Girls Leadership Book Club: Kelly Starling Lyons, Vera Brosgol, Nate Stevenson and Grace Ellis

This month we’re enjoying stories about girls who have outdoor adventures, who appreciate the wonders of nature, and who look at the world through bright, curious eyes.

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I think November should be gloriously relaxing. Depending on where you live, the month might be full of beautifully colorful leaves and crisp air. It precedes what can be a busy time of year: religious holidays and New Year celebrations are right around the corner.

November is a deep breath before diving into the pool.

Yet, with Halloween now starting in August and winter holidays starting in October, we don’t really get that respite. The pressure is on to use the month of November as a way to get ready for the holidays – buying gifts, doing home improvements, and collecting seasonal decorations. With high expectations for picture-perfect gatherings, it takes weeks to make everything just so.

In 2015, outdoor retailer REI announced that they wouldn’t extend their hours or have special sales the day after Thanksgiving. In fact, they would close their stores to encourage employees and customers not to shop but, instead, to go out into that fall air and do something together in nature. They weren’t just opting out of the holiday shopping frenzy, they were opting outside.

#OptOutside gained traction. Girls Leadership’s co-founder Simone Marean started a tradition of a post-Thanksgiving hike with her family. This year, we are extending the idea beyond that one day. Before the winter settles in with cold, rain, and snow, let’s spend as much time as we can reaping the benefits of time in nature.

The many benefits of spending time in nature are well-documented. The article from Harvard Health Publishing “A Prescription for Better Health: Go Alfresco” identifies benefits as diverse as increased happiness and faster healing. The Hidden Brain podcast recently broadcast an episode titled “Our Better Nature: How the Great Outdoors Can Improve Your Life” in which psychologist Ming Kuo describes how spending time in green spaces can lower anxiety, increase immunity to disease, and deepen social bonds.

Maybe this month’s books will inspire you to take some time to enjoy the outside. Want to get outside but not sure where to start? Girls Leadership has an adventure guide for girls in 5th grade and up: A Girl’s Guide to Epic Outdoor Adventure. Click here to download this free guide.

Happy reading and adventuring!

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2nd/3rd Grades

Jada Jones: Rock Star by Kelly Starling Lyons

Buy or borrow a copy of this book and read it before your next book club meeting.

About the book
Jada Jones loves collecting beautiful rocks. But now that her best friend and fellow collector has moved away, Jada’s feeling lost and alone. When the teacher announces a class project about rocks and minerals, Jada has to find a way to navigate her group dynamics, share with her passion for rocks with her classmates, and maybe make new friends.

Kirkus Review said the 2017 book is “Easy to read and sprinkled with science, a contemporary tale of friendship, loss, acceptance, and learning how to be who you are and rock what you’ve got.”

About the author
Kelly Starling Lyons is the author of several books for young readers, most recently the Jada Jones series. She is one of the founding members of The Brown Bookshelf, a website featuring books for young people written by black authors.

For more information about Ms Lyons, visit her website at


4th/5th Grades

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

Buy or borrow a copy of this book and read it before your next book club meeting.

About the book
Nine-year-old Vera begs her mother to let her go to Russian summer camp. Here, among people from the same cultural background, Vera hopes she will finally fit in. Unfortunately, friendship drama and those discomforts particular to summer camp (outhouses! bugs! critters!) make her miserable. Brosgol crafts a humorous and painfully recognizable tale of camp woes and triumphs, which finally shifts when Vera befriends a younger girl who shares her love of art. Although Vera doesn’t love summer camp, she does find real joy in nature’s quiet beauty.

Be Prepared was published in 2018. It received starred reviews from Booklist, Horn Book, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly. Parents Magazine selected it as the Best Graphic of 2018. Publishers Weekly writes, “The dialogue rings true, the pace is seamless, and the panel artwork, in woodsy browns and greens, conveys feelings with clean, assured lines.”

About the author
Ms Brosgol was born in Moscow and moved to the U.S. as a young girl. She lives in Portland, Oregon, where she has worked in animation and now illustrates and writes full time. Her debut graphic novel Anya’s Ghost won an Eisner Award. Her first picture book Leave Me Alone won a 2017 Caldecott Honor. You can learn more about her – and check out more of her illustrations – at


6th/7th/8th Grades

Lumberjanes Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy by Nate Stevenson and Grace Ellis

Buy or borrow a copy of this book and read it before your next book club meeting.

About the book
Lumberjanes takes place at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Girls Hardcore Lady Types, where we get to know a group of five diverse, hilarious, and kick-butt “Scouts” – Jo, April, Molly, Mal, and Ripley – and their counselor Jen. The girls go up against supernatural creatures and malevolent magic, using their individual quirks and talents plus their strong bond of friendship to triumph. It’s a little bit Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a little bit Scooby Doo, and a ton of fun.

This book – the first in the series – was published in 2014. The series has received the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comic Book every year since its publication. It is also a New York Times bestseller, an Eisner Award winner, and a Goodreads Choice Awards nominee.

About the author
Nate Stevenson created the webcomic Nimona while she was attending Maryland Institute College of Art. The story of a wonderfully wicked shape-shifting sidekick later became Stevenson’s senior thesis, and attracted the attention of a literary agent. Nimona was published in book form in 2015, to rave reviews and accolades, including a nomination for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Meanwhile, Stevenson wrote and published the first Lumberjanes volume in 2014. Stevenson does a variety of work in comics, illustration, and animation. To learn more about her and her work, visit her website and check out this article in Vanity Fair magazine.


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