The books for the second Girl & Grown-Up Book Club meetings of the 2017-2018 school year feature characters who are trying to figure out where they fit in. These characters are searching for true friendship and true belonging.
Not a member yet? Sign up for our Girl & Grown-up Book Club. It’s FREE! Get toolkits with meeting guides and discussion questions for all previous years delivered right to your inbox, instantly. Toolkits for this year’s books will be emailed each month.
Any of us, whether we’re eight years old or eighty, seek belonging. We want to be seen, known, and appreciated for who we are. Unfortunately, in our search for belonging, we sometimes settle for fitting in, which Brené Brown, author of several books including Braving the Wilderness, calls the enemy of belonging. When we fit in, we change ourselves to assimilate into a group. On the other hand, as Brown writes,
“True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”
In early elementary school, friendships are often based on something simple, like a shared interest in the block corner. This is a great time to start discussing the qualities of healthy friendships. You might ask your girl about her friends.
- How does she know if someone is a friend?
- What makes someone a friend?
- How does it feel when she’s with her friend?
It’s also important to talk to young kids about what to do if someone treats them in an unfriendly way. For example, you and your girl could role play what to do if someone hurts her feelings. Perhaps she could tell them to stop, or she can walk away and play with someone more friendly. Our girls often feel confused when someone they thought was a friend treats them unkindly. When we name unfriendly and unacceptable, behavior, our kids start to internalize the idea that they don’t have to accept poor behavior in their relationships.
As children get older, the desire for belonging only intensifies, and finding a group of friends feels even more crucial. I can clearly remember the torment of feeling weird and outcast during my middle school years. I know now that most of the kids around me were feeling the same way. Middle school is a time when you’ll probably want to talk a lot about what a true friend is, how friends should behave, and what to do when they disappoint us.
This month’s books remind us that true belonging gives a more profound sense of being home than any place can give. Our true friends make us feel that we can be exactly who we are, the way Babymouse feels when she leaves the popular girl’s party and goes to watch movies with her long-time friend Wilson. Our families and true friends can give us a feeling of deep safety, the way that Gaby feels when she finally accepts the love and family that her friend offers. The feeling of true belonging can be hard to describe, but is easy to identify. It feels a little like notes playing in harmony, as in the deep connection that develops between Mimi and Timothy.
Whatever your girl’s experiences with friends have been and will be, I hope discussing the books we’ve chosen for Girls Leadership book club this month will be part of your life-long conversation about true friends. Happy reading!
Babymouse: Queen of the World! by Jennifer Holm & Matthew Holm
About the book
Babymouse is overjoyed when she’s invited to popular Felicia Furrypaws’ slumber party. She knows it’s going to be the glamorous event she’s been waiting for! But when Felicia and her friends aren’t as great as Babymouse thought they’d be, she develops a new appreciation for her friend Wilson. She decides that having fun with her true friend is more important even than glamour.
This book – the first in the Babymouse series – was written in 2005. Since then, the series has won several awards, such as the Gryphon Award and the ALA Notable Children’s Book award.
About the authors
Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm are siblings who collaborate on the Babymouse and Squish series of graphic novels. Jennifer has also written several middle grade novels, including New York Times bestseller The Fourteenth Goldfish. To learn more about Jennifer, go to . To learn more about Matthew, go to matthewholm.net.
Gaby Lost and Found by Angela Cervantes
About the book
Eleven year-old Gaby’s mother was deported to Honduras three months ago, and Gaby’s been living with her dad ever since. Longing for stability and missing her mom, Gaby throws herself into a volunteer project at the local shelter. Even while she’s trying to find homes for the wonderful animals she meets, Gaby wonders if she’ll ever have a family that feels like home again.
Published in 2013, Gaby Lost and Found garnered much praise, including being named one of Bank Street College Center for Children’s Literature Best Children’s Books of the Year and Best Youth Chapter Book by the International Latino Book Awards.
About the author
Gaby Lost and Found was Angela Cervantes’ first book. In 2016, Ms Cervantes published her second book, Allie First at Last. Her third book Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ring, is scheduled to come out in March 2018.
Ms Cervantas lives in Kansas City. She says that if she wasn’t a writer, she’d like to run an animal shelter. She also says she’s “super proud of the novels I’ve written because they’re exactly the type of books I would have enjoyed when I was a child.” For more information about her, go to angelacervantes.com.
Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton
About the book
Mimi and her family have just moved from Berkeley to Vermont. Everything feels different and unwelcoming, especially the kids at school. They don’t know what to make of half-black, half-Japanese Mimi, with her aspirations to go to the moon. Despite the meanness of her new community, Mimi stays true to herself and finds a couple of close friends.
This novel in verse is set in 1969. The beautiful language and uplifting story show the power of holding fast to dreams, how a family can support each other, and how a community can redeem itself.
Published in 2015, Full Cicada Moon was named one of Kirkus’ Best Middle Grade Books of the Year and a Junior Library Guild selection.
About the author
Marilyn Hilton has written two middle grade novels. She lives in Northern California with her family, and when she says that her “heart sings when she writes.” To learn more about Ms Hilton, visit marilynhilton.com.