“WHERE HAS THIS CHARACTER BEEN ALL MY LIFE?!”
The physically-active, FEMALE, athletic, scared-but-brave character of Tris was a revelation.
As a woman, as a female, without knowing it I’d longed for so many years, for a physically and mentally strong woman, who was still somewhat of an introvert. Really for forever I’d wanted that.
Although I enjoyed Nancy Drew — she was very active with her clean and sporty convertible — she was also super well-groomed, all the time.
Tris was a mess.
It was tremendously refreshing.
I wasn’t a three-sport athlete in school like my sister, but I rode my bike constantly in the summers, climbed a tall blue spruce up to my two-board treehouse to read library books, and still like to try and get outside and move often.
Exercise doesn’t really figure in to a lot of girl characters.
–> Okay. Just figured out this is YA. Young woman instead of girl.
It still counts.
Long live flawed, real heroines.
Swish! Written by Bill Martin, Jr. & Michael Sampson is a phenomenally fun read aloud! (Bill Martin, Jr. also wrote Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and Chicka, Chicka, Boom, Boom)
Action, words and pictures combine to deliver an exciting story.
The narrative builds as the game gets more tense — like a sports announcer but better because it’s contained within the portable pages of a (picture!) book and can be touched and re-read at will.
I wish there were more books like this about girls’ athletics.
It includes lessons about diversity and teamwork without preaching.
We read this one over and over in our family.
Illustrated by Michael Chesworth
The first in a series of interviews with (particularly women) writers about where they experienced creative inspiration as children and rockin’ talk about books and writing.
Alda and I are writing partners. We complement each other well, and I’m so thankful for her sharp brain and insights as well as our shared enthusiasm for books and words.
First trained as an engineer, Alda has been actively writing fiction for six years while raising two small children. Currently she’s putting the final touches on an historical novel for middle grade readers and waiting for an upcoming story to be published in Highlights magazine.
We had a wonderful time talking about our experiences as girls growing up craving stories, the positive influences in our lives and a shared love of libraries.
Pivotal writing moment / moment you knew you wanted to be a writer?
There was a time in school when Alda was inspired to make up a story on the spot when a teacher asked the class what they’d done during the Christmas break. Alda hadn’t done much of anything but sitting there listening to others’ answers it occurred to her that a couple of them were not being completely truthful. So when her turn came she made up a story about a trip to New York City. It was entertaining and detailed enough that her listeners hung on every word, so she kept, “feeding it and acting out things.” And in the process discovered the thrill and satisfaction of sharing stories with an audience.
Were there books when you were a girl that showed you a different way of life for women? That you think might have impacted you as a female?
Stories that Alda heard from her mom provided enough material for a book. Thanks to her mother, she has the beginnings of the novel she’s now working on.
What encouragement did you receive growing up? Creatively or otherwise?
In fourth or fifth grade, Alda remembers loving book fairs. It was her favorite time of year. She’d pore over the order forms, circle books she wanted, and daydream about getting them. When the shipment of books arrived she’d browse the shelves, cracking open the fresh, new books and smelling the new smell, loving the thrill of a new story there waiting in the pages. She never bought any books though, because the money wasn’t there.
Before that time Alda remembers liking the pictures in the books when her class would visit the school library. At that time she was still learning English. She grew up speaking Spanish until third or fourth grade.
Your favorite book when you were 10 years old or thereabouts?
Alda liked the Tales From the Darkside books because they were packed with suspense. She liked “feeling in the moment” and the transporting effect of the stories.
What advice do you have for young girls who love to read, love words, might be future (or present) writers? (Or work in other creative professions.)
“Follow, pursue your dreams and work hard at them, no matter what people say. Listen to advice — but ultimately it’s your life; and you decide what’s best for you.”
In high school Alda entered a short story writing contest in her area district and won. But her win was seen as a fluke, and she was told it was, “tough [enough] for Americans” [in literary fields]. “I was told by teachers I was good in math, and to pursue that.”
What kinds of things do you know of, to encourage and teach young writers?
1) Find writing contests online; check your local newspaper for opportunities; ask schools or teachers who might know of resources.
2) “Keep your muscles developing.”
3) Keep a journal and of course, read.
She also says, “Let your imagination just flow. Don’t be afraid of that. If you have a dream, follow up on that.”
Do you have a favorite quote?
Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny. ~ Lao Tzu
Who is your favorite girl character in literature and why?
India Opal in Because of Winn-Dixie and Katniss in The Hunger Games (both read as an adult) were favorites because, “They have a strength but at the same time a compassion – they’re brave enough to show that compassion. Not afraid of mixing them both.”
Talk about libraries.
They’re my sanctuary. Libraries are always first on my list to go to when I visit a new town. Every time I’m on my way to discover a new one, I feel as excited as if I were going to Disneyland. (Alda was in the military as was her husband, and they’ve moved often.)
The inspiration that music offers…
Alda listened to operas when she was in middle school. She didn’t understand the words, but she “felt the story” within the music.
The connection between music, story and creating is strong for her.
She spoke about the thrill of solving E=mc2 in a physics class in college. The professor set the problem without telling them that it was the classic equation. The thrill of creatively exploring and discovering her way to the mathematical answer compares to the high Alda feels when experiencing certain music.
In her own (written) words:
Ideas are everywhere! When I was a kid and even now I get ideas from listening to music (from Spanish, to classical, to Beatles) and from nature walks. There’s always a story behind every music note, every sunset, and every star. When you do get a good idea, run with it and work as hard as you can to turn it into a good story. Writing is not easy. It is hard, hard work. But when you do finally write a great sentence or paragraph, you get a certain “high” — your brain feels numb and you get this tingling feeling in your body knowing you’re getting closer to something great.
Interstellar Cinderella is ready. She travels with a special mechanic’s tool, just in case she might need it. She’s talented and accomplished, after learning and studying to become a whiz at fixing things.
Although she likes the new, specially decorated spacesuit from her fairy godrobot, to wear for the space parade, she mostly can’t think of anything but machines.
When she and the Prince meet, they … TALK. Imagine that. They get to know each other. Then comes the somewhat surprising and satisfying ending.
There are fun and imaginative additions/modifications to the original story in this book, so that it’s something of its own.
A fun and entertaining, rhyming read with an active, girl main character.
Plus, I like the psychedelic, metallic, oil slick lettering (of the print book).
An excited, curious little girl interacts with the sea for the first time.
It’s fun to watch her responses to the waves, just as it would be at the real beach watching a little child in her own world of wonder. She’s tentative at first, then enthralled, then roaring back at it – then a surprise.
Dare I make a The Snowy Day comparison?
She’s just a little girl, a little kid living life and exploring the natural world — and therefore heroic.
She represents all of us — going outside, learning and observing, and making new friends.
This is a lovely-shaped book and the simple coloring of it is also beautiful.
Written & Illustrated By:
Pippi. Her combination of supreme silliness and breezy bravery is irresistible.
And the names this author uses for characters and places! Villa Villekulla? Longstocking? So good and funny.
Pippi’s a mess. Her clothes don’t match. She lives by herself. She does whatever she wants, however she wants. This is satisfying especially for kids I think. She’s a lot of fun and her own person, with a good heart who “enjoys talking to people.”
She does exactly all the kinds of wild things that kids think of doing. Cooking pancakes and flinging them across the kitchen onto plates? Extreme, not holding back kinds of actions — these can be what fiction is for!
And her strength!
“Why, she could lift a whole horse if she wanted to! And she wanted to.”
(And she has a horse!)
Her attitude! “Don’t you worry about me. I’ll always come out on top.”
Life next door to Pippi and as her friend, is definitely not boring — her neighbors, the other children Annika & Tommy and their tidy, orderly life are perfect foils for Pippi’s outrageousness. And vice versa. Pippi’s father is an absent (but romantic) Cannibal King, while the other two children’s parents are present, ordinary and typically adult.
Some of the cultural references in this story could be misunderstood nowadays as being politically incorrect or insensitive — but instead I think one should keep in mind it’s all supposed to be ridiculous — and the fact that other cultures or ethnicities are even mentioned actually ups the diversity score for this book.
Imaginative, goofy things are not supposed to make sense in one way; even as there must be a core element of truth in all good stories. Pippi saying things like, “people in Egypt talk nonsense all day long” (so I should be able to occasionally) need to be taken as tongue-in-cheek, (and enjoyed). She also completely knows she’s lying/making stuff up and says so. Probably while stomping down the street backwards, one foot in the gutter and one on the sidewalk.
Such gleeful nonsense. It’s awesome.
I’ll leave you with the observation that Pippi’s methods for cleaning appeal to something deep within all of us. Strapping cleaning brushes to your feet and flooding the house with water and suds? “Excellent!” We all say, “That would be a splendid/dope method for washing your kitchen floors! ”
(c) 1945 by Astrid Lindgren
“Your brilliant first flop was a raging success!
Come on, let’s get busy and on to the next!”
There are scientific studies on the value of failure. But ROSIE REVERE, ENGINEER sums up the concept perfectly — and you get brilliant illustrations and humor along the way.
What I love about this book is that it’s NOT about one single person. The little Rosie character is helped by her caring, older Great Aunt. This is wonderful. None of us makes it on our own.
The inspiration-to-completion trajectory of the story is great. The gadgets created are fun. There is enjoyable silliness throughout.
We need to do way more celebrating of failure. And it’s related imaginative exploration.
Throw a “failure party” and read this book aloud!
I also love that Rosie makes a big, giant, colorful mess when she’s making things.
(c) 2013 Abrams Books for Young Readers
I’d heard so much about this book before getting ahold of a copy at a school Book Fair. I’d heard that people liked it. I ended up loving it too. It was my first “graphic novel.”
What a great story.
Raina is technically not a character, but is based on the author’s own real life experiences.
The author/illustrator does such a good job portraying the time period, and her feelings and thoughts about friendship and her own life in sixth grade. Dealing with a dental emergency whose treatment stretched on made for good drama.
What’s a graphic novel? I’ve heard strong opinions, including that they’re not worth deeming “books.” I think this idea might come from the content of some comics being more about the violence and the action drawings than the story?
According to Oxford Dictionaries a graphic novel is, “a novel in comic-strip format.” So: it’s a longer comic book.
Well this one’s a keeper. Not only are the awesome pictures integral to the emotion and tension of the book but they’re just nice to look at. What a pleasure to read an illustrated story for older readers.
This story is about an ordinary girl with opinions, to whom dramatic things happen. It’s about someone with normal family conflict, and ultimately increased self awareness and development as an artist and person after some life experiences. Wonderful.
(c) 2010 Scholastic Graphix
Thanks to Raina Telgemeier
“Grace was a girl who loved stories.” — is the first line of this book.
Grace acts out the most exciting parts of any stories she hears, sees, reads, or makes up herself.
This little girl and her buddies … and the ILLUSTRATIONS! in this book are fantabulous.
Theatrical Grace celebrates and seeks out adventure and journeys of the imagination — I love that in this character.
When she doubts herself and is criticized, it’s wonderful to see her bloom again after encouragement and move forward with determination.
It’s also a great story of fairness, “putting your mind to it,” and supportive family (who are women).
Lovely and goosebump-inducing. Be inspired by Grace to follow your dreams! (:
This little girl character is full of color and life, but has real struggles too.
(c) 1991 by Mary Hoffman, Caroline Binch
This is the first post in a series celebrating my favorite girl characters in books.
In these reviews I’ll try not to spoil the story for you, but at the same time I’ll attempt to give a few reasons why this character is stellar and I like her.
I’ll plan on alternating classic books with contemporary ones.
I love Claudia. She’s unhappy and does something about it in her own inimitable way.
This is the first sentence of From the Mixed Up Files….
“Claudia knew that she could never pull off the old-fashioned kind of running away. That is, running away in the heat of anger with a knapsack on her back. She didn’t like discomfort; even picnics were untidy and inconvenient: all those insects and the sun melting the icing on the cupcakes.”
Isn’t that sweet! In the 80’s expression way. 🙂
Claudia is deliberate and likes comfort. She plans very carefully. She likes to think scientifically.
But then later in the book she has an urge that to me reveals her desire to learn things and be taught things, instead of always being the one to know and teach and run the show. Her sensitive side comes to the surface. How, why, and to what she’s sensitive is revealing.
Her relationship with her younger brother evolves throughout the book. He’s a mathematical, matter-of-fact sort but also a bit more laid back in some ways. They grow and change together, and in some ways because of each other.
There are many girls (and people) like this all over the world.
We can all relate to making plans and having life change them for us. We have times when we’ve found satisfaction or adventure in a place we didn’t think it existed.
This character and this book are timeless and enjoyable because of Claudia’s brave stubbornness along with at the same time vulnerability, and her ability to learn from others. The story gave her a chance to explore and with determination solve a mystery while finding out more about herself.
(c) 1967 by E.L. Konigsburg