Great Summer Reads

Summer is a time to kick back and enjoy yourself. For readers who may have a little more unstructured time during the summer, this is the time to pursue books that you choose to read based on your interests rather than the “must reads” that may be dictated by your studies or your work. Here are books that I highly recommend for summer readers for kids and grown-ups of all ages!

SLUGGERS Series (ages 6-9)
For early readers who love baseball, I suggest the Sluggers series. With its wonderful illustrations by Loren Long (author/illustrator of the New York Times best-selling picture book, Otis) and a great story line, Sluggers #1: Magic in the Outfield by Phil Bildner is a perfect series for young baseball fans who are early readers or who love being read to (dads and moms will like the series too). Set in 1899, three Payne family siblings (Griffin, Ruby and Graham) have just lost their father, who had been a member of the Travelin’ Nine, an itinerant professional baseball team. The team has decided to barnstorm across the US in order to help the Payne family pay off their debts. The book uses, and defines, a number of baseball terms, and there is a good deal of game play for baseball aficionados. But the book also includes elements of mystery and magic. In the first chapter, Grif’s uncle warns him that, “Great danger lies ahead, “and urges him to, “see the things that others don’t.” Over the course of the book, it becomes clear that a baseball from their father has magical powers that the children don’t yet know how to use. This series is also a great series to read aloud to sports fans who are not quite ready to read chapter books. Simon & Schuster.
JUNONIA (ages 8-11)
Of course, there’s no better beach book than a book about the beach and Junonia by award winning author and illustrator Kevin Henkes fits the bill! Junonia is a quirky coming of age story about Alice Rice, who is nine going on ten. During her annual trip with her mother and father to Sanibel Island in Florida, Alice realizes that many things in her life are changing—she loves the beach house where her family has always stayed and the other vacationers who return to Sanibel Island each year at the same time have formed a special summer community. This year, however, Alice is disappointed that some of her summer friends did not come, and she is upset with the new people that have taken their places. Alice spends her birthday looking for a junonia—a rare and beautiful seashell—on the beach. Although her search is unsuccessful, her neighbor reminds her that the important thing is to enjoy the hunt. Later, her party is disrupted by six-year old Mallory, a newcomer who steals some of Alice’s spotlight (and perhaps one of her birthday presents as well), and Alice can feel “the beginnings of a growl uncurl deep within her.” Alice learns that things don’t always turn out the way she wants them to, but her understanding of people deepens as she experiences frustration as well as moments of joy. Henkes’ words and illustrations are magical, and as rare and beautiful as the junonia Alice is searching for. A good book for ages 8 to 11. HarperCollins
YOUNG FREDLE (ages 7-10 or read-aloud)
If you have a young reader who has enjoyed the Humphrey the Hamster series, or someone who likes books about adventure or animals, then Young Fredle by Newbery Award winning author, Cynthia Voigt may be a perfect summer read. Fredle is a house mouse, and house mice are, above all else, not adventurous. They eat, play and sleep, and when they wake up they eat, play and sleep again. Fredle’s life would have been the same were it not for a peppermint patty. Without giving away the story, I can assure you that Fredle’s life changed forever after his encounter with the peppermint patty. Fredle winds up outside and has numerous adventures involving cats, dogs (I love the dogs!), raccoons and more! He learns to love the stars, the sun and the flowers, and most important of all, he realizes that he can be more than an ordinary house mouse. In addition to being a fun read for ages 7 to 10, it would also be a great read aloud—the pen and ink illustrations by Louise Yates (author and illustrator of Dog Loves Books) are extraordinarily cute. This book will definitely inspire young readers to get out of the house and enjoy the great outdoors! Random House
If you know a reader who loved The Strange Case of Origami Yoda and can’t wait for the sequel, Darth Paper this Fall, you may want to suggest Horton Halfpott or The Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor by Tom Angleberger, the author of the bestselling The Strange Case of Origami Yoda.Horton is a young boy who works in the kitchen of Smugwick Manor, palatial home of the Luggertuck family. The story begins when M’Lady Luggertuck, a dour and stingy mistress, does something unspeakable—she loosens her corset! As news of the loosening spreads through the manor, the servants start to believe that they might get away with breaking other rules as well: “Footmen felt they might slouch a little. Maids felt they might scrub less thoroughly.” The situation deteriorates further when someone—or something—starts stealing the few remaining heirlooms that make up the Luggertucks’ dwindling fortune. If you like rooting for the underdog, you will love cheering for Horton. This book is perfect for young readers who enjoy mysteries—or who just like to read a funny story. If your reader enjoyed the How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell, he or she will love Horton Halpott! Ages 8 to 12. Amulet Books.
The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, author of the international phenomenon, The Shadow of the Wind, is a great beach book about a beach mystery that is perfect for ages 12 and up.The paperback version of the award-winning Prince of Mist, his first young adult novel, was just released in April. If you enjoy a good thriller, then this book is perfect for you. The story is set in 1943, when 13-year old Max’s family moves from the city to a small town on the coast in order to get away from the war. The house that they move into, however, has a story of its own—it was vacated by it owners after their seven-year old son drowned in the ocean. From the very first day that they arrive, strange things happen. Max and his older sister Alicia are left alone in the new house after his younger sister hurls herself down the stairs and her parents take her to the hospital. Max discovers a cemetery near the house that is filled with statues of circus performers, who seem to change position as the days go by. Max and Alicia spend their days with a local boy, Roland, who lives with his adopted grandfather in a lighthouse on the beach. After Roland takes Max and Alicia diving at the site of a sunken ship, Roland’s grandfather tells them he was the sole survivor of the ship, which sank during a severe storm. Even as he tells the story, however, it is clear that Max’s grandfather is not telling them everything. As they learn more about the shipwreck, they also learn about the chilling story of a legendary figure called The Prince of Mist. This is a good read for young adults who enjoy thrillers, science fiction, and mysteries. Ages 12+. Hachette.
BEAUTY QUEENS (ages 14+)
Despite the cover art (the torso of a young woman with a pageant sash over one shoulder and a round of ammunition over the other), Beauty Queens by N.Y. Times bestselling author Libba Bray (Going Bovine) is not a celebration of beauty pageants or our obsession with feminine beauty. Instead, it is a wry (and at times hilarious) social commentary. Fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream Pageant, sponsored by a ubiquitous international business operation known as the Corporation, are on a plane to the beach when their plane crashes on a desert island, leaving 14 survivors stranded, with little food, water, or other supplies. Unknown to the survivors, the Corporation decides that it is in its best interests to let the survivors die, rather than to rescue them (there is a subplot involving corporate espionage). Unlike Lord of the Flies, to which Bray refers, these young women work together to make the best of a bad, in fact very, very bad, situation. The novel flashes back and forth between the island, the Corporation and the press. Ladybird Hope, a former Teen Dream queen and a current candidate for President of the United States (who, let’s admit it, bears a striking resemblance to a recent ex-beauty queen who ran for Vice President), is definitely up to no good. Her televised interviews are remarkably clever social commentary; unfortunately, they sound much like what we actually hear on television these days. This book is both hilarious and thought provoking. Parents should be aware that there are sex scenes in the book (did I mention that the survivors meet up with a group of bodacious pirates?). As a result, I recommend this book for young adults, 14+, as well as for grown-ups who love good YA novels! Scholastic
I took a copy of Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende with me on a recent trip and I was able to completely lose myself in this novel about Zarite— the daughter of an African woman and a white sailor who raped her—born into slavery on the island of Saint-Domingue (Haiti), the richest French colony in the New World in 1770 because of the immense profits from the sugar and coffee plantations that was based on a system of slaveholding even worse than that in the United States at the same time. As is always the case with Allende’s novels, I felt I learned a great deal about a place (Haiti) and time (the late 18th century) that I knew very little about while reading a compelling story about a strong woman who was able to rise above her circumstances. Because Zarite’s owner flees Haiti for French-controlled New Orleans, Louisiana, during the slave uprising in Saint-Domingue, I also learned a great deal about New Orleans prior to the agreement between Thomas Jefferson and Napoleon Bonaparte that resulted in the Loiuisiana Purchase. If you love historical fiction, this book is perfect for you! Harper.
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by first time author, Helen Simonson, is a small jewel. Set in a bucolic English village, this book deals with universal issues, including sibling rivalry, prejudice and discrimination, religious extremism, grief, and many different facets of love. I laughed and I cried as I read this book, and I grieved because it was over far too soon. The story is complicated: the story is simple. If you are a fan of English novels, especially the comedy of manners genre, you will love this novel. If you enjoy a great romance novel, you will love this book. I highly recommend Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand! Random House.
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