Here are the "middle reader" fantasy books (which goes from a low of second grade grade to a high of 10th, and is thus more flexible than my understanding of "middle grade," ie, ages 9-12):
Zita the Spacegirl, by Ben Hatke. Yay for Zita!
I Shall Wear Midnight, by Terry Pratchett. Um, this was published in 2010, so it seems odd to see it here. But regardless, yay for I Shall Wear Midnight!
(I would have talked about the YA books too, but there were more of them, and more I hadn't read....)
And immediately upon reading the lists, I began to wonder what my own list would have looked like.
Here are the criteria:
1. Significant feminist content
2. Excellence in writing
3. Appealing format
4. Age appropriateness for young readers
Obviously criteria one is the trickiest, and because I'm interested, here's a big chunk of how this criteria is defined. I have enboldened the line I think is most telling.
"....feminist books show women solving problems, gaining personal power, and empowering others.... These books explain that there is a gender issue; they don’t leave the reader to guess. A book with a strong female character that does not demonstrate that an inequality exists may not be a feminist book. Strong female characters may be plucky, perseverant, courageous, feisty, intelligent, spirited, resourceful, capable, and independent–but the book’s presentation may still not be feminist."
I'm running into few problems. I can see why, for instance, the young heroine of Tuesdays at the Castle isn't "feminist": she's plucky, and an agent in shaping her destiny, but she's not a game-changer for the girls in her world. But Zita is troubling me. The text and illustrations don't, as far as I remember, explain that there is a gender issue. I can't remember gender being specifically an issue at all. It seems to be that Zita might be "feminist" just by the fact of her existence (?).
And I'm having a hard time deciding if gender is an issue for Hazel, the heroine of Breadcrumbs (this is a book I'd have put on the list)--I think it is, but again, I can't remember that being explained. I also don't recall any "others" in the book being empowered, but I'm not sure I like that criteria--when your journey is a solitary quest, like Hazel's, who is there to be empowered by it but yourself, and your readers?
But I've thought of one that meets the criteria, I think, rather well--Icefall, by Matthew Kirby. Gender is most definitely an issue, and the heroine refuses to let herself be confined by stereotypes. And I think The Floating Islands is an excellent choice.
What fantasy books from 2011 for "middle readers" would you have added to the list?
Update: Just wanted to say that I heard from Beth Olshewsky, the Amelia Bloomer Project C0-Chair from 2010-2012. She noted that the awards are given by consensus, so there's lots of debate and discussion about what books will make the list! (here's looking at you, Zita!)
She clarified the issue of which books are eligible: "books are eligible if they are published in the last six months of the preceding year (so the span is really 18 months), as you noted for I Shall Wear Midnight. The form for field nominations should be up by the end of February, so check back on the Amelia Bloomer blog http://ameliabloomer.
I'm rather thrilled to know that one can field nominate, because I do think highly of this list and am eager to play a small part in its formtion! You can bet I'll be putting Icefall forward, and Circus Galacticus, by Deva Fagan, and The Book of Wonders, by Jasmine Richards and The Freedom Maze, by Delia Sherman...and quite possibly others!