Hello! Welcome to “Lacey Recommends,” a monthly column updating you on some of the latest and greatest books being published for girls.
This month, we’re featuring books to fire up your imagination to go along with the theme of the September/October 2016 issue of the magazine, “Imagine That”! I love this theme — I spent TONS of time daydreaming when I rode the bus to school, walked the fields looking for weeds on my parents’ farm, or had trouble falling asleep when I was a girl. Now as an adult, I still love to imagine stories or what might happen in my own life. And nothing gets my mind going like a good book! If you love to get lost in possibilities, check out these great imaginative books for girls.
Old Stories, New Twists
One of my favorite types of books are those that tell old stories in a new way, like Gail Carson Levine’s unique take on the Cinderella story in Ella Enchanted. There are “old” stories getting makeovers all the time, and this is one kind of makeover I actually don’t mind!
- For a new twist on the Rapunzel story, check out the latest book in the Hamster Princess series, Ratpunzel by Ursula Vernon. Since this version of the story takes place in the “rodent realm,” Rapunzel is a rat with a very long … tail! Princess Harriet discovers Ratpunzel’s tower while she’s searching with a stolen hydra egg with her friend Wilbur. You can learn more about the first two books in the series here.
- Far Out Fairy Tales: Classic Tales with Modern Twists, features five fairy tale graphic novels where you’ll encounter familiar characters in ways you’ve never seen them before. Cinderella is a Ninja, Red Riding Hood is a superhero, and Snow White is a space explorer (who meets up with seven robots). At the end of each twisted fairy tale is a short overview of how it is different from the original. So cool!
- If you’re a fan of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series or other books featuring ancient gods, you might like The Unbelievable Fib series by Adam Shaughnessy. The first book, The Trickster’s Tale (also published as The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable Fib), 11-year-old Pru discovers that Norse (also known as Viking) gods are invading her town! She and her friend ABE are quickly pulled into ancient and magical adventures in an attempt to protect their home from battling gods. The second book in the series, Over the Underworld, is available now, too.
- Author Tahereh Mafi says that writing her new book, Furthermore, was like “penning a love letter to all my favorite childhood stories.” See if you can find hints of some of the stories that influenced Mafi when she was a kid, including The Secret Garden, The Harry Potter series, and The Chronicles of Narnia, in her new fantasy.
- When you’re ready to lose yourself in the fairy lore that fairy tales are named for, pick up a copy of Fairy World: Enter the Magical and Mysterious Realm by Stella A. Caldwell. This gorgeously illustrated book will introduce you to many different classes of fairies, including “dark elves,” Woodland Fairies, Pixies, and more. It will also get you up to speed on fairy shapeshifting, “the Witching Hour” when fairies are most likely to appear, and Magical Doorways. I could stare at some of these richly colored images all day — and get truly “lost” in the world of fairies!
Some Good Old-Fashioned Fantasy
If you want to sink into a fantastical world with a whole new story, you might want to try one of these three books. Each of them has the common “trappings” of typical fantasy — they take place in an old-fashioned world with magic, but the stories are completely original. All of them feature strong girl characters, too!
- You may already know Karen Cushman from her award-winning historical fiction books, like Catherine, Called Birdy and The Midwife’s Apprentice. She adds a touch of magic in her new book, Grayling’s Song. Young Grayling goes on a quest to discover what dark force has made almost all the magic users in the kingdom, including her mother, powerless. Along with a handful of witches and wizards who weren’t affected, she finds her own kind of magic along the way.
- In The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill, a kindly witch accidentally feeds a baby moonlight, which makes the baby magic. Although the witch had planned to give the baby over to a loving family, she decides to raise the little girl — who is named Luna! — as her own. Just as Luna’s powers begin to emerge in her thirteenth year, the villagers nearby start planning to kill the witch. But the villagers don’t realize that it’s really Luna’s magic, not the witch’s, that they are sensing nearby.
- The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz features Jeanne, who has visions of the future; William, who has super strength; and Jacob, a boy who can heal any wound. Together with their faithful greyhound, they set out on a journey to save ancient, holy texts from being destroyed, while stories of their fantastic feats and powers spread throughout the land. This book reads like a collection of those stories, with each chapter heading illustrated like a medieval manuscript!
What If … ?
Do you ever imagine something fantastical happening right in our own world? I know I do! If you want to stay in the “real world” but add a dash of wonder and magic, you might like one of these books.
- Faith Harkey’s Genuine Sweet is about “a small-town girl with big-time magic.” Twelve-year-old Genuine doesn’t think she has much to share with the world, until she learns she has the power to grant anyone’s wishes … except for her own. Soon this small-town girl is in the news and the talk of the town. Eventually, though, if she wants a better life for herself, she’ll have to stop relying on wishes and learn how to build it on her own.
- Summer is just about behind us (autumn officially starts on September 22), but you can stretch that magical summer feeling out a little longer by reading Lisa Graff’s A Clatter of Jars, which is about a summer camp for magically talented kids. What the kids don’t know is that they’ve been gathered together for a secret reason. Soon, broken jars that once contained “talent” are washing up on the shores, kids are swapping their talents and losing their memories … and no one knows why. If you like this, make sure to check out the companion novel, A Tangle of Knots, too!
- Louisa Sparks’s life changes when she discovers an unusual timepiece in her grandfather’s coat in Elyse Kishimoto’s The Dining and Social Club for Time Travelers. Louise discovers that the timepiece is her ticket into a special, secret club of time travelers. But the time travelers are beginning to go missing, and Louisa may be the only one who can save them. Small black-and-white illustrations throughout the story make you feel like you are time traveling right along with Louise!
Don’t Just Imagine It … DO it!
Imagining stuff is great … but sometimes you want to do MORE than imagine and put your thoughts into practice. These three books will help you do just that!
- Drawing Fantasy Creatures by A.J. Sautter includes step-by-step instructions for drawing dragons, pixies, ogres, and more. You’ll be writing and illustrating your own fantasy books in no time!
- Do you remember how much fun you had crawling into huge boxes when you were a little kid? Bring that magic back with DIY Box Creations: Fun and Creative Projects to Make out of Really Big Boxes by Courtney Sanchez, which includes step-by-step instructions for making everything from dollhouses to airplanes to stoves with big boxes. Play with them yourself, or make them for younger sisters and brothers or the kids you babysit. They’re sure to be a hit! (Most of the projects require you to use a sharp tool like a knife, box cutter, or scissors, so check with an adult before you get started.)
- Do you find yourself dreaming up businesses you’d like to start someday, or looking for ways to earn a little extra money? Be a Young Entrepreneur: Get Inspired to Become a Business Whiz by Adam Sutherland may be just the book for you. No need to wait until you’re a grown-up to start your own business — this book is full of money-making ideas for kids, plus tips to get you thinking about running businesses of any kind.
What about you? What kind of books do you look for when you are ready to take journeys of the imagination? Have you tried any of the books above? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
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.”