Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.


Request for Good Younger Teen Reads

I received the following e-mail the other day:

I read with interest your posting about Addie Swartz, as I was lamenting to my girlfriends that when I went to Barnes and Noble to buy books for my 13 year old girl, there was nothing that appealed to me or that I thought would appeal to her, an athlete with little interest in clothes, makeup and to a lesser degree, boys. When I asked the B and N staff for specific recommendations, they came up with nothing. I have never heard of the Beacon Street Girls (but will soon buy these books for my 8 year old daughter)—what books other than these can you recommend for my daughter, and for parents who do not yet want their children to read about girls having sex and other more adult topics? I just pre-read the fourth book in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, and 3 of the 4 heroines had sex by the end of the story.

Okay, my well-read friends. Please put your thinking caps on and help out your fellow Pop reader.

I recommended the following:

  • Olive's Ocean, by Kevin Henkes
  • Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbit
  • Airborn & Skybreaker, by Kenneth Oppel

The young lady in question has already read (and enjoyed, I hope) the first two, and her mom said she'd check out Airborn & Skybreaker. What else can we recommend? Please leave suggestions in the comments!

A few other titles that leap to mind:

  • Sea of Trolls, by Nancy Farmer
  • Al Capone Does My Shirts, by Gennifer Choldenko
  • Hoot and Flush, by Carl Hiaasen
  • Gregor the Overlander, etc., by Suzanne Collins
  • Montmorency: Thief, Liar, Gentleman, by Eleanor Updale

Anyone out there read Ida B.? It looks like a winner, but I haven't read it.

I'd also like to take a moment to praise this mother's pre-reading of the new Sisterhood title -- good for you! And is it wrong for me to enjoy a moment of schadenfreude that the staff at B&N were not terribly helpful? Let's just call it an illustration of the difference between libraries & bookstores, and leave it at that, shall we?

Once again: suggestions in the comments!

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  • At 12:12 PM, Blogger Elizabeth said…

    I think I read Lowis Lowry's The Giver in my early teen years, and it has really stuck with me over time. In fact, I just made my husband read it.

  • At 12:29 PM, Blogger Kathleen said…

    Ida B. is very cute, but sad. I recommend:

    I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I Have to Kill You
    True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
    Misfits (Has a gay character)
    Rules of the Road
    Hope Was Here
    Surviving the Applewhites
    Queen's Own Fool
    The Lightning Thief
    The Girl Who Owned a City

    That's probably enough from me. I trust you can find authors/summaries. Good luck!


  • At 12:38 PM, Blogger Liz B said…

    Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson

    Both the Casson and Exile books by McKay

    Case of the Missing Marquess by Springer by Allison

    the Gilda Joyce books by

    I'd Tell You I love you...by Ally Carter (yes, some romance, but it's more a comedy about being a teen in a secret spy school.)

    Dairy Queen; the romance is light but its got a good sports approach and is funny

    Kiki Strike by Miller

    Let me think; plus i"ll cross post at tea cozy

  • At 1:19 PM, Blogger CPL said…

    The Echo Falls mysteries (Down the Rabbit Hole & Behind the Curtain) by Peter Abraham sound like a perfect fit for this reader! Ingrid, the protagonist, is smart, funny, athletic, and creative -- and the plots are pageturning.

    teen librarian
    Cheshire Public Library

  • At 1:48 PM, Blogger Liz B said…

    frack, frack, frack.

    So here I am all in an "I can pack and post" moment.

    Gilda Joyce books are by Jennifer Allison.

  • At 2:00 PM, Blogger Kate said…

    Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis

    Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

    The Long Dark Teatime Of The Soul by Douglas Adams

    Caroline B Cooney as a rule is pretty good for young adults

    I don't, as a rule, read many sports books, but these are all good comedy/fantasy/sci fi, with the exception of Cooney's books, which are more every day life... Good luck :)

  • At 2:14 PM, Blogger Lara said…

    A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Maas
    The Trimoni Twins books by Pam Smallcomb
    The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty
    The Girls by Amy Koss

  • At 3:24 PM, Blogger Sally V. said…

    Well, this may be old hat, but as a 13-year-old i would've really enjoyed Phillip Pullman's work -- both the His Dark Materials trilogy and the Sally Lockhart trilogy.

    My 12-year-old stepson likes the Eragon, etc., series, but this particular reader might not be as interested in fantasy.

    I'll keep my thinking cap on. Good luck!

  • At 4:55 PM, Blogger Eri said…

    Witch of Blackbird Pond
    A Wrinkle in Time
    Sammy Keyes mysteries
    Peter & the Starcatchers
    So You Want to be a Wizard

  • At 5:43 PM, Blogger Jill said…

    Why does everyone think that Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants has sex in it? It doesn't. You could read it that way if you want, but there's no need to...

    Seems to me that The Giver and His Dark Materials cover topics that are way more controversial.

    Just another opinion from the local deviant!

  • At 9:09 PM, Blogger Erin said…

    Sorcery and Cecilia by Patricia C. Wrede (warning: the sequel The Grand Tour does have *mention* of sex. this one is perfectly clean however.)
    Gideon the Cutpurse by Linda Buckley-Archer
    Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
    The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle
    Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
    Fairest by Gail Carson Levine
    Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
    Princess of Orange by Elizabeth Kyle
    Penny From Heaven by Jennifer Holm
    The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

    Hope this helps!

  • At 11:50 PM, Blogger Nancy said…

    The only ones I can think of off the top of my head are A Wrinkle in Time and The Westing Game. Both feature early-teen girls who are not interested in "girly" things.

    Though I'll second the nomination for Hattie Big Sky, definitely.

  • At 10:15 AM, Blogger Chris said…

    My 13 year old likes the following:
    Beacon Street Girls
    Tamora Pierce books- Specifically, the Song of the Lioness Quartet (fantasy- girl centric)
    Old fashioned, but hold up well-
    My Side of the Mountain, Julie of the Wolves, Gone Away Lake, The Mad Scientists' Club, Understood Betsy, Anne of Green Gables, and Mrs. Mike, Voyage of the Dawn Treader (part of the Narnian Chronicles).

    Also: Everlost; Elsewhere; Larklight (fantasy);

    I second these recently published books-
    The Case of the Missing Marquess, Kiki Strike, and If I Told You That I Loved You I would Have to Kill You.

  • At 10:51 AM, Blogger Kathy said…

    My 8th graders have all been reading
    Uglies by Scott Westerfeld and the sequels Pretties and Specials. They are fantasy but deal with some real life issues.

    Although I have younger (5th graders) reading the books by Blue Balliet, Chasing Vermeer and The Wright 3, if she enjoys mysteries she might enjoy these, think a modern version of From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler.

  • At 4:29 PM, Blogger Camille said…

    The Bridesmaid by Hailey Abbott would be perfect. I gave it to my niece for Christmas as well as Caroline Cooney's new book, A Friend at Midnight.

  • At 8:53 PM, Blogger Sara said…

    At that age I read a lot of fantasy because those books were never about makeup and boys! There weren't many girl-centric fantasy books when I was a kid, but now I hear great things about the Tamora Pierce books. I also recommend Lloyd Alexander's Vesper Holly books which are adventure stories without all of the dungeons and dragons type fantasy. Vesper is like a female, teenage Indiana Jones. I always thought of her as a good role model since she's very erudite and polylingual but still fun.

  • At 12:01 AM, Blogger Kris said…

    The Enchanted Forest series by Patricia Wrede

    The Green Sky trilogy by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

    The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare

    Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

  • At 12:16 PM, Blogger Erin said…

    Princess Academy by Shannon Hale is great, too.

  • At 4:52 PM, Blogger Cynthia Leitich Smith said…

    Here's an online bibliography that might prove useful: http://plymouthlibrary.org/gentlereads.htm

    The ALA had a committee on Books That Won't Make You Blush of late that created a list. I remember that Greg's Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo was on it, but I can't seem to find the page. Maybe someone else will have more luck?

  • At 7:38 PM, Blogger Jen said…

    I second Kiki Strike, and I would also add Shug, Heat, and Monsoon Summer.

  • At 8:50 PM, Blogger Ms. Shadford said…

    Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock is a great book about a 16-year-old female football player. Older main character but no offensive or inappropriate material.

  • At 9:58 PM, Blogger Chasing Ray said…

    I echo the Gilda Joyce books and the Enola Hughes Books, (there is a sequel out now to The Missing Marquess), also The Misadventures of Maude March: Or Trouble Rides a Fast Horse. A sequel to that one is due out next week.

    I would also reach back a bit to Madeleine L'Engle - sounds like this reader is perfect for the Austin family series and also the Murray quartet. For sure get a copy of A Wrinkle in Time. It still holds up and is a book every young girl should read. (Meg Murray is one of my heroes.)

    For fantasy, I thought Tanglewreck by Jeanette Winterson was very good and has a great female heroine. I also just finished reading Flora Segunda by Ysabeau Wilce - very gutsy chick in a wild mysterious house that has all kinds of breath taking adventures.

    Katherine Sturtevant's two books on 17th century Europe At the Sign of the Star and A True and Faithful Narrative are great historical fiction. As is Ellen Klages' A Green Glass Sea and the wonderful A Drowned Maiden's Hair whose author is escaping me right now but should be easy to find.

    Also Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters by Lesley Blumef full of all kinds of great female characters both young and old and First Impressions has a Jane Austen twist from author Marilyn Sachs who give it just a smidge of romance - nothing more than a kiss.

    And oh yes - all the Casson books by Hilary McKay. I adore these books, they are the perfect sort of qurky/artsy family. (Liz B. beat me to the punch on this one.)

    Nothing is better for girls wanting to be brave than Kiki Strike. And a sequel is due out in September!

    I think Dairy Queen by Catherine Murdock might work also. The mom might want to read it first, but there is only a kiss or two - nothing much and she plays football which is too cool.

    I also thought Chicks with Sticks was excellent chick lit for the younger crowd - some boy interaction and angst, but nothing that sees pants coming off (or anything even close). Plus it's girls who knit! How can you resist that?

    And really stepping out of the box, Warrior girl by Pauline Chandler is a story of Joan of Arc and I think it totally kicks butt. Joan is fantastic, her cousin provides an excellent narrator and the story is adventure from beginning to end. As it has the added bonus of being about a real person, teens also learn a thing or two while reading it. Awesome.

    And finally Laura Ruby's The Wall and the Wing. Very good fantasy and also has a sequel due soon.

    I could go on and on. I try to mention if age is a factor (meaning sex or language) with the books I review every month in my Bookslut column. These were all books I really loved.

  • At 3:13 PM, Blogger Sophie Brookover said…

    Thanks, everyone, for your amazing, thoughtful & useful feedback. I think the mother in question will have plenty of great stuff to work with, thanks to you.

    Jill, the parent in question was saying that by the end of the fourth Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants book, three of the four heroines was sexually active. I know you don't have to interpret Bridget & Eric's interlude in book one as sex, but I do. Regardless, the mother querying me was talking about events in the fourth book, not the more open to interpretation first title.

  • At 7:08 PM, Blogger Little Willow said…

    I tweaked my list slightly to make it more organized. :)


  • At 11:50 PM, Blogger Janette Rallison said…

    Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Free Throws would be great for her because it's about girl basketball players (There are so few books out there about girls who play sports) and is a clean comedy.

    If she likes a bit of fantasy then I would recommend The Goose Girl and Enna Burning by Shannon Hale too

  • At 4:07 AM, Blogger Jill said…

    Thanks for your clarification, Sophie. But, I still find this entire thread vaguely...disturbing. The parent seems to be looking for books that won't challenge her or her daughter's worldview, but many of the ones that've been suggested would almost definitely do that - especially all of the speculative fiction titles.

  • At 1:20 PM, Blogger Sophie Brookover said…

    Is there something wrong with wanting to find books for one's child that reflect her interests & are appropriate for her developmental level?

    I do not for a moment believe that the parent in question is trying to stymie her daughter's quest for individuation; she just wants some good reading ideas.

    Also, there is nothing in the e-mail I posted to suggest that the mother would be averse to her daughter reading something that challenged her worldview; she just thinks the kid isn't ready to read about sex. That is 100% between her & her daughter.

    Please carry on with the suggestions, folks!

  • At 11:03 PM, Blogger Kate said…

    second shannon hale,
    second joan bauer,
    i LOVE tamora pierce but in some of her books the do sort of talk about sex, in a fantasish way, like she talks about getting a charm to protect against pregnancy if she decides to have sex, and stuff like that. i can't remember but i think in alanna she does have sex but in the protector of the small series she doesn't...but it's all a bit blurry because it isn't really the focus, perhaps someone with a better memory could follow-up.

    Also if she is athletic i love tangerine by edward bloor, it is mainly boy characters but it is fast paced and has some great soccer scenes.

  • At 4:42 PM, Blogger Ms. Yingling said…

    Let Me Play: The Story of Title IX by Karen Blumenthal is a book that all teenaged girls should read. Growing up right when this was put into action, I thought it was evil because we had to have gym with the boys. I had no idea that Title IX was what caused the numbers of women in law and medicine to increase. It's a fascinating read for all women.

  • At 3:47 PM, Blogger Winnie said…

    Trouble is Gary Schmidt's new book. All his books are clean. Trouble has a very athletic female character in it, and it is a very good and complex story.


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