AMELIA LOST by Candace Fleming

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When Amelia Earhart was born in 1897, women could not vote, men were legally entitled to their wive’s money and property, and nobody expected women to fly airplanes.

Amelia grew up in Kansas, raised by a mother who unashamedly declared that she had no interest in forming Amelia and her sister into “nice little girls.”  Young Amelia shocked the neighbors by wearing bloomers instead of skirts and playing with katydids.

Amelia Earhart was not the first woman to fly airplanes, but she was the first to use her flying ability to gain celebrity status.  She curled her naturally-straight hair to achieve a “windswept” look, posed for pictures in stances similar to those of famous aviator Charles Lindberg, and wasted no opportunity to cash in on her fame.

There are few among us who don’t know how this story ends; nonetheless, you may find yourself frantically turning the pages, invested in Amelia despite her flaws, and hoping against hope for a happy ending.

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CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein

Verity is a coward, and she knows it.  Captured by Nazis, stripped to her underwear, tied to a chair, and tortured, she is prepared to talk–or write.  All she needs is paper, pen, and ink.

Her confession tells the story of her pilot best friend, Maddie, and how two girls whose paths never should have crossed became inextricably linked.  Bit by bit, Verity reveals how Maddie became a pilot, how both girls aided the war effort, and why Verity had to abandon Maddie in a plane bound for destruction.  Never certain whether the next moment will bring execution, Verity pours out her and Maddie’s story as best she can in her unreliable state.

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UGLIES series by Scott Westerfeld

Tally has always known how life works.  You start out Little.  You become an Ugly.  When you turn 16, you undergo an operation that turns you into a Pretty.  After that, life is good.  Tally can’t wait to be Pretty.

But Tally’s new friend, Shay, has other ideas.  Before her operation, Shay runs away to the Smoke: a rebel group of those who refuse to undergo the operation.

Threatened by the Smoke, those in charge of Tally’s world–a select few called Specials–offer her an impossible choice: follow the cryptic directions Shay left to the Smoke and turn the rebels over to the Specials, or never be Pretty.  Hoping to save Shay, Tally sets out to locate the Smoke.  What she finds there forces her to re-learn everything she knew and launches her on an epic fight against the institutionalized conformity that has overtaken her world.

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THE YELLOW WALLPAPER by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

A woman suffering from an unnamed disease–sadness, nervousness, anxiety, mental fogginess–is told she must rest as much as possible.  To that end, she and her husband have rented a house in the country, and she is confined to an upstairs room, with only a hideous, maddening yellow wallpaper for company.

Forbidden to read, write, see her children, or do work of any kind, the unnamed protagonist spends her time attempting to unravel the pattern within the wallpaper.  She studies it so intently that she begins to see someone–a woman–trapped within the wallpaper.  Determined to free the woman, she starts to unwind the wallpaper, even as her own mind starts to unravel.

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NO LAUGHTER HERE by Rita Williams-Garcia

After spending a summer alone, Akilah can’t wait for her best friend, Victoria, to return from Nigeria (her country of birth).  She’s excited to start fifth grade with her fun-loving friend.

But Victoria comes back a different person.  She is subdued, unsmiling, and imposes a new rule on Akilah: “No laughter here.”  After their class views a puberty video, Victoria reveals the truth to Akilah: While she was in Nigeria, her mother had her circumcised, to make her a “pure” and “clean” Nigerian woman.

Shocked, Akilah struggles to do the right thing.  She is horrified by the  ritualistic cruelty to which her friend has been exposed, but her own family has always taught her to revere traditional African culture.  Together, Akilah and Victoria try to accept what has happened and re-learn how to laugh.

Rita Williams-Garcia won the 2011 Coretta Scott King Award and Newbery Honor for One Crazy Summer.

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HEART AND SOUL by Kadir Nelson

American history, as told in schools, is often white-male-centric.  Textbook writers usually do not portray minorities and women as main characters in history; they are relegated to secondary characters and sidebars, only important insofar as how they interact with white males.

Kadir Nelson challenges this norm with HEART AND SOUL, a scrapbook-style account of American history as told by a Black woman.  Learn about the War of Independence (in which slaves fought on the side of the British), about Black inventors, about the Harlem Renaissance, about the Black Suffragettes, and much more.

As with all things painted by Kadir Nelson, be wary of getting too close to the pictures–the people portrayed tend to stare out from the page and straight into your soul.

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CHIME by Franny Billingsley

Briony Larkin is used to hating herself.  Responsible for her sister’s mental affliction and depressed by her beloved Stepmother’s death, Briony lives in a perpetual state of self-torture.

As a concealed witch, Briony also lives a lie.  Were anyone to discover she is a witch, she would be hanged.  She often retreats to the swamp to speak with the Old Ones, a power humans do not possess.  But now the swamp may be drained, and the Old Ones are angry.

Enter golden-eyed, tawny-haired Eldric, who refuses to believe that Briony has a darkness within.  Eldric is determined to unearth the secrets beneath Briony’s self-loathing.  Despite Briony’s best efforts to keep her secrets hidden, Eldric begins to tap into the truth: that nothing is as it seems.

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