Yesterday, I waxed poetic about Reading Rainbow and what summer reading means in today’s world. I also shared how to make a reading log so you can DIY your own summer reading program. So! Phase 2 of DIYing your summering reading is filling your brand new log up with reading & other personal goals for the summer. If you’re not sure where to start a summer reading list, I’ve got a few recommendations for you. :) Here are my 8 favorite books for any age, and if you haven’t read them, you should add them to your summer reading bucket list!
For the kiddos
One look at that cover will tell you that Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea is totally fun, beautifully illustrated, and is a great book to read to kids who might be fighting the green-eyed monster. Best features: the cover is be-glittered, the plot involves plungers and pizza and rainbows and unicorns
Bluebird by Bob Staake has everything and literally nothing to say. The story is completely told without words and uses incredible character design, color and layout to tell a tale that will bring you to tears. Best features: layout, character design, plot, tells a story that deals with bullying and outcasts
The narrator of Counting by 7s is a middle school-aged girl who is likely has an Autism spectrum disorder. She looses her adoptive parents suddenly and unexpectedly and her world begins to implode, leaving the reader holding her breath hoping the gifted main character doesn’t fall through the cracks of the system. Best features: an asian protagonist, adoption, loss of parents, intelligent female heroine, relentless insistence on being who you are, fascinating facts about gardening, portrayal of foster system
I’ve been carrying such a touch for this National Book Award nominee. For whatever reason, it really captured my heart, and it’s a book caught between elementary and teen audiences. There’s no sexy stuff and low-to-no swearing, but the climax of the book is scary on the level of the latter Harry Potter titles. Far Far Away by Tom McNeal is narrated by the ghost of one of the brothers Grimm and features a main character who is the only boy who can hear what Grimm has to say. There’s a little bit of a love interest, a funny little game show, a family on the brink of eviction and a very evil man. This dark story is evocative of the narrator’s fairy tales, and has so much heart. Best features: steeped in fairy tales, incorporation of foreign languages, emphasis on the importance of school, whimsical characters, portrayal of families struggling with mental health and financial issues
a.k.a. my most-read genre – it’s awesome & I’m a Teen Librarian. It’s a wonder I read anything else.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell is my favorite teen fiction pick of the year. I’ve also read Rowell’s Fangirl, which is charming and lovely, but Eleanor & Park is so good. The book is set in Omaha, and as a North Dakota girl, I appreciate books set in traditionally-underrepresented towns, portraying traditionally-underrepresented people. Best features: Omaha, interracial teen relationships, domestic issues, low income issues, the role of music in teens’ lives, the 1980s
I’m obsessed with the Legend series by Marie Lu. For dystopian fans (you know, books like The Hunger Games & Divergent), this series is a must-read. Set in a west-coast future where America is fractured into many mini countries on the brink of war brought on bioterrorism, economic instability and a tremendous divide between economic classes, you’ll be turning the pages of all 3 books as fast as you can. Best features: dystopian setting, rotating male and female narrators, love triangle, great action scenes
Hawkeye, vol. 2: Little Hits by Matt Fraction (writer) is so effing good! I admit that my comic and graphic novel reading is not remotely well-rounded, but my husband was so right when he said, “No, Heidi. You need to read this before you return it to the library for me!”* This is a volume of a few different Hawkeye stories, including a moving story about Hurricane Sandy and a story told from the perspective of Hawkeye’s dog. There is some brilliant storytelling through writing and art.
*The life of a librarian with a spouse who reads. I can only assume most librarians’ partners read, though… right?
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt is a novel that straddles the crossover line between teen and adult fiction. (I’ve even seen it cataloged sometimes as teen and sometimes as an adult book within a single library consortium, fwiw.) The narrator is a 14-year-old girl whose best friend is her uncle who is starting to loose his battle with AIDS in the year 1987. She has an older sisteer who, in typical teen fashion, wants little to do with her as she struggles with her own volatile demons. This book is a couple years old, but it’s really stuck with me emotionally, has one of my favorite cover designs ever, and humanizes an era in history that’s been sometimes-shrouded in pop culture. If you can’t get the first decade of the AIDS crisis out of your head after reading this, I recommend checking out And the Band Played On & HBO’s new The Normal Heart.