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04/29/2015 10:27PM ● Published by Nancy Babin

Gallery: Great Books for Great Kids [6 Images] Click any image to expand.

Many parents are starting to plan out their summer activities, and I encourage you to start to make sure reading activities are included in those plans.  In doing your planning, I encourage to you to make a call or visit your local library to learn about the reading programs they will be hosting this summer.  Our local libraries are wonderful and the library staff spends a lot of time and resources planning fun camps and activities that inspire a love for reading in children (and adults) of any age.  Most are free or at a very low cost.  Give them a try!

In this article are some books you may want to look at for your children to read this summer.  You may find a fun summer read for yourself as well – I read each book in this article and I truly enjoyed them.

My first pick for this edition is the most recent Newbery Medal winner – “The Crossover” by Kwame Alexander.  The main characters are 12 year old Josh and his twin brother, Jordan, who are star basketball players at their junior high school.  Just because there is a basketball player on the cover, don’t be fooled - this story is really about family and the issues of becoming a teen, with a little basketball thrown in.  What makes this story so unique is that it is written in verse, and the rhythm of the verse changes from a pulsing beat during a basketball game, to a peacefulness of rest, to sharp anger between brothers and to a brightness of joy.  The beat of the verse truly pulls the reader into the mood of the characters and you will get so much more out of the story because of the masterful writing.  I highly recommend this for anyone ages 10 and up.

Next for this article I suggest “The Island of Dr. Libris” by Chris Grabenstein.  Readers will recognize the author as having written the recent “Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library” which was a smash hit.  In this new story, the main character is Billy who is not happy to be spending his summer in an isolated island cabin with no technology.  The cabin is owned by Dr. Libris and has a library.  With nothing else to do, Billy begins reading the books in the library and when he reads he hears strange noises from around the island – like the characters in the stories are coming to life.  Is it Billy’s imagination running wild or is something really strange going on?  I recommend you read it to find out!  I recommend this for boys and girls ages 8 and up, and I also recommend this one for a family read-a-loud.

Another new release I recommend for your summer is “Lost Children of the Far Islands” by Emily Raabe.  The main characters are twins Gus (short for Gustavia) and Leo and their little sister Ila.  Gus and Leo are about to turn 11 and as their birthday approaches strange things start happening.  As the weather gets weirder and strange noises start surrounding their house, Gus and Leo start wondering if all this has something to do with them.  Turns out, they aren’t who they think they are and they must figure it out or else disaster will await their family.  This book is a great read and is very hard to put down – perfect for summer.  I recommend it for boys and girls ages 8 and up and it would also make another good family read-a-loud.

Next I suggest some books for the older set.  One is “Black Dove, White Raven” by Elizabeth Wein.  This book is set in the 1930s and the main characters are Emilia and Teo, friends whose mothers are stunt pilots. In a stunt accident Teo’s mother is killed and Emilia’s mother fulfills a promise to his mother and adopts him.  The problem?  Teo is black, Emilia and her mother are white.  In America in the 1930s, a white girl and black boy being raised together in one home was dangerous and so Emilia’s mother moves them to Ethopia for a better life.  The family loves their new country – until war breaks out.  Read this story and see how this family courageously moves forward in spite of the many obstacles thrown at them.  I encourage parents to exercise caution in being prepared to discuss discrimination and realistic war themes with their children in the reading of this book.  The author has done her research and there is much to be learned about Ethiopia in the 1930s and 1940s from this book.  I recommend it for boys and girls ages 13 and up – and for adults as well.

Other books for teens are “The Devil’s Paintbox” and its recent sequel “Son of Fortune” by Victoria McKernan. It is the 1860s and Aiden is a survivor of a destitute childhood on the Kansas prairie.  He has worked his way across the country to the city of his dreams – San Francisco.  He has heard wonderful stories about the fortunes to be made there and luck seems to be with him as he stays one step ahead of trouble.  One night in a poker game he wins a trade ship that is fully stocked for guano trade from Peru.  Knowing nothing about it, he takes it on and learns what a dangerous and difficult business it is.  Both books are historically accurate and the reader is completely swept into the life of this young man and his struggles.  I recommend these for both boys and girls ages 12 and up.

I hope you have a wonderful summer and enjoy some time to read.  Make it a family goal to simplify your activities and just have time to sit around and spend time together.  Try one of the books above for family reading time – this has long been a summer tradition for our family and I will always remember the enjoyable books we have read together.  Happy summer!


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Parenting, Today, Today Alex Brown Libraries The Crossover Kwame Alexander The Island of Dr. Libris Chris Grabenstein Lost Children of the Far Islands Emily Raabe Black Dove, White Raven Elizabeth Wein The Devils Paintbox Son of Fortune Victoria McKernan

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