Ahhh, it’s time for summer camping and summer camps. Whether your kids are going away by themselves or camping with the family, all kids will have more hours to read for pleasure during the brief weeks we call summer vacation. To help you find the right books for your “campers”, we have selected our annual summer book picks for kids. And no matter what your kids are doing, or whether you even have kids yourself, you might want to pick up one or two for yourself. Enjoy!
Bo at Ballard Creek by Kirkpatrick Hill (June 2013) – Fans of the Little House series are going to love this tale of Bo – an orphan adopted by two tough miners in 1920s Alaska. The illustrations perfectly show both her exuberance and the wide variety of characters who inhabit a hard scrabble mining town in the Alaskan Bush. The prose is delightful as readers learn about mining camps, the hazards of Grizzlies, fourth of July celebrations and how Eskimos, Swedes, Finns, Russians, Creoles and others all mix together to form a town and many extended families.
The Expeditioners by Sarah Stewart Taylor (2012) – We have mentioned this before, but now it is a pick for Vermont’s prestigious DCF award for children’s literature, so we include it again here. This book introduces us to Kit the brain, M.K. the tinkerer, and Zander the brave — three siblings trying to figure out what happened to their father, an acclaimed explorer gone missing, and presumed dead. Their other problem? As they work to find their dad, evil government employees are after them.
The Runaway King by Jennifer Nielsen (2013) – The second book in Ms. Nielsen’s Ascendance trilogy, this time Jaron is the legitimate King with enemies all around. Who can he trust? What happened to his dearest friend and who is trying to kill him this time? A truly satisfying installment in this series. The first book – The False Prince is in paperback now, and will cost less to mail if your kids have not yet started this trilogy.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio (2012) – “I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.” says August Pullman, a boy born with a facial deformity that has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Finally starting 5th grade at a prep school, he wants nothing more than to be treated as ordinary. However, his classmates can’t quite let that happen. The novel starts from August’s point of view, but switches to many others. The characters emerge changed, and you will too.
The Apprentices by Maile Meloy (June 2013) – This second installment in Ms. Meloy’s Apothecary series takes up where book one left off, with Jane, Benjamin and Pip all having gone their separate ways. Pip stars in a BBC production; Jane is back in the USA with her parents attending boarding school in NH; and Benjamin is traveling with his apothecary father trying to contain the atom bomb, stalled in 1950s Asia. What this book does well is bringing Cold War history to life, and creating characters readers care about. Pre-teen readers will also like the romantic complications that occur as the trio reunites to stop evil from taking over the world. As with Ms. Nielsen’s series, the first book in this exciting trilogy - Apothecary – is in paperback now.
Older Campers/Young Adults
Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth (2011) – I finally got around to reading this young adult novel because my niece had it at the beach. And, while it is impossible to read this without thinking about The Hunger Games, or (as my sister said) without reading it while simultaneously casting the movie in your head, anyone who misses the novelty of The Hunger Games will love this dystopian series, with its heroine Beatrice and her friends Will, Christina and Tobias.
Good Kings Bad Kings by Susan Nussbaum (28 May 2013) – I really need to remember to look to the PEN/Bellwether prize winners for socially engaged fiction whenever I need a good plot with great writing. Alternating chapters and narrative voices, this latest winner looks at a “home” for kids with disabilities and their caregivers and their daily lives. Throughout, you see their dreams and relationships blossom, fall apart and reconstruct. The author use wry wit and humor to create memorable characters who live on in your head long after you finish reading the last page. Billed as a young adult novel, adults will love it too.
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (2013) – Set during one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits – both from he wrong side of the tracks and smart enough to know that first love rarely, if ever, lasts, but willing to try anyway. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own high school years, riding the school bus, any time you tried to fit in while figuring out who you were and your first love. I truly believe that when the book ends you will think hard about children from the “other side of the tracks” and from family situations that are less than ideal.
Beautiful Creatures by Garcia and Stohl (2009) – A gothic romance series for teens. Lena Duchannes arrives in Gatlin, South Carolina making a statement with her clothes and the fact she lives with her extremely eccentric uncle (think To Kill A Mockingbird’s Boo Radley). She also is dreading her 16th birthday for a variety of reasons. Ethan Wate, born and bred in Gatlin, is from a family so established he does not have to worry about fitting in, he worries about getting out. When they discover the voices they have been hearing in their respective heads are each others, a connection is formed and they work to change Lena’s fate. Bonus — if you like this book, there are many others in this series.