Sisters have been on my mind a lot lately. Maybe it’s because last autumn a certain Disney movie came out that highlighted the power of sisterhood, or maybe it is because I lost one of my own sisters earlier last year when she passed away from complications due to a lifelong illness. Whatever the reason, I think sisters, and the bonds they share, should be celebrated.
So, in memory of my own departed sister, and in honor of sisters everywhere, please allow me to share a list of MG books about sisters, and the joy–and sometimes pain–of sisterhood. All summaries are provided by Indiebound unless otherwise noted.
Some Classic Titles:
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Summary from Amazon: Little Women is one of the best loved books of all time. Lovely Meg, talented Jo, frail Beth, spoiled Amy: these are hard lessons of poverty and of growing up in New England during the Civil War. Through their dreams, plays, pranks, letters, illnesses, and courtships, women of all ages have become a part of this remarkable family and have felt the deep sadness when Meg leaves the circle of sisters to be married at the end of Part I. Part II, chronicles Meg’s joys and mishaps as a young wife and mother, Jo’s struggle to become a writer, Beth’s tragedy, and Amy’s artistic pursuits and unexpected romance. Based on Louise May Alcott’s childhood, this lively portrait of nineteenth-century family life possesses a lasting vitality that has endeared it to generations of readers.
All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
Summary: Meet the All-of-a-Kind Family — Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte, and Gertie — who live with their parents in New York City at the turn of the century.
Together they share adventures that find them searching for hidden buttons while dusting Mama’s front parlor and visiting with the peddlers in Papa’s shop on rainy days. The girls enjoy doing everything together, especially when it involves holidays and surprises.
But no one could have prepared them for the biggest surprise of all!
Little House in the Big Woods (and the rest of the Little House on the Prairie series) by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Summary from Amazon: Little House in the Big Woods is the first book in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s treasured Little House series, which was based on her life growing up as an American pioneer. This edition features Garth Williams’ interior art in vibrant full color.
Told from four-year-old Laura’s point of view, this story begins in 1871 in a little log cabin on the edge of the Big Woods of Wisconsin. Laura lives in the little house with her Pa, her Ma, her sisters Mary and Carrie, and their trusty dog, Jack.
Pioneer life is sometimes hard for the family, since they must grow or catch all their own food as they get ready for the cold winter. But it is also exciting as Laura and her family celebrate Christmas with homemade toys and treats, do the spring planting, bring in the harvest, and make their first trip into town. And every night they are safe and warm in their little house, with the happy sound of Pa’s fiddle sending Laura and her sisters off to sleep.
And so begins Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved story of a pioneer girl and her family. The nine Little House books have been cherished by generations of readers as both a unique glimpse into America’s frontier history and a heartwarming, unforgettable story.
Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary
What’s Ramona up to?
Big sister Beezus Quimby tries to be patient with her four-year-old little sister, Ramona, but it isn’t easy, not when Ramona powders her nose with marshmallows and invites her nursery school class to a party without telling her family. Sometimes Beezus doesn’t like Ramona, but the girls are sisters and that means they will always love each other—just not every single minute.
Titles From Our Own Mixed-Up Authors and Alumni:
Flutter: The Story of Four Sisters and One Incredible Journey by Erin Moulton
Summary from Amazon: Big things are about to happen at Maple’s house. Mama’s going to have a baby, which means now there will be four Rittle sisters instead of just three. But when baby Lily is born too early and can’t come home from the hospital, Maple knows it’s up to her to save her sister. So she and sister Dawn, armed with a map and some leftover dinner, head off down a river and up a mountain to find the Wise Woman, who guards a pool with miraculous powers. But the dangers Maple and Dawn encounter on their journey make them realize a thing or two about miracles–and about each other.
Just Another Day in My Insanely Real Life by Barbara Dee
Summary: Twelve-year-old Cassie has a lot to cope with when her father moves “out of the picture.” Her mom’s constantly working overtime, her teenage sister’s going AWOL, and her little brother seriously needs attention. It’s up to Cassie to prevent total chaos at home — or so she thinks.
She can’t control everything, though. At school Cassie’s two “best” friends are turning nasty, and a cute boy is sending mixed signals. And then there’s Mr. Mullaney — the weirdest, hardest English teacher in the seventh grade — who hates everything she does. Since Mr. Mullaney isn’t even reading her brilliant work, Cassie starts submitting journal entries like “A Virtual Tour of My Insanely Messy Desk.” But her sassy humor isn’t winning her any friends or helping her ailing grades. What’s a girl to do when life gets totally insane?
What Happened On Fox Street by Tricia Springstubb
Summary: Fox Street was a dead end. In Mo Wren’s opinion, this was only one of many wonderful, distinguishing things about it.
Mo lives on Fox Street with her dad and little sister, the Wild Child. Their house is in the middle of the block—right where a heart would be, if the street were a person. Fox Street has everything: a piano player, a fix-it man, the city’s best burrito makers, a woman who cuts Mo’s hair just right, not to mention a certain boy who wants to teach her how to skateboard. There’s even a mean, spooky old lady, if ringing doorbells and running away, or leaving dead mice in mailboxes, is your idea of fun. Summers are Mo’s favorite time, because her best friend, Mercedes, comes to stay.
Most important, though, Fox Street is where all Mo’s memories of her mother live. The idea of anything changing on Fox Street is unimaginable—until it isn’t.
This is the story of one unforgettable summer—a summer of alarming letters, mysterious errands, and surprising revelations—and how a tuft of bright red fur gives Mo the courage she needs.
The Map of Me by Tami Lewis Brown
Summary: The note Momma left on the fridge says only: “I HAVE TO GO.” But go where? Twelve-year-old Margie is convinced that Momma’s gone to the Rooster Romp at the International Poultry Hall of Fame, in search of additions to her precious flock of chicken memorabilia. And it’s up to Margie to bring her home. So she commandeers her daddy’s Faithful Ford, kidnaps her nine-year-old sister, Peep, and takes to the open road.
As she navigates the back roads of Kentucky with smarty-pants Peep criticizing her every move, Margie also travels along the highways and byways of her heart, mapping a course to help understand Momma—and herself.
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
Summary: Eleven-year-old Delphine has it together. Even though her mother, Cecile, abandoned her and her younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, seven years ago. Even though her father and Big Ma will send them from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to stay with Cecile for the summer. And even though Delphine will have to take care of her sisters, as usual, and learn the truth about the missing pieces of the past.
When the girls arrive in Oakland in the summer of 1968, Cecile wants nothing to do with them. She makes them eat Chinese takeout dinners, forbids them to enter her kitchen, and never explains the strange visitors with Afros and black berets who knock on her door. Rather than spend time with them, Cecile sends Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern to a summer camp sponsored by a revolutionary group, the Black Panthers, where the girls get a radical new education.
Set during one of the most tumultuous years in recent American history, one crazy summer is the heartbreaking, funny tale of three girls in search of the mother who abandoned them—an unforgettable story told by a distinguished author of books for children and teens, Rita Williams-Garcia.
Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata
Summary: kira-kira (kee’ ra kee’ ra): glittering; shining
Glittering. That’s how Katie Takeshima’s sister, Lynn, makes everything seem. The sky is kira-kira because its color is deep but see-through at the same time. The sea is kira-kira for the same reason. And so are people’s eyes. When Katie and her family move from a Japanese community in Iowa to the Deep South of Georgia, it’s Lynn who explains to her why people stop them on the street to stare. And it’s Lynn who, with her special way of viewing the world, teaches Katie to look beyond tomorrow. But when Lynn becomes desperately ill, and the whole family begins to fall apart, it is up to Katie to find a way to remind them all that there is always something glittering — kira-kira — in the future.
Luminous in its persistence of love and hope, Kira-Kira is Cynthia Kadohata’s stunning debut in middle-grade fiction.
The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy (and the rest of the Penderwicks series) by Jeanne Birdsall
Summary: This summer the Penderwick sisters have a wonderful surprise: a holiday on the grounds of a beautiful estate called Arundel. Soon they are busy discovering the summertime magic of Arundel’s sprawling gardens, treasure-filled attic, tame rabbits, and the cook who makes the best gingerbread in Massachusetts. But the best discovery of all is Jeffrey Tifton, son of Arundel’s owner, who quickly proves to be the perfect companion for their adventures.
The icy-hearted Mrs. Tifton is not as pleased with the Penderwicks as Jeffrey is, though, and warns the new friends to stay out of trouble. Which, of course, they will—won’t they? One thing’s for sure: it will be a summer the Penderwicks will never forget.
Here Where the Sunbeams are Green by Helen Phillips
Summary: Mad’s dad is the Bird Guy. He’ll go anywhere to study birds. So when he’s offered a bird-tracking job in Central America, his bags are packed and he’s jungle bound.
But going bird tracking in the jungle and disappearing completely are very different things, and when the Very Strange and Incredibly Creepy Letter arrives, Mad can’t shake the terrible feeling that her father is in trouble.
Roo, Mad’s younger sister, is convinced that the letter is a coded message. And their mom is worried, because the letter doesn’t sound like Dad at all. But Mad is sure it’s a sign of something sinister.
The only way to get to the bottom of it is to go to Lava Bird Volcano and find their dad themselves. Though they never could have imagined what they’re about to discover.
From new talent Helen Phillips, Here Where the Sunbeams Are Green is the story of what can happen when two sisters make some unusual friends, trust in each other, and bravely face a jungle of trouble all to bring their family back together.
The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine
Summary: A kingdom beset by monsters . ..
A disease that weakens and destroys . . .
An epic poem and a hero of long ago . . .
A story of danger and desperation.
The Two Princesses of Bamarre couldn’t be more different. Princess Addie is fearful and shy. Her deepest wish is for safety. Princess Meryl is bold and brave. Her deepest wish is to save the kingdom of Bamarre. They are sisters, and they mean the world to each other.
Then disaster strikes, and Addie — terrified and unprepared — sets out on a perilous quest. In her path are monsters of Bamarre: ogres, specters, gryphons, and dragons. Addie must battle them, but time is running out, and the sister’s lives — and Barmarre’s fate — hang in the balance.
Ten Rules for Living with My Sister by Ann. M. Martin
Summary: Pearl’s older sister, Lexie, is in eighth grade and has a boyfriend. Pearl’s only boyfriend is the family’s crabby cat, Bitey. Lexie is popular. Pearl is not, mostly because of the embarrassing Three Bad Things that happened in school and which no one has forgotten. Everything Pearl does seems to drive Lexie crazy. On top of that, their grandfather is moving into their family’s apartment and taking over Pearl’s room. How will these sisters share without driving each other crazy?
Pearl is good at making lists of rules, but sometimes, life doesn’t play by the rules!
Sisters by Raina Telgemeier
Summary from Amazon: Raina can’t wait to be a big sister. But once Amara is born, things aren’t quite how she expected them to be. Amara is cute, but she’s also a cranky, grouchy baby, and mostly prefers to play by herself. Their relationship doesn’t improve much over the years, but when a baby brother enters the picture and later, something doesn’t seem right between their parents, they realize they must figure out how to get along. They are sisters, after all.
Raina uses her signature humor and charm in both present-day narrative and perfectly placed flashbacks to tell the story of her relationship with her sister, which unfolds during the course of a road trip from their home in San Francisco to a family reunion in Colorado.
West of the Moon by Margi Preus
Summary: After being separated from her sister and sold to a cruel goat farmer, Astri makes a daring escape. She quickly retrieves her little sister, and, armed with a troll treasure, a book of spells and curses, and a possibly magic hairbrush, they set off for America. With a mysterious companion in tow and the malevolent “goatman” in pursuit, the girls head over the Norwegian mountains, through field and forest, and in and out of folktales and dreams as they steadily make their way east of the sun and west of the moon.
And For the Younger Crowd:
Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same! (and the rest of the Ling and Ting Series) by Grace Lin
Summary: Ling and Ting are twins. They have the same brown eyes. They have the same pink cheeks. They have the same happy smiles.
Ling and Ting are two adorable identical twins, and they stick together, whether they are making dumplings, getting their hair cut, or practicing magic tricks. But looks are deceiving–people can be very different, even if they look exactly the same.
If you know of other MG titles with sisters, please share them with us in the comments below.
Elissa Cruz has two sisters: one on earth and one in heaven. She is the mother of two sisters, too (and the mother of three brothers). She writes middle-grade fiction and is the Assistant Regional Advisor for the Utah/Southern Idaho region of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). When she isn’t writing, you can usually find her talking on the phone with her sister (the one still living, that is).