When I was eleven, reading finally sunk in because of authors like Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary. Most of the characters were strong girls dealing with the intensity of middle school and high school woes—the same issues I was dealing with in my own tween and teen years. These books inspired me to keep reading and learning and in many ways, they inspired me to become the independent woman I am today. I highly recommend the following:
- Ramona the Brave (Beverly Cleary)
When I moved into a new school for first grade, I held onto my Snoopy dog hoping it would get me through the day. Mom had started a new job and I was the shy new kid in school. Beverly Cleary knew exactly what I was going through when she wrote her character Ramona. In this book, Ramona shows her brave side with a new teacher, a scary new room, and her mom’s new job.
- Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. (Judy Blume)
Freckle Juice, Blubber, Superfudge, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, and Tiger Eyes—Judy Blume took me away with everything she wrote. It was as if she was writing just to me as I pored over the pages in my canopy bed. This title is about moving from the city to the suburbs (which I did), sixth grade at a new school (which was my hardest year), and how to handle new friends (which I learned to do during two pivotal moves as a child). You might as well buy the Judy Blume box set!
- Island of the Blue Dolphins (Scott O’Dell)
Just as the film, The Black Stallion, took my breath away, so did O’Dell’s story of Karena, an Indian girl who learns how to care for herself on a deserted island. The way she found strength in herself on that island alone may have been the inspiration prompting my love of nature and my own solo adventures to islands abroad as an adult.
- Bridge to Terabithia (Katherine Paterson)
I remember when I first experienced death in grade school; it was just before I read Paterson’s classic. Mixing the make believe that children experience in their backyards and in the woods, and that a secret kingdom can exist just over a river and through some woods, while dealing with tragedy, is an invaluable lesson for any to learn.
- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis)
My favorite in this Chronicles of Narnia set, when I saw the film version a few years back, I swore I was watching myself as a child in Lucy on the silver screen. In the book, it was the fantastical story line, the safety of the lion and the evil of the witch, and the simple concept that all could be found behind my childhood closet. It was the first time as a child that I couldn’t put down a book.