Kelly, J. (2009). The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. New York: Henry Holt and Company.
Calpurnia Virginia Tate, also known as Callie Vee, is the only girl, stuck smack dab in the middle of three older brothers and three younger brothers. She’s doing her best to be a 12- year-old in 1899 Texas. But when she starts spending time with Granddaddy, life starts to get exciting as she learns about science and the natural world.
This book is stunning, presenting complex issues like gender stereotypes and racism through the eyes of a 12-year-old, in a style that is reminiscent of Harper Lee’s Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.
As she is coming of age, Callie Vee’s parents expect her to get married and become a housewife. But Callie resists this, asking why. In fact, the question of why pervades the text: why must Callie become a housewife? Why can’t Callie’s younger brother learn to cook? Why can’t Callie learn science? These nuanced questions makes this episodic historical fiction tale a complex story that still resonates today.
Children interested in nature or science will likely find this an enjoyable read. It will also be a hit for historical fiction fans.
Overall, this book is undoubtedly a 5 out of 5!
Cabot, M. (2015). From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess. New York: Feiwel & Friends.
Olivia Grace Clarissa Mignonette Harrison thought she was just an average girl, until, one day, Princess Amelia Mignonette Grimaldi Renaldo Thermopolis shows up at her school, and Olivia’s whole life, and everything she thought to be true, changes.
I chose to read this book because it is a spin-off of Cabot’s The Princess Diaries series, with all of the same characters. In fact, the storyline parallels the newest book in the series, Royal Wedding (for adult readers). Because I am a huge fan of the series, I enjoyed this book. I wonder, however, if readers who haven’t read the original series would get as much out of the story as I did.
Notebooks features Cabot’s witty writing style and is full of cultural references, which makes the story relatable and humorous. It also includes Cabot’s own illustrations. The main character is likeable, and most young readers, especially young girls with princess fantasies, will be able to relate with Olivia.
Because Cabot is my favourite author, I loved this book. I will give this book a 4.5 out of 5, because the story is fast-paced, fun, and, for the most part, can stand alone from the original series.
Blume, J. (1970). Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. New York: Delacorte Press.
Margaret is surprised when she gets back from summer camp and finds that her family has moved from New York City to New Jersey, where she has to go to a new school, make new friends, and try to pass the sixth grade, all while questioning her religion and when she will get her period.
This is a timeless book that has been making its way through generations. My mother read it, and recommended that I read it. I read it as a child, and re-reading it now brought back why it’s so timeless: it’s relatable. Margaret deals with problems and worries that plague all children: who am I? It is a story about growing up and trying to find your place in the world.
Blume tells the story with a simplicity and innocence that is believable and captivating. The rawness of Are You There God? Is reminiscent of the candidness of YA novel Perks of Being a Wallflower. Even though the story is structured as a conversation with God and Margaret explores her religion, one religion is not favoured over the other.
Generally, because of the topic matter and the frequent discussion of menstruation, the audience for this book will likely be girls, aged 8-12.
This is a story about growing up and reading Are You There God? is a rite of passage for young girls. It rates a 4.5 out of 5 for its classic timelessness and relatability for readers.
Nelson, J. (2014). I’ll give you the sun. New York, NY: Penguin.
In this award-winning novel, Nelson weaves together the stories of twins, Jude and Noah. The story is told over the span of three years, alternating between Jude’s perspective, when the twins are 16, and Noah’s perspective, when they’re 13. The final product is an intricately told tale about family, love, and art.
Nelson’s novel is quirky and enjoyable. Her colourful writing is full of visual imagery. The story is heavily focused on art, and this comes through in Nelson’s words. It is a piece of art in itself.
This story has a wide appeal. The use of two main characters makes this gender-neutral. The use of two narrators of differing ages also makes this a story for younger and older teen audiences.
In terms of limitations, the novel is quite long (the e-book was over 400 pages long), and it took me a little while to get into the story. By the middle of the story, however, I was hooked.
This book is beautifully written and is still readable (moreso than We Were Liars by E. Lockhart). The story is genuine and engaging, even if it was a little slow in the beginning. Because of these factors I give it a 4.75.
Note: This book won the American Library Association 2015 Printz Award for Young Adult literature. Check out other winners.
Chbosky, S. (2010). The Perks of Being a Wallflower. MTV Books. Retrieved from http://elnb-bnnb.lib.overdrive.com/72905F02-871C-445F-87FF-C037149B642E/10/50/en/ContentDetails.htm?id=61293330-A17D-4B4A-A377-F31A86D1F947
Told through a series of letters to an unnamed friend, Charlie invites readers into his world as he deals with the trials of high school: finding friends, fitting in, and figuring out who he is.
Charlie’s letters are raw and truthful and are written with the innocence of a young man beginning to encounter the world for the first time. The style is reminiscent of Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries. The topic is quite different, but in each, readers are invited into the main character’s innermost thoughts in an absolutely unmediated way.
This book, full of emotion, would appeal to many types of readers. Chbosky draws on many elements of popular culture, especially music. Anyone trying to find their way in life, young or old, would likely enjoy this story.
In terms of limitations, it is important to note that some of the subject matter may be for a more mature audience. But that’s why it’s a controversial novel (and the reason why it’s worth reading).
Overall, this book is a definite 5. I read it in two days. The characters, the plot, the music references– these all make this book worth the read.