Etiquette & Espionage (Little, Brown and Company, 2013) by Gail Carriger is the first of four books in the Finishing School series. I missed it when it came out but am glad I found it now–and I have three more books just waiting for me to read! If you like humor, steampunk, adventures, and an intrepid character, you won’t want to miss this book.
It’s 1851 and Sophronia is 14 and not all that interested in learning how to curtsy properly or in being reformed to be more ladylike. However, Mumsy has arranged for her to go to Finishing School. It’s only on probational terms, since Sophronia is such a mess. But once Sophronia enters the carriage and meets another student, she discovers the school might not what be what her mother imagined. For one thing it’s not in a particularly fixed location. And that’s not to mention the werewolves, vampires, and flywaymen.
Gail Carriger is a New York Times bestselling author who has written numerous book series. Read about her here and check out her books here.
Wow! Outrun the Moon (G.P Putnam’s Sons, 2016) by Stacey Lee is an outstanding read. Set in San Francisco during the 1906 earthquake, it’s hard to put down. (And such a gorgeous cover.)
Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to go to high school at St. Clare’s School for Girls, but who would ever let a Chinese girl in? The Chinese have their own school–never mind that it ends at 8th grade. Her ingenuity and resourcefulness gets Mercy in, but she’s not accepted by her classmates and even many of the staff. Then the whole community is stricken by the earthquake. Mercy, not only survives, but with the help of some classmates makes a difference to many involved in the disaster.
Stacey Lee is a founding member of the We Need Diverse Books movement. Here’s her website. Check out all her books here.
If you like historical fiction and humor, you’ll love The Nerviest Girl in the World (Alfred A. Knopf, 2020) by Melissa Wiley.
When Pearl’s three big brothers get hired to be “real cowboys” in Mr. Corrigan’s moving picture reels, she is fascinated. After hanging on to a runaway horse herself, Pearl is hired, too. But if her mother finds out, her dangerous career as a stunt girl will be over.
I love Pearl’s conversations with the ostriches–yes, they raise those too on their cattle and sheep ranch. I love Pearl’s conflicts with her nemesis. And I love her bravery. It’s great getting a look at what people thought about this new form of entertainment, too.
This book is a Junior Library Guild selection and Brave Writer Arrow book.
Melissa Wiley is also the author of a number of easy readers and the Martha and Charlotte books about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s great-grandmother and grandmother. Read about Melissa here and see her books here.
I loved Mighty Inside (Levine Querido, 2021) by Sundee T. Frazier. With discussions on segregation, relocation camps, Korean War, Jewish culture, and more, this book gives a great picture of life in the mid-50s is a very realistic way. It shows how determination, music, and friendship can change a kid’s life. If you like underdog stories, you won’t want to miss this book.
I also love the author’s writing itself. Here are a few favorite phrases: “the ball had been a side dish to a dinner-sized dose of humiliation” and “his tongue was so tenderized it was practically filet mignon.” These touches of humor help us through difficult topics.
Melvin Robinson is getting ready to go to high school–that can be scary for anyone. But with his stutter he just knows he’s going to be “dead meat.” His life is even more complicated by being black in a mostly white school in Spokane, WA. When his brother comes to his defense against some bullies, it’s not the white kids who have to clean up the resulting mess but the “Negroes.” For Melvin learning to communicate becomes more and more important–there’s the girl he likes, the bully he needs to stand up to, the terrible death of Emmett Till, and a chance to talk through music. Can Melvin show he deserves respect?
Anyone who has ever had difficulty speaking up will especially enjoy this historical novel. As my book recommendation did last month, it obviously deals with racism. So sad we are still seeing people experiencing this in real life. The book is inspired by Sundee’s grandparents’ experiences in the 1950s in Spokane. Read more about the award-winning author on her website here. Check out her other books here.
Bonus–this is a book with a 13-year-old protagonist. (I love seeing more with this age. For a while, it felt like there was hardly any books for the 13 and 14 age ranges.)
Isn’t this a beautiful cover? Blessing’s Bead (Melanie Kroupa Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009) by Debby Dahl Edwardson is an interesting mix of historical and contemporary. I’ll be honest I felt the historical section was a bit slow at first–maybe because there were so many characters–but once I got going it was good. The contemporary section pulled me in right away. I loved how the cultural information was done. It was great how the two stories meet up.
Here’s a brief look at each section:
It’s 1917 and Nutaaq watches her sister Aaluk and the young Siberian wearing the string of cobalt beads. Nutaaq does well in a race and gets one bead. Her sister goes off to marry the Siberian, then illness strikes the village and very few are left.
70 years later, Blessing and her little brother are sent away from their mother to live with their grandmother. Blessing feels like an outsider with the Inupiaq, but then begins to learn about her family’s history. She finds a blue bead, which she treasures without quite knowing why.
Debby writes with authenticity about her adopted culture in Barrow, Alaska. Read more here and the kudos for Blessing’s Bead. Debby’s site has many extras, so you may want to spend some time there. I did and now I’m putting her other novel and her picture book on my TBR pile!