By Karen English
Clarion Books, 2017
Middle grade, historical fiction, ages 10 – 12, grades 5 – 8
Additional formats: Kindle
Honors: Kirkus Prize finalist 2017
How do we learn to love and value ourselves when people in the world around us just won’t?
Twelve-year-old Sophie is the youngest of two sisters living in an upper middle neighborhood in Los Angeles in 1965.
Sophie is the new kid on the block, bookish and serious, which doesn’t suit some of her racist white neighbors at all. Not even the new Jamaican housekeeper her mother hired seems to like her; instead, she openly despises Sophie and her very light-skinned sister, Lily, too. The deck is stacked against Sophie in tryouts for the community center play, and worst of all, her parents’ marriage finally seems to be unraveling right before her eyes.
This summer Sophie will feel the sting of adults’ secrets and their shortcomings, and she’ll see an entire community, nearby Watts, explode under the pressure of injustice. But she’ll also learn how to reach for her own power to change things that matter to her most. Whether guarding her sister’s secrets or finding ways to stand her ground with friends and enemies alike, Sophie will learn what it takes to be a strong.
In lyrical language, Karen English expertly captures the feel of the 1960s and delves into all heartbreaking complexities around race and class of the time—both within Sophie’s family and in the larger community. The characters all feel like people we know, each of them struggling with frailties that are so relatable in the present day.
But where this book shines most—and why it has earned its place here on our Girls of Summer list—is in how it shines a light on how a strong girl endures, deepens, and grows, even in the most inhospitable of times and places. MM
by Teresa Harris
Clarion Books, 2014
Middle grade, contemporary fiction
Ages 8 – 12
Additional formats: ebook
What is worse than being sent to stay with relatives you don’t like? Answer: Not being sure if and when your parents are ever coming back for you.
Set in a fictional town called Black Lake, Virginia, The Perfect Place is the story of twelve-year-old Treasure, whose father has been gone for two months. Unlike his other disappearances in the past, this time he hasn’t come back to the family or made contact. Fed up, Treasure’s mother decides it’s time for her to take Treasure and her sister, Tiffany, on a trip to find him. They vacate the premises in the middle of the night and travel south to meet their gruff Great Aunt Grace (GAG) who lives in small-town Virginia. Grace doesn’t care if her smoking bothers Treasure’s asthma and seems generally to dislike children.
This is a funny and tender story about three generations of women learning how to help each other survive disappointments.