After I read Riley Mae and the Rock Shocker Trek a few weeks ago, it got me thinking about the quality of books targeted to middle-grade girls. Supposedly, today’s women have everything we deserve, from amazing career options, to respect in society, to everything in between. But sadly, although those options are available in some cases, the majority of entertainment for girls does nothing to reflect these supposedly common values.
The message sent to today’s girls seems to be, “you can be anything you want to be, but you still have to be hot while doing it.” Entirely too much focus is placed on appearances being the key to success. Translated into little-girl world, this creates entertainment that is filled with things that are pink, sparkly, princess-related, cutesy, and bubbly.
Now, I like Hello Kitty as much as the next woman, but I don’t want my two daughters to feel like they have to read books that have pink covers just because they are girls. You want to read a series based around cupcakes? Okay. But I think books like these should have the place of cupcakes in an actual diet. Few and far between. I would rather my girls to be inspired to become better people after reading a book.
When I was a kid, my book companions were Anne Shirley, Ramona Quimby, Violet and Jessie Alden, Ruth Fielding, Petra Arkanian, Maura Jade, Harriet the Spy, and countless other girls with strong personalities and admirable characteristics. Today, it seems that there are fewer new books that embrace that version of girlhood. Somehow, many book series for middle grade girls have decided that girls are nothing more than makeup, giggles, making fun of boys, glitter, and cupcakes.
So, if you are also on a quest for more substantial books for your daughters to read, I have assembled a collection of middle-grade books for girls that are less sugar and more protein.
From all accounts, this series looks like a more modern-feeling Series of Unfortunate Events. It combines tongue-in-cheek writing with mysteries in a fun and engaging way. Cass, the main female in the story is warm-hearted, kind, and independent.
This series features a 15-year-old Victorian governess, named Miss Penelope Lumley, in charge of three young children literally raised by wolves. She and the children must work together to solve the mysteries surrounding them in each book. This book is sort of a cross between Jane Eyre, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and Nancy Drew.
The Penderwicks are four sisters (aged 12 down to 4) taking a summer trip with their dad to an old mansion of a house. While there, they have all sorts of adventures filled with fun, mystery, and love. This series is perfect for girls who may not be as in to stories set in the past or fantasy-style stories. The girls bicker just like real sisters would, but in the end, show respect and love to each other and everyone they meet.
Many of the modern series for kids feature paranormal themes, and Gilda is no exception, but her series is unique enough to be of interest. Gilda is a modern Nancy Drew, but rather than solve mysteries among citizens of the town, Gilda investigates psychic intrigue. Gilda herself is fun, spunky, and describes her outfits as “iconoclastic,” which I thought was pretty cute.
This series is one of the few historical fiction series for girls available. It focuses on the daily life of a Native American girl growing up in the 1850s. The books focus on everyday life, and are quite historical and don’t gloss over the realities of life in that period. Omakayas is a strong female lead, where the focus is not on her “girlness” so much as it is just on her life and person.
I tried to include newer books (expect for All-of-A-Kind-Family), because that seems to be where a lot of the difficulty is with books for girls. I found it difficult to find books that were not fantasy, paranormal, or mystery oriented, which is interesting.
Did I miss your favorite recently published middle-grade girl power book series for girls? Let me know!
More Books for Girls