As a word of warning, this article is extremely biased and opinionated. As a general rule, I won’t read anything with the words princess or popular in the title (with the exception, of course, of the classic The Little Princess). My 11-year-old daughter has now adopted the same philosophy and, while it is possible that we have missed out on some greats with titles like ‘How to Be the Most Popular and Pretty Princess’, it is a calculated risk that we are both willing to take.
We did make an exception for a princess-y title: Chinese Cinderella: The Secret Story of an Unwanted Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah. I love memoir and this book is a great read for young women and mothers as well. It is a tragic tale but it is beautifully written.
I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb is another memoir to add to the list. This is a must-read. Malala is an incredible young woman with a story that must be heard, for there are many who will never have the chance to tell their stories. It’s important that our girls understand how fortunate they are and how important their voices can be.
While Malala’s story takes place in Pakistan, the book tells her story of how she faced the Taliban. In the fictional My Name is Parvana, the now-15-year- old protagonist lives in post-Taliban Afghanistan. This inspiring story is actually the sequel to The Breadwinner Trilogy. I highly recommend all of the Deborah Ellis series.
Prolific and profound
While summer reading is meant to be enjoyable, it can still be well-written; the two need not be mutually exclusive. Through our Mother- Daughter Book Club, which I wrote about in the March issue of Playtimes, I am discovering/rediscovering that there are many books that are equally enjoyable for both the pre-teen set as well as their parents. There’s currently a trend in the genre of young adult literature towards “crossover” novels – books written for teens, but also marketed to adults. I have found many books for an even younger audience for which the same holds true.
If you remember one name to add to your summer reading list, it should be John Green. The Fault in Our Stars is my absolute favourite (as well as my daughter’s). A word of caution for parents of younger children: this book is incredibly heart-breaking. It is the story of a 16-year old and a community of teens battling terminal illness while also learning to love. You can’t go wrong with any of John Green’s books.
There is nothing better than reading a book and falling in love with it, and then realising that the author has written a host of great books. This certainly holds true for Joan Bauer. We read Almost Home, followed by Hope Was Here. If you are going to pick just one, I would suggest Hope Was Here. This is a wonderful story of starting over. Hope has even given herself a new name. The story immediately pulls the reader in and it is filled with beautiful characters. It is a story that you won’t want to see end.
Another name to add to the list of great and prolific writers is Cynthia Kadohata. First of all, I am a bit of a sucker for books with Asian protagonists, and I also love multi-cultural characters. Outside Beauty is a wonderful story of a terribly complicated and extremely non-traditional family. Also on your Kadohata list, I would add A Million Shades of Gray (not to be confused with a similar adult title of many fewer shades of grey and one million fewer shades of depth and intelligence). Kira-Kira is also a wonderful read. Kadohata is another one of those authors whose works you’ll find yourself picking up one after another, enjoying every one.
Laurie Halse Anderson is yet another author with a list of must- read books. I highly recommend Fever 1793, part of The Seeds of America Trilogy. I am a huge fan of historical fiction generally and this is a well- researched novel about the epidemic that decimated Philadelphia in 1793. It is a window into a period of history very different from our own and will undoubtedly pique your child’s interest to learn more about history and that period of time. The other books in this series are likewise recommended (Forge and Chains).
Nostalgic and noteworthy
No list could be complete without a bit of nostalgia added in for the mums.
I will date myself here by saying I assume that we all grew up with Judy Blume books. Blume is definitely an author to revisit with you children. I recently repurchased a copy of Blubber, which has been, I believe unfairly, criticised of late. Contemporary reviewers seem bothered that there doesn’t seem to be a sense of justice for Blubber, I mean Linda. Let’s be realistic: life isn’t always fair. This book is an excellent segue into a discussion about bullying with your teen, which we know is as relevant today as when Blume wrote it in the 1970s. Deenie is next on our Blume list and I am looking forward to rereading it, as it is always an entirely new experience revisiting these books as a parent.
And while there are, of course, many great new books out there, I again am often nostalgic for the books of my childhood. I have been successful in introducing many of these to my daughter and her friends. A clear favourite is the Five Little Peppers series by Margaret Sidney. These books were among my own mother’s favourites as a child as well, and there is something beautiful about passing on a love for a particular book among generations. The books were actually first published in 1881 and they have stood the test of time. Begin with The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, the first in the series. If you haven’t read these yourself, you must. They are heart-warming and seriously addictive.
While I hope you’ll have plenty of time for lounging on the beach, spending sun-filled days with friends and family and exploring new sites, a well-planned reading list for you and your daughter is the perfect addition to your summer holiday plans. It is the chance to create your own private mother-daughter book club and to keep their minds active and learning, without having it feel like homework. The summer is about fun. Reading together is, too.