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Jay's 2016 Summer Reading List for Lower School Students

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Welcome to summer! Margaret Haddix, the award-winning author of over 30 books for children, once said, “I was lucky enough not to face any required summer reading lists until I went to college. So I still think of summer as the best time to read for fun.” For those of you new to my summer reading lists, it is most definitely non-required reading. That is all of these books will inform, excite, surprise, but they are meant for FUN reading. Why? Because it’s the summer AND vacation! I do my best to include a wide range of topics and books so that all children can enjoy them. It is my belief that as long as there’s a great story in the pages, any child can get something out of a book, whether it is a picture book or chapter book. There are some code-like letters and numbers after each entry. PB = Picture Book ER = Easy Reader ECB = Early Chapter Book GN = Graphic Novel CB = Chapter Book The numbers are suggested ages. Have a great summer!


Thunder Boy, Jr. by Sherman Alexie, illus. by Yuyi Morales - Thunder Boy Jr. is named after his dad, but he wants a name that’s all his own. Just because people call his dad Big Thunder doesn’t mean he wants to be Little Thunder. He wants a name that celebrates something cool he’s done, such as Touch the Clouds, Not Afraid of Ten Thousand Teeth, or Full of Wonder. But just when Thunder Boy Jr. thinks all hope is lost, he and his dad pick the perfect name–a name that is sure to light up the sky. National Book Award-winner Sherman Alexie’s lyrical text and Caldecott Honor-winner Yuyi Morales’s striking and beautiful illustrations celebrate the special relationship between father and son. PB (Ages 5-10)

Have You Seen Elephant? by David Barrow (author, illustrator) - A game of hide-and-seek is the basis of this story but with a humorous twist. An enormous elephant and a boy with scribbly brown curls are the players. Before they begin, the elephant discloses, “I must warn you though. I’m VERY good.” Readers will easily spot Elephant on each spread as he attempts to disguise himself behind the drapes, under a comforter on a bed and under a lampshade. Children will revel in being able to spot the elephant while the boy searches fruitlessly. Attentive readers will notice the boy’s dog sniffing the elephant out in every spread. The mixed-media illustrations work masterfully to tell the story alongside the brief text, which consists exclusively of dialogue. The dynamic backgrounds are splashed with watercolor and the figures are given soft edges, lending a dreamy quality to the story. The impressive use of light and shadow and incorporation of reds, oranges and purples add a richness to the pages that will transfix children. This amusingly absurd story paired with the warm and wonderful illustrations will have kids coming back again and again. PB (4-7)

Big Friends by Linda Sarah, illus. by Benji Davies - Even the cozy and close-knit private world of inseparable playmates can suddenly unravel, as happens in Big Friends, written by Linda Sarah, when best friends react very differently to the arrival of a third child who wishes to join their group. In this classic situation, temperament, the degree to which one is energized or thrown by change, is apt to express itself, exposing a friendship’s previously untested fault lines. As the title of this oversize picture book suggests, growing up can mean learning to accommodate and even embrace the new. The language of this encouraging read-aloud narrative strives for the poetic and becomes a bit strained. (“Birt loves their time together, their Etho-Shu-Birt-iness. He loves their three-by-three rhythm.”) Benji Davies’s illustrations feel a good deal more relaxed, with a lovely loose-limbed, open look that invites exploration and perhaps a daydream of one’s own. PB (5-8)

Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev, illus. by Taeeun Yoo - When the local Pet Club won’t admit a boy’s tiny pet elephant, he finds a solution—one that involves all kinds of unusual animals in this sweet and adorable picture book. Today is Pet Club day. There will be cats and dogs and fish, but strictly no elephants are allowed. The Pet Club doesn’t understand that pets come in all shapes and sizes, just like friends. Now it is time for a boy and his tiny pet elephant to show them what it means to be a true friend. Imaginative and lyrical, this sweet story captures the magic of friendship and the joy of having a pet. PB (5-8)

Hannah and Sugar by Kate Berube (author and illustrator) - Every day, Hannah gets off the bus, and every day Sugar the dog is there waiting for her owner, Violet P. Every day Mrs. P. asks Hannah if she would like to pet Sugar, and every day, Hannah says, “No, thank you.” Hannah is afraid of dogs, so despite Sugar living up to her name and being a sweet, gentle pup, Hannah remains apprehensive. One day, Sugar goes missing and everyone begins looking for her. Sadly, she is nowhere to be found until one night Hannah hears a noise, crawls between the bushes, and finds Sugar with her leash caught in the tangled branches. Nervously, Hannah finds the courage to reach out and pet Sugar and eventually frees the dog. Sugar is reunited with her owners, and Hannah has a new friend. For children who are nervous around dogs, this selection will offer up some extra reinforcement that there is nothing to be afraid of. The story also encourages children to overcome their fears and do the right thing. The illustrations are done in pretty, soft neutrals that suit the pace and atmosphere of the story. The plot is simple and told with some repetition that makes it an enjoyable read-aloud. PB (5-8)

How to Find Gold by Viviane Schwarz (author and illustrator) - Viviane Schwarz conjures a whimsical tale of friendship and adventure that will spur little voyagers to pursue imaginative quests of their own. Finding gold isn’t easy. In fact it’s dangerous and difficult. It requires planning. First, Crocodile and Anna practice their secret-keeping faces. Then Anna lifts Crocodile up; to be sure she’s strong enough to carry gold. Together, they draw the whole world, with an X to mark the spot. Now Anna fetches the boat, and off they sail. What will they discover? The joy of sharing a journey with a friend outshines even the longed-for gold in this fanciful story brimming with humor. PB (4-8)

Ben Says Goodbye by Sarah Ellis, illus. by Kim La Fave - When Ben’s best friend Peter moves away, Ben decides that he will move, too—into a “cave” under the kitchen table. Caveman Ben doesn’t need any friends except his tame (stuffed) lion. He hunts for his food (thoughtfully left on a plate by Mom and Dad) and communicates in grunts. And in the safety of his cave he can imagine a world where friends control their own destinies and distance is no obstacle. Award-winning author-illustrator team Sarah Ellis and Kim La Fave have produced yet another book in which they gently guide Ben through an experience that is both familiar and daunting to preschoolers everywhere. Ellis’ text deftly taps into the thoughts and feelings of a young child, while La Fave’s endearing art captures both the depths of Ben’s dismay and the warmth of the family members who support him through his crisis. Young readers and listeners will celebrate with Ben as, having been given the space to work through his difficult feelings, he emerges from his cave ready to rejoin his family and look forward to new friendships. PB (5-9)

Bloom by Doreen Cronin, illus. by David Small - A glass kingdom is no place for a Mud Fairy. Bloom and her mud fairy magic might be able to turn weeds into flowers and spin sand into glass, but the people of the kingdom ceaselessly complain about the trails of dirt and puddles of mud that seem to follow her every step, and finally they cast her out. But when the glass castle begins to crack, then cracks some more, the King and Queen in a panic search for the long-banished fairy, but they can’t find Bloom anywhere. Desperate to save their home, they send their meekest, most ordinary subject, a girl named Genevieve whose sole task until now has been to polish the Queen’s crystal sugar spoon—to coax any worthy fairy to come and save the kingdom. Genevieve finds Bloom exactly where the king and queen failed to see her and Bloom knows exactly how to save the kingdom. But it will take the two girls working together, along with a mighty dollop of self-confidence and some very messy hands, to accomplish the extraordinary. PB (6-10)

Emma and Julia Love Ballet by Barbara McClintock (author and illustrator) - McClintock takes a turn from folk and fairy tales to share a sweet story of an aspiring ballerina and her professional counterpart. Emma, a young red-haired girl, gets ready for dance class and excitedly prepares for her first trip to the ballet. On mirroring pages is the story of Julia, a woman of color and professional ballerina, who goes through her day in the city preparing for her lead role in the evening’s performance. As their days both come to an end at the theater, the opposing pages blend into one cohesive story and Emma and Julia meet backstage for a hug and an autograph and to express their love of dancing. Young readers interested in ballet will appreciate the glimpse into the life of a ballerina. The seemingly insignificant details of Julia’s everyday life paint a picture of her as a real person, and the parallels to Emma’s routine further encourage young dancers to see themselves in both of these characters. The story line is simple, the language straightforward and repetitive, further emphasizing the similarities in the lives of the two characters. The pen and watercolor illustrations are expressive and bright, the characters warm and emotive. McClintock makes effective use of white space and leaves the full-color spreads to the dramatic scenes of the performance hall and stage where Emma and Julia’s stories converge. An informative and heartwarming selection about the lives of ballerinas of different ages. PB (5-10)

My Two Blankets by Irena Kobald, illus. by Freya Blackwood - Cartwheel moves to a new country with her auntie, and everything is strange–the animals, the plants, even the wind. An old blanket gives Cartwheel comfort when she’s sad, and a new blanket just might change her world. This multicultural story of friendship is about leaving home, moving to a foreign and strange place, and finding a new friend. It’s a story for all who have experienced change. Irena Kobald’s poetic text, paired with Kate Greenaway medalist Freya Blackwood’s powerful paintings, renders an emotional and heart-warming story about two children from diverse backgrounds coming together to become new friends. PB (5-10)

Miss Mary Reporting: The True Story of Sportswriter Mary Garber by Sue Macy, illus. by C.F. Payne - While sitting in the bleachers of a Soap Box Derby in the 1950s, Mary Garber overheard two African-American boys in the following exchange: “See that lady down there?” asked one boy. “That’s Mary Garber. She doesn’t care who you are, but if you do something good, she’ll write about you.” Mary Garber was a pioneering sports journalist in a time where women were rarely a part of the newspaper business. Women weren’t even allowed to sit in the press boxes at sporting events, so Mary was forced to sit with the coaches’ wives. But that didn’t stop her. In a time when African-American sports were not routinely covered, Mary went to the games and wrote about them. Garber was a sportswriter for fifty-six years and was the first woman to receive the Associated Press Sports Editors’ Red Smith Award, presented for major contributions in sports journalism. And now, every year the Association of Women in Sports Media presents the Mary Garber Pioneer Award in her honor to a role model for women in sports media. Sure to inspire future journalists, athletes, and any child who has a dream, this illustrated biography of Mary Garber captures her feisty and determined spirit and brings her story to life. PB (6-10)

Pink is for Blobfish: Discovering the World’s Perfectly Pink Animals by Jess Keating - Pinkalicious meets National Geographic in this nonfiction picture book introducing the weirdest, wildest, pinkest critters in the animal kingdom! Some people think pink is a pretty color. A fluffy, sparkly, princess-y color. But it’s so much more. Sure, pink is the color of princesses and bubblegum, but it’s also the color of monster slugs and poisonous insects. Not to mention ultra-intelligent dolphins, naked mole rats and bizarre, bloated blobfish. Isn’t it about time to rethink pink? Slip on your rose-colored glasses and take a walk on the wild side with zoologist Jess Keating, author of How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied, and cartoonist David DeGrand. Nonfiction PB (6-11)

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville by Pat Zietlow Miller, illus. by Frank Morrison - It’s the day before the big parade. Alta can only think about one thing: Wilma Rudolph, three-time Olympic gold medalist. She’ll be riding on a float tomorrow. See, Alta is the quickest kid in Clarksville, Tennessee, just like Wilma once was. It doesn’t matter that Alta’s shoes have holes because Wilma came from hard times, too. But what happens when a new girl with shiny new shoes comes along and challenges Alta to a race? Will she still be the quickest kid? The Quickest Kid in Clarksville is a timeless story of dreams, determination, and the power of friendship. PB (6-10)

We Came to America by Faith Ringgold - A timely and beautiful look at America’s rich history of diversity, from Faith Ringgold, the Coretta Scott King and Caldecott Honor winning creator of Tar Beach. From the Native Americans who first called this land their home, to the millions of people who have flocked to its shores ever since, America is a country rich in diversity. Some of our ancestors were driven by dreams and hope. Others came in chains, or were escaping poverty or persecution. No matter what brought them here, each person embodied a unique gift–their art and music, their determination and grit, their stories and their culture. Together, they forever shaped the country we all call home. Vividly expressed in Faith Ringgold’s sumptuous colors and patterns, We Came to America is an ode to every American who came before us, and a tribute to each child who will carry its proud message of diversity into our nation’s future. PB (5-10)

Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams, illus. by Khadra Mohammed - When relief workers bring used clothing to a refugee camp in Pakistan, ten-year-old Lina is thrilled when she finds a sandal that fits her foot perfectly—until she sees that another girl has the matching shoe. But soon Lina and Feroza meet and decide that it is better to share the sandals than for each to wear only one. The girls discover the true meaning of friendship and sacrifice. Four Feet, Two Sandals honors the experiences of refugee children around the world, whose daily existence is marked by uncertainty and fear. Warm colors and bold brush strokes are the perfect complement to this story of courage and hope. PB (6-10)

Go, Otto, Go! (The Adventures of Otto) by David Milgrim - Almost a decade and a half after crash-landing on Earth in See Otto (2002), Milgrim’s lovable robot is back and thinking about returning home. Readers see Otto looking at a family portrait of two adult robots and one child robot. “See Otto look at his home,” reveals the robot peering through a telescope. An expansive, wordless double-page spread following shows Otto looking up at the stars, the family picture clamped in one “hand” before getting to “work, work, work” in subsequent spreads. “No, Otto, no!” Readers may well protest as they watch the robot hammering and welding scrap metal into a booster-rocket backpack, and it’s clear that’s what his animal pals are thinking as they bid him adieu. But although Otto goes “up, up, up,” with an “uh-oh,” Otto goes “down, down, down”—then left and right, and then “here” (through a desert) and “there” (past some penguins), ultimately only to get “nowhere.” As in the earlier installments in the Adventures of Otto, Milgrim combines very few words arranged in easy-to-decode patterns with a perfect balance of laugh-out-loud slapstick and honest emotion—here, real pathos—for a rich, complete story readers just taking baby steps toward literacy can manage. When Otto looks up from the wreckage to see his jubilant friends and realizes he’s “looking at his home” and his found family, readers will feel the complexity of his emotions. Welcome back, Otto. Glad you’re here to stay. ER (5-8)

Don’t Throw it to Mo! by David A. Adler, illus. by Sam Ricks - Mo Jackson is a little boy with a big passion for sports. He may not be the biggest, the strongest, or the fastest player, but he won’t let that stop him from playing! Mo is the youngest kid on the Robins, his football team. His classmates don’t mind, but the kids on their rival team tease him for being a “butterfingers” who’s too tiny to catch the ball. But Mo’s coach has a plan to turn Mo’s little size into a big win for the Robins! ER (6-8)

Ling and Ting: Twice As Silly by Grace Lin – Ling and Ting like to be silly in the fourth book in this irresistible early reader series. The beloved twins from the Geisel Honor early reader series are back to share their favorite funny stories with beginning readers, now in paperback. This collection of six laugh-out-loud stories is sure to tickle the funny bone of fans and new readers alike. Kirkus writes about the series, “These twins make learning to read double the fun.” ER (6-8)

Jaden Toussaint, The Greatest Episode 1: The Quest for More Screen Time by Marti Dumas - Jaden Toussaint, an inquisitive budding scientist with a spectacular Afro, feels like an outsider in his family. While his parents and sister are all bibliophiles, he hates to read–he’d rather get his hands on a tablet. After circulating a petition among his fellow kindergarteners campaigning for more computer time, Jaden’s ingenuity is rewarded. This charming first installment in the Jaden Toussaint chapter-book series features succinct but vivid characterizations and abundant humor (the family’s pets include a guinea pig that “never has the same name two weeks in a row,” and Jaden’s father “prefers to be called ‘baba,’ which means ‘father’ in Swahili. Does not speak Swahili”). Muravski’s black and white illustrations, nicely integrated throughout, are also an asset, enhancing this story’s appeal for readers who may be as reluctant as Jaden to pick up a book. ECB (5-8)

The Kingdom of Wrenly series by Jordan Quinn - Journey to the magical Kingdom of Wrenly with this fantastical four-book collection! Join Prince Lucas and his best friend, Clara, as they search for the queen’s lost necklace, save a scarlet dragon, tame a sea monster, and stop an evil curse from destroying the kingdom’s crops in this enchanting four-book collection. With easy-to-read language and illustrations on almost every page, the Kingdom of Wrenly chapter books are perfect for beginning readers. ECB (7-10)

Hippopotamister by John Patrick Green - The zoo isn’t what it used to be. It’s run down, and Hippo hardly ever gets any visitors. So he decides to set off for the outside with his friend Red Panda. To make it in the human world, Hippo will have to become a Hippopotamister—he’ll have to act like a human, get a job and wear a hat as a disguise. He’s a good employee, whether he’s a construction worker, a hair stylist or a sous chef. But what he really needs is a job where he can be himself. GN (5-9)

Bird and Squirrel on Ice by James Burks - Bird and Squirrel are back and ready for adventure. After Bird and Squirrel crash land in the South Pole during a raging blizzard, a penguin named Sakari thinks Bird has come to rid her village of a hungry Killer Whale. But when Squirrel finds out that Bird will actually be fed to the Killer Whale as a sacrifice, they hatch a crazy plan to escape. With a good timing, a little luck and help from Sakari, they just might make it out alive. Or they might end up as whale food! GN (7-10)

The Sandwich Thief by André Marois, illus. by Patrick Doyon - Marin loves the sandwiches his parents make for him–every day they’re different and more delicious than the last. One morning, someone dares to steal his favorite sandwich, ham-cheddar-kale. Furious, Marin begins a fevered and famished investigation to unmask the thief. The days go by, the suspects multiply, and Marin’s sandwiches continue to disappear. This droll, graphic caper is a funny school mystery exploring the high stakes of low blood sugar. The first in a series, the book’s witty text and graphic illustrations make this funny school mystery perfect for early and advanced readers alike—and for anyone who’s been the victim of lunchtime crime. GN (7-10)

Mad Scientist Academy: Dinosaur Disaster by Matthew McElligott - Welcome to Mad Scientist Academy! The first day of school is always exciting, and Dr. Cosmic’s new students can’t wait to get started. After their teacher reveals that their school pet, Oscar, is a dinosaur, they quickly realize Dr. Cosmic has an unusual teaching style. To find Oscar, the class has to follow the clues through the realistic dinosaur exhibit Dr. Cosmic designed and built over the summer. But when a malfunction causes the robotic dinosaurs to come alive, this prehistoric exhibit feels a little too real! GN (6-11)

Waylon! One Awesome Thing by Sara Pennypacker, illus. by Marla Frazee - Waylon has lots of ideas for making life more awesome through science, such as teleportation, human gills and attracting cupcakes by controlling gravity. But it’s impossible for him to concentrate on his inventions when he’s experiencing his own personal Big Bang. Arlo Brody is dividing the fourth grade boys into two groups. Waylon would rather be friends with everyone. Well, everyone except the scary new kid, Baxter Boylen. Waylon’s older sister, Neon, is shooting away from the family. He wishes everything would go back to the way it was before she started wearing all black and saying “What’s the point?” all the time. Just when it looks as though Waylon’s universe is exploding, something happens to bring it all together again, and it is, without a doubt, One Awesome Thing. CB (7-11)

Happily Ever After by Anna Quindlen - One day, while holding her treasured baseball mitt, Kate makes a wish. And poof–she turns into a princess in a fairy tale. But being a princess isn’t at all what Kate imagined. Before long, she’s fighting off dragons, entertaining witches and teaching the ladies-in-waiting how to play baseball. With Kate around, fairy tale land will never be the same again! CB (7-10)

Piper Green and the Fairy Tree: Too Much Good Luck by Ellen Potter - Book Two of Ellen Potter’s charming new illustrated early chapter book series set on an island off the coast of Maine, where kids, lobster boats, and a hint of magic are part of everyday life. As far as Piper Green is concerned, the day started out lucky: Lucky thing number one: Her mom is painting Piper’s bedroom her favorite color. Lucky thing number two: Piper found a perfect strawberry at breakfast. Lucky thing number three: Piper lost a tooth. And as everyone knows, tooth plus tooth fairy equals ka-ching. There’s just one problem. According to her friend Jacob, too much good luck can sometimes equal bad luck. And when Piper gets to school that day, bad luck is waiting for her. Will the Fairy Tree in Piper’s front yard be enough to break her unlucky streak? CB (7-10)

Izzy Barr, Running Star by Claudia Mills - Izzy Barr is the star athlete of the third grade­– she hits homeruns on her softball team and is one of the fastest runners in her class. But at home, her half-brother, Dustin, seems to be her father’s favorite athlete. Why else would her dad go to all of his games and miss so many of hers? Izzy pretends that she doesn’t care, but as she, her friends Annika Riz and Kelsey Green and the rest of their class are gearing up for class field day, she can’t help but hope her dad will be there to cheer her on in the big race against her rival, Skipper Tipton. Dad doesn’t make it to field day, but when he realizes how important it is to Izzy, he and all of her friends and family are there to watch her participate in the citywide 10K run. CB (6-9)

The Case of the Phantom Cat: The Mysteries of Maisie Hitchins Book 3 by Holly Webb – This tale is a young Nancy Drew adventure by way of Downton Abbey. In book three of Holly Webb’s The Mysteries of Maisie Hitchins, twelve-year-old Maisie and her dog Eddie are invited to join Maisie’s friend Alice on a trip to the country. It’s lovely to get away from the London smog, but there is something strange about the manor where the girls are staying. Odd noises, horrid smells, and sightings of a spectral cat keep them up at night. Has Alice’s father rented a haunted house? There must be a logical explanation, and Maisie plans to use her detecting skills to find out what it is. CB (7-10)

The Secret Subway by Shana Corey, illus. by Red Nose Studio - From an acclaimed author and a New York Times Best Illustrated artist comes the fascinating, little-known and true story of New York City’s first subway. New York City in the 1860s was a mess­­–crowded, disgusting and filled with garbage. You see, way back in 1860, there were no subways, just cobblestone streets. That is, until Alfred Ely Beach had the idea for a fan-powered train that would travel underground. On February 26, 1870, after fifty-eight days of drilling and painting and plastering, Beach unveiled his masterpiece and throngs of visitors took turns swooshing down the track. The Secret Subway will wow readers, just as Beach’s underground train wowed riders over a century ago. Nonfiction PB (5-10)

Ollie’s Odyssey by William Joyce - In the secret realm of toys, there are many mysteries. There is the Code of the Toys, which is as ancient as childhood. There’s also the magic of becoming a child’s favorite, the highest honor in the Toy World. Made by hand by Billy’s mother, Ollie is a special toy, “a toy who will matter.” He becomes Billy’s best friend, confidant, pal and yes, Billy’s favorite. But there are villains in the Toy World, and Zozo, the clown king, is the most feared. He and his toy henchman, the Creeps, have sworn to steal and imprison favorite toys until they forget their children and become forever lost. When Ollie is toynapped, Billy must rescue his beloved favorite from Zozo’s subterranean lair in the old Carnival Place, past the park, through the woods and into the night. Never has a journey of ten blocks been more epic. CB (8 and up)

The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne – In 1926, the world was introduced to a portly little bear named Winnie-the-Pooh. Along with his young friend, Christopher Robin, Pooh delighted readers from the very beginning. His often-befuddled perceptions and adorable insights won the hearts of everyone around him, including his close group of friends. From the energetic Tigger to the dismal Eeyore, A. A. Milne created a charming bunch, both entertaining and inspirational. These simple creatures often reflected a small piece of all of us–humble, silly, wise, cautious, creative and full of life. Remember when Piglet did a very grand thing or Eeyore’s almost-forgotten birthday? (Jay’s note: I recently read many of these with my 8–year–old daughter and we reveled in the stories—smart, funny and poignant with some great lessons about life.) CB (5 and up)

Forest of Wonders (Wing and Claw) by Linda Sue Park - From Newbery Medal–winning author Linda Sue Park comes a captivating fantasy-adventure about a boy, a bat and an amazing transformation. Raffa Santana has always loved the mysterious Forest of Wonders. For a gifted young apothecary like him, every leaf could unleash a kind of magic. When an injured bat crashes into his life, Raffa invents a cure from a rare crimson vine that he finds deep in the Forest. His remedy saves the animal, but also transforms it into something much more than an ordinary bat, with far-reaching consequences. Raffa’s experiments lead him away from home to the forbidding city of Gilden, where troubling discoveries make him question whether exciting botanical inventions, including his own, might actually threaten the very creatures of the Forest he wants to protect. The first book in an enchanting trilogy, Forest of Wonders richly explores the links between magic and botany, family and duty, environment and home. CB (8-12)

The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island by Dana Alison Levy - Meet the Family Fletcher– two dads, four adopted brothers, two cats and one pug. They’re traveling back to Rock Island—where time stands still! The Fletchers are back on Rock Island, home of all their best summer memories. But from their first day on vacation, it’s clear that this year, things have changed. Their favorite lighthouse is all boarded up, and the Fletcher boys can’t figure out why or how to save it. Add a dose of Shakespeare, a very tippy kayak, a video camera, (maybe, possibly, or not) a swimming cat and some new neighbors, and the recipe for a crazy vacation is complete. Over the course of the summer, the Fletchers will learn that sometimes, even in a place where time stands still, the wildest, weirdest and most wonderful surprises await. CB (8-12)

The Artemis Fowl Series by Eoin Colfer - Twelve-year-old Artemis Fowl is the most ingenious criminal mastermind in history. With two trusty sidekicks in tow, he hatches a cunning plot to divest the fairy folk of their pot of gold. Of course, he isn’t foolish enough to believe in all that “gold at the end of the rainbow” nonsense. Rather, he knows that the only way to separate the little people from their stash is to kidnap one of them and wait for the ransom to arrive. But when the time comes to put his plan into action, he doesn’t count on the appearance of the extra small, pointy-eared Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon (Lower Elements Police Reconnaisance) Unit and her senior officer, Commander Root, a man (sorry, elf) who will stop at nothing to get her back. Fantastic stuff from beginning to end, Artemis Fowl is a rip-roaring, 21st-century romp of the highest order. The author has let his imagination run riot by combining folklore, fantasy, and a fistful of high-tech funk in an outrageously devilish book that could well do for fairies what Harry Potter has done for wizardry. But be warned– this is no gentle frolic, so don’t be fooled by the fairy subject matter. Instead, what we have here is well-written, sophisticated, rough ‘n’ tumble storytelling with enough high-octane attitude to make it a seriously cool read for anyone middle grade child. CB (9-12)

The Land of Forgotten Girls by Erin Entrada Kelly - Soledad and Ming, two sisters from the Philippines, live in Louisiana with their evil stepmother, Vea. All Sol and Ming have is each other and their stories. Both girls inherited a lively imagination from their mother, Mei-Mei. When she was alive, Mei-Mei wove enthralling tales about her magical sister, Jove, who traveled around the world. The girls cling to tales of Auntie Jove as a hope of escape while living in a dreary apartment with miserable Vea. Sol worries for her younger sister as Ming begins to believe Auntie Jove is a reality, blurring the lines between fact and fiction. Can Sol save her sister from the depression caused by her own stories, or have they done irreparable damage? Is there a way for Sol, Ming and Vea to understand one another and be happy in their own reality? Readers will become engrossed in the enchanting plot propelled by delightful narration. This book will appeal to a broad array of readers, as it has a little bit of everything–fantasy, realism, sisterhood, friendship, suspense and humor. CB (9-12)

Rising Above: How 11 Athletes Overcame Challenges in Their Youth to Become Stars by Gregory, Elijah and Gabriel Zuckerman - Stories of 11 athletes overcoming adversity to become the cream of their sports, from Wall Street Journal writer Zuckerman and his two sons. Some of these athletes’ stories are well known, how they excelled despite the most serious obstacles, be it having only one hand and dreaming of being a baseball player (Jim Abbott) or standing down the racism that attended tennis, as Althea Gibson did. Others may be more obscure. Soccer goalie Tim Howard had to struggle with Tourette’s and obsessive-compulsive behavior; Stephen Curry was small enough that he had to be a walk-on at Virginia Tech to even get a chance at basketball. There is poverty, sexual abuse, physical abuse, abandonment, illiteracy and even civil war in Congo. While the subjects can carry almost any weight, the Zuckermans struggle to bring them to life. Often luck was the key to success—being in the right place at the right time and seen by someone who got and kept the ball rolling. And while it is never easy to explain transcendent sporting ability, quotes like “It was like I was floating on air,” from Tim Howard, or, without diminishing LeBron James’ mother’s influence—“He had his mother to love and comfort him” have little insight to offer. There is both solace and inspiration in these 11 heroes’ amazing stories.  Nonfiction CB (9-12)

Gods of Manhattan Trilogy by Scott Mebus - Thirteen-year-old New Yorker Rory Hennessy can see things no one else can. When a magician’s trick opens his eyes to Mannahatta, Rory finds an amazing spirit city coexisting alongside modern-day Manhattan. A place where Indian sachems, warrior cockroaches and papier-mâché children live, ruled by the immortal Gods of Manhattan—including Babe Ruth, Alexander Hamilton and Peter Stuyvesant. But Rory’s power to see Mannahatta brings danger, and enemies pursue him, chasing history and trying to free those who have been enslaved. And when he is given the chance to right Mannahatta’s greatest wrong, seeing Mannahatta may not be a gift after all. The totally engrossing saga continues with Spirits in the Park (Book two) and The Sorcerer’s Secret (Book three). CB (8-12)

As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds - Eleven-year-old Brooklynite Genie has “worry issues,” so when he and his older brother, Ernie, are sent to Virginia to spend a month with their estranged grandparents while their parents “try to figure it all out,” he goes into overdrive. First, he discovers that Grandpop is blind. Next, there’s no Internet, so the questions he keeps track of in his notebook (over 400 so far) will have to go un-Googled. Then, he breaks the model truck that’s one of the only things Grandma still has of his deceased uncle. And he and Ernie will have to do chores, like picking peas and scooping dog poop. What’s behind the “nunya bidness door”? And is that a gun sticking out from Grandpop’s waistband? Reynolds’ middle-grade debut meanders like the best kind of summer vacation but never loses sense of its throughline. The richly voiced third-person narrative, tightly focused through Genie’s point of view, introduces both brothers and readers to this rural African-American community and allows them to relax and explore even as it delves into the many mysteries that so bedevil Genie, ranging from “Grits? What exactly are they?” to, heartbreakingly, “Why am I so stupid?” Reynolds gives his readers uncommonly well-developed, complex characters, especially the completely believable Genie and Grandpop, whose stubborn self-sufficiency belies his vulnerability and whose flawed love both Genie and readers will cherish. CB (9-12)