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Summer adventures

These four entertaining, summertime-set novels (including one graphic novel) will have readers channeling their inner sleuths to find buried treasure, getting an insider’s look at an (un)orthodox summer camp, revisiting a beloved family one last time, and gaining a deeper appreciation for the little things that can make a family trip so memorable.

Author Jeanne Birdsall’s Penderwick series finale, The Penderwicks at Last, is a summertime reverie set at the Arundel estate where it all began fifteen years before. Preparations are underway to celebrate eldest Penderwick sibling Rosalind’s wedding to Tommy; she and Skye are twenty-somethings, with Jane and Batty close behind, leaving youngest Penderwick half-sister Lydia to take center stage. Although fans will be sad to say goodbye, they are likely to breathe happy sighs of contentment as Lydia and her friends and family members go “prancing, leaping, gamboling into the future.” (Knopf, 8–12 years)

Vera Brosgol’s fictionalized graphic memoir Be Prepared captures the ups and downs (let’s be honest — mostly downs) of a stint at a Russian Orthodox summer camp. Already an outsider at school, Russian American preteen Vera struggles to adjust to the camp’s strict rules, the lack of modern conveniences, and drama involving her significantly older tentmates. The tone is accessible, vulnerable, and hilariously kid-centric. A monochromatic army-green palette (colored by Alec Longstreth) reinforces the natural setting in the smartly paced panels, and a cliffhanger ending hints at a possible sequel. (First Second/Roaring Brook, 8–12 years)

Lynne Rae Perkins’s Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea is an episodic tale of a family beach vacation. With every small adventure — a night swim, a June-bug attack, a beach-glass-collecting expedition, visits to a craft store and a raptor sanctuary — Perkins zooms in on the important sensory details; we taste the salty crunch of deep-fried periwinkles and hear the specific sound of a flat tire, and get to know the characters in an intimate way. Black-and-white illustrations — beautifully composed, slightly mysterious, gently funny — add to the intensity and authenticity. (Greenwillow, 8–12 years)

The Parker Inheritance, Varian Johnson’s Westing Game–inspired tale, provides a tangled historical mystery, a satisfying multigenerational family story, and an exploration of race and racism. A decade after an act of vandalism forced her grandmother (searching for buried treasure) to resign from her city manager job, twelve-year-old Candice is following the same set of arcane clues, hoping to uncover the Parker inheritance. Johnson’s narrative revels in its puzzle-story elements; well-placed textual clues keep historical context and race relations front-and-center and provide the key to solving the mystery. (Scholastic/Levine, 10–13 years)

From the June 2018 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Cynthia K. Ritter About Cynthia K. Ritter

Cynthia K. Ritter is associate editor of The Horn Book Guide. She earned a master's degree in children's literature from Simmons College.

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