Empowering Girls and Young Women

Books to inspire young women as they pursue their dreams.

We all look to others at one time or another—for advice, support, and validation. These recently published books will provide young women with inspiration and role models as they pursue their dreams, whatever those may be.

BIALIK, Mayim. Girling Up: How To Be Strong, Smart and Spectacular. illus. by Siobhán Gallagher. 192p. photos. Philomel. May 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780399548604.

Gr 7 Up–According to the author, the transition from girlhood to womanhood (which she dubs “Girling Up”) is full of excitement and cause for celebration. However, along the way there are challenges, and what girls today need is reassurance. Bialik, who plays Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler on the television show The Big Bang Theory and in real life holds a doctorate in neuroscience from the University of California, provides readers with just that in this refreshing guide to female development. Topics addressed include puberty, education, romance, and goal setting. The author emphasizes the importance of girls taking charge and being comfortable with their bodies. She offers examples of how readers should deal with various issues, such as focusing in school, in a conversational manner. Peppered throughout are cartoon line drawings of girls hanging out together, demonstrating yoga poses to relieve menstrual cramps, and more. Though cute, these illustrations are often underwhelming. Ultimately, the author stresses that “Girling Up” does not end with adulthood—it is a lifelong journey. Thanks to Bialik, readers have a road map to make this trip memorable. VERDICT Consider for large memoir and self-help collections.–Jeanette Lambert, formerly at Nashville-Davidson County Schools, TN

BROWNE, Mahogany L. Black Girl Magic: A Poem. illus. by Jess X. Snow. 40p. Roaring Brook. Jan. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250173720.

Gr 6 Up–In this book-length poem, Browne, the cofounder of Brooklyn Slam, chronicles the many injustices, limitations, and stereotypes that Black girls face, leading up to a resounding celebration of Black girlhood and a rejection of all that is harmful. Browne’s verse radiates energy and urgency, achieved through patiently building up momentum and then cutting it with voltalike segments: “You ain’t ‘posed to dream at all/You ain’t ‘posed to do/Nothing but carry babies/And carry/Weaves/Felons/Families/Confusion/Silence./And carry a nation—/But never an opinion.” The rhythm and use of enjambment lends the work a spoken word–like cadence, making this an imminently readable poem. The ending chorus of “You Black girl shine!/You Black girl bloom!...” will stick with readers long after they have closed the book. Snow’s striking illustrations keep to a limited color palette of white, black, red, and gold, a choice that is elegant and effective, conveying a raw honesty. Nearly every spread could be framed. While the picture book format may signal younger readers, its often intimate content is more appropriate for tweens and teens. VERDICT Browne celebrates a Black girlhood that is free, unforgettable, and luminous. Middle and high school poetry collections will want to consider.–Melissa Williams, Berwick Academy, ME

redstarCHARLEYBOY, Lisa & Mary Beth Leatherdale, eds. #NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women. 112p. illus. photos. Annick. Oct. 2017. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781554519583; pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781554519576.

Gr 10 Up–According to the foreword, Charleyboy’s intent for this anthology is to provide a “space to not only write a love letter to all young Indigenous women trying to find their way, but also to help dispel those stereotypes so we can collectively move forward to a brighter future for all.” Charleyboy and Leatherdale have selected art, poetry, and prose created by Indigenous teenage girls and women that touch on a plethora of topics, from Standing Rock to ReMatriate, a collective of Indigenous women dedicated to showing the multiplicity of Indigenous identity through social media. Each entry is titled and accompanied by the author’s name and their tribal ancestry or affiliation. In addition to the text, art pieces such as Lianne Marie Leda Charlie’s Tagé Cho (Big River) and Pamela J. Peters’s Real NDNZ Re-Take Hollywood, which recasts iconic movie stars as Indigenous actors/actresses, deepen the conversation and provide alternative ways of looking at identity, history, and inherited trauma. Some entries are in dialogue with readers, while others offer deeply personal insights—and all emphasize the damage that ignoring or changing the rich histories of Indigenous people does, especially in regards to women. This portrait of girlhood is a necessary addition in line with #ownvoices and We Need Diverse Books movements. And with a hashtag as a title, it should garner much-needed attention on social media, in libraries, and on bookshelves. VERDICT A stunning anthology of creative writing and art—a love letter, indeed. All YA collections will want this.–Alicia Abdul, Albany High School, NY

Curious Jane: Science + Design + Engineering for Inquisitive Girls. 128p. Sterling. Apr. 2017. pap. $16.95. ISBN 9781454922353.

Gr 3-6–The concept behind this volume started with a summer camp in Brooklyn that was organized by Samantha Razook Murphy to encourage her daughters to “tinker, create, invent, and have fun!” The result is a well-organized, easy-to-follow, and heavily illustrated assortment of activities and craft ideas that can be done using readily available and generally affordable materials. Some activities are intended just for fun or to help kids build friendship through science. One such exercise is the “toss and talk ball,” in which topics are written out on an inflatable ball meant to be tossed to others, who then answer the question closest to their right thumb. Others come with a brief but lucid explanation of the science involved. For instance, the directions for creating “fizzy bath bombs” are accompanied by information on why the bath bombs react when they are placed in the bathtub. Adult involvement is suggested when needed. Though aimed at girls, this title will also engage those who do not identify as female. VERDICT This attractive offering will be most useful as a supplement to other science and craft materials. Consider for large collections or established maker spaces.–Maria B. Salvadore, formerly at District of Columbia Public Library

DE LA CRUZ, Melissa, ed. Because I Was a Girl: True Stories for Girls of All Ages. 256p. photos. Holt. Oct. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250154460.

Gr 7 Up–A collection of essays that points to hurdles that successful women have had to jump solely because of their gender. The entries feature many different women and many different types of success, all written to inspire girls to aim high and work hard to achieve their goals. Contributors run the gamut—authors, athletes, politicians, organizers, and entrepreneurs. Several of the essays shy away from discussion on sexism and are simply motivational in nature. The collection is organized by decade, with each author included in, one can assume, the decade in which they were born. Overall the chapters are brief and readable and form a positive message for readers to achieve, endure, and persevere, no matter the circumstances. VERDICT A fine additional selection where personal essays are popular.–Sara Jurek, Children’s English Library, Stuttgart, Germany

GONZALES, Andrea & Sophie Houser. Girl Code: Gaming, Going Viral, and Getting It Done. 272p. appendix. photos. HarperCollins. Mar. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062472502. POP

Gr 8 Up–The authors, two extremely talented teenagers who met at a summer learning program called Girls Who Code, were tired of seeing young men receive most of the encouragement to pursue STEM jobs. They were also done with men driving conversations about women’s bodies. Gonzales and Houser decided to do something about it. The empowering video game they created, Tampon Run, quickly went viral and ultimately changed their lives forever. This book aims to provide students with the inside scoop on coding and what life is like for women in STEM industries. Through alternating chapters, readers discover a bit about each author’s background and how she came to attend Girls Who Code. The inspiration and reason behind their magnum opus are also explored. Gonzales’s and Houser’s writing styles are conversational and work well to dispel the aura of inaccessibility that often surrounds works on technology. (Houser talks at length about her social anxiety, and Gonzales discusses the pressures she felt as a child of two Filipino immigrants.) Curious teens will enjoy a section at the end on getting started in coding. Gonzales and Houser never make their story sound easy, but they do show readers that success in STEM fields is more than possible for women. VERDICT Inspiring and hopeful; a great addition to libraries with novice and expert coders alike.–Elaine Baran Black, Georgia Public Library Service, Atlanta

KRAVETZ, Stacey. She's So Boss: The Girl Entrepreneur's Guide To Imagining, Creating & Kicking Ass. 160p. appendix. chart. index. websites. Quercus. May 2017. pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781681444161.

Gr 7 Up–This nonfiction guide provides young female entrepreneurs straightforward, easy-to-follow advice on how to build a business from one’s passion. Whether it’s turning a love of fashion into a blog, starting a web design company, or building a jewelry making business, Kravetz provides step-by-step guidance on getting an idea off the ground, keeping it afloat, avoiding pitfalls, and dealing with setbacks. Advice includes how to develop and market goods and services and the importance of having a mentor. An appendix features several resources, such as the elements of a query letter and a sample income and expenses statement. Each chapter begins with an inspirational quote from a successful woman, such as Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and First Lady Michelle Obama. Kravetz’s advice is practical, thorough, and encouraging. And while the writing style is breezy, it does frankly describe the obstacles one will face in starting a business. Since much of the text concerns social media, it would be better to steer teens towards this book. VERDICT A worthwhile purchase for libraries with entrepreneurial-minded patrons.–Melissa Kazan, Horace Mann School, NY

PARKER, Kate T. Strong Is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves. photos by Kate T. Parker. 248p. photos. Workman. Mar. 2017. Tr $30. ISBN 9781523500680; pap. $18.95. ISBN 9780761189138.

Gr 3-6–What began as Parker’s photography project portraying girls has blossomed into a lovely exploration filled with exquisite images of girls and quotes about what makes them strong, beautiful, and confident. (The text emphasizes that beauty has nothing to do with looks; it’s what is on the inside that counts.) The book stresses traits such as resilience, creativity, kindness, and independence. Much of the message driving the work is to embrace different and alternative versions of girlhood and to escape the cultural expectations of what girls should aspire to be (pretty, thin, etc.). The photographs are stunning and range from close-up portraits to action shots. Each picture includes a thoughtful quote from the subject (“Strong girls never lose. They only learn, and come back stronger.”). VERDICT The large photos invite browsers to linger and contemplate the girl-positive messages. Recommended.–Cynde Suite, Bartow County Library System, Adairsville, GA

redstarSAUJANI, Reshma. Girls Who Code: Learn To Code and Change the World.. illus. by Andrea Tsurumi. 176p. chart. diag. glossary. index. Viking. Aug. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780425287538. POP

Gr 6 Up–The creator of the nationwide coding club phenomenon Girls Who Code provides a top-down look into the world of computer science and women in the field. The author takes a step-by-step approach to teaching the intricacies of coding while keeping the content relevant to the audience (a smart analogy involving a peanut butter and jelly sandwich effectively demonstrates computational thinking). Aided by Tsurumi’s humorous cartoon drawings that feature a reoccurring group of five girls, the text takes students through the entire process of a coding project. Saujani stresses the importance of planning, critical thinking, implementation, and debugging. Readers will enjoy the creative freedom the work offers, as sample projects refreshingly don’t rely on specific programs. The author concisely explains different subject areas within computer science. A highlight of the book is the sidebar profiles that feature real-life women developing the world of coding, from Pixar’s Danielle Feinberg to professor and roboticist Ayanna Howard. VERDICT This timely, well-written title is an excellent resource for budding coders; it bridges the wide gap between simple how-to guidebooks and complex coding textbooks.–Lisa Bosarge, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore

STONE, Tanya Lee. Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time. 208p. appendix. bibliog. ebook available. notes. photos. Random/Wendy Lamb Bks. Feb. 2017. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9780553511468; lib. ed. $25.99. ISBN 9780553511475.

Gr 8 Up–This visually stunning companion piece to the 2013 film of the same name seeks to explain why 62 million girls worldwide do not go to school. Taking from the film the stories of nine girls who overcame the odds against them to achieve at least some degree of education, the book provides a more in-depth explanation of the barriers girls face and also many accounts that were not included in the final cut. This volume is also a call to arms, detailing not just why girls are prevented from going to school but also why it is critically important to their countries and the global economy that they be allowed to do so. The tone is persuasive, and a concluding section spotlights a number of activist success stories while also laying out ways in which readers can help. The appeal is primarily to the heartstrings. Much of the information is anecdotal, and gorgeous color photographs of the girls radiating determination and hope dominate almost every spread. Impressive back matter adds further heft, including an informative author’s note explaining how Stone verified and supplemented the research of the film crews, an extensive bibliography, and complete source notes. Unfortunately, an oversimplification that implies global poverty stems from overpopulation (“There are more than twenty million victims of slavery today.... Why? For one thing, there are more of us living on the planet than ever before”) mars what is otherwise an exceptionally strong package. VERDICT This well-organized emotional plea would be a welcome addition in high schools with a community service or human rights focus.–Eileen Makoff, P.S. 90 Edna Cohen School, Brooklyn

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