It is important for young girls to see themselves represented in book characters. When young girls can relate to strong female character in a story it helps them build strength, know it is acceptable to be vulnerable, and provides examples of creative solutions in relatable life situations.
On the flip side, it is also important for readers to see young girls from different backgrounds in a story because it brings visibility to cultural differences, builds empathy, and creates unity.
We picked six girl-power novels for your middle grade reader to find relatable characters and learn from others in a different life situations.
In a Flash by Donna Jo Napoli
Simona and Carolina's father is a beloved cook in Italy but when the Italian ambassador request his cooking skills in Japan, the girls travel thousand of miles to have an adventure with their Papa. At first, living in Japan is exciting and each sister works to learn the language and customs.
But when WWII comes to their door and the girls are separated from their father, Carolina and Simona must stick together to survive. In this enthralling tale, the reader will learn through Carolina and Simona's journey the importance of loving your fellow humans, no matter which side of the war they are on.
Something to Say by Lisa Moore Ramée
Jenae prefers to be alone and is perfectly happy without any friends. However, when she enters junior high and meets the new kid, Aubrey, that all changes. Jenae and Aubrey begin to develop a bond and Jenae starts to see that having a real friend is not so bad. Until they are paired up to give a class debate and Jenae's crippling fear of speaking in front an audience harms their friendship. In this heartfelt story, Jenae learns that sometimes you have to do the thing that scares you the most, in order to be brave and help a friend.
When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller
Korean folktales mixed with modern day setting and situations brings to life the magic in this 2021 Newberry Medal winner title. Lily, her older sister Sam, and their mom move in with their sick grandmother (also know as Halmoni). Lily loves her Halmoni and the long ago stories she would tell. As Halmoni's disease gets worse, Lily only clings to the stories more.
One night, Lily encounters a magical tiger and makes a deal. The tiger will help save her Halmoni if Lily returns what was stolen from the tiger long ago. With the help of her new friend Ricky, Lily must find her voice and be brave in the fact of danger and sorrow.
Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte
Deaf author Ann Clare writes a compelling middle grade novel about Mary, an 11-year old deaf girl growing up in the early 19th century on an island off the shores of Boston. On the island everyone can communicate in sign language, as the community is comprised of equal hearing and deaf people.
When a stranger comes to the island, Mary's curiosity is peaked. Andrew Noble, a young scientist, arrives to find the source of the deafness. At first, many islanders are welcoming but Mary thinks there is something fishy in Andrew's search. One night, Mary follows Andrew and ends up becoming a live specimen in his cruel experiment. Now Mary has to find strength and be brave to show others that deafness does not equal less than.
Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams
Thirteen-year-old Genesis keeps a list of the things she hates about herself, like #95: Her skin is too dark. In addition to struggling with self-love, she deals with her unstable family life. With a father that is an addict, her and her mother tend to move around or stay with her grandmother for periods of time.
When her family moves to a predominantly white neighborhood, Genesis makes new friends at her new school and even joins choir. Her teachers encourages her to participate in the talent show but can Genesis believe in herself enough to step on stage? In this novel, Williams tackles issues such as racisms and alcoholism.
The Dream Weaver by Reina Luz Alegre
Zoey and her older brother Jose move around with their dad every time their dad has a new career idea. But this summer is different because Zoey and Jose will stay with their Poppy in New Jersey while dad gets started on his newest dream, a motorcycle salesman.
Zoey finds herself lonely in Jersey as Jose is getting ready to go away to college. Her Poppy runs Gonzo's, a bowling alley on the Jersey Shore, and Zoey has fond memories of spending time there growing up. But that was back when her mother and grandmother were still alive.
Now the bowling alley is run down and very few guest come anymore. Until a group of kids her age stumble in and begin practicing for their summer championship league. Zoey hatches a plan to save her Poppy's business and help her new friends but when things start to fail, Zoey must decide what is important to her.