Empowering Books for Middle-School Girls

View all Best Picks for girls book lists; This list was last updated on 9/11/2014
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 This list of books intended to ease the transition of girls from tween to teen, to help them find positive role models. 

For more book recommendations, please check out New York Times® Best Sellers, Children's Book Recommendations or the complete list of Featured Book Lists and Award Winners

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Catherine, Called Birdy

Catherine, a spirited and inquisitive young woman of good family, narrates in diary form the story of her fourteenth year--the year 1290. A Newbery Honor Book.

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Gutsy Girls
In exciting, inspiring first-person stories, 26 young women tell of their daring feats, from extreme sports to ground-breaking achievements. Part One features these stories. Part Two tells readers how they can set goals and follow their dreams. And Part Three explains the how-tos and benefits of getting fit and staying safe. Resources point the way toward more information.
release date: Sep 01, 2000
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Girls who Looked Under Rocks
If there is a pre-teen or adolescent in your life, especially a girl, take a look at this empowering, inspiring chapter book. It portrays the youths and careers of six remarkable women whose curiosity about nature fueled a passion to steadfastly overcome obstacles to careers in traditionally men-only occupations. The six--Maria Merian (b.1647), Anna Comstock (b.1854), Frances Hamerstrom (b.1907), Rachel Carson (b.1907), Miriam Rothschild (b.1908), and Jane Goodall (b.1934)--all became renowned scientists, artists and writers. A wonderful resource for young researchers and biographers, these stories can be a starting point for issues of gender, science, and the environment.
release date: Sep 11, 2012
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Shabanu
Life is both sweet and cruel to strong-willed young Shabanu, whose home is the windswept Cholistan Desert of Pakistan. The second daughter in a family with no sons, she's been allowed freedoms forbidden to most Muslim girls. But when a tragic encounter with a wealthy and powerful landowner ruins the marriage plans of her older sister, Shabanu is called upon to sacrifice everything she's dreamed of. Should she do what is necessary to uphold her family's honor—or listen to the stirrings of her own heart?
release date: Dec 01, 2007
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Staring Down the Dragon
When Rell DeMello went back to Kailua High after being treated for cancer, some kids called her brave; some said she was a hero. But, Rell didn't want to be a hero, she wanted to be normal, Rell "before cancer." Besides, she knew she wasn't brave. When Dr. Baden told her she had cancer, she cried. And after all the surgeries, the chemotherapy and radiation, Dr. Braden didn't say "You don't have cancer anymore." He said, "I find no evidence of cancer." Rell cried again. "No evidence" - like weeds in a garden, creeping under the surface, until one day a pale green shoot pops through the ground and chokes all the budding flowers. Rell hated cancer. She hated the word. When kids asked her if she was cured she'd say, It's not like that. It wasn't the answer they wanted to hear. They wanted a storybook ending with a handsome prince and a gallant white horse - not Nate Lee and his rust-bucket truck. They wanted a perfect life movie of a blonde cheerleader who got cancer, almost died, was cured and, when she went back to school, was crowned Homecoming Queen. It was just like Rell's life except for the part about being blonde, a cheerleader, Homecoming Queen and... cured.
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The Breadwinner
"All girls [should read] The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis." — Malala Yousafzai, New York Times

Eleven-year-old Parvana lives with her family in one room of a bombed-out apartment building in Kabul, Afghanistan's capital city. Parvana's father — a history teacher until his school was bombed and his health destroyed — works from a blanket on the ground in the marketplace, reading letters for people who cannot read or write. One day, he is arrested for the crime of having a foreign education, and the family is left without someone who can earn money or even shop for food.

As conditions for the family grow desperate, only one solution emerges. Forbidden to earn money as a girl, Parvana must transform herself into a boy, and become the breadwinner.

The Breadwinner is a novel about loyalty, survival, families and friendship under extraordinary circumstances. A map, glossary and author's note provide young readers with background and context. All royalties from the sale of this book will go to Women for Women, an organization that supports health and education projects in Afghanistan.
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Caddie Woodlawn
Caddie Woodlawn is a real adventurer. She'd rather hunt than sew and plow than bake, and tries to beat her brother's dares every chance she gets. Caddie is friends with Indians, who scare most of the neighbors -- neighbors who, like her mother and sisters, don't understand her at all.

Caddie is brave, and her story is special because it's based on the life and memories of Carol Ryrie Brink's grandmother, the real Caddie Woodlawn. Her spirit and sense of fun have made this book a classic that readers have taken to their hearts for more than seventy years.
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Stargirl
**Just announced: STARGIRL will be adapted for film by screenwriter Kristin Hahn and director Catherine Hardwicke.**

Stargirl. From the day she arrives at quiet Mica High in a burst of color and sound, the hallways hum with the murmur of “Stargirl, Stargirl.” She captures Leo Borlock' s heart with just one smile. She sparks a school-spirit revolution with just one cheer. The students of Mica High are enchanted. At first.

Then they turn on her. Stargirl is suddenly shunned for everything that makes her different, and Leo, panicked and desperate with love, urges her to become the very thing that can destroy her: normal. In this celebration of nonconformity, Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli weaves a tense, emotional tale about the perils of popularity and the thrill and inspiration of first love.
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When You Reach Me
This remarkable novel holds a fantastic puzzle at its heart.

By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it's safe to go, and they know who to avoid. Like the crazy guy on the corner.

But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a kid on the street for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda's mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then a mysterious note arrives, scrawled on a tiny slip of paper. The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows things no one should know. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she's too late.
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Esperanza Rising
A reissue of Pam Munoz Ryan's bestselling backlist with a distinctive new author treatment.

Esperanza thought she'd always live with her family on their ranch in Mexico--she'd always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home, and servants. But a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California during the Great Depression, and to settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn't ready for the hard labor, financial struggles, or lack of acceptance she now faces. When their new life is threatened, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances--Mama's life, and her own, depend on it.
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The Secret Garden
This timeless classic is a poignant tale of Mary, a lonely orphaned girl sent to a Yorkshire mansion at the edge of a vast lonely moor. At first, she is frightened by this gloomy place until she meets a local boy, Dickon, who's earned the trust of the moor's wild animals, the invalid Colin, an unhappy boy terrified of life, and a mysterious, abandoned garden...
release date: Jan 01, 2000
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Ella Enchanted

How can a fairy's blessing be such a curse?

At her birth, Ella of Frell was given a foolish fairy's gift—the "gift" of obedience. Ella must obey any order given to her, whether it's hopping on one foot for a day or chopping off her own head!

But strong-willed Ella does not tamely accept her fate. She goes on a quest, encountering ogres, giants, wicked stepsisters, fairy godmothers, and handsome princes, determined to break the curse—and live happily ever after.

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