Reviews & Views: Warming up to summer reading

June 9, 2024

By Fiona Stevenson — Columnist

Summer is coming and for younger readers this means Summer Reading, a concept that can feel intimidating to them and to their caregivers, who worry several months away from school will plunge the household into illiteracy. 

It’s a good thing to plan ahead, especially for times to put devices away and read together. You might find that the memories of a shared book you both loved are some of the sweetest ones when children are older. 

The simplest way to tackle Summer Reading is to register for the Concord Free Public Library’s Summer Reading Program (with a dragon theme this year) to take advantage of the fun activities, prizes, and events available over the long break.

Get a big stack of books every time you go — and don’t worry if all the books aren’t read. 

Of course, ask your librarian or favorite bookstore person for their recommendations, but take your child and let them select for themselves. Promise you won’t question their choices. You’ll be so happy to see them reading!

If you know a child (or caregiver), who is struggling to start off the summer with some great reads, here are a few suggestions.

“Scorch, Hedgehog of Doom” by Cate Berry, illus. by Margherita Grasso (Page Street, ages 4-8) is the humorous tale of a classroom pet who longs to be fearsome but is ferociously cute instead. “On a Summer Night” by Deborah Hopkinton, illus. by Kenard Pak (Chronicle, ages 3-5) depicts the magic of being up at night, with chances of encounters with nature that don’t come during the day. 

“When Rosie Walks George” by Amy Hest, illus. by Taeen Yoo (Two Lions, ages 3-7) is a heart-tugging little story of the relationship between children and family pets, and the way creatures of different ages can help each other. “Summer is Here” by Renee Watson, illus. by Bea Jackson (Bloomsbury, ages 3-7) catalogs the joys of a summer day. “The Spaceman,” by Randy Cecil (Candlewick, ages 4-8) details the adventures of an alien visitor who discovers bugs, treats and dogs are some of the best things about life on earth.

“Two Together” by Brendan Wenzel (Chronicle Books, ages 3-5) is a rollicking tale of a cat and dog’s adventures, illustrated in Wenzel’s unique images. “The Yellow Bus” by Loren Long (Roaring Brook, ages 4-8) is already a candidate for a Caldecott Award, with its gorgeous illustrations depicting the history of a school bus in a simple yet profound message of enduring the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

Speaking of Shakespeare, keep your eye out for a British import, “A Midsummer Night’s Drama: A Book at Bedtime for Little Bards!” by Louie Stowell and Isobel Lundie (Little Tiger, ages 3-7) where a troupe of animals put on a play before Good Queen Bee in the Glade Theatre, and then have problems getting to sleep. This is a first in a “Shakesbearian” series introducing the playwright’s oeuvre to a captive audience as a bedtime story. Reading this is an easy way to build up that cultural literacy! 

For beginning readers, it’s all about series – there are so many fantastic early chapter choices, and if your reader locks onto a series, the rush of accomplishment as they work through each book is tangible. Rachel Ignotosfsky does a terrific non-fiction set called “What’s Inside a Caterpillar Cocoon, Bird’s Nest, etc.” (Crown Books, ages 4-8).

“All the Rocks We Love” by Lisa Varchol Perron and Taylor Perron, illus. By David Scheirer (x Penguin Workshop, ages 4-8) is a beginner’s guide to geology. I howled at “The Best Worst Camp Out Ever” by Joe Cepeda (Holiday House, ages 4-8) where a father-son outing goes happily all wrong.

“The Underdogs” series, by Kate and Jol Temple, illustrated by Shiloh Gordon (Razorbill, ages 5-10) is a hilarious series about dogs investigating crime. Graphic novels are a good way to get an enthusiastic response to reading — “Plain Jane and the Mermaid” by Vera Brosgol (First Second, ages 8-12) and “Always Anthony” by Terri Libenson (Balzer & Bray, ages 8-12) are good bets. The “History Comics” series is a terrific introduction to exciting episodes in our past and “The Roanoke Colony: America’s First Mystery” by Chris Schweizer (First Second, ages 8-12) offers some good talking points for meal time.

For older kids, there has to be a good plot to keep those pages turning. “Fowl Play” by Kristin O’Donnell Tubb (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegan, ages 8-12) is a middle grade novel where a girl and her parrot solve the mystery of her uncle’s death. “The Tenth Mistake of Hank Hooperman” by Gennifer Choldenko (Penguin Random, ages 8-12) is a gripping story of a heroic boy facing outsized challenges with a precarious family situation putting him and his toddler sister at risk.

The “York” trilogy by Laura Ruby, illustrated by Dave Stevenson (Harper Collins/Walden Pond, ages 10-4) follows three genius kids in a futuristic New York who must solve puzzles hidden throughout the city that lead to danger, riches, and the secrets of their own hearts.

The first is “York: The Shadow Cipher” — great stuff!

“The Parker Inheritance” by Varian Johnson (Scholastic, ages 8-12) is a complex sleuth story featuring kids figuring out a town’s historical, shameful secrets over a summer. An early Newbery Award contender is “The Night War” by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (Dial Books, ages 10 and up), a historical fiction account of World War II France and a brave girl struggling to do the right thing. Teenagers finding their family a little much over the long vacation can escape to the drama of “The Inheritance Games” series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (Little, Brown, ages 13 and up), and “Rise” by Freya Finch (Disney, ages 12 and up), where a fledgling Valkyrie must work with her older sisters try to save her mother and accept a half-giant as their new sister. Ragnarok is nigh!

Of course, you should not miss the Friends of the Concord Free Public Library’s upcoming annual Book Sale on Saturday, June 8, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the Main Library’s front lawn. It’s a wonderful community event to support programs at CFPL, and your children can see readers of all ages finding bargains, and then filling a bag of their very own books.