Growing Reader

Tween

Books to Bridge the
Mother-Daughter Divide

by Stephanie Cohen

Like many of today’s reading-addicted moms, I measured my progress from early childhood into adulthood less by the birthdays I celebrated than by the books I loved along the way. Our generation leaned heavily on middle grade and young adult series to teach us how to navigate school, siblings, friendships, rivalries, parents, and those first awkward crushes. Those books we binged on in the 1970s and ’80s — while wearing neon slouch socks and acid-washed jeans, of course — were unforgettable classics. Remember Taffy Sinclair?  If that doesn’t bring a walk-down-memory-lane smile to your face, how about Sweet Valley High, The Girls of Canby Hall, or Anastasia Krupnik?

But as one mom friend with two daughters said to me about these novels of our youth: “I feel like there is nothing comparable today!” Which makes it harder to bond with our own kids over a shared love of the same books. We want that intergenerational connection to our children — to have them understand the music we loved, the movies we watched, the celebs we swooned to, and for us to understand what will define their generation, too. But stories can be hard to translate over the decades. The books that we moms loved as girls don’t refer to iPhones and Snapchat. Can today’s hyper-connected kids really understand the alarm of a girl who must actually search for a missing friend rather than just texting to pin down her exact location? My own pre-teen daughter passed on all of my beloved childhood favorites — even the “new” Nancy Drews seemed old to her.

To be sure, our kids will all have their own favorites that they’ll push on their own daughters someday. For now, though, we’ve put together a fun guide to bridging the generational girl-book divide. These essential retro-mom reads are paired with modern-day picks sure to help you relate to your growing, changing middle grade daughter. And maybe — just maybe — they’ll help her to discover and understand those classic books that made you you.

  • If you were a fan of Piers Anthony...

  • Xanth series

    by Piers Anthony

    Author Piers Anthony made the world of sci-fi addictive for me. Anthony’s 41-book series focused on the world of Xanth, where people sport unique magical abilities; toss in a bit of mythology, some quests, odd creatures, and grown-up conspiracies, and the result was out-of-this-world reading adventures. Today’s reigning king of mythological adventure is Percy Jackson. But other present-day fantasy masters include Kate O’Hearn, who pens the Pegasus series, and Polly Shulman, who offers up the fantastic Wells Bequest and Poe Estate. For younger readers, there is nothing as good as the high-volume BeastQuest series.

  • If you were a fan of The Babysitter's Club...

  • The Babysitter's Club

    by Ann M. Martin

    Then there was The Baby-Sitters Club series, which appeared in 1986. How else was a middle school girl going to make money back in the 1980s? This passionately pro-smart-girl, easy-to-love series featured four entrepreneurial friends from Connecticut — Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia, and Stacey. But today’s middle school readers are far more likely to grab a book from The Cupcake Diaries series, where Katie Brown’s best friend is invited to join the PGC (Popular Girls Club) and Katie, left out, starts a club based on a love of … cupcakes.

Which books did you binge on when you were a kid? Have you been able to get your children to read them too?