Summer Reading List 2018

Looking for something for your kids to read this summer? Here is The Horn Book's 2018 Summer Reading List.

Picture Books

Suggested grade level: PS–2

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes; illus. by Gordon C. James (Millner/Bolden/Agate)
2018 Newbery Honor, Caldecott Honor, Coretta Scott King Author and Illustrator Honors, Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award, Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Honor
The unnamed protagonist tells of his barbershop haircut from start to finish. Color-saturated illustrations capture the boy’s bravado, swagger, and even his humility, which he needs in accepting a post-cut kiss from his admiring mother. A not-to-be-missed portrayal of the beauty of black boyhood. 32 pages.

How Are You? / Cómo estás? by Angela Dominguez (Holt)
The two giraffes from How Do You Say? / Cómo se dice? star in this high-energy bilingual book about identifying emotions and making friends. Digitally colorized mixed-media illustrations place the emphasis on the giraffes’ comic expressions and goofy antics. 32 pages.

A Round of Robins by Katie Hesterman; illus. by Sergio Ruzzier (Paulsen/Penguin)
Sixteen brief, informative, and highly entertaining poems follow a pair of robin parents as they raise not one but two sets of baby robins. Personality-filled pen-and-ink and watercolor pictures feature correct bird anatomy but add body language comically reminiscent of humans. 40 pages.

Pie Is for Sharing by Stephanie Parsley Ledyard; illus. by Jason Chin (Porter/Roaring Brook) This idyllic, joyously inclusive picture book takes an ordinary concept—sharing—and makes it extraordinary over the course of a daylong Fourth of July celebration. At the spectacular fireworks display, all the community members—a true diversity of races and genders and ages—share the same rapt expression. 32 pages.

Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love (Candlewick) Mermaid-loving Julián creates a makeshift costume and puts on lipstick. How will his abuela react? Happily, it’s all good, and the two walk proudly toward a parade (à la Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade). Vibrant illustrations create scenes that splash and swirl to life. 40 pages.

The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (the Hard Way) by Patrick McDonnell (Little, Brown) A little red cat meets up with an alligator, an encounter that sets this wordless—save for letterforms—alphabet book into action. Expert lines move the eye across each spread and on to the next. Touches of wit and plenty of zip recommend this for lap-sit sharing. 48 pages.

Cricket in the Thicket: Poems About Bugs by Carol Murray; illus. by Melissa Sweet (Ottaviano/Holt)
Twenty-nine common insects and arachnids are on display throughout Murray’s lively poems and Sweet’s inviting mixed-media illustrations. The poems employ a variety of forms and rhythmic structures, and skillfully use line breaks and meter to bring the subjects to life. 40 pages.

Windows by Julia Denos; illus. by E. B. Goodale (Candlewick) 2018 Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Honor
As evening falls, a brown-skinned child walks the dog through their urban neighborhood, musing on the activities glimpsed through windows. The contemplative tone is balanced by considerable action in the mixed-media illustrations and a sense of vibrant life throughout. 32 pages.

The Field by Baptiste Paul; illus. by Jacqueline Alcántara (NorthSouth)
The place: a verdant Caribbean islandscape. The day’s activity: a children’s pickup game of futbol (soccer). This universal story featuring the world’s most popular sport is made particular by the specificity of its setting and language. 32 pages.

Strong as Sandow: How Eugen Sandow Became the Strongest Man on Earth by Don Tate (Charlesbridge)
This chronological narrative tells the story of Victorian-era bodybuilding superstar Eugen Sandow—from “feeble” boy to acrobat, strongman, fitness guru, and creator of the first organized bodybuilding contest—with drama and flair. Digital illustrations in a warm color palette are entertaining and approachable. 40 pages.

Easy Readers and Primary

Suggested grade level for all entries: 1–3

It’s Shoe Time! [Elephant & Piggie Like Reading!] by Bryan Collier with additional illustrations by Mo Willems (Hyperion) While a brown-skinned little girl is choosing which shoes to wear for a day out with her father, a varied cast of googly-eyed footwear vies for her attention: “PICK US!” Collier’s first early reader features witty wordplay, snappy dialogue, and rich watercolor and collage illustrations (not to mention appearances by Gerald and Piggie). 64 pages.

The Truth About Bears; The Truth About Dolphins; and The Truth About Hippos by Maxwell Eaton III (Porter/Roaring Brook) Eaton has hit upon an effective combination of silly and informative in this new nonfiction picture book series. The main texts dispense basic facts while the animals’ speech bubbles alternate between supplementing information and advancing goofy subplots, such as a hippo’s failed attempts at bike riding. 32 pages.

A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars by Seth Fishman; illus. by Isabel Greenberg (Greenwillow)
This picture book engagingly highlights the wondrousness of numbers, stars, and just about everything else in the universe. Fishman’s text employs a confiding tone, while Greenberg’s illustrations present kids who hoist the planet, fly around the world, and otherwise defy the laws of physics in order to demonstrate the ideas. 40 pages.

I’m Just No Good at Rhyming: And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups by Chris Harris; illus. by Lane Smith (Little, Brown)
The volume’s over one hundred poems, riddles, visual jokes, and nonsense will keep readers engaged and on their toes. Smith’s stylishly silly mixed-media illustrations raise the irreverence to sublime levels. Occasional bickering between poet and illustrator adds another layer of absurdity. 228 pages.

Where’s Halmoni? by Julie Kim (Little Bigfoot/Sasquatch)
This gentle and humorous graphic novel for younger readers is told exclusively through dialogue, sound effects, and visual narrative. Siblings Noona and Joon follow clues in search of their missing grandmother and are transported to a magical world featuring Korean-speaking characters and imagery from Korean folklore. 96 pages.

Barkus by Patricia MacLachlan; illus. by Marc Boutavant (Chronicle)
Uncle Everton departs on a voyage, leaving “smartest dog in the world” Barkus with Nicky and her family. In five brief chapters, with bold-hued accompanying illustrations, Barkus and Nicky change her classroom dynamics, host a canine birthday party, find a kitten, and camp out in the backyard. 56 pages.

A Different Pond by Bao Phi; illus. by Thi Bui (Capstone)
2018 Caldecott Honor, Ezra Jack Keats New Writer and New Illustrator Honors
This powerfully understated picture book begins before sunrise with a Vietnamese émigré father and his son going fishing for that night’s meal. With evocative detail and a keen ear for metaphor, Phi hints at the immigrant family’s joys and struggles. Bui’s illustrations set a contemplative mood with expressive brushwork. 32 pages.

How to Be an Elephant: Growing Up in the African Wild by Katherine Roy (Macaulay/Roaring Brook)
Roy explains how a baby African elephant learns the skills necessary to survive in the wild. Bold strokes in the dynamic illustrations provide definition to the elephants’ wrinkled skin and skillfully convey movement, while diagrams and sketches illustrate interior and exterior organs. 48 pages.

Baby Monkey, Private Eye by Brian Selznick and David Serlin; illus. by Brian Selznick (Scholastic)
Selznick and Serlin masterfully present an almost-two-hundred-page easy reader/film-noir homage. In five chapters, diminutive gumshoe Baby Monkey solves a series of cases (“Chapter One: The Case of the Missing Jewels!” “Chapter Two: The Case of the Missing Pizza!”). Each follows a predictable—and hilarious—pattern, with occasional small variation. 192 pages.

Charlie & Mouse (2018 Geisel Award) and Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy by Laurel Snyder; illus. by Emily Hughes (Chronicle)
In these beginning chapter books full of familial humor and heart, brothers Charlie and Mouse spend a day together (Charlie & Mouse) and have a special visit with a grandfather-figure (Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy). Soft, muted illustrations match the narratives’ balance of cozy and playful. 48 pages.


Suggested grade level for all entries: 4–6

Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly (Greenwillow) 2018 Newbery Medal When bully Chet drops Virgil’s backpack into an abandoned well, the painfully shy boy gets stuck trying to retrieve it (and his guinea pig, hidden inside). Virgil’s classmates Valencia, who is deaf, and Kaori, a self-proclaimed psychic, investigate Virgil’s whereabouts, and a memorable friendship group is born. Entrada Kelly is a professor of children's literature at Rosemont College in Bryn Mawr, PA. 314 pages.

Rise of the Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste (Algonquin)
When several children go missing, Corinne (The Jumbies) and friends set out across (and under) the ocean to secure the help of powerful water jumbie Mama D’Leau. Baptiste’s rich seascape of Caribbean myth expands to the coast of Ghana, where she sensitively integrates the lasting trauma of the transatlantic slave trade. 266 pages.

Tumble & Blue by Cassie Beasley (Dial)
Way back when, horse thief Walcott Montgomery and murderer Almira LaFayette set a plot in motion in the Okefenokee Swamp. Their descendants are doomed to play out their tale of curses, trickery, and family feuds; middle graders Blue and Tumble join forces to neutralize the curse. 392 pages.

The Penderwicks at Last by Jeanne Birdsall (Knopf)
Youngest Penderwick half-sister Lydia takes center stage in this Penderwick series finale. The story takes place at Arundel, where preparations are underway for Rosalind’s wedding to Tommy. Although they’ll be sad to say goodbye, series fans will be content to see the Penderwicks go “prancing, leaping, gamboling into the future.” 294 pages.

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol; color by Alec Longstreth (First Second/Roaring Brook)
Brosgol’s fictionalized graphic memoir captures the ups and downs (mostly downs) of Russian Orthodox summer camp. The tone is accessible, vulnerable, and hilariously kid-centric (there are plenty of potty references). A cliffhanger ending leaves the door open for a sequel. 256 pages.

Older than Dirt: A Wild but True History of Earth by Don Brown and Mike Perfit; illus. by Don Brown (Houghton) An extended conversation between a science-savvy groundhog and a new-to-Earth’s-history worm covers the geological past of our planet. The graphic format, light tone, and amusing repartee keep up the pace over the course of an impressive number of geology topics. 104 pages.

Writing Radar: Using Your Journal to Snoop Out and Craft Great Stories by Jack Gantos (Farrar)
Gantos advises budding writers to keep journals, as he has done since his youth. Using frequently hilarious anecdotes from his own life, he provides examples of what writing things down has allowed him to later shape into stories. The result is a writing guide both practical and entertaining. 203 pages.

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King by Ben Hatke; color by Alex Campbell and Hilary Sycamore (First Second/Roaring Brook) In pursuit of the ogre who kidnapped his sister Maddy, Jack (Mighty Jack) and his sword-wielding neighbor Lilly travel to a bizarre fantasy world. Dynamic panel layouts and ever-present sound effects (“CH-CHUNK!” “SPLORT!” “FOOM”) convey the nonstop action in this graphic novel. 208 pages.

The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez (Viking) 2018 Pura Belpré Author Honor10
The first rule of punk is to be yourself, but it’s hard for Malú, the bicultural daughter of divorced parents. Starting a band becomes a chance to explore her heritage as well as her musical interests. Eight-page zines featuring spunky Malú’s collages punctuate the text. 324 pages.

The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science by Joyce Sidman (Houghton)
Seventeenth-century German naturalist Maria Merian’s life story is told in twelve chapters (including excerpts from her journals) titled with stages in a butterfly’s life cycle. Illustrated with excellent reproductions of her gorgeous botanical prints and with photographs (by Sidman) demonstrating butterfly stages. 156 pages.

Middle School

Suggested grade level for all entries: 6–8

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya (Viking) 2018 Pura Belpré Author Honor
When a scheming real-estate developer threatens their restaurant, Arturo Zamora’s large, extended Cuban American family mobilizes to save it. Arturo narrates his story with liberal doses of Spanish, adding a welcome and authentic texture to this debut novel. 248 pages.

Votes for Women!: American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot by Winifred Conkling (Algonquin)
Conkling’s fascinating account of the bumpy road to women’s suffrage begins with the Women’s Rights Convention in 1848 and culminates with the Nineteenth Amendment. Over half the book focuses on Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony; coverage of the movement’s “second wave of suffragists” is no less compelling. 310 pages.

Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender (Scholastic) With “the darkest skin and the thickest hair in the whole Catholic school,” Caroline is bullied by classmates and teachers alike. Things change for the better when new student Kalinda arrives in St. Thomas from Barbados. Callender’s debut masterfully deploys the rich landscape of Caribbean life. 215 pages.

The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis (Scholastic) In 1858, Charlie is forced to travel North to help capture “thieves”—or so he thinks. White, ignorant Charlie is a product of his circumstances, but finds his conscience. Curtis seamlessly intertwines humor and tragedy in this companion to Elijah of Buxton and The Madman of Piney Woods. 247 pages.

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson (Levine/Scholastic) Johnson’s Westing Game–inspired tale is a tangled historical mystery, satisfying multigenerational family story, and exploration of race and racism. Chapters alternate between present and past, when a secret, integrated high school tennis match led to violence. Johnson’s narrative revels in its puzzle-story elements. 344 pages.

The Magician and the Spirits: Harry Houdini and the Curious Pastime of Communicating with the Dead by Deborah Noyes (Viking) Noyes uses Houdini’s attempts to discredit the late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Spiritualist movement as her entry point into the intriguing phenomenon. She provides historical context and relates incidents from Houdini’s life, including his friendship with staunch believer Arthur Conan Doyle and the magician’s attempts to unmask “flimflammers.” 152 pages.

Miles Morales: Spider-Man by Jason Reynolds (Marvel/Disney) In this series starter, based on a 2011 Marvel comic, sixteen-year-old Miles Morales, who is black and Puerto Rican, is also Spider-Man. The novel has its fair share of action-adventure (surrounding a white supremacist organization led by a centuries-old villain), and is also a well-spun tale of identity. 263 pages.

Ascent by Roland Smith (Houghton) In this third installment, teenage mountaineer Peak Marcello (Peak; The Edge) is preparing to climb Hkakabo Razi in Myanmar. Sure enough, disaster strikes. Smith knows how to develop suspense, and this tale has two parts—a perilous journey through the rainforest and the ascent of Hkakabo Razi itself. 231 pages.

Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson (Bloomsbury) 2018 Coretta Scott King Author Award, Newbery Honor
At her mother’s relentless prodding, African American teen Jade takes every opportunity offered to her, including joining a mentoring group with a clueless, careless mentor. This involving, thought-provoking novel is a multifaceted and clear-eyed exploration of race, class, and gender. 264 pages.

All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson (Dial) Ren Faire meets Roller Girl in Jamieson’s read-alike graphic novel. Homeschooled Imogene Vega—squire-in-training at the Renaissance Faire where her family works—starts middle school, with hilariously embarrassing results. Energetic, expressive illustrations let plot and characterization shine. 248 pages.

High School

Suggested grade level for all entries: 9 and up

Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld (Little, Brown) In 1971 twenty-four-year-old basketball great Lewis Alcindor changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (“noble servant of God”), marking a religious, cultural, and political awakening. His memoir offers a nuanced sports story of growing up in troubled times. A sixteen-page insert of black-and-white photos is a nice bonus. 291 pages.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (Holt) Amari, daughter of maji-persecuting King Saran, begs for Zélie’s help. The princess has stolen a magical scroll—which awakens Zélie’s latent power to command the dead. Joined by Zélie’s brother Tzain and pursued by Prince Inan, the young women set out to restore magic to all of Orïsha. 533 pages.

Landscape with Invisible Hand by M. T. Anderson (Candlewick) The aliens who have colonized America are fans of 1950s-style teen romance. Adam and Chloe decide to play this to their advantage—but what happens when they can’t stand each other anymore? Parable, satire, dystopic sci-fi—Anderson presents a bitingly precise critique of contemporary human folly. 149 pages.

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (Freeform/Disney) In the fantastical courtly society of Orléans, everyone is born ugly—except for the Belles, the few beautiful young women with the ability to manipulate others’ appearances. Clayton vividly and effectively describes her world’s dazzling fashion and lavish galas in the midst of profound racism/colorism, indentured servitude, and distorted body image. 440 pages.

I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman (Viking) A chance meeting in Central Park leads to intimate relationships among three struggling nineteen-year-olds: Freya, an up-and-coming singer; Harun, a closeted-to-his-family gay college student; and Nathaniel, who’s hiding his true reason for visiting New York City. A stirring reminder of the great risks of isolation and the immense solace of human connections. 258 pages.

Give Me Some Truth by Eric Gansworth (Levine/Scholastic) Seventeen-year-old Carson and fifteen-year-old Maggi prepare for a high-stakes Battle of the Bands. Their alternating first-person narratives, set in 1980 on the Tuscarora Indian Nation near Niagara Falls, offer an intimate look at the teens’ lives within an Indigenous culture both rooted in tradition and embracing modern popular culture. 424 pages.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (Dutton) Sixteen-year-old Aza Holmes, who suffers from obsessive compulsions and anxiety, reconnects with childhood friend Davis Pickett while investigating the whereabouts of Davis’s missing billionaire father. Mystery and tentative romance give the story shape, but its epicenter is a clear-eyed exploration of mental illness. 290 pages.

The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby (Viking) This companion to The Truth Commission finds relentlessly optimistic, fashion-obsessed Charlie Dean and acerbic metalworker John Thomas-Smith vying for a scholarship to Green Pastures Academy. Juby’s whip-smart coming-of-age comedy offers memorable characters, welcome diversity, and lots to say about talent and ambition. 307 pages.

Strangers by David A. Robertson (HighWater) Cole left Wounded Sky First Nation after a fire in which he saved several lives. When urgent messages prompt his return, Cole finds his community caught up in a rash of illnesses and violent murders—and he is suspected of precipitating them. An engaging blend of thriller, superhero origin story, sci-fi, and coming-of-age tale. 233 pages.

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (First Second/Roaring Brook) Sometimes Prince Sebastian feels comfortable identifying as male. Other times he feels like a princess—so he hires dressmaker Frances to design outfits for his alter ego, Lady Crystallia. Wang’s graphic-novel illustrations balance finery with relatable, endearing protagonists. 282 pages.

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Categories: Book Reviews