Girls Leadership Book Club: Ursula Vernon, Anna Meriano, Sayantani Dasgupta

This month, we will read fantasy books, expressing important ideas about proving yourself through light-hearted and imaginative stories.

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For more than three years, the vast majority of our Girls Leadership Girl & Grown-Up Book Club selections have been realistic fiction stories (with a couple of non-fiction books thrown in for good measure). The reason for this is simple: one goal of our book club is to provide an opportunity for girls and their grown-ups to discuss problems that they actually face in the real world. Problems like not fitting in, lacking confidence, changing friendships, and conflict with family. Our thinking was that discussing characters’ problems would provide an entry to conversations about real-life problems, which in turn would support forming strong family and community bonds.


But, of course, realistic fiction doesn’t have a corner on the market of reality. The well-known science-fiction writer Ursula K. LeGuin famously argued that science-fiction and fantasy stories are full of truth. “It isn’t factual,” she said, “but it is true.”


The more science-fiction and fantasy stories we read, the more we had to agree with Ms LeGuin. In fact, it’s exactly the universal humanity – the relatability – of the characters that sets the best of these fantastical stories apart. The original worlds and supernatural powers that feature in these books do not take away from the fact that the characters’ problems tend to be the same problems we all face. They want to fit in, they need to find their confidence, and they have troubles with friends and family. It’s just that they’re doing all of that in alternate dimensions.


We hope you’ll be entertained by and drawn into these fantasy selections as much as we were. And, we hope you’ll see yourselves reflected in their pages – demons, magic, and fairies notwithstanding.


Happy reading!

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2nd/3rd Grades

Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible by Ursula Vernon

Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible by Ursula Vernon

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

About the book
An evil fairy curses an infant princess to fall fast asleep on her twelfth birthday until awakened by the kiss of a prince. Sound familiar? In this entertaining twist on classic fairy tales, the princess does not hide away from her fate. Rather, she embraces it. After all, falling asleep at twelve means that she has to live until she turns twelve. Princess Harriet is invincible! What follows is a fun adventure of slaying trolls and rescuing princes, and an endearing princess who refuses to follow anyone’s rules but her own.

Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible was published in 2015. Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and the Chicago Public Library named it one of the best books of the year, among other honors.

About the author

Ursula Vernon is a writer and artist living in Raleigh, North Carolina who also publishes for adults under the name T. Kingfisher. She has won awards and accolades for her work across genres and media. Most notably, she is an Eisner nominee and Hugo Award winner for her comic Digger. Learn more about Ursula Vernon at


4th/5th GradesLove Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble by Anna Meriano

Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble by Anna Meriano

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

About the book

The youngest of five sisters, Leo is tired of being treated like a baby. No one even lets her help with preparations for the family bakery’s famous Day of the Dead festival. But, when Leo sneaks into the bakery, she discovers an amazing secret: the women in her family are all witches – called brujas – and they’re able to make magical baked goods. Leo decides to steal the family recipe book and try some spells of her own. She’s sure this will show her family that she’s not a baby anymore. But, she soon finds out how much trouble a little magic can make!

Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble is Anna Meriano’s debut novel, and earned starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, and Shelf Awareness. The sequel, Love Sugar Magic: A Sprinkling of Spirits will be published in early 2019.

About the author

Anna Meriano is a middle grade author who lives in Houston, TX. She earned her MFA in creative writing from The New School in New York. She says that as a young reader she noticed “the lack of Texas stories that didn’t include cowboys or tumbleweeds.” Learn more at her website,


6th/7th/8th Grades

The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani Dasgupta

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

About the book

Kiran is embarrassed of her parents – their traditional Indian clothes and food show that they just don’t get it – and especially of the way they always call her “princess.” When a demon attacks on the morning of her 12th birthday and kidnaps her parents, Kiran learns that she really is a princess, and that she is the true daughter of the Moon Goddess and the Serpent King. With the help of a prince from another realm, Kiran journeys to save her parents, and discovers a side of herself that she never knew existed.

The Serpent’s Secret was published in 2018 and received many glowing reviews, including a starred review from School Library Journal. The next book in the series, Game of Stars, will be published in early 2019.

About the author

Sayantani Dasgupta grew up in an immigrant Indian family in Ohio, and spent summers in Kolkata where she heard the fantastical folktales that she drew upon when writing this book. She currently lives in New York. Find more information about her at


Disclosure: the links to buy or download books may contain affiliate links. There is no additional cost, and Girls Leadership may get a commission if you click through and purchase.

  1. Tanna Elliott

    I’ve noticed that the 2nd & 3rd grade books that are picked for the book club are at reading levels for 5th graders. It would be awesome to have books chosen that are at the correct grade/reading levels. Thanks for you consideration. Tanna

    • Dorothy Ponton, Digital Marketing Manager

      Hi Tanna,
      Thank you for reaching out and raising this important question. When we choose book club books, reading level is one of the most crucial criteria. It’s also one of the hardest to pin down by grade level, and one of the most variable factors among individual readers. As you probably know if you have one at home, second and third grade readers span an even more enormous range; some of them are still emergent readers whereas some are reading novels independently. For that reason, we also lean heavily on interest level, book length, and type of book. For our youngest books clubbers, the goal isn’t necessarily for them to read on their own. The goal is for them to read about age-appropriate characters and topics in books that are short enough not to challenge their stamina too much, and ideally with some comprehension support from illustrations. Listening to, understanding, and discussing quality books is just as critical to reading development as independent reading practice is.

      When my own daughter was in the 2nd and 3rd grade club, I read the books aloud to her in the evenings, and found it to be a nice time for us to bond and discuss the books as we read. That doesn’t work for everyone’s schedule, so some of my fellow parents had different approaches. Some would have grown-ups at home trade off reading in the evenings, depending on who was available, or would ask an older sibling to read to the younger child. Others would ask their child to take turns reading a page with a more proficient reader (whether grown-up, sibling, or friend). Additionally, many of these books are available on audio from your library and listening that way could be something fun to explore!

      If you’re looking for books that your girl can read independently, I have a few suggestions. First of all, definitely consult her teacher for recommendations as her teacher will probably be very familiar with her strengths and weaknesses at this point. Secondly, if there are books that she can read independently, hunt around for others like them. For example, this year probably the most accessible books on our 2nd/3rd grade list are Jada Jones Rock Star and Brave Girl. If you look at the guides for those two titles, you’ll see at the bottom that I recommend similar titles. Also, ask your local librarian for titles that are comparable to a favorite book. Lastly, the Mighty Girl website is one of my favorite resources for book recommendations and you can narrow the search by age.

      I hope that helps. Thank you again for your questions and, most importantly, thank you for joining us in Girls Leadership Book Club.


      Shannon, Simone, & Dorothy
      Team Book Club


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