Prevent the Summer Slide: Read!

It’s natural for your kids (and you!) to want a break after school ends. To prevent summer learning loss, it’s important to make reading time part of the routine. Kids of all ages will look forward to curling up with the books on this hand-picked list from the children’s lit experts at The Horn Book.

Picture Books

The Airport Book, written and illustrated by Lisa Brown (Porter/ Roaring Brook)
A family of four heads off to the airport. Straightforward but lively main text provides basic airport information while the pictures tell a much more complex — and wildly entertaining — story, following dozens of characters who are all traveling on the same flight as the central, interracial family. 40 pages


Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle; illus. by Rafael López (Houghton) 2016 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award Winner
A young girl “on an island of music” dreams of becoming a drummer — but only boys play drums. The story is based on Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a “Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke Cuba’s traditional taboo against female drummers.” 40 pages.





Flutter & Hum / Aleteo y Zumbido: Animal Poems / Poemas de Animales by Julie Paschkis; illus. by the author (Holt)
Each of these animal poems in Spanish and English is intricately connected to its corresponding painting, with thematic words woven throughout the pictures: for example, in “Fish / El Pez,” a boy sleeps on a boat that floats above fish swimming in a sea of lulling words: linger, flow; luna, burbuja. 32 pages.



I Hear a Pickle: (and Smell, See, Touch, and Taste It, Too!), written and illustrated by Rachel Isadora (Paulsen/ Penguin)
This book about the five senses is aimed perfectly at another sense — kids’ sense of humor. Double-page spreads on each sense contain small vignettes of children exploring their world, indoors and out.



¡Olinguito, de la A a la Z! / Olinguito, from A to Z!: Descubriendo el bosque nublado / Unveiling the Cloud Forest by Lulu Delacre; illus. by the author (Children’s Book Press/Lee & Low)
Along with many other animals and plants of the Ecuadorian cloud forest, Delacre introduces the olinguito, a raccoon relative discovered in 2013. Alliteration in the parallel Spanish and English texts makes for an engaging, and occasionally tongue-twisting, read. 40 pages.




Surf’s Up by Kwame Alexander; illus. by Daniel Miyares (North-South)
“SURF’S UP, BRO!” calls a surfer-dude frog. “Not yet, Dude,” responds his bookworm buddy (also a frog). While Dude and Bro (still with nose in book) make their way to the beach, Bro reveals tantalizing Moby-Dick plot points that pique Dude’s interest. 32 pages




Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie; illus. by Yuyi Morales (Little, Brown)
“I HATE MY NAME!” complains Thunder Boy Smith Jr., a.k.a. Little Thunder: a nickname that “makes me sound like a burp or a fart.” As he considers new names, the accompanying mixed-media illustrations let us into his world and his dreams. 40 pages



Tiptoe Tapirs by Hanmin Kim; illus. by the author; trans. from the Korean by Sera Lee (Holiday)
In this South Korean pourquoi tale, all the jungle animals are noisy except Tapir and Little Tapir. One day Little Tapir, risking her own life, helps rescue a frightened leopard from a hunter by teaching him to use quiet steps. 40 pages.




Waiting by Kevin Henkes; illus. by the author (Greenwillow) 2016 Caldecott Honor Book, Geisel Honor Book
Waiting is a huge part of every child’s life, and Henkes address the topic with a light touch. Five toys wait on a windowsill. Time passes slowly through seasons; small changes in body positions and eyes convey a range of emotions. A spare text offers little surprises, while the varied page design creates momentum. 32 pages.

See page 2 for Early Readers and Primary Grades.


Early Readers and Primary Grades

Amazing Places poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins; illus. by Chris Soentpiet and Christy Hale (Lee & Low)
Each of fourteen poems centers on one particular location in the U.S. The focus is as much on people as on scenery, with many of the poems written in the first person. The illustrations showcase the special elements of a place as well as visitors’ responses to it. 40 pages.




Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick; illus. by Sophie Blackall (Little, Brown) 2016 Caldecott Medal Winner
A boy’s mother tells him the story of his great-great-grandfather, owner of a baby bear named Winnie, and the circumstances that led to another boy, Christopher Robin Milne, befriending Winnie — inspiring that boy’s father to write some beloved children’s tales. Blackall creates carefully composed accompanying images that are warm and captivating. 56 pages.



Flop to the Top! by Eleanor Davis and Drew Weing; illus. by the authors (TOON)
Young Wanda is a superstar — in her own mind. After posting a selfie taken with her droopy-faced dog, Wilbur, she scores millions of online likes. Hordes of admirers fill her street — but they only want to see “FLOPPY DOG!” 38 pages.





Flying Frogs and Walking Fish: Leaping Lemurs, Tumbling Toads, Jet-Propelled Jellyfish, and More Surprising Ways That Animals Move by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page; illus. by Steve Jenkins (Houghton)
The authors’ latest collaboration features the many intriguing — and sometimes quite surprising — ways that animals move from place to place. Dozens of colorful creatures swim, climb, fly, and roll, in Jenkins’s vivid trademark torn- and cut-paper collage illustrations. 40 pages.



Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh; illus. by the author (Abrams) 2016 Sibert Medal Winner, Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Book
José Guadalupe Posada didn’t invent those iconic Day of the Dead skeletons, but they attained their greatest popularity in the years he drew them. The narrative incorporates biographical highlights and personal anecdotes; Posada’s own artwork accompanies Tonatiuh’s illustrations in his signature flat, Mesoamerican-inspired style. 40 pages.



Ling & Ting: Together in All Weather by Grace Lin; illus. by the author (Little, Brown)
In this fourth book in the sweet and funny easy-reader series, six brief chapters take the twins through the seasons, together. As always, the girls’ personalities shine through in both text and illustrations; Ting is still identifiable by her jagged bangs. 44 pages.





Out of the Woods: A True Story of an Unforgettable Event by Rebecca Bond; illus. by the author (Ferguson/Farrar)
Bond relates a story from 1914 when her grandfather, Antonio, lived at a lakeside hotel in Ontario when he was a boy. A forest fire breaks out, driving everyone toward the only safe place — the lake. As animals, too, make their way into the lake, young Antonio gets a close-up look at every forest creature imaginable. 40 pages.



Slickety Quick: Poems About Sharks, by Skila Brown; illustrated by Bob Kolar (Candlewick)
In this playful and illuminating volume, poems almost as varied as the creatures themselves introduce such species as the great white shark, wobbegong and goblin shark. Kolar’s dynamic digital illustrations in blues, greens, and browns immerse readers in the underwater habitat. 32 pages



Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems by Bob Raczka (Roaring Brook)
Graphic design meets riddle meets visual wordplay in this collection of sturdy and joyful concrete poems about the ordinary stuff of the world. The poems variously invite readers to read aloud, turn the page upside-down, and in one case, read in a mirror. 44 pages.





Written and Drawn by Henriettawritten and illustrated by Liniers (TOON; 2016 Batchelder Honor Book)
Young Henrietta creates a thrilling story about a girl named Emily and the monster in her wardrobe, illustrated with brightly colored, childlike scrawls. At the same time, neat, contained panels show Henrietta drawing the story. Concurrently published in Spanish as Escrito y dibujado por Enriqueta.

See page 3 for Intermediate Readers.


Intermediate Readers

Fuzzy Mud, by Louis Sachar (Delacorte)
Tamaya (5th grade) and Marshall (7th) take a shortcut through the woods to evade bully Chad. After slinging a handful of mud, Tamaya develops a mysterious rash — which is nothing compared to what happens to Chad. Interspersed are excerpts of testimony from “secret Senate hearings” about a microscopic man-made organism that escaped a laboratory. 181 pages.




George by Alex Gino (Scholastic) 2016 Stonewall Book Award Winner
Ten-year-old George is, outwardly, a boy. But inside, she’s a girl, and that disconnect is becoming impossible to endure. There are setbacks along the way, but by book’s end, George has become Melissa — at least for one perfect day — and clearly a preview of what life has in store for her. 198 pages.





Hoodoo by Ronald L. Smith (Clarion) 2016 CSK/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award Winner
Folks in the insular 1930s African American community of Sardis, Alabama, believe in folk magick, or hoodoo. Twelve-year-old Hoodoo Hatcher’s father tried to cheat death by transporting part of his soul into Hoodoo. To free him, Hoodoo must destroy the evil Stranger. A creepy Southern Gothic ghost story steeped in time and place. 206 pages.




Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph by Roxane Orgill; illus. by Francis Vallejo (Candlewick)
On August 12, 1958, fifty-plus jazz musicians gathered in Harlem for a group photo shoot. This iconic photo is the springboard for a series of twenty-one poems and a set of personality-rich illustrations. 54 pages.





The Octopus Scientists: Exploring the Mind of a Mollusk [Scientists in the Field series] by Sy Montgomery; photos by Keith Ellenbogen (Houghton)
Montgomery tags along with four scientists studying the Pacific day octopus in the French Polynesian island region of Moorea. To do so, they first have to find the elusive octopuses. Abundant, stunningly clear underwater photographs highlight a range of marine species. 71 pages.



Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick)
To gain the attention of her absentee father, ten-year-old Raymie Clarke vows to win the (1975) Little Miss Central Florida Tire contest. While taking baton lessons, she meets two other girls with their eyes on the prize. They share a beautifully layered set of adventures and end up rescuing one another, physically and emotionally. 264 pages.





Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm; illus. by Matthew Holm; color by Lark Pien (Graphix/Scholastic)
In this graphic novel, ten-year-old Sunny is sent to Florida for the summer to stay with Gramps in his less-than-thrilling retirement community. The truth surrounding Sunny’s visit — back home her teenage brother is struggling with substance abuse — gradually emerges, but the story itself is mainly upbeat and affirming. 218 pages.




Upside-Down Magic by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins (Scholastic)
Nory’s father, a Flicker (he turns things invisible), is headmaster of Sage Academy of Magic and Performance. Nory’s own magic is “wonky,” and after a disastrous showing at her Sage Academy entrance exam, Dad sends her to a school that offers a special program. 200 pages.





Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford; illus. by Ekua Holmes (Candlewick) 2016 Caldecott Honor Book, CSK/John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award Winner, Sibert Honor Book
This majestic biography chronicles the life of civil rights icon Hamer from her beginnings as the child of Mississippi sharecroppers to her lasting impact on the civil rights movement. Conversational free-verse text incorporates direct quotes; richly colored collage illustrations add emotional heft. 56 pages.



What Are You Glad About? What Are You Mad About?: Poems for When a Person Needs a Poem by Judith Viorst; illus. by Lee White (Dlouhy/Atheneum)
This collection of over fifty poems expresses wry humor and sharp observation about the range of feelings children experience in their everyday lives. Subjects include school, friends, and family. The illustrations bring zany humor and sometimes add their own little twists. 102 pages.

See page 4 for Middle School Readers.


Middle School Readers

Baba Yaga’s Assistant by Marika McCoola; illus. by Emily Carroll (Candlewick)
Masha answers a help-wanted ad to become assistant to the child-eating folkloric character. To win the position, Masha must creatively accomplish challenges set forth by Baba Yaga. This graphic novel shines in its harmony of image and text and use of stories-within-stories to advance plot. 132 pages.




Booked, by Kwame Alexander (Houghton)
Nick is a wordsmith, thanks to his linguistics- professor father, but he would rather be shining on the soccer field. With accessible forms and engaging formatting, this novel in verse offers sports action combined with spot-on portrayals of middle-school life. 314 pages





Goodbye Stranger, by Rebecca Stead (Lamb/Random)
Stead’s intricately crafted story (so many connections, so much careful foreshadowing) explores various configurations of love and friendship in three interwoven narratives about middle-school and high school relationships. 289 pages.






The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz (Candlewick) 2016 Scott O’Dell Award Winner, Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner
In 1911 Baltimore, spirited small-town-girl Joan finds work with the kindly, well-to-do Rosenbach family as their “hired girl,” performing household tasks forbidden to Jews during the Sabbath. Her diary entries, unfiltered and naive, reflect her changing perspectives on those unlike herself. 392 pages.





The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge (Amulet/Abrams)
In nineteenth-century England, fourteen-year-old Faith Sunderly learns of rumors that her naturalist father faked his most famous fossil discovery. When he is found dead, Faith knows it was murder, not suicide; she uses her father’s secret “Lie Tree” to induce trances she hopes will reveal the identity of his killer. 378 pages.





Shadows of Sherwood: A Robyn Hoodlum Adventure by Kekla Magoon (Bloomsbury)
In this futuristic series-starter, Governor Crown has had all members of Parliament kidnapped — including twelve-year-old Robyn Loxley’s parents. Robyn is determined to locate her family, but finds herself, accompanied by a band of parentless outlaws, on a mission greater than she’d imagined. A thrilling Robin Hood–inspired tale starring a young woman of color. 356 pages.





Ten Days a Madwoman: The Daring Life and Turbulent Times of the Original “Girl” Reporter Nellie Bly by Deborah Noyes (Viking)
Nellie Bly, determined to make her journalistic mark, accepts an assignment to go undercover inside the “lunatic asylum” on Blackwell’s Island and report on its conditions. Part chronological, part expository, this strong biography allows readers to become investigators into Bly’s life and times. 136 pages.



The Nest by Kenneth Oppel; illus. by Jon Klassen (Simon)
Steve’s baby brother is sick, so his parents don’t pay attention when Steve becomes afraid of the wasps in the backyard. In Steve’s recurring dream, a voice offers to make everything better — but the easy fix starts to look like too sinister a bargain. Black-and-white drawings astutely capture the magnitude of a child’s imagination. 247 pages.




To Catch a Cheat by Varian Johnson (Levine/Scholastic)
Jackson Greene (star of caper The Great Greene Heist) has retired from his con-man antics. Until…someone floods Maplewood Middle School, and a video surfaces incriminating Jackson and his diverse set of friends. Blackmail? Revenge? To clear their names, Jackson and “Gang Greene” are back in action. 248 pages.





The Trouble in Me by Jack Gantos (Farrar)
By the summer before eighth grade, young Jack Gantos was a “drifty kid…easily led off course.” Trying to be somebody else, he fell into the orbit of juvenile delinquent neighbor Gary Pagoda. Suddenly he felt alive doing stupid stuff with Gary — roller-skating through flaming hula-hoops, for example. This volume acts as a preface to Hole in My Life. 208 pages.

See page 5 for High School Readers.


High School Readers

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely (Dlouhy/Atheneum) 2016 Walter Dean Myers Award, Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book
When a quick stop at the corner store suddenly escalates into police brutality, high school classmates Rashad (who is African American) and Quinn (who is white) are linked and altered by the violence — Rashad as victim and Quinn as witness. 316 pages.



The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose (Farrar) 2015 Boston Globe–Horn Book Nonfiction Honor Book, 2016 Sibert Honor Book
When Hitler invaded Denmark, teenaged Knud Pedersen (with his brother and some mates) engaged in civil disobedience, inspiring a larger-scale Danish revolt. Hoose brilliantly shows how the astonishing bravery of ordinary Danish teens started something extraordinary. 198 pages.




Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina (Candlewick)
This vividly evoked coming-of-age story is set in 1977 NYC during the city’s oppressive heat wave and with a very real serial killer on the loose. Seventeen-year-old Nora López faces an insecure future after graduation. For now, she escapes by hanging out with her best friend Kathleen, going to the movies, flirting with “stone-cold Latin fox” Pablo, and planning a big night out dancing to celebrate the girls’ eighteenth birthdays. 310 pages.





Carry On: The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow by Rainbow Rowell (St. Martin’s Griffin)
In this Fangirl companion novel, Simon Snow, the most powerful mage in centuries, uncovers secrets that call into question his beliefs about good and evil. He also realizes that there may be sexual attraction underlying his antagonistic relationship with his probably-a-vampire roommate Baz. 522 pages.




The Emperor of Any Place by Tim Wynne-Jones (Candlewick)
A strange book was sent to Evan’s father just before his sudden death. As Evan reads the book — the translated journal of a WWII Japanese soldier stranded on a mystical island with an American Marine — he experiences a sense of déjà-vu. An affecting, unforgettable read. 328 pages.





I Crawl Through It by A. S. King (Little, Brown)
Gustav builds an invisible helicopter that Stanzi can see only on Tuesdays; China swallowed herself and is now inside-out; Lansdale’s hair grows when she lies. Blending the magical and the mundane, this affecting work suggests that internalized traumas change how we see and operate in the world. 323 pages.




Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin (Roaring Brook) 2015 National Book Award Finalist, 2016 YALSA Nonfiction Award Winner
With the timing and prowess of a writer of thrillers, Sheinkin takes on a spectacularly complex story — Daniel Ellsberg’s evolution from “cold warrior” to antiwar activist, and why and how he leaked the Pentagon Papers — and makes it comprehensible for teens. 370 pages.



My Seneca Village by Marilyn Nelson (Namelos) 2016 L.A. Times Book Prize
Seneca Village was founded in 1825 by free African Americans; by 1857 it had been razed for construction of Central Park. In forty-one poems, each prefaced by brief scene-setting text, Nelson imagines the reflections of the village’s inhabitants. Nelson’s natural, musical lines lend themselves to multiple readings. 88 pages.



Nimona by Noelle Stevenson; illus. by the author (HarperTeen) 2015 National Book Award Finalist
In this webcomic-turned-graphic-novel, ex-knight and current supervillain Ballister Blackheart gets a new (and not-entirely-welcome) sidekick. Plucky young shapeshifter Nimona loves violence and explosives; she’s a beautifully flawed, refreshingly unstereotypical protagonist. The book’s setting — a medieval-type kingdom mixed with futuristic science — entertainingly tweaks both the science-fiction and fantasy genres. 266 pages.



Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights by Ann Bausum (Viking)
Bausum begins with a nuanced exposition of the June 1969 Stonewall riots as a galvanizing moment for gay rights, then traces the evolution of the gay rights movement. Her narrative integrity makes her observations about the LGBTQ community’s persecution and resilience even more powerful. 120 pages.

Categories: Book Reviews