Brave girls in audiobooks

These audiobooks starring brave and resilient female protagonists will appeal to middle-grade fans of historical fiction featuring strong and lively young women. March is Women’s History Month. See also our Five Questions interview with Laurie Halse Anderson and the "Strong women making an impact 2019" section in this issue of Notes from the Horn Book; our list of new picture-book biographies; the tag women's history; and KidLitWomen* for more stories of amazing and inspirational women.

In narrating Louisiana's Way Home by Kate DiCamillo, Cassandra Morris provides rich characterization for precocious, resilient protagonist Louisiana; her new friend Burke Allen; and an array of eccentric adult characters. Themes of dishonesty and belonging permeate the story, set mainly in 1970s Georgia. Throughout, Morris carefully modulates a Southern drawl, and her melancholic reading of the novel’s ending perfectly captures the tale’s bittersweet nature. (Listening Library, 8–12 years)

Long before she was the wife of Malcolm X, Betty Shabazz was a girl growing up in 1940s Detroit within a solid churchgoing community engaged in the fight for racial equality. Having co-written (with Renée Watson) her mother’s fictionalized story in Betty Before X, Ilyasah Shabazz narrates the audio version, adjusting her voice to mimic youthful delight and readjusting it to capture Betty’s solemnity when faced with injustice. (Macmillan Young Listeners, 9–13 years)

Veera Hiranandani's The Night Diary is set in 1947, just after the Partition of India into Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan. As twelve-year-old Nisha and her family make the long journey to their new home, Nisha's letters to her mother (who died when Nisha and her twin were born) relate her earnest attempts to understand what is happening and why. Priya Ayyar narrates the book with a crisp British Indian accent. (Listening Library, 9–13 years)

In Like Vanessa by Tami Charles, it's 1983, and eighth grader Vanessa Martin dreams of becoming Miss America like her just-crowned namesake, Vanessa Williams. Vanessa's diary entries reveal her experiences participating in a beauty pageant, which challenges her to overcome her shyness, appreciate her dark skin, and explore her secretive family’s past. Channie Waites’s expressive narration captures a wide range of characters in this engrossing story of beauty, race, and seeing oneself represented. (Recorded Books, 12–14 years)

From the March 2019 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Elissa Gershowitz and Katie Bircher

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. Katie Bircher is former editor of The Horn Book Guide.

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