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 Noble “Voice” since their customers have no idea who I am. What do you think? I’m trying to help parents place the right book in the hands of their children. 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!
Realistic Fiction for Grades 4 through 7 that Uplifts and Inspires
After being homeschooled 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. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
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 the 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. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
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 think 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? [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
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, who 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. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
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 Moon. Dumpling 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. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
Riveting Action Adventure That Teaches
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 a fast-paced adventure with 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. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
12-year-old Noah Zarc, a paraplegic and expert spaceship pilot, must travel back in time in order to 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 is in Noah’s hands. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
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 page-turner that modernizes the fairy tales of yore. This is sure to be an animated movie but don’t expect Disney to option the book. [middle grade, 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 realize exists. [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 a 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 boy who likes 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]
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p.s. Related posts:
Starting Preschool or Kindergarten Reading Lists
By Entering Grade Reading Lists
Personal Recommendations from Kids Reading Lists
Best Read Aloud Children’s Books
Summer Reading Lists for All Ages Set During the Summer
More Summer Reading Lists
Children’s Books with Animals
Children’s Books to Learn About Different Cultures
Summer Reading Programs: Read for Free Books or Prizes
BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.