75+ of the very Best Chapter Books for Girls ages 5-13. Beginner chapter books, classics, fiction, non-fiction, and thrilling series to captivate early readers straight through to their tween, preteen and early teenage years.
I am thrilled to share with you, this collection of the Best Chapter Books for Girls, compiled and written for us by one of my long-time daycare parents Tom MacInnes. Tom shines in his roles as teacher, blogger, writer, husband, and most of all, as an exceptional father to his two daughters (my hooligans). It is an honour to have have his words grace my blog. Take it away, Tom…
I have read to my daughter Leah almost every day of the ten years she has been alive. Our reading time together is precious and sacred, and never comes at the expense of anything else. It is one of the most important things I do with the twenty-four hours I am allotted each day. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything in the world.
I will stake no claim to being the Parent-of-the-Year, but I will say proudly that my wife and I have raised a couple of wonderful readers. We are proud of their skill with words, their love of storytelling, and the way in which they use reading as a means to gather information and empower their lives. They are good girls, and they love books.
Here’s how we’ve managed to pull that off:
From the day we brought our girls home from the hospital, they have been read to. Initially, when Leah was our only child, both my wife and I read to her in equal measure. She was exposed to storybooks with traditional narrative structures. She was also exposed to songs and finger-plays, poems and silly rhymes, and books with colours and textures, all the while being held close to our bodies. The pleasure of being held close, coupled with a wide variety of books, made Leah a book-lover before she could even recognize a single printed word.
When our second daughter, Sophie, was born, my wife and I divvied up the reading duties; I became Leah’s chief teller of stories, and my wife spent her time surrounding our new babe with rhyme and colour and love. That set-up has continued to this day. Because of that, this post will be based on Leah’s and my time spent reading together. I will go through a thorough listing of some of the best chapter books and book series that my daughter and I have read together. These books have made a lasting impact on us both. Hopefully, by doing so, you will discover some new reads that are good for girls and/or you may find confirmation of choices you have already made for your daughter, niece or grandchild.
What constitutes a good book for girls?
First of all, I am loathe to allow gender distinctions to limit intellectual and personal freedom. I want my daughters to grow up knowing that they have the right to chart their own course when it comes to pursuing their interests and dreams. So, let me begin by stating that a good book for girls does not have to be about girls. A good book for girls starts by being a good book, period.
Books with rich language, evocative storytelling, that touch upon universal themes of courage or friendship or honesty or love are suitable for readers of both sexes. That’s why just as many girls loved the Harry Potter series, for instance, as boys. A good book is a good book is a good book. For that reason, some of the books that I consider to be the best books for girls also appear in Jackie’s companion post 40+ Best Books For Boys.
Secondly, a good book for girls is one that suits the interest of the girl in question. If a girl is interested in astronomy, then by all means, fill her book shelves with books about outer space, rockets, telescopes and scientists! If she is interested in ballet and dance, then by all means, expose her to stories about ballerinas, famous dancers from around the world, dance studios and crazes from the past few decades.
Regardless of interest, there are a great many books and stories that can be pointed in your child’s direction. After all, the experience of reading can be quite personal, so it is imperative that we honour the wishes of your child by helping them find books that touch their heart and stimulate their brain.
Finally, the old adage is that you can’t become what you can’t see. This means, that whenever possible, it’s good to expose your daughter to stories that have strong female characters. Leah and I recently finished The Mockingjay, Book #3 in The Hunger Games Trilogy. Katniss Everdeen would certainly qualify as a strong, prominent female character. She is by no means the only prominent female character in the list that is set to come. Not that I want Leah killing people, but just the same, it is good for girls to see a female role-model who isn’t afraid to stand up for what is right, and to fight for herself and those she loves.
When Leah was three years and younger, our bedtime-story ritual consisted of the two of us cuddling together on the floor or in a cozy chair or in her bedroom and reading three picture books together. We had a vast library at our finger tips, from our own collection and from the books that we borrowed, twenty at a time, from our public library. Some books were read once and put aside; while our favourite books were read, over and over again, and still have a place on our bookshelves to this day. With each nightly session, Leah grew more and more familiar with the conventions of books: how the text flows from left-to-right, how the illustrations compliment the text and add depth to the author’s meaning, how sentences are structured, and what wonderful language there is in the world.
75+ Best Chapter Books for Girls Ages 5-13
I’ll be looking for you, Will, every moment, every single moment. And when we do find each other again, we’ll cling together so tight that nothing and no one’ll ever tear us apart. Every atom of me and every atom of you…We’ll live in birds and flowers and dragonflies and pine needles and in clouds and in those little specks of light you see floating in sunbeams. And when they use our atoms to make new lives, they won’t just take one, they’ll have to take two; one of you and one of me, we’ll be joined so tight.
Lyra Belacqua, The Amber Spyglass, by Philip Pullman.
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Transitioning to chapter books:
Because Leah had a deep, rich experience with literature at such a young age, the day I stumbled upon a book entitled, 28 Good Night Stories, I knew I had found the perfect book to help us transition to chapter books. This book is based on the relationship between a sleepy bear and a guardian angel trying to earn his wings. The two tell each other stories over the course of 28 nights. The beauty of this collection of stories was that Leah and I could still read our three stories a night, but we did so in a new format. This book enabled Leah to understand that a story can be longer, and continue day after day, and be there the next night even if we hadn’t reached the back cover of the book yet.
The impetus to transition into chapter books was fuelled by a Christmas gift that Leah received from one of my wife’s dear friends. It was a gorgeous coffee table edition of Peter Pan. This book, despite it’s politically incorrect segments (which I omitted as I read) was the first book that told an entire story over the space of hundreds of pages. It was a real step up in terms of the complexity of the character development and the plot lines for Leah. She seemed to enjoy the new format of our bedtime stories, and since then, we haven’t looked back.
Beginner book series for girls:
Here are a few of the best series of books we have read through since (and that Leah is now reading again, on her own!)
The first series we read through in earnest was a light and breezy series called Rainbow Magic. The Rainbow Magic series concerns two friends, Kirsty and Rachel, who help various fairies from the Fairy World whenever they have trouble because of nasty Jack Frost and his band of Goblins. It is all very cartoon-like and the stories are formalistic, but they were the perfect entry point into the world of chapter books for my little girl. The fairies all had names and eventually there was a Leah fairy and a Sophie fairy too. Those are the only two books of the series we own. The rest were borrowed from the Library.
When we exhausted that series, Leah turned her eyes toward a much richer series by Mary Pope Osborne, called The Magic Tree House. This series revolves around two siblings, Jack and Annie, who travel through time via books found in a magic tree house that appears in the woods by their home. Through this series of introductory chapter books, Leah was introduced to all sorts of historical events and famous historical people. The books were short enough that we could read them and still have energy left over to follow our curiosity and check out the real stories behind the fiction described in these books. The books were written by Osborne with the goal of introducing history to children in a way that would entertain as well as educate. She has succeeded very well. They are excellent books for beginning chapter book readers as well as being an excellent introduction to history from all around the world.
As a result of reading this series, Leah has developed a life-long love of history and geography. This has manifested itself in Leah being as equally interested and comfortable reading non-fiction as she is fiction. Even with her fiction choices, she often leans toward historical fiction of one sort or another.
When we were in the midst of the long Rainbow Magic series and the Magic Tree House books, we managed to take time to read two classic books for girls that I am willing to wager can be found on every list of this sort imaginable.
Classic chapter books and series for young readers:
Charlotte’s Web is as close to being a perfect book as you are likely to find. All of the important qualities of love, friendship, courage and loyalty are on full display in this charming tale of a pig and a spider and a little girl named Fern. Most people I know cry toward the end. What a great read aloud book!
The second classic book that Leah and I shared was Anne of Green Gables. Set in bucolic Prince Edward Island, Anne of Green Gables tells the story of one of the most iconic female characters in children’s literature, Anne Shirley. Leah felt like she could relate to Anne because of her love for words and her desire to feel the warmth of Family and Home. On a recent family vacation, we toured the very house pictured on the front of the book that accompanies. It was as charming as one might expect after reading the book as we had.
There were over 100 books in the Rainbow Magic Series and over 50 so far in the Magic Tree House series. After plowing through both, we opted…. ok, I opted, for series that were somewhat shorter and more contained. With Leah starting to demonstrate an interest in history and in particular, the story of the Titanic, we turned to Canadian author, Gordon Korman, and next read his Titanic trilogy. Much like James Cameron’s Hollywood movie, these three books take a historical fiction angle on the real story. The books are good to incorporate real-life characters in with the fictional ones and, as well, introduce readers to some not-so-famous details and characters such as Thomas Andrews in Ireland, who designed the drawings upon which Titanic was built, and his “Guarantee Group” of workers who went on the maiden voyage and died there, too. Historical fiction was becoming a favourite genre for Leah and the Titanic Trilogy by Gordon Korman was where it really began to blossom.
From there, we stumbled upon two excellent trilogies. The first was called The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. These stories are detective/adventure stories involving a group of four children, Constance, Kate, Rennie and Sticky. All four children have been recruited into a special school run by a mysterious man called Dr. Benedict. Each child has a unique gift but not a supernatural gift. Their gifts are athleticism, intuition, logic, and a photographic memory. The children are asked to decipher clues and solve mysteries throughout and are constantly reminded that they have the skills necessary to the success of the group when they work as a team rather than as individuals. Leah enjoyed seeing intelligence celebrated and having the children solve problems using their brains rather than relying on magic or gizmos. The stories are fairly lengthy and there was plenty of interesting background detail on all of the main characters. We enjoyed solving the mysteries along with the characters, as they arose in these books.
Hot on the heels of that series, we came across an award-winning book called Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett. We didn’t even know that this was a series until we were finishing up the first book and went looking for others by the same author. Chasing Vermeer concerns three children who live in Chicago, and end up involved in a mystery that revolves around a painting by the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer entitled, The Lady Writing. *Leah has a framed poster (pictured below) in her bedroom of “The Lady Writing”.
Again, the children use intelligence and courage to piece together the clues to discover who is involved and what is behind the theft of this painting. The historical fiction genre proved to be right up Leah’s alley once again, and she enjoyed this book thoroughly, as did I. The two follow-up books were equally good. The Wright Three was about a mystery at “Robie House”, famous house built in Chicago by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The third book was called The Calder Game and had as its focus, the famous sculptor Alexander Calder. All three books involved mathematics, art, poetry, and seeing the patterns that exist in numbers, geometry and nature. These books were accessible reads for any child but, would really be enjoyed by intelligent children who could appreciate that intelligent students were being featured and celebrated throughout the series.
From there, Leah began to show an interest in The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S.Lewis. We started off with The Magician’s Nephew. These books were a definite intellectual step up just like Peter Pan had been an intellectual step up from the picture books we used to read together. After the first four chapters, I stopped and told Leah that if she felt the storyline was too scary or too hard to understand, that we could stop. She replied without hesitation, “It is the exact opposite, Daddy. I love it and can’t wait to find out what happens next.”
We read all seven books in order. We particularly liked The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Horse and His Boy, Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Well-written, epic stories like these offer characters that readers can invest their emotions in. Although the final book got a little “preachy” for our liking, the series as a whole, justified the legendary status it enjoys.
After The Chronicles of Narnia, Leah felt ready to tackle more substantive literature. My first thought was to try Harry Potter next, but Leah was a bit intimidated, and asked to wait “until I am eight.”
While we waited until Leah turned “eight”, we read several stand-alone books that had a profound influence on how Leah thought of herself as a reader. The first book was Bridge To Terabithia.
Leah had long had the habit of reading her best-favoured books again and again. However, most of her regular re-reads were books that were short enough to read in one sitting (like The Magic Tree House) or non-fiction books that had chapters or segments that could be read in isolation without having to re-read the entire book. Bridge To Terabithia marked the real beginning of Leah’s love affair with longer chapter books. Her attention span, having grown to a suitable length, now afforded her the ability to read for as long as she liked, put an unfinished book down, and pick it back up at the next, earliest opportunity. When Leah started re-reading Bridge To Terabithia, it caused her to pick up Prince Caspian again and read it solo style. She did the same with Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
This marked a significant and empowering change in Leah’s reading habits because now, not only did she read with me before bed, she also began reading self-selected chapter books that were her own stories to read. To this day, I have still not read some of them. It is difficult to keep up with her, to be honest. I will list “Leah’s Solo Favourites” toward the end of this post.
The final important development that arose from Bridge To Terabithia was that it was Leah’s first modern relationship story between a boy and a girl. Sigh.
After Bridge To Terabithia came Coraline by Neil Gaiman. This book was significant because it was the first real dipping of her toes in both the horror and fantasy genres. I think Coraline is an incredibly good book for intelligent children because, even at an early age, it allows for discussions about the price of our some of our dreams, and the cost of some of the Faustian bargains we strike in pursuit of what we think will make us happy.
Later, Leah read Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book as well. While not quite the literary homer that Coraline was, The Graveyard Book helped to solidify Leah’s growing love of fantasy story lines.
At this point in time, I think the odds are fairly good that a teenage Leah will continue to explore Gaiman’s bibliography and find her way to the Sandman series of graphic novels.
Speaking of graphic novels, it was around this time that Leah discovered author Raina Telgemeier and her series of graphic novels, Drama, Smile and Sisters. All three of these novels have become wildly popular with Junior grade students, and Leah (and Sophie too) is no exception. These books may hold the record in our house for being re-read, over and over again. Both girls readily relate to the family dynamic depicted within the pages of Telgemeier’s books.
Although Leah was branching off into her own world of literary choices, we still made time to share our own stories together. If Leah, in her mind, was not ready for the world of Hogwarts and Harry Potter then, we would explore the next best thing: the series that is said to have made a major impression on a younger J.K. Rowling, Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series.
The story is set is Wales and is essentially a tale, spanning five books, of the forces of Good trying to keep the forces of Darkness at bay. The hero is 11 years old, just like another certain eleven year old boy who turned up years later at Privet Drive. This boy, Will, is a seeker of six “signs”, just as Harry Potter searched for seven horcruxes in his story. Will has an uncle who mentors him, just as Harry had his Dumbledore. The similarities between the two go on, but The Dark is Rising is a simpler tale in many ways. Because of that, by the time we understood what was meant by “the silver on the tree” in the fifth and final book, Leah was ready to give Harry a try.
One of the cooler aspects of this series was that many of the settings really existed. So, after we finished reading the books, we went to Google Earth and journeyed into the fishing villages and windswept moors mentioned so prominently throughout the books. Pretty neat.
And then we boarded the Hogwarts Express at Platform 9 and 3/4.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer/Philosopher’s Stone is, along with Charlotte’s Web, my favourite chapter book to read aloud to children. There is a certain cadence to the writing that makes the text simply roll off of the tongue when reading out loud.
Not much need be said about this series. It is the most popular children’s literary series of all time for a reason. The tales of friendship, loyalty, courage and love have struck a chord with millions of young readers, including Leah. Not only that, but while Harry Potter is certainly the star of the story, Hermione Granger, his faithful friend, has emerged from the series as one of the strongest female characters ever written for children. Everything about her personality resonated with Leah; her fierceness, her sense of honour and justice, her intelligence, her femininity, and her feminism, too. Leah even dressed up as Hermione for Halloween last year!
One of the worries that Leah had heading into the first Potter book was that it would be too scary and violent. She soon found that this was not the case. Instead, she found the action scenes to be rather thrilling and took them in stride within the context of events as they unfolded in the story. Having Leah realize that she was brave and intelligent enough to handle action scenes, even when they contained violence or suspense, helped prepare her for our next series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians was the series that connected a lot of dots for Leah. First of all, it helped bring her love of Greek culture to the fore. This had been something that had been quietly percolating inside her soul ever since we read the book, The Magic Treehouse: Hour of the Olympics, a few years prior. In that book, Leah was shocked to learn that girls/women were not permitted to participate in the Olympics or, even to go to school. It was one of the first times she was ever made aware that discrimination based upon gender was a reoccurring theme throughout the course of history.
So, this book was the kindling that gave birth to the first sparks of the feminist mindset that Leah possesses to this day. It also created a fascination with the Greek culture and history. This fascination exploded when we read The Lightning Thief, and continued on throughout the remaining four books in the series. The characters in the Percy Jackson series are all teenagers which added to the allure of the series. Leah loved every aspect of the Gods, Goddesses and Demigods, and their relationships to each other and to mere mortals. Because of this series, Leah went on a non-fiction blitz of our public library, checking out every book she could find on Greek mythology and history.
Even though I’d had my fill of Gods and Demigods by the end of The Last Olympian, Leah charged on ahead and read the next complete set of books by Rick Riordan, Percy Jackson and the Heroes of Olympus on her own.
While reading The Heroes of Olympus, Leah, with her sense of female empowerment growing, turned to one of the biggest female role models of recent time by reading I Am Malala. As many of you may know, Malala Yousafzai was a young girl who was attending school in Afghanistan at a time when the Taliban forbid girls from getting an education. She was shot and left for dead by the Taliban. But Malala not only survived, she grew strong, and became a globally respected proponent of the right for girls to get an education and to choose their own future path. Malala is a brave, intelligent, charming and tenacious young lady. To paraphrase the old saying, in order to see the way forward, we stand on the shoulders of giants. Malala is that wonderful role model for Leah and for countless other girls around the world.
For most of the past year or so, Leah and I have entered the world of Starclan, with the Warriors series by Erin Hunter. There are literally dozens of books in the entire series. We read only the first six, but, even with that small a sampling, we were impressed with the detailed description of feline communities within a forest. Friendship, bravery, leadership, attraction, treachery and war all play their roles in this sprawling saga told through the point of view of a “Kittypet”, turned clan leader, named Firestar. Leah thought that the descriptions of everyday life in the forest, and the detailed and thoughtfully planned character development reminded her a lot of the social structure of her school. Thus, she was able to bring meaning to the books and make personal connections which, as you know, makes for a deeper and more meaningful reading experience.
One of the good things about having a reputation as a reader is that as you grow up, other like-minded peers will seek you out. So, not surprisingly, as Leah has moved through the Junior grades at school, she and the girls who have become her fast friends spend a regular portion of their free time reading and talking about books with each other. It was a recommendation from a dear friend that led Leah to request that we read The Hunger Games trilogy. So, we did. That’s when Leah got to meet Katniss Everdeen. Leah liked that she was a strong young girl. She liked that Katniss would fight for what was right and for those she loved. She admired the fact that Katniss didn’t always know what to do, but that she learned to trust her instincts in battle and in romance. Leah also liked how the politics of both the Capitol and the Rebels had flaws that made supporting them untenable. She respected how Katniss sought out her own truth and reacted accordingly at the conclusion of The Mockingjay.
As you read this post, Leah and I are finishing our current series, the glorious His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. What gorgeous language throughout! What an intricate tale of childhood innocence, the power of love, friendship, and loyalty, and as well, the redemptive value of forgiveness. The ending of the final book, The Amber Spyglass, is widely regarded as one of the best endings in all of children’s literature. It features another strong female character called Lyra Belacqua and an almost equally strong, nasty female character, Mrs. Coulter, who is Lyra’s mother. The three books take the reader on a sprawling, epic tale that transcends worlds, challenges preconceived notions of the church and science and in the end, illustrates what “family” truly means better that any book series I have read. Highly, highly recommended!
As mentioned earlier, Leah and I read together each night and, Leah also reads her own books throughout the day. So, in compiling this post, I felt it was prudent to ask Leah for some of her personal recommendations.
Here are some of the books that Leah has enjoyed on her own:
For Christmas two years ago, Leah received a box set of Roald Dahl’s complete works. Although she enjoyed them all, the one that continues to get pulled out is Matilda. Of all of the female characters in all of the books that Leah has read or has listened to, Matilda might be the one who is the biggest reader. Leah completely gets how important books are in terms of the information they transmit, as well as their ability to transport the reader away from where they are to anywhere their imagination may take them. Leah is, at this point in her life, kind of like Matilda……but with a better family life, I hope! 🙂
The theme of animals in captivity is highlighted in this powerful book by Katherine Applegate called The One and Only Ivan. Told from the point of view of Ivan, a gorilla who lives his life in a glass cage in a rundown shopping mall, The One and Only Ivan is a terrific portrait of loneliness and the deep set yearning within us all to lead a life of purpose and meaning. Leah was truly touched by Ivan’s saga and calls this one of the best books she has ever read.
Leah received Liesl and Po as a gift from her Great Aunt, and she talks about this book with equal regard as The One and Only Ivan. Liesl and Po concerns a lonely girl (Liesl) and an equally lonely ghost named Po. Together they help ease each other’s loneliness, Po helping Liesl see beyond her own world. In the midst of all this, a young man, smitten with Liesl, drops off a box of magic that sets off a chain reaction of events that change all of their lives. The characters are quirky and likeable and the writing is terrific. For example, “…he had imagined it perfectly: how he would come around the corner and see that tiny square of light so many stories above him, and see her face floating there like a single star.” Terrific stuff, this!
Wonder by R.J. Palacio is about a boy named Auggie who possesses a severe facial deformity. Because of how he looks, people often judge him without ever getting to know the real him. What lifts this book above the cliched premise of not judging a person based upon looks, is how masterfully Palacio creates realistic characters that the reader can relate to. Leah, once again thought that this was very representative of her school experience, and it got her thinking about body image in a more positive and upbeat manner than is often the case for young girls.
Not every book Leah has read has been heavy or serious. Leah enjoys a fast-paced, funny story, too. The Dear Dumb Diary series is school-based, and has a cast of pre-teen and tween age characters that Leah relates to well. Like many books of this sort, the female character, Jamie Kelly, always gets into and out of plenty of jackpots, and provides many moments of silliness and slapstick humour.
Fantasy books don’t have to be violent or suspenseful. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine is about a girl who had the “gift” of obedience bestowed upon her by fairies after she was born. Not surprisingly, Ella gets into lots of trouble because she literally has to do whatever she is told, no matter how wrong, dangerous or silly it turns out to be. Leah enjoyed watching Ella cope with this curse and develop strategies to circumvent the terms of the curse. Generally speaking, Leah is not a fan of stories about princesses who live happily-ever-after in the company of a prince, but every now and again, a good old-fashioned fairy tale type of book is just what the doctor ordered.
When Leah discovered graphic novels, one of the series that she was most drawn to was the Thea Stilton series. This was a spin-off of the Geronimo Stilton franchise, and involved a troupe of female mice who were investigative journalists-in-training. Needless to say, they got involved in mysteries from around the world, and used their ingenuity and intelligence to solve crimes. Leah really enjoyed that the settings were famous foreign locales, and that the five girls worked together so well and used their brains cohesively as one unit. Most of the books in this series could be read in a single sitting by Leah, so they became the type of books that she would take on car rides, for instance, to Gramma’s and Poppa’s.
Leah read Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin in school, and raved about it whenever she talked about books that she thought were original and creative. Essentially, “Elsewhere” is a place that you go when you die. Everyone ages backwards until they reach the age of seven days, and then they are reborn and start life on Earth anew. Leah has said that she has never read a book like Elsewhere, and she recommends it to anyone who enjoys the kind of book that keeps you guessing right until the end.
Leah received Pax by Sara Pennypacker as a gift, and we could not tear her away from its pages from the moment she opened it. The story takes place amid war. The book begins with a boy and his pet fox being forced to separate because the boy is going to live with family members while his father goes off to war. The rest of the story involves the boy trekking back home in hopes of finding his fox, and the fox learning to survive in the wild, all the while maintaining faith that his boy will return. Lots of interesting characters help out along both journeys, according to Leah. She says Pax tugs at your heartstrings and is a great read.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle is a science-fiction classic. Leah recommends this book because of the strong female character Meg Murry. Leah found this book a little more challenging than she did enjoyable, but having said that, she has re-read it several times this year. I would like to hope that if I were ever trapped on some distant outcrop, Leah would go to the ends of the universe to rescue me. 🙂
*My seven year old daughter, Sophie, has strolled by and is reading over my shoulder, and she wants me to tell you, dear readers, that she has a favourite chapter book series, too. It is called Nancy Clancy and is based upon the picture book series, Fancy Nancy by Jane O’ Connor. Sophie highly recommends this series because “Nancy likes fancy things, so that is fun”. She also likes that Nancy has a sister, just like she does. Finally, Nancy is in Grade 3 in school, and Sophie is in Grade 2, so they are almost the same age.
So, there you have it! Thanks, Sophie!
Historical, non-fictional books for girls:
There are many non-fiction books that have captured Leah’s attention because of their compelling historical significance or because of the remarkable nature of the characters involved. Here are just a few of best non-fiction books that Leah has devoured in her search for knowledge, inspiration, and incredible stories:
Leah has read dozens of books dedicated to the ill-fated voyage of the Titanic. But the one book on the subject that has stood the test of time and which resides on the bookshelf in her bedroom is Exploring the Titanic by Robert Ballard, who is the oceanographer who first discovered the wreck. The allure of the Titanic disaster, for Leah, is the contrast between the epic scale of the disaster and the incredible personal stories that abound. Leah also appreciated the respect with which Dr. Ballard conducted his search of the wreck, and how he vowed never to pillage the site because, in his words, “It is a graveyard.”
Leah has never shown that much interest in war history per se, but like so many others, she has been drawn to the story of Anne Frank. While Leah has never wanted to read the actual transcript of her diary, she did find Anne Frank: Beyond the Diary to be extremely moving. This book combines archival photographs and other bits of information from the time, with Anne’s story. The conclusion of the book is well-known, but still caused Leah to feel much in her heart and mind.
On a similar note, a second Holocaust book proved even more popular with Leah than Anne Frank: Beyond the Diary and that was Hana’s Suitcase by Karen Levine. The chapters of this multi-award winning book alternate between telling Hana’s life story, and telling Hana’s story from the point of view of a modern-day Japanese teacher named Fumiko, who has come into possession of an old suitcase with the name “Hana” painted on it, and is using it to teach her class about the Holocaust.
More books for girls to enjoy:
Now, before I wrap up this post, there is one final “best book” list to describe and that is the tower of books as of yet, unread, that await our attention as a duo, or Leah’s, as a solo reader. We may cover all of the following books, some of them, or perhaps none at all, as our attention may be diverted by treasures that we are not even aware of yet. But more than likely, these books will be next on our list.
Ann and Seamus by Kevin Major is a story depicting a ship that wrecked and sank off of the coast of Newfoundland. The story is told all in rhyme. It tells the tale of the wreck from the point of view of Seamus, a crew member, and Ann, who rowed out in raging seas, and was credited with rescuing dozens of survivors. This is a creative take on the historical fiction genre and can easily be read in one sitting. Ann is, definitely, an under-celebrated Canadian heroine.
Deborah Ellis’ Breadwinner Trilogy, is an unrelenting look at life for girls in Afghanistan, where simply surviving is difficult, let alone enjoying simple pleasures such as having clean water, playing safely out of doors, or maintaining friendships and keeping family units intact. These books are bleak, but they do a really good job of portraying the lives of women and girls under the Taliban, and without having to say it, contrasting their lives with those of young girls in our part of the world who are doing the reading. Excellent, thought-provoking, and occasionally unsettling books, but highly recommended nonetheless.
The Giver by Lois Lowry appeared on Jackie’s list of the 40 Best Books for Boys and it makes it on to my list of good books for girls, too. Quite simply, The Giver is a wonderful story of a unique world where colour equals emotion and feelings. The story depicts a society that has traded passion for security, love for stability, and ideas for industry. Any reader, male or female, who has any sense of emotional claustrophobia will not breathe until this story has raced downhill to its icy conclusion. Great book… and Leah hasn’t read it yet. *I am hopeful that this will be the next book we read after we finish His Dark Materials trilogy after Christmas.
Lois Lowry also wrote another great book called Number the Stars. This book is about being in German-occupied Denmark during the Second World War. The main character is a ten-year old girl named Annemarie who, as the events of history unfolds, finds herself protecting her best friend, who is Jewish, from being sent to the concentration camps. Annemarie and her family work with the Danish Resistance to smuggle Jewish friends and families into Sweden. The act of smuggling the Jewish characters is a white-knuckle read. It would be an excellent adventure story on its own, but with the historical tie-ins, the plot is elevated to a higher plain of relevance.
There are many, many books that, no doubt, fall into the conventional thinking as being “the best girl books” like The Fault In Our Stars and Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret. Whether or not they end up on Leah’s reading list at some future date is up to her. All that I have ever really asked for Leah, when it has come to reading, is that she continue to pursue it, that she continue to enjoy it and that she continue to read good books, period, regardless of gender classifications. A good book is a good book is a good book, as I always say.
As I begin to wind this post down, I do so with the slight caution that while the books Leah and I have read over the course of her life have been the best books for her (and, by extension, for me), they are only a guide for you as a young female reader, or for you as the person who loves that young female reader. The overarching message that extends throughout my journey with my daughter is this:
If you want a young girl in your life to make a permanent, lifelong connection with the act of reading, you need to read to them from their earliest days, and do so out of love for them and for the stories you are sharing. You need to surround them with books of all subject matter, genres, and levels of complexity.
Finally, you need to let the young reader follow their muse when it comes to mining an area of interest.
We did all of those things with Leah and she has turned out to be a wonderful reader with a keen eye for good literature and strong female role models. The fact that she accomplished this mainly through historical fiction, science fiction and fantasy is neither here nor there. It is simply what worked for her.
Read with your child, surround them with good books, and let them chart their own course, and you too, will have an inspired reader on your hands.
Knowing the Happy Hooligan community a bit, I know that you are good to share success stories with each other. So, in that regard, if you feel this list has missed some of the best books for girls; books that have worked for you as a young female reader, or have worked with daughters of yours then please, by all means, share those titles and your stories in the comment box below.
Thanks again, Jackie, for allowing me to share Leah’s journey in literature with your followers. I hope that your readers may draw inspiration from what she has accomplished.
I will conclude this post by touching upon a moment that happened while reading through the Little House on the Prairie series with Leah a few years ago. This moment symbolizes for me what reading with my daughter truly means. I share that moment now, with all of you.
As noted at the beginning of this post, Leah and I reading together has become woven in the fabric of our lives. It is part of our relationship together that we both treasure. We read together because we love one another. We love one another, so we read together. It all fits together so perfectly for us both. It is hard to imagine that the day will come when Leah will say to me, “No reading tonight, Dad. I’m going to go out with my friends” or something similar. I will feel my heart crack on the spot, but because I love her, I will tell her to go and be with her friends. I will tell her to have fun with someone other than me. I will watch her grow up and leave. I know that this is a part of life, but just the same, I am not yet ready for our reading time to end.
So, with that in mind, I was definitely caught off guard when we came to the scene in the Little House books where Laura has fallen in love with Almanzo Wilder and has agreed to get married. As we read that scene, and in particular, the part where Pa Ingalls has to help Laura climb into Almanzo’s wagon and drive away to live at his house as his wife, I definitely became emotional myself. I choked back my tears and soldiered on, but inside I was dying, and all the while, Leah was wondering what was wrong with my voice all of a sudden. I attempted to capture that moment in a poem that I like to share when it comes time for good-byes.
Damn you, Laura Ingalls!!!
A pioneer life,
in the soft glow of lamplight.
My young daughter’s body
melts into mine,
as Pa covers Laura with blankets of fur
to keep winter’s chill at bay.
Builder of homes, provider of food, protector of the family,
Laura’s Pa can do anything.
That I can, too, is confirmed
by her hand reaching for mine as we read.
We are comfortable in the warmth of her pink bedroom,
flannel jammies and slippers, too.
Yet we feel the bitter winds of The Long Winter
And thirst for sunshine,
in the starlight,
in our home.
Pa warms up the fiddle
“In the starlight, in the starlight…”
Together they sing.
Together we hug and whisper in time to Pa’s tune.
We smile. Our hearts fill.
As did the Ingalls that night, so many lifetimes ago.
The bonds of family.
The foundation of Home.
Timelessly on display
in the pages of our most treasured of books.
The lessons, obvious.
Her small heart beats with vigor.
She is ever becoming Laura;
stronger, more able, more a young woman
With dreams that cause my heart to ache.
Pa helps Laura into Almanzo’s wagon.
I stop reading aloud.
her eyes to mine.
I have to juggle my many emotions,
managing to meekly clear my throat.
Together we watch that wagon drive away
Damn you, Laura Ingalls!
The story of family and of trails blazed across space and time
is now a road map for my daughter;
a way forward,
a yardstick for her to measure success and love.
The final pages read.
I tuck her gently under a downy comforter.
A tender kiss.
A lamp turned off.
“Daddy loves you,” I say in the darkness.
“I love you, too, Daddy.”
I leave the room
to her dreams,
whatever she makes them to be.
Tom MacInnes lives in Cobourg, Ontario, with his beautiful wife and two daughters. He is an Elementary School Teacher who is nearing retirement (2018), after a long and fruitful career helping young children learn to read. He hopes his retirement years will allow for a greater focus on his writing. Like most men, if you cut him, he would bleed bacon.