We all have our favorite heroines from children's and young adult literature: Eloise, Pippi, Hermione, Katniss, Matilda—the list goes on and on. And then there are the real-life historical figures who paved the way for little girls everwhere: Marie Curie, Amelia Earhart, Rosa Parks and so many others.
In honor of Women's History Month, we're highlighting 10 new books that give young readers a fresh batch of heroines, from new fictional favorites to historical role models getting some much-deserved attention:
"Ellen, 'born with saltwater in her veins,' spent her days at the shore and learned at a young age from her father how to navigate a ship and operate a sextant. Because of Ellen’s desire for adventure and her competitive nature ('there is no glory in second place'), her father would often caution her—a recurring theme in this story—that 'a true navigator must have the caution to read the sea, as well as the courage to dare the wind.'" Read our full review.
"Whether you’re an adult or a child, this new picture book biography gives an informed overview of intriguing nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale. . . . [S]he felt that God wanted her to help people through nursing, even though the idea 'horrified' her parents." Read our full review.
"When a job lands Kate in San Diego, she sets her mind on transforming the dry, barren town into a site of tree-filled splendor. The story of how she makes her vision a reality is a remarkable one." Read our full review.
"With grace, simple shapes and lots of style and movement, this book perfectly captures Josephine, with a varied and vibrant color palette that complements her dynamic personality. Josephine is an extraordinary tribute to an American legend." Read our full review.
"Sulking around the White House one night, Audrey discovers a hidden compartment containing a diary written by a previous First Daughter, Alice Roosevelt. Alice’s desire to 'eat up the world' and claim an independent identity for herself—including bringing her pet snake to state functions, dancing on the roof and sneaking a boy past White House guards—inspire Audrey to try similar antics, with results that don’t always end up as planned." Read our full review.
"On the heels of solving her first mystery in the Newbery Honor book Three Times Lucky, Mo LoBeau faces more intrigue in her tiny North Carolina town of Tupelo Landing. . . . Small-town charm, clever dialogue and Mo’s unyielding wit are excellent reminders of why the first book was so successful." Read our full review.
"Sloan has created a story where the line between youth and adulthood moves back and forth, often more than once in a single day—and where kids and adults 'have relationships that are real and go both directions,' she says. The book is a moving, often funny reminder that such relationships are worth cultivating, and that being open to new people and experiences—however strange or difficult they may seem—can lead to wonderful things." Read our full interview with Sloan.
"Laila is observant, analytical and introspective, regularly comparing American customs to her family’s old existence of royal restriction. She neither fully condemns nor endorses either one of her lives or the people associated with them, but rather walks the common ground between them and begins to understand them." Read our full review.
"Eighteen-year-old American pilot and amateur poet Rose Justice has pulled some strings to land a spot with Great Britain’s Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA). As the daughter of a flight school director, she has been flying since she was 12, and after three months with ATA, she can deliver new and repaired Spitfire fighter planes to airfields without batting an eyelash." Read our full review.
"As Emily attempts to fit in at ASG and strives to articulate her feelings about the events surrounding her boyfriend’s recent death, she begins to feel a real kinship with Dickinson, whose work proves 'to other daughters of America, the ones who endure, who rise like rare birds from the ashes, that they are not alone.'" Read our full review.
We'd love to hear from you! Leave a comment below about your favorite young adult or children's book that stars a kick-butt heroine.
Today is Trailer Tuesday x2! Author Gwendolyn Heasley (Where I Belong, A Long Way from You) will publish her third young adult novel with HarperTeen this April, and BookPage has the pleasure of presenting the first look at the plucky heroine at the heart of Don't Call Me Baby.
It's a cute and charming story about teenager Imogene, the daughter of a popular Mommy Blogger. The "Mommylicious" blog is incredibly embarrassing for Imogene (imagine having all your private puberty stories published online!). Then Imogene must start her own blog for school, and there's no better time to define herself in her own words—and to turn the tables on Mommylicious.
Check out the trailer:
Giant anacondas, jaguars, swaths of ancient, imposing trees and wild rivers color the Amazonian landscape that author Paul Rosolie explores in his new book, Mother of God.
Part travelogue, part plea for conservation, Rosolie's story is pulsing with a love of adventure and discovery along with a contagious love of place.
Rosalie continually asserts that the encroachment of civilization and industry into the jungle are regrettable: “What is it about our species," Rosalie wonders, "that allows us to watch sitcoms and argue over sports while cultures and creatures and those things meek and green and good are chopped, shot, and burned from the world for a buck?”
There certainly isn't an easy answer, but Rosolie's book makes a strong case for protecting the wild places we have left.
Watch the trailer below to get a glimpse at the incredible landscape of the western Amazon:
What do you think, readers? Are you interested in reading Mother of God?
Anne Fortier follows up her New York Times best-selling debut, Juliet, with another novel rooted in one of history's most notorious tales. Our reviewer describes The Lost Sisterhood as "a gorgeous journey from England to North Africa to Greece, thrilling readers with beautiful settings, courageous women and breathtaking adventure." (Read our full review here.)
We were curious about the books Fortier has enjoyed reading lately, so we asked her to recommend three recent favorites, which she graciously agreed to share.
By Sally O'Reilly
I just finished this, and I’m jumping at this opportunity to recommend it to book lovers far and wide. It tells the story of Aemilia, a young lady at the court of Elizabeth I, who becomes the obsession of an up-and-coming playwright . . . yes, you’ve guessed it! Was Aemilia really Shakespeare’s famous “dark lady”? O’Reilly’s fabulous novel makes a very compelling case.
The book won’t be on the shelves until June, but then now you know there is something to look forward to this summer. Dark Aemilia is a must-read for all lovers of Shakespeare and old England, and while it is written from the perspective of a woman, I am confident men will enjoy it, too. I am usually careful with my books, but this one quickly became a victim of dog ears and pencil-marks, because O’Reilly touches on so many crucial historical moments and writes with such intelligent elegance.
The Greek Myths
By Robert Graves
Hardly a month goes by where I don’t reread a chapter or two in Robert Graves’ classic, The Greek Myths. It is one of those masterpieces that have long since won a permanent place on my what-to-bring-to-a-desert-island list. There are many renditions of the ancient myths out there, but to me, Graves' still rules supreme. Not only does he have an encyclopedic knowledge of the ancient world and its legends, but he is also able to re-tell the myths as if he were an ancient storyteller, and we the gaping audience sitting around his campfire. “Some say—” is his favorite opening, and indeed, he makes us believe the mythological heroes and heroines are still at large around us in the darkness . . .
In addition to the collected works of Shakespeare, I find the Greek myths make a fantastic graduation present, or simply a birthday gift for ambitious young readers.
Ronia, the Robber's Daughter
By Astrid Lindgren
I am just about to begin reading Astrid Lindgren’s wonderful Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter to my little girl. I can’t wait! This was one of my favorite books growing up, and now, decades later, I feel as if Ronia’s magical forest was as real as my own childhood memories. It is one of those rare books that make you eager to go out and find adventure in nature—a much-needed quality in today’s world, I think.
Born in 1907, Sweden’s Astrid Lindgren was such an inspired, paradigm-shifting author, and a real pioneer when it came to creating strong, adventurous female characters. My mother used to read The Children of Noisy Village to me, over and over; each individual chapter has its own plot and makes for a perfectly happy and wholesome goodnight story for boys and girls alike. Illustrations are sparse, but since the writing is so engaging and straight-forward, these are fantastic starter-books for transitioning away from picture books.
What do you think, readers? Will you be adding The Lost Sisterhood—or any of Fortier's recommended books—to your TBR list? By the way, The Lost Sisterhood is one of four books we're giving away in this week's Women's History Month contest.
(Author photo by Grant Simeon)
Last week, BookPage Associate Editor Joelle announced March as the month to read books “you’ve always meant to read" and moved three books to the top of her TBR stack. (Read all about it here.) This week, it's my turn.
So, no more excuses. *Raises right hand.* By the name of Gutenberg, I swear I will no longer put off reading these books:
Hope: A Tragedy
By Shalom Auslander
I had a hunch that once I'd read Auslander's debut, he'd instantly become one of my new favorites. Our reviewer promised "echoes of Kurt Vonnegut, Philip Roth and even Franz Kafka," and Auslander hooked me with his riotous book trailer series, The Attic Calls, in which he calls up his friends and asks if they will hide him during any future Holocausts. And, of course, there's the plot itself: A Jewish man in Stockton, New York, finds Anne Frank hiding in his attic. I finally picked it up last week and found it to be everything I'd hoped it would be.
Men We Reaped
By Jesmyn Ward
Last summer, I finally dug into Ward's debut novel, the National Book Award-winning Salvage the Bones (2011), and fell madly in love. (There's nothing like a graphic pit bull birthing scene to make for great summer reading . . . in my opinion, at least.) And like all great loves, it took a while for me to recover after it was over. The time has come to let Ward break my heart again, and it sounds like last year's memoir will be even tougher, as she probes the "why" of the deaths of five young men in her life.
By Sarah Blake
My mom gave me this book almost three years ago, and it's about time I was a good daughter and actually read it. (Oops.) I'm looking forward to being transported back to 1940s, on the eve of America's entrance into World War II, through the stories of three very different women. It sounds tender and poignant, but more importantly, I got completely sucked into Blake's poems about Kanye West last week, so now I definitely have to read her novel, even if I doubt Kanye will make an appearance.
Hey, readers: Join in! This month, move a book to the top of your TBR pile, and tell us all about it in the comments.
• The five finalists for the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction were announced this week. Which one do you think should take home the prize?
• PWxyz compiled a list of 12 books that end in mid-sentence. Are there others that should've made the list?
• And while we're on the subject of breaking the rules, the folks at Qwiklit put together a list of 10 authors who ignored the basic rules of punctuation.
• Earlier this week, a Tweet from Rebecca Skloot prompted the New York Times to issue a way-overdue correction to a 161-year-old error.
• If you're not list-ed out yet, here's another one from Flavorwire that features 10 compelling unnamed protagonists in literature, which includes, of course, the narrator of du Maurier's classic.
• In last week's links, we shared BuzzFeed's "who's your classic author soul mate" quiz. But before you run off with him, you may want to take this new quiz that will tell you which Jane Austen hero is the One for you.
Locker Combinations is a Book Case feature by BookPage contributor and young adult (YA) literature expert Jill Ratzan. Using a variety of literary, cultural and educational perspectives, Jill guest blogs about the latest in YA lit and the general direction, trends and changes of the field. This month, Jill looks at one of our favorite classic YA novels, Forever . . . (which I think we can all agree is pronounced, "Forever dot dot dot") by Judy Blume.
When I taught young adult (YA) literature in a graduate program, my students were often less enamored by the academic background of YA lit and more interested in practical applications. So every year, I approached with trepidation our reading of Forever . . ., Judy Blume’s classic story of first love. What would contemporary library school students (and the teens they serve) make of this 40-year-old powerhouse?
And every year, Forever . . . inspired one of the most lively and animated discussions we’d have all semester.
“I remember sitting at the back of the school bus in junior high and passing this book around,” one student reminisced. Others reported middle school age readers borrowing the book and returning it partially read, having decided on their own that they weren’t ready for it yet.
Forever. . . , first published in 1975 by Simon & Schuster, is narrated by high school senior Katherine, who meets fellow senior Michael at a New Year’s Eve party. They date; they have sex. Katherine thinks their romance will last forever, but life has other plans. Minor characters include: Michael’s friend Artie, who may or may not be gay; Katherine’s friend Sybil, who fully intends to continue having sex after putting her baby up for adoption; and Jamie, Katherine’s younger sister, who in true 1970s fashion defends an impolite slang word for having sex: “That's not a bad word . . . hate and war are bad words.”
Blume wrote Forever . . . in response to a request from her then-teenage daughter for a book featuring “two nice kids who have sex without either of them having to die.” In other fiction of the time, as Blume explains, “if they [teens] had sex the girl was always punished—an unplanned pregnancy, a hasty trip to a relative in another state, a grisly abortion (illegal in the U.S. until the 1970’s), sometimes even death.”
As well as inspiring an entire genre of teen romance books, Forever . . . is also the direct inspiration for Daria Snadowsky’s 2007 YA book Anatomy of a Boyfriend, which retells Blume’s story in contemporary terms.
Like other controversial works of YA lit, Forever . . .’s reception has been mixed. The book comes in at number 16 on the American Library Association (ALA)’s list of the Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books of 2000-2009 and at a whopping number seven on the corresponding list for 1990-1999. On the other end of the scale, Blume won the Margaret A. Edwards Award in 1996, an ALA lifetime achievement award recognizing an author and her body of work for “significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature.” Forever . . . was specifically cited in the award announcement.
Forever . . . has been reissued with over a dozen different covers since its 1975 publication, including a now-iconic 2003 cover and a sexy new cover coming next month.
Perhaps some of the most fascinating aspects of Forever . . . are the urban legends that have sprung up around it. One such legend claims that page 115 of Forever . . .—the scene in which Katherine and Michael first make love—is the most read page in YA literature. (In class, readers of the 2003 edition were always slightly disappointed to find that its new pagination puts the content of the former page 115 on page 97.)
Another legend holds Forever . . . responsible for the decline in popularity of the name “Ralph,” the moniker Michael ascribes to a piece of his anatomy. Like many urban legends, this one isn't technically true—the number of American babies named “Ralph” peaked in the 1910s and has been dropping ever since—but who can say whether Forever . . . contributed along the way?
At a time when a seemingly endless amount of explicit content is available with a tap of a touchscreen, what accounts for the continued popularity (and infamy) of Forever . . .?
One factor might be the book’s relatability and accessibility: Katherine and Michael seem like real people teen readers might know, and Blume tells their story in simple, easy-to-read language. Another could be its usefulness as what scholar Amy Pattee describes as a “secret source” of love and relationship advice, including the practicalities of how to obtain birth control. (Newer editions include a letter to the reader with information about preventing sexually transmitted diseases.) Or maybe it’s the sheer idea that a book—a format that to some is clearly the domain of adults, school and other aspects of the formal grownup world—would dare to voice teens’ feelings and experiences in such an honest and upfront way.
Readers, share in the comments what classic YA book you'd like Jill to feature in her next Locker Combinations: Flashback Friday!
Today's hearty recipe for Italian Sausage and Mushroom Breakfast Casserole comes from The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook by Alexe van Beuren and Dixie Grimes. Van Beuren's story of unexpected Main Street revival in her town of Water Valley, Mississippi, is captivating, and our cooking columnist calls Grimes' collection of Southern recipes, "Creative comfort at its best."
Italian Sausage and Mushroom Breakfast Casserole
Reasons to make a breakfast casserole: Your in-laws are in town, and you need to spend the early morning vacuuming. High school boys are spending the night, and it’s better to serve them something contained rather than getting roped into standing next to the stove for a solid hour making pancakes to order. Someone needs sustenance in the way of food and the whole neighborhood knows it, which means the recipients of largesse might have 18 lasagnas and nothing for breakfast.
This particular casserole is savory enough for dinner, but the eggs make it breakfasty. Teenage boy approved.
Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 × 13-inch baking dish with butter. In a skillet set over medium heat, cook the sausage, breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon, until browned throughout—10 to 12 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Discard all but 1½ tablespoons of the grease in the pan. Add the fennel and mushrooms and cook, stirring, until the fennel is soft, 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, vermouth, oregano, nutmeg, salt and pepper. In the bottom of the prepared baking dish, spread half of the bread, and top with half of the cooked sausage, half of the fennel mixture, and half of the grated cheese; repeat the layers with the remaining ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the plastic from the dish and bake until the casserole is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
Excerpted from The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook by Alexe van Beuren and Dixie Grimes. Copyright © 2014 by Alexe van Beuren. Photographs by Ed Anderson. Excerpted by permission of Clarkson Potter Publishers, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Read our review of this book.
Author Tony Earley's 2000 debut novel, Jim the Boy, was a national bestseller, but he is also known for his short stories, which serve up satisfying slices of life. On August 26, he'll release his third short story collection—and his first in 20 years—Mr. Tall (Little, Brown).
The seven tales—one of which is novella length—have varied Southern settings, from the Outer Banks to contemporary Nashville (Earley is an English professor at Vanderbilt University).
From the publisher:
Earley indelibly maps previously undiscovered territories of the human heart in these melancholy, comic, and occasionally strange stories. Along the way he leads us on a journey from contemporary Nashville to a fantastical land of talking dogs and flying trees, teaching us at every step that, even in the most familiar locales, the ordinary is never just that.
Will you read it?
Saint Monkey by Jacinda Townsend
Norton • $24.95 • ISBN 9780393080049
On sale February 24
Jacinda Townsend's debut novel, Saint Monkey, follows best friends Audrey Martin and Caroline Wallace through their most formative years in the segregated Appalachian culture of Eastern Kentucky. Family tragedy and a deep well of grief initially tie the two girls together, and both dream of life beyond their tiny, oppressive town. Audrey is picked up by a talent scout for her gifts in jazz piano and joins the house band at Harlem's Apollo theatre at the age of 17, but Caroline finds it much harder to sever her ties to Mt. Sterling, and a bitter divide is cut between them as they struggle for a place in the world.
Read an excerpt from the first chapter below:
Since my daddy died, Grandpap has begun to see me as a dry leaf in freefall, a wasted petal about to be crunched under a man's foot. He wants me to forget all the boys of Montgomery County and take studies in typing, to let go the idea of marrying a town sweetheart and become, instead, a woman of the city in a store-bought dress and nylons, with my own bedboard and bankbook. I'm supposed to fly and dream about all that, sitting here in this swing. He painted it white, whiter even than the side of this house, whose thin coat is peeling to expose the aged black wood underneath. He painted the wood slats of this swing so white that when you stare at them for a time, they seem blue. Swing high, and the porch ceiling creaks where he riveted the screws: the grown people who walk by warn me. "Hey gal, it ain't a playground swing," they say. For them, for their limitations, I stop pumping my legs, and the creaking stops. But when they've faded down the walk, I fly high again.
What are you reading this week?