“Very few writers really know what they are doing until they’ve done it.”
Anne Lamott’s quote has always resonated with me for two reasons. One is that you don’t really know how to write a book until you get in there and write one.
The second is that sometimes you don’t even realise what you’ve written until you reach The End – and, even then, sometimes not until someone else tells you.
In the spotlight today is my good friend Allison Rushby, the author of many books for children, YA and adults, who can also relate to this quote.
Discovering what you’ve really written
When The Turnkey was released in 2017, I was overjoyed with the reviews it received – until one stopped me in my tracks.
The reviewer called The Turnkey “surreptitiously feminist” and I found myself reading her review over and over again, because it made me think A LOT about exactly what it was that I’d written.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the review in question was a lovely one (you can read it in its entirety here). In her review, one of the main points the reviewer makes is that, throughout the novel, Flossie remains in charge.
No older male steps in to tell her what to do, or how to save the day. Rather, she’s put in charge of large groups of men, including soldiers, and these men all happily report back to her as she works out how she’s going to save her cemetery and country.
At the time of reading this eye-opening review, I was finishing up the first draft of The Seven Keys (the second book in The Turnkey series, released this month with Walker Books Australia). I began to ask myself if what I was writing was also “surreptitiously feminist”…
I didn’t have to ponder this question long. There was nothing “surreptitious” about it. By the end of The Seven Keys, almost every key role in London’s twilight world is filled by a female character. The Seven Keys is just flat-out feminist.
When it comes to the portrayal of females in others’ work, I wasn’t surprised to find that a lot of the middle-grade fiction I connect with also has strong female protagonists. I do so love a good go-getting heroine. A girl who GSD (Gets Stuff Done) just like Flossie and her friends do in The Turnkey and The Seven Keys.
With this in mind, I came up with a list of some of my favourite GGSD (Girls Getting Stuff Done) middle-grade/upper-middle-grade reads that I hope you and your little reader love as much as I do.
10+ GGSD (Girls Getting Stuff Done) Middle Grade reads
Out Of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
Melody’s body might not be strong (she has cerebral palsy), but her mind is fierce. She’s on a one woman mission to let her classmates know just how smart she really is.
The War That Saved My Life and The War I Finally Won by Kimberley Brubaker Bradley
Ada’s fight for self-worth and a life to call her own is absolutely heartbreaking, as is her carer’s backstory of love and the loss of her partner. Together, these strong-willed characters manage to help each other strive for a happy ever after.
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
The star of the show is Ivan (a caged gorilla who lives in a shopping mall), but clear-eyed Julia, the custodian’s daughter, is underrated in this tale. Her actions and courage will stay with you for a long time.
The Ateban Cipher series by A.L. Tait
In a world of monks and a stolen illuminated text, it takes a couple of smart girls to get in there, work out what’s going on and begin to set things to rights.
The Family with Two Front Doors by Anna Ciddor
Set in 1920s Poland and centred on a very religious Jewish family, this might seem a strange choice, but the historical setting and different way of life provides so much to discuss from a feminist perspective.
Everything I’ve Never Said by Samantha Wheeler
Ava is desperate to communicate with her family, but Rett Syndrome makes this impossible. That is, until some new people in her life allow this strong, driven character to finally show the world her true personality.
The Ratcatcher’s Daughter by Pamela Rushby
It’s 1900 and Issy’s father is a rat-catcher. When he becomes ill, it’s up to Issy to – wait for it – help rid Brisbane of the plague.
Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee
Lenny’s world is falling apart, but how she deals with this (and, especially, her mother’s abusive partner) shows the depth of her character.
A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay
Jena must deny herself food and wrap her limbs in order to stay small so she can slip inside rock crevices and retrieve precious mica. It is only when she begins to question the inconsistencies in her world that she can be set free.
Front Desk by Kelly Yang
Mia’s immigrant parents are doing it tough and so is Mia, who tends the desk at the Calivista motel while they clean rooms. She might be small, but this tenacious heroine packs a lot of “I can do it!” action into one book.
Allison Rushby is the author of more than 20 books. Her latest middle-grade novel, The Seven Keys, is the sequel to the award-winning The Turnkey. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.
Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of two epic middle-grade adventure series, The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher.
You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.
If you’d like more book suggestions for your young reader, join the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook community.
*This post contains affiliate links. Click the title of each book to find out more about it or to purchase from Booktopia.
Welcome to 2019! I hope you’ve had a fantastic and very restful holiday break.
I’ve spent a few weeks away from my blog and everything that goes with it, and I confess to feeling much refreshed by the virtual vacation.
But I’m back at my desk today and ready to do some serious editing (or, let’s face it, as ready as I ever am to face editing…)
While I was off at the beach, however, some exciting things have been happening.
My two Ateban Cipher novels, The Book Of Secrets and The Book of Answers, are now both available in the United States through Kane Miller, the fab people who have already brought The Mapmaker Chronicles series to US and Canadian readers.
The covers may be different but the epic adventure story, about the secrets of the mysterious coded manuscript known as The Ateban Cipher, remains the same.
As does the dedication in The Book Of Secrets.
You can find out more about the books and purchase them directly here on the publisher’s website.
I hope that US readers will take Gabe, Merry, Gwyn and the rest of the gang to their hearts in the way that Australian readers have done (you can read the Goodreads reviews here and here)! Thanks for all your support.
Looking for the Australian editions of The Ateban Cipher? You’ll find them here.
Today the very last of my 2018 book lists was published by Vanessa over at Style & Shenanigans, so it seems a very good time to collate them all in one place for easy reference (as much for me, as for you…)
So, here it is, the ultimate list of my recent book lists. Hundreds of books for readers aged from babies to teens.
If you’re looking for a new read for your kids for Christmas, for the holidays, or at any time of year, bookmark this page for easy reference. Click the post title to visit the full list.
Your Kid’s Next Read: Recommended reading lists for kids 10+, 12+, 14+ (2018 edition)
15 more tried-and-tested books for 13/14-year-old boys (+ 13 expert choices)
5 picture book picks for Christmas
10 spooky (or scary) middle-grade books for Halloween
40 YA books for tweens (+ 25 middle-grade books that feel like YA)
23 newish books for tweens by Australian women
21 book gifts for reluctant readers they won’t be able to resist
30 books by Australian authors to give to kids this Christmas
30 (more) brilliant books for girls this Christmas
The best kids’ books for Christmas
I’m sure you’ll find the perfect book for your young reader on one of these lists!
Need more? You’ll find another 100+ book ideas for your young reader here, in my round-up on last year’s book lists (great books remain great books, no matter what year they’re published, after all…)
If you’re after specific recommendations for a very particular kind of reader, why not join my Facebook community Your Kid’s Next Read, where you’ll find 5000+ parents, teachers, booksellers, librarians, bloggers and other interested parties all ready to help with recommendations? We’d love to see you there.
Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m the author of two epic adventure series, The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher, and you can find out more about me here.
Both The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher are great for kids aged 9+ and you can find out more about them here.
Aside from ‘what to read after Harry Potter?’, the most frequent question that come up in the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook group is this one: ‘Can anyone suggest YA fiction suitable for a tween?’
While there is an entire ‘middle-grade’ (8-12) section of the bookshelf available, many tweens, particularly advanced readers, want to move up. They want to read what older kids are reading and, often, they’ve read the library dry of the books deemed appropriate for their age group.
They’re hungry readers, and parents are often at a loss as to what to give them to read next – because, let’s face it, just because you can read a book, doesn’t necessarily mean that now is the best time to read it. It’s not just that YA fiction can feature themes and subject matter that’s just not suitable for tweens, but that books are best enjoyed when you’re ready for them.
Go in too early with a book that you love and your young reader may put it aside after a chapter or two, and never, ever pick it up again.
So, because I am the helpful sort, I have canvassed not only the YKNR group members (made up of nearly 4000 parents/booksellers/librarians/publishing professionals/teachers/grandparents/authors), but other interested parties (authors, booksellers, librarians) to come up with this list* of YA books that they would recommend for tween readers.
I’ve cheated a bit (not really but it sounds intriguing, right?) by splitting the list into two sections – what I would call Proper YA (aimed at readers 14+) and then a section that is Technically Middle-Grade But With A YA Feel. It might be that your younger tween is just looking for something in the latter category that feels more grown-up than what they’ve been reading. Proper YA has been divided into categories, but other than that there’s no particular order.
As with any book recommendation, you know your child best, so be sure to read the book’s description closely to make sure it will be suitable for your particular reader – as noted below, some series get darker as they progress, so look beyond book #1, and check with your local bookseller or librarian regarding any themes or storylines you may be wondering about!
Good luck – and do join us over in Your Kid’s Next Read if you have any questions about these or other books for your young readers!
The Other Side Of Summer by Emily Gale “Had some mature themes but nothing inappropriate for the younger readers.” – YKNR Member
Geek Girl by Holly Smale
Spurt by Chris Miles
Shooting Stars by Brian Falkner
How To Hang A Witch by Adriana Mather (Kid review)
The Wonder Of Us by Kim Culbertson (Kid review)
The Ethan I Was Before by Ali Standish
From The Cutting Room of Barney Kettle by Kate De Goldi
Dandelion Clocks by Rebecca Westcott
Ghost by Jason Reynolds
Blueback by Tim Winton
The Moonlight Dreamers by Siobhan Curham (Suggested by Una (12))
Silence is Goldfish by Annabel Pitcher
The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil
Pink by Lili Wilkinson
I Am Not Esther by Fleur Beale
Two Wolves by Tristan Bancks
The Fall by Tristan Bancks
Missing by Sue Whiting (Kid review)
A little bit romantic
Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood
Two Summers by Aimee Friedman. “A really good book that provides a gentle intro to this theme.” – YKNR Member
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell “Is sweet… Some more serious stuff touched on but not too heavy.” – YKNR member (Kid review (mini))
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Unrequited by Emma Grey
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (series)
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (series)
The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson (series)
Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce (series)
Obernewtyn by Isabelle Carmody (series)
Tiffany Aching by Terry Pratchett (series)
Arkanae by Lynette Noni (series) “Recommended for tweens/teens done with Harry Potter. The themes get darker as it progresses but not too much that they cause problems. It’s not overly romantic and has a great focus on adventure and friendship.” – YKNR member (Kid review)
Contagion by Teri Terry “I’ve read the first book in the series. I loved her ‘Slated’ series too but it got darker by the third book.” – YKNR member
Pandora Jones by Barry Jonsberg
The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby
Little bit scary
Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (Kid review)
The Other Side Of Truth by Beverley Naidoo
Salt To The Sea by Ruta Septys “Perfect intro to World War Two – historical fiction without language or storylines that are too advanced.” – YKNR member
Once series by Morris Gleitzman. ‘It’s in hot demand with the Year 6s at my primary school library – girls and the boys.” – YKNR member
Technically middle-grade but might be just what your YA-seeking tween is looking for
The Secrets We Share by Nova Weetman “The sequel to Nova Weetman’s brilliant The Secrets We Keep – Clem starts high school in this book.” – YKNR Member
My Life as an Alphabet by Barry Jonsberg
Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur
Quincy Jordan by Jen Storer
The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
Lily Alone by Jacqueline Wilson
Dizzy by Cathy Cassidy
Stay Well Soon by Penny Tangey
The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson
Fish In A Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Being Miss Nobody by Tamsin Winter
Survival Strategies Of The Almost Brave by Jen White
Drama by Reina Telegemeier
Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes “Deals with a first realised crush that doesn’t turn out the way she hopes.” – YKNR Member
Parvana by Deborah Ellis
A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay
The Girl Who Drank The Moon by Kelly Barnhill
The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon “The next level up for Lemony Snicket fans.” – YKNR member
Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton
The Timeslip series by Belinda Murrell
Pennies For Hitler by Jackie French “Really opens up tricky themes in sensitive ways.” – YKNR member
The Family With Two Front Doors by Anna Ciddor “There’s lots to talk/think about from an historic and a feminist perspective.” – YKNR member
A Night Divided by Jennifer A Nielsen
Nevermoor (The Trials Of Morrigan Crow) by Jessica Townsend
The Girl Who Brought Mischief by Katrina Nannestad
Shooting Kabul by N. H. Senzai
I am Malala (Young Readers Edition) by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick
Are you new here? Welcome! If your middle-grade reader loves epic adventure stories, be sure to check out my two series: The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher – click the title links to find out more.
You might also like:
24 books for tween boys with ‘nothing to read’
31 books for tween girls with ‘nothing to read’
21 tried-and-tested books for 13/14-year-old boys
100+ great books for your young reader
YKNR: Recommended reading lists for kids 10+, 12+, YA for Tweens
Jazzy’s Diamond Dozen (12 favourite reads from a kid book reviewer)
*As with all my book lists, if you click on the title it will take you to online bookstore Booktopia, where you can read the blurb and purchase the book if you like the sound of it (disclosure: this will result in a small commission to me at no extra charge to you). International visitors will find most of these titles in either paperback or ebook form on Amazon. Australian authors are denoted with a •