Hello! Welcome to “Lacey Recommends,” a monthly column updating you on some of the latest and greatest books being published for girls.
It’s the middle of August, and that means the summer is almost over. Some of you may already be back in school, and the rest of you can see your first day of the new school year fast approaching. Sink into some of these great back to school books to get yourself into the “back to school spirit” — or to brush up on some of your favorite (or not-so-favorite) subjects.
Stories About School
Nervous about starting a new year? So is Madeline in The Friendship Experiment by Erin Teagan. Madeline is going into sixth grade without her best friend, who has transferred to a different school. To help her cope, she keeps a secret “lab experiment” notebook where she jots down tips about anything and everything — like how to avoid a conversation with her mom or the kids she doesn’t want to hang out with at school. But she learns that to find her way in middle school, she’ll have to look beyond science.
In Frazzled: Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom by Booki Vivat, Abbie Wu copes with her anxiety about middle school by keeping a journal that uses both words and doodles to keep track of every frustrating experience. I absolutely love the silly illustrations and the unique point of view in this book — it might even inspire you to keep a middle school journal of your own!
Do you ever wonder what school was like for girls in the past? In Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee, 15-year-old Mercy Wong dreams of escaping the poverty in San Francisco’s Chinatown by getting an education at a boarding school for girls. But the school only accepts white students. Although she manages to get in, her world is literally shaken by the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, which destroys both her home and her school. She must band together with her classmates to make her way in a city in shambles.
Ever want to switch your school for a more exciting school like, say, Hogwarts? Satisfy your craving for fantastical school experiences with the Ms. Rapsoctt’s Girls series by Elise Primavera, where learning how to have a good adventure is just as important as your math skills. The new book in the series, Making Mistakes on Purpose, comes out next month. Another semester is about to start at Pennyroyal Academy, too, a school where kids learn to defend the realm against witches and dragons. If you’ve already read M.A. Larson’s Pennyroyal Academy, check out the new sequel, The Shadow Cadets of Pennyroyal Academy.
Let’s Get Real
If you want some real-world advice on finding your way at school and in the world, check out Ignite Your Spark: Discovering Who You Are from the Inside Out by Patricia Wooster. It’s chock-full of tips to help you discover and follow your passions, and it includes advice on school, family, and friendships, too. There’s even a whole section about big bloopers famous people have made so you can remember that you don’t have to be perfect to be the kind of girl you want to be. Although I had a sneak-peek of this book, it won’t be published until January — so put it on your list now, and remember to check your local library or bookstore for it in a few months.
Did you know that far fewer women than men end up having science careers? This isn’t because boys are better at science, but because girls often don’t receive encouragement to explore science from their teachers or other mentors. If you are interested in science, follow your passion! Here are some great books to get you started.
- If space fascinates you, check out 50 Things You Should Know About Space by Professor Raman Prinja, which explores a different space idea (like the Big Bang, black holes, and “other earths”) on every page, along with stunning photographs. For some space observation you can do right now, check out Prinja’s other book, Night Sky Watchers, which includes tips on finding the constellations and even the best times to see planets! It also comes with a clear, plastic zip cover, so you can easily bring it with you camping or lie down in dew-soaked grass stargazing without ruining the book’s pages. So cool! For a quicker tour through the planets, try Barron’s Visual Explorers Space book. Although it only has 32 pages, each one is crammed full of stunning space photos and facts. (And if you like it, check out the other books in the series: Insects and Spiders, Rocks, Crystals, and Gems, and Wonders of the World).
- Even though currently fewer women than men are scientists, that doesn’t mean women haven’t made their mark on science. Winifred Conkling’s book, Radioactive! How Irene Curie & Lise Meitner Revolutionized Science and Changed the World, tells the story of two women who were at the forefront of discoveries about radioactivity and nuclear energy. The book’s author says, “Sexism has no place in the laboratory–or anywhere else.” I agree!
- By now, you might be itching to do some science of your own! Get started with Recycled Science: Bring Out Your Science Genius with Soda Bottles, Potato Chip Bags, and More Unexpected Stuff by Tammy Enz and Jodi Wheeler-Toppen. Don’t throw out those old chip canisters or toilet paper rolls just yet! You can use them to amplify a phone’s speaker, make a camera, and more. And if you’re not afraid to get a little messy doing science, look for Oh, Ick! 114 Science Experiments Guaranteed to Gross You Out by Joy Masoff, Jessica Garrett, and Ben Ligon. Learn the science behind earwax, body odor, burps and more. It’s not gross — it’s science! Both books would come in handy if you need to find ideas for your school’s science fair!
If you would rather gaze deep into the past than up at the night sky, look for Orphan Trains: Taking the Rails to a New Life by Rebecca Langston-George. It documents the story of how the Children’s Aid Society formed to help find homes for the 30,000 orphans in the United States in the middle of the 1800s. It includes stories about how seven orphans, half of whom were girls, found their new families. When you’re in the mood for some European history, check out 50 Things You Should Know About the Tudors by Rupert Matthews, which covers 200 years of England’s history under one royal family. Although many of the dynasty’s rulers were men, it included two powerful queens as well: Queen Mary, and later, her half-sister, Queen Elizabeth.
And when you’re done stuffing your brain full of new and interesting facts, consider pulling it all together (along with your own experiences) to write a story! You can turn to How to Write Your Best Story Ever by Christopher Edge for help. It includes chapters on how to write different types of stories, such as science fiction, historical fiction, or mysteries, and it also has tips for things ALL stories need, like good characters and a title. Use it to write a masterpiece for a school assignment, or just for fun!
So now … go forth and learn! And share your own recommendations for school-related books in the comments section!
Lacey Louwagie is an adult writer and editor who got her first editing job with New Moon Girls in 2002. She is currently a reporter for a legal news organization, which means she reads a lot of lawsuits! She has also been a teen services librarian and coordinates book-related goodies for New Moon Girls. She is the author of “Rumpled,” a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin for ages 14 and up, and the co-editor of “Hungering & Thirsting for Justice: True Stories from Young Adult Catholics.”