Whether they’re poring over a bayou mystery in a backyard tent, cracking up over spork-wielding rats while lying on a beach, or sitting in a tree house uncovering the intricacies of nest building, your students can look forward to a summer filled with learning and trips to magical lands. You’ve played no small role in nurturing their love of books: read-alouds they won’t forget, carefully crafted and illustrated character studies to show off at family Fridays, author visits that made them dream of writing their own books.
We received a flood of wonderful, diverse books as we prepared for our summer reading spectacular. We read, and read some more; we shared fun facts and story lines. We asked our teacher advisers, Facebook fans, and Twitter followers to weigh in. The result is a list of 50 books your students (and you) won’t want to put down. Happy summer reading!
Want to share these books with your students? First, download an easy-to-print PDF of our Summer Book List. Then, check the boxes for books you recommend for your class. Download the PDF here:
Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer
By Kelly Jones, illustrated by Katie Kath. $16.99. Grades 4–6.
In letters to her dearly departed abuelita and others, Sophie worries about missing L.A., her dad’s unemployment, and poultry thieves. Her voice rings true in this tale of family, adventure, and raising chickens.
Return to Augie Hobble
By Lane Smith. $16.99. Grades 4–7.
“This has a little bit of everything: twisted fairy tales, werewolves, bullies, and humor.”
—Karen Arendt, librarian, T. J. Connor Elementary, Scottsville, NY and blogger at TJ Connor Elementary Media Center.
The Terrible Two
By Jory John and Mac Barnett, illustrated by Kevin Cornell. $13.95. Grades 4–6.
Far be it from us to condone pranking, but if we were to, we’d recommend this very funny manual on the art. Plus, there are cows, goofy drawings, shouting principals, and other stuff preteens will find hilarious.
By Peter Hannan. $8.99. Grades 2–5.
A fiendish alpha cat, her dim-witted canine nemesis, and a lovesick hamster declare independence from humans and form the nation of Petlandia. Power struggles ensue as rats, snakes, and even fleas demand a voice. Sublimely immature.
Frank Einstein and the Electro-Finger
By Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Brian Biggs. $13.95. Grades 3–6.
“It has action and adventure, it’s graphic-intensive, and it has a superhero vibe. I just won’t mention the science part too loudly.” —Kendra Patterson, librarian, Andrews (TX) Middle School and blogger at Library Chat with Ms. Pat.
Cassidy’s Guide to Everyday Etiquette (and Obfuscation)
By Sue Stauffacher. $16.99. Grades 3–7.
Worst. Summer. Ever? That’s what it looks like to tomboy Cassidy, who is dreading the five weeks she must spend in etiquette classes. Not to mention her mother’s tendency to use words like obfuscation.
Dragons at Crumbling Castle
By Terry Pratchett. $16.99. Grades 4–7.
From the fertile imagination of the late best-selling author comes a ridiculously droll collection of stories that are one part Roald Dahl, one part Monty Python, and the rest pure Pratchett.
By Rowboat Watkins. $16.99. Grades K–2.
This pretty pink cake is a nasty piece of work—pushy and rude—until it’s taught a lesson about manners by a goofy troupe of colorful Cyclopses.
Fantasy & Adventure
By Cassie Beasley. $17.99. Grades 4–8.
“Some books take readers to different places or let us experience fantastical lands, but Circus Mirandus brings the magic to our world.” —Jen Vincent, coordinator of instructional technology, School District U-46, Elgin, IL and blogger at Teach Mentor Texts.
Last of the Sandwalkers
By Jay Hosler. $16.99. Grades 4–7.
In this funny, adventure-filled graphic novel deeply rooted in science, a society of beetles, led by young scientist Lucy, explores the precarious desert world outside its palm tree.
By Josh Lieb. $16.99. Grades 3–7.
With his super-heightened sense of smell (chicken bones—yum!) and a magical spork dubbed Ratscalibur in hand, kid-turned-rat Joey fights to save a kingdom of fellow rats.
The Princess in Black
By Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham. $6.99. Grades K–3.
Princesses in black are bored by teatime, gallop breakneck on jet-black ponies (not pink-maned unicorns), and rescue boys from monsters. Finally, the perfect role-model princess!
By Alice Hoffman. $16.99. Grades 5–8.
In a place where monsters might be real, 12-year-old Twig stores up her hurts “as if they were a tower made of fallen stars”—until she finds a friend to help her break a curse and release her family’s secrets.
Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures
By Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater. $16.99. Grades 3–6.
High-strung unicorns and lilac-horned Pomeranians are a few of Pip’s allies as she battles villains like government functionary Mrs. Dreadbatch in this fantastical field guide to magical creatures.
The Lost Track of Time
By Paige Britt, illustrated by Lee White. $17.99. Grades 4–7.
“For fans of The Phantom Tollbooth, Alice in Wonderland, puns, space-time continuums, philosophy, and, most of all, those who know the value of a good idea, this book is a must-read.” —Brian Wyzlic, teacher, Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School, Marine City, MI and blogger at WYZ Reads.
By Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Meg Hunt. $16.99. Grades K–3.
Antimatter hammers and sonic socket wrenches are the tools a space-age Cinderella uses to win the heart of the prince—and the happy ending involves her agreeing to be his chief mechanic, not his royal bride.
Welcome to the Neighborwood
By Shawn Sheehy. $29.99. Grades K–2.
This intricate pop-up book explores the dwellings of seven animals that share the same forest home.
Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah
By Laurie Ann Thompson, illustrated by Sean Qualls. $17.99. Grades K–3.
Emmanuel was born with only one functioning leg, but that didn’t stop him from achieving great things. As a child, he hopped to school two miles each way; as an adult, he bicycled 400 miles across Ghana for disability awareness.
Gingerbread for Liberty!: How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution
By Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch. $17.99. Grades 1–4.
Young history buffs will love this story about a Philadelphia baker who helped change the course of the Revolutionary War with gingerbread—and kindness.
Growing up Pedro
By Matt Tavares. $16.99. Grades 2–5.
This picture-book bio captures the struggles, and the deep brotherly bond, of MLB legends Pedro and RamÃÂ³n Martinez—from their impoverished upbringing in the Dominican Republic to their glory days in the big leagues.
A Nest Is Noisy
By Dianna Hutts Aston, illustrated by Sylvia Long. $16.99. Grades K–3.
Whether it’s the foamy home of a frog or the sandy one of a sea turtle, this book reminds readers that all nests bustle with activity.
Why’d They Wear That?: Fashion As the Mirror of History
By Sarah Albee. $19.99. Grades 5–8.
Ever wonder why ruff collars became all the rage during the Renaissance or how sneakers came to be? Learn from this detailed account of fashion through the ages.
The Founding Fathers!: The Horse-Ridin’, Fiddle-Playin’, Book-Readin’, Gun-Totin’ Gentlemen Who Started America
By Jonah Winter, illustrated by Barry Blitt. $17.99. Grades 3–5.
“Kids will love learning about the early leaders of our country, and the good, the bad, and the ugly character traits of each one.” —Holly Mueller, fifth- and sixth-grade ELA gifted intervention specialist, Kings Local School District (OH) and blogger at Reading, Teaching, Learning.
I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives
By Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda, with Liz Welch. $18. Grades 6–8.
Caitlin and Martin lived a world apart—she in the U.S., he in Zimbabwe—but they were brought together by a pen pal exchange that lasted six years. This uplifting memoir will have students reaching for their pens.
A Handful of Stars
By Cynthia Lord. $16.99. Grades 3–7.
“Lord weaves themes of acceptance, friendship, and bravery into a novel that also celebrates the beauty of nature and the richness that animal companions bring to our lives.” —Jennifer Brittin, K–5 media teacher, Warren E. Sooy Jr. Elementary School, Hammonton, NJ
The Penderwicks in Spring
By Jeanne Birdsall. $16.99. Grades 3–7.
The fourth installment of this series finds the Penderwicks with a new sibling named Lydia. It’s an endearing story about friendship and family.
By ThanhhÃÂ Lai. $16.99. Grades 5–8.
On a trip to Vietnam, California-born protagonist Mai struggles to find a balance between the culture she was raised in and her family’s roots. Unlike Lai’s award-winning Inside Out and Back Again, this story is told in prose instead of poetry, but it’s equally as powerful.
Gone Crazy in Alabama
By Rita Williams-Garcia. $16.99. Grades 4–6.
The award-winning author rounds out a trilogy about three sisters as they travel from Brooklyn to Alabama to visit their grandmother.
Dear Hank Williams
By Kimberly Willis Holt. $16.99. Grades 4–7.
Eleven-year-old Tate P. Ellerbee writes a series of letters to country music star Hank Williams as part of a class assignment in a relatable story of family, tragedy, and love.
Ice Cream Summer
By Peter SÃÂs. $17.99. Grades K–3.
SÃÂs cleverly slips lessons on history, vocabulary, and math into this tale of summer fun as Joe narrates everything he’s learned in a letter to his grandfather.
The Way Home Looks Now
By Wendy Wan-Long Shang. $16.99. Grades 4–7.
Amid family loss, a boy turns to baseball in hopes of bringing some normalcy back to his homelife. This touching story is more than a sports book—it’s a testament to the healing power of family.
Fish in a Tree
By Linda Mullaly Hunt. $16.99. Grades 4–7.
Ally struggles with dyslexia, which she covers up with troublemaking antics. Mr. Daniels—who reminds his students of the maxim that no one should “judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree”—is a wonderful role model.
Lost in the Sun
By Lisa Graff. $16.99. Grades 5–8.
Perfect for students preparing for middle school, Graff’s latest is all about making a fresh start. Trent struggles with a tragic accident in his past while trying to start anew.
Magic & Mystery
The Island of Dr. Libris
By Chris Grabenstein. $16.99. Grades 3–7.
Stuck at an old cabin with a broken iPhone, 12-year-old Billy braces himself for a boring summer—until he opens a book.
By Pam MuÃÂ±oz Ryan. $19.99. Grades 5–9.
Set before and during WWII, this magical tale follows an enchanted harmonica and the lives it touches as it travels through space and time.
Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective: The Sweetest Heist in History
By Octavia Spencer. $16.99. Grades 4–7.
“The diverse cast of characters solves an intriguing mystery that is more interesting than ones in many clue-oriented books.” —Karen Yingling, teacher-librarian, Blendon Middle School, Westerville, OH and blogger at Ms. Yingling Reads.
Pieces and Players
By Blue Balliett. $17.99. Grades 3–7.
Thirteen masterpieces go missing from a museum, and finding the perpetrator might be tough—but it’s nothing compared with becoming a teenager.
Smashie McPerter and the Mystery of Room 11
By N. Griffin, illustrated by Kate Hindley. $15.99. Grades 2–5.
When Room 11’s hamster goes missing, Smashie and best friend Dontel are on the case. Great for developing logical reasoning skills.
Wiilliam & the Missing Masterpiece
By Helen Hancocks. $16.99. Grades K–2.
Crisis in Paris: The Mona Cheesa is missing! William, cat detective, agrees to put his vacation on hold and use his observational skills to save the day.
By Sarah Weeks. $16.99. Grades 3–7.
When Melody overhears her widowed father calling someone “honey,” she sets out to track down the mystery woman—and discovers a connection to her mother.
By Jewell Parker Rhodes. $17. Grades 3–7.
New Orleans native Maddy is nervous about spending a summer with her grandmother, but she soon discovers the magic of the bayou—and her own ancestors.
By Jennifer Chambliss Bertman. $16.99. Grades 4–9.
Emily’s family is always moving. One constant: Book Scavenger, a game where players solve puzzles to find books. When the game’s creator is attacked, Emily embarks on the ultimate scavenger hunt.
Last Stop on Market Street
By Matt de la PeÃÂ±a, illustrated by Christian Robinson. $16.99. Grades 2–5.
CJ’s nana helps him see beyond poverty to the beauty around them. De la PeÃÂ±a tackles questions of class and privilege in a way that will resonate.
By Molly Idle. $16.99. Grades K–1.
Cordelia enjoys a day of fun with her little brother, a basket of beach supplies, and a few dinosaurs. Kids will absorb summer safety tips while laughing out loud at Idle’s subtle humor.
An Ambush of Tigers: A Wild Gathering of Collective Nouns
By Betsy R. Rosenthal, illustrated by Jago. $19.99. Grades K–3.
“Who could resist the shiver of sharks with their scarves and hats? I highly recommend this for any language arts class.” —Suzanne Costner, library media specialist, Fairview Elementary School, Maryville, TN and blogger at The Fairview Review.
Duncan the Story Dragon
By Amanda Driscoll. $16.99. Grades K–2.
Duncan has a problem: He loves to read, but when he gets excited, his fire-breath burns the story up!
By Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Matt Phelan. $15.99. Grades K–3.
In a world where every kid has his or her own monster, Marilyn hasn’t found hers yet. Rather than wait as told, she sets off to find her monster—and prove that it doesn’t always pay to play by the rules.
999 frogs and a Little Brother
By Ken Kimura, illustrated by Yasunari Murakami. $17.95. Grades K–2.
When the smallest tadpole in the family meets a baby crayfish, he is thrilled to be mistaken for the crayfish’s big brother. What begins as a funny misunderstanding becomes a sweet friendship.
How to Read a Story
By Kate Messner, illustrated by Mark Siegel. $16.99. Grades K–3.
Messner takes young readers from the library shelf to “the end” with time-tested tips such as “Find a cozy reading spot…just be careful not to get stuck.” What better way to get kids excited about reading?
Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music
By Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael LÃÂ³pez. $16.99. Grades K–3.
Based on a true story, this vibrant book stars a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who dreamed of playing the drums at a time when female drummers were taboo. The poetic verse has a beat of its own.
Photo: Adam Chinitz