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2020 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 2019–2020 and ideal for the season. Grade levels are only suggestions; the individual child is the real criterion.


Picture Books | Intermediate | Middle School | High School


Easy Readers and Primary Grades

Suggested grade level for all entries: 1–3


Chick and Brain: Smell My Foot! by Cece Bell (Candlewick)

Chick (a small yellow bird), Brain (a humanlike figure sporting boxers and a gumball-machine-shaped head), and their very hungry new acquaintance, Spot, provide a subversive lesson in manners in this four-chapter easy-reader-comic adventure. Panels and word bubbles provide comedic timing while bold outlines and exaggerated features accentuate the playful absurdity. 70 pages.

Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me by Eloise Greenfield; illus. by Ehsan Abdollahi (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky)

Greenfield presents a series of poems, some from new puppy Thinker’s point of view, some from young owner Jace’s. The poems range from free verse to more structured rhymes, culminating in “Thinker’s Rap.” Abdollahi’s bright collages of handmade and hand-colored paper feature a joyful, brown-skinned family. 40 pages.

What About Worms!? [Elephant & Piggie Like Reading!] by Ryan T. Higgins; with additional illustrations by Mo Willems (Hyperion)

Big, brave Tiger isn’t afraid of anything… “except worms.” In an entertaining twist, some tiger-fearing worms get over their own apprehensions to help with Tiger’s own. Tiger’s overblown reactions make for hilarious page-turns. Early readers will find support in the repetitive text and relish the many exclamations and sound effects (“CRRR-UNCH!”). 64 pages.

A Girl like Me by Angela Johnson; illus. by Nina Crews (Millbrook)

Johnson’s upbeat text, paired with Crews’s innovative, exuberant photo collages, delivers a message of encouragement and empowerment to the imaginative, adventurous, inventive girls of color depicted in this inspirational picture book. They fly like superheroes, stand atop tall buildings, and dive deep into oceans. It’s a rallying cry for girls to reject limitations others might place on them and their dreams. 40 pages.

Snail & Worm All Day by Tina Kügler (Houghton)

In three easy-reader-style chapters, the inveterate invertebrate pals discuss the “Best Day Ever”; explore “The Spooky Cave”; and finish up with “A Bedtime Story.” With varied mixed-media illustrations and dialogue-only text that’s color-coded to each speaker, new readers should feel supported in their efforts while being continually entertained. 32 pages.

Ants Don’t Wear Pants! [Giggle and Learn] by Kevin McCloskey (TOON)

In this informational early-reader comic, two peppy young people investigate ants’ amazingness after magically shrinking down for an insect’s-eye view. The acrylic and gouache illustrations, painted on brown paper bags and using subdued nature hues, give the children — and the ants — plenty of personality. Simple labeled diagrams depict scientific concepts. 40 pages.

Juana & Lucas: Big Problemas by Juana Medina (Candlewick)

A big change is brewing for Bogotá, Colombia, dweller Juana Medina Rosas and her “best of amigos,” dog Lucas: Mami is starting to spend more time with a new “friend,” Luis. In accessible chapters with lots of interspersed art, the thriving, buoyant, confident protagonist demonstrates that balancing new changes with old favorites can be done with humor and grace. 89 pages.

See Me Play [I Like to Read] by Paul Meisel (Holiday)

A group of dogs chases a tennis ball through a park; into the air (cheerfully crammed into a hot-air balloon); into the ocean (on a comically small boat); and more. With just a single sentence on each spread and clear clues in the lively watercolor illustrations, this picture book/easy reader provides plenty of support while keeping readers enormously entertained. 32 pages.

The Quiet Boat Ride and Other Stories [Fox + Chick] by Sergio Ruzzier (Chronicle)

Three brief adventures, in hybrid picture-book/early-chapter-book/comic form, follow friends Fox and Chick, beginning with a (not-so-) quiet boat ride, followed by the discovery of a mysterious box, and a trip to see the sunrise. Ruzzier’s pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations, in pastel hues, feature tantalizingly off-kilter details and fanciful supporting characters. 56 pages.

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

The sharp-witted and imaginative titular siblings head into the Great Outdoors for a family camping trip…but first comes a boring car ride. The brief chapters that follow include a hike, encounters with wildlife, and burnt marshmallows. Amusing surprises appear at every turn, along with straightforward and relatable emotions, in Hughes’s amusingly detailed but never-too-busy illustrations. 48 pages.

From the May 2020 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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