Home-Grown Summer Reading

If you want your kids to be writers, read to them. Read with them. Summer is the perfect time to read, and if you live here in the Seattle area, you don’t have to go far from home to find authors with great stories to share. A big chunk of my reading time is dedicated to their words. As a children’s author, teacher, and school librarian, I know how lucky I am to live here in “Kidlit” Land. Here’s an assortment of titles—just a sampling—that would be on my summer reading list if I hadn’t already read them…

Local author Laurie Ann Thompson’s new book Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters (12 and up) is an inspiring read for parents and children. Teens will enjoy reading and sharing the stories of other young people who have made a difference in the world and learning how they can make a difference, too.

Award-winning authors Bonny Becker and Kirby Larson are well-known in the world-wide children’s literature community. Young children and those who read to them will be captured by the language in Bonny’s exquisite bear books, and dog-lovers will enjoy Kirby’s picture books of true dog tales. Don’t miss their titles for tweens (Becker’s The Magical Miss Plum) and teens (Larson’s Hattie Big Sky) among their many other offerings.

Thinking about Kirby’s books reminds me of other books. Young dog lovers will learn how to be around those four-footed friends as you share the appealing artwork and fun text in Don’t Lick the Dog with them. And if the Hattie books (yes, Larson’s Newbery Honor book has a sequel) appeal to your older historical fiction reader, take a look at Carole Estby Dagg’s The Year We Were Famous. Others have written about this amazing “walk across the country” true story, but like Kirby and her first Hattie installment, Carole is a descendent of the adventurous heroine in her story. As with Karen Cushman’s historical fiction, it’s always a joy to find compelling, sophisticated stories like Carole’s to share with advanced readers who may not be ready for the explicit content found in other books at their reading level.

Since we’re jumping a bit among various reading levels, let’s move to a few for younger kids. Love folk tales? Try Meg (Margaret H.) Lippert’s picture books, told with simplicity and reverence for the lands where the stories originate. What a great way to integrate cultural awareness and enjoyment! And for cultural awareness right here around us, Maddi’s Fridge by Lois Brandt gets children thinking about others less fortunate than themselves.

If your story lovers enjoy dinosaurs, methods of transportation, and rowdy, rollicking, rhyming tales of adventure and silliness, introduce them to my gargantuan goofballs in Dinosailors, All Aboard the Dinotrain, and Dinosoaring as they take to the skies, the rails and the high seas in this bestselling dinoTHRILLogy.

Oh, and if you’re looking for sweetness, sink into Once Upon a Memory by Nina Laden. Delight? Carole Lexa Schaefer and Pierr Morgan’s The Squiggle. Gleeful playfulness? None other than Kevan Atteberry’s Bunnies!!! 

Super fun artist Dana Sullivan really makes the Digger and Daisy reader series come alive with his loose, kid-appealing artwork. Those beginning to read on their own will enjoy these adventures and may even catch Dana around town (or on YouTube) to see how he draws his characters.

Family summer reading will feel more complete if your list includes a summertime story, and though Sara Nickerson’sThe Secrets of Blueberries, Brothers, Moose & Me won’t be out until later in July, it will be here in time for picking your own blueberries. Other books for that in-between age are titles by Patrick Jennings and the prolific Suzanne Williams. And don’t let your summer go by without laughing along with the award-winning Pickle by Kim Baker.

Novels in verse have become more and more popular in recent years, and Stasia Ward Kehoe’s The Sound of Letting Go is truly a family story of trial, growth, and redemption. It’s a winner. Fantasy for older readers? No debate there. Janet Lee Carey’s books are time and teen tested. Martha Brockenbrough’s smart use of language and ideas will capture the most creative imaginations, you’ll fall in love with Justina Chen’s collection, and you’ll heighten your senses with Holly Cupala’s list.

I could go on and on—these are just a sampling. Western Washington’s rich array of children’s book creators keep spinning out the best of the best. For more information on what’s happening in your “kidlit” community, check out the Chinook blog by the Western Washington chapter of The Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators at http://chinookupdate.blogspot.com/.

And while you’re reading local, shop local at one of our many amazing independent bookstores. They’ll get you these titles and recommend many more. Happy summer reading!