Girls Like Us: How two girls warmed my heart on this cold winters day

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I’m starting to regret my subway reading time.  All the books I keep choosing to read tug at my heart and it’s very hard to sit on a subway crying without people staring at you.  Last night, I had to close my book THREE times to pull myself together.

Girls Like Us (Gail Giles)

Girls Like Us (Gail Giles)

That book is Girls Like us by Gail Giles.  And I finished it this morning in the comfort of my warm apartment, as based on twitter and Facebook posts, it is COLD outside.

So, I curled up in my reading chair with a cup of coffee and a delicious carrot pineapple muffin (that my secret Valentine made for me) and finished the book with tears.

Now, I should say something about my tears.  I am an emotional reader when it comes to children’s/young adult books.  The emotion comes with the fact that I believe in the characters and the author has done a great job of making me believe in the characters.  I know Girls Like Us is not a perfect book but the girls in the story are so real to me, that I thought of past students and wanted to get in my car to make sure that their world is good.

Girls Like Us, follows two special education girls, Biddy and Quincy, as they navigate the new world as roommates in the former mayor’s widowed wife home in a small town.  There is no sense of time in history but I will say this is before mobile phones and the internet.  These girls take turns sharing their stories, as Ms. Giles has both their voices heard.  Biddy and Quincy have beginning stories that will make you cheer for them to be successful in the world, when so much is against them.  They learn from each other, things that you wished every human would learn, regardless of their abilities. These girls are subjected to horrors that we would NEVER wish anyone to face.  But in their struggles to understand what has happened, the girls start to make their voices heard.

As a teacher-librarian at an all girls school, I think of all the advantages the girls have in this world. The future is bright and it is exciting to see girls thinking and acting on the importance of making a positive mark on their local and global community.  But for the two girls in this story, who only have less than a handful of people in this world advocating for them,  Biddy and Quincy, work on creating a positive world in their small apartment.  To them, and to us the readers, that is the beginning of a global change.

I am lucky to still be nice and warm in my home on this cold morning, as these two girls continue to break and warm my heart.  And I’m lucky that I wasn’t on the subway finishing this story on the subway.  My tears would have stained my cheeks.  The only good thing about that, would be that I could share Biddy and Quincy’s story with everyone on the train.  But today, I will just have to settle with Social Media to do that for me.

We need more diverse stories like this, to remind us that everyone needs a voice.  This story is definitely a young adult novel, so it won’t be on my school’s bookshelves.  But I do hope my students read this story in the future.

Extra Notes:

The Girls Like Us has received many award nominations, here are a few:

National Book Award Long List

Schneider Family Book Award: “This award “honor[s] an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.” Up to three awards are given each year: one for a children’s book, one for a middle grade book, and one for a young adult book. This year, Girls Like Us by Gail Giles won the teen book award.”

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