A Summer of Book Ideas for Young Readers
For this summer’s list, I am going to begin with one of the books that the Swarthmore Public Library is featuring in its One Book, One Swarthmore program: All-American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. In this excellent young-adult novel, an incident of police brutality threatens to tear a community apart. Written from the point of view of various characters, some black and some white, the story is riveting, and it poses very important questions about individual responsibility, racism, friendship, and loyalty. The language is quite strong, but it reflects the way people really talk. All-American Boys is an excellent read for teens and older readers as well.
Many of us are familiar with Shirley Hughes’ adorable picture books, featuring Alfie, Annie Rose, and Dogger. In 2012, she decided to publish a chapter book for older kids and teens: Hero On a Bicycle. In this gripping novel, a young Italian boy living near Nazi-occupied Florence decides to help the Resistance movement in the only way he can, despite great danger and a need for utter secrecy. This action-packed story, beautifully written and with excellent character development, is a great way to familiarize children with European history.
Speaking of history, the juvenile non-fiction section of the Swarthmore Public Library offers some wonderful reads for kids. About a year ago, these books were given their own section in the library, and it is a great place for non-fiction-loving youngsters to get lost in books. One such book is Women Behind Rosie the Riveter by Pamela Dell. This slender volume introduces young readers to the topic of women’s role during the second World War, when men went off to fight and women were called upon to take civilian jobs, many of them war-related.
Another World War II history by Pamela Dell is The Soviet Night Witches, which covers a little-known episode in WWII, when the first all-female bomber pilots the world had ever seen attacked German bases within the USSR.
Lest you think that the juvenile non-fiction section offers only history, be aware that it also features books on just about any topic a kid might find interesting: among them, myths and legends, poetry, animals, biology, other parts of the world, sports, and biography. For your younger kids who love science and animals, look at Steve Jenkins’s books.
I will finish up with two great chapter books I read in the past few years: The Half-True Lies of Cricket Cohen by Catherine Lloyd Burns, and Restart by Gordon Korman. Both are coming-of-age stories about middle-school kids navigating their way through their quirky, adventure-filled lives with humor and a sense of discovery. Young readers who like realistic fiction with lots of humor and character development will enjoy them.
Three-Bird Summer by Sara St. Antoine is a beautifully written book for this age group as well, filled with adventure and characters who love nature. And don’t forget the stories of Mary Downing Hahn, whose mysteries and realistic stories keep the older elementary and middle-school reader turning pages eagerly.
Enjoy your summer of reading, and visit the public library often!