Summer Reading List

June 17, 2009

Ah yes, summertime and the living is easy. No 5:40 a.m. alarms, no rushed breakfasts, no making quick lunches and helping kids fly out the door by 7 a.m. While there’s still plenty of work to be done in the summer, I welcome the slower pace and the opportunity to relax a bit and spend time with my daughters.

We read together a lot more in the summer. Without a heavy homework load looming every evening it’s easier to find time to snuggle up together with a good book. Even my 18-year-old still enjoys having that kind of “mom time.”

What’s on our list to read this summer? Well, the list is certainly too long, and we will only make our way through part of it. But it includes a combination of classics and new books that we expect to get happily lost in during the next few months.

Here’s a look at some of the books on our lists as well as summer reading suggestions for younger readers.

Ages 7–8
Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede—a princess defies the stereotyped expectations of her position to forge her own way and help her friends when they need her.

Frindle by Andrew Clements—When Nick is assigned a report on how entries are added to the dictionary, he is inspired to coin his own new word. His teacher is not amused, and a war about words ensues.

Piper Reed: Navy Brat by Kimberly Willis Holt—Follow the adventures of Piper, a middle child with a winning voice, and catch a glimpse into the life of a military family.

The Real Thief by William Steig—Gawain the goose guards the royal treasury, and he is fiercely loyal to King Basil. When jewels and other treasures go missing, Gawain is unjustly accused. He escapes and hides out until he can discover the real thief.

The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill—Miss Agnes arrives on the Alaskan frontier to take over a one-room schoolhouse in 1948. She’s different from any teacher the students have ever had, playing opera music, reading books about Greek Myths, and even learning sign language so she can teach a deaf student.

Ages 9–10
11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass—Amanda and Leo are best friends who have shared birthday celebrations for each of their last ten years. A rift keeps them apart on their eleventh birthday, and they find themselves waking to relive their birthday every day until they find a way to come back together.

Boy by Roald Dahl—Find out where Roald Dahl got his inspiration for the wacky and wicked characters that populate his books when you read these tales from his childhood. You’ll read stories of Dahl pulling pranks on candy-store owners and his older sister’s fiancé, harrowing accounts of crude-for-today medical procedures, and life inside British boarding schools.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman—A baby orphaned by an attack on his family finds refuge in a graveyard, where he is named Nobody, or Bod for short, by the long-dead inhabitants. The graveyard’s night guardian provides human sustenance, while its ghostly residents teach him how to live.

My Louisiana Sky by Kimberly Willis Holt—When her grandmother dies, Tiger Ann must decide whether she’ll stay with her mentally slow parents in their small Louisiana town, or move in with her glamorous aunt in the big city of Baton Rouge.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum—Filled with many adventures of Dorothy Gale and her little dog that you won’t find in the movie, this classic is the first in a long series of books about Oz.

Ages 11–13
Alligator Bayou
by Donna Jo Napoli—Sicilian immigrant Calogero finds it difficult to fit into life in a small Louisiana town in the late 1800s. He’s not supposed to socialize with whites or blacks, and tension between the races is building.

Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison—Fourteen-year-old Georgia worries about her breasts, her looks, and learning how to kiss a boy while dealing with her neurotic cat, clueless parents, and her baby sister still in diapers.

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson—Since Hattie’s parents died she has been shuttled from one relative to another. When an uncle in Montana dies leaving her his land claim, she finally gets a chance to create a place for herself. First she has to find out if she can handle the hard life of a homesteader on her own.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett—Mary is an orphan left to mostly fend for herself in her uncle’s English castle. When she discovers her crippled cousin Colin, she finds a way to bring life back to a hidden garden and the family that has taken her in.

Tangerine by Edward Bloor—Paul is legally blind and overshadowed by his football-hero brother. When his family moves to Tangerine County, Fla., Paul rejects his upscale school for one with a poor reputation so he can play soccer. As he discovers more about the accident that blinded him, he turns his town and his family upside down.

Ages 14 and up
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green—Colin has had nineteen girlfriends named Katherine. While on a summer road trip with his friend, he creates a plan to study the reasons they have all broken up with him, then apply a mathematic formula to find out the length of any future relationship.

Impossible by Nancy Werlin—Lucy is almost seventeen when she discovers a curse that leaves all the women in her family pregnant, insane and abandoning their child when they are her age. With the help of her foster parents and her friend Zach, she must find a way to break the curse before it all comes true.

Light Years by Tammar Stein—Maya leaves Israel for college in the U.S., but she can’t leave the feeling she is responsible for her boyfriend’s death by a suicide bomber. Her story alternates between both countries, highlighting the distances between the two cultures.

Torched by April Henry—Ellie’s parents are aging hippies arrested by the FBI for growing marijuana. When Ellie agrees to infiltrate an eco-terrorist group for the FBI in exchange for her parent’s freedom, she begins to see good and bad in both organizations.

West With the Night by Beryl Markham—As a child growing up in Africa, Beryl Markham faced down lions and wild boar. As an adult she trained racehorses, learned to fly airplanes, and became a bush pilot. Eventually she became the first pilot to fly solo west with the night, crossing the Atlantic Ocean from Europe to North America.

If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to sneak in a few books that are just for me. Here’s what’s on my list:

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest J. Gaines—Gaines has the uncanny ability to tell a big story in a simple way so the messages that come through tend to last. Although I saw the mad- for-TV movie based on this book years ago, I don’t remember much of the story. But if it is anything like A Gathering of Old Men or A Lesson Before Dying, also by Gaines, this small book spanning nearly 100 years of U.S. history should be a big treat.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows—I have heard nothing but rave reviews for this book set in both London and the island of Guernsey during and after World War II. It’s been described as lovely, sweet, charming and thought provoking; sounds like a perfect summer read to me.

The Last Cavalier by Alexandre Dumas—Over the years I have read most of Alexandre Dumas’s published books, so when I heard about a newly discovered work of his that has only recently been published, I knew it had to go on my list. This promises to be another grand adventure set during the Napoleonic years.

Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie—Ever since I first read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian I’ve been a fan of Alexie’s and intrigued to read more of his work. This book is also set on the Spokane Indian Reservation. It follows the fortunes of Thomas-Builds-the-Fire, a reservation Indian who uses a magical guitar to form a band. The book promises an unflinching look at life both on and off the reservation.

Stone’s Fall: A Novel by Iain Pears—While I’m not expecting this book to be a light summer read, I am intrigued by its setting: London, Paris and Venice in different time periods ranging from the mid 1800s to the early 1900s. I’ve read An Instance of the Fingerpost and The Dream of Scipio, also by Pears, and can’t wait to see what intrigue he has cooked up this time.

What’s on your summer reading list? Share your reading choices with us by commenting here.

New List – Historical Fiction

May 24, 2007

There’s so much great historical fiction for children and young adults these days that it’s difficult to keep this list manageable.

Here are some of the favorites listed by book clubss. Check out to purchase any of these titles.


4th – 5th Grade Readers

  • Bat 6—Virginia Euwer Wollf
  • Boston Jane—Jennifer Holm
  • Our Only May AmeliaJennifer Holm
  • Walk Across the SeaSusan Fletcher
  • Caddie Woodlawn—Carol Ryrie Brink


5th – 8th Grade Readers

  • A Year Down Yonder—Richard Peck
  • A Long Way from ChicagoRichard Peck
  • PeteyBen Michaelson
  • The True Confessions of Charlotte DoyleAvi


9th – 12th Grade Readers

  • A Lesson Before DyingErnest J. Gaines
  • In the Time of the Butterflies—Julia Alvarez
  • Night—Elie Wiesel
  • The Crucible—Arthur Miller
  • The Kite Runner—Khaled Hosseini
  • The River Between Us—Richard Peck
  • The Secret Life of BeesSue Monk Kidd
  • To Kill a Mockingbird—Harper Lee
  • Wild LifeMolly Gloss

Dragon Rider, The Thief Lord, Inkspell

March 16, 2007


Right now I’m reading Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke to my 7th grade daughter, Catherine. We read in the mornings before she goes to school, snuggled up together on the couch. We started these early readings when she entered middle school, and we found ourselves with leisurely time between her sister’s high school bus, which comes at 7:00 a.m. and hers, which doesn’t arrive until 8:40. What a great way it’s been for us to connect and relax with each other before the hectic pace of the day begins.

We were drawn to Dragon Rider because we loved The Thief Lord and Inkheart, which we had read aloud earlier with my daughter, Madeleine. While we are enjoying it very much, it doesn’t give us the Wow! feeling we got from Cornelia Funke’s other books. Imagining the possibility of our world with magical creatures like dragons, brownies, basilisks and manikins is very fun, but I believe it may be appreciated more by readers younger than my daughters.

In contrast we were truly transported to the canals of Venice when we read The Thief Lord. describes it as “a Dickens story in a Venetian setting,” and it is reminiscent of Oliver Twist, although much more readable for modern audiences.

I classify Inkheart as one of the best books I’ve ever read, for either adults or children. Funke’s descriptions of her characters are so vivid I could almost see Dustfinger’s scars, and imagine the horned-martin Gwin crawling over his shoulders. These descriptions made it very plausible for us to believe that a reader, reading aloud, could conjure characters from the pages of a book. It was also easy for all of us to identify with Meggie, the book-loving main character who slowly learns about her father’s talent for reading fictional people to life as well as sending real people into the fictional world.

We devoured the sequel, Inkspell, when it came out, and now we anxiously await the third book in the trilogy, Inkdeath, due out in English in 2008.