In my last post I mentioned how particular my god-daughter, Roxane, can be in her reading. Ever since she was born, I’ve been sending Roxane books for her birthday and, sometimes, just for fun. But as Roxane has become more her own person, it’s been challenging to find the right books for her. About four years ago, when Roxane was eleven, she came to stay with me and we went out book-shopping together. At that age, Roxane had a very strict set of criteria as to what worked for her as a reader.
1. No magic or science fiction. She was absolutely over fairies and fantasy.
2. The book had to have a girl protagonist.
3. The stories had to be set in the real world, preferably in identifiable places, most preferably in Australia.
4. No icky bits (ie. no sex)
Being a loyal god-daughter, she cited two of my books – ‘Walking Home with Marie-Claire’ and ‘Bridie’s Fire’ as the sort of books which suited her tastes. (At that stage, my other novels featured boy protagonists.) Feeling that I had a fair idea of what would suit her, I took her into one of my favourite local bookstores, confident that we’d emerge with an armful of good titles. I was amazed at how difficult it was for me to find books that met her criteria. After half an hour of scouring the shelves, we walked out with a copy of Ethel Turner’s ‘Seven Little Australians’ and Alyssa Brugman’s ‘Being Bindy’ along with a promise that I would get to work on putting together a list of books that might suit her very discerning tastes. Now that Roxane is a teenager she has dropped the last item on her list of tough criteria and is interested in reading about how girls navigate their way through the ‘icky’ bits of adolesence. She also now reads a lot of adult fiction and so has found plenty of books to keep her busy. But I am often aware of how hard it can be for girls who are caught between light-weight junior fiction and dark-and-scary young-adult fiction to find the right books to suit them.