ParentMap Summer | Holidays | Elementary | Tweens + Teens

2008 summer reading guide

Editor’s note: We asked our friend, writer and children’s librarian Lora Shinn, to recommend great books for summertime reading. Here are her picks.


In the Tall, Tall Grass (An Owlet Book) by Denise Fleming. What’s hidden in plain sight? This book suggests looking a little closer. Babies and toddlers adore the big, bright pictures of creepy-crawly critters scurrying through deep green grass. $7.95; Henry Holt and Co.

Jamberry by Bruce Degen. A rollicking, frolicking ramble through the blackberry bramble. A boy and his bear try all the berries summer has to offer, from raspberries to blueberries. With rhythmic stanzas and infectious enthusiasm, what’s not to love? Board book, $7.99; HarperFestival.

Kite Flying by Grace Lin. Mei-Mei and Jie-Jie make a dragon kite, taking it to a grassy hill to watch it soar in the sky. Deep, vivid colors and simple sentences take young listeners along on a beloved warm-weather ritual. Combine with a stop at a kite shop: instant magic! $6.99; Dragonfly Books.

Whose Garden Is It? by Mary Ann Hoberman. Does the garden belong to the fiery sun, furry friends or a frustrated gardener? Sunflowers, butterflies, and Peter Rabbit enter the debate. Vivid illustrations pop alongside rhyming text and amusing repartee. $16.00; Gulliver Books.


Froggy Learns to Swim by Jonathan London. Cartoon-like drawings and goofy text accompany Froggy’s splash in the lake. A buffoonish amphibian, Froggy’s goal is to make kids laugh at his bumbling antics, complete with the swim chant “chicken, airplane, soldier.” $5.99; Puffin.

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey. In this classic tale, Sal loses her human mother and ends up picking berries with a mama bear. Meanwhile, a baby bear finds himself tagging along behind a kerchiefed woman who’s definitely not his mother. Will these odd couples ever find their way home? $7.99; Puffin.

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant. Come one, come all! Countrified cousins from the Blue Hills of Virginia come to stay in this story illustrated with warm pencil drawings. In this celebration of family, affectionate folks hug their relatives “for hours,” play fiddle and serve up potluck-style meals. $7.99; Aladdin.

Come On, Rain by Karen Hesse. In the melting heat, city girl Tess waits for rain. Running out to splash and dash with friends as round drops plop, she’s surprised when even mom joins in. Hazy illustrations perfectly depict the gray, humid days of summer. $16.95; Scholastic.

Early elementary

Summersaults by Douglas Florian. With poem titles like “What I Hate About Summer,” Florian applies his famous wit to summer ups and downs. Other topics include bees, tennis, double dutch and dandelions: “The dandelion doesn’t roar/it’s quiet as a closet door.” $16.99; Greenwillow.

No More Pencils, No More Books, No More Teacher's Dirty Looks! (Gilbert and Friends) by Diane deGroat. Leaving behind first grade isn’t easy for Gilbert and friends, as they prepare for summer break. When Mrs. Byrd hands out awards, everyone discovers they’re good at something — even Gilbert. $15.99; HarperCollins.

Beachcombing: Exploring the Seashore by Jim Arnosky. This nonfiction book extols the pleasures of beachcombing, and includes lush illustrations of seashells, crabs and seaweeds. It’s a great identification guide for “special finds” such as a mermaid’s purse, sea beans, and broken teeth or tusks. $15.99; Dutton Juvenille.

Earth to Audrey by Susan Hughes. Wild child Audrey turns Ray’s ho-hum summer days upside-down. Whether communicating with the mother ship (via kite) or training grasshoppers to follow her command, Audrey demonstrates innovative ways to resolve the “I’m bored!” battle cry. $6.95; Kids Can Press.

Grades 3-6

What Lives Under the Carpet? by John Woodward. Nothing says summer like a kid shrieking, “What is that?” The older child inspired by spiders, ladybugs, crane flies and other summer insects will enjoy this nonfiction guide to our buggy world. $7.95; Barron’s Education Series.

Lawn Boy by Gary Paulsen. He’s just your average 12-year-old boy, making thousands of dollars over the summer by mowing lawns, and sponsoring his own prize fighter. Mature readers will enjoy riding along, as one very lucky young man discovers the power of a buck. $12.99; Wendy Lamb Books.

Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little by Peggy Gifford. Nine-year-old Moxy devises increasingly ridiculous excuses to avoid reading Stuart Little before school starts, including starting a peach farm (naturally). Very funny, brisk writing and photos make this a great summer pick. $12.99; Schwartz & Wade.

Holes by Louis Sachar. Stanley “Caveman” Yeltnats knows he didn’t steal that basketball player’s shoes. Yet here he is, digging holes in the hot Texas sun, paying for a crime he never committed. But before this humorous story for older readers is over, Stanley will discover the dirty secret behind all those holes at Camp Green Lake. $6.99; Yearling.

Lora Shinn is a mother, freelance writer, and children’s librarian.

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