Wonder, R J Palacio, chapter book on special needs, chapter book that teaches compassion

Summer Reading List: New Books for Kids and Book Reviews for B&N

Summer Reading List for Kids

I am really excited! I am on a “try out” (much like my girls’ stressful soccer tryouts) to write children’s book reviews for my favorite bookstore, Barnes and Noble! Our missions are aligned, we both want to get kids reading this summer and — dare I say it — even excited to read! B&N (’cause now we’re on a shortened name basis) is just starting to pull together reviews for KidLit (think iTunes genius suggestions) and they will need a steady supply of *good* reviews to match the books customers buy on their Nooks.

This is my Barnes and Nobles “Voice” since their customers has no idea who I am. What do you think? I’m trying to help parents place the right book in the hands of their child. They want short reviews like these and these. I am a bit more of a crazy list maker. But since there aren’t reviews for children’s books yet, I thought I’d write them as if I am suggesting books to a parent in real life. Which is to say, the parent that I’m trying to sell a book on is less interested in a plot summary than in How This Book Relates to My Child.

I’d love your feedback. Thank you!


New Books for Kids

Realistic Fiction for Grades 4 through 7 that Uplifts and Inspires

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

After being home schooled all his life, 10-year-old August Pullman is starting 5th grade at a private middle school in his Upper East Side neighborhood. He wonders if anyone will realize that he’s just a normal kid underneath his disfigured face, an affliction he was born with. His middle school classmates are challenged to “be kinder than is necessary” but can they? Will they? In this uplifting story, it turns out that everyone carries some kind of disfigurement that feels isolating, even though most can’t be seen. We cheer for Auggie, as we are moved to tears, that kindness can indeed change the world. Warning: this chapter book teaches compassion. [chapter book, ages 9 and up]

Beyond Lucky by Sarah Aronson

Now that my girls are reaching the age that soccer tryouts mean making a cut to get on the team, I find that I want to hand this book to them even though the lead character, twelve-year-old Ari Fish, is a boy because they will find comfort in knowing that they are not alone in their anxieties. Ari wishes he was more like Mac, his happy-go-lucky best friend whose confidence on the field ensures his place on the team. But when Ari gets a rare baseball card of his hometown hero, their luck swaps. Suddenly Ari is king of the soccer field, and Mac can’t seem to score. Is it the card? And when the card goes missing, will Ari’s confidence and playing ability disappear too? This coming of age story is perfect for any kid, ages 9 and up, who has ever worried about making the cut. [chapter book, ages 9 and up]

One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Most foster kids are not as lucky as 12-year-old Carley who is placed with the Murphy family, their first foster child. Not all of the Murphy family members thinks this is a good idea but Mrs. Murphy has a secret and is on a mission to show Carley that she is worthy of love.  At first Carley uses sarcasm and humor to keep them at bay, but Mrs. Murphy’s love overcomes all. Now Carley’s mother wants her back and Carley is torn. Will this short stay with the Murphy family be enough to show Carley that she can choose a different life than her mother’s? [chapter book, ages 10 and up]

A Million Miles from Boston by Karen Day

I don’t know any kid who isn’t nervous about the transition to middle school, especially if it’s a new school, and 12-year-old Lucy Gallagher is no different. She can’t wait for 5th grade to end so that she can go to her family’s summer-house in Maine and is unpleasantly surprised to find the most annoying boy in her class, Ian, lives next door. It gets worse when she learns that her dad’s new girlfriend Julia will also visit. Lucy is still reeling from her mother’s death and she just wants things to stay the same. Dealing with change and figuring out friendships are two touchstones that define middle school for girls. This chapter book, perfect for incoming sixth grade girls, will make the transition smoother. [chapter books, ages 9 and up]

Dumpling Days by Grace Lin

Pacy from Year of the Dog and Year of the Rat is back and this summer her family will visit the relatives for a month in Taiwan. Grace Lin’s books have cross over appeal in that non Asian American kids also are huge fans, especially after her Newbery Honor book, Where The Mountain Meets the MoonDumpling Days gives the reader a multi-cultural armchair ride to Chinese culture while also exploring the nuances of being Asian American in Asia. We cheer for Pacy again as she tries Chinese food beyond her beloved dumplings, and competes in a hotly contested art competition. A child, ages 9 and up, with a passport or desiring a passport will be transported instantly overseas on a gentle adventure. [chapter book, ages 8 and up]


Riveting Action Adventure That Teaches

The Case of the Deadly Desperados by Caroline Lawrence

Twice orphaned 12-year-old P. K. (Pinky) Pinkerton is trying to outrun outlaws Whittlin’ Walt and his gang of Desperados who will stop at nothing to get the deed to land  containing silver mines that his ma left him. Set in the Wild West of 1862, this chapter book has a cartoon-like quality that marries fast paced adventure with an optimism that all will be right in the end. It’s a subtle point, but Pinky seems to be autistic and finds it challenging to read people’s true intentions. In a Boom Town full of shady characters, will this be Pinky’s undoing? I’d hand this book to a boy, ages 9 and up, who likes cowboys and indians. [chapter book, ages 8 and up]

Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble by D. Robert Pease

12-year-old Noah Zarc, a paraplegic and expert spaceship pilot, must travel back in time in order save the animals destroyed during Earth’s Apocalypse. Now newly rehabilitated to support life, Earth is going to be turned into an animal-only habitat, and Noah’s ship is like the Biblical ark with thousands of animals on board. But someone is trying to stop him and his family from succeeding. His mother gets kidnapped, his father is stranded somewhere on Earth during the Ice Age, and now the fate of all Earth’s animals are in Noah’s hands. [chapter books, ages 10 and up]

Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy 

Imagine if the princes in the fairy tales had names and personalities both flattering and unflattering. And the princesses — Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Snow White — reminded you of girls in Middle School ranging from Mean Girl to super sporty. Now, have the princes and princesses unite against an evil witch that threatens all their respective kingdoms. Add in the comedic antics of a Shrek movie and you get this hilarious pageturner that modernizes the fairy tales of yore. This is sure to be an animated movie but don’t expect Disney to option the book. [chapter book, ages 8 and up]


Graphic Novels That Make You Rethink Graphic Novels

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri 

Based on a true story of a young gang member in Southside Chicago, this gritty graphic novel reveals the tough realities of living in an inner city and how difficult it is to survive a world where parents are in and out of jail or on drugs. 11-year-old Roger knows this reality; his older brother is in the same gang as Robert “Yummy” Sandifer and he seeks to find out what really happened that fateful night. More than a cautionary tale, this graphic novel reveals a world that most suburban kids don’t even know exist. [graphic novel, ages 14 and up]

Stickman Odyssey, Book 2: The Wrath of Zozimos by Christopher Ford

The artwork is decidedly cartoon stick figure basic and this kind of illustration screams animation rather than graphic novel. In fact, Christopher Ford has created animated shorts of his Stickman series here. He has cleverly turned Greek mythology into a graphic novel that will appeal to any boys who like cartoons like Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time. But unlike cartoons, the reader will actually get exposure to the barely disguised Greek Epic poem, the Odyssey. [graphic novel, ages 8 and up]

To purchase out any of these books at Barnes and Noble, please click on image of book.

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Vanita

    Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom sounds great. What kid doesn’t like Shrek?
    Vanita recently posted…Tuesday’s Tear Sheet: New WordPress Design projectsMy Profile

  2. Artchoo

    Well, I love your review style. These are concise and helped me weed out which books I wanted to grab for my kids. FYI: your small book images aren’t pinnable, just in case that’s an issue for you. I’m so excited you are doing this with B&N! (I took the liberty of shortening their name, too. I hope I didn’t overstep my bounds, here.)
    Artchoo recently posted…Kids Learn Installation Art- Andy GoldsworthyMy Profile

    • Hi Artchoo,
      Thanks so much for your feedback and kind words! Hmm…will have to look into pinnable images. And please, be my guest, do refer to them as B&N. I hope they use some of my reviews! Fingers crossed!

  3. WOW! First, let me say congratulations! What an awesome job! Second, this is it exactly! You want something short and quick and gets to the heart of the book. Great work!
    The Brain Lair recently posted…Summer Throwdown Round 1 RaffleMy Profile

    • Hi The Brain Lair,
      Thanks so much for your feedback. And here’s hoping that they like them and use a few! I’ll write more in this style based on all your feedback which I TRULY APPRECIATE!! Thank you!

  4. Ann

    Congrats on the gig!!!!!

    Love you writing style, your reviews are concise yet rich and entertaining!!! The books sound good too ; )

    Is Wonder a true story?
    Ann recently posted…Summer CalendarMy Profile

  5. Josh

    Congratulations! Great reviews!

  6. Hey,

    I love your review style! And congrats on writing reviews for Barnes & Noble, what an awesome opportunity! Fingers crossed that they see it the same way 🙂

    Saoirse O’Mara recently posted…Comment on My Services by Saoirse O’MaraMy Profile

  7. By the way, my children’s book “Miro the Dragon” will be free for Kindle on June 29 and 30 if you’d like to check it out (hope linking to it here is okay): http://www.amazon.com/Miro-the-Dragon-ebook/dp/B0074JANOS/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1341703026&sr=1-1&keywords=miro+the+dragon
    Saoirse O’Mara recently posted…Comment on My Services by Saoirse O’MaraMy Profile

  8. Judy Houser

    Someone congratulated You on this new job–are you getting paid to write reviews or are they giving you free books? I thought Barnes and Noble was like Amazon and anyone could post a review. I do like your writing style.

    • Hi Judy,
      Barnes and Noble isn’t paying me and I actually get the books myself or from authors or publishers. 🙂 A labor of love, I guess. Thanks so much for your comment!

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