I have a conundrum. Perhaps you’re in a similar pickle.
(I’ve talked to many of you out there about this issue, so I feel like I’m in good company.)
I have a daughter that is a voracious reader. She’s 12 now, and she’s been through Narnia, Middle Earth, and Avonlea. She knows all the American Girls, has read the whole Rabbit Room canon, (Wingfeather, Wilderking, Green Ember, Fiddler’s, etc.). She’s existed for months in the worlds of Harry Potter and Keeper of the Lost Cities. Katniss is old news, and Laura Ingalls Wilder was so 3rd grade. She’s devoured the Gateway Chronicles (put that one on your radar if it’s not) and much of what Read Aloud Revival, Redeemed Reader, and Story Warren has recommended so far.
So now…what should she read? What do you do with an advanced little bookworm that’s not ready for the mature themes of more advanced literature?
Even stickier- what do you give a girl who loves heroism, battle, and intrigue, without giving her female icons that you’d really rather her not emulate (I’m looking at you, Katniss.)
You introduce her to Emma Fox, that’s what you do.
Fox’s first book, The Arrow and the Crown, rapidly gained a loyal following after its release in 2019. An epic retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Fox takes her readers to the Black Forest of Germany and gives us a beautiful tale of love, mystery, magic, sacrifice, and triumph. More importantly, she gives us a beautiful picture of what can happen when female and male protagonists work together to bring about a beautiful redemption of the world around them. So much of modern literature gives us girl bosses who are stronger, smarter, and, frankly, better than the boys, and often the adults, around them. Fox gives us characters that lean on the wisdom of their elders and use their strengths and gifts to bless, not best, others.
In her upcoming book, The Carver and the Queen, Fox gives us another triumph of historical fiction. Set in the Ural Mountains of Russia, this folklore-saturated story follows Petr and Lena, two serfs who are determined to change their fate. Through dedication and hard work, along with the help of a grizzly old craftsman and a doting babushka, Petr and Lena are so close to freedom they can almost taste it. That is, until the mysterious Malachinista, the witch under the mountain, lures Petr away by feeding into his insecurities and doubts. Their eventual victory comes through sacrifice, teamwork, and the unrelenting pursuit of truth.
I love these books. I myself have greatly enjoyed Fox’s exquisite word craft, her ability to make a scene come alive through vivid imagery and detail, and the plot twists I truly never saw coming. But as a mama, I love that my girls have books that not only grow them as readers, but as women. I love that they have two new strong heroines that are wise, but willing to lean on others. I’m thankful for male and female characters that are virtuous, wise, and winsome and for stories that encourage my children to be the same.