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2018 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 2017–2018 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

Suggested grade level for all entries: 1–3

It’s Shoe Time! [Elephant & Piggie Like Reading!] by Bryan Collier with additional illustrations by Mo Willems (Hyperion)

While a brown-skinned little girl is choosing which shoes to wear for a day out with her father, a varied cast of googly-eyed footwear vies for her attention: “PICK US!” Collier’s first early reader features witty wordplay, snappy dialogue, and rich watercolor and collage illustrations (not to mention appearances by Gerald and Piggie). 64 pages.

The Truth About Bears; The Truth About Dolphins; and The Truth About Hippos by Maxwell Eaton III (Porter/Roaring Brook)

Eaton has hit upon an effective combination of silly and informative in this new nonfiction picture book series. The main texts dispense basic facts while the animals’ speech bubbles alternate between supplementing information and advancing goofy subplots, such as a hippo’s failed attempts at bike riding. 32 pages.

A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars by Seth Fishman; illus. by Isabel Greenberg (Greenwillow)

This picture book engagingly highlights the wondrousness of numbers, stars, and just about everything else in the universe. Fishman’s text employs a confiding tone, while Greenberg’s illustrations present kids who hoist the planet, fly around the world, and otherwise defy the laws of physics in order to demonstrate the ideas. 40 pages.

I’m Just No Good at Rhyming: And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups by Chris Harris; illus. by Lane Smith (Little, Brown)

The volume’s over one hundred poems, riddles, visual jokes, and nonsense will keep readers engaged and on their toes. Smith’s stylishly silly mixed-media illustrations raise the irreverence to sublime levels. Occasional bickering between poet and illustrator adds another layer of absurdity. 228 pages.

Where’s Halmoni? by Julie Kim (Little Bigfoot/Sasquatch)

This gentle and humorous graphic novel for younger readers is told exclusively through dialogue, sound effects, and visual narrative. Siblings Noona and Joon follow clues in search of their missing grandmother and are transported to a magical world featuring Korean-speaking characters and imagery from Korean folklore. 96 pages.

Barkus by Patricia MacLachlan; illus. by Marc Boutavant (Chronicle)

Uncle Everton departs on a voyage, leaving “smartest dog in the world” Barkus with Nicky and her family. In five brief chapters, with bold-hued accompanying illustrations, Barkus and Nicky change her classroom dynamics, host a canine birthday party, find a kitten, and camp out in the backyard. 56 pages.

A Different Pond by Bao Phi; illus. by Thi Bui (Capstone)
2018 Caldecott Honor, Ezra Jack Keats New Writer and New Illustrator Honors

This powerfully understated picture book begins before sunrise with a Vietnamese émigré father and his son going fishing for that night’s meal. With evocative detail and a keen ear for metaphor, Phi hints at the immigrant family’s joys and struggles. Bui’s illustrations set a contemplative mood with expressive brushwork. 32 pages.

How to Be an Elephant: Growing Up in the African Wild by Katherine Roy (Macaulay/Roaring Brook)

Roy explains how a baby African elephant learns the skills necessary to survive in the wild. Bold strokes in the dynamic illustrations provide definition to the elephants’ wrinkled skin and skillfully convey movement, while diagrams and sketches illustrate interior and exterior organs. 48 pages.

Baby Monkey, Private Eye by Brian Selznick and David Serlin; illus. by Brian Selznick (Scholastic)

Selznick and Serlin masterfully present an almost-two-hundred-page easy reader/film-noir homage. In five chapters, diminutive gumshoe Baby Monkey solves a series of cases (“Chapter One: The Case of the Missing Jewels!” “Chapter Two: The Case of the Missing Pizza!”). Each follows a predictable — and hilarious — pattern, with occasional small variation. 192 pages.

Charlie & Mouse (2018 Geisel Award) and Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy by Laurel Snyder; illus. by Emily Hughes (Chronicle)

In these beginning chapter books full of familial humor and heart, brothers Charlie and Mouse spend a day together (Charlie & Mouse) and have a special visit with a grandfather-figure (Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy). Soft, muted illustrations match the narratives’ balance of cozy and playful. 48 pages.

From the May 2018 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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