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Summer Reading Recommendations 2012

Need suggestions for beach reading or books to bring to summer camp? We’ve hand-picked some new favorites, all published within the last year, that are ideal for the season. Download a free PDF version of the list, perfect for sharing with teachers, parents, and of course, kids.


Picture books (Fiction and Nonfiction)

Suggested grade level listed with each entry.

No Dogs Allowed! written by Linda Ashman; illus. by Kristin Sorra (Sterling)
Faced with a restaurant’s “NO DOGS ALLOWED” sign, a boy and his dog sit at a fountain. Soon there’s a crowd of people with pets enjoying the hospitality of a nearby lemonade and ice cream stand. Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.

Z Is for Moose written by Kelly Bingham; illus. by Paul O. Zelinsky (Greenwillow)
In this funny and inventive ABC book, Moose jumps for joy in anticipation of his moment in the spotlight. When we finally get to M, though, it turns out to be for…Mouse, resulting in a major meltdown. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.

Coral Reefs written and illus. by Jason Chin (Porter/Flash Point/Roaring Brook)  
Alongside a straightforward description of tropical coral ecosystems, fantastical illustrations show a girl enjoying an adventure when the contents of this very book come to life. Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.

Neville written by Norton Juster; illus. by G. Brian Karas (Schwartz & Wade/Random) 
A lonely boy stands outside yelling “Neville!” Soon every kid in the neighborhood is calling for Neville, though no one knows who he is—not even the reader, who finds out on the satisfying last page. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.

I Want My Hat Back written and illus. by Jon Klassen (Candlewick)
In this subversive, hilarious tale, a bear has lost his red hat. After he questions his fellow woodland critters to no avail, a sudden recollection leads the bear back to the thief. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.

The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot written by Margaret McNamara; illus. by Mark Fearing (Schwartz & Wade/Random)  
A mama alien sends her children to find a planet of their own, warning them to watch out for the Big Bad Robot. Robotic onomatopoeia and a space setting will make this take on a classic tale a read-aloud hit. Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.

Stars written by Mary Lyn Ray; illus. by Marla Frazee (Beach Lane/Simon)  
Beginning and ending with stars in the sky, this quiet narrative muses about star shapes in nature and around the home. Expressive illustrations offer a spot-on portrayal of imaginative play. Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.

The Camping Trip That Changed America: Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, and Our National Parks written by Barb Rosenstock; illus. by Mordicai Gerstein (Dial)
After reading John Muir’s book advocating for forests, the president asked Muir to take him camping. By the time they reached Yosemite, Roosevelt was persuaded to create our national parks system. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.

A Stick Is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play written by Marilyn Singer; illus. by LeUyen Pham (Clarion)
Eighteen poems celebrate outdoor play, featuring different styles of poetry and moving from morning to dusk. The illustrations show a multicultural group of children enjoying the exciting day. Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.

A Good Knight’s Rest written by Shelley Moore Thomas; illus. by Jennifer Plecas (Dutton)
The good knight badly needs a vacation—but since he allows three demanding young dragon friends to come along, he doesn’t get much rest and relaxation. Grade level: Preschool. 32 pages.

Press Here written and illus. by Hervé Tullet (Handprint/Chronicle)
This interactive book invites the reader to press, tilt, blow, and clap to “transform” colored dots from page to page. Satisfying patterns alternate with surprises to keep the activity fresh. Grade level: Preschool. 64 pages.

Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team written by Audrey Vernick; illus. by Steven Salerno (Clarion)
The Acerra family from Long Branch, New Jersey, was the longest-playing all-sibling baseball team in the mid-twentieth-century. This story of a real American family whose bond was the game is vividly brought to life. Grade level: 1–3. 40 pages.

The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? written and illus. by Mo Willems (Hyperion)
The Duckling asks politely for a cookie and gets one, setting the Pigeon off on one of his trademark tirades. His rant comes to a screeching halt when the Duckling generously offers him the cookie. Grade level: Preschool. 40 pages.

Secrets of the Garden: Food Chains and the Food Web in Our Backyard written by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld; illus. by Priscilla Lamont (Knopf) 
Alice and her family have a plot of land upon which they grow edible plants, raise chickens, and enjoy their interactions with the variety of living things in their backyard ecosystem. Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.


Early Readers and Younger Fiction

Suggested grade level listed with each entry.

Ivy + Bean: No News Is Good News [Ivy + Bean] written by Annie Barrows; illus. by Sophie Blackall (Chronicle)
Ivy and Bean start a neighborhood newspaper, selling subscriptions to afford the fancy cheese they’ve been coveting. Their attempts to find newsworthy stories have hilarious results. Grade level: 2–4. 127 pages.

Cork & Fuzz: The Swimming Lesson [Viking Easy-to-Read series] written by Dori Chaconas; illus. by Lisa McCue (Viking)
Cork (a muskrat) realizes Fuzz (a possum) has never visited his home—Fuzz can’t swim. After some on-the-ground lessons, the possum falls into the water and, following a moment of panic, swims. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.

Friends: Snake and Lizard written by Joy Cowley; illus. by Gavin Bishop (Gecko)
Snake and Lizard, roommates and business partners, bicker constantly, but the outcomes are fair, reasonable, and often delightfully ironic. Grade level: 2–4. 126 pages.

Benjamin Bear in “Fuzzy Thinking” written and illus. by Philippe Coudray, trans. by Leigh Stein (Candlewick/TOON)
Twenty-seven single-page cartoon stories for emerging readers featuring Benjamin Bear and friends. The book is original, imaginative, and deep-down funny. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.

The Dunderheads Behind Bars by Paul Fleischman; illus. by David Roberts (Candlewick)
When the “Dunderhead” kids sign up to be extras in a movie over summer vacation, they discover their erstwhile teacher Miss Breakbone and her police-chief brother are there, too. Grade level: K–3. 48 pages.

Sadie and Ratz written by Sonya Hartnett, illus. by Ann James (Candlewick)
Sadie and Ratz are the pair of hands that belong to Hannah—and get her into trouble, especially with her little brother. This tale of temper and self-control is an original take on sibling rivalry. Grade level: K–3. 60 pages.

Grin and Bear It written and illus. by Leo Landry (Charlesbridge)
“Bear had a dream…to make his friends laugh.” But poor Bear has stage fright, and his debut flops. A hummingbird named Emmy partners with Bear to save the day. Grade level: K–3. 48 pages.

Invisible Inkling written by Emily Jenkins, illus. by Harry Bliss (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins)
Fourth-grader Hank Wolowitz’s imaginary friend is an invisible, cranky, almost-extinct “bandapat” named Inkling. Inkling’s attempts to help Hank with a school bully go hilariously wrong. Grade level: 2–4. 156 pages.

Earwig and the Witch written by Diana Wynne Jones; illus. by Paul O. Zelinsky (Greenwillow)
Orphan Earwig, adopted by an unpleasant witch, teams up with the witch’s familiar, a talking cat. Plentiful line illustrations add to the humor. Grade level: 2–4. 120 pages.

I Don’t Believe It, Archie! written by Andrew Norriss, illus. by Hannah Shaw (Fickling/Random)
Ordinary Archie always seems to be in the middle of outrageous happenings (told in seven connected short stories). This British import is an easy read, but also complicated enough to engage mystery fans. Grade level: 2–4. 124 pages.

Hooey Higgins and the Shark written by Steve Voake, illus. by Emma Dodson (Candlewick) In this over-the-top screwball comedy, Hooey and his friend, Twig, try to capture a shark. Their methods involve ketchup, a cricket stick, and a bathtub. Grade level: 2–4. 104 pages.


Intermediate Fiction and Nonfiction

Suggested grade level for each entry: 4–6

Fake Mustache: Or, How Jodie O’Rodeo and Her Wonder Horse (and Some Nerdy Kid) Saved the U.S. Presidential Election from a Mad Genius Criminal Mastermind written by Tom Angleberger; illus. by Jen Wang (Amulet/Abrams)  
Lenny knows his friend Casper is behind a spree of bank robberies—the robber was wearing Casper’s (fake) handlebar mustache. As Casper’s criminal ambitions grow, the slapstick and jokes amp up accordingly. 201 pages.

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by by Jeanne Birdsall (Knopf)
In their third book, the Penderwick sisters—Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty—face their first-ever summer separation. Easing the sting is the company of friend Jeffrey. 296 pages.

Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard by Loree Griffin Burns; photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz (Holt)
Four remarkable scientific projects enlist regular people in data collection to better understand ecological issues. Detailed accounts of the projects are followed by ways to get involved. 80 pages.

Remarkable by Lizzie K. Foley (Dial)
Everyone in the town of Remarkable is brilliant and talented, except for Jane. Ingeniously naughty twins get themselves kicked out of the School for the Remarkably Gifted and join Jane at the public school. 329 pages.

Summer in the City written by Marie-Louise Gay and David Homel; illus. by Marie-Louise Gay (Groundwood)
Instead of taking a summer trip, brothers Charlie and Max must make their own fun at home in Montreal. Each chapter relates adventures that inevitably turn into misadventures. 151 pages.

The Midnight Zoo written by Sonya Hartnett; illus. by Andrea Offermann (Candlewick)
Three Romany siblings are overlooked when German soldiers round up the rest of their community. The children end up in an abandoned zoo still inhabited by ten animals—who begin to talk. 217 pages.

With a Name like Love by Tess Hilmo (Ferguson/Farrar) 
Thirteen-year-old Ollie, daughter of a traveling preacher, befriends Jimmy. He needs her help: his mother has confessed to murdering her abusive husband, but Jimmy claims she’s innocent. 250 pages.

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny—Detectives Extraordinaire! written by Polly Horvath; illus. by Sophie Blackall (Schwartz & Wade/Random)
Madeline’s parents have been kidnapped. Capable Madeline engages the services of a couple of (rabbit) detectives—leading to an absurd and breakneck bunny noir plot. 248 pages.

The Fairy Ring: or, Elsie and Frances Fool the World by Mary Losure (Candlewick)
In WWI England, two young cousins produced photographs many believed proved the existence of fairies. Primary sources and the photographs themselves enhance this narrative of a famous hoax. 180 pages.

The Cabinet of Earths by Anne Nesbet (Harper/HarperCollins)
In Paris with her family for a year, Maya meets an elderly relative who is keeper of the mysterious Cabinet of Earths. Maya finds herself in a life-or-death struggle when she becomes the next Keeper. 260 pages.

Secrets at Sea written by Richard Peck; illus. by Kelly Murphy (Dial)
The rodent world meets Upstairs, Downstairs in this comedy of manners. When the (human) Cranston family decides to take an ocean voyage to Europe, their (mouse) neighbors tag along. 241 pages.

Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins)
Stella is stuck with Great Aunt Louise on Cape Cod, where she works tending vacation cottages. When Louise dies suddenly, Stella and new friend Angel cover it up, taking over management of the cottages. 273 pages.

Sidekicks written and illus. by Dan Santat (Levine/Scholastic)
In this graphic novel, superhero Captain Amazing holds auditions for a new sidekick; his pets hope to win the role. Meanwhile, Captain Amazing’s nemesis has stolen a belt that jeopardizes the entire city. 218 pages.

Far from Shore: Chronicles of an Open Ocean Voyage written and illus. by Sophie Webb (Houghton)
This journal combines scientific information, field-guide-like illustrations, and a detailed account of experiences onboard a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ship studying dolphin populations. 80 pages.

First Girl Scout: The Life of Juliette Gordon Low by Ginger Wadsworth (Clarion)
In 1912, Low founded the Girl Scouts—a pioneering organization designed to help empower girls of all races and ethnicities. Information is provided about the organization and its continued success after Low’s death. 209 pages.

Nerd Camp by Elissa Brent Weissman (Atheneum)
Ten-year-old Gabe is excited to go to the Summer Center for Gifted Enrichment (a.k.a. “Nerd Camp”) but he worries what his new, cool stepbrother Zack will think. 261 pages.


Middle School Fiction and Nonfiction

Suggested grade level for each entry: 6–8

City of Orphans by Avi (Jackson/Atheneum)
In 1893 New York, thirteen-year-old newsie Maks must find a way to free his wrongly imprisoned sister. A detective, a lawyer, and orphan Willa help him uncover the truth in this fast-paced mystery. 355 pages.

Superman Versus the Ku Klux Klan: The True Story of How the Iconic Superhero Battled the Men of Hate by Rick Bowers (National Geographic)
In 1946, the producers of the Superman radio show deployed their character’s popularity in a campaign against bigotry. Bower traces the creation and history of the superhero as well as the rise, fall, and resurgence of the K.K.K. 160 pages.

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos (Farrar)
In 1962, Jack’s summer job typing obituaries keeps him busy as the elderly citizens of Norvelt, Pennsylvania, drop like flies. Gothic comedy meets richly layered semi-autobiographical tale. 341 pages.

The Obsidian Blade [Klaatu Diskos series] by Pete Hautman (Candlewick)
Created as an entertainment in a distant future, diskos are windows to points in human history. Tucker enters one of these portals to look for his missing parents, beginning a dangerous journey through the millennia. 311 pages.

Chomp by Carl Hiaasen (Knopf)
Wahoo’s father Mickey is a well-known animal wrangler. He allows the TV show Expedition Survival! to film on the family’s Everglades property, but must come to the rescue of the bumbling star. 294 pages.

Bloodline Rising by Katy Moran (Candlewick)
In this companion novel to Bloodline, master thief Cai is waylaid by his rivals and sold into slavery. Taken from Constantinople to Britain, Cai becomes mired in complex loyalties. 336 pages.

Withering Tights by Louise Rennison (HarperTeen/HarperCollins)  
Fourteen-year-old Brit Tallulah is attending a performing arts summer school. Her madcap adventures, literary musings, and hilariously naïve inner monologues are all highly entertaining. 275 pages.

Goliath [Leviathan Trilogy] written by Scott Westerfeld; illus. by Keith Thompson (Simon Pulse/Simon)  
In this steampunk trilogy ender, airship Leviathan picks up inventor Nikola Tesla. Alek believes reuniting Tesla with his electrical weapon Goliath can stop World War I. 545 pages.


High School Fiction and Nonfiction

Suggested grade level for each entry:  8 and up

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler (Razorbill/Penguin)  
In 1996, something called “Facebook” pops up when Emma loads an AOL disk into her computer. Using Facebook, Emma and friend Josh learn about their lives fifteen years into the future. 359 pages.

Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different by Karen Blumenthal (Feiwel)
A journalistic narrative engagingly relates the life of the Apple co-founder who later went on to leave an indelible mark on three additional fields: movies, music, and cell phones. 312 pages.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (Scholastic)
Teen beauty pageant contestants crash-land en route to their competition. They use their “can-do” Miss Teen Dream spirit to survive on what they assume is a deserted island (actually home to a government conspiracy). 396 pages.

The Story of Us by Deb Caletti (Simon Pulse)
Anxious seventeen-year-old Cricket spends a memorable week at a beach house (with a plethora of family and soon-to-be family, friends, and dogs) before her mother gets married. 390 pages.

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore (Dial)
Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is queen of Monsea. Feeling disconnected from her people, Bitterblue sneaks out to observe city life; a friendship with thieves makes her reevaluate everything she’s been told. 549 pages.

The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe (Hyperion)
Kaelyn’s island community is hit by a mysterious virus. While Kae’s microbiologist father frantically works to diagnose the illness, normally shy Kae takes on a leadership role. 311 pages.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Dutton)
Hazel is controlling her stage four cancer; Augustus lost a leg to osteosarcoma but now seems okay. Sexy romance and a meditation on life and death deepen this acerbic comedy. 321 pages.

Why We Broke Up written by Daniel Handler; illus. by Maira Kalman (Little, Brown)  
In addition to her extensive break-up letter, Min is planning to drop on Ed’s doorstep a box of tokens of their relationship. The imagistic stories of each object provide insight into the couple’s flawed love. 355 pages.

The Name of the Star [Shades of London series] by Maureen Johnson (Putnam)
At boarding school in London, American Rory learns of nearby Jack the Ripper copycat murders. She falls in with an undercover group investigating a paranormal explanation. 370 pages.

The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour (Dutton)
Colby and Bev had planned to do a summer tour with their band, then take a gap year together in Europe. When Bev reveals she will be attending college in the fall, Colby struggles with feelings of betrayal over the course of their wild road trip. 310 pages.

Legend by Marie Lu (Putnam)
Day is wanted by the totalitarian Republic; June is one of the Republic’s brightest prodigies with her own grudge against him. But when their paths cross, June is attracted to Day’s selflessness and courage. A perfect Hunger Games read-alike. 301 pages.

This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein by Kenneth Oppel (Simon)
When sixteen-year-old Konrad Frankenstein contracts a mysterious illness, his twin Victor searches for a cure through alchemy. Secrecy, deception, and a love triangle complicate the quest. 298 pages.

There Is No Dog by Meg Rosoff (Putnam)
The god assigned to supervise planet Earth is a lazy, self-centered teenage boy named Bob. When Bob falls for mortal Lucy, the situation on Earth goes from bad to worse. 271 pages.

Past Perfect by Leila Sales (Simon Pulse/Simon)
Chelsea works as a living history interpreter at Colonial Essex Village. This summer she traitorously falls for a Civil War interpreter at a rival reenactment park. 306 pages.

I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan (Little, Brown)  
When Sam’s mentally unstable father learns Sam and his brother are becoming close with Emily and her family, he takes off with the boys. After their dramatic car accident in the woods, the story shifts from romance to survival. 392 pages.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic)
Puck intends to ride her mare in the annual Scorpio Races—alongside murderous water horses. Sean, a stable hand who understands the water horses better than anyone else on the island, is also desperate to win. 409 pages.

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor (Little, Brown)
Karou lives with part-human, part-animal chimaera in Prague. When she meets a deadly angel in Marrakech, she’s powerfully drawn to him. 422 pages.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (Hyperion)
During World War II, Queenie, a spy captured by the SS, bargains to write what she knows about the British war effort in order to postpone her execution. Her report tells the story of Maddie, the pilot who dropped her over France, then crashed. 337 pages.

The Isle of Blood [The Monstrumologist] by Rick Yancey (Simon)
This third (and darkest) adventure takes monstrumologist Pellinore Warthrop and his apprentice Will Henry to the Socotra, the Isle of Blood. Along the way they dodge spies, befriend literary icons, and test the boundaries of their complex relationship. 538 pages.

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