Technically, this is not speculative fiction, but I decided to make a rare exception in this case. As a former childcare teacher and children’s pastor, Holly Howard extends her passion for helping young girls by writing a book that addresses some of the issues they face on a daily basis.
Jan may have a large and loving family, but it comes with a price; they don’t have a lot of money to go around. Jan is forced to wear less than ideal clothing, which paints a target on her. Three snobby rich girls, who attend the same 5th grade class as Jan, make it their personal hobby to find ways to put her down.
When a new girl shows up, Jan is surprised to find that she (Mindy) is even less fortunate. Not only are her clothes ratty, but she smells like a skunk. It doesn’t take long for the bullies to give Mindy the nickname Skunk Girl. Pretending to befriend her, they use Mindy as leverage to make Jan feel even worse.
When Jan learns that the bullies have a weakness, she finds the courage to challenge the leader to a battle of the wits. In doing so, Jan grows closer to Mindy and realizes just how good her own life really is.
The characters are well constructed and I enjoyed the internal monolog of Jan (the protagonist), particularly when she was addressing her invisible diary. There were times I could feel the same sense of dread that I experienced back in my own childhood days.
Things to consider:
Skunk Girl is a good story for young girls, particularly ones that deal with bullies. Written by a Christian author, there is a message of salvation worked into the plot. No foul language or sexual situations. Especially good for ages 9-12.
Opportunities for discussion:
A good item of discussion comes from Jan’s refusal to be mean to the ones being mean to her. She exercises the commandment, Luke 6:31, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” In the process, she learns how to become stronger, and shows a good turn to someone who had always put her down. Ask your children if they have ever experienced a time when they returned evil with evil. If they say yes, ask them how it made them feel in the end, then suggest they try an alternative path the next time, as Jan did.