Full disclosure: I have a sizable spot in my heart and on my bookshelf for smart girls who can hold their own against everything from evil villains to disbelieving grown-ups. And while Ruby Redfort is definitely one of those plucky young heroines, Look into My Eyes by Lauren Child (of Charlie and Lola and Clarice Bean fame) is a great read even if you don’t normally seek out such protagonists.
Ruby Redfort is a thirteen year old girl with a talent for breaking secret codes and solving puzzles. When her socialite mother hits a string of bad luck, the family housekeeper goes missing, and a secret caller starts leaving mysterious messages, Ruby’s problem-solving brain jumps into overdrive. Packed with witty one-liners, action, mystery, and cool spy gadgets, Look into My Eyes will appeal to a wide variety of upper elementary and middle school readers.
Those who do share my predilection towards books starring self-sufficient heroines taking care of business, may also want to check out a few of my other favorites:
Thirteen year old Natalie has to turn her attention away from her favorite pastime of tinkering with clockwork machines when a mysterious and slightly sinister group appears at the crossroads outside her small Missouri town.
Catherine is the daughter of a poor knight who is trying to marry her off to the wealthiest suitor. In her diary, Catherine chronicles her efforts to avoid marriage during her fourteenth year.
In a world protected by telepathic dragons, Menolly wants to be a musician. Her fisherman father sees no use in her musical talents and forbids her from following her dreams.
Eleven year old Harriet keeps keen observations of friends and neighbors in a secret notebook. Unfortunately her spy skills don’t include keeping the notebook secret.
Aerin is the only child of the king and should be heir, but her mother was a witchwoman of the North, and her father’s subjects won’t accept her easily.
Twelve year old Ananka Fishbein has no idea that exploring a sinkhole across the street from her house will launch her into mystery and adventure with a group of precocious girls known as The Irregulars.
In 1936 Abilene’s father sends her, unwilling, to live with a friend out in Manifest, Kansas. Twelve year old Abilene makes lemonade out of lemons and decides to use the opportunity to find out more about her father’s past.
Everyone in Mibs’ family gains a magical ability by the time they turn thirteen. Mibs’ thirteenth birthday is not quite what she bargained for.
Thirteen year old Nita finds a career book at the library that can only be a joke. Only it’s not, and now she’s in a parallel dimension fighting to save the universe.
When the aliens invade and eleven year old Tip is left on her own, she decides the best course of action is to drive her mom’s Chevy on a cross country road trip in search of her abducted parent.