Girls Leadership Book Club: Nikki Grimes, Louise Erdrich, Naomi Shihab Nye

Happy New Year! For January’s Girl & Grown-Up Book Club meetings, we’re reading books in which characters face big changes, and must adjust to new realities in life and in relationships. These characters dig deep to find their inner well of resilience, the quality that helps them weather changes and, even, find the positive in them.

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Remember that saying, “Whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger?” That strength that we develop as we get through life’s challenges is resilience. Resilience keeps our boat afloat on the stormy seas of loss, disappointment, and change. It helps us maintain faith in ourselves, in our abilities, and in our futures. With resilience, a setback doesn’t mean the end.


The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University says that resilience is a child’s health and development tending toward positive outcomes, even in the face of adversity. According to this organization, a child builds resilience by developing coping skills and having protective community experiences. According to the Center, “the single most common factor for children who develop resilience is at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver, or other adult.” Another major contributor to developing resilience is the opportunity to develop coping strategies through experiences with “manageable stress.”


Amy Morin, author of 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do, confirms this idea. She says that one of the biggest mistakes parents make is trying to shield our children from negative experiences. In an interview with the Washington Post, Ms Morin says, “By allowing kids firsthand experiences to deal with pain or emotions, they get to practice. Just like if we want them to be great soccer players — you wouldn’t go out on the field with them, they need to go out there and practice.”


We know that our kids need resilience in order to deal with challenges both small and large. Yet, paradoxically, when we shield our kids from hardships we rob them of the chance to practice resilience. The next time your girl is going through something stressful – whether it’s a changing relationship or an ambitious school project – consider taking a backseat role, as opposed to getting behind the wheel. Your stepping back sends a powerful message of confidence in your girl, which might be the boost she needs to feel that confidence in herself. And, when she gets through that experience, tell her that she used her resilience to do so. Like a muscle, her resilience gets stronger every time she uses it.


As you read this month’s books, talk to your girl about the meaning of resilience and how it shows up in literature and life. Happy reading! Disclosure: the links to buy or download these books are affiliate links. There is no additional cost, and Girls Leadership may get a commission if you click through and purchase.


2nd/3rd Grades

Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel by Nikki Grimes

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

About the book

Dyamonde never doubts that she’ll make plenty of friends in her new school. But one boy bewilders her. Also new to the school, the boy – named Free – is grumpy and withdrawn. Not one to back down from a challenge, Dyamonde decides to find out the cause of his terrible moods. Little by little, she gets to know Free and turns him into a friend.


Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel is the first book in the Dyamonde Daniel series. It was written in 2009, and was a Maud Hart Lovelace Award nominee, a Massachusetts Children’s Book Award nominee, and Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice book.


About the author

Poet and novelist Nikki Grimes was born and raised in New York City, where she began writing poems at the age of six. She has now written many award-winning books for children and young adults, including the Coretta Scott King Award winner Bronx Masquerade; the Coretta Scott King Author Honor books Jazmin’s Notebook, Talkin’ About Bessie, Dark Sons, The Road to Paris, and Words with Wings


Ms Grimes was awarded the NCTE Award for Poetry, the 2016 Virginia Hamilton Literary Award from Kent State University, and the 2017 Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal for her “substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.”


4th/5th Grades

The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich

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

About the book

This book tells the story of Omakayas, or Little Frog, over the course of a year in her Native American Ojibwa community. Set in the mid-nineteenth century, Omakayas’ story is full of rich details about a life that is deeply connected to the land and the seasons. As times passes, Omakayas learns not only about the mystery of her past but the mystery of her future, and what it means to heal.


Written in 1999, The Birchbark House is the first book in the Birchbark House series, followed by The Game of Silence, The Porcupine Year, and Chickadee. The Birchbark House received many awards including the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award for Older Children and the American Indian Youth Literature Award for Best Middle School Book. It was also a National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature.


About the author

Louise Erdrich is the author of fifteen novels for adults, as well as stories for children, poem, short stories, and a memoir. Her work has earned many prize, including the National Book Award for Fiction (for The Round House), and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize (for The Plague of Doves). Ms Erdrich lives in Minnesota with her daughters, and is the owner of Birchbark Books, a small independent bookstore.


6th/7th/8th Grades

Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye

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

About the book

Told in short chapters and vignettes, this story is about the culture shock Liyana experiences when she moves from St. Louis to live near her father’s Palestinian family in the constrained but beautiful Jerusalem. Liyana struggles to follow the rules of her new home while also staying true to her own beliefs and feelings. Readers see the city through Liyana’s curious and attentive gaze, the richness of everything from food to architecture described in loving detail. Conflict arises when Liyana develops feelings for a Jewish boy, and the backdrop of Israeli-Palestinian aggression becomes deeply personal.

Written in 1997, Habibi won the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award.


About the author

Like Liyana, Naomi Shihab Nye was born in St. Louis to an American mother and a Palestinian mother, and spent her high school years in Jerusalem.


Ms Nye has written many books of poetry, and several books of poetry and fiction for children. She has received awards from the International Poetry Forum and the Texas Institute of Letters, as well as the Carity Randall Prize and four Pushcart Prizes. She lives in San Antonio, Texas.

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