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Summer Books for Summertime Reading

By Sheila Welch

Are you looking for some great summer reading? Sheila has some tips for you.

Max and Marla Are Having a Picnic

Max and Maria have a picnic
Max and Marla Are Having a Picnic by Alexandra Boiger is a quiet picture book about a lasting friendship. Boiger’s charming illustrations fit the tale perfectly while adding just the right amount of whimsy. The only characters depicted are a young boy, Max, and his best friend, an owl named Marla. They set out with a picnic and the expectations of a perfect day. Max decides he needs one more thing to make their picnic complete. While he’s collecting flowers for Marla, she falls asleep. Max is upset when he returns to discover the perfect picnic food has been unwittingly shared with other critters, and Max blames Marla for spoiling the day. Max’s hurt feelings will ring true with K– 3rd graders – especially those who have had imaginary friendships. More reality-based kids will empathize with Max as they recall their own efforts to have – and be – good friends.

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

Man who walked between towers
Now, here’s a book that may surprise and astound many children and their parents. It concerns an event involving two gigantic buildings in New York City, and it occurred back in 1974 when the “twin towers” were not quite finished. Later, the destruction of the two tallest buildings in the famous city changed many things in our world, but this tale is about the hopes and dreams of one young man who wanted to do something none of us would believe possible. Philippe, an accomplished street performer, saw the space between the towers as an irresistible invitation to demonstrate his skills as a tightrope walker. The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, written and illustrated with mind boggling paintings by Mordicai Gerstein, won the Caldecott Award in 2004. Filled with suspense, this is a picture book best shared with children in third grade and up. (You might want to hide the jump ropes!)

Tornado Terror

Tornado terror
Tornado Terror by Lauren Tarshis is a nonfiction book in a series called, I Survived, True Stories. It’s a good choice for children in fifth grade on up who are looking for the truth about various disasters. This particular book is packed with fascinating information focusing on two particularly dreadful tornadoes, the Tri-State Tornado of 1925 and the Joplin Tornado of 2011. With dramatic photos and many personal stories, Tornado Terror  could frighten young children. However, while no one knows how to eliminate these storms, the author emphasizes the research being done to help save lives through better warning systems and better shelters. If you’re looking for an informative book for kids who love non-fiction, this one is just right for a stormy summer afternoon.

The Season of Styx Malone and Counting to Perfect

Two almost new (2018) books for older, independent readers in grades four and up are The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon and Counting to Perfect by Suzanne LaFleur. The former won the Boston Globe/ Horn Book award for fiction. Both books are family centered with an older (and wiser) sibling character and both deal with serious issues that are familiar to middle-grade readers.

season of styx malone
In Magoon’s novel, Caleb and his black family live in a small town, where everyone knows them, accepts them, and they feel ordinary and safe. But Caleb is totally tired of being ordinary, so he’s thrilled when an older boy, Styx, seems to appear out of nowhere and offers a way out of town, but there’s a price attached.

Counting to perfect
In LaFleur’s novel, Cassie and her white, middle class family support her older sister’s decision not to marry the boy who’s the father of her baby. Cassie wants her former life back. Although she loves the baby, Addy, she feels as though she’s lost her sister and her own place in the family. Each of these stories may make adult readers cringe as the kid characters manage to get themselves into some dangerous situations.

Caleb is pushing for adventure and change, while Cassie longs for calm and stability. Magoon’s approach is more humorous than LaFleur’s, but each author handles her material with honesty and a light touch. Encourage your children to read these two books within summer settings, and you will enjoy reading them too. You might want to discuss whether the authors provide your family a mirror reflecting yourselves or a window into the lives of others.

About Sheila

Sheila Kelly Welch is a mother, grandmother and retired teacher. She counts among her children’s fiction books LITTLE PRINCE KNOW-IT-ALL and A HORSE FOR ALL SEASONS. Sheila's novel, WAITING TO FORGET, has been selected by Bank Street College and Pennsylvania School Library Association for their lists of best-books-of-the-year. Her most recent stories, MESS-UP MOLLY and BIG CAT AND KITTEN, are published on-line by MeeGenius.