Need suggestions for beach reading or books to bring to summer camp? We’ve hand-picked our top ten in each age range, all published 2013–2014, that are ideal for the season. Grade levels are only suggestions; the individual child is the real criterion. For a handy take-along list of titles, follow this link to a printable PDF.
Early Readers and Younger Fiction
Suggested grade level for all entries: K–3
Big Bad Wolf and Itsy Bitsy Spider [Urgency Emergency!] by Dosh Archer; illus. by the author (Whitman)
New readers are in for a treat with these British imports set in an emergency room where Doctor Glenda (a dog) and Nurse Percy (a rooster) ably assist their nursery-rhyme- and fairy-tale-character patients. 48 pages each.
The Miniature World of Marvin & James [Masterpiece Adventures] by Elise Broach; illus. by Kelly Murphy (Ottaviano/Holt)
This amiable debut in an early chapter book series follows the friendship of beetle Marvin and human boy James (from Broach’s middle grade novel Masterpiece). Marvin helps James pack for a week-long trip to the beach, then has adventures of his own inside the house. 104 pages.
Dog Days [Carver Chronicles] by Karen English; illus. by Laura Freeman (Clarion)
In this companion series to English’s Nikki and Deja books, Gavin is starting to fit in at Carver Elementary School. On the home front, he and his new pal Richard accidentally break a snow globe belonging to Gavin’s sister, and Gavin must take on a challenging dog-walking gig to earn the money to replace it. 122 pages.
Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman; illus. by Skottie Young (Harper/HarperCollins)
A father goes out for milk for his children’s cereal. He’s abducted by aliens, escapes from pirates, and saves the universe from destruction. Dad arrives home safely and tells the shaggy-dog tale to his kids — who, naturally, don’t believe a word of it. 113 pages.
The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes; illus. by the author (Greenwillow)
Newbery Honor Book
Billy starts off on the wrong foot with his second-grade teacher; his seat isn’t next to his best friend; and he worries he may not be smart enough for school. The book is divided into four parts (each focusing on an important person in Billy’s life) that together offer a vivid portrait of a boy coming into his confidence. 229 pages.
Ling & Ting Share a Birthday by Grace Lin; illus. by the author (Little, Brown)
The terrific twins from Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same! are back in this birthday-themed offering, this time buying presents, baking cakes, and making wishes. Once again, young readers will enjoy spotting the differences (big and small) between these identical twin sisters with distinct personalities. 48 pages.
The Big Wet Balloon by Liniers; illus. by the author (Toon/Candlewick)
Matilda teaches her little sister Clemmie how to catch raindrops on her tongue, jump in puddles, and search for worms, as pictured in the panels of this early-reader comic. Amidst her excitement, Matilda mistakenly releases Clemmie’s precious red birthday balloon into the sky. 40 pages.
Lulu and the Cat in the Bag by Hilary McKay; illus. by Priscilla Lamont (Whitman)
Grandmother Nan is taking care of Lulu and her cousin Mellie, and they’re all staying at Lulu’s house so they can tend to her many rescued pets. When kindhearted Lulu finds a large cat on her doorstep, there’s a problem: Nan is not a cat person. 84 pages.
The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli; illus. by the author (Hyperion)
Geisel Medal Winner
A watermelon-loving crocodile imagines the worst after swallowing a seed: “it’s growing in my guts! Soon vines will come out of my ears!” After much fretting, the croc burps and brings the seed back up. Crisis over…until the next bite. 32 pages.
A Big Guy Took My Ball! by Mo Willems; illus. by the author (Hyperion)
Geisel Honor Book
Piggie is upset when a “big guy” takes her “big ball.” In fact, the ball belongs to a whale, who calls it his “little” ball. When Piggie and Gerald learn that the whale is lonely, they invent a new game for the trio to play together. 64 pages.
For past years’ summer reading lists from The Horn Book, click on the tag summer reading.