Newsprints by Ru Xu features girls as newsboys, strained race relations and a serious look at robot civil rights in what I would describe as a steampunk variation on Annie! The story is beautifully drawn with complicated gender roles and a somewhat mysterious locale and setting.
The main character, Blue, is an orphan who disguises herself as a newsboy. She works for the Bugle, the only newspaper in her town that tells the truth. Blue lives in a house run by the Bugle with a group of other orphaned newsboys and it's imperative that her true identity remain a secret. It's not clear what's happened to her family or the town, but the area has been ravaged by war and is currently occupied by a military base.
Blue makes friends with an eccentric inventor and an unusual boy named Crow (Warning: if you don't like crows, beware. They are prevalent!). Both friendships are tested as the war heats up and the quest for honest journalism collides with a young journalist's need to make a name for himself. Do you protect the ones you love or do you tell the whole truth, nothing but the truth? Is all fair in love and war? It's a tough call, but I found the resolution satisfying.
I appreciate the girl power message of Newsprints. The female role models are outstanding. The war and fighting among peoples was a little confusing to me but didn't slow the plot down. Because who doesn't love an eccentric inventor and a band of ragtag children helping the war effort? There's also an underlying story of acceptance and choosing who you want to be that's important for kids of all ages to read and think about.