Bella at Midnight by Diane Stanley is a wonderful read for those interested in a Cinderella fairy tale retelling with a strong heroine who is actively making things happen. There is drama, adventure, rebellion, friendship, honor, hope and love in this enjoyable book with a Joan of Arc flair.
Bella at Midnight is well written and narrated by different characters in the book. At first it was a bit confusing, but then became much easier to follow as I learned more about the characters. You will fall in love with Bella and her foster mother Beatrice, understand Prince Julian, be glad godmother Aunt Maude comes through, despise Bella's father, high five her stepsister Alice as she does the unthinkable for Bella, and cheer Bella on as she focuses on her mission.
And now, A Sunday's List of Strong Girl Role Models from Children's Literature:
1. Bella, godmother Aunt Maude, foster mother Beatrice, stepsister Alice from Bella at Midnight by Diane Stanley, ages 10 and up: Bella is a kind, generous, loyal friend. Her foster mother Beatrice raises Bella to be strong, joyful, loved and true to herself. When Bella's circumstances change, and she is forced to leave her much loved foster family to live with her real father and resentful stepfamily, Bella makes the best of the situation with nary a vicious complaint. While some people may call her a wet noodle, I think it shows strong character because she is adaptable. She doesn't give in to her circumstances and lose faith. She's simply watching and waiting for her moment. And wow, does she find her shining moment. Even though Bella is betrayed by her friend, Prince Julian, Bella prepares to warn him when she finds out he is in danger. Bella's godmother, Aunt Maude, and stepsister Alice take the risk to help Bella warn Prince Julian. Despite all the danger to her, Bella finds the strength, courage, hope, honor and faith to succeed in her mission a la Joan of Arc. A truly heroic ending for a strong gutsy girl.
2. Summer and May from Missing May by Cynthia Rylant, ages 10 and up: May is the glue who held her family together. When May dies, her husband Ob and foster daughter Summer grieve and have a hard time moving on with their lives. May loved Ob and Summer with all her heart. May always let Summer know how much she is loved. Summer works hard to make Ob realize life is still worth living. Missing May is a beautiful book about loss, grief, hope and healing. Cynthia Rylant artfully weaves in wry humor, courtesy of enthusiastic crazy classmate Cletus Underwood, to offset the depressing topic of death.
3. Martha Boyle, her grandmother Godbee from Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes, ages 10 and up: Olive's Ocean is a change from Kevin Henkes joyful, tender picture books. This thoughtful, quiet book is about family dynamics, life, and the mysteries of death. 12 year old Martha Boyle is confused about Olive Barstow, a classmate she barely knew, who was killed in a car crash. Martha spends the summer by the ocean with Godbee, her grandmother. Martha discovers her first crush, her first kiss, betrayal and loyalty. Martha and Godbee have a wonderful relationship. Godbee is such a loving, encouraging, wonderful grandmother, cool enough to know when Martha needs space or when Martha needs to talk. Martha learns life and family are precious, pays a tribute to Olive Barstow, and finds strength in her writing.
4. 20 extraordinary women from Lives of Extraordinary Women: Rulers, Rebels (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull, ages 9 - 12: What strong girl or woman wouldn't want to pick up this book simply for the title itself? This gutsy book highlights 20 interesting women in history who "dared to stand up and be a leader." Read brief biographies about Cleopatra, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Joan of Arc, Isabella I, Elizabeth I, Nzingha, Catherine the Great, Marie Antoinette, Victoria, Harriet Tubman, Tz'u-hsi, Gertrude Bell, Jeanette Rankin, Eleanor Roosevelt, Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Eva Peron, Wilma Mankiller, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Rigoberta Menchu. While not all of these women are noted for good role model qualities, they all dared to be true to themselves and make an strong impression. I was thrilled to see Joan of Arc--I have been fascinated with her for years.
5. 26 inspirational women from Amelia to Zora: Twenty-six Women Who Changed the World by Cynthia Chin-Lee, ages 9 -12: The alphabetical selection of women in this picture book will inspire and encourage strong girls to follow their dreams, despite the hardships and challenges thrown in their path. This book give you just enough information to whet your appetite to find out more about these amazing women. Some women who I have admired over the years: Amelia Earhart, Eleanor Roosevelt, Grace Hopper, Helen Keller, Nawal El Sadaawi. Now these are strong role models.