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.
Picture Books (Fiction and Nonfiction)
Suggested grade level for all entries: PS–2
Splash, Anna Hibiscus! by Atinuke; illus. by Lauren Tobia (Kane Miller)
Anna (Anna Hibiscus’ Song) and her family take a trip to the beach. Everyone else is too busy — reading, talking, digging in the sand — to go in the water, so she takes a dip by herself. Her ensuing joy entices the others. 40 pages.
Journey by Aaron Becker; illus. by the author (Candlewick)
Caldecott Honor Book
In the tradition of Harold and the Purple Crayon, this wordless story follows a girl who uses a crayon (red) to draw herself into other worlds. The worlds she enters are lush, detailed, and elaborate, and she gets pulled into a rescue mission involving a purple bird. 40 pages.
Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown; illus. by the author (Little, Brown)
Upright Mr. Tiger, bored in his very drab, very proper community, drops to all fours, sheds his clothing, and runs wild — and for the first time looks happy. The townsfolk are appalled…then they, too, unleash their animal natures. 48 pages.
Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio; illus. by Christian Robinson (Atheneum)
Dog Gaston looms over his teacup-sized poodle sisters. In the park they meet a family like theirs but in reverse: bulldogs Rocky, Ricky, Bruno, and petite Antoinette. Were Gaston and Antoinette switched at birth? And, if so, should they switch back? 40 pages.
Locomotive by Brian Floca; illus. by the author (Jackson/Atheneum)
Caldecott Medal Winner, Sibert Honor Book
Striking cinematic front endpapers describe the creation of the Transcontinental Railroad, then a historical-fiction-meets-travelogue narrative zeroes in on one family’s journey from Omaha to San Francisco. 64 pages.
Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle; illus. by the author (Chronicle)
Caldecott Honor Book
In this unique wordless picture book, a little girl mimics a flamingo’s graceful movements. The bird, at first annoyed, eventually relents and teaches her ballet. The book is cinematic, comedic, and balletic, with dynamic pacing and physical comedy facilitated by ingenious pull-down flaps. 40 pages.
Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko; illus. by Melissa Sweet (Candlewick)
Child-friendly mixed-media illustrations enhance this collection’s thirty-six excellent brief poems. Most of the verses are by familiar poets (Carl Sandburg, Langston Hughes), including those known for their children’s verse (Alice Schertle, Charlotte Zolotow). 48 pages.
Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales; illus. by the author (Porter/Roaring Brook)
Belpré Illustrator Award
Pint-sized Niño, fearless luchador (and big brother), dons his red mask, ready to take on all comers. He battles a series of imagined foes from Mexican history and popular culture before facing the trickiest of opponents: las hermanitas! 40 pages.
Parrots over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore; illus. by Susan L. Roth (Lee & Low)
Sibert Award Winner
In this gorgeously illustrated history of the endangered Puerto Rican parrot, the blue-and-green birds witness early settlement on the island; decline disastrously in numbers due to human population growth and invasive species; then slowly make a comeback thanks to conservation efforts. 48 pages.
Mr. Wuffles! by David Wiesner; illus. by the author (Clarion)
Caldecott Honor Book
Housecat Mr. Wuffles toys with a tiny spaceship. The ship’s little green passengers, assisted by a ladybug, flee to the space under a radiator, which harbors a thriving insect civilization. Friendship ensues, food and technology are shared, repairs are made, and the cat is foiled. 32 pages.
For past years’ summer reading lists from The Horn Book, click on the tag summer reading.