When it comes to books, my 8-year-old girl is a reader with a broad palette.
She loves princesses. Then again, she loves super heroes. She loves magic, adventure and inanimate objects that come to life (I’m looking at you, Olaf from Frozen).
But most of all, she loves reading stories she can relate to. And that means she loves stories about kids—or, more specifically, stories where girls take the lead. And the spunkier the heroine, the better.
That’s why my princess made a bee-line to three books that showed up on my desk recently to mark Women’s History Month, books that featured a variety of heroines from refreshingly diverse backgrounds.
Her Royal Highness loved Finley Flowers: Original Recipe (Capstone Young Readers, 2015), the first in a new series by author Jessica Young and illustrator Jessica Secheret. She loved that it’s a chapter book, and after reading a few pages, told me that it was perfect for her reading level. But what she liked most about the book was its main character, Finley Flowers, a fellow third-grader, who, like my daughter, was great at making things: duct-tape flip-flops with matching bow tie, candy mosaic picture frames, pull-tab chain-mail armor, and colorful good-luck key chains and friendship bracelets, just to name a few.
In Finley’s inaugural adventure, though, she has a problem: what birthday present can she make for Henry, a best friend who has already received all of Finley’s greatest creations? When Finley discovers that the first prize for the school cook-off is a year’s supply of Henry’s beloved Flying Pie Pizza, Finley sets off on creating original, tasty concoctions that she hopes will take top honors.
This part of the book really hooked my little princess. Already an apprentice in the kitchen, Her Royal Highness loved following Finley as she whipped up one new dish after another, and she couldn’t wait to try the recipes for Finley’s PB&J Pasta and Henry’s Bugs on a Log that were included in the book. Full of fun and flavor, Original Recipe is a book that my girl could really sink her teeth into.
There’s also plenty for my princess to learn in another book that caught her eye, Sofia Martinez: My Family Adventure (Capstone Young Readers, 2015) by Jacqueline Jules and illustrator Kim Smith. In the first book of this new series, 7-year-old Sofia is surrounded by her large Latina family, which is the focus of her many escapades. From taking school pictures to doing laundry, Sofia knows how to make every moment an adventure.
What made this book stand out for my girl, though, was the author’s use of Español throughout the story. By reading about Sofia’s abuela, her Tío Miguel, her hermanas, and the many adventures they share, my princess not only enjoyed a great story, but also got an introduction to another culture and its language as well. The book includes a glossary of English and Spanish words so that young readers like my girl can enjoy Sophia and her vida fantástica!
My young reader learned an important history lesson from the third book, Juneteenth for Mazie (Capstone Young Readers, 2015), written and illustrated by Floyd Cooper. In this beautifully illustrated picture book, Mazie, a young African-American girl, is told by her father about a very special holiday. Juneteenth, her father explains, is the day that marks the anniversary of June 19, 1865, when soldiers arriving in Galveston, Texas announced the end of both the Civil War and slavery in the United States. Mazie’s Great-great-great Grandpa Mose was among the slaves who crossed over into liberty on that day.
My girl loved the book’s gorgeous pictures, and as she learned about the struggles and accomplishments of African Americans throughout our country’s history, we were able to talk about such notable trailblazers as Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson and President Barak Obama. She even gave me a lesson about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whom she had just spent a month learning about in school. With the help of the book, this June, on the 150th anniversary of the first Juneteenth, Mazie and my little girl will be ready to celebrate together.
So if you know a little girl like mine, remember that her books don’t have to be filled with damsels in distress. Find her heroines with some spunk and gumption, and you’ll create a young reader who’s well on her way to discovering her own sense of power and potential.