Big Summer Read
Summer Reading Guide 2021
After a long year inside, we’re all looking forward to some outdoor time with friends and family. It’s always fun to take a book along especially when you’re traveling, trying to cool off on a hot summer day, or just to share with a buddy. Take a look at the books suggested here. You’re sure to find something to appeal!
Browse through the full list or select the age range you’re interested in here:
For 9-12 year olds
Amazing Treasures: 100+ Objects and Places That Will Boggle Your Mind
What makes a treasure? Simply something that is important to someone. Travel the world and see treasures that are natural, ancient, manmade, and more in this heavily illustrated and thoroughly engaging glimpse at both familiar and more obscure riches. Backmatter includes source notes and a glossary.
Katie the Catsitter
Katie longs to go to summer camp with her friend and so takes odd jobs to earn the money. When she starts catsitting for a neighbor, she doesn’t realize that there were 217 felines, each exceptional. Katie wonders if the cats’ owner is really a supervillain who goes out each night to do dastardly deeds. Fun and fantasy abound in the first of a new graphic series with a likeable heroine.
Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls
When Cece’s sister, Juana, is kidnapped by a bride-stealing criatura, Cece is determined to get her back even if it means pretending that she’s a dark witch. This slightly dark, taut, and gripping novel is imbued with Mexican lore, told in a cadence that evokes the desert setting.
Factopia! Follow the Trail of 400 Facts
Have you ever had one thought lead to another one that is seemingly unrelated? Open this unique book and readers will be able to follow trails from one thought to another, all playfully illustrated. Just right for browsing, the factoids contain nuggets to amaze and delight.
Finish the Fight
“It took the better part of a century to pass a law saying American women had the right to vote.” The 19th Amendment was the result of a massive effort by “tons of women beyond Susan and Elizabeth’s demographic…” Black, Native, Asian, and white women who contributed are presented here in an attractive format to broaden the understanding of women’s history.
Can winning a cooking contest allow 12-year-old Cici to bring her Taiwanese grandmother to the U.S. for her 70th birthday? Will it interfere with her parents’ inviolable motto of “good grades, good college, good job”? Readers are sure to see themselves and their families in this engaging graphic portrait of an immigrant family and an aspiring chef who is bridging two cultures.
Take Back the Block
Fifth grader, Wes, is the son of activist parents who is content to defend his “best dressed” reputation — that is until he sees how his own gentrifying neighborhood is changing. And not for the better. He decides he must stand out and stand up for what he believes in. Wes is not only plausible but likeable as are other characters who are placed in an increasingly familiar situation.
The Mysterious Disappearance of Aidan S. (as told to his brother)
When 12-year-old Aidan returns home after missing for 6 days, how will he explain that he’s been in a Narnia-like place called Avenieu? Confronted with relief followed by anger, Aidan’s journey is told by Lucas, Aidan’s 11-year-old brother. This fascinating exploration of what happens when one person’s reality conflicts with another is taut and convincingly told.
A boat sets out for a sea voyage that evolves intriguingly and abstractly. Highly detailed black/white illustrations call to mind Escher’s impossible but riveting creations in this surreal adventure by a Dutch artist. Fans of Shaun Tan will appreciate this sophisticated and unique book.
The Way of the Hive: A Honey Bee’s Story
This story is “that of honey bees, CLAN APIS.” Nyuki is the newest honeybee in the hive and full of questions. Readers will delight in the handsomely illustrated story as well as learn a great deal about clan apis, how they live and work. Any remaining questions are likely answered in the extensive backmatter. Interestingly, the author is a biology professor who is also a cartoonist.
Wow in the World: The How and Wow of the Human Body: From Your Tongue to Your Toes and All the Guts in Between
Slightly irreverent and quite comical but informative, this lighthearted look at the human body and its systems provides accessible material sure to engage young readers. Based on a podcast, QR codes are included in extensive backmatter that provide additional resources, a glossary, and source notes.
For 3-6 Year Olds
Anita and the Dragons
It’s hard for a princesa to leave a beautiful island filled with “glassy, blue waves; spicy hot heat — and sandy, snug hugs” and to go into the belly of a dragon. But with her parents and brothers, Anita becomes a fearless dragon herself, flying to a new life in another country. Soft illustrations combine with a touching narration in this gentle but powerful story of immigrations
Best Day Ever!
A boy and his playful pup have a great day outdoors — best day ever! That is until the pup gets in a bit of trouble. All’s well that ends well though, and boy and dog return outside to play. The illustrations depict the boy unhindered by his wheelchair in this inclusive and appealing book.
Bubbles ... Up!
The joy of a summer swim in a pool is jubilantly depicted in animated illustrations augmented by well-placed, lyrical language that bubbles up along with the young swimmer. The girl is ultimately joined by a more reluctant younger swimmer with floaties on his arms, sure to reassure more timid swimmers that pleasure awaits.
Eyes that Kiss in the Corners
The narrator describes her eyes and those of her family as “eyes that kiss in the corner and glow like warm tea.” Poetic language and handsome illustrations evoke Asian art and culture create an affirming portrait of a family and their heritage, to be enjoyed by all cultures.
Grandfather Bowhead, Tell Me a Story
Little Arvaaq (a bowhead calf) asks Grandfather Bowhead to tell him stories about his long life. The elder whale reveals how he has seen northern lights, broken through ice to give his family air and more. Evocative illustrations in shades of blue to present the whales’ habitat. A brief bit of information about bowhead whales and an Inuktitut pronunciation guide conclude this handsome book.
Milo Imagines the World
While Milo and his sister travel on a subway, Milo observes other passengers drawing them in his sketchbook. But appearances don’t always reveal the whole story Milo learns. When he and his sister arrive at the prison to visit their mom, so does a boy from the subway. The illustrator’s signature illustrations are the perfect complement to the moving, understated text.
Regina Is Not a Little Dinosaur
“Deep in the primeval forest lurks a dangerous predator. Her name is Regina.” This small but fierce T-Rex is eager prove she’s ready to join the hunt but is thwarted by…an angry bee! Expressive illustrations and recognizable attitudes are sure to resonate with young readers as they chuckle at Regina and her attempts to show how grown she is.
Something’s Wrong! A Bear, a Hare, and Some Underwear
Jeff and Anders, a bear and a hare, are the best of friends. Anders figures out how to save Jeff embarrassment and even start a new forest fashion trend. Laugh-out-loud illustrations and text make for a truly unique yet instructive way to be a supportive friend.
A child is embarrassed when parents stop the car to harvest wild watercress. Illustrations in sepia, however, show why this is such an emotional moment for the Chinese American family as it recalls an earlier time. Inspired text and stunningly detailed watercolors provide insight into one family’s history and a glimpse of their life before coming to the United States.
What Ollie Saw
Ollie has a vivid imagination and just may need eyeglasses. His poor vision (or is it his imagination?) allows him to see water buffalo instead of cows, interesting creatures rather than letters and numbers. When Ollie, a pink pig in a blue beret, dons his new spectacles, the world becomes more realistic, but glasses are not needed all the time! Comic illustration and understated text tell a humorous tale.
What Will You Be?
A grandmother and child celebrate all the things the youngster can grow into, all the while recognizing individuality.Light-filled illustrations complement the evocative narration. Also in Spanish: ¿Qué Serás?.
When Lola Visits
What does summer smell like? How does it taste? When Lola arrives from the Philippines, so does summer and with it, the joy of a family reunited with their grandmother. Loose lines and rich color combine with a text to evoke the sights and sounds of a warm summer with a warm family.
For 0-3 year olds
Bea by the Sea
Bea loves lions but does not like sand — “too gritty, too sticky and too scratchy” — and so she is not thrilled when her mother tells her that they’re heading to the beach. But a sand lion and imagination help Bea recognize the joy of being seaside. End papers are filled with information about lions in this childlike, joy-filled book. Also available in Spanish/English: Bea en el mar/Bea by the Sea.
Cow Says Meow
With just enough adult humor that foreshadow the next animal, readers of all ages will appreciate the silly (and completely wrong) sounds that come out of each creature as the pages turns. Large-eyed animals appear a bit clueless as they mouth sounds that young readers will recognize as erroneous in this playful, very funny book.
Hip, Hip ... Beret!
Bella’s beret from her Grand-pere blows off her head landing on different animals and people until Bella finds it again in the spring. Short rhymes introduce each head, including a flamingo dancer who exclaims, “hip hip, Ole!” The fuzzy red beret just right for touching on the cover and when it’s on Bella’s head adds a playful dimension.
Let’s Find Momo Outdoors!
Momo, a black and white border collie, explores the great outdoors with a young canine friend named Boo. Crisp photographs on sturdy, well-designed pages make this seek-and-find book and adventure as well as an opportunity to talk about what young readers are viewing.
Take a jaunt through a jungle to meet animals with a short rhyme and then lift the flap to “hear” and see them hiss, roar, and more. Durable pages and boldly shaped animals create an attractive, interactive book sure to engage young listeners
This Is My Daddy
A tadpole, a snail, a squirrel and other creatures each ask, “who is my daddy?” The reader then must decide which of 4 choices, but another page turn pictures the adult critter with its offspring. Colorful, child-like, and slightly abstract illustrations are presented on sturdy pages.
Time for Kenny
Kenny is a whirlwind of everyday activities. Children will recognize what Kenny does in four vignettes — from getting up to getting dressed to getting ready for bed with lots in-between. Swirling black lines and touches of color on open pages present an active boy in a warm family.
Tiny Kitty, Big City
A tiny cat traverses a very big city, meeting some things that are scary (barking dogs), but other things that are quite nice (like the shopkeeper who gives the kitty food and the boy who takes it home). Simply lined illustrations from various perspectives and brief text make combine to make this a winning and satisfying story.
Where’s Baby Elephant
Where is baby elephant? None of the animals and their young on the first or even the second foldout have seen her. Of course, baby elephant is with her mommy revealed on the final pages of this handsomely illustrated book with large gatefolds presented on well-made pages.
Yes & No
A cat and dog live together and are awakened at the same time. Their distinct personalities shine through in line drawings and limited text on open pages that follow them through the day. Sometimes the pair cooperate, other times they are distinctly different, but always likeable.
For 6-9 Year Olds
Beak & Ally: Unlikely Friends
Can a solitary alligator and an extroverted and nosey bird become friends? Ally doesn’t think so since Beak will not take no for an answer! The friendship will likely endure as this is the first in a humorous new early graphic novel series.
Billy Miller Makes a Wish
As Billy blew out the candles on his birthday cake, an ambulance rushes down the street. Could his wish for some excitement have caused a dear neighbor friend to become ill? Billy and his family, first introduced in The Year of Billy Miller return in this quiet, touching, and relatable standalone volume.
JoJo Makoons: The Used-to-Be Best Friend
JoJo is concerned that her best school friend isn’t any more plus she’s concerned about her best home friend, her cat Mimi. This first in a new series stars 7-year-old JoJo, an Ojibwe girl who lives on a fictional reservation with her family. It’s fresh, relatable, and not to be missed.
Mars Is: Stark Slopes, Silvery Snow, and Startling Surprises
Mars continues to intrigue but photographs sent from a powerful camera known as HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) has provided clues if not answers to many questions. Information and a lyrical text combine with astonishing, textured photographs for a look at the mysterious red planet for a book that can be read, viewed, and enjoyed in several ways.
Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey
Marisol has a vivid imagination. She names most things, including a backyard tree which she is afraid to climb. Illustrated by the author, Kelly makes Marisol and her family and friends come to life in a quiet but engaging story in which readers will see themselves as well as common concerns, and overcoming fear.
Popcorn is a healthy snack, right? Not if you’re Ellis. She’s banned from having her daily portions of popcorn, so she secretly tries to pop some. One kernel, however, comes alive to upset her life in this very funny (and a bit peculiar), illustrated novel that was first published in the Netherlands. This is likely to be the first in a series, so stay tuned for more about cowboy-hat-wearing (Popcorn) Bob!
Summertime Sleepers: Animals That Estivate
You know about animals that hibernate, but do you know about animals that sleep all summer? They estivate! Estivation occurs during particularly hot or dry periods such as the West African lungfish in Mali. Straightforward text and realistic illustrations are punctuated by black/white line drawings with notes that create the impression of a field guide. Notes from the author and illustrator as well as additional resources conclude this fascinating volume.
The Gravity Tree: The True Story of a Tree That Inspired the World
“A tree may seem like an ordinary thing. But hundreds of years ago, a tree was about to embark on an extraordinary journey.” Sir Isaac Newton sat under that tree and came up with the theory of gravity, a tree and an idea that have continued to inspire other scientists and people all over the world. Straightforward text and engaging illustrations present the Gravity Tree. Backmatter included.
The Highest Tribute: Thurgood Marshall’s life, Leadership, and Legacy
Born in Baltimore (MD), Thurgood Marshall would grow up to be one of the most powerful forces in rights for Black citizens. Clearly illustrated with an accessible text, Marshall’s life and legacy are presented, complete with a timeline, major cases, and more.
This Way, Charlie
All friendships have ups and downs and it is no different for Jack, a cantankerous goat, and a blind horse named Charlie. Inspired by actual animals at a sanctuary, this gorgeously illustrated tale will remind readers about the enduring power of friendship.
What can Kooky Dooky do help to inspire El Toro to train as a luchador for his next wrestling match? The first in a lively new series features animated characters and Spanish words for a fun romp. After the match, El Toro and his friend Oink Oink clean up in El Toro’s next adventure in Tag Team.
We Are Still Here: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know
Using a class activity as a framework, the history of Indigenous people in the United States is presented. Each “presentation” concludes with a resounding “We are still here” despite the difficult history. Simple but bold illustrations and extensive backmatter conclude this important introduction to an often-forgotten part of American history.
Backyard play seems quite real to three sisters as they dodge a dragon, find a pocket-sized gorilla and more in their jungle. Inspired by a visit to the Yucatan with his own daughters, Linier’s easier to read graphic novel combines art and text to create tension, movement, and imaginative drama.
Proceeds from the sale of books purchased at Amazon.com help support the Reading Rockets project. Thank you!