Daring Young Women to the Rescue: A Summer Reading List

It’s time to start thinking about summer reading! Below is a list of books starring female characters, full of magic, adventure, fantasy, battling good and evil, saving the people they love, using their courage, intelligence and strength. We all know Hermione Granger, Luna Lovegood and Ginny Weasley, but here are more daring young women to carry us away this summer! Don’t limit these books to your daughter’s stack. Read them yourself and encourage your sons to join in the adventures as well. Go girls!

Recommended for Ages 8-12

The Worst Witch, by Jill Murphy
Miss Cackle's Academy is no ordinary school. This is a school for witches and the girls there have to learn about such things as casting spells and making magic potions. Mildred Hubble has a reputation for being the worst pupil in the school. She's always getting her spells wrong, but she manages to get by until she turns Ethel, the teacher's pet, into her sworn enemy. Life is definitely about to get tougher for the school's worst witch.  This funny series, originally published in the 1970s, is now back in print with new covers and ready to delight a new generation of readers. Following in this series: The Worst Witch Strikes Again and A Bad Spell for the Worst Witch.   
Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke
Meggie's father, Mo, has refused to read to her since she was a baby, and she's never known why until the day a man called “Dustfinger” appears and calls her father “Silvertongue.” It turns out that Mo has a wonderful but terrible ability: if he reads a book aloud, the characters literally come to life. The last time he did, he not only freed a wicked villain named Capricorn from the book Inkheart, he also accidentally read Meggie's mother into the book. Now Capricorn wants to put Mo's abilities to evil use and he's planning to use Meggie to make him do it. In order to stop Capricorn, Meggie and her family will have to find the author of Inkheart,  in hopes that they can write a new ending. This unique story-within-a-story will fascinate young fantasy fans. The story continues in Inkspell and Inkdeath.

Tuesdays at the Castle, by Jessica Day George
Princess Celie loves living in Castle Glower and she especially loves Tuesdays, the day that a new room, turret, or wing magically appears! No one can guess what the castle will do next, and Celie is the only one who takes the time to map the new additions. When King and Queen Glower are ambushed and foreign interlopers appear to try to claim the kingdom, Celie's intimate knowledge of the castle will be key to protecting herself, her family, and her people. Celie's unique friendship with the magical castle provides fodder for all sorts of fun adventures in this charming story. You can continue Celie's adventures in Wednesdays in the Tower and Thursdays with the Crown.

The Power of Poppy Pendle, by Natasha Lowe
Ten-year-old Poppy was born to ordinary parents, but she has inherited the powers of a witch. She has gifts that are tremendously valued, even coveted, in her world.  But Poppy has other talents too, including a knack for baking, and what she'd really like is a career as a baker. Despite her protests, her parents push her to follow in the footsteps of her great-aunt, a famous witch, but when they go so far as to take the oven out of their house, Poppy discovers that there's a dark side to magic... one that can come out all too easily when angry. Fortunately, good friends and good food can turn things around. This spirited story, which comes complete with recipes you can try at home, features a likable character whose frustration will feel familiar to many tweens. Fans of this book can read the sequel featuring Poppy's daughter, The Courage of Cat Campbell.    

Recommended for Ages 9-14

Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard, by Jonathan Auxier
Twelve-year-old Sophie knows little beyond the four walls of her father's bookshop, where she repairs old books and dreams of escaping the confines of her dull life. When a strange boy, Peter Nimble, and his talking cat/horse companion show up with a rare and mysterious book, she finds herself pulled into a real-life adventure beyond anything she has ever read! This companion to Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes introduces an intriguing new character to Jonathan Auxier's fascinating world of magic and mystery.

The Wee Free Men, by Terry Pratchett
Tiffany Aching is a dutiful (if grudging) big sister and a talented cheese maker, but what she really wants is to be a witch. She might need some witch-magic fast though, when the Queen of Faeries steals her little brother away! With a piece of string, a borrowed toad, a cast-iron pan, and the Nac Mac Feegle (a clan of six-inch-tall Pictsies), Tiffany will have to dare going into fairyland itself if she’s going to make things right again. With a complex plot full of metaphors about growing up, and plenty of humor along the way, you’ll be eager to follow Tiffany on future adventures! Tiffany’s story continues in A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith, I Shall Wear Midnight, and The Shepherd’s Crown.

Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull
Kendra and her brother, Seth, have no idea that their grandfather is the current caretaker of Fablehaven. Inside the gated woods, ancient laws keep relative order among the greedy trolls, mischievous satyrs, plotting witches, spiteful imps, and jealous fairies. But when the rules get broken, powerful forces are unleashed, and Kendra and her brother face the greatest challenge of their lives. To save their family, Fablehaven, and maybe even the world, Kendra and Seth must find the courage to do what they fear most.

Dragon Slippers, by Jessica Day George
Creel's aunt is desperate to tie her family to royalty, so she dumps Creel in front of the local dragon in hopes that she'll be rescued by the local prince.  Instead, Creel rejects the haughty prince and befriends the dragon, who, it turns out, has a remarkable collection of shoes. Among them, she finds a pair of slippers to wear as she sets out to make her fortune using her gifts at embroidery. Little does she know, these unique slippers could save the kingdom or destroy it. This charming story, full of vivid descriptions of everything from Creel's "fancywork" to the rough streets of the King's Seat, will delight it’s readers. Creel's story continues in Dragon Flight and Dragon Spear.             

Recommended for Ages 10 and up

May Bird and the Ever After, by Jodi Lynn Anderson
The woods of Briery Swamp fit May Bird like a fuzzy mitten, and keep her safe from the taunts of children at school who don't understand her. But one day, when she falls in the lake, she emerges into an unexpected new world, one that's far from warm and fuzzy. If she doesn't get out fast, horrifyingly evil Bo Cleevil will turn her into nothing. This offbeat fantasy, the first of a trilogy, is scary, fanciful, and truly suspenseful.

Dealing with Dragons, by Patricia C. Wrede 
Cimorene has no interest in being a proper princess, so instead of waiting to be kidnapped by a dragon, she runs away and makes a bargain with one — she’ll keep house as a captured princess would, provided she also gets to be herself and explore her non-princessy interests. Fortunately for Kazul, Cimorene’s dragon, Cimorene also manages to help unearth the wizards’ plot against the dragons in time to stop it... for now. 

The Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale
Ani, the Crown Princess of Kildenree, spent the first years of her life under her aunt's guidance learning to communicate with animals, but she never became comfortable speaking with people. So when her silver-tongued lady-in-waiting leads a mutiny during Ani's journey to be married in a foreign land, Ani cannot persuade anyone to assist her. She conceals herself as a goose girl for the king, and slowly discovers that her own special, nearly magical powers can help her find her way to her true destiny. Fans of Shannon Hale's intriguing fantasy world and characters will want to check out the sequels, Enna Burning and Forest Born.            

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente
Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind who invites her on an adventure to Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. With the help of new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday, September is the only one who can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods. But will September be able to return home, or will she find herself bound to Fairyland forever? 

Recommended for Ages 12 and up

Alanna: The First Adventure, by Tamora Pierce
Alanna has always dreamed of adventurous deeds, something denied to girls in Tortall, while her brother Thom yearns to learn magical arts. So when they’re sent off to learn their trades, the pair decides to trade places: Thom goes to the convent, while Alanna sets off to become a page and eventually, she hopes, a knight. “Alan” finds it easier than expected to conceal who she really is, and quickly impresses those around her with her determination. However, she’s haunted by visions of an evil city and she wonders whether she can keep her gender a secret and whether she will falter or finally achieve her destiny. The book is the first of the Song of the Lioness quartet.  

Wild Magic, by Tamora Pierce
Thirteen-year-old Daine has always had a knack with animals, but it's not until she's forced to leave home that she realizes it's more than a knack — it's magic. With this wild magic, not only can Daine speak to animals, but also she can make them obey her. Daine takes a job handling horses for the Queen's Riders, where she meets the master mage Numair and becomes his student. Soon she begins to sense other beings too: immortals, bloodthirsty monsters have been imprisoned for four hundred years. Now someone has broken the barrier, and it's up to Daine and her friends to defend their world from an immortal attack.

Sabriel, by Garth Nix
Sent to a boarding school in Ancelstierre as a young child, Sabriel has had little experience with the power of Free Magic or the Dead who refuse to stay dead in the Old Kingdom. During her final semester, her father, the Abhorsen, goes missing, and Sabriel knows she must enter the Old Kingdom to find him. With the help of new friends, she'll travel deep into the lands of the Dead but every step brings them closer to a battle that will pit them against the true forces of life and death and bring Sabriel face-to-face with her own destiny. This is the first book of The Abhorsen Trilogy.    

Recommended for Ages 14 and up

Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas
In a land without magic, where the king rules with an iron hand, Celaena Sardothien is summoned to the castle. The young assassin is there for a rare chance at freedom: if she defeats twenty-three other killers, thieves, and warriors, she is released from prison to serve as the King's Champion. The Crown Prince will provoke her. The Captain of the Guard will protect her. But something evil dwells in the castle of glass and it's there to kill. When her competitors start dying one by one, Celaena's fight for freedom becomes a fight for survival and a desperate quest to root out the evil before it destroys her world. Complex world-building and political intrigue makes this a fascinating read for teens. 

The Girl of Fire and Thorns, by Rae Carson
Every century, one person is chosen for greatness, and Eliza, the younger of two princesses (the one who has never done anything special ) seems to be the one. On her sixteenth birthday, she becomes the secret wife of a king whose country is in turmoil, and they need her to be the chosen one, not a failure. But others seek her out as well, including a daring revolutionary who thinks she could be his people's savior. She soon finds both her life and her heart at stake. Most of the chosen die young, before they find their power. Can Eliza become the prophecy-fulfilling figure she needs to be? This complex fantasy, full of adventure and intrigue, will fascinate teen readers. Fans can follow the rest of Eliza's story in The Crown of Embers and The Bitter Kingdom.