Thursday, December 3, 2009

Two middle grade novels with strong female protagonists

Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur
Oh, how this book broke my heart. Over and over again. Aubrey is an eleven year-old girl who has just recently been in a devastating car accident. Her father and younger sister were both killed, while her mom and Aubrey both survived. But Aubrey doesn't consider herself a survivor, and she doesn't think of herself any differently than before. Even when her mom leaves home and doesn't come back. Not that night, not the next day, not even a week later. But after a week of living on her own, Aubrey is whisked away to live with her Gran, her mom's mom, for the summer, while the search is on for her mother. She makes a friend next door, and she writes letters that she never sends, all in the hopes of dealing with her grief and abandonment. Aubrey's voice is distinctly eleven years old - she's emotional yet pragmatic, sensitive and on the brink of a meltdown. But she finds ways to cope.

We received this as a new book a couple weeks ago, and I snatched it up before any students could check it out. I read it in one night and brought it back the next day for fifth grade students to have a chance to check it out. I did pass it on to one girl, warning her that it was a very emotional book dealing with some difficult subjects, but she decided that she still wanted to read it. She came back after Thanksgiving break and told me that she read it over the weekend and cried. She really liked the book, so much that she shared the story with her family - and they seemed to get a bit emotional over it too. I was so happy to hear back from her and especially to find that she had engaged her family in discussion over the book. It was definitely one of those moments that reminded me why I love my job.

Newsgirl by Liza Ketchum
I'm not generally a fan of historical fiction, but I'm always in the mood for girls taking charge of their lives and going out to make it on their own. This book is set in the late 1800s with a girl, her mom, and her mom's friend shipping out from Boston to San Francisco, a ridiculously long and complicated boat journey. They finally make it to the coast with hardly any money left and completely alien surroundings and customs.

I'm about halfway through this book, and I am loving it. Amelia, the 12 year-old girl, is a problem solver. She knows what needs to be done, so she goes out and does it. She sees injustice in the ways that women and girls are treated, and she will not stand for it, even if that means getting bopped in the head or worse. Although the girl disguising herself as a boy story has been played out in many ways, I'm still interested to see where this one goes.


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