Summer reading! It’s an ideal time to discover the joys of a good book. As a longtime children’s book editor and the current editorial director of Astra Young Readers and Wordsong, I’m often asked to recommend summer reading picks for kids of all ages.
But what do I look for in a great book?
I seek out books with authentic, relatable stories, memorable characters, and a terrific plot. I’m drawn to innovative approaches to storytelling. I adore books that celebrate open-mindedness and curiosity in our complex world, and ones that inspire compassion.
Here, I’m thrilled to give my summer reading recommendations for tweens – young readers who have moved beyond picture books and are ready for more. These series and stand-alone titles feature stories about family, friendship, animals, the environment, and more. Most titles are available in both hardcover and paperback, and can be found anywhere you like to buy books or at your local library.
Last-But-Not-Least Lola, a series by Christine Pakkala and illustrated by Paul Hoppe, is “a great choice for early chapter book readers,” according to School Library Journal’s starred review; and a Booklist starred review called Lola “the up-to-date heir of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona stories.”
These books feature the antics of Lola Zuckerman, who is always last in line at school based on her name beginning with “Z”. But, she’s never least!
With four titles available, this series is ideal for kids ages 7 – 10.
For readers ages 8 – 12, check out The Top-Secret Diary of Celie Valentine series by Julie Sternberg and illustrated by Johanna Wright.
In these books, ten-year-old Celie tackles typical tween problems – friends not being friendly, an annoying older sister, parents who just don’t understand, and the reality of an aging grandparent. To cope, Celie turns to her diary, filling the pages with heartfelt and often humorous entries, notes, drawings, and pages from her top-secret spy notebook.
The Ghosts of Ordinary Objects series by Angie Smibert is ideal for readers 10 and up. In this trilogy of supernatural historical mysteries, twelve-year-old Bone possesses a Gift that allows her to see the stories in everyday objects.
Smibert weaves together history, Appalachian folklore, and the theme of the importance of stories to capture the heart of a Virginia coal-mining town and of its richly developed characters.
And lasty, I recommend two books by author Jessie Haas that I think are perfect for readers ages 9 and up. The Hungry Place is a horse adventure about a Connemara pony who is pampered and beloved, then abused and neglected, until twelve-year-old Rae brings love to her again.
In Rescue, animal lover Joni clashes with her new neighbor and animal rights activist Chess, and their bumpy friendship reaches a crisis when Chess stages an impulsive animal rescue, and Joni must act fast to save the animals’ lives.