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50 Books for Summer
We’ve chosen a variety of great books to help your students while away the summer days.
PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8
Let’s get lost in a book. Summer is a time to slow down, to sink into the rhythms of a sun-soaked day. And a book is a perfect thing to have by your side. “It makes me feel like I’m in my own little fairytale,” said one 8-year-old girl, when asked why she loves to read. In the books we chose for this year’s 50 best—with the help of our wonderful teacher, librarian, and author reviewers—kids will find many different ways to immerse themselves in a story, whether through fiction or nonfiction. Maybe it will be an adventure involving Alastair and Aggie, two parrots trying to figure out what home is. Or a serious but very funny story about an immigrant boy who bakes cakes to get over his father’s death. Or a riveting retelling of the rescue of a soccer team from a cave in Thailand. Help your young readers find a book and get lost!
Want to share these books with your students? First, download the easy-to-print PDFs of our Summer Book Lists here (all 50 books) and here (by grade bands). Then, check the boxes for books you recommend for your class!
By Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Charles Santoso. $17.99. Gr. K–2.
Daddy loves Sweetie. And Sweetie loves her best friend, Charlotte. But Charlotte is a dandelion and Daddy is a proud tender of his lawn. Will Sweetie win out over Daddy’s desire to eradicate the “weed”?
Tiny T. Rex and the Impossible Hug
By Jonathan Stutzman, illustrated by Jay Fleck. $15.99. Gr. K–2.
Tiny vows to cheer up his friend Pointy with a hug. But with his tiny arms, it’s tough. He consults everyone and practices on everything before realizing that just being himself will make his buddy smile.
Waiting for Chicken Smith
By David Mackintosh. $16.99. Gr. K–3.
In this sandy, warm tableau of summer, a girl savors the sun-drenched beach while her brother is waiting…to relive last year with his friend Chicken Smith. Mackintosh reminds us to savor the past while creating new memories. —Peter Reynolds, author, Say Something
The Cat Who Lived With Anne Frank
By David Lee Miller and Steven Jay Rubin, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley. $17.99. Gr. K–4.
Mouschi the cat narrates Anne Frank’s story in a tender and simple way. From the beginnings of the Nazi invasion to her final days in the secret annex, Anne’s story is told as one of courage and the belief in the goodness of people.
Lubna and Pebble
By Wendy Meddour, illustrated by Daniel Egnéus. $17.99. Gr. K–2.
This lyrical story renders the refugee experience accessible to even the youngest readers. Lubna and her father live in “a World of Tents,” where her best friend is a shiny gray rock named Pebble. The spare text allows the beautiful illustrations to carry a message of friendship, loss, and hope. —Linda Sue Park, author, Gondra’s Treasure
By Shauna LaVoy Reynolds, illustrated by Shahrzad Maydani. $17.99. Gr. K–2.
Sylvia loves sharing poetry with her birch tree. When it seems to answer back, she thinks she has found the “poetree.” Told with joyful text and gorgeous illustrations, this tale will inspire young dreamers.
By Peter H. Reynolds. $17.99. Gr. K–3.
In this wonderfully illustrated book, Reynolds helps us find our voice and then use it—whether to show our style or to speak for others. —Stacey Riedmiller, fourth-grade teacher, Reading, OH
I Will Be Fierce!
By Bea Birdsong, illustrated by Nidhi Chanani. $17.99. Gr. K–2.
Being fierce means braving “monsters” (dogs), standing up for others, and sharing at show-and-tell. A girl’s drive to be in charge of her life will inspire any child to be strong and kind.
Sadie and the Silver Shoes
By Jane Godwin, illustrated by Anna Walker. $16.99. Gr. K–2.
Sadie doesn’t mind wearing boyish hand-me-downs. But she loves her sparkly silver shoes and never wants to take them off. When one is lost, Sadie is devastated—until sadness turns into a friendship.
Mystery & Adventure
The Fisherman and the Whale
By Jessica Lanan. $17.99. Gr. K–2.
A fisherman and his son are at sea when the boy spies a whale tangled in fisherman’s pots—he beseeches his father to help. Conveyed in magical watercolors without words, this is a powerful story about how the heart can overrule the mind.
Time Dogs: Balto and the Race Against Time
By Helen Moss, illustrated by Misa Saburi. $15.99. Gr. 1–4.
Magic Tree House with dogs! Elderly lab Baxter and pals time-travel to 1925 Alaska, where they’re transformed into pups to help real-life dog hero Balto deliver a serum that saves a community. Humor, plus lessons about loyalty and kindness.
Megabat and Fancy Cat
By Anna Humphrey, illustrated by Kass Reich. $12.99. Gr. 2–5.
Megabat has a problem, and it’s spelled c-a-t. Afraid Fancy Cat will replace him in his boy’s affections, Megabat hatches elaborate plans to get rid of her that include broken tchotchkes and stink potions (“Perfects! So whiffy!”). But is the “trubble cat” really so bad?
Kazu Jones and the Denver Dognappers
By Shauna Holyoak. $16.99. Gr. 3–7.
Sleuthing is Kazu’s atarimae, or natural reflex, and when dogs disappear, she enlists friends to track the villains. When her pup, Genki (who knows only Japanese commands), is taken, she goes into high gear. Great for teaching deducing skills!
Me and Sam-Sam Handle the Apocalypse
By Susan Vaught. $17.99. Gr. 3–8.
With her brave little Pomeranian, Sam-Sam, and her only friend, Springer, behind her, Jesse, who has autism, battles bullies as she solves a crime—and becomes the hero she’s always wanted to be.
Greystone Secrets #1: The Strangers
By Margaret Peterson Haddix, illustrated by Anne Lambelet. $17.99. Gr. 3–8.
The Greystone children’s normal life is turned upside down when three other children, who have the same first names and birthdates, are kidnapped in Arizona. Mom disappears, leaving the kids with a total stranger and a cryptic note that the children must decode to save themselves. —Angela Cervantes, author, Lety Out Loud
The Simple Art of Flying
By Cory Leonardo. $17.99. Gr. 3–8.
African gray parrots Alastair and Aggie couldn’t be more different: He is fierce, protective, and loves poetry, while she is naive and optimistic. When Aggie is adopted, Alastair will stop at nothing to reunite with her—almost missing his chance at a true home.
The Potter’s Boy
By Tony Mitton. $17.99. Gr. 4–7.
A boy leaves his family’s pottery studio in long-ago Japan to pursue the contemplative life of a monastic warrior. Mitton’s unique, spare narrative is a mindful and reflective story for mindful and reflective readers. —Dan Gemeinhart, author, The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise
By Dean Robbins, illustrated by Sean Rubin. $17.99. Gr. K–3.
A unique entry in the slew of books around Apollo 12’s 50th anniversary, this is the story of astronaut and artist Alan Bean, the fourth person to walk on the moon, who returns home to express his wonder through painting. For any scientist who loves art and any artist who loves science!
Stubby: A True Story of Friendship
By Michael Foreman. $17.99. Gr. K–3.
He shook the hands of presidents, tackled enemy spies, and was wounded. Stubby, a stray dog who endeared himself to U.S. soldiers during WWI, became a loyal comrade (even learning to salute!) and a hero upon his return home.
Away With Words: The Daring Story of Isabella Bird
By Lori Mortensen, illustrated by Kristy Caldwell. $17.95. Gr. 1–4.
A sickly child in Victorian England, explorer and writer Isabella Bird soared when set free to explore—the American West, Persia, Tibet, India. She barely survived some adventures (volcanic burns, near drownings), married at age 51, and held audience with the queen.
Ninita’s Big World: The True Story of a Deaf Pygmy Marmoset
By Sarah Glenn Marsh, illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman. $17.99. Gr. K–3.
Fall in love with Ninita, raised by conservationists after being abandoned. Readers will delight in discovering Ninita loves toothbrush massages, whipped cream, and Mr. Big, her first marmoset friend.
Can You Crack the Code?
By Ella Schwartz, illustrated by Lily Williams. $21.99. Gr. 3–8.
Logic, history, and math come together in this informational guide to ciphers and cryptography. Budding detectives will love cracking these codes. —Stacey Riedmiller, fourth-grade teacher, Reading, OH
Hey There, Earth Dweller!
By Marc ter Horst, illustrated by Wendy Panders. $19.99. Gr. 2–7.
A perfect book. Infographics catch your eye, and incredible facts ensure you’ll turn the pages. It covers everything from why we have time zones to providing a mnemonic for the planets, minus that dwarf planet Pluto! —Brian Smith, kindergarten teacher, Taylorsville, NC
Children of the First People: Fresh Voices of Alaska’s Native Kids
By Tricia Brown, illustrated by Roy Corral. $13.99. Gr. 3–7.
Alaska is a mythic land brought closer through stories of Native kids doing both familiar (basketball, playing trombone) and far-flung (seal hunting, dog sledding) things, in environments as disparate as the verdant south and the icy north.
Rising Water: The Story of the Thai Cave Rescue
By Marc Aronson. $17.99. Gr. 4–8.
In this riveting story of the rescue of 12 boys and their coach, we go inside the intricately choreographed multi-nation effort to save them. The cast includes the boys and their zenlike coach, the selfless divers, and the collaborative Thai leaders. Winding throughout is a message about coming together to achieve a near-impossibility.
Fantasy & Magic
By Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt. $17.99. Gr. K–2.
When your Western mom breathes fire and your Eastern dad breathes mist, you end up breathing both. Gondra says she’s “somewhere in the middle,” which turns out to be a beautiful place, grounded in unconditional love and the excitement of growing stronger and more herself.
Isle of Misfits #1: First Class
By Jamie Mae, illustrated by Freya Hartas. $16.99. Gr. 1–3.
What happens when a restless gargoyle just can’t stay still? He is sent to the Isle of Misfits, an academy for problem magical creatures. Join Gibbon and his buddies as they navigate the strangest school you’ve ever seen, filled with challenges, bullies, and good friends!
The Last Last-Day-Of-Summer
By Lamar Giles, illustrated by Dapo Adeola. $16.99. Gr. 3–6.
Magical Polaroid cameras, robots running amok, and all of Logan County frozen in time: The Legendary Alston Boys have their work cut out for them as they use their powers of deduction, a strangely familiar friend, and some luck to save the day (literally).
Poison in the Colony: James Town 1622
By Elisa Carbone. $17.99. Gr. 3–7.
In this perfect blend of historical fiction and fantasy, you are transported to James Town, Virginia. Tensions are high with the native Algonquins, and a young girl with the power of “knowing” is accused of witchcraft. —Stephanie Cardoso, fifth-grade teacher, Edison, NJ
By Keith Calabrese. $16.99. Gr. 3–7.
What if a wish cast over a well could come true—and change an entire town? A sheltered rich boy, a misunderstood bully, a lonely new kid, and others come together in unlikely ways to spread hope and bring a little magic to an economically declining town.
The Lost Girl
By Anne Ursu. $16.99. Gr. 3–7.
Identical twins Iris and Lark have been together always. But when they’re split up, Iris loses confidence and Lark withdraws. Iris becomes desperate to save her twin from disappearing in this story about girl power and family.
We’re Not from Here
By Geoff Rodkey. $16.99. Gr. 3–7.
Life on Earth is unimaginable, and life on Mars impossible. Humans are invited to live on Planet Choom, but travel takes years. By the time they arrive, earthlings have been branded as too violent and their invite rescinded. It’s up to Lan and family to convince the planet’s hostile inhabitants to let them stay.
By Kim Ventrella. $17.99. Gr. 4–7.
One minute Gabe’s falling off a roof, the next he’s being run out of town. Then, he meets Wynne, who lives in magical Bone Hollow. When Gabe finds out her true job and that she hopes he’ll follow in her footsteps, he must decide: Will he be the next Grim Reaper? —Betsy Bird, collection development manager, Evanston, IL
A Friend for Henry
By Jenn Bailey, illustrated by Mika Song. $16.99. Gr. K–3.
Henry is on the lookout for a friend like him who likes order, learns quietly, and shares. But he has trouble when days are too loud and people get too close. Just when he’s about to give up, he finds Katie.
A Is for Elizabeth
By Rachel Vail, illustrated by Paige Keiser. $13.99. Gr. 2–4.
One of the many problems with the name Elizabeth is that it’s never first in line at school. Elizabeth aims to change that. Will other kids really believe she now spells her name “AAbAmmm!moxooo!Eoo’oAth!”? —Betsy Bird, collection development manager, Evanston, IL
By Gillian McDunn. $16.99. Gr. 3–6.
When Cat’s little brother, Chicken, has a meltdown, she’s the only one who can soothe him. She’s always there, but at what cost? A summer filled with the unexpected prompts Cat to consider what it would be like to just be a kid again.
By Angela Cervantes. $16.99. Gr. 3–7.
Lety, a native Spanish speaker, wants to be the shelter scribe at her animal-rescue summer camp—but she can’t always find the right words. This heartwarming book asks: Who is given a chance, and what does it mean to be a hero? —Lynsey Burkins, third-grade teacher, Dublin, OH
Pie in the Sky
By Remy Lai. $21.99. Gr. 3–7.
After his father dies, Jingwen and family move to Australia—which may as well be Neptune for a boy who can’t speak English. He deals with it by baking his father’s cakes. Alternating between hilarity and solemnity, Pie takes the cake.
By Jerry Craft. $12.99. Gr. 3–7.
Jordan wants to pen cartoons at art school but is sent to a private school with very little diversity—he’s one of the few kids of color. An honest and compelling read for any kid looking for a place to belong.
All the Ways Home
By Elsie Chapman. $16.99. Gr. 4–7.
Kaede is acting out after his mother dies; not knowing what to do, his grandfather sends him to Japan to reconnect with a father and half-brother he barely knows. There he re-forms his definition of family.
All the Greys on Greene Street
By Laura Tucker. $17.99. Gr. 4–8.
SoHo in 1981 is a place for artists, including Ollie and family. Nothing makes her happier than drawing all she sees to cope with her troubles. This tender and heartbreaking story is about the family you make.
The Bridge Home
By Padma Venkatraman. $16.99. Gr. 4–8.
Two sisters struggle to survive on the streets of a bustling Indian city. Venkatraman’s beautiful narrative soars above the rubbish and despair in a must-read story that is ultimately hopeful. —Dan Gemeinhart, author, The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise
A Monkey & Cake Book: What Is Inside THIS Box?
By Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Olivier Tallec. $9.99. Gr. K–2.
In this cryptically uproarious new series, best friends Monkey and Cake debate what’s inside a box, and try to outsmart each other, before agreeing to just go eat pie!
Nobody Hugs a Cactus
By Carter Goodrich. $17.99. Gr. K–2.
All Hank the cactus wants is to sit on his windowsill and be left alone. When his neighbors keep interrupting his peace, he gives them prickly attitude. But when Rosie the tumbleweed comes to his rescue, his perspective changes. A truly funny tale with dry wit and a warm, deserty color palette. —Ross Burach, author, The Very Impatient Caterpillar
By Jon Stahl, illustrated by Tadgh Bentley. $17.99. Gr. K–3.
Story structure is hilariously tackled when two monsters work together to come up with the best tale. (Of course, the most exciting ones have hungry dragons!) The story elements build on one another, the page turns are brilliantly executed, and the result is a laugh-out-loud tale. —Julie Falatko, author, Two Dogs in a Trench Coat series
By Andrea Zuill. $17.99. Gr. K–3.
Sweety, with her Coke-bottle glasses and retainer, is a “little square peg,” says Grandma, odd even for a naked mole rat. She enthusiastically pursues her interests in mycology and interpretive dance, but sometimes she just longs to find one of “her people.”
Catwad: It’s Me.
By Jim Benton. $8.99. Gr. 2–7.
Benton (Dear Dumb Diary) should strike gold again with a series starring the eternally irritable Catwad and his blissfully naïve sidekick, Blurmp. Whether it’s Blurmp trying to fix Catwad’s computer or nattering on about his name, Catwad can barely contain his annoyance and Blurmp his bottomless joy. A feline odd couple in fine comic form.
Klawde #1: Evil Alien Warlord Cat
By Johnny Marciano and Emily Chenoweth, illustrated by Robb Mommaerts. $14.99. Gr. 3–7.
What do you get when you cross two aliens in exile? Raj, a middle schooler, and Klawde, Evil Alien Warlord Cat from Planet Lyttyrboks, butt heads and share adventures in Elba, Oregon. This roller coaster of a tale explores being in a world totally unknown. —Stacey Fisher, former media specialist, Holland, MI
Project Z: A Zombie Ate My Homework!
By Tommy Greenwald. $6.99. Gr. 3–7.
Arnold Z. Ombee has escaped a government lab. He tries to blend in at his new school, but his advanced vocabulary and tendency to sweat yellow goo is suspicious. High jinks ensue until a surprisingly poignant ending, when a town protects a boy who’s different.
Bernice Buttman, Model Citizen
By Niki Lenz. $16.99. Gr. 3–8.
Bernice Buttman loves to eat cheese balls, beats people up, and wants to become a Hollywood stuntwoman. But really, she’s tired of having no friends and fending off her no-good mother. Humor meets hard reality as Bernice gets a second chance.
Photos: Adam Chinitz
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