Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Guest Post From Kamilla Benko!

Today I'm happy to present a guest post from Kamilla Benko! Ms. Benko is the author of The Unicorn Quest. Here's the guest post! :)

Top Five Favorite Literary Sisters in Middle Grade

When I learned I was going to be a big sister, I burst into tears. I’m not proud of it! But in my defense, I was only six years old, and not only that, my parents had led with, “We have a surprise for you…”

Surprise, to my first grader mind translated to present which translated to that Belle Barbie doll I’d seen at the Disney store. When my parents realized their mistake, they were quick to assure me that one day I would be able to play with the baby’s hair, but still….I wasn’t fooled. My other friends had baby siblings, and I knew from experience that they cried a lot, smelled a lot, and took up way too much attention. And I wasn’t wrong. When she was born, Gabriella was all those things—plus annoying and cute and naughty and sweet. 

But fast forward twenty-ish years to today, and Gabriella is now a junior in college, studying plants in Costa Ricca, and I’m an author living in Manhattan, mostly because of Gabriella, because my debut novel, The Unicorn Quest, is based on stories I used to make up for her when I when we were kids. In your middle grade years, no one affects you more than a sibling. They’re always there, a constant pain and a constant friend. Below are five of my top favorite literary sisters, who all showcase the greatest sufferings and greatest joys of growing up with a sister. 

5. Beezus and Ramona Quimby

While there are many books that star the Quimby family, my favorite is Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary. In this book, older sister Beezus holds a terrible secret: she doesn’t like her little sister Ramona, not one little bit. And this horrible realization haunts her throughout the course of the novel, especially when she sees how close her mother and aunt are. But oh! how Beezus tries to like her little sister, even when Ramona ruins her birthday cake. It’s a conundrum I think every sibling faces at one point or another, and the author’s nonjudgmental handling of the topic will bring much joy and relief to young readers searching for their own answers. 

4. Julia, Betsy, and Margaret Ray 

In The Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace, it’s the middle child who gets to shine! Betsy Ray, loosely based on the author, is a middle child who dreams of becoming an author. She looks up to her older sister, Julia, who has aspirations of becoming an opera singer, but it’s the relationship between Betsy and the youngest Ray daughter, Margaret, that has always been dear to my heart. Because Betsy, even though she’s older than Margaret, admires her quiet little sister’s, confidence which just goes to prove that the oldest doesn’t always have to lead. 

3. Princess Addie and Princess Meryl of Bamarre 

Though lesser known than the author’s Newberry Honor book, Ella Enchanted, Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine stands out in sibling literature. Younger sister Addie is as cowardly as her older sister Meryl is brave, but when Meryl contracts a deadly disease, it’s Addie who must pick up a sword and quest for a favor from the fairies. I adore this sister relationship, because even though the sisters are as opposite as can be, they unknowingly inspire one another with their differences. 

2. Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty Penderwick 

Empathy and sisterhood go hand-in-hand in Jeanne Birdsall’s The Penderwicks, the first in a series about four sisters. Unlike the other books in this list, The Penderwicks contains the perspective of all four sisters: Rosalind who is grappling with a crush, the moody Skye, bookworm Jane, and baby and animal lover Batty. Each sister has their own separate journey, but their threads are utterly entangled—just as siblings are in real life. 

1. Isabel, Marisol, Alma, Belén, and Leonora Logroño

In Anna Meriano’s debut novel, Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble, Leo—the youngest of five sisters—discovers that her family has been keeping a secret from her: that they are actually a family of brujas, witches of Mexican descent. This book so nicely captures the true relevance of why it is so special to have a sister. For any other friendship, you have to explain some of your background—what your parents are like, the traditions of your family, your entire history—but with a sister, you don’t have to explain. They know, because they’ve lived through it, too. And it is the greatest gift in the world to be understood.

I haven't read all these books, but I now want to add more of them to my TBR list! Thank you Ms. Benko for participating in this event! :)

Author bioKamilla Benko spent most of her childhood climbing into wardrobes, trying to step through mirrors, and plotting to run away to an art museum. Now, she visits other worlds as a children's book editor and a blogger for Barnes & Noble Kids. Originally from Indiana, she currently lives in New York with her bookshelves, teapot, and hiking boots. Her debut novel, The Unicorn Quest, is a feminist take on The Chronicles of Narnia, and follows two sisters from the real world as they quest through a land of magic, monsters, and unicorns. Visit Kamilla on Twitter or at kamillabenko.com.  

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