It was the quip on the front cover of this book that reeled me in while I scoured for new books at our local library. “GO BIG OR GO HOME,” it boasted. Murphy combines quick wit and a cheeky sense of humor in Dumplin’ and the result was both raw and real. Texas-girl Willowdean Dickson is a strong believer that anyone can rock a bikini, no matter her size or shape. When Willowdean falls for her coworker, and he seems to like her back, her self-esteem on her own body image starts to waver. To regain her crown of confidence, she enters the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet beauty pageant, something she swore she’d never do. In a stand for all the dumplins’ and misfits in her small Texas town, Willowdean and a team of other improbable contestants brazenly enter the pageant and march towards the highly treasured winner’s sash. Dumplin’ is not for the faint of heart, and appeals to a high school-level reader. Bold and brilliant, this book is sure to win you over.
The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern
Maggie Mayfield’s only purpose in life is to become President of the United States. That means no law breaking (liking watching R-rated movies), no crushes on boys, and only a perfect 4.0 GPA in school. On her 11th birthday, she asked for a stock in Coca-Cola. Her plea was accepted, and she proudly claimed herself, “Maggie Mayfield, member of a carbonated dynasty!” Impressive, huh? But suddenly, birthday’s are thrown pitilessly to the back of Maggie’s information-stuffed brain, for her dad’s medical condition is growing worse. He quit his job, and his legs are falling asleep. Permanently. Maggie’s long-standing belief that all of her answers are in books is impossibly twisted, because she now realizes there may be more to life than school and laws and being President. There is no known cure for her dad’s illness. Her mom has overworked herself into a “puddle of clothes on the floor,” and Maggie herself gets a B on her science project. Life is a disaster! Her “metaphorical bravery tank” is running dangerously low. But as she watches her family struggle with the “new chapter” in their lives, Maggie finally understands that there is nothing else more important than her family, because they are a team. An argumentative, occasionally dishonest, Neil Young loving team.
Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm
Feisty, spunky Turtle is sent off to live with her Aunt Minnie, in the Key West of Florida. It’s steamy, sticky, and scorpions love to lurk in dark places, especially shoes. Turtle struggles with three rowdy cousins, all boys, and all trouble. It is with them that she ventures, on a stolen boat, to a nearby island in search of a famous pirate’s treasure. Turtle and the boys soon find themselves hopelessly stranded, hungry, and viciously being attacked by famished mosquitoes. Even Turtle’s quick wit and confidence can’t help them, but nearby sponging boats might be able to. This book is an excellent portrayal of the old Key West. The Great Depression, heat, and pirate loot, make one engrossing novel for all ages. That Turtle is one tough cookie, and her smart comebacks will surely give you a laugh!
The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen
A Schneider Family Book Award winner, The Running Dream is a beautifully woven book, which tells the story and struggles of right leg amputee, Jessica Carlisle. She was a runner, a champion, until an accident strikes that changes her running dreams forever, or so she believes. As Jessica attempts to rebuild her life with a prosthetic limb, she is slowly fading into a fog of self-pity. Stairs are the new enemy, and taking a shower has now become more challenging than running a marathon. And then, suddenly, Jessica is reflecting on her behavior when she meets Rosa, a girl with cerebral palsy who still excels academically, and doesn’t let her condition weaken her. Inspired by her new friend and math tutor, Jessica’s dream to run again seems much closer than before, especially with the help of modern prosthetic limb technology, and deep determination.
The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall
If comforting, cheerful books had a name, for me, it would be The Penderwicks on Gardam Street. Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty are four sisters with a tight bond and completely different personalities. When Mr. Penderwick’s loving sister announces that it’s time for him to “jump into the dating-pool” the girls consider it a crisis. Each of their personalities are tested when the Save-Daddy Plan is put into action, as the sisters join forces to prevent a future stepmother. This book is spilling with laughs, white-lies, and a family warmth that could comfort anyone in need of a ‘lil love.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
Travel back into the late 1800’s with Callie and her six brothers in the award-winning novel, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. Callie suffers from the expectations of those times, when girls are known to perform housework and marry at the unripe age of 16. She escapes this reality by exploring the world of scientific study with her mysterious Grandfather and the scorching, vast land of Texas. This novel introduces the past and its undeveloped manner- written so kids of all ages can easily understand- as Callie pursues her dream of becoming a girl scientist.
Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen
It’s the stereotypical beginning that disappoints me. Julie is obsessed with Bryce, who has no interest in love- especially with a girl like Julie. She is annoying, selfishly smart…but only to Bryce. To Julie, Bryce is wonderful, breathtaking, with those cold, icy blue eyes. Alas, Julie’s years of chasing her beloved Bryce come to a pitiful, but unexpectedly shocking halt when she realizes he is terribly egocentric. Bryce, suddenly looking at the world with a different perspective, really sees Julie’s selflessness and beauty. I appreciate the author for so easily differing the tone in each characters voice, and their inner feelings. One may perceive this book to be exclusively for girls, but I strongly disagree. Even boys may find Bryce and his troubles relatable. There are books written simply for the pleasure of entertainment, this one, in my opinion, is one of them.