We all remember those books we read as kids that inspired our love for the written word. And while we adore our classics like To Kill a Mockingbird, Harriet the Spy, or The Diary of Anne Frank, below is a list of books to give to the young girls and women in your life you may not have heard of until now.
(Note: The following titles and summaries can be found at goodreads.com.)
Courage: Daring Poems for Gutsy Girls by Karen Finneyfrock
“A collection of fierce, empowering poems by living, self-identified women writers intended for girls age 12 – 21. Full of advice, critique, reflection, commiseration, humor, sorrow and rage, this anthology includes poems by some of the most exciting female poets writing and performing today. Courage: Daring Poems for Gutsy Girls will live in lockers, backpacks and under beds for years, its pages reblogged, tattooed, dog-eared and coffee stained.”
The Skin I’m In by Sharon G. Flake
“Miss Saunders, whose skin is blotched with a rare skin condition, serves as a mirror to Maleeka Madison’s struggle against the burden of low self-esteem that many black girls face when they’re darker skinned. Miss Saunders is tough and through this, Maleeka learns to stand up to tough-talking Charlese.”
Recommended by blogger Erika K.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
“Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.”
Recommended by Laura Grego, Senior Scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists
Saree by Su Dharmapala
“Nila wasn’t born beautiful and is destined to go through life unnoticed… until she becomes a saree maker. As she works, Nila weaves into the silk a pattern of love, hope and devotion, which will prove to be invaluable to more lives than her own.
From the lush beauty of Sri Lanka, ravaged by bloody civil war, to India and its eventual resting place in Australia, this is the story of a precious saree and the lives it changes forever. Nila must find peace, Mahinda yearns for his true calling, Pilar is haunted by a terrible choice, Sarojini doubts her ability to love, Madhav is a holy fraud and Marion’s understanding of the very meaning of love is challenged and transformed. Each teeters between joy and pain, and each is touched by the power and beauty of the saree.
A breathtaking story of beauty, oppression and freedom… and of an enduring love that can never be broken.”
Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm
“Sunny Lewin has been packed off to Florida to live with her grandfather for the summer. At first she thought Florida might be fun — it is the home of Disney World, after all. But the place where Gramps lives is no amusement park. It’s full of . . . old people. Really old people.
Luckily, Sunny isn’t the only kid around. She meets Buzz, a boy who is completely obsessed with comic books, and soon they’re having adventures of their own: facing off against golfball-eating alligators, runaway cats, and mysteriously disappearing neighbors. But the question remains — why is Sunny down in Florida in the first place? The answer lies in a family secret that won’t be secret to Sunny much longer. . .”
Recommended by Judith, reviewer on bingeonbooks.com.
Sisters by Raina Telgemeier
“Raina can’t wait to be a big sister. But once Amara is born, things aren’t quite how she expected them to be. Amara is cute, but she’s also a cranky, grouchy baby, and mostly prefers to play by herself. Their relationship doesn’t improve much over the years. But when a baby brother enters the picture, and later, when something doesn’t seem right between their parents, they realize they must figure out how to get along. They are sisters, after all.”
Recommended by Judith at bingeonbooks.com.
The Path of Names by Ari B. Goelman
All of which makes a week at Jewish summer camp pretty much the worst idea ever.
But within minutes of arriving at camp, Dahlia realizes that it might not be as bad as she’d feared. First she sees two little girls walk right through the walls of her cabin. Then come the dreams — frighteningly detailed visions of a young man being pursued through 1930s New York City. How are the dreams and the girls related? Why is Dahlia the only one who can see any of them? And what’s up with the overgrown, strangely shaped hedge maze that none of the campers are allowed to touch? Dahlia’s increasingly dangerous quest for answers will lead her right to the center of the maze — but it will take all her courage, smarts, and sleight-of-hand skills to get her back out again.”
Recommended by author Rose Lerner.
Upside Down Magic by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins
“Nory Horace is nine years old. She’s resourceful, she’s brave, she likes peanut butter cookies. Also, she’s able to transform into many different animals. Unfortunately, Nory’s shape-shifting talent is a bit wonky. And when she flunks out of her own father’s magic academy, Nory’s forced to enter public school, where she meets a group of kids whose magic is, well, different.
This new, offbeat series from hit authors Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins chronicles the misadventures of Nory and her oddball friends, who prove that upside-down magic definitely beats right side up.”
Recommended by Judith at bingeonbooks.com.
So You Want to Be a Wizard? (Young Wizard Series) by Diane Duane
“Nita Callahan is at the end of her rope because of the bullies who’ve been hounding her at school… until she discovers a mysterious library book that promises her the chance to become a wizard. But she has no idea of the difference that taking the Wizard’s Oath is going to make in her life. Shortly, in company with fellow beginner-wizard Kit Rodriguez, Nita’s catapulted into what will be the adventure of a lifetime — if she and Kit can both live through it. For every wizard’s career starts with an Ordeal in which he or she must challenge the one power in the universe that hates wizardry more than anything else: the Lone Power that invented death and turned it loose in the worlds. Plunged into a dark and deadly alternate New York full of the Lone One’s creatures, Kit and Nita must venture into the very heart of darkness to find the stolen, legendary Book of Night with Moon. Only with the dangerous power of the wizardly Book do they have a chance to save not just their own lives, but their world…”
Recommended by reader Lisa Q.
The Astrologer’s Daughter by Rebecca Lim
Avicenna Crowe’s mother, Joanne, is an astrologer with uncanny predictive powers and a history of being stalked.
Now she is missing.
The police are called, but they’re not asking the right questions. Like why Joanne lied about her past, and what she saw in her stars that made her so afraid.
But Avicenna has inherited her mother’s gift. Finding an unlikely ally in the brooding Simon Thorn, she begins to piece together the mystery.
And when she uncovers a link between Joanne’s disappearance and a cold-case murder, Avicenna is led deep into the city’s dark and seedy underbelly, unaware of how far she is placing her own life in danger.
Pulse-racing and terrifyingly real, The Astrologer’s Daughter will test your belief in destiny and the endurance of love.”
All That Glitters by Alisa Valdes
“New York Times bestselling author Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez has done it again, this time bringing us the tale of a young Latina professional cheerleader in Houston, who dreams of being a photojournalist and finds a mentor in a powerful older African American woman sports agent. As their friendship grows, each woman ends up mentoring the other as they each seek to balance love, life and career. Satisfying romances for both women, with men you come to love. Poignant tale of friendship and family.”
Manhattan Dreaming by Anita Heiss
“Lauren is a curator at the NAG — the National Aboriginal Gallery in Canberra. She’s good at her job, passionate about the Arts, and focused on her work — that is, when she’s not focusing on Adam, half-back for the Canberra Cockatoos.
But Adam is a player, on and off the field. Lauren knows he’s the one, but he doesn’t seem to feel the same way about her. If she just waits long enough, though, surely he’ll realize how much he needs her?
Then her boss offers her the chance of a lifetime — a fellowship at the Smithsonian in New York. Lauren has to make some big decisions: The Man or Manhattan?”
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
“Through six turbulent months of 1934, 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain keeps a journal, filling three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries about her home, a ruined Suffolk castle, and her eccentric and penniless family. By the time the last diary shuts, there have been great changes in the Mortmain household, not the least of which is that Cassandra is deeply, hopelessly, in love.”
Recommended by Lisa Q.
Sex is a Funny Word: A Book about Bodies, Feelings, and YOU by Cory Silverberg
“A comic book for kids that includes children and families of all makeups, orientations, and gender identities, Sex Is a Funny Word is an essential resource about bodies, gender, and sexuality for children ages 8 to 10 as well as their parents and caregivers. Much more than the ‘facts of life’ or ‘the birds and the bees,’ Sex Is a Funny Word opens up conversations between young people and their caregivers in a way that allows adults to convey their values and beliefs while providing information about boundaries, safety, and joy.”
Recommended by author, feminist, educator, and activist, Tristan Taormino and author Mary Ann Rivers.
S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College by Heather Corinna
“Have you ever wondered… Am I normal? (and what is ‘normal,’ anyway?) What’s up down there? I really like girls, but I like boys sometimes, too. Am I gay, bisexual, or just messed up? Are we both really ready to have sex? Is it ok if I masturbate? I feel like I can’t ever say no to my partner. What’s the problem? Heather Corinna and Scarleteen.com have been providing sex education and information for young adults, parents, and mentors for nearly ten years. Whether you’re straight, gay, sexually active, or just plain curious, S.E.X. spells out everything you need to know, including: a sexual readiness checklist; illustrations of female and male reproductive anatomy; how to love your body, even when it’s changing every day; tips on safer sex for body, heart, and mind; an in-depth birth control breakdown; how to create and enjoy the relationships that are right for you; popular mechanics of partnered sex: sexual activities explained, including pregnancy and STI risks [and] STIs 101: what they are and how to keep yourself from getting them.”
Recommended by Tristan Taormino.
Which books had the greatest impact on you during your youth? We’d love to hear them!
About Annamarie Bellegante
Born and raised in Des Moines, Annamarie Bellegante has been searching for a way to connect with the book publishing community within her beloved hometown and is absolutely thrilled to join Brain Mill Press. She currently works as a Content and SEO Strategist for a local web design company, but in her spare time she attends a monthly book club, volunteers at church, enjoys time with family and friends, and goes on many Skype dates with her boyfriend Tom, who is pursuing higher education in Colorado. An avid book reader and tea drinker, Anna loves all things relating to storytelling, language, editing, and humans. Her hobbies include spectating and participating in the performing arts, and she is a huge fan of semicolons and the Oxford comma. In spite of her usual hesitation of using superlatives, Anna strives to live each day according to the best song written by the best band: “All you need is love.”