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There is a certain cadence to the writing that makes the text simply roll off of the tongue when reading out loud.

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Not much need be said about this series. The tales of friendship, loyalty, courage and love have struck a chord with millions of young readers, including Leah. Not only that, but while Harry Potter is certainly the star of the story, Hermione Granger, his faithful friend, has emerged from the series as one of the strongest female characters ever written for children.

Everything about her personality resonated with Leah; her fierceness, her sense of honour and justice, her intelligence, her femininity, and her feminism, too. Leah even dressed up as Hermione for Halloween last year! One of the worries that Leah had heading into the first Potter book was that it would be too scary and violent.

She soon found that this was not the case. Instead, she found the action scenes to be rather thrilling and took them in stride within the context of events as they unfolded in the story. Having Leah realize that she was brave and intelligent enough to handle action scenes, even when they contained violence or suspense , helped prepare her for our next series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians was the series that connected a lot of dots for Leah. First of all, it helped bring her love of Greek culture to the fore. It was one of the first times she was ever made aware that discrimination based upon gender was a reoccurring theme throughout the course of history. So, this book was the kindling that gave birth to the first sparks of the feminist mindset that Leah possesses to this day. It also created a fascination with the Greek culture and history. Leah loved every aspect of the Gods, Goddesses and Demigods, and their relationships to each other and to mere mortals.

Because of this series, Leah went on a non-fiction blitz of our public library, checking out every book she could find on Greek mythology and history.

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While reading The Heroes of Olympus , Leah, with her sense of female empowerment growing, turned to one of the biggest female role models of recent time by reading I Am Malala. As many of you may know, Malala Yousafzai was a young girl who was attending school in Afghanistan at a time when the Taliban forbid girls from getting an education. She was shot and left for dead by the Taliban. Malala is a brave, intelligent, charming and tenacious young lady.

To paraphrase the old saying, in order to see the way forward, we stand on the shoulders of giants. Malala is that wonderful role model for Leah and for countless other girls around the world. For most of the past year or so, Leah and I have entered the world of Starclan, with the Warriors series by Erin Hunter.

We read only the first six, but, even with that small a sampling, we were impressed with the detailed description of feline communities within a forest. Leah thought that the descriptions of everyday life in the forest, and the detailed and thoughtfully planned character development reminded her a lot of the social structure of her school. Thus, she was able to bring meaning to the books and make personal connections which, as you know, makes for a deeper and more meaningful reading experience. One of the good things about having a reputation as a reader is that as you grow up, other like-minded peers will seek you out.

So, not surprisingly, as Leah has moved through the Junior grades at school, she and the girls who have become her fast friends spend a regular portion of their free time reading and talking about books with each other. It was a recommendation from a dear friend that led Leah to request that we read The Hunger Games trilogy. So, we did.

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Leah liked that she was a strong young girl. She liked that Katniss would fight for what was right and for those she loved.

Leah also liked how the politics of both the Capitol and the Rebels had flaws that made supporting them untenable. She respected how Katniss sought out her own truth and reacted accordingly at the conclusion of The Mockingjay. What gorgeous language throughout! What an intricate tale of childhood innocence, the power of love, friendship, and loyalty, and as well, the redemptive value of forgiveness.

It features another strong female character called Lyra Belacqua and an almost equally strong, nasty female character, Mrs. Highly, highly recommended! As mentioned earlier, Leah and I read together each night and, Leah also reads her own books throughout the day. So, in compiling this post, I felt it was prudent to ask Leah for some of her personal recommendations. Although she enjoyed them all, the one that continues to get pulled out is Matilda. Of all of the female characters in all of the books that Leah has read or has listened to, Matilda might be the one who is the biggest reader.

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Leah completely gets how i mportant books are in terms of the information they transmit, as well as their ability to transport the reader away from where they are to anywhere their imagination may take them. Leah is, at this point in her life, kind of like Matilda……but with a better family life, I hope! The theme of animals in captivity is highlighted in this powerful book by Katherine Applegate called The One and Only Ivan. Told from the point of view of Ivan, a gorilla who lives his life in a glass cage in a rundown shopping mall, The One and Only Ivan is a terrific portrait of loneliness and the deep set yearning within us all to lead a life of purpose and meaning.

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Liesl and Po concerns a lonely girl Liesl and an equally lonely ghost named Po. In the midst of all this, a young man, smitten with Liesl, drops off a box of magic that sets off a chain reaction of events that change all of their lives. The characters are quirky and likeable and the writing is terrific. Wonder by R. Palacio is about a boy named Auggie who possesses a severe facial deformity.

Because of how he looks, people often judge him without ever getting to know the real him. What lifts this book above the cliched premise of not judging a person based upon looks, is how masterfully Palacio creates realistic characters that the reader can relate to.

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Leah, once again thought that this was very representative of her school experience, and it got her thinking about body image in a more positive and upbeat manner than is often the case for young girls. Not every book Leah has read has been heavy or serious. Leah enjoys a fast-paced, funny story , too. The Dear Dumb Diary series is school-based, and has a cast of pre-teen and tween age characters that Leah relates to well. Like many books of this sort, the female character, Jamie Kelly, always gets into and out of plenty of jackpots, and provides many moments of silliness and slapstick humour.

Not surprisingly, Ella gets into lots of trouble because she literally has to do whatever she is told, no matter how wrong, dangerous or silly it turns out to be. Leah enjoyed watching Ella cope with this curse and develop strategies to circumvent the terms of the curse. Generally speaking, Leah is not a fan of stories about princesses who live happily-ever-after in the company of a prince, but every now and again, a good old-fashioned fairy tale type of book is just what the doctor ordered.

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When Leah discovered graphic novels , one of the series that she was most drawn to was the Thea Stilton series. This was a spin-off of the Geronimo Stilton franchise, and involved a troupe of female mice who were investigative journalists-in-training. Needless to say, they got involved in mysteries from around the world, and used their ingenuity and intelligence to solve crimes. Leah really enjoyed that the settings were famous foreign locales, and that the five girls worked together so well and used their brains cohesively as one unit.

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Leah read Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin in school, and raved about it whenever she talked about books that she thought were original and creative. Everyone ages backwards until they reach the age of seven days, and then they are reborn and start life on Earth anew. Leah has said that she has never read a book like Elsewhere, and she recommends it to anyone who enjoys the kind of book that keeps you guessing right until the end.

Leah received Pax by Sara Pennypacker as a gift, and we could not tear her away from its pages from the moment she opened it.