Each year, The Patterson Family Foundation awards James Patterson Teacher Education Scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students that are studying education and are committed to teaching careers. Over the next few months, ReadKiddoRead will highlight Patterson Scholars at schools across the country. For this first post, we're introducing you to the eights recipients at Michigan State University. Read on to learn about their favorite recent reads and their recommendations for Kiddos!
Name: Carley M.Hometown: Walled Lake, Michigan
Teaching Focus: Elementary Education
Favorite Book I Read This Year: Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks. I love Nicholas Sparks books because I can feel all of the emotions the characters experience. I love when I feel like I could jump into the book and live the story.
My ReadKiddoRead Recommendation: Any of the Winnie the Pooh books. These were my favorite books as a child. There are so many life lessons and beautiful quotes hidden in children's literature!
Name: Alexis L.Hometown: New Boston, Michigan
Teaching Focus:Elementary Education with a focus on Language Arts
Favorite Book I Read This Year: Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult. I always enjoy her books, but I especially liked this one because it crossed so many different themes. It made you question the things you believe and what you think could actually be the truth.
My ReadKiddoRead Recommendation: Mick Harte Was Here by Barbara Park. My teacher read it to a small group of us in 5th grade, and it has stayed with me for all these years. It was such a moving book. I cried then, and I would probably cry if I read it again.
Name: Kelcey L.Hometown: Columbus, Ohio
Teaching Focus: Elementary Education with a focus on Language Arts
Favorite Book I Read This Year: Wicked by Gregory Maguire. There was a lot of imagery and I could picture the musical while I was reading it. I also loved the storyline.
My ReadKiddoRead Recommendation: Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. It represents many different genres and it allows kids to begin analytical thinking at a young age.
Name: Jessica H.Hometown: Saline, Michigan
Teaching Focus: Special Education with a focus on Language Arts
Favorite Book I Read This Year: Mockingbird by Katherine Erskine. I loved this book because it was a drama written from the perspective of an autistic child. As a special education major, I found the book very interesting and worth reading!
My ReadKiddoRead Recommendation: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. This is one of my favorites because it is timeless. I enjoyed my mom reading it to me when I was young, and I can sill flip through it now and catch on to meaning I didn't notice before. It's a classic!
Name: Mary R.Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
Teaching Focus: Special Education with a focus on Elementary Education
Favorite Book I Read This Year: The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom. I really enjoyed this book because it was inspiring and thought-provoking, and gave me the chance to reflect on the meaning of my life here on earth.
My ReadKiddoRead Recommendation: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. I recommend kids (of any age) to read this story. This story touches home to anyone of any age, exemplifying the true meaning of love and how we sometimes take it for granted. I love how emotional of a read it is.
Name: Sarah H.Hometown: Muskegon, Michigan
Teaching Focus: Elementary Education with a focus on Language Arts and Urban Education
Favorite Book I Read This Year: The Alex Cross series by James Patterson, As a recipient of his scholarship this year, I was very interested in reading some of his writing. My favorite thus far has been this series, because I was very intrigued by the mystery mixed with the strong emotions in the novels.
My ReadKiddoRead Recommendation: The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborn. I loved these books as a child because they were fun and interesting. I think these are great books for kids because each story is based on a historical event with a fun twist for kids.
Name: Maxx M.Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Teaching Focus: Elementary Education with a focus on Language Arts
Favorite Book I Read This Year: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. I can't wait to read the sequel.
My ReadKiddoRead Recommendation: The Amelia Bedelia series by Peggy Parish. The kids I babysit and I love to read the series together, and I remember also loving them when I was younger. They are really fun reads!
Name: Gabrielle G.Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
Teaching Focus: Secondary English Education with a minor in History
Favorite Book I Read This Year: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. I recently read the Hunger Games series and I really liked the second book, Catching Fire, the best. I liked that Katniss was starting to realize who she was as a person and what she stood for even when faced with adversity.
My ReadKiddoRead Recommendation: The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. The books are a series of coming of age novels that evolve as Harry and his friends do. I grew up reading the books and I fell in love. One of the major lessons I learned was that you are responsible for your life and the different choices you decide to make.
By Francisca Goldsmith
Infopeople Project, California
Whether you are a parent, grandparent or teacher, if you were reading what everyone was reading in the mid-to-late 20th century, then you no doubt became acquainted with dystopian fiction through many now-classic books. Did you read Nobelist William Golding's Lord of the Flies? How about Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451? And had you already read Anthony Burgess' Clockwork Orange before Stanely Kubrick made the movie? Or did the movie lead you to the book?
The opposite of utopian fiction, which features a perfect world or society, dystopias are noted for possessing these qualities and themes:
• An imaginary future world or society
• Tightly controlled inhabitants
• Conformity as good and individuality as bad
• Lack of awareness by most that their circumstances are not utopian
• A main character who is frustrated by the controls and acts in spite of them
• Treats the author's perception of a problem in the current real world through its exaggeration in the story's universe
Until recently, dystopian fiction was created by authors writing for adults, an audience that brings not only awareness of social values but also their own deeply-held beliefs about those values to the book. The titles listed above appear on secondary school reading lists but weren't crafted with teen readers in mind. In this decade, however, we are seeing some fresh new novels that offer teens dystopian reading intended for their open–and opening–perceptions of the world and its problems.
Why would kids want to read about a hero or heroine pitching his or her own individual efforts against a totalitarian society? Won't that turn the readers into rebels in our own imperfect–but hardly dystopian–society? Are these books luring unsuspecting kids into a negative mindset about what we as parents, grandparents and other responsible, mature adults find good about our society?
In a word: no.
Worries like these overlook some very important truths about teen readers, even ones as young as 12 or 14. Jaymee, a 13-year-old eighth grader, reveals a lot about herself and her fellow middle schoolers when she says:
"I think dystopian books can help kids because the themes and lessons they have can help people with problems they have or might have and can give answers about what they want to talk about. One of those answers for me is 'never go crazy over power,' which I learned from [Frank Beddor's] The Looking Glass Wars. Power is like a scar, and it can ruin your life. Themes like this help me in my own life."
The series Jaymee names is a well-crafted and clever take on Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Alice through the Looking Glass fantasies, which were decidedly neither utopian nor dystopian. In Beddor's hands, the power struggles Carroll's Alice had with the Red Queen are magnified. Even the power the author, Lewis Carroll, had as an adult over his character model and original audience, Alice Lydell, are made explicit. But the magic of the story and the art of storytelling aren't compromised.
When we look at Jaymee's comments, we learn as much about the kind of reader she is as we learn about why she likes The Looking Glass Wars. We know she likes to read and understands how stories "work." She's willing – and able – to "work," too – and to consider her own world beyond the book in hand. (What author wouldn't step up and thank her?) We also see that Jaymee feels concerned with blemishes as 'scars," but she can make the jump from physical to existential.
In short, reading this dystopian series enlightens as well as entertains Jaymee. It's not dry. It's not preachy. It connects her to ideas of her own and assists her in assimilating information to make it her own knowledge.
Faith, another eighth grader, and Jaymee's best friend, puts it this way:
"It's better to learn life lessons from what you read than being told by your parents. It's easier to get it and hold onto life lessons from stories when you read it and think about it and learn from it. If you just get told, it doesn't stick, but when you see what happens in a story, it helps you to develop, shows you how it's better to do this than that."
Fourteen-year-old Richard pitches in:
"It helps me to think that our world or society can change, that I could help to change it."
Besides talking about how reading dystopian fiction helps them to think about the real world, these teen dystopian fans share how these stories make them feel as they read:
"I find it interesting and comforting at the same time. You can see how this could take you to the next level and how books don't have to be normal." (Jaymee)
"I like the complexity! I think other kids who don't like complex stories–like the time it takes to get into watching Dr. Who—probably wouldn't like that." (Faith)
"Yeah. I like twisted books where you take one thing and change it, and something different happens from what could have." (Jaymee)
"Reading about other worlds and imaginary cultures is exciting. It's interesting to know that there are other ways to form a society — different from the way we have formed ours." (Richard)"I advise adults to read [Suzanne Collins'] Hunger Games because it takes a teenager's point of view and gives a reminder of how we think." (Faith)
"It's good especially if they have children and really really want to know how we think. Also adults could learn about warning signals when things might not be right with a teen." (Jaymee)
Once these teen readers had broached the idea of adults reading teen books, I asked them if anyone can be the wrong age to read dystopian fiction.
"Definitely! I don't think you should read them if you are below fifth grade. It's not that the ideas are bad. I would love little children to understand what's going on in our world, but if you hear stuff that your mind can't understand, you worry too much — like a six-year-old would reading the Hunger Games." (Faith)
"[Younger kids] can't get the concepts because they don't really know how our own society works yet, so they can't see what is different in dystopian fiction." (Richard)
Richard's point is important for parents and other adults to understand: teen readers do believe that they have a grasp on how society "works." Anyone who has ever been in a middle school knows that this is, to a large degree, true: teens are able to consider life with more abstract understanding than their younger siblings can. This is something that we adults often do not recognize.
"I believe parents shouldn't always dictate what you should read, because teens want to get a taste and opinions of life that are different. If you can't read something based on the cover or title, then that's not fair. Sometimes kids should explore on their own just a little, even if their parents want to shape their future." (Faith)
That freedom to explore through reading dystopian fiction isn't about wanting a blueprint for destruction or rebellion. It's the thinking teen's portal to seeing our own world with room for creativity and a private place to experience emotions.
"[James Patterson's] Maximum Ride series' best audience is teenagers because I know a lot of teenagers want excitement. They fantasize about it and want to read about it. It has a little drama in it, but the drama can be sad as well as exciting. I even cried reading these." (Faith)
"I think teens can bring their own life experience to reading dystopias like Maximum Ride, seeing how your life is like what is in the book, but also different. You can relate to the characters and you can relate your own family to it." (Jaymee)
"I wish others could also experience that feeling that they can change things. That we could remake our society." (Richard)
"It's the small things that happen that make it easier for you to connect to the characters. [Veronica Roth's] Divergent is teen-focused. The romance is targeted to a teen audience. The characters get split by personality, but kids have a choice of where they can go, like the ones who value honesty are black and white clothed and become lawyers. Teens are just starting to become involved in life and want to be connected and want to have ideas about what could happen in the future and its possibilities and what would I do– what 'if…'." (Faith)
A difference between the mid-20th century dystopian novels written for adults and the ones teens are reading from the wealth of young adult fiction available today is the series element. Whether dystopian fans or fans of other genres, teens love series, as do the authors who write for teens. What's that about?
Reading a series brings some guarantees to the teen reader. One of the simplest of these is that the experience of a great read won't end with the last page of a book; another installment is or soon will be available. However, there are other guarantees a series offers, especially to teens who are in a life development phase where changes are not only frequent and sometimes bordering on traumatic, but also appearing unwanted. Being able to rely on a favorite set of characters or a favorite author to continue to provide more gives teen readers some self-chosen comfort. (Yes, it's a little odd to think of dystopian series as offering comfort, but they do for many teens).
As Jaymee, Faith and Richard have noted, although not using these words, experiencing dystopian concepts, plots and characters offers catharsis mixed with the enjoyment of epiphanies about their own lives. There's only so much catharsis and insight a reader can take at any one time, however, so a series gives teen readers the necessary breathing spell between volumes. Knowing this, too, allows the authors of such series to provide new elements for consideration in successive books of a series. That differs from series books for younger children, where repetition of favorite tropes and plot arcs are the name of the game for both readers and writers.
Yes, teen readers do love dystopian fiction. But the reasons why aren't bleak ones. Next time you hear a teen waxing enthusiastic about such a book or series, you can be sure you are hearing the voice of someone who is helping her- or himself to grow empathy and analytical thinking, two hallmarks of maturing young adults.
To help you find some popular and well-written dystopian young adult books, here's a list to fill a bookshelf:
Volume 1: The Looking Glass Wars
Volume 2: Seeing Redd
Volume 3: Archenemy
Also by Frank Beddor:
Looking Glass Wars
Mad with Wonder
Zen of Wonder (forthcoming)
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
Volume 1: The Hunger Games
Volume 2: Catching Fire
Volume 3: Mockingjay
Also by Suzanne Collins:
Gregor the Overlander
Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane
Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods
Gregor and the Marks of Secret
Gregor and the Code of Claw
Matched, by Ally Condie
Volume 2: Crossed
Volume 3: Reached
The Maze Runner, by James Dashner
Volume 2: The Scorch Trials
Volume 3: The Death Cure
Also by James Dashner
The Kill Order, prequel to The Maze Runner series
Volume 1: Maximum Ride
Volume 2: School's Out Forever
Volume 3: Saving the World
Volume 4: The Final Warning
Volume 5: Max
Volume 7: Angel
Volume 8: Nevermore
Also by James Patterson
Maximum Ride graphic novels in six manga format volumes
The Jenna Fox Chronicles, by Mary E. Pearson
Volume 2: The Fox Inheritance
Volume 3: Fox Forever
Divergent, by Veronica Roth
Divergent 3 (forthcoming)
March Madness is long over but ReadKiddoRead has a new bracket for you. The Summer Reads League features our Elite Eight books – some of our favorite Great Advanced Reads from our 2013 Summer Reading List. Encourage your Kiddos to read all eight and then choose a winning advanced read. Or select a favorite genre, read the two books and pick a favorite. Kids can read the books from the Summer Reads League alone or create their own Summer Reads League with a group of friends. For even more fun that combines reading and basketball, check out James Patterson's One-on-One webcast featuring NBA All-Star Dwayne Wade.
To exchange ideas with other teachers and librarians, visit our Lesson Plans Exchange page.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Actual Size by Steve Jenkins
Ain't Gonna Rain No More written by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by David Carrow
Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
Antsy Does Time by Neal Shüsterman
Arabella Miller's Tiny Caterpillar written and illustrated by Clare Jarrett
The Arrival by Shaun Tan
The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket
Babymouse series by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel
Cinderella stories by various authors
Clementine by Sara Pennypacker
The Conch Bearer by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
The Dog Who Cried Wolf written and illustrated by Keiko Kasza
Don't Laugh, Joe! written and illustrated by Keiko Kasza
Dragon: Hound of Honor by Julie Andrews Edwards and Emma Watson Hamilton
Flush by Carl Hiaasen
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Robert Byrd
Hana's Suitcase by Karen Levine
How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long, illustrated by David Shannon
How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor
If You Hopped Like a Frog by David M. Schwartz
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Jokelopedia by Ilana Weitzman, Eva Blank, Rosanne Green, Mike Wright
Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Park, illustrated by Denise Brunkus
The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards
The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies
Lightship written and illustrated by Brian Floca
The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary by Candace Fleming
Mandy by Julie Andews Edwards
Mercy Watson Fights Crime by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
The Mightiest written and illustrated by Keiko Kasza
Mighty Jackie: The Strike-out Queen by Marissa Moss, illustrated by C. F. Payne
Miss Spitfire by Sarah Miller
A Mother for Choco written and illustrated by Keiko Kasza
My Dog May Be a Genius by Jack Prelutsky
My Lucky Day written and illustrated by Keiko Kasza
My Senator and Me: A Dog's-eye View of Washington by Edward M. Kennedy, illustrated by David Small
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart
Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed by Mo Willems
No, David! by David Shannon
No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Korman
On the Farm by David Elliott, illustrated by Holly Meade
Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship by Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Hatkoff, and Dr. Paula Kahumbu
Pale Male by Janet Schulman, illustrated by Meilo So
The Pigs' Picnic written and illustrated by Keiko Kasza
Pizza, Pigs, and Poetry: How to Write a Poem by Jack Prelutsky
The Road to Paris by Nikki Grimes
Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Say What? by Margaret Peterson Haddix
The Schwa by Neal Shüsterman
Shredderman series by Wendelin Van Draanen
Stink the Incredible Shrinking Kid (Stink series) by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
Third Grade Baby by Jenny Meyerhoff, illustrated by Jill Weber
Time Stops for No Mouse by Michael Hoeye
Toys Go Out, Toys Come Home, Toy Dance Party by Emily Jenkins
Tweedle Dee Dee written and illustrated by Charlotte Voake
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton
The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sís
Watership Down by Richard Adams
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
The Wolf's Chicken Stew written and illustrated by Keiko Kasza
When the Elephant Walks written and illustrated by Keiko Kasza
The Young Man and the Sea by Rodman Philbrick
Zelda and Ivy series by Laura McGee Kvasnosky
This year, more than 16,000 votes were cast. Read on to hear what the authors of these winning books said after hearing the news.
KIDDO AWARD WINNERSFrom RACHEL RENEE RUSSELLAuthor of TALES FROM A NOT-SO-SMART MISS KNOW-IT-ALL (Dork Diaries series)
Winner in the Series Category
"Thank YOU to all of the voters for making Dork Diaries the series winner for the Kiddos Awards! SQUEEE!! You are the reason that Nikki Maxwell and her friends are able to let their inner dorks shine through every day. Keep reading because this June, Nikki's taking on the topic of love…Dork Diaries style"
From MARISSA MEYERAuthor of CINDER
Winner in the Advanced Reads Category
"I am so honored, humbled, and ecstatic that CINDER has been voted one of the 2013 Kiddos Award winners! Cinder's tale has become incredibly dear to me since I started writing it in 2008, and it means so much that readers have fallen in love with my cyborg mechanic as much as I have. Thank you, thank you! – to everyone who voted, to every teacher who put this book in a teenager's hands, to every librarian who chose it as a book club pick, to every reader who recommended it to a friend. I hope you'll continue to enjoy every step of Cinder's journey, as she uncovers the secrets of her past, incites a rebellion, and ultimately joins forces with other beloved fairy tale all-stars: Little Red Riding Hood (SCARLET), Rapunzel (CRESS), and Snow White (WINTER). I'm having so much fun writing about Cinder's adventures – my brightest hope is that you'll have as much fun reading them. Thank you!!"
From JAMES PATTERSONCo-author of I, FUNNY with Chris Grabenstein
Winner in the Pageturner Category
"Thank you for choosing I, Funny as the 2013 Pageturner winner. I, Funny is one of my best, and I thought it wouldn't be fair to all the voters who picked Jamie Grimm if I excluded it."
From ANNIE BARROWS and SOPHIE BLACKALL (as Ivy and Bean)Author and Illustrator of IVY AND BEAN MAKE THE RULES
Winner in the Beginner Reads Category
"Hi, this is Ivy.
And this is Bean.
Thanks for liking the book about our camp, Ivy and Bean Make the Rules.
Well, duh. Who wouldn't like it? It's about us!
Really, it's about how to make your own camp.
No. It's about us!
Maybe now kids all over the world will start making their own camps.
And their own rules. Like us!
There's only one really important rule.
Kids are in charge! No grownups allowed!
KIDDO HONOR BOOKSFrom RICK RIORDANAuthor of THE MARK OF ATHENA (Heroes of Olympus series)
Honoree in the Series Category
"Thank you for choosing The Mark of Athena as a 2013 Kiddo Honor Book! It means so much to me to have an award come directly from my readers—what an honor! The fourth book in the Heroes of Olympus – The House of Hades – comes out this October. You'll get to see the cover later this month, so keep an eye out! I'm also thrilled to announce the first ever Percy Jackson-Carter Kane crossover story, The Son of Sobek, which is available in the back of the paperback of The Serpent's Shadow and will come out this summer as an e-single/audio book. Keep reading!"
From NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC KIDSAuthor of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC'S QUIZ WIZ
Honoree in the Beginner Reads Category
"Thank you so much for this honor. We couldn't be happier! Quiz Whiz was a real labor of love with both our editorial and design department and they will be so happy to know their hard work paid off. Fans of Quiz Whiz can look forward to…..Quiz Whiz 2!"
Now it's your kiddo's turn to meet these authors and illustrators by having them read one of these winning books!
GREAT ADVANCED READS (for tweens and teens, ages 12 and up)
By Libba Bray
For ages 12 and up
A series of occult-based murders in 1920s New York City put Evie O'Neill and her uncle, curator of what's known as "The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies," center stage in investigating the crimes. The tightly-woven plot and palpable setting combine with supernatural elements, rich themes, and terrific storytelling to make for a compelling read.
On the Day I Died
By Candace Fleming
For ages 11 and up
Scary is always in season, and summer is an especially good time to welcome a shivery chill. On appropriately dark and moonless nights, kids will find themselves scaring friends with the stories in this collection, whether examinations of pure evil, ancient curses, alien encounters, or psychological dramas.
The Fault in Our Stars
By John Green
For ages 13 and up
Hazel Lancaster, a teen with cancer, dropped out of school at 13 to concentrate on getting well. Now 16, she meets Augustus Waters, a former basketball player who's lost a leg to cancer. Their connection is instantaneous. Green skillfully uses their lives to ask the big questions — Why me? Why now? Why risk love? What does being alive mean?
Scarlet: Lunar Chronicles Book Two
By Marissa Meyer
For ages 12 up
A second fresh view of a classic fairy tale – with another stop-you-in-your-tracks cover. Here Scarlet (Little Red Riding Hood) and her street-fighter boyfriend Wolf are in search of Scarlet's grandmother. Their search runs right into Cinder's story as the three race to keep ahead of the evil Lunar Queen Levana. Or start with the first book in the series: Cinder
The False Prince
By Jennifer A. Nielson
For ages 13 and up
Carthya is on the brink of civil war. Conner, one of the noblemen, has a treacherous plan to install an imposter on the throne. But first he must find just the right young man to play the part: Could Sage win the role? As in any high stakes game, all is not as it seems. Amid layers of deception and manipulation, readers are in for surprises as Sage draws closer to the goal.
Shadow on the Mountain
By Margi Preus
For ages 12 and up
Espen is fourteen, a Norwegian boy, whose country is occupied by the Nazis and who, with his friends, joins the Norwegian resistance. Margi Preus reveals his story in an engrossing text that combines spy thriller with teen-coming-of-age story, enhanced by photographs, maps and brochures from the time.
Eleanor and Park
By Rainbow Rowell
For ages 14 and up
In 1980's Omaha, Eleanor, new to town and quirky, and Park, half-Korean, are outsiders in their high school. It's worse for Eleanor, with an abusive stepfather and bullying classmates, so bad that she accepts Park's father's invitation for her to stay with their family. In small steps, and completely believably, Eleanor and Park's friendship grows into love. But Park realizes that the solution to Eleanor's troubles means that she will have to move away.
By Rebecca Rupp
For ages 12 and up
Since his older brother was killed in Iraq, Danny Anderson has been keeping a Book of the Dead where he chronicles how people from the past have died. It's his way of understanding loss. But it is not until three years later that Danny begins to pull away from grief: he falls for a girl, finds a new friendship, and works on a farm. A crisis at the end of that summer pushes Danny and his parents toward healing in this moving and emotionally-rich novel.
Out of the Easy
By Ruta Sepetys
For ages 14 and up
The Big Easy has been anything but easy on Josie. She's tried distancing herself from her mother — an addict, prostitute and thief. Josie dreams of escaping Easy altogether, but doesn't believe she can make that happen … until she meets a tourist who offers the encouragement she needs. Ruta Sepetys vividly describes the sights, sounds, and smells as well as the shady underbelly of New Orleans in 1950 and breathes life into her cast of characters. Teens will be pulling for Josie as she moves ahead, learning that some decisions are anything but easy.
The Raven Boys
By Maggie Stiefvater
For ages12 and up
For as long as Blue Sargent can remember, she's been told that if she kisses her true love, he will die. And in her family – one filled with bona-fide psychics – predictions are never taken lightly. Now sixteen, Blue befriends three Raven boys from the posh private school nearby and gets caught up in their quest and adventures. Blue fears that one of them just might be her true love. A compelling story from the outset, Stiefvater's first installment in a planned four-part cycle will have readers on the edge of their seats.
By Theodore Taylor
For ages 12 and up
When World War II threatens the Dutch island of Curacao where 11-year-old Philip lives, he and his mother decide to return to the U.S. On the journey their boat is torpedoed, and Philip is stranded on a life raft with a cat and Timothy, a black man. Later, when Phillip becomes blind, he has no choice but to overcome his prejudices and trust Timothy. Their friendship develops beautifully in this exciting survival story.
5,000 Awesome Facts (About Everything!)
For ages 11 up
From 15 peanut butter facts that stick and 50 furry facts about bears to 100 facts about oceans to make your head swim, this big, colorful, packed-to-the-brim compendium is sure to fascinate, entertain, and be a source of great conversations for everyone who takes a look. Photographs illustrate the great variety of information, a playful design makes every page inviting, and a ticker at the bottom of each spread counts the facts kids learn as they go through the book. You'll find your teen dipping in and out of this book all summer long.
The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann
GREAT PAGETURNERS (for ages 9-12)
The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee: An Origami Yoda Book
By Tom Angleberger
For ages 8 and up
In the third of the Origami Yoda books, Sara brings a paper fortune-teller in the form of Star War's Chewbacca. – a Fortune Wookiee – to school to fill in while Dwight and Origami Yoda are suspended.
Or start with the first book in the series: THE STRANGE CASE OF ORIGAMI YODA
Never Say Die
By Will Hobbs
For ages 8 and up
Nick Thrasher, a fifteen-year-old Inuit hunter and his older half-brother Ryan, a wildlife photographer, are off in search of caribou. Soon into their travels, they are thrown into the frozen Firth River. Back on land, their struggle to survive continues as they are pursued by animals, including a half-grizzly, half-polar bear. An exciting wilderness survival tale set in Canada's arctic — a perfect read to cool down a hot summer day.
Dog Days: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 4
By Jeff Kinney
For ages 8 and up
This is not the newest in The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, but it might be the right book to begin with since it's all about summer vacation. The weather's great, and all the kids are having fun outside. But not Greg Heffley! He's in his house playing video games and enjoying himself, thank you very much. But Greg's mom has other ideas about outdoor activities and "family togetherness." Whose vision will win out? Or will a new addition to the Heffley family change everything?
On the Road to Mr. Mineo's
By Barbara O'Connor
For ages 8 and up
When we remember summers, there's often a single event that stands out. For the folks in Meadville, South Carolina, this summer will be recalled as the one when a one-legged pigeon named Sherman flew into town. Where did Sherman come from? Only Mr. Mineo seems to know. For many young readers, this summer may be remembered as the one they met Stella and Amos and Sherman, of course, in the pages of this wonderful novel.
Hades: Lord of the Dead: The Olympians, Book 4
By George O'Connor
For ages 9 and up
Welcome to the Underworld. In a mix of action comic, superhero characters and Greek mythology this graphic novel introduces Hades and Persphone.
Or start with the first book in the series: ZEUS: KING OF THE GODS
For ages 9-12
August Pullman, 10, was born with a deformed face. Even though he's been protected and homeschooled, he's felt the stares and heard the whispers when the boldest jerks called him Freak or Freddy Krueger. Now his parents have decided that it's time to enroll Auggie in school. The world he meets there doesn't only test his courage; it also takes the measure of everyone he comes in contact with. A rare book that just might open a closed heart.
My Brother is a Big Fat Liar
James Patterson and Lisa Papademetriou, Illustrated by Neil Swaab
How I Survived Bullies, Broccoli, and Snake Hill
By James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts, Illustrated by Laura Park
For ages 9-13
Two great new stories in the wildly popular Middle School series.
When Georgia Khatchadorian heads off to her first day at Hills Village Middle School, everyone she meets immediately brands Georgia a problem child just like Rafe! When Rafe sneakily signs the band up to play at Georgia's first middle school dance, she's terrified she'll embarrass herself. Will she be able to overcome her fears?
Meanwhile, in How I Survived Bullies, Broccoli, and Snake Hill, Rafe is excited about summer camp, but is in for a letdown when he realizes it's summer school camp. Luckily, Rafe quickly makes friends with members of his "Loserville" cabin. And they need all the help they can get as they battle off against the "Cool" cabin all summer long.
Or start with the first book in the series: Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life
Where the Red Fern Grows
For ages 8 and up
In an informal survey, I asked a bunch of grownups which childhood summer read they remembered most. Where the Red Fern Grows was the most frequent answer. Set in the Ozarks, the adventure tale of a boy, Billy, and his two hunting dogs, Little Ann and Old Dan, is recalled not only for the trio's triumphs, but also for the story's tenderness. Give your kiddos this long-lasting book this summer.
The Egypt Game
Zilpha Keatley Snyder
For ages 8 and up
Before role-playing computer games became so popular, Zilpha Keatley Snyder took young readers to an antiques store in California where Melanie and April and later four other friends create and play "The Egypt Game." With costumes, secret codes and elaborate stories, the kids become more and more involved until strange things start happening. It just might be time to stop playing… Readers, too, will find themselves caught up in the game and in this characterful novel.
For ages 9 and up
This is an allegorical tale where childhood is not just a stage, it is a place called Hokey Pokey. There readers meet Jack, who, like many of them, is starting to "age out" of Hokey Pokey. Spinelli's novel is sure to help them celebrate and cope with all that is past and all that is to come.
For Ages 9 and up
Jack is adrift after his mother dies, so his dad, just back from WWII, enrolls him in a boarding school in Maine. There he befriends Early Auden, a loner who rarely attends classes and whose brother, a soldier serving in France, is presumed dead. Early believes otherwise … and so begins the two boys' quest along the Appalachian Trail.
Angry Birds Playground Animals: An Around-the-World Habitat Adventure
Jill Esbaum; Illustrated with photographs
For ages 8-11
Those popular angry birds are tour guides on this photo-filled exploration of habitats: rainforests, deserts, oceans, grasslands, and polar regions. The birds, who are on a world-wide search for their stolen eggs, introduce readers to five major habitats and the animals that thrive in each. With animal vital statistics in sidebars, descriptions in text, and funny asides from the birds on every page, this is the kind of book that gives nonfiction a good name!
GREAT TRANSITIONAL BOOKS (for ages 6-9)
Cam Jansen and the Graduation Day Mystery #31
David A. Adler; Illustrated by Joy Allen
For ages 7-10
Cam Jansen, elementary school detective, is up to her 31st mystery. She's got to be doing something right! Children making the transition from picture books to chapter books have found Cam Jansen's books a great help and motivator. In her latest case, Cam must use all her skills and her photographic memory to catch the thief who stole Eric's father's graduation present.
The One and Only Ivan
Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Patricia Castelao Costa
For ages 8-10
"The Ape at Exit 8" is Ivan, a mighty Silverback Gorilla, who lives in a circus-themed shopping mall. Based on a true story, this first real novel for readers ready for that big step tells how Ivan uses his talent for drawing to rescue the other animals. Winner, 2013 Newbery Medal.
Ivy & Bean Make the Rules
Annie Barrows; illustrated by Sophie Blackall
For ages 7-9
Nancy, Bean's older sister, is going to camp, but Bean can't go: you have to be eleven to go to camp. Never one to accept defeat, Bean and her best friend Ivy create a camp of their own. A triumph of friendship, ingenuity, and fun!
Or start with the first book in the series: Ivy and Bean.
Ray O'Ryan; Illustrated by Colin Jack
Age Level: 5-8
It's 2120, and Zack Nelson and his family are leaving Earth to move to the planet Nebulon, Their space-aged house has all kinds of awesome gadgets that Zack will be using every day, but still Zack worries that he and his twin sister won't have any friends. Until he meets a fellow student and slowly starts to realize that things on Nebulon might just be alright after all. Young readers will zoom through the story to find out what happens to Zack, entertained and delighted along the way!
Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers
For ages 7 and up
For once, the critics agree with what children have been saying for years: USA Today tells us: "Call Pilkey … the savior of the 'reluctant reader.'" Newsweek says Captain Underpants is "a triumph of irreverence." And young readers say: "They are funny and crazy!" Now, in the newest book in the series, everything is threatened. Could it be the end for Captain Underpants?
Or start with the first book in the series, The Adventures of Captain Underpants."
Green Eggs and Ham
Horton Hatches the Egg
Oh! The Places You'll Go
For ages 3-7, 4-8, 4-9
When it comes to new readers, we've got two words for you: Dr. Seuss. His Beginner Books (like Green Eggs and Ham) are not only comical adventures, but also great confidence-builders as brand new readers master them and can read them on their own. And what proud reader wouldn't want to know Sam-I-am, who definitely, absolutely, never wants green eggs and ham.
As kids master their reading skills, they'll find reward in Seuss's classic picture books. Yes, the language is often complicated, but it is always silly and fun. Horton's a great place to start for there are loving lessons in the values of persistence and kindness in this story of the elephant who is faithful, one hundred percent.
If you want to give a child a pat on the back along with a gentle push to move on, try Oh! The Places You'll Go. It is wise, optimistic, filled with encouragement, and great fun to read.
Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse
Tamera Will Wissinger; illustrated by Matthew Cordell
For ages 6-9
Nine-year-old Sam and his dad are going to the lake: For fishing tomorrow/it's just us two. Not Mom, not Grandpa/not Lucy… In a series of engaging poems that narrate the day, they prepare their gear; plans change (Lucy does tag along); fish get caught; siblings get along; and all ends deliciously at dinner. We're guessing that this delightful excursion will lead lots of kids to try their luck at fishing and to try their hands at poetry.
Nic Bishop Snakes
Nic Bishop; illustrated with photographs
For ages 5 and up
Super-sharp photographs show a great variety of snakes, sometimes at rest but often in action, while equally clear text presents basic facts about each. The handsome design welcomes curious (and maybe even some fearful) children in to get up close and learn more.
GREAT ILLUSTRATED BOOKS (for ages 2-6)
Llama Llama Time to Share
For ages 2-5
While Mama Llama and Nelly Gnu have tea, their two toddlers are left with a boxful of toys to share. All goes well … until that Gnu girl decides to play with Llama's treasured Fuzzy Llama doll. Llama's not ready for that much sharing.
Or start with the first book in this series: Llama Llama Red Pajama
Olivia and the Fairy Princesses
By Ian Falconer
For ages 3-6
Olivia is one best-selling pig – and with good reason. Strong-willed, high-spirited and, in this book, in search of her true identity – Olivia's been keeping young children smiling (and recognizing themselves) for a dozen books now. She's sure to please.
Or start with the first book in this series: Olivia
This Moose Belongs to Me
>By Oliver Jeffers
For ages 4-7
For the "can I keep him?" would-be pet owner, this story of Wilfred and Marcel the Moose, is a great fit. Wilfred and Marcel make a happy pair, but it isn't long before Wilfred notice little things about the very big moose. It seems he has some secrets, like the neighbor who greets Marcel as "Rodrigo," and the fact that he prefers apples to, well… Wilfred. Still their friendship is real, their story is charming, and every page of this picture book is a visual treat.
By Galen Goodwin Longstreth; Illustrated by Maris Wicks
For ages 3-5
Preschoolers will happily follow one family's day in the country, from the dedication page with its maze-like roads leading three cars through the woods to a stream-side destination right to the evening return trip with the happily-exhausted parents and children barely making it up the stairs to their bedrooms. The short rhythmic text is simple, fast, and fun to read aloud, while the detail-filled cartoony-like illustrations invite long looks at every spread.
For ages 4 and up
Jasper Rabbit loves to eat carrots—especially the ones that grow at Crackenhopper Field … until the day the carrots start following him. This slightly spooky book will please youngest fans of scary tales while it delivers a subtle message about being greedy.
Pete's a Pizza
By William Steig
For ages 4-8
Pete's dad turns a rainy day into lots of fun when he makes Pete into a pizza: Pete's kneaded and tossed; covered with tomatoes (checkers) and cheese (bits of paper), put into the oven (the couch) and soon is ready to slice and be nibbled. But the sun comes out and the pizza runs out to play with his friends. Absolutely silly and great fun!
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