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2019 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 2018–2019 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

Detective Paw of the Law: The Case of Piggy's Bank and The Case of the Stolen Drumsticks [Time to Read] by Dosh Archer (Whitman)

In each of these lively beginning-chapter-book whodunits, Detective Paw, a Hercule Poirot–esque canine, and Patrol Officer Prickles, an action-oriented porcupine employing crime-fighting gadgets, follow the same procedural pattern to solve a robbery (Bank) and a band instrument theft (Drumsticks). Given the illustrations' visual hints, young readers may well guess the straightforward outcomes, but in doing so they're also working each case and learning that reading is an active process. 48 pages.

I Am Hermes!: Mischief-Making Messenger of the Gods by Mordicai Gerstein (Holiday House)

Following I Am Pan!, here comes Pan's father, Hermes, the messenger god, eager to tell his own story. This Hermes is handsome, insouciant, impulsive, and bursting with self-esteem (his first word: "Gimme!"). These are bright, noisy, fast-moving adventures, and Gerstein proves himself a genius of the comics form, especially of the speech balloon, as he creates layered conversations, rich with interior monologue, gossip, and prevarication. 72 pages.

The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog: And Other How-To Poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko; illus. by Richard Jones (Candlewick)

The poems in this collection range from the whimsical to the very practical. Each is genuine poetry rather than a didactic lesson, employing rhythm, expression, and evocative phrases. Jones's digitally edited paintings capture the tone and feeling of each piece while still being unified overall with color choices, soft edges, and keen observations of nature. 48 pages.

My Beijing: Four Stories of Everyday Wonder by Nie Jun; trans. by Edward Gauvin (Graphic Universe/Lerner)
Batchelder Honor

This graphic novel for young readers begins with Yu'er, a Chinese girl who dreams of swimming in the Special Olympics. When her swim-class application is rejected because of her disability, Grampa has an ingenious solution. Heartwarming relationships, moments of levity, and magical elements also mark the remaining three vignettes. The earth-toned watercolor illustrations seem quiet at first glance, but dynamic perspectives and compositions provide lively energy. 128 pages.

See Pip Flap [Ready-to-Read: Adventures of Otto] by David Milgrim (Simon Spotlight)
Geisel Honor

After watching bird Tweet fly, mouse Pip becomes inspired to try it. Several page-turns (and much fruitless flapping) later, robot friend Otto comes up with a clever remote-control drone solution that allows Pip's dreams to take flight. This series entry's extremely limited vocabulary provides effective new-reader support, the comic timing is spot-on in the repetition and pacing, and the clean illustrations are both understated and hilarious. 32 pages.

Inky's Amazing Escape: How a Very Smart Octopus Found His Way Home by Sy Montgomery; illus. by Amy Schimler-Safford (Wiseman/Simon)

Octopus Inky was caught in a Pacific Ocean lobster trap and transferred to a seemingly blissful life at a New Zealand aquarium. Yet when the opportunity arises, Inky squeezes himself through the gap created by a loose tank cover, into a drainpipe, and out into the Pacific, where he (presumably) lives today. Montgomery weaves detailed science into Inky's true story. Schimler-Safford's brightly colored illustrations effectively hint at Inky's intelligence. Reading list. 32 pages.

Let 'Er Buck!: George Fletcher, the People's Champion by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson; illus. by Gordon C. James (Carolrhoda)

Nelson and James present an engrossing picture-book biography of African American cowboy and bronc buster George Fletcher (1890–1973). Folksy language ("Ranching fit George like made-to-measure boots") brings readers right into the era, and James's bold brushstrokes give the illustrations a dynamic feel suitable for the subject. Extensive back matter includes source notes and further information. Glos. 40 pages.

Good Boy by Sergio Ruzzier (Atheneum)

The text begins with familiar commands: "Sit"; "Stay." Gradually, they become more elaborate and unlikely until, as the white backgrounds explode with gorgeous color, the dog constructs a spaceship ("Build") and accompanies his boy on a trip to the moon ("Go"). An original premise, a bare-bones text, perfect pacing, and deliciously transparent watercolors combine for an emotional punch by story's end. 40 pages.

Harold & Hog Pretend for Real! [Elephant & Piggie Like Reading!] by Dan Santat with additional illustrations by Mo Willems (Hyperion)

In this metafictional easy reader, pachyderm Harold suggests to his porcine friend Hog that they pretend to be Gerald and Piggie. He pops an over-snout pig nose on Hog while he tries to act like Gerald—the joke being that exuberant Harold is as un-Gerald-like as they come, and that skeptical Hog is nothing like Piggie. Amidst the riotousness are welcome messages about appearances, behavior, relationships, and expectations. 64 pages.

Charlie & Mouse Even Better by Laurel Snyder; illus. by Emily Hughes (Chronicle)

This third Charlie & Mouse picture book/easy reader hybrid shines the spotlight on Mom's approaching birthday. The first chapter sets the scene, with the siblings "helping" her make pancakes. In chapter two, Dad and the kids go shopping for the perfect present ("Does Mom like tape?" "Everyone likes tape"). Hughes's graphite and Photoshop illustrations convey lots of affection for this relatable family, including its everyday harried moments. 48 pages.

From the May 2019 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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