1. The Paper Bag Princess
Robert Munsch | Annick Press
|There’s a reason why The Paper Bag Princess has gone on to sell millions of copies worldwide: the picture book turns the stereotypical prince-princess relationship on its head with wit and attitude.|
When Prince Ronald is kidnapped by a dragon, Princess Elizabeth comes to his rescue. She’s tough, resourceful, and smart, never doubting what she must do, never afraid of what she might face to save her true love. When she finally does reach him, he is appalled by her dirty appearance. So what does Princess Elizabeth do? She ditches him.
Dave Whamond | Owlkids Books
|An always-sunny disposition and dare-to-be-different attitude has left little Oddrey friendless and readily dismissed, even by her teacher.|
When her class puts on a production of The Wizard of Oz, she’s cast as a tree—leafless and still. But when her classmates start forgetting lines and toppling over the set, Oddrey jumps in to help make things right—and make friends who learn a lesson in eccentricity.
3. Rosie Revere, Engineer
Andrea Beatty | Abrams Books for Young Readers
|Rosie Revere uses all sorts of detritus to create amazing gadgets and gizmos that she proudly shows off—until her uncle laughs at her. Now timid and withdrawn, Rosie toils away under the cover of night—and her bed.|
A visit from her great-great-aunt Rose reenergizes the girl’s desire to invent and to succeed, and reminds her that failure and adversity are what make us stronger.
4. The Hundred Dresses
Eleanor Estes | Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
|Quiet Wanda wears the same faded blue dress to school every day. When she claims to have one hundred dresses at home, she is teased endlessly by Peggy and all the other girls. Well, almost all the other girls. Maddie says nothing. But when Wanda leaves school forever, Maddie questions her decision to remain silent and vows to make things right with Wanda, wherever she may be.|
The Newbery Honor book is guaranteed to have children asking questions and comparing personal moments to those of Maddie, Peggy, and Wanda.
Roald Dahl | Puffin
|Roald Dahl is a master storyteller, and with Matilda, one of his last works before his death, he packs in the nastiest of characters, the craziest of scenes and the funniest of lines.|
But what stands out most (and makes it a must-read) is the charming story of a very smart girl who meets an incredibly courageous teacher and learns that life can be so much more magical than the one dealt her.
Raina Telgemeier | Scholastic/Graphix
|Sometimes friends aren’t friends at all. That’s the lesson in Smile, the immensely popular graphic novel about a sixth-grader named Raina who, upon losing her two front teeth in an accident, learns that the people who should be by her side are instead making her life miserable.|
The well-paced autobiographical account is never heavy-handed with the messaging; rather, readers become entrenched in Raina’s story, feeling every abuse and coming to realize with her that the key to happiness is moving on—as hard and as lonely as that may be.
7. The Breadwinner
Deborah Ellis | Groundwood Books
|“All girls [should read] The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis,” Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who stood up to the Taliban for the right to an education, told the New York Times. So why Ellis’s novel?|
When her father is imprisoned because of his foreign education, 11-year-old Parvana decides it is she who must earn money for the family. The problem is that in Afghanistan, under Taliban rule, girls are not allowed outside the home or to have an education. Parvana’s only chance is to disguise herself as a boy and hope for her very life that she is not caught.
8. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
Jacqueline Kelly | MacMillan
|Growing up in Texas in 1899 isn’t easy for 11-year-old Calpurnia Tate. While her mother wants her to learn to be a proper lady and excel at all those “womanly things” like sewing and cooking, Calpurnia wants to explore science and nature.|
With the help of her naturalist grandfather, she does just that—but it may not be enough to escape what’s expected of her. The Newbery Honor book is a wonderful coming-of-age story about ambition, decisions and gender stereotypes.
More great books for kids: 8 Math Books Kids Will Love.