Keeping kids interested in books outside of the classroom can be a challange. Free time often gets filled up with television, the Internet or computer games. These great novels were written specifically for teen girls and they’re sure to keep your daughter hanging off every word. So, keep those pages turning.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
by Grace Lin
Publisher: Little, Brown Pages: 288
This book just won the Newberry Medal, America’s most distinguished award for Children’s literature, and has been flying off bookstore shelves in the US. Described by many as "the Chinese Wizard of Oz," this warm, vibrant novel tells the story of a young girl named Minli who lives in a poor, bare village at the foot of Fruitless Mountain. For Minli, the greatest reward after a backbreaking day of hard work in the rice fields is going home and hearing her father tell magical tales about the Jade Dragon – whose heartbreak at losing her four children is responsible for the barrenness of Fruitless Mountain – and the Old Man of the Moon, who ties people’s destinies together with red thread and can change a person’s future. In age-old story telling tradition, Minli sneaks away one day determined to find the Old Man of the Moon and ask how she can change her family’s fate. Along the way she meets and is helped by all kinds of memorable characters: A talking goldfish who seeks to swim all the rivers of the world, a dragon who has come alive from an ink painting but mysteriously cannot fly, a family of stone lions who keep watch over a village, a poor but happy boy who lives with his water buffalo, and a joyful family who know the secret to happiness. The adventures they have and the legends they share with Minli are all based on real Chinese folk tales. The book is illustrated throughout with lovely color illustrations inspired by some of the architectural and design elements that Chinese-American author and illustrator Grace Lin observed on her 2008 trip throughout China. Minli’s adventures emphasize the importance of having pluck, creativity and empathy for others, and her journey culminates in a joyful and positive message: The secret to fortune and happiness, for both herself and her loving parents, was right before their eyes the whole time.
Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia
by Cindy Pon
Ages: 14 and up
Publisher: Greenwillow Books Pages: 352
The fantasy genre is synonymous with European medieval times – with its Celtic legends, dragons and adventuring knights. Cindy Pon’s first book, started in 2004 with a few phrases scribbled into her journal and written on and off over the next four years, is different. The setting is ancient China, and the main character is female (though, inevitably, dragons still abound.) Seventeen-year-old Ai Ling is a feisty small-town girl who sets out on a dangerous journey to find her missing father and solve the mystery of her family’s shameful past, as well as to escape betrothal to the foul merchant Huang. Complicating things is a growing awareness of a previously unknown power within her – she finds herself able to enter other people’s minds, set hordes of wasps against would-be attackers and send people flying into the air. Alongside her newly developing powers is the even more disquieting discovery of new, strange feelings to do with Chen Yong – the serious, mixed-blood young man whose fate in the face of prejudice seems intertwined with her mission. The action, and the up-and-down unfolding of new mysteries and revelations, moves along at a quick, satisfying pace, punctuated with innumerable details that bring you straight into the scene. Teens of any gender will enjoy Silver Phoenix (though parents should note that there is some sexual content throughout, most notably a vivid description of a near-rape scene).
Great Call of China
by Cynthea Liu
Ages: 12 and up
Publisher: Speak Pages: 224
Much like blending vegetables into your kids’ mashed potatoes, sometimes it takes a bit of creativity to get your kids to read. For teen girls, what could be a better draw than fizzy tales of study abroad, filled with fashion, romance, and best of all, a stint away from family? The SASS (Students Across the Seven Seas) series each depicts an American high-schooler going off to study in a new land, and spans a wide range of countries.
Students living in China may relate best to Great Call of China, in which a Chinese-born adoptee named Cece decides to leave her dull Texas town for a year of study in Xi’an and, hopefully, a better understanding of where she came from. Things look even more promising when she meets a cute guy named Will on the plane, but once in China Cece finds that connecting with her roots is more complicated than expected.
Other books in the series cover France, Ireland, Finland, Spain, Italy, Mexico, and the Caribbean. In Westminster Abby, sixteen-year-old Abby Capshaw gets sent to London by her overprotective family, where she hopes to discover her inner wild child. In Swede Dreams, Calista Swanson can’t wait to go to Stockholm and get away from her embarrassingly nerdy sister. In The Sound of Munich, Siena Bernstein, the daughter of an East German refugee, returns to Munich to find the man who helped her now-deceased father smuggle himself and his family through the Berlin Wall. And in the double-length Up Over Down Under, we follow the adventures of an American studying in Melbourne as well as an Aussie girl finding intrigue and romance on an exchange in Washington, D.C.
The quality of the books vary, as each is written by a different author, but all the books share the common theme of encountering and coming to understand a new country, and in doing so, learning a bit about oneself. And of course, there’s always a cute boy who comes along to pave the way towards greater cross-cultural exchange.