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2022 Summer Reading: Beginning Readers and Primary Grades


Need suggestions for beach reading or books to bring to summer camp? Each of our lists — for all age ranges and including fiction, nonfiction, folklore, and poetry — includes thirteen selections (a baker's dozen!), all published 2021–2022 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


Otto: A Palindrama by Jon Agee (Dial)

Agee has crafted an immersive and impressively cogent graphic novel with a text written entirely in palindromes. Drawn into a daydream by some hypnotic soup, Otto suddenly finds himself on a beach. His dog, Pip, runs off, and the search begins. Non sequiturs abound, with one surreal scene transitioning to the next in the fast-moving panel structure. Simply put…WOW! 144 pages.

Frank and the Bad Surprise [Frank and the Puppy] by Martha Brockenbrough; illus. by Jon Lau (Levine Querido)

“Just when you think you’ve got it good, someone brings home a puppy.” Frank, the cat narrator of this brief early chapter book, lives the “good life” with his two loving male humans. Then a cute puppy appears and, to Frank’s great annoyance, makes herself right at home. Seven short chapters, with personality-filled illustrations, convey highly relatable, often over-the-top feelings. 64 pages.

Cornbread & Poppy and Cornbread & Poppy at the Carnival by Matthew Cordell (Little, Brown)

In his new beginning reader series, Cordell introduces two mice who are best friends sharing adventures. Appealing pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations support the texts and illuminate vocabulary that might be out of sight-word range. With their funny and nuanced explorations of friendship, these books (and their protagonists) are well set up for future outings. 80 pages.

Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites by Jamie Michalak and Debbi Michiko Florence; illus. by Yuko Jones (Farrar)

On a trip to Japan after high school, future chef Niki Nakayama (of L.A.’s n/naka restaurant) learned about kaiseki, a meal of many courses, a “storytelling feast.” This picture-book biography is dished up like a kaiseki meal: thirteen bites, from Nakayama’s early years in “Bite 1” to a gorgeous dish resembling an abstract painting in “Bite 13.” Not just about food, but also the importance of love, laughter, and a can-do spirit. 40 pages.

Boris the Cat: The Little Cat with Big Ideas by Erwin Moser; trans. from German by Alistair Beaton (NorthSouth)

Over the course of the seasons, in more than sixty mini-narratives each consisting of six tidy illustrated panels, we hang out with Boris, a striped orange cat, and his forest friends. For the apprentice reader, Boris provides the potential for two kinds of satisfaction — completing an entire story on a single spread and getting to know a whole world of characters as the tales accumulate. 136 pages.

Book of Questions / Libro de las preguntas: Selections / Selecciones by Pablo Neruda; illus. by Paloma Valdivia; trans. from Spanish by Sara Lissa Paulson (Enchanted Lion)

This lavish volume includes excerpts from Neruda’s Libro de las preguntas in the original Spanish alongside new English translations. Expansive illustrations give readers plenty of space to dwell on the questions (mostly arranged as couplets), which have no answers and often-imaginative premises: “Who shouted for joy / when the color blue was born?” Endlessly perusable. 80 pages.

The Legend of Gravity: A Tall Basketball Tale by Charly Palmer (Farrar)

Summer on the blacktop courts of Milwaukee gets infinitely more exciting when a new kid joins the Eagles. The team members know that with Gravity on their squad they have a chance to be the best. Palmer’s entertaining modern-day tall tale is heavy on both hyperbole and basketball action, with vivid illustrations that bring the city, its courts, and the characters to life. 40 pages.

Fish and Sun [I Can Read!: Comics] by Sergio Ruzzier (HarperAlley/HarperCollins)

For almost-independent readers, this story features an aquatic protagonist with an all-too-familiar problem: “Mom, I’m bored.” Fish leaves the dark, cold depths of the sea and encounters Sun. The two play until the sun sets; Fish is disconsolate until discovering that Sun returns the next day — and every day. Ruzzier’s imaginative, slightly off-kilter illustrations reinforce the playful action. 48 pages.

Endlessly Ever After: Pick Your Path to Countless Fairy Tale Endings! by Laurel Snyder; illus. by Dan Santat (Chronicle)

The story always begins the same way (Rosie must take a cake to her sick grandma); the choose-your-own-path format results in multiple endings, which are split fairly evenly between happy and not-so-happy ones. Amusing illustrations keep the darker story elements lighthearted. Both text and art are endlessly clever. 88 pages.

The Mystery Monster [Paige Proves It] by Amy Marie Stadelmann (Aladdin)

In nine brief illustrated chapters, readers meet purple-haired, information-loving, eight-year-old investigator-in-training Paige Turner, a self-described Fact Collector who is new to her neighborhood. Upon hearing the local legend about a monster on the street, skeptical Paige spends the rest of the book trying to gather definitive proof, yea or nay. The mystery is engaging enough to keep readers guessing. 112 pages.

Sir Ladybug and Sir Ladybug and the Queen Bee by Corey R. Tabor (Balzer + Bray/HarperAlley/HarperCollins)

A gentle but fiercely loyal ladybug knight is joined on small-scale quests by his faithful herald (a roly-poly bug) and his steed/squire (a snail with a surprisingly spacious shell) in Tabor’s first installments of a graphic-novel series for early readers. With illustrations reflecting a warm, understatedly funny tone, the books’ celebration of friendship will have readers singing Sir Ladybug’s praises. 72 pages.

Nibi’s Water Song by Sunshine Tenasco; illus. by Chief Lady Bird (Lee & Low)

“I am thirsty, thirsty Nibi and I need water!” declares the main character, but the kitchen sink only yields filthy brown liquid. With her thirst for environmental justice, the budding activist marshals her community to address a problem shamefully prevalent within First Nations communities in Canada. The colorful digital illustrations recall elements of folk art, incorporating aspects of contemporary and traditional First Nations life. 32 pages.

Sarah and the Big Wave: The True Story of the First Woman to Surf Mavericks by Bonnie Tsui; illus. by Sophie Diao (Holt)

Sarah Gerhardt is a pioneering figure in modern women’s surfing, but when she was growing up in Hawaii, women were not encouraged to surf (and surfing equipment for girls was not even available). Diao’s expansive, breathtaking art is the showstopper here, with several spreads — and one spectacular gatefold — giving readers an idea of the size of the waves Gerhardt is surfing. 32 pages.


From the April 2022 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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Deb Balsam

I am so excited to see Yuko’s book Niki N on your list. Her in laws are very close family friends. I was a school librarian for 32 years and was once invited to visit Horn Book.

Posted : Apr 22, 2022 03:03

Valetta Cannon

I LOVE your book selections for this summer! Endlessly Ever After and Sarah and the Big Wave are especially likely to be big hits with my patrons. Thanks!

Posted : Apr 21, 2022 05:30



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