This is the start of a new series I'll be doing on great authors for girls. The only reason I'm focusing on girls (for now) is because I happen to have 2 of them. They're both young, so most of the authors I will be featuring are in a big pile of books I have saved for them, and continue to add to all the time.
Most of you who are regular visitors here know that I have a deep, deep love of books that goes way back to my childhood. I of course have my parents to thank for that, but by the time I got to about 3rd or 4th grade, even they had to concede defeat in the face of my big (read: voracious) appetite for books. More, more, more. My Mom was convinced I was going to need inch-thick glasses by the time I was 12 because I perpetually went around red-eyed because of the eye strain I always had. Even my doctor had to give me a note telling my teachers that due to my eye strain, I could only read 3-5 minutes per class period, or up to 1 hour in total per day for several months. Needless to say, I dramatically thought that was the worst 3 months of my life at the time. My Mom had to pack every book up in my room - even the "hidden" stash under my bed....which is how she found out her 10 year old was reading bodice ripper romances....and the argument/book clean-out which ensued.....which is another story for another day I think.
Anyways, this "series" as it is will be authors from my childhood that I loved so much and have stuck with me to this day. I cannot wait to go back and re-read them with my girls. I am focusing on the authors here, not just the book titles because their writing is often so good and prolific, I couldn't just list 1 or 2 titles from them that I love. Trust me, if I feature them here, I have probably read every single book they ever wrote at one point in my childhood.
For those of you with school-age kids, many of these books are not just for girls. In fact, I know I could argue that boys should read these books too. But I will also say that a kid should be allowed to read what interests them (within age-appropriate reason of course, never mind my bodice-ripper books behind the velvet curtain) and if it isn't the themes or characters behind these particular authors' books, well that is OK. As long as they're reading and having fun with it, it's all good.
First author up is: Cynthia Voigt.
Oh my goodness, how I can count the ways as to how much I love Cynthia Voigt. Her most well-known and popular series is The Tillerman Cycle. These books, the first 3 of which were Newberry Honor or Medal winners, include: Homecoming, Dicey's Song, A Solitary Blue, and many more. I believe there are 7 or 8 in the series.
I would say these books are best for girls age 11-12 and up, or 6th-12th grade. A younger reader may not be ready for some of the more mature content or themes in several of the books (child abandonment, verbal abuse, racism, coping with amputation). But they are so well-written and speak right to the heart of what every girl is thinking and facing in that age range: growing up, family issues, hormones, bullying, school dynamics, dreams of the future, questioning authority, family sticking together, wanting to know more about your family tree, etc... Cynthia Voigt deals with all of these issues in such a way that you feel you know each of the characters so well you will meet them someday or that you already know them.
In a Twentieth-Century Children's Writers essay, Sylvia Patterson Iskander described the qualities that have made Voigt's writings appealing to readers: "Voigt's understanding of narrative techniques, power to create memorable characters, admirable but not goody-goody, knowledge of the problems of youth, and desire to teach by transporting readers into the characters' inner lives result in reversing unpromising, perhaps tragic, situations to positive, optimistic ones."