April 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

No More Pink: Independent Readers with Independent Female Protagonists │ JLG’s Booktalks to Go

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The girls in today’s selections for independent readers aren’t exactly “sugar and spice” and put a fresh spin on the traditional depiction of girls in children’s literature. From a naughty girl-turned-spy to a best friend who sometimes makes mistakes, these strong female characters, no matter what their age, make their own choices, even when it’s scary to do so.

Violet Mackerel's Possible FriendBRANFORD, Anna. Violet Mackerel’s Possible Friend. illus. by Elanna Allen. S. & S./Atheneum. 2014. ISBN 9781442494558. JLG Level: I+ : Independent Readers (Grades 2–4).

Making new friends gives Violet a few worrying concerns. Her next-door neighbor Rose has the perfect pink and white bedroom and special carpet that requires her to walk in her sock feet. At her house, they make their yogurt, wash dishes by hand, and create their own gifts. Violet is certain that Rose will not want her homemade birthday present. How will she ever find the courage to even go to the party?

A crafter herself, Anna Branford often sells her work at her local market in Melbourne, Australia. Check out her ideas or send her a message on her website. For teaching ideas about the first books in the series, visit the series website.

Fly awayMACLACHLAN, Patricia. Fly Away. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. 2014. ISBN 9781442460089. JLG Level: I : Independent Readers (Grades 2–4).

Lucy’s father planned to be a poet, but became a poet and a cow farmer. Her mom loves the opera. Though he doesn’t yet talk, two-year-old Teddy secretly sings to Lucy. Her sister Gracie’s high-pitched voice is perfect. Lucy is good at words, especially poetry. Unlike the rest of the family, she has no music. Nothing happens when she tries to sing, until the day her brother’s life depends on it.

If students are curious about opera, direct them to a video of Verdi’s La Traviata, complete with English subtitles. Lucy’s mama likes the music of Langhorne Slim. Watch him perform on The David Letterman Show. Curious about Dutch Belted Cows? Visit the website of the Dutch Belted Cattle Association of America. Read more about North Dakota, where Lucy’s story is set. Be sure to check out their Sky Cams to see current video in locations around the state. A video interview of the author is available on Authors Revealed. A bibliography of titles can be found on Kidsreads.com. Listen to MacLachlan pronounce her name and find other resources on TeachingBooks.net.

Lulu's mysterious missionVIORST, Judith. Lulu’s Mysterious Mission. illus. by Kevin Cornell. S. & S./Atheneum. 2014. ISBN  9781442497467. JLG Level: I+ : Independent Readers (Grades 2–4).

The third book in the “Lulu” series begins with the departure of her parents on an adult vacation. Lulu must stay home with the babysitter, a no-nonsense woman named Sonia Sophia Solinsky. When Lulu’s plans to thwart her warden fail, she takes a bribe to accept spy training―under the very tutelage of her enemy. Total obedience will be worth it when she earns her medal of success, the Double L.

How do you say the author’s name? Listen to her at TeachingBooks.net. Fans of previous releases will be delighted to see that Lulu may have a new adventure, but her all-about-me spirit is still the same.

Like Carrot Juice on a CupcakeSTERNBERG, Julie. Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake. illus. by Matthew Cordell. Amulet. 2014. ISBN 9781419710339. JLG Level: I+ : Independent Readers (Grades 2–4).

It promised to be a wonderful year. Then Eleanor did a very mean thing to her best friend Pearl. She didn’t mean to do it. Life was simple before Ainsley came to town. On top of that she has a solo in the school play. Who knew that things could go wrong so quickly?

On her author website, Sternberg presents her biography by relating her life to classic children’s literature. You can read about her other books on her website as well. Follow her on Twitter. A curriculum guide is a welcome addition to the available resources. Read the illustrator’s biography on his website where you’ll find he is also an author. You can follow him on Twitter. The JLG Booktalks to Go LiveBinder includes these and additional resources.

Additional Resources

In an effort to organize these links, I have created a LiveBinder. All websites will be posted within the LiveBinder, along with the accompanying booktalk. As I write more columns, more books and their resources will be added. Simply go to JLG Booktalks to Go where you will see LiveBinder main tabs. Each tab is a book title. Under each color-coded tab are gray subtabs with links to media, websites, and other related documents. Everything you need to teach or share brand new, hot-off-the-press books is now all in one place. Please visit JLG’s new LiveBinder, JLG Booktalks to Go.

For library resources, tips, and ideas, please visit JLG’s Shelf Life Blog.

Junior Library Guild (JLG) is a collection development service that helps school and public libraries acquire the best new children’s and young adult books. Season after season, year after year, Junior Library Guild book selections go on to win awards, collect starred or favorable reviews, and earn industry honors. Visit us at www.JuniorLibraryGuild.com. (NOTE: JLG is owned by Media Source, Inc., SLJ’s parent company.)


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Deborah B. Ford About Deborah B. Ford

Deborah is the Director of Library Outreach for Junior Library Guild. She is an award-winning teacher librarian with almost 30 years of experience as a classroom teacher and librarian in K–12 schools.



  1. Thank you for this great list, Deborah. I remember just a few years ago scouring bookshelves (and film lists) to find books with strong female leads for my daughter. I like Meg Medina’s 18 favorite books for strong girls http://girlsofsummerlist.wordpress.com/. I’m also biased toward Magic The Crest, a middle school adventure novel (by a middle school writer!) featuring a team of 10-year-old girls united on a series of epic quests. I will check out the books on your list for my nieces.