Four girls from different backgrounds are selected to become “The Flyers” for Spread Your Wings Magazine. Elena is a shy Latina who lives in her best friend’s shadow and is uncomfortable about the pubescent changes in her body. Harlow is a Japanese-American wannabe journalist, Cailin, a young influencer, and Whitney, a Black fashionista who secretly has panic attacks. The girls spend a week in New York City together than bonds them as friends and gives them the courage to find their voices.
Maddy Gaines is an anxious girl still coping with the grief of her father’s death — and also adjusting to her new stepfather. Home conditions are good: her mother is patient and reassuring, and she and her stepdad go on regular outings together by themselves. One day, Maddy sees on the news that a boy named Billy Holcomb has gone missing. Then several weeks after, she runs into another boy who looks a lot like Billy, except his hair is different and he’s taller than Billy was, and oh — his name is Eric.
The Shape of Thunder follows two former best friends Quinn and Cora whose lives have been altered by a tragic event. Quinn’s brother Parker killed Cora’s sister in a school shooting. Understandably, this created a rift between both girls, even though they still deeply care for each other and have been friends since kindergarten. As they approach the first anniversary of the shooting, Quinn thinks she’s found a way to undo what happened and reaches out to Cora to work with her.
Bea Is for Blended is Lindsay Stoddard’s fourth middle grade novel. Bea’s mother has married her school arch-nemesis’s father. Bryce (her arch-nemesis) is friends with bullies in Bea’s class and they always make fun of her best friend Maximillian who’s on the autism spectrum. Now, as if it wasn’t bad enough that Bea and Bryce share the exact same birth date, now they’ll also share a house and blended family. In the past, it was always just Bea, her mother, and her grandmother — the Embers girls — and her mother’s friend, Aunt Tam. Now Bea has three step-brothers, two dogs, and a cat, and oh a new sibling on the way!
Recommending readalikes can be a tricky process, but as I said in the first post in this series, I enjoy the process of finding similar threads running through even books that appear different on the surface. Today’s pick is Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby, Age 8, which is part of the Ramona series. I loved this book, and the movie adaptation of Ramona and Beezus, with Joey King and Selena Gomez (which was my introduction to the series).
In Stick with Me, Izzy and Wren, two very different 12-year-olds are unwittingly brought together at just the right time in their lives. Izzy, a sweet, creative artist with a love for stickers lives in Boston with her parents and older brother Nate. Her best friend, Phoebe is now friends with popular, not-so-nice girl, Daphne, and only hangs out with Izzy because their mothers who are best friends, make them. Wren, on the other hand, is a determined figure skater whose little sister, Hannah has epilepsy.
Catch That Chicken was my first read of the author Atinuke. She is popular for her Anna Hibiscus books, a series of chapter books set in Africa (many readers place the country as Nigeria as Atinuke is Nigerian). In this delightful picture book, young Lami who lives in a large village compound, is known to be the best chicken catcher. She runs quickly, trying to catch any chicken she’s asked to, until one day, her adventures lead to a sprained ankle and Lami has to learn new ways of catching chickens.
His Only Wife was my return to adult fiction. I always wondered which book would finally do it, and it was this one. Set in Ghana, this debut novel by Peace Adzo Medie follows a young woman Afi Tekple. The story open at Afi’s marriage to Elikem Ganyo, a man from a high standing Ghanaian family — except Elikem is absent during the ceremony, and his brother is standing in for him. The Ganyos are marrying Afi traditionally for their son, because they are displeased with his current relationship with a Liberian woman with whom he has a daughter.
The Amelia Six is the story of six clever girls who are invited to spend a night in Amelia Earhart’s home because of their achievements in STEM (specifically flying and aeronautics). Although all big-time Earhart fans, each of the girls are different. There’s shy, anxious Amelia (Millie) whose mom left her to go be a pilot. Then there are twins Robin and Wren who run a YouTube channel, Thea who builds things, like the side car she arrives in with her aunt’s motorcycle, Nathalie and her pet rat and Cassie whose parents work at NASA.
While I was making this list, I thought deeply about what makes a “strong female protagonist” to me.
None of the girls in these books are “perfect,” obviously and they don’t always do lovable things, but they will be scored on your heart by the last page. Even better, they’ll leave you feeling you feeling inspired. You’ll find fierce girls who play sports, are thrilled by science and space, solve mysteries, enjoy music, love hard, are loyal friends, courageous dream chasers, and wonderful daughters.