2024 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 2023–2024 and ideal for the season. Grade levels are only suggestions; the individual child is the real criterion.


Picture Books | Intermediate | Middle School | High School


Beginning Readers and Primary Grades

Suggested grade level for all entries: 1–3


The Best Worst Camp Out Ever [I Like to Read: Comics] by Joe Cepeda (Holiday)

In this comic for emerging readers who have gained some fluency, a father and son take a car trip. "What could go wrong?" For starters, the campground is full, but the pair makes the best of a less-comfortable campsite nearby. Mostly minor setbacks force them to enjoy the experience they're having instead of the one they’d expected. Digital illustrations in aquas, greens, and browns have an ink-and-watercolor feel that suits the low-stakes adventure. 40 pp. 

Sometimes I Feel like an Oak by Danielle Daniel; illus. by Jackie Traverse (Groundwood)

Daniel's (Sometimes I Feel like a Fox; Sometimes I Feel like a River) latest offering invites readers to commune with trees; an author's note cites inspiration from her Algonquin ancestors. Short first-person verses assign attributes to twelve different trees, following the cycle of the year. Traverse's lush acrylic and gouache illustrations repeatedly break the edge of the page, suggesting that art cannot fully capture the trees' majesty. 32 pp.

Everyone Gets a Turn by Marianne Dubuc; trans. from French by Celyn Harding-Jones (Princeton Architectural)

Four animals discover an egg and take turns caring for it — and then for the chick who hatches. She picks up lessons along the way, eventually builds her own house, and becomes quite an independent thinker. A picture-book trim size and graphic novel–like format make Dubuc's story perfect for reading novices and younger listeners, and her pastel-toned ink, watercolor, and colored-pencil illustrations contain lots of entertaining recurring details. 64 pp.

The Cozy Home: Three-and-a-Half Stories [Bat, Cat & Rat] by Ame Dyckman; illus. by Mark Teague (Beach Lane/Simon)

These delightful, very brief stories touch on the joys and complexities of friendship. Each character is distinct: Cat is serious, Rat is mischievous, and Bat is clever. Using only a few basic words and repetition, Dyckman creates an inventive, warm text filled with humor. Teague magnifies that humor with his trademark expressive, cartoonlike acrylics. Young readers will enjoy discovering that a home with friends, even with its ups and downs, is a cozy place to be. 48 pp.

Fungi Grow by Maria Gianferrari; illus. by Diana Sudyka (Beach Lane/Simon) 

An action-oriented text and vibrant watercolor illustrations create an enthusiastic introduction to the growth and effects, both positive and negative, of various forms of fungi. Gianferrari, whose passion for fungal biology is obvious, explains that fungi spores disperse in various ways: some “puff” with the wind, others “plop” with the rain. Sudyka illustrates each onomatopoeic word with large lettering that graphically reflects the sound. 48 pp.

Bábo: A Tale of Armenian Rug-Washing Day by Astrid Kamalyan; illus. by Anait Semirdzhyan (Charlesbridge)

A young girl describes a beloved summertime tradition for her Armenian family. Guided by Bábo, or Grandmother, four children jump into action to "soak, soap, and wash" their treasured family rugs. The three siblings and a neighbor gather their brushes, smother the rugs in bubbles and water, and brush the suds out before flipping the rugs over for a second cleaning. The text invites every sense to the experience: the sounds of the brushes, the smell of the hot air, and the feeling of bubbles under toes. Digitally rendered illustrations are detailed and lively. 32 pp.

Monti and Leo: A Newcomer in Pocketville by Sylvie Kantorovitz (Walker US/Candlewick)

Monti the mole's morning routine is interrupted by whispers about a stranger in town — and then he finds the stranger on his rock. The stranger turns out to be Leo, a long-snouted green creature, and he and Monti become friends. Leo has been experiencing some hostility in town, but Monti makes it his goal to help. This comic is told in five chapters with twenty to thirty words per page; helpfully, multisyllabic words are repeated throughout. The digital illustrations mix bold lines and pastel colors to pleasing effect. 80 pp.

A New Car for Pickle [I Like to Read: Comics] by Sylvie Kantorovitz (Holiday)

Pickle (a dog) and a bird friend set out for strawberries and fresh cream, but on the way, the car breaks down. Pickle decides to purchase a new one — perhaps too hastily. This beginning reader in comics format has two to six panels and multiple lines of dialogue per page, with short words and ample repetition. The digital illustrations in restful shades of blue and green are a fine match for the story’s gentle tone. 40 pp.

Desert Song by Laekan Zea Kemp; illus. by Beatriz Gutiérrez Hernández (Porter/Holiday)

When the nocturnal animals that surround a family's house in the desert come out, "they howl and buzz and hoot — a chorus in need of a band." On the porch, each family member plays an instrument (some passed down from ancestors) that complements a natural sound, such as maracas that sound like rattlesnakes, while "an audience of [the family's] ancestors" dances in the stars. The digitally edited illustrations in acrylic gouache and colored pencil open with sunny pinks and gradually deepen into inky blue-greens and pearlescent whites as night falls. Concurrently published in Spanish as Canción del desierto. 40 pp.

The Seventh Direction: A Legend of Creation by Kevin Locke; illus. by Kristy Cameron (Medicine Wheel)

Locke (Lakota and Anishinabe) provides an engaging retelling of a Lakota legend. Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka (the Great Spirit) creates the world in seven days. After sending power to the East, South, West, and North, Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka creates mountains, trees, plants, animals, and water. On the seventh day, Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka makes the greatest gift: the human spirit, placed at the center of it all: "The intersection of everything in this universe, this creation, is within each one of us." Cameron’s (Métis) brightly colored and textured illustrations bring dynamism to the tale. 48 pp.

Time to Make Art by Jeff Mack (Holt)

An inquisitive young girl asks a series of simple yet profound questions about art. "Can nothing be art?"; "Art can also be sad, right?"; and "Can art be something that I use?" Each question is answered by a different artist, ranging from ancient to modern, world-famous to regionally known (with back matter providing more information). Digital illustrations feature each artist and a representation of their work. 48 pp.

Bompa’s Insect Expedition by David Suzuki with Tanya Lloyd Kyi; illus. by Qin Leng (Greystone Kids)

In this picture book created in partnership with the David Suzuki Institute, a pair of twins and their grandfather, Bompa, search for insects. The twins' curiosity ranges from the simple ("Are insects animals?") to the existential ("What if we [humans] disappeared?"), and Bompa's answers illuminate the ways that insects of every kind (yes, even mosquitoes) have skills and roles to play in an ecosystem. The detail and specificity in each watercolor illustration invite readers' own explorations. 48 pp.

Gotta Go! by Frank Viva (TOON)

In this level-two comic, Owen is on his way to see Grampa when the need to pee overcomes him; arriving at Grampa’s place, he runs to the bathroom. Later at the park, Grampa shows his grandson the goofy dances that help him when he has to hold in his pee: the Tinkle Twist, the Wee-wee Walk, and the Piddle Patter. This entertaining tale is enhanced by Viva's sleek, stylized illustrations and includes practical tips for children who have to pee but aren't in a place to do so. 32 pp.

From the April 2024 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.

Horn Book
Horn Book

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing.