Chapter Books for Girls Ages 8 to 12
I’m finally getting around to blogging on Finally, Wendy Mass‘ excellent follow-up chapter book to 11 Birthdays which is up for many major awards:
- Texas Bluebonnet Award
- Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Book Award, Illinois
- Sunshine State Young Readers Award, Florida
- Black Eyed Susan Award, Maryland
- Volunteer State Book Award, Tennessee
- Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award, Vermont
- Maine Student Book Award
- Colorado Children’s Book Award
- Utah Beehive Children’s Fiction Award
- West Virginia Children’s Choice Book Award
- Delaware Diamond State Reading Book Award
- Keystone to Reading Book Award, Pennsylvania
- Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award
- North Carolina Children’s Book Award
- Rhode Island Children’s Book Award
- Massachusetts Children’s Book Award
and the 2011-2012 Young Hoosier Award, Indiana
- Instructor Magazine Best Kids’ Books of 2009
- Cybils finalist (middle grade fantasy category)
- Chosen as a 2009 Library Guild Selection
Whew! So, I am very happy to say that Finally is just as good as 11 Birthdays, which is currently up for a Massachusetts Book Award . While it’s a stand alone book, Finally is not technically a sequel. However, Amanda and Leo make several cameo appearances in Finally as classmates of 12-year-old Rory Swenson. I really like this approach of building out a community book by book with each book layered upon the last such that the reader feels like he or she lives in this town too.
For those who haven’t read 11 Birthdays, it’s the movie Groundhog Day in which 11-year-old Amanda and Leo, once best friends now, not so much, have to relive their 11th birthday over and over again until they fix the reason that they must first discover in order to break this cycle. Turns out that there’s a kind of magic afoot in Willow Falls and who would have thunk it since it’s a sleepy little town in the middle of nowhere?!
In Finally, Rory has big plans for what she gets to do when she finally turns twelve. Her list includes:
- Get a cell phone.
- Stay home alone.
- Get my own screen name to I an IM.
- Shave my legs.
- Go to the mall with best friend and No Parents.
- Wear makeup.
- Get a pet.
- Get my ears pierced.
- Get contact lenses.
- Attend a boy-girl party.
- Get my own house key.
- Go to bed at 9:30.
- Drink coffee.
- Watch Friday the 13th, Part IX.
- Sit in the front seat of the car.
- Do my homework without anyone checking it.
- Pick out my own clothes.
- Use the stove, oven, and electrical appliances without permission or supervision.
- Walk home from school.
- Buy lunch in the cafeteria.
- Ride an upside-down roller coaster.
- Meet teen movie star filming at my school!
What makes this book so great is that it’s the case of “be careful what you wish for.” Finally also addresses the girl coming-of-age issues that all girls face in middle school: fitting in, popularity, interest in boys, and schizophrenic friendships.
The story has a satisfying ending in which all the loose ends tie up neatly. Karma clearly exists: it is the small decisions that one makes every day. I also really like the message that it takes a village sometimes to understand what is special about each person. Rory can’t see the qualities that make her special because … it seems so normal and ordinary to her. Isn’t that the case for all of us as we try to write our resumes? We root for Rory even as we feel her pain as she checks off her list of Finally The Things That I Can Do Now That I’m 12.
Wendy Mass’s book makes everyday coincidences seem like magic is at play. And in Willow Falls, you never know. Magic may be at play. Just ask Angelina. If you can find her!
I would love to see more of Rory, Leo, and Amanda. Maybe Wendy Mass, if asked very nicely, will write her next book and include them all. With her ability to make complicated plots seem plausible, it would be no problem for her! This book would be perfect for girls ages 8-12.
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.