School is finally out and summer has arrived, and that means it’s time to head to the library to stock up on children’s books, which deserve a place in the beach bag right next to the sunscreen. So what should your kids be reading? We’ve enlisted the help of seven local children’s librarians to offer recommendations of sublime summer reads for all ages. Their picks are page-turners that will delight and entertain kids whether they’re reading in a tent by flashlight, in the back seat on a long road trip, or in bed after a long day outdoors.
Boston Public Library, Central Library
Cambridge Public Library
Duxbury Free Library
Robbins Library, Arlington
Reading Public Library
Newton Free Library
Sawyer Free Library, Gloucester
For beginning readers
“Red: A Crayon’s Story” by Michael Hall (Greenwillow)
Colorful describes this book’s pictures and its story line, which illustrates the woes of a blue crayon, mistakenly labeled as red, as he searches for his identity. “This book has a message that adults will notice immediately,” says Denman. “It’s all about being true to oneself.”
“Swimming, Swimming” by Gary
Dive into the story of an ordinary day spent splishing and splashing with “Swimming, Swimming,” based on the classic children’s song. Roach says: “For swimmers and for those summering in the city, this fantastic picture book celebration of summer friends and the community pool will refresh readers of all ages.”
“Meet the Dullards” by Sara
Pennypacker, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri (Balzer + Bray)
Boredom is bound to strike at some point as the long summer days drone on, but hopefully kids never feel like they’re members of the comically boring Dullard family. “Clever, deadpan, and especially funny for older picture book readers,” according to Fisher, this book follows Blanda, Borely, and Little Dud Dullard, siblings determined to escape the monotonous life their parents insist upon.
“Take Me Out to the Yakyu” by Aaron Meshon (Atheneum)
This charming baseball-themed book, Koenig says, “is a way for kids to experience something they know through a different lens.” Readers follow a young boy who attends baseball games in both the United States and Japan, learning about the game and its cultural traditions through flat, stylized drawings on spreads paralleling the countries.
“A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat” by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Sophie Blackall (Schwartz and Wade)
Chronicling the creation of one dessert, blackberry fool, by four families living in different eras, this book stirs up history — and appetites — as it shows how food, technology, and family life have changed over time. Linder likes this book for its “delicate illustrations and informative, important notes from the author and illustrator at the end,” including a recipe for blackberry fool.
For early elementary readers
“The Terrible Two” by Mac Barnett and Jory John, illustrated by Kevin Cornell (Abrams)
Fast-paced and full of laughs, “The Terrible Two” tells the story of Miles, an epic prankster bored out of his mind when he moves to Yawnee Valley, a sleepy town filled with cows. His boredom quickly dissipates, however, when he discovers there’s already a resident prankster in town and that he must out-trick him to claim the title. With “hilarious illustrations, tips for pranking, and outrageous bovine facts throughout,” Roach says, this book “will engage even the most high-energy summer readers.”
“El Deafo” by Cece Bell (Abrams)
A 2015 Newbery Honor Book, this autobiographical graphic novel shares how Cece lost her hearing at a young age and how her powerful but cumbersome hearing aid, called the Phonic Ear, isolates her from her classmates until she learns to harness the power of her bionic hearing and becomes “El Deafo, Listener for All.” The book “is definitely about handicap awareness and is full of delightful, heartwarming stories,” says Fisher.
“Dare the Wind: The Record-breaking Voyage of Eleanor Prentiss and the
Flying Cloud” by Tracey Fern, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Rosso recommends this title, which has visuals to entertain the younger set and a compelling narrative for established readers: “This picture-book biography of heroine Ellen Prentiss, sailor and navigator of the clipper ship the Flying Cloud, tells the exciting story of the ship’s record-breaking voyage from New York to San Francisco in 1851.”
“Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane
Goodall” by Anita Silvey (National
Adventurers and outdoor lovers will identify with the life and work of Jane Goodall, compellingly presented in “Untamed,” which is filled with full color photographs, illustrations, maps, and fun nature facts. The biography, Roach says, “will have readers off and exploring the world around them this summer.”
“Masterminds” by Gordon Korman (Balzer + Bray)
With perfectly manicured lawns and kids who never lie, Serenity, N.M., is the perfect town — or so Eli Frieden thinks until he and his friends stumble upon something that makes him realize that nothing is as it seems in their idyllic community. Denman says that this book, the first in a series, is a great summer pick: “There’s adventure, there’s mystery, it moves along quickly — it’s really great for reluctant readers especially.”
For the older kids
“Lumberjanes Vol. 1” by Noelle
Stevenson and Grace Ellis, illustrated by Brooke Allen (BOOM! Box)
Summer camp is a tradition for many kids, but Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types is far from traditional. Yetis, three-eyed wolves, and giant falcons are just some of the supernatural critters that five campers encounter in the pages of this graphic novel, the first in an ongoing series. “I love this book unreservedly,” says Koenig. “It’s just super fun to read, and it really focuses on female friendship.”
“Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms” by Katherine Rundell (Simon & Schuster)
Watts-Flavin and her fellow Arlington children’s librarians recommend this novel: “It’s an exceptional new novel [with] a Cinderella-y twist.” The book follows Wilhelmina, a young girl living on the untamed plains of Africa who is whisked to the wilds of a London boarding school.
“The . . . Penderwicks in Spring” by Jeanne Birdsall (Knopf)
A staff favorite at Reading Public Library, this children’s novel is fourth in the popular Penderwick series, which chronicles the lives and adventures of four sisters, their father, and their dog. “The family is offbeat and funny, and you really identity with the characters. [The book] is full of heart and emotion,” says Fisher.
“The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher” by Dana Alison Levy
The Fletcher brothers’ school year is off to a poor start, both at home and in the classroom. As the four boys struggle to get back on track, comedic and often touching vignettes recounting their adventures and family life ensue. Koenig says the book has a familiar feel: “The reason I love this as a summer book is that, thinking back to what I loved to read as a kid, I loved these episodic books showcasing families like the Quimbys or the Saturdays. This book sort of brings that timeless loving family into today’s world.”
“Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson (Deckle Edge)
Linder highly recommends this 2015 Newbery Honor title. “This book is a beautiful autobiography in verse about the author’s childhood growing up as an African-American girl in South Carolina and New York during the 1960s and ’70s.” Eloquent and accessible, Woodson’s memoir-in-verse is a good introduction to poetry.Eryn Carlson can be reached at email@example.com.