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Welcome to the Horn Book's Family Reading blog, a place devoted to offering children's book recommendations and advice about the whats and whens and whos and hows of sharing books in the home. Find us on Twitter @HornBook and on Facebook at Facebook.com/TheHornBook


2018 Summer Reading from The Horn Book: Picture Books

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.

Easy Readers and Primary Grades | Intermediate | Middle School | High School

Picture Books

Suggested grade level for all entries: PS–2

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes; illus. by Gordon C. James (Millner/Bolden/Agate)
2018 Newbery Honor, Caldecott Honor, Coretta Scott King Author and Illustrator Honors, Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award, Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Honor

The unnamed protagonist tells of his barbershop haircut from start to finish. Color-saturated illustrations capture the boy’s bravado, swagger, and even his humility, which he needs in accepting a post-cut kiss from his admiring mother. A not-to-be-missed portrayal of the beauty of black boyhood. 32 pages.

Windows by Julia Denos; illus. by E. B. Goodale (Candlewick)
2018 Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Honor

As evening falls, a brown-skinned child walks the dog through their urban neighborhood, musing on the activities glimpsed through windows. The contemplative tone is balanced by considerable action in the mixed-media illustrations and a sense of vibrant life throughout. 32 pages.

How Are You? / ¿Cómo estás? by Angela Dominguez (Holt)

The two giraffes from How Do You Say? / ¿Cómo se dice? star in this high-energy bilingual book about identifying emotions and making friends. Digitally colorized mixed-media illustrations place the emphasis on the giraffes’ comic expressions and goofy antics. 32 pages.

A Round of Robins by Katie Hesterman; illus. by Sergio Ruzzier (Paulsen/Penguin)

Sixteen brief, informative, and highly entertaining poems follow a pair of robin parents as they raise not one but two sets of baby robins. Personality-filled pen-and-ink and watercolor pictures feature correct bird anatomy but add body language comically reminiscent of humans. 40 pages.

Pie Is for Sharing by Stephanie Parsley Ledyard; illus. by Jason Chin (Porter/Roaring Brook)

This idyllic, joyously inclusive picture book takes an ordinary concept — sharing — and makes it extraordinary over the course of a daylong Fourth of July celebration. At the spectacular fireworks display, all the community members — a true diversity of races and genders and ages — share the same rapt expression. 32 pages.

Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love (Candlewick)

Mermaid-loving Julián creates a makeshift costume and puts on lipstick. How will his abuela react? Happily, it’s all good, and the two walk proudly toward a parade (à la Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade). Vibrant illustrations create scenes that splash and swirl to life. 40 pages.

The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (the Hard Way) by Patrick McDonnell (Little, Brown)

A little red cat meets up with an alligator, an encounter that sets this wordless — save for letterforms — alphabet book into action. Expert lines move the eye across each spread and on to the next. Touches of wit and plenty of zip recommend this for lap-sit sharing. 48 pages.

Cricket in the Thicket: Poems About Bugs by Carol Murray; illus. by Melissa Sweet (Ottaviano/Holt)

Twenty-nine common insects and arachnids are on display throughout Murray’s lively poems and Sweet’s inviting mixed-media illustrations. The poems employ a variety of forms and rhythmic structures, and skillfully use line breaks and meter to bring the subjects to life. 40 pages.

The Field by Baptiste Paul; illus. by Jacqueline Alcántara (NorthSouth)

The place: a verdant Caribbean islandscape. The day’s activity: a children’s pickup game of futbol (soccer). This universal story featuring the world’s most popular sport is made particular by the specificity of its setting and language. 32 pages.

Strong as Sandow: How Eugen Sandow Became the Strongest Man on Earth by Don Tate (Charlesbridge)

This chronological narrative tells the story of Victorian-era bodybuilding superstar Eugen Sandow — from “feeble” boy to acrobat, strongman, fitness guru, and creator of the first organized bodybuilding contest — with drama and flair. Digital illustrations in a warm color palette are entertaining and approachable. 40 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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