5 Middle-Grade Heroines You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Everyone knows Katniss Everdeen of Hunger Games and Tris Prior of the Divergent series. YA fiction (especially dystopian fiction) abounds with strong female protagonists. But beyond Nancy Drew, such fictional role models are harder to find for the younger set. We scoured libraries and book stores trying to satiate my daughter’s appetite for good books with great girls in the lead. Her standards were high (still are), but we unearthed some awesome series!

Here are five amazing, fictional girls whose names are now embedded in our family conversations. We enthusiastically recommend these heroines to anyone who will listen.

  1. Ruby Redfort
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Ruby Redfort – yes, I took these at my local library (c) Carole Sparks

The Ruby Redfort series, by Lauren Child (of Charlie and Lola fame), packs the punch of James Bond with the quick wit of Lisa Simpson. Unbeknownst to her parents, Ruby becomes a spy, implementing all the best spy gadgets (even the ones she wasn’t supposed to take from headquarters) and repeatedly saving the world while just managing to get her homework done on time. Outlandish enough to make you wonder if it could be true, Ruby’s adventures leave her readers feeling confident and wide-eyed.

If your middle-grade reader loves adventure, intrigue, outlandish contraptions, and problem-solving, introduce her to Ruby Redfort!

  1. Kiki Strike

Kirsten Miller has assembled a group of bad-girl geniuses to protect New York City from below. They’re called the Irregulars. No challenge is too big, no mystery too enigmatic, and no risk too dangerous for these amazing girls! Teamwork doesn’t come easy to this bunch, but they learn to combine their skills to solve mysteries they couldn’t conquer independently. (Why no photo? These books were checked out when we went to the library.)

If your child is ready for more sophisticated stories but not quite up to YA yet, introduce her to Kiki’s band of brilliant misfits who will inspire her own curiosity and courage.

  1. Sophie St. Pierre in Red Blazer Girls
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The Red Blazer Girls (c) Carole Sparks

Michael Beil draws on his experience as a math teacher in a private school to create three friends who attend a private school where, not surprisingly, the uniform includes a red blazer. They’re just trying to help a neighbor when they find themselves following lots of brainy clues and working out geometry puzzles to solve an old mystery. All the while, they’re also dealing with homework, crushes, and typical middle-school drama.

If you just know your young reader would like Nancy Drew (if only she could get past the now-archaic pacing and silly situations), pick up The Red Blazer Girls: The Ring of Rocamadour and challenge her to solve the mystery before Sophie.

  1. Princess Annie in Wide Awake Princess

20180305_173811 (2)E.D. Baker has created an anti-princess—a heroine who counters every stereotype of a “good” princess. The younger sister of Sleeping Beauty, Annie is immune to magic and can’t imagine waiting on any prince to come and rescue her. Instead, she repeatedly rescues her big sister and the prince! These books offer a fun, modern twist on well-known fairy tales—one where quick thinking and courage count for more than physical appearance and charm (the feminine kind or the magic kind).

If your early middle-grade reader enjoys the fantastical elements of fairy tales but finds herself frustrated by the classic princess’ inability to help herself, hand her The Wide-Awake Princess.

  1. Emma Hawthorne in The Mother-Daughter Book Club
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(c) Carole Sparks

In this cute series, Heather Vogel Frederick throws four dissimilar sixth-grade girls together against their wills when their mothers decide to form a book club for them. They can’t imagine talking to each other at school, but when they share Little Women, they discover they may have more in common than they expected.

Each book in the series follows the girls through another year of school and another classic work of fiction (including Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë). Frederick integrates her love of classic literature with the standard problems of middle and high schoolers to create sweet friendships and many laughs.

If you would love for your child to read the classics but she’s not interested, let Emma and her friends whet your daughter’s appetite while they also show her that people who are different can learn to care about each other.

From international super-spy to fairy tale anti-princess, these #middlegrade heroines will knock your socks off and provide hours of reading pleasure for your own young hero or heroine. (click to tweet) #IntentionalParenting via @Carole_Sparks

Have a favorite middle-grade book series you would like to recommend? Love or hate one of the series listed above? “Do tell” in the comments below!

Best Books for Intentional Parenting, plus some good fiction

An in-the-car conversation with my 12-year-old, book-loving daughter…

She: What is a bookkeeper?

Me: It’s someone who takes care of the finances for a company.

She: (disappointed) Oh.

Me: Why?

She: I thought it would be a viable career option. You know, someone who keeps books.

Me: I think the word you’re looking for is ‘librarian.’

As you can see, we really love books at our house. So for this end-of-the-year post, I offer you three of the best books for intentional parenting. Put any or all of them on your TBR (to be read) list for 2016.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think about them? Want to add or change anything? Have any suggestions for my 2016 TBR? Let me know in the comments below!

Three Great Books on Parenting

On Becoming Baby Wise by Gary Ezzo and Dr. Robert Bucknam

Some potential and new parents really resist the principles presented in this book, but I am so thankful that people in my church recommended it to me before my first child was born. While we didn’t strictly adhere to every element (especially not with our second child), we found that following Ezzo’s suggested practices gave us peace of mind and helped us establish a routine that was family-centered, not child-centered. Baby Wise II (also very helpful) has a great chapter on potty-training. Here’s what I’ve observed: There are non-Baby Wise children who are pleasant and well-behaved, but I’ve never met a Baby Wise child who wasn’t pleasant and well-behaved. I even think our kids were healthier because of their ability to sleep and follow routines.

Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp

This has been by primary parenting resource for more than twelve years now. I’ve probably read it at least five times and referenced it many more. Here’s the main point: The condition of a child’s heart (that is, his/her relationship with God) is far more important than his or her behavior. It’s about parenting with a bigger purpose in mind—intentional parenting (applying my phrase to Tripp’s work). I wish this were required reading for Christ-follower parents around the world.

Age of Opportunity by Paul David Tripp

I really wanted to finish this one before I posted the list, but I haven’t yet. We’re about to have a teenager in our home, and it felt like time to address that age group more specifically. Two factors drew me to this book: the subtitle, which is “A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens” and the author’s name. Turns out that Tedd (of Shepherding… above) and Paul are brothers. I’m about one-third through, taking my time to absorb the teaching. I already know, however, that it needs be on this list. Thankfully, it looks like we’re headed in the right direction; read my posts, Wait, Wait, Don’t TELL Me and Where My Kids At? to see what direction that is.

Next to read: Sacred Parenting: How Raising Children Shapes Our Souls by Gary L. Thomas. If this book is as good as his Sacred Marriage, it will definitely be on my “Best Books” list next year!

5 Best Newbery Award Books (that I’ve read)

In no particular order…

The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham

5 Children’s/YA books that should have won Newbery Awards (in our opinion)

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt

Moccasin Trail by Eloise Jarvis McGraw

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus

You can read my reviews of most of these and the Newbery winners *here*. Also, sorry I didn’t put Amazon links for all these books. We’re still in holiday mode here!