Professor: Great Summer Reads for Kids of All Ages

Kids of all ages should enjoy the long and lazy days of summer, but they also need to incorporate reading into their daily routines.

“Kids should take a book with them wherever they go this summer, whether it’s the pool, the beach, the park, or a friend’s house,” said Cindy Welch, associate director of UT’s Center for Children’s and Young Adult Literature.

Welch suggests the following selections to pique the imagination of kids of all ages.

Picture Books

Blue Sky White Stars, written by Sarvinder Naberhaus and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Simple words and phrases celebrate what it means to be American. This book includes everything from people and places to our red, white, and blue national banner. This book is an ode to America from sea to shining sea.

Dragons Love Tacos 2: The Sequel, written by Adam Rubin and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri. Dragons like everything about tacos—except the hot sauce. But what happens when the world runs out of tacos? Time-traveling dragons, of course!

Princess Cora and the Crocodile, written by Laura Amy Schlitz and illustrated by Brian Floca. When Princess Cora asks for help from her fairy godmother, she doesn’t expect a crocodile! But the croc and Cora change places and everyone learns a thing or two.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff, retold and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. The grass is definitely looking greener and tastier on the other side of the bridge, but the three Gruff brothers must first get past the greedy old troll who lives underneath it.

Grades 1–3

The Hawk of the Castle: A Story of Medieval Falconry, written by Danna Smith and illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. A young girl explains the care and keeping of falcons as hunters in a medieval castle. Additional text provides historical background.

The Hidden Life of a Toad, written by Doug Wechsler. The life cycle of the American toad from tadpole to full-grown frog is captured in photographic detail and simple text.

Little Wolf’s First Howling, written by Laura McGee Kvasnosky and illustrated by Kate Harvey McGee. When Father Wolf tries to teach Little Wolf to howl, the youngster can’t help but include a little jazzy scat, dibbity dobbity skooo-wooo-woo!

Wordplay, written and illustrated by Ivan Brunetti. When Annemarie’s teacher talks about compound words, like “sleepwalk” and “homesick,” Annemarie’s imagination takes over—and the outcome is hilarious.

Grades 4–6

Amina’s Voice, written by Hena Khan. Everything seems to be changing for Pakistani-American Amina. She’s too shy to perform, yet her parents enter her into a Quran competition; her best friend, Korean-American Soojin, suddenly wants an American-sounding name. Will Amina have to change too?

Flying Lessons & Other Stories, edited by Ellen Oh. The organization We Need Diverse Books compiled these 40 ethnically diverse and very talented authors’ short stories about everything from basketball to friendships.

The Goat, written by Anne Fleming. When Kid moves from Toronto to a New York apartment building, the last thing she expects is to discover a goat on the roof. That turns out to be among the least weird and funny things about the tenants of this quirky building.

The Quilts of Gee’s Bend, written by Susan Goldman Rubin. The African American women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, have been making quilts for decades, and their work has been noticed with exhibits in museums and a collection in the Museum of Modern Art in 2017. This nonfiction work has plenty of pictures to showcase the beauty of this special art. There’s a section on making a quilt, as well as information about the author’s process of collecting the information and writing the book.

Grades 7–9

Beastly Brains: Exploring How Animals Think, Talk, and Feel, written by Nancy F. Castaldo. Did you know animals feel empathy, make decisions, and even find ways to distract themselves from treats? This book explores animal intelligence and includes ideas for learning more by observing your own pets, organizations that study this stuff and directions for more investigation.

A Face Like Glass, written by Frances Hardinge. Imagine an underground world where facial expressions must be learned—often at a high price. Now imagine a girl, separated from the city until her 12th year, whose face shows every emotion and who has found a way out into the larger city of Caverna. What will they make of her, and how will she change—or will she?

Ghost, written by Jason Reynolds. When liquor causes Castle “Ghost” Crenshaw’s dad to start shooting at his mom and him, Ghost starts running, and eventually finds himself on a middle-school track team heading in a positive direction. But his impulsiveness gets him in trouble and he may lose the thing that gives the most meaning to his life.

Grendel’s Guide to Love and War: A Tale of Rivalry, Romance, and Existential Angst, written by A. E. Kaplan. With a nod to Beowulf, this tale of good intentions involves Grendel, who is living with his PTSD-afflicted dad in a retirement community, a quiet place until the Rothgars arrive and the parties start. Add in a crush on Willow Rothgar, and Grendel’s summer just got a whole lot more complicated.

Grades 10–12

American Street, written by Ibi Zoboi. When Fabiola and her mother try to immigrate from Haiti to America, her mom is detained and Fabiola continues on her own to family in Detroit. She tries to stay true to her roots and find a way to help her mother, but an impossible choice seems to be the only way to navigate this new world.

The Fashion Committee, written by Susan Juby. Charlene “Charlie” Dean and John Thomas-Smith are competing for a coveted scholarship to Green Pastures Academy of Art and Design, and their journals (alternating chapters) reveal the challenges, opportunities and misadventures of them both as each tries to top the other and win the day.

Who Killed Christopher Goodman: Based on a True Crime? written by Allan Wolf. Author Wolf fictionalizes a real crime that happened when he was in high school—the puzzling murder of Chris Goodman (not the real victim’s name), who was seemingly liked by everyone. Six voices – including that of the person we eventually learn committed the deed – tell the story.

X: A Novel, written by Ilyasah Shabazz with Kekla Magoon. Malcolm X’s daughter collaborates with young adult author Magoon to tell the story of her father’s youth, from the loss of his parents through his years living the high life in cities to the imprisonment where he found his deep commitment to civil rights.

CONTACT:

Cindy Welch (865-974-7918, cwelch11@utk.edu)

Tyra Haag (865-974-5460, tyra.haag@tennessee.edu)