Category Archives: Book Lists

Day of the Girl Child

Last year we were very happy to help  Katie Quirk celebrate the publication of her wonderful middle grade novel, “A Girl Called Problem”.  Set in Tanzania, the story centers on a 13 year old girl who longs to help her family and people by becoming a healer. In a starred review, Kirkus said   “Quirk’s debut novel for children gives readers an intimate view of rural Tanzania in the early 1970s through details of daily life, folklore, family dynamics and spiritual beliefs.”

GCP cover high resKatie is back today to celebrate  a day declared by the United Nations as The International Day of the Girl . Here’s Katie:

October 11th marks an exciting day for young people. It’s the third annual United Nations International Day of the Girl, and it’s not just the UN that is celebrating girls. Increasingly, development organizations around the world are learning that if you want tofight injustice or poverty in communities that are struggling, don’t waste your time trying to enact change with local government, or even with adults in general. Instead, empower the girls in those communities. Provide them with access to quality education and healthcare, and before you know it, those same girls will be paying their privilege forward, making life for everyone better.

unThis notion that girls are one of the most powerful forces for change in the world makes for a pretty compelling story, a story which is increasingly popping up in middle-grade literature. A Girl Called Problem is set in late 1960s Tanzania, right after that country achieved its independence from Britain. The main character, Shida, is a spunky, 13-year-old girl. Shida has dreams of attending school and becoming a healer, but she also faces some pretty formidable odds: her father is dead; hermother is so depressed people label her a “witch”; everyone reminds Shida that no girl has ever grown up to be a medicine man; oh, and her name translated from Swahili literally means “Problem.” To make matters worse, when Shida starts going to school, fellow villagers and even one teacher say girls shouldn’t be there. These naysayers go so far as to blame girl students for cursing their village and causing the death of a child. Fortunately Shida isn’t a kid who easily gives up, and when the village is on the brink of collapse, Shida and another girl student prove critical to their community’s survival.

Although A Girl Called Problem is quite simply a coming-of-age mystery about an unyielding kid, it is also a celebration of exactly what the U.N. is honoring on October 111th: the world waking up to the notion that when girls are empowered to learn and lead, everyone benefits.

Other Books and Videos to Celebrate International Day of the Girl

Because many of the challenges faced by girls around the world involve them having their childhoods eclipsed through early marriage and sexual violence, books about girls facing and overcoming injustice tend to be for the young adult audience (Sold by Patricia Cormick, for example). Nevertheless, there remain a number of other great resources for middle-grade readers.

Fiction: 

The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis is the story of an eleven-year-old girl in Afghanistan who, under Taliban rule, is forbidden to go to the market, attend school, or even play outside. When her father is hauled off for having a foreign education, Parvana is forced to disguise herself as a boy and to take on the task of breadwinner for the family.

breadwinner

Also Known As Harper by Ann Haywood Leal is the story of a fifth-grade girl and poetess who is forced to skip school when her alcohol-abusing father walks out, her family moves into a motel, and her now-desperate-for-work mother needs her to stay home to watch her little brother. It’s a good reminder that kids in developed countries face challenges that keep them away from school, too.

 Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier and Lori Lohstoeter is a picture book based on a true story of a girl in Uganda who longs to go to school, but whose family doesn’t have the money for schools fees. Then her family receives a goat, and with the milk and the bits of income that follow, good health and even Beatrice’s dream of going to school come true.

Non-Fiction

 I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Youth Edition) by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick is the inspiring story of the world’s youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Encouraged to stand up for her belief that all children should have the right to attend school, Malala was shot in the head while riding home on a bus after school but, as we all know, even that shot didn’t stop her.

malala

Girls Who Looked Under Rocks: The Lives of Six Pioneering Naturalists by Jeannine Atkins profiles six women, including Rachel Carson and Jane Goodall, who became important scientists, writers and teachers. The book describes how they were sometimes discouraged from pursuing their interests, but how they persevered and went on to play an important role in how we think of the natural world today.

Fatty Legs: A True Story by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton isthe tale of a brave young woman who in the 1940s leaves her Inuit village for a residential school to pursue her dream of learning to read. There she is relentlesslyharassed by a nun, but she manages to stand up for herself.

Let’s Celebrate!

So on October 11th, help us celebrate girls everywhere: delve into an inspiring story or video about girls facing insurmountable odds, write a letter, make a donation, grab the hand of a girl you know who could use a little encouragement, and celebrate the power of girls to transform our world.

Young Houdini: The Magician’s Fire by Simon Nicholson

young houdini

Young Harry Houdini spends his days chaining himself to train tracks and teetering on wires high above the city with his two best friends, Arthur and Billie. But when Harry’s friend and magical mentor, Herbie, disappears, the three friends band together, determined to rescue the beloved magician.  

With nothing more than a mysterious puff of purple smoke, an ominous threat, and a menacing Bulgarian for evidence, Harry, Arthur, and Billie embark on a dangerously thrilling investigation that pushes their skill, and friendship, to the limits. But can Harry find Herbie before it’s too late?

Buy YOUNG HOUDINI: THE MAGICIAN’S FIRE at these retailers:

Amazon | B&N | BAM | !ndigo | IndieBound | iBooks

Amie: Welcome to the show, Simon! Tell us why The Magician’s Fire is a perfect middle-grade read.

Simon: The real Houdini dazzled and thrilled the world with his remarkable feats of magic, bravery  and escape. But even more exciting are these stories of what might have happened to him as a boy…

Amie: Intriguing for sure! It definitely makes me wonder what kind of mischief he might have gotten himself into as a child. Especially during those middle-grade years when they’re all about self-discovery! Tell us – were you full of mischief as a boy? I mean…er…did you like magic?

Simon: Yes, though I was one of those who always tried to see the invisible bits of the string, the flash of a hand that made the magic work. It seems to me interesting that the great kids character of our age is a boy called Harry who can do magic – and now here is another boy called Harry who seeks to find out the actual truth behind how so-called “magic” is done…

Amie: Oh! I love the idea of  Harry Houdini and Harry Potter and their connection in the magical world. One last question. Soaring heights or swimming in an endless ocean?

Simon: My gut response… I ‘d say soaring heights – endless swimming sounds rather tiring…

Amie: Good choice! But the answer was BOTH! We’re going kite sailing today, Simon. You go first!

simon

Simon Nicholson writes for Nick Jr. including such shows as Tickety Tock, Bob the Builder, and Zack and Quack, as well as for BBC children’s programming. He lives in London. Visit him online at www.simonbnicholson.com and on Twitter @SimonBNicholson

Excited about this great book? Then enter to win a copy by filling out the rafflecopter form below!

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Amie Borst is the author of Cinderskella and Little Dead Riding Hood, which she co-wrote with her 14 year old daughter. She’d like to perform magic so her books could finally write themselves.

Winner X Two

The winner of our double giveaway is

Sue Heavenrich!

Congratulations, Sue, and thanks to all our commenters.