Big Summer Read

Summer Reading Guide 2020

Bird graphic

Imagine what it would be like to pull an elephant out of hat. Or create a field of flowing grass from glass. Or get inspired by the sounds of the city around you. Jump into adventures with amateur detective, time travelers, and ordinary kids trying to figure out friendships and life. Discover the surprising lives of animals (including the one and only Bob) and the amazing lives of honeybees. Immerse yourself in poetry about nature, the strength of family and community, and African American heroes.

Change your perspective, learn, grow. There's so much about the world waiting to be discovered when you open up a book. Happy reading!

For 0-3 year olds

20 First Words in 20 Languages

By: Odd Dot
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

With a spin of a sturdy wheel, familiar words in different languages appear in a die-cut window atop each photograph. Babies and older people say "hello" and "goodbye" with 18 other commonplace words in-between.

A World of Opposites

By: Gray Malin
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

Travel the world through the lens of a photographer while exploring basic concepts. Interesting enhancements to some images create an unusual, sophisticated way of seeing opposites.

Dinosaurs Roar

By: Steve Jenkins
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

Lush, textured illustrations introduce animals on tall, sturdy pages. When flaps are opened, the illustrations expand and a bit of factual information is presented for a unique way to present fascinating creatures. Also by Jenkins: Sea Creatures Swim.

Harris Finds His Feet

By: Catherine Rayner
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

Harris is a “very small hare with very big feet.” His grandfather helps him realize that those big, strong feet will carry Harris around the world and back. Elegant illustrations use different perspectives to show the distance the younger and older hares travel as Harris gains confidence.

Hat Tricks

By: Satoshi Kitamura
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

Hattie, a small rabbit, is a magician with many tricks in her hat. With an “Abracadabra, katakurico” an amazing array of animals emerge from it. Simple illustrations and repeating language make this a magical book to share.

I Thought I Saw a Monkey!

By: Lydia Nichols
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

Can you find the monkey hiding in the grocery store? Join shoppers as they find and hide the small animal in this sturdy, interactive jaunt to the store. 

Let’s Play, Happy Giraffe! A Book of Colorful Animals

By: Georgiana Deutsch
Illustrated by: Adele Dafflon
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

How do you feel when you see red? Does pink make you feel differently? Explore feelings with colorful animals in rhyming text and simple illustrations, easy to find with color-coded felt tabs.

My Peekaboo Animals

By: Nicola Edwards
Illustrated by: Natalie Marshall
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

Animals can be found in forests, under the sea, and even on a safari. But in this sturdy book, one has to lift a flap — maybe two — to find them.

Snap: A Happy Book of Colors

By: Patricia Hegarty
Illustrated by: Fhiona Galloway
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

A red crab hides in order to surprise the blue fish, green sea turtle, and other colorful unsuspecting sea creatures until something bigger comes along. The rhyming text and bright illustrations are sure to inform and delight young readers.

Two Dogs on a Trike

By: Gabi Snyder
Illustrated by: Robin Rosenthal
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

Two dogs on a trike turn into three dogs on a scooter until they get to 10 on yet another vehicle then back again to one. Is the tenth dog really a canine or could it be the feline who goes off on a trike? Animated illustrations and a rhyming narrative make a memorable counting adventure.

Up Cat Down Cat

By: Steve Light
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

Black cat. White cat. One is stretching out, and the other is crouching. When both perch in a window, one tail is straight, the other one curly. With a mouse to entertain them, variously lost and found, they move through the day, until one cat is awake and the other asleep. The pure color and simple shapes of the stylized illustrations reveal an elegant use of negative and positive space.

For 3-6 Year Olds

Cat Dog Dog: The Story of a Blended Family

By: Nelly Buchet
Illustrated by: Andrea Zuill
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

A small white dog and his human dad move in with a cat and a large dog and their human mom. Though the transition is tough, they make it — until a “Waaah!” joins the family. Understated, comical, and relatable, this experience is presented with expressive illustration and limited language.

Common Critters: The Wildlife in Your Neighborhood

By: Pat Brisson
Illustrated by: Dan Tavis
Genre: Poetry
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Everyone has seen a housefly and many other familiar insects in this collection of short, lighthearted poems. Illustrations are humorous, adding verve and humor to the poems.

Don’t Worry, Little Crab

By: Chris Haughton
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Very Big Crab reassures Little Crab when they leave their tiny tidal pool for the large sea. Few details are needed as illustrations swirl expressively across pages as the pair makes their way to the joys that they find in the ocean.

Double Trouble

By: Sarah Dyer
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Twins Erin and Ellis are good at many things, especially looking for trouble. They look everywhere and finally find their cat, Trouble! The surprise ending creates a minor mystery as the children creatively search for Trouble through simple illustrations and a straightforward text.

Everyone’s Awake

By: Colin Meloy
Illustrated by: Shawn Harris
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

It’s dark in the lighthouse home; everything is quiet, until it is not! Everyone in the large, extended family gets into the silliness — even the dog — until everyone falls asleep. Lively rhythmic language combines with energetic illustrations for a fun book to read and share.

From My Window

By: Otavio Júnior
Illustrated by: Vanina Starkoff
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

From the window in his favela, the narrator shares what he sees: neighbors working, playing, the changing weather, and more. Based on the author’s experience growing up in Brazil, everyday experiences are illustrated in a colorful, naïve, folk style. 

Hike

By: Pete Oswald
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

A father gently awakens his child to begin their day outdoors. As they leave home, the scenery changes, becoming more tranquil and natural where they begin their hike. At the end of the day, they head home. The joy of an outdoor afternoon and the pleasure of an outing with dad are elegantly conveyed with few words. 

Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera

By: Candace Fleming
Illustrated by: Eric Rohmann
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Apis Mellifera, the worker honeybee, does a lot during its short life. Poetic language and highly detailed illustrations provide an up-close look at the bee, its hive, and expansive travels, cleverly seen in a double gatefold. Backmatter and further reading conclude this stunning book.

My Friend Earth

By: Patricia MacLachlan
Illustrated by: Francesca Sanna
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Earth is presented as a large brown-skinned girl who awakens “from a winter nap” listens to farmers tapping the earth and birds singing. She guides a baby zebra, tends prairies, and more until she sleeps, “To fly up again in the warm bright sun of spring!” Clever use of flaps and die-cuts hold surprises and delights in the richly colored, dynamic illustrations and lyrical language, creating a stunning appreciation of Earth.

Sandcastle

By: Einat Tsarfati
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

While visiting the beach, the narrator declares that she will build a sandcastle — one with turrets and more. Build she does, which attracts royal visitors who become disenchanted with their sandy food. Imagination reigns in the detailed illustrations, until a wave allows the girl to begin anew.

Saturday

By: Oge Mora
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

A mother and daughter look forward to their special Saturday routine together every single week. But this Saturday, one thing after another goes wrong. The up-and-down journey that reminds them of what's best about Saturdays: precious time together.

The Elephant’s Umbrella

By: Laleh Jaffari
Illustrated by: Ali Khoda
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

The wind sweeps away the umbrella that elephant uses to shelter himself and other small animals from rain. The same wind carries the umbrella away from other animals until it winds up back where it started. Engaging illustrations and simple narration create a folktale-like story.

The Little Blue Cottage

By: Kelly Jordan
Illustrated by: Jessica Courtney-Tickle
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

A girl and her family visit their little blue cottage by the bay every summer as she grows. Lyrical language and gentle illustrations expressively depict time passing until the girl, now grown, returns with her own family, implicitly diverse and intergenerational.

The Music of Life

By: Louis Thomas
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Lenny is an artist who plans to compose a symphony. His mind is blank until he listens to sounds around him. As the sun rises, Lenny returns home full of notes, music, and life. Lightly lined illustrations and lots of lively language present the music of Paris.

This Is a Dog

By: Ross Collins
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Readers know from the title page that the dog will not give up the spotlight. The dog is really a scruffy mutt who creates chaos and lots laughter as it peeks onto pages with other animals. Expressive animals appear on uncluttered colored backgrounds until the surprise conclusion.

What Sound Is Morning?

By: Grant Snider
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

As the day begins, “All is quiet. Or is it?” If you listen closely, the sounds of the day emerge. From dawn darkness, the day gradually lightens in the subtle illustrations that depict city and country, inviting readers to “fill the world with your song.”

For 6-9 Year Olds

Chick and Brain: Egg or Eyeball?

By: Cece Bell
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Is the object that Brain finds an eyeball or is it an egg, as Chick says? Can Chick — or anyone — convince him otherwise? Silliness abounds in image and word in this graphic novel by the creator of Newbery Honor winning El Deafo.

Dream Builder: The Story of Architect Philip Freelon

By: Kelly Starling Lyons
Illustrated by: Laura Freeman
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Philip Freelon’s dream became reality when his team was commissioned to design the National Museum of African American History and Culture which opened in the nation’s capital in 2016. Beginning with his childhood, this realistically illustrated biography provides an afterword by the architect and additional resources.

Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks

By: Suzanne Slade
Illustrated by: Cozbi A. Cabrera
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography, Poetry
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Though her family didn’t have much when she was a child in Chicago (growing up during the Great Depression), Gwendolyn Brooks was surrounded by poetry and a loving family. This beautifully illustrated book is an affectionate look at the life of a girl who grew up to be the first Black person to win the Pulitzer Prize. Additional resources for further reading are included.

Fox & Rabbit

By: Beth Terry
Illustrated by: Gergely Dudás
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Fox and Rabbit, unlikely friends with very different personalities, visit a fair, go to the beach, start a garden, and more in five stories. Charming and gently humorous, this is the first in a new, engaging graphic novel series.

How to Solve a Problem: The Rise (and Fall) of a Rock Climbing Champion

By: Ashima Shiraishi
Illustrated by: Yao Xiao
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Not everyone aspires to be a champion rock climber like Ashima. Her skill and passion grow with practice and study. The athlete’s story is likely to provide inspiration for all those who aim for greatness in any field. Color illustrations capture the climber’s determination.

Iggy Peck and the Mysterious Mansion

By: Andrea Beaty
Illustrated by: David Roberts
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Can Iggy Peck use his architectural prowess to help Ada Twist’s Aunt Bernice from losing the house she inherited? Iggy, Ada, and the other Questioneers come together to solve the mystery of the missing antiques and acquire a bit of history along the way in this latest story in the Questioneers series.

InvestiGators

By: John Green
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Mango and Brash right the wrongs created by “crime, corruption, and confusion.” They are the InvestiGators, with an emphasis on gators, for Mango and Brash are alligators. Fast-paced and slightly goofy, this clever tale is sure to delight graphic novel and mystery aficionados alike.

McTavish Goes Wild

By: Meg Rosoff
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Can rescue dog, McTavish, help his Peachy family with vacation plans? His human family needs his guidance and patience — again. Whether revisiting the Peachys (Good Dog, McTavish) or meeting them for the first time, this charming, recognizable family is sure to charm readers of all ages.

On Wings of Words: The Extraordinary Life of Emily Dickinson

By: Jennifer Berne
Illustrated by: Becca Stadtlander
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography, Poetry
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Emily Dickinson came to understand the world through what she could see and through words which she communicated through poetry. Lyrical language infused with Emily’s poems combines with translucent illustrations to reflect her world. Backmatter completes this handsome, informative package.

The Fabled Life of Aesop

By: Ian Lendler
Illustrated by: Pamela Zagarenski
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

The life of Aesop, a Greek enslaved person who wove memorable stories, begins this handsome volume followed by well-known and lesser-known fables. Mixed media illustrations are expressive, creating a sense of time and place while retaining universality. An afterword by the author expands on what is known (and not known) about Aesop.

The Not Bad Animals

By: Sophie Corrigan
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

There are two sides to everything, including animals. Creatures like black cats, vampire bats, Tasmanian devils, and a host of other animals often have bad reputations — but there is another side! Explore both in an an open format with humorous illustrations. A glossary is included.

We Are Water Protectors

By: Carole Lindstrom
Illustrated by: Michaela Goade
Genre: Myths and Legends
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

The prophecy has come true: the black snake has come to terrorize the community. It hurts the source of life, water. This call to action is presented by in word and image by an author and illustrator, Ojibwe and Tlingit/Haida respectively, based on the Dakota Pipeline access protest in Standing Rock reservation. Lust, flowing illustrations and a narration by a young Native girl make a compelling case for protection, encouraging readers to sign a water protector pledge.

When You Look Up

By: Decur
Illustrated by: Chloe Garcia Roberts
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

A boy is not happy about moving but while exploring his new home, he finds a large roll top desk. There he discovers imaginative, surprising stories. The Argentinian author/illustrator has created a memorable fantasy juxtaposing the real world and extraordinary adventures held in the found journal. Surreal illustrations are presented in sequential art, calling to mind a graphic novel.

For 9-12 year olds

A Wish in the Dark

By: Christina Soontornvet
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Set in a futuristic fictionalized Thailand, run by a powerful Governor, Pong has spent his life in prison. He escapes but is pursued by Nok, the Warden’s daughter. Themes seen in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables are freshly presented in a wholly original setting and vivid period in this riveting and accessible novel.

Black Brother, Black Brother

By: Jewell Parker Rhodes
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Donte and his brother are biracial; their mother is Black, their father is white. They attend the same wealthy suburban school but have very different experiences there. Donte is dark-skinned but his brother appears white. How Donte gains a sense of sense of self and beats the bully at his own game is compelling and timely.

Every Second: 100 Lightning Strikes, 8,000 Scoops of Ice Cream, 200,000 Text Messages, 1 Million Gallons of Cow Burps ... and Other Incredible Things That Happen Each Second Around the World

By: Bruno Gilbert
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Lots of things happen all over the world every day. Have you ever considered what one small second of time can hold? What would happen in a minute? An hour? Colorful, bold graphic illustrations punctuate the statistics cited with sources noted at the end. The eye-popping numbers and images are sure to ignite wonder if not curiosity.

Planet SOS

By: Marie G. Rohde
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

From the Atmosdragon to the Oblivionped, the Earth is in grave danger. Science and folkloric creature are creatively integrated in this call to action. Attractive and accessible, “monster cards” add a game-like quality as well as a way to compare impact. Source notes and index are included.

Portrait of an Artist: Georgia O'Keeffe: Discover the Artist Behind the Masterpieces

By: Lucy Brownridge
Illustrated by: Alice Wietzel
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Two distinctive artists are presented in a similar formats but each illustrated in a style that reflects the times when each artist lived. Original work by the artist is integrated into the narrative to add context. Paintings and source notes conclude these appealing and attractive introductions to art and artists. The second title is Portrait of an Artist: Claude Monet: Discover the Artist Behind the Masterpieces by Lucy Brownridge, illustrated by Caroline Bonne-Müller.

Prairie Lotus

By: Linda Sue Park
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

After the death of Hanna’s mother, she and her father head to the Dakota Territory looking to start anew. But can a girl with a Chinese mother and a white father overcome the odds against them? The Newbery Medalist again presents rich historical fiction with an afterword that describes the genesis of this powerful story.

Surprising Lives of Animals: How They Can Laugh, Play and Misbehave!

By: Anna Claybourne
Illustrated by: Stef Murphy
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

They communicate, play, use tools, and sometimes even fight. Find out how different animals behave in this well-organized, engaging, and educational look at animal behavior. Illustrations complement the accessible text on each double-page spread. A glossary and additional resources are included.

The Midnight Hour

By: Benjamin Read
Illustrated by: Laura Trinder
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Magical mayhem begins when Emily goes in search of her parents, finding instead an alternate London. Today’s London is in danger from the "other" London, and protected by an enchantment in which both parents play a part. This is a funny, fast, and accessible fantasy.

The Next President: The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America’s Presidents

By: Kate Messner
Illustrated by: Adam Rex
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

There’s only one president at a time. And they could come from anywhere. “When George Washington became the first president of the United States, there were nine future presidents alive.” This unique approach to U.S. Presidents is illustrated to highlight chronology but is sure to encourage all that the next president could currently be “listening, learning, and getting ready to lead.”

The One and Only Bob

By: Katherine Applegate
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

He’s small, a bit rough around the edges but he’s got a big heart and big friends. Meet Bob of dubious heritage; “…some Chihuahua, with a smidgen of Papillon…”  His best friends are a gorilla named Ivan, a small elephant named Ruby, and a girl named Julia. The sequel to the Newbery-winning book, The One and Only Ivan, this new story can stand alone with its unique verve and charm. Spot illustrations and a glossary of dog terms add humor and emotion.

The Undefeated

By: Kwame Alexander
Illustrated by: Kadir Nelson
Genre: Nonfiction, Poetry
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

This poem is a love letter to black life in the U.S. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world's greatest heroes. The text is also peppered with references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, and Gwendolyn Brooks. Robust back matter provides valuable historical context and additional detail for those wishing to learn more.

Ways to Make Sunshine (A Ryan Hart Novel)

By: Renée Watson
Illustrated by: Nina Mata
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Ryan Hart finds ways to make sunshine even when she’s not happy about moving to a smaller house, selling the family car, and the other changes life brings. But her name means “king” and so she must lead. Lead she does in this contemporary, realistic and engaging novel just right for fans of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby.

Wink

By: Rob Harrell
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level:

Middle school is never easy but 7th grade becomes particularly tough for Ross when he’s diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer. In spite of his best friend preparing to move and being bullied for the effect of the grueling cancer treatment, Ross finds power in music and friendship — and discovers something about his nemesis. This uplifting, often humorous novel is based on the author’s experience.

World of Glass: The Art of Dale Chihuly

By: Jan Greenberg, Sandra Jordan
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Dale Chihuly's dramatic sculptures made of blown glass have been widely exhibited. His life and work as an innovative glass artist are presented in a highly visual, informative presentation. Stunning color photographs of individual pieces as well as large installations are used to convey the power of glass sculpture.

Proceeds from the sale of books purchased at Amazon.com help support the Reading Rockets project. Thank you!

We Are Storytellers promo

We Are Storytellers promo

 

Space Rangers

Summer Reading Tips to Go! Delivered to your mobile phone in English or Spanish. Sign up today!

Start with a Book: Read. Talk. Explore.

Sign up for our free newsletters about reading

Our Literacy Blogs

Rachael Walker
"You may have tangible wealth untold. Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. Richer than I you can never be — I had a mother who read to me." — Strickland Gillilan