendship in the guise of a ghost story, “Liesel & Po” will give girls a necessary escape from sunburns and family car trips.


Today’s authors owe Junie B. Jones and Ramona Quimby a debt of gratitude for paving the way for smart-alecky, clever, laugh-out-loud books for girls. They’re repaying the debt by continuing to give young girls sassy, funny and larger-than-life characters.


It’s the 20th anniversary of the publication of the first Junie B. Jones book, “Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly School Bus,” so I think it is only fitting to recommend something in honor of Junie B.


“Cinderella Smith,” the title character of Stephanie Barden’s book of the same name, doesn’t have a wicked stepmother and isn’t a servant in her own home — but does have an unfortunate habit of losing shoes and making up words. Your chapter book readers will love this light-hearted story of a missing dance shoe, escaped pets and possible wicked step-sisters.


If you know a girl who thinks in pictures and maybe isn’t fond of books with lots of dense text, check out Jennifer L. Holm’s “Eighth Grade is Making Me Sick.” This is a story told in pictures, sticky notes, drawings, screenshots and ticket stubs. It takes the best of scrapbooking, comic books and graphic novels and mushes them together in a way that perfectly captures what an eighth grade year looks like.


“Letters to Leo,” on the other hand, is told entirely in letters written by fourth grader Annie Rossi to her dog. Yes, I said dog. In funny, insightful and charming notes, “Letters to Leo” captures the best and worst of life in the fast lane of elementary school. It’s also small enough to sneak into a duffel bag for camp, without the tell-tale book bulge.

 

 

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