Hi everyone, this week’s post will give you a booklist of ten of my all-time favourite reads featuring a ‘mighty girl’ as the main character. Now, in order for these to make the cut, they had to fulfill a whole range of criteria as I’m quite a picky reviewer of such books. So, if you and your tween were looking for inspiration, funny, magical, or maybe something with adventure stories, why not click the button to find out more!!
This first title will take you all the way to those harsh years during the Depression into the young life of a smart and intuitive African American girl. The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis tells the story of Deza Malone and her family as they journey from Indiana to Michigan in search of a better life, and their father who had left to look for work. This historical read showed me that Deza Malone is as mighty as the name her father calls her. Her courage, perseverance, kindness and heart fills every page in this book. The stark descriptions of life for a young African American girl during the Depression era in middle America is captured really well. Curtis has done another remarkable job here. I really like his storytelling. With each character we see a cross-section of society back then and learn so much. I had no idea of the extent of poverty until I read this. An amazing story!!
The next one is also an historical read but this time we need to cross to Poland. The Sound of freedom by Kathy Kacer will take readers to Krakow just before the Second World War begins. Our young protagonist Anna convinces her father, a celebrated clarinetist with the Krakow Philharmonic Orchestra, to audition for a new orchestra in Palestine for Jewish musicians. Based on real events in pre-war Poland and Palestine, this story reminds all readers about the high price people have paid – and continue to pay – to escape persecution. Anna’s life in Poland, the emergence of anti-semitic hatred and violence, and her family’s subsequent journey to Palestine are vividly portrayed in Kacer’s expert narrative. I loved how this was based on actual events and the success that the orchestra went on achieving!! A really good story!!
Moving just after those war years, the next read features another brave young girl. A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen is a story about a family split apart by a wall; the one that divided Berlin. Gerta, her family, her neighbours and friends, are prisoners in their own city. Told in Gerta’s powerful and unique voice, this book took me back in time to a period of history that was quite brutal and violent. I learned of the living conditions of the East Berliners through this tale. The main characters of Gerta and Fritz are two very courageous, clever and admirable teenagers. Although this was fiction, I believe it was inspired by true events. A very poignant and moving story of the extent of one girl’s remarkable courage, will to survive, and fight for freedom. A great read that is better for older readers!!
The detective’s assistant by Kate Hannigan is another historical story set around the same time but not your typical historical read. We meet a quirky character in eleven-year-old Nell Warne as she’s sent to live with her long-lost aunt. Much to Nell’s surprise, her aunt is a detective, working for the world-famous Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency! Nell quickly makes herself indispensable to Aunt Kate… and not just by helping out with household chores. Based on the extraordinary true story of America’s first female detective, Kate Warne, The Detective’s Assistant is full of feats of daring and danger, bold action, and newfound courage. An often hilarious read filled with action-packed adventure and a dash of mystery, this will not disappoint fans of either genre!! If you enjoy mystery reads with unforgettable characters, then this is definitely for you!!
In this next story I was taken back to the 1980’s. Like Vanessa by Tami Charles tells the tale of a young thirteen-year old African-American girl, Vanessa Martin, as she tries out for her first beauty pageant. Set during the early 80’s in a suburb of Newark we meet Vanessa as she grows up without a mother. Her story here is touching, moving and quite poignant at times. I loved the little diary entries that lived between chapters. We get to see the budding writer beneath. My heart felt heavy for Vanessa as the chapters progressed. I truly loved the ending!
This next read is a good one for music lovers!! Especially fans of rock music will enjoy this story by Josh Farrar, Rules to rock by. Annabelle Cabrera used to be a real rock star in New York with her band Egg Mountain until her parents moved the family to Rhode Island. Starting a new band isn’t as easy as she hoped. How can Annabelle truly make herself heard? A rockin’ coming-of-age novel about finding your voice and letting it sing. I really enjoyed once I truly got into it!! The school scenes with Annabelle’s English teacher were expertly described and that whole drama that unfolds there is excellent. The text conversations she has with her friend Ronaldo back in NYC, gives a sort of break to the flow but keeps the storyline intact. Despite a few heavy issues of bullying, a really good read overall!!
Staying with the theme of music, Blackbird fly by Erin Entrada Kelly, gives readers a slight change with a strong diverse character in Apple Yengko. When Apple is voted the third-ugliest girl in school, her life quickly falls apart. Music is her only escape. All she needs is enough money to buy a guitar, and then she’ll be able to change herself and her life forever. It might be the Beatles and their music who save Apple, or Mr Z (Chapel Spring Middle’s awesome music teacher) – or it could be two unexpected friends who show her that standing out in a crowd is better than getting lost in it. This was a sweet story on belonging, identity, friendship and family. I liked the Filipino language terms that are sprinkled there!! Great characters and a great story!!
This next book tells a story of quite a different young girl. Amal unbound by Aisha Saeed will take you to a small village in Pakistan where we meet young Amal. Her dreams of becoming a teacher are shattered when she is sent to work as a servant to pay off her family’s debt. Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal. What an amazing book this was!! Amal is truly a courageous young girl who finds a way towards freedom. I knew such things where young girls and women were taken into indentured servitude from the villages by evil landlords existed but this book showed me how they could choose to make something from that life. For young Amal, who actually could read and write, it was a cage, but for others it was their livelihood. You could see the struggle clearly depicted here. I liked how this was inspired by Malala Yousafzai and how Aisha Saeed made young Amal a representative of other girls in Pakistan. An inspirational read!!
This next one is actually a teen book written by Australia’s finest children’s author, Jackie French. The schoolmaster’s daughter will take you to 1901 as Australia faces a crossroads. Sharks circle a stranded ship as a young girl and her family stagger from the waves. Rescued by a Pacific Islander boy named Jamie, Hannah’s family begin a new life in Port Harris, which at first seems a paradise for the schoolmaster’s daughter. Inspired by real events, this powerful novel brings to life the bravery and battles of the past, and gives us courage for the challenges of today. Told in her signature style, Jackie French takes us to the turn of the twentieth century. Votes for women, worker’s rights, and the future of education for all genders are strong themes addressed here in this historical teen read. We meet another strong young woman in Hannah (who it turns out is inspired by Jackie’s own maternal ancestors) who wants to learn more and become more. I loved all aspects of this story and heartily recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical stories!!
The last title will bring you down to New Zealand. Kaimanawa Princess by Dianne Haworth is a delightful horse-themed story. When Becky chose her pony at the stockyards she had no idea how hard it was going to be. Inspired by an actual event that took place in August 1996 with real-life thirteen-year-old Rochelle Purcell and her pony Kaimanawa Princess, Dianne Haworth has created a gorgeous novel here. I had heard of the protected status of the Kaimanawa horses but only in this read did I find out that they were once destined to be destroyed. I’m so glad the government was stopped thanks to the actions of all those who protested. This lovely story, told in ten chapters, not only details the fight to protect the horses, but describes the daily life of young Becky and her Princess as they won award after award at the Pony Club events. I really enjoyed this tale. We see not just the gorgeous creatures and their bond with the family, but also the human friendships. A lovely read!!
I hope you enjoyed this list of reads. If you have read of a similar story with a mighty girl, I’d love to hear from you.
Stay safe and keep reading