Tag Archives: Female Protagonist

Review : The Ship of Shadows by Maria Kuzniar

Middle-grade review of The Ship of Shadows by Maria Kuzniar

The Ship of Shadows (The Ship of Shadows, #1)Goodreads Blurb

Aleja whiles away her days in her family’s dusty tavern in Seville, dreaming of distant lands and believing in the kind of magic that she’s only ever read about in books. After all, she’s always being told that girls can’t be explorers.

But her life is changed forever when adventure comes for her in the form of a fabled vessel called the Ship of Shadows. Crewed by a band of ruthless women, with cabin walls dripping with secrets, the ship has sailed right out of a legend. And it wants Aleja.

Once on board its shadowy deck, she begins to realize that the sea holds more secrets than she ever could have imagined. The crew are desperately seeking something, and their path will take them through treacherous waters and force them to confront nightmare creatures and pitch-dark magic. It will take all of Aleja’s strength and courage to gain the trust of her fellow pirates – and discover what they are risking everything to find.

My Thoughts after Reading

This middle-grade adventure book is about a girls-only pirate ship sailing the oceans blue in search of a treasure map.

Our heroine discovers a secret and this knowledge puts her life in danger. In the chase she meets a captain who offers to hide her in her ship for a few hours. Unfortunately it was still unsafe for Aleja to disembark and she ends up travelling to the far lands with the crew.

This book has everything: a magical ship, an ancestor with a mysterious legacy, cryptic puzzles, strange beasts from the sea and land, exotic locations of towns and deserts and of course, swash-buckling life at sea. What I liked about this book is how all the characters have their own strengths eg linguist, chemist, technologist, soldier, strategist. Together they made a great team.

If you like the sound of this, you might be pleased to know that this is the first book of a series. 3/5

Eight Books with Strong Female Leads

International Women’s Day is on 8 March. To mark this day, here are some children’s books with strong female leads to inspire our female readers. These strong female characters show many traits.  They are creative, courageous and challenge their boundaries.

Middle Grade Books

Serafina and the Black Cloak (Serafina, #1)Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty

My review

Blurb

“Never go into the deep parts of the forest, for there are many dangers there, and they will ensnare your soul.”

Serafina has never had a reason to disobey her pa and venture beyond the grounds of the Biltmore estate. There’s plenty to explore in her grand home, although she must take care to never be seen. None of the rich folk upstairs know that Serafina exists; she and her pa, the estate’s maintenance man, have secretly lived in the basement for as long as Serafina can remember.

But when children at the estate start disappearing, only Serafina knows who the culprit is: a terrifying man in a black cloak who stalks Biltmore’s corridors at night. Following her own harrowing escape, Serafina risks everything by joining forces with Braeden Vanderbilt, the young nephew of the Biltmore’s owners. Braeden and Serafina must uncover the Man in the Black Cloak’s true identity… before all of the children vanish one by one.

Serafina’s hunt leads her into the very forest that she has been taught to fear. There she discovers a forgotten legacy of magic, one that is bound to her own identity. In order to save the children of Biltmore, Serafina must seek the answers that will unlock the puzzle of her past.

BrightstormBrightstorm by Vashti Hardy

My review

Blurb

Twins Arthur and Maudie receive word in Lontown that their famous explorer father died in a failed attempt to reach South Polaris. Not only that, but he has been accused of trying to steal fuel from his competitors before he died! The twins don’t believe the news, and they answer an ad to help crew a new exploration attempt in the hope of learning the truth and salvaging their family’s reputation. As the winged ship Aurora sets sail, the twins must keep their wits about them and prove themselves worthy of the rest of the crew. But will Arthur and Maudie find the answers they seek?

The Fox Girl and the White GazelleThe Fox Girl and the White Gazelle by Victoria Williamson

My review

Blurb

Reema runs to remember the life she left behind in Syria. Caylin runs to find what she’s lost. Under the grey Glasgow skies, twelve-year-old refugee Reema is struggling to find her place in a new country, with a new language and without her brother. But she isn’t the only one feeling lost. Her Glasgwegian neighbour Caylin is lonely and lashing out. When they discover an injured fox and her cubs hiding on their estate, the girls form a wary friendship. And they are more alike than they could have imagined: they both love to run. As Reema and Caylin learn to believe again, in themselves and in others, they find friendship, freedom and the discovery that home isn’t a place, it’s the people you love. Heartfelt and full of hope, The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle is an uplifting story about the power of friendship and belonging. Inspired by her work with young asylum seekers, debut novelist Victoria Williamson’s stunning story of displacement and discovery will speak to anyone who has ever asked ‘where do I belong?’

The Girl, the Cat and the NavigatorThe Girl, the Cat and the Navigator by Matilda Woods

My review

Blurb (There wasn’t one on Goodreads, so I’ve typed out what was on the book jacket)

Set sail aboard the Plucky Leopard for an adventure of myth and marvel among the ice-caps!

Curious, pin-bright Oona Britt dreams of a life of excitement on the wild waves. She has read stories of a mysterious, magical creature called the nardoo which swims through the starts at night, and decides to stow away on her father’s ship to track on down.

But her time on the storm-tossed sea is fraught with danger – there’s a mutinous crew, a sabotaging ship’s cat called Barnacles and a hungry creature of the deep awoken after a long sleep.

The House with Chicken LegsThe House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson

My review

Blurb

All 12-year-old Marinka wants is a friend. A real friend. Not like her house with chicken legs. Sure, the house can play games like tag and hide-and-seek, but Marinka longs for a human companion. Someone she can talk to and share secrets with.
But that’s tough when your grandmother is a Yaga, a guardian who guides the dead into the afterlife. It’s even harder when you live in a house that wanders all over the world . . . carrying you with it. Even worse, Marinka is being trained to be a Yaga. That means no school, no parties–and no playmates that stick around for more than a day.
So when Marinka stumbles across the chance to make a real friend, she breaks all the rules . . . with devastating consequences. Her beloved grandmother mysteriously disappears, and it’s up to Marinka to find her–even if it means making a dangerous journey to the afterlife.
With a mix of whimsy, humor, and adventure, this debut novel will wrap itself around your heart and never let go.

The Miscalculations of Lightning GirlThe Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty

My review

Blurb

A lightning strike gave her a super power…but even a super genius can’t solve the problem of middle school. This smart and funny novel is perfect for fans of The Fourteenth GoldfishRain Reign, and Counting by Sevens.

Lucy Callahan was struck by lightning. She doesn’t remember it, but it changed her life forever. The zap gave her genius-level math skills, and ever since, Lucy has been homeschooled. Now, at 12 years old, she’s technically ready for college. She just has to pass 1 more test–middle school!

Lucy’s grandma insists: Go to middle school for 1 year. Make 1 friend. Join 1 activity. And read 1 book (that’s not a math textbook!). Lucy’s not sure what a girl who does calculus homework for fun can possibly learn in 7th grade. She has everything she needs at home, where nobody can make fun of her rigid routines or her superpowered brain. The equation of Lucy’s life has already been solved. Unless there’s been a miscalculation?

A celebration of friendship, Stacy McAnulty’s smart and thoughtful middle-grade debut reminds us all to get out of our comfort zones and embrace what makes us different.

Chapter Books

Spider Stampede (Switch, #1)Spider Stampede by Ali Sparkes

My Quick Thoughts:

Mrs Potts is obviously a very clever and inventive scientist. I wish there were more books like the Switch Series. Children, especially girls need to read about female leads and mentor in STEM roles.

Blurb

All Josh and Danny Phillips want to do is play in the yard with their dog, like regular eight-year-olds. Unfortunately, their crazy neighbor Miss Potts makes sure that they never have any fun. When the boys accidentally stumble on Miss Potts’s secret that she is working on experiments that change people into bugs they find themselves in a whole lot of trouble. (They also find themselves with six more legs than normal.) Can the boys survive in the world as spiders? And more important, will they figure out how to change back into humans in time for dinner?

The Magic Mixer ebook cThe Magic Mixer by Justine Laismith

Blurb

This is a story about Mrs Dabble, who is bringing up three children: Billy, who is a pleasant and polite; Melanie, a toddler who likes to do things for herself; and Ruby, a baby.

On a typical day, Mrs Dabble finds herself going from one crisis to another. She really needs some help, but where can she get it from?

Meet Dr Patsy Gerlaxi and her Magic Mixer. This machine takes unique and useful features from any animal and inserts them into humans!

So begins Mrs Dabble’s adventure to getting more help with the assistance of the Magic Mixer …

 

If you are looking for books to inspire the little girl in your life, I hope these eight books will give you a starting point. If you want more suggestions, drop me a note below and I will gladly recommend more. Or if you know of other books must-read strong female leads do drop your suggestions below.

First published 1 March 2019 for International Women’s Day. Updated on 1 March 2020.

Island of Blue Dolphins – My Thoughts after Reading

Island of the Blue DolphinsIsland of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

My Thoughts after Reading

I approached this book with trepidation as I’m not a big fan of survival in the wilderness books. But this is a fiction book inspired by scant historical facts. So I went in with the aim to get a feel for what happened back then. And I surprised myself by liking it.

Our heroine is an inspiration. She had to cope with the loss of her father, then her brother. The author did not touch much on the shock of his death, which I found surprising. As a doting big sister, I expected more grief and guilt. Instead he focused on her anger at the wild dogs and her schemes to avenge her brother.

The description of the place was good. I got a good idea of the land, the flora and fauna. I found the survival techniques fascinating, although I was most curious about how to cook food over rock, make utensils by rubbing with sand, or what type of rock is on the island if it were so easy to hole out shelves for storage.

It was a good read. 3/5

Goodreads Blurb

In the Pacific there is an island that looks like a big fish sunning itself in the sea. Around it, blue dolphins swim, otters play, and sea elephants and sea birds abound. Once, Indians also lived on the island. And when they left and sailed to the east, one young girl was left behind. — This is the story of Karana, the Indian girl who lived alone for years on the Island of the Blue Dolphins. Year after year, she watched one season pass into another and waited for a ship to take her away. But while she waited, she kept herself alive by building shelter, making weapons, finding food, and fighting her enemies, the wild dogs. It is not only an unusual adventure of survival, but also a tale of natural beauty and personal discovery.

Vote for Effie – My Thoughts after Reading

Vote for EffieVote for Effie by Laura Wood

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My Thoughts after Reading

This middle-grade book addresses the current call for strong female leads. The mother goes out to work, the father works from home so he can look after house and home. Effie starts a new school where there isn’t a football team for girls and that girls do not have the option to wear trousers. She sees the injustice of these.

From this point of view, the inequality makes this book very much in today’s setting. However, given what Effie encounters in her school, I feel that this sort of occurrence is at the very least, set ten years earlier. I don’t know what are the statistics of these, but I have visited a few schools in UK and Singapore and I am not aware of any schools that do not have a buddy system for new starters . As for the trousers options, again, in the UK, this has been an option quite a while, for the simple practicality of cold wintry days. So I feel the disparity.

Nonetheless, the author succeeded in using these examples to drum up support. I felt for Effie when she started school and was left to fend for herself. I was pleased when she finally found a friend. Effie has the qualities of a leader. She is passionate and has a strong sense of justice. I like her organisational skills, even if she’s overboard with it. Her obsession with minor details and stationery colours is very typical of teenage girls. I got irritated as the book went on. As Effie gets more and more passionate, she shouts a lot, or the Upper Case writing increases. It was uncomfortable for the eyes.

As I got to know Effie more, something else struck me. According to an HR manager/recruiter I once spoke to, the difference between Effie and Aaron is typical between male and female. Recently I had this very same discussion with a parent who had a daughter attending an all-girls school and a son attending an all-boys school. Females under-appreciate what they do/achieve and as a result, go overboard with work and stress themselves out. Males are the opposite. They appear more laid-back but still get things done in their own way because they are confident in their own achievements. This is a topic educators can get into discussions with students about self-awareness, achievement and mental illness.

All in all, a modern feministic book for today’s readers.

Thanks to Bookloverjo for the recommendation

Blurb

Join Effie Kostas as she fights to become Student Council President in her new school. With a campaign team of loveable misfits, she tackles the truly important subjects: gender imbalance, outdated school conventions…and good-looking boys stealing the last slice of chocolate cake at lunchtime. A laugh out-loud rallying call for switched-on kids everywhere.

Book Review: Graceling

Graceling (Graceling Realm, #1)Graceling by Kristin Cashore

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book Blurb:

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.

She never expects to fall in love with beautiful Prince Po.

She never expects to learn the truth behind her Grace—or the terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

With elegant, evocative prose and a cast of unforgettable characters, debut author Kristin Cashore creates a mesmerizing world, a death-defying adventure, and a heart-racing romance that will consume you, hold you captive, and leave you wanting more.

My thoughts after reading:

Graceling is a YA book about a world of seven medieval-like kingdoms where some are born with a gift. We call these people Gracelings. You can tell these people apart because their eyes have different colours. Their gifts make them exceptionally talented in an area, anything from cooking to navigation to fighting. Katsa is graced with killing. Her grace is being abused by her king and uncle. To compensate for her thuggish role in the country, she sets up a secret council whose aim is to help the helpless. Where the kings have failed these citizens, Katsa’s council intervene. Because of the good they do, the council’s supporters grow throughout the seven kingdoms. The story opens when Katsa goes on a rescue mission. She meets a Po. As the story develops we learn that Gracelings can be social outcasts as normal folks are wary of them – with good reason as there are some are graced with sinister skills. We also learn the some Graces are not what they seem, and some Graces are a silver lining when tragedy strikes. A good read.