Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Book For Girls: 5-8

When I was looking through my daughter's shelves for books in the 7-11 category, I kept coming across really great reads for 5-8s, so here's a little round-up for those of you looking for something in that range. This is such a special time, when kids start to read independently and discover whole new worlds for themselves. It reminded me of the books I started out with and how the characters have stayed with me all my life. It's a little miracle, in a way, that authors can create these very real worlds for us to inhabit as we grow through all the different stages of life. They help to shape our way of viewing the world, help to explain things we might not yet be confident enough to ask about and provide friendships that we share with ourselves. What a gift!

Both my girls fell hard for Judy Moody (as did, it seems, most of their generation!). She is a terrific character and one that all kids can relate to. She is spunky and slightly mischievous, but with a big heart and enough foibles to always remain likeable. There are a lot of these books and they are very reader-friendly, so if your daughter likes Judy, she will have many adventures to look forward to.

Another character that almost all our daughters encountered in their picture-book days is Fancy Nancy. She was Fancy, with a capital "F", but also clever and curious and adventurous. She and her best friend Bree are super creative and the illustrations that accompany the text are superb: very detailed for little eyes to pore over and beautifully colourful. I was sad when my Reluctant Reader outgrew this series and was over the moon to discover that Jane O'Connor had moved her character along into chapter books. I was really struggling at that stage to find titles that were easy enough for my daughter to read, but also engaging enough to keep her interested. Nancy Clancy fit the bill perfectly, and my daughter was excited to be able to revisit one of her favourite characters, but in a more "grown-up" format. This one is a win-win!

We were on holiday in California a few years ago when our dear friend Karyn took us to an amazing little independent bookshop in Lafayette called The Storyteller. My daughter was immediately swooped up by the owner and together they delved into some US titles that we were unfamiliar with. Ivy and Bean was her favourite find of that day. While Ivy is the good girl character, and her best friend Bean is the less predictable one, they both share enough of the other one's qualities to not end up as stereotypes. The level of detail here is one of the main draws, allowing younger readers to really picture the adventures they are reading about. Again, this is the first in a long series, so lots to build on here if your daughter clicks with these two lively, realistic characters.

If there are any other moms out there who are around my age (44 this week!), you will already be more than familiar with Ramona! I loved Ramona growing up. It was so amazing to me that there was a "naughty" character in a book! And poor Ramona isn't really naughty, of course, she is just extremely individual and high-spirited, like soooo many kids, so this was a reassuring discovery. No matter what scrapes she got into (and there were plenty), her family still loved her and made sure she understood how things worked for next time.

It was great to revisit these stories as "the mom" and see them from a whole new perspective. One night I heard wild howls of laughter coming from my daughters' room. My husband was reading out loud to the two of them and had changed the names of the main characters (Ramona and her bossy big sister Beezus) to the names of our daughters, which was hysterical because their personalities are a very good match and they loved hearing "themselves" acting out the goings-on in the book! Clever man!

And last, but certainly not least, is Clementine, another character in the same vein, but with a personality all her own. She lives in an apartment block in New York City, as the daughter of the porter, so there is a hint of Eloise at the Plaza, but this is a modern tale and Clementine is never deliberately naughty. Her behaviour is more in keeping with Ramona; she finds the world a little bewildering as she sees things a little differently from everyone else. Her dad is brilliantly realized and it's nice to see a male parent taking centre stage. Her mother is an artist and also figures prominently, but Clementine and her dad have a special bond that is quite common for this age group in real life, so I thought that was a clever addition here. We have a whole collection of these in hardback as my daughter couldn't wait for the paperbacks to come out! A very good sign!

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