Ten Books I Gave My Daughter by Emily Rozmus
My daughter is not a reader. When she was younger, we shared Junie B. Jones in bed at night. I read her Betsy Byars and Shel Silverstein and E.B. White. She would bring a stack of picture books to bed and read them quietly beside me, or pretend to read them to her class. (That was during her “I am going to be a teacher, phase.”)
She is 15 now.She will still read books, but I need to apply pressure – like trying to stop the flow of blood from a cut, only I am trying to stop the flow of Youtube into her brain. Over the years, she has accumulated a collection of books – most of them from me. Books to me have always been a compass, a way of directing myself or a process of finding my way. The ten books in this post are just that for my daughter – guides for where to go, how to act, why it matters. In no particular order, these are ten books I have given to my smart, sassy, moody, and strong girl.
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
I bought this book for myself a year ago, read it in one sitting and loved it. I gave it to my daughter when I was done, and it sat on her shelf for a year. Two weeks ago, she came home miserable after cross country practice, proclaiming that she “wasn’t good at anything.” It is her first year participating in the sport, mind you. But her sorrowful and dramatic lament brought to mind Astrid and her struggle to find her place with friends and sports. The well-done graphic novel celebrates the strength of girls, even when they are feeling their weakest. I walked over to her dusty bookshelf, picked up Roller Girl, and handed her the book. I also bought her a milkshake. She did read it. It may not click all at once, but I hope as the season goes on, she can remember Astrid’s story and find some direction to her own success.
Jane, the Fox and Me by Fanny Britt
I got this gorgeous book in a box of review books several years ago. Like Roller Girl, it is a graphic novel. Translated from French and set in Montreal, it is the story of Helene, a lovely tween girl who is mocked, bullied and ostracized by her peers. In between the black and gray sketches of Helene’s story, is the full-color plot of Jane Eyre, which Helene is reading. The illustrations, done by Isabelle Asenault, are really the star of this book, adding to its message of resilience and growth.(I love the picture of Rochester’s mad wife on page 83.) Like Jane, Helene discovers that life is not absolute, and people change. I gave this book to my daughter during her awkward tween years when she was growing out but not up, when her friends could be as fleeting as the fox Helene encounters. I am not sure if she read it, but I know, someday, she will. Maybe, I can even get her to pick up Jane Eyre, someday.
Ella The Elegant Elephant by Carmela and Steven D’Amico
I bought this book for my daughter for Christmas. It was a last minute gift, and I think it was a mark-down. I didn’t think much of it, but she LOVED it. It was THAT book for a while – the one she wanted me to read over and over again. I never loved it like she did, but it still has a great message. A little elephant moves to a new town and starts a new school. She has this magnificent hat that she wears the first day. It is different than all the other elephants’ hats and she is teased and by the queen bee of the elephants. Of course, in the end, she saves the day with the help of her hat, and all the other elephants embrace her and her style. That last minute purchase has a great message for my daughter about the importance of staying true to our unique style and individual beliefs. She read it aloud to me the other day; at 15, it is still one of her favorites.
Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume
Is there a mother out there who hasn’t bought this for her daughter? Is there a mother out there who didn’t read this book herself over and over again? I had the paperback copy with the purple background and very 70’sish illustrated cover. I gave this to my daughter before she hit puberty. I taught 8th graders for 12 years, and I had been a teenage girl myself. I knew she needed this book. She refused to read it. This was during that phase when she wouldn’t read, eat, like anything that I read, ate or liked. Finally, she read it after our nurse practitioner told her about it. It was okay if someone else recommended it. She read it quickly and then read it again. She quickly followed up with another Judy Blume title, It’s Not the End of the World, which I also bought for her. This was another book she read again and again. My husband and I had been separated briefly, and like so many other Judy Blume books with teens, the story resonated with my daughter as she tried to navigate the stormy sea her parents’ marriage had become.
The Changeling by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
While searching the Friends of the Library Sale at our public library, I found they had discarded their copy of this book. I quickly snatched it up and held it to my breast, a dear friend recovered who would be taken home to live with me. I gave it to my daughter and we started to read it aloud. She was not interested. I put it aside for another time, and then reread it when I wrote a blog for the Nerdy Book Club that you can read here. This was a childhood favorite and I wanted to share the magic and mystery of the book. I remembered fondly when I started reading it with my daughter, the fantastical world that the two friends created. My childhood was probably one, long magical period of time, but not so for my daughter. She does not love fantasy. She is practical and solid, and while I do think she would appreciate this coming-of-age story, I cannot get her to pick this book up. In fact, it lives with other close book friends on my office bookshelf, saved from rejection.
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell
I love Molly Lou Melon. So does my daughter. I bought this at the school book fair. (As a former school librarian, there are many books who came home with me from the school book fair.) I always let my children choose a book and a fun thing when it was book fair time. This was my daughter’s choice one year. Molly Lou is short with buck teeth, a mass of curly hair and a voice like a bullfrog. She takes on the bullies though, because she learned from her grandmother to stand tall, talk loud, and sing out. We read this book together many times, my daughter and I, and I loved that she loved Molly Lou like I did. I scanned her bookshelf the other day, but couldn’t find her copy. I know she has recently packed away some books, but this is one I need to find and share with her again. Stand tall, talk loud, sing out.
A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle
I haven’t actually given this book to my daughter – yet. I will, though, when she is a little older, maybe even when she has a daughter of her own. (Which I fervently pray she does, someday.) This book captures so beautifully the story of mothers and daughters that it should be essential reading for anyone who fits in one of those categories. I love this tagline from the book – “One of them is dead, one of them is dying, one of them is driving, and one of them is just starting out.” The book is marketed toward juveniles, and while there are a handful of young old souls out there who will read 12-year-old Mary’s story and connect with the bigger, more cosmic message, I will wait until my daughter is older to give her this book.
Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
My daughter asked me to buy her this book a couple of weeks ago. Of course, I said yes. Books are a sure thing in our house. I have not actually read this, and when I asked her for it so I could write this post, she informed me that she had let a friend borrow it. So, I know she likes it. I just listened to some of the audio available on Amazon, and my eyebrows raised at a few phrases. I have never censored when it comes to my children. I try to stay on top of what they watch, listen to, and read. It is about love, relationships, abuse, loss and femininity. It is honest and open poetry about these issues, and I find my daughter gravitates toward the shorter form of poems. I gave it to her, and she has read it and shared it with others. There’s nothing more I could ask for.
Blueberry Girl by Neil Gaiman
I said that these books are in no particular order, but I purposely saved this book for last. I am a huge Neil Gaiman fan, and I seek out new books whenever they are available. Blueberry Girl is a picture book poem that the author wrote for his pregnant friend (musician Tori Amos) for her unborn daughter. It is beautifully illustrated by Charles Vess. It is easy to get lost in the music of the words; their rhythm and meter is entrancing, but my favorite part of the book is the message. It is one that unites women and celebrates girls, while spinning fairy tale motifs and impossible possibles. Of course, I gave this book to my daughter. She was fairly young at the time, 8 or 9, and she liked it. It was one she would carry to bed for a read aloud. But it wasn’t until just recently that she looked at me and said, “Mom, you know I never really got what Blueberry Girl is about. But now, I do. We need to buy it for girl cousins X and Y so they have the book too.” And my heart rejoiced. If there is any book I want her to cherish, let it be this one that recognizes the complexities of women, celebrates their differences, and promises great accomplishments.
My daughter is not a reader, but she does know the power of books. I have given her that. Prayer answered. Amen.
Emily Rozmus was an English teacher and school librarian for 20 years, before she chose a new career. Since December 2013, she has been an Integration Librarian for INFOhio, Ohio’s PreK-12 online Library. She enjoys spending time with her husband, three children and cats, as well as reading, reading, reading. You can follow her on Twitter @rozmuse or read her blog museofreading.blogspot.com.