Sunday, August 14, 2011

Middle grade heroines

Recently, I was able to spend some time with some really cool girls, aged 9 and 12 and it got me to thinking about this age group and how difficult it is to navigate. When I began to think about it more, I realised that it's probably when I was within this age group that I struggled the most - with my appearance, with fitting in, with realising what's important in my life and the type of person I'd like to become.

If I'd thought about it beforehand, I might have had a really interesting discussion with these two girls about the books they enjoy reading and what sort of things they look for in a good book. But I didn't. Instead, we talked about favourite animals and ran races and touched elephant poo (we were at a zoo!). And while it would have been awesome to talk about books with these girls, the way the day went was absolutely perfect anyway.

Spending the day with these two girls, who were so lovely and friendly, who were really open and nice and, despite the age difference, were really wonderful with my two boys was really great and it got me to thinking about books aimed at this age range and what sort of characters they would be introduced to. I really don't read very many books of this age range, but I think I'd like to start and I'd like to read some great middle grade books that have wonderful main characters, of either gender really, but perhaps mostly female. I think it's an age where things begin to shift and change and it can be hard to work through big transitions (like with my review of a few weeks ago, Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur!).

Here are two of the greart heroines I've read lately. Please feel free to leave your own suggestions of fab middle grade books with great characters.

Verity Gallant from The Mistress of the Storm by ML Welsh
- I really loved The Mistress of the Storm. It had an interesting and adventurous story line, with sailing and piracy and an evil relative. Our main character, Verity, at the start of the story is pretty friendless and picked on and all of a sudden she's thrown into this mystery involving local history and her family and somehow Verity plays the key part in saving everyone. And despite quite a lot of magical powers being used by other adult characters, she herself must rely on her own inner-strength as well as the close friendships she's formed throughout the novel in order to make it through.

I really loved the emphasis on friendship in this book and that of the importance of storytelling. I think it's a great book for any age group, but especially for the empowerment of younger girls.

Kat Stephenson from A Most Improper Magick and A Tangle of Magicks by Stephanie Burgis - Yes, yes. I know my huge love of Kat Stephenson has already been well documented on this blog, but I couldn't write about awesome heroines for middle grade novels without mentioning her. I absolutely LOVE Kat Stephenson and this series.

This is defintely the sort of book I'd have loved to have read when I was younger (though I certainly enjoyed it plenty being the age that I am!). I was reading an interview with Stephanie Burgis recently on another blog in which she talked about Kat being the younger sister and how most books in the Regency period only give youngest siblings the briefest mention of anything. That is so true, and I think youngest siblings should rejoice at this series. I know that I sometimes felt overlooked being the youngest, but we can get up to our own fun adventures as well. But not only is Kat pretty brave and adventurous, she's also very loyal and sticks up for her own family members and tries her hardest to do what's right, even at the risk of personal sacrifice.

She's stubborn and fiesty and fun and I think she's a great role model for younger girls. She's definitely my most recent favourite female character in a book I've read lately!

So there are the two middle grade books I've loved and could recommend. What sort of books would you recommend to girls, 9 and 12, that are great stories with awesome main characters?


  1. I think Kay Woodwards books (Jane Airhead and Wuthering Hearts) are both really great books for around this age (maybe 10-13 rather than 9?) with fantastic role models. I loved the first book in Cathy Cassidy's Chocolate Box girls too (Cherry Crush) Also I just read Eight Keys by Suzanne LeFleur and that book was amazing for any age, but in particular girls around 11 who are going through the things you mention. Awesome post!

  2. I suppose they've already read LM Montgomery -- I like Emily of New Moon much better than Anne of Green Gables personally. But Edward Eager maybe? I loved those books when I was that age.

  3. Vicki - What wonderful suggestions, thank you! I was eyeing up both the Kay Woodward books and the Cathy Cassidy books recently, so it's interesting that you just mentioned those :)

    Jenny - I'm actually not sure what books they've already read. I haven't yet read the Emily of New Moon books myself, though I have heard that some people enjoy them more than the Anne books. Thanks :)


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