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Hot Books for End-of-Summer Reading

By Jennifer W. Shettel
 | Aug 08, 2016

The hot, hazy days of early August signal the end of summer vacation is near. But there’s still time for having a few more adventures with friends and family—and to enjoy final days of having “nothing to do” but read a few more good books before busy fall schedules kick in.

Ages 4–8

Painting Pepette. Linda Ravin Lodding. Ill. Claire Fletcher. 2016. Little Bee/Bonnier.

painting-pepetteYoung Josette loves to wander through the streets of Paris with her stuffed rabbit, Pepette, in tow. One day, Josette realizes that there is no portrait of Pepette on the wall with the rest of the family members, and so she walks to Montmartre, where she encounters four renowned artists. Each takes a turn at painting Pepette, but none can capture Pepette’s “wonderfulness.” Returning home, Josette realizes who can paint the perfect portrait of Pepette. Black ink-and-watercolor illustrations beautifully express the idea that artists see the world through many lenses. An author’s note identifies the artists who are inspired to paint Pepette—Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Marc Chagall, and Henri Matisse—whom Josette and Pepette meet on the streets of Montmarte.

It Came in the Mail. Ben Clanton. 2016. Simon & Schuster.

it came in the mailLiam LOVES to get mail, only nothing ever seems to come for him. One day, he gets the bright idea to write a letter asking his mailbox for something to come in the mail for him. The next thing Liam knows, a dragon pops out of the mailbox. Excited by his new discovery, Liam writes more letters and more surprising things—a shark, some pigs, and even a whale with wings—come in the mail. When Liam realizes he has too much stuff, he decides to share his new treasures with his friends. Cartoon-style illustrations, rendered in colored pencil and watercolor, add to the child appeal of this fun story.

Jack’s Worry. Sam Zuppardi. 2016. Candlewick.

jacks worryJack is excited to play the trumpet in his first concert, but he has a Big Worry. What if he makes a mistake? Jack frets all day long until he just about bursts. It takes some reassuring words (and a hug) from his mom to shrink Jack’s Worry back down to size so that he can enjoy playing his performance—even if he does play some wrong notes. Illustrated with cartoon-like pencil drawings colored with acrylic paint, this book reminds readers of all ages that it’s all right to make mistakes.

Wolf Camp. Andrea Zuill. 2016. Schwartz & Wade/Random House.

wolf campHomer is a dog who has always wanted to embrace his “wolfish side.” Lucky for him, a flier arrives inviting Homer to Wolf Camp for a week. He jumps on the camp bus with his fellow canine friends and goes off to camp. The Wolf counselors teach the dogs how to hunt, howl, and live like a wolf. The colorful, cartoon-style illustrations add to the humor in this book. Young readers will enjoy finding out how Homer and the rest of the dog campers fare during their week away from home.

Ages 9–11

Alpha, Bravo, Charlie: The Complete Book of Nautical Codes. Sara Gillingham. 2016. Phaidon.

alpha bravo charlieA fascinating “ABC” book, it describes the International Code of Signals alphabet flags. This nonfiction text requires readers to closely examine each spread that carefully details the meaning of the flag as well as how that nautical code is signaled using Morse code and the semaphore system. Full-page renditions of each flag are also provided featuring only the colors used for this visual language system: black, white, red, blue, and yellow. Back matter includes a glossary as well as the full phonetic, semaphore, and Morse Code alphabets.

The Girl in the Well Is Me. Karen Rivers. 2016. Algonquin.

the girls in the well is meWhen 11-year-old Kammie falls into an abandoned well during a secret club initiation gone wrong, she has plenty of time to ponder the events of her life that have led her to this moment. As the hours stretch on and Kammie starts to wonder if anyone is ever going to come and rescue her, the reader learns that Kammie’s father is in jail for embezzlement and she and her brother and mother are trying to adjust to their new circumstances. Rivers perfectly captures the voice of a tween who is trying to figure out what kind of person she really wants to be.

Ages 12–14

Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts. Susan Cain, with Gregory Mone and Erica Moroz. Ill. Grant Snider. 2016. Dial/Penguin.

quiet powerCain transforms her popular book for adults (Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking) into a young reader’s edition for tweens and teens. This nonfiction self-help book presents Cain’s research on how introverts and shy people can be just as effective in leadership roles as their chattier and outgoing peers. In 14 chapters, Cain and her cowriters use real-world examples of quiet kids’ strategies for excelling in school, social situations, sports, and more. The inclusion of comic-style illustrations and diagrams to the text help convey Cain’s message. Additional text features include a table of contents, detailed end notes from Cain’s research, and an index.

Slacker. Gordon Korman. 2016. Scholastic.

slackerThirteen-year-old Cameron (“Cam”) Boxer knows that he’s a slacker. If he could, he’d play video games all day in his basement in pursuit of his quest to be a world champion at Rule the World, his favorite online video game. However, when Cam’s pursuit of gaming almost leads to burning down the house, his parents proclaim that it’s time for Cam to get out of the basement and find something else to do. Cam and his gaming friends create a fake “do-gooders” club to give Cam’s parents the idea that he’s actively involved in something worthwhile. Things quickly spiral out of control as the club gains interest from fellow students, teachers, and community members. Written in Korman’s typical fast-paced, action-packed style, this novel is told from alternating perspectives of characters and will engage middle-grade readers and gamers.

Ages 15+

Love and Gelato. Jenna Evans Welch. 2016. Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster.

love and gelatoCarolina (“Lina”) is a sophomore in high school when her mom drops two bombshells: (1) Mom’s cancer has progressed swiftly, and she does not expect to live out the year and (2) After she dies, Mom wants her to go to Italy and stay with a friend, Howard. This is a lot for Lina to process. Is Howard really just an old friend of her mom’s, or is he her biological father? Readers will be captivated by this summer story of life, love, loss, friends, family—and gelato.

The Serpent King. Jeff Zentner. 2016. Tundra.

the serpent kingLydia, Dill, and Travis are three high school friends who lead very different lives. Lydia is an only child from a middle class family with two loving parents. She runs a popular fashion blog but is not popular with the girls in her high school. Dill is the son of the local Pentecostal preacher, known as “The Serpent King” because of his ability to handle venomous snakes, who has recently been imprisoned for child pornography. Travis lives with an alcoholic and abusive father who doesn’t understand his dreams of becoming a writer. Told in the alternating voices of the three friends during their senior year, this novel explores issues of friendship, social class, and tragedy.

With Malice. Eileen Cook. 2016. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

with maliceIn this gripping psychological thriller, fiction emulates real life in a story of a school trip gone bad. Eighteen-year-old Jill Charron doesn’t remember the terrible accident that landed her in a hospital bed and left her best friend, Simone, dead while on a school trip to Italy. As Jill regains her memory, events surrounding the tragedy slowly begin to be revealed in a text that includes blog posts, police interviews, e-mails, and social media posts. Did Jill kill Simone over a guy, or was it all a tragic accident? This novel will keep readers up all night to get answers.

Jennifer W. Shettel is an associate professor at Millersville University of Pennsylvania where she teaches undergraduate and graduate course in literacy for pre-service and practicing teachers. Prior to joining the faculty at Millersville, she spent 16 years as an elementary classroom teacher and reading specialist in the public schools.

These reviews are submitted by members of the International Literacy Association's Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG) and are published weekly on Literacy Daily.


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  1. Mike Hall | Aug 11, 2016
    I've read some of them but, for me, most of them are not beach books. Agree that's why I'll be paying more attention to what is recommended in the comments rather than those by the authors. Surely a beach book has to be accessible. 

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