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2017 Summer Reading from The Horn Book: Easy Readers and Primary Grades

Need suggestions for beach reading or books to bring to summer camp? Here are our top ten books for different age ranges — including fiction, nonfiction, and poetry — all published 2016–2017 and ideal for the season. Grade levels are only suggestions; the individual child is the real criterion.

For a handy take-along list of titles, download our printable PDF.

Picture Books | Intermediate | Middle School | High School

Easy Readers and Primary Grades

Suggested grade level for all entries: 1–3

Somos como las nubes  / We Are like the Clouds by Jorge Argueta, illus. by Alfonso Ruano, trans. by Elisa Amado (Groundwood)
This bilingual poetry collection gives voice to refugee children from Central American countries. First-person poems present the candid perspective of the children’s experiences; they include whimsical descriptions but also scary threats. Delicate illustrations complement the textual imagery. 32 pages.

Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton, illus. by Don Tate (Charlesbridge)
Upbeat text and clear digital illustrations with period-appropriate details follow African American inventor Lonnie Johnson (b. 1949) from his childhood tinkering through attending the Tuskegee Institute, engineering for NASA, and developing a super-blast water gun. 40 pages.

Grand Canyon written and illus. by Jason Chin (Porter/Roaring Brook)
A trip to the Grand Canyon allows a father and daughter to explore its geology and ecology. Travel guide–like narration presents accurate scientific information, and detailed watercolors cleverly use subtle die-cuts to transport the girl back to ancient geologic environments. 56 pages.

Giant Squid by Candace Fleming, illus. by Eric Rohmann (Porter/Roaring Brook) 2017 Sibert Honor Book
Cadenced text and dramatic illustrations collaborate beautifully to build suspense as a giant squid and other sea creatures battle for survival. Scientific information sneaks in effortlessly, covering what we know about the elusive creature’s diet and behavior and offering insight into still-unanswered questions. 40 pages.

Short Stories for Little Monsters written and illus. by Marie-Louise Gay (Groundwood)
Super-short stories in comics format are marked by Gay’s signature energy, cheerful near-chaos, and humor. Characters recur — not just the happily messy children in Gay’s diverse mix, but also snails, worms, and ants. Original, inventive, pore-over-able, and child-pleasing. 48 pages.

The Infamous Ratsos by Kara LaReau, illus. by Matt Myers (Candlewick) 2017 Geisel Honor Book
Wanting to emulate their father, a tough rat named Big Lou, Louie and Ralphie decide to play mean tricks. But each attempt at being tough backfires — winning sterling reputations for the Ratsos. What will happen when Big Lou finds out? A beginning chapter book with heart. 58 pages.

Juana & Lucas written and illus. by Juana Medina (Candlewick) 2017 Belpré Author Award Winner
Colombian girl Juana loves many things (especially her dog, Lucas), but not English class — until her family plans a trip to “Spaceland” in the U.S. Distinctive first-person narration includes interspersed Spanish words; dynamic illustrations bring Juana’s considerable energy to life. 90 pages.

Princess Cora and the Crocodile by Laura Amy Schlitz, illus. by Brian Floca (Candlewick)
Princess Cora longs for a dog. The grownups say no, but her fairy godmother delivers a pet — a crocodile — who humorously attempts to impersonate Cora when she needs a break. Seven spry chapters are accompanied by witty ink, watercolor, and gouache illustrations. 74 pages.

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat written and illus. by Javaka Steptoe (Little, Brown) 2017 Caldecott Medal Winner, Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Winner
The art world first took note of Basquiat’s graffiti in the late 1970s. He earned a large following and several art shows but was often discouraged by racism. Steptoe’s style, similar to Basquiat’s with its vivid palette and use of found objects, provides a close impression of the painter’s work. 40 pages.

The Thank You Book [Elephant & Piggie] written and illus. by Mo Willems (Hyperion)
In this easy-reader series ender, Piggie decides to thank everyone who has touched her life. (“Everyone?” asks elephant Gerald, incredulous. “You will forget someone.”) You think you know where this is going, but a twist provides an ending that’s silly, metafictive, and sweet — everything the beloved series has been all along. 57 pages.

From the May 2017 issue of Notes from the Horn Book: Summer Reading.

For past years’ summer reading lists from The Horn Book, click on the tag summer reading.

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