Summer reads: The kid edition

Summer reads for the younger set
Catch up your animal facts or get lost in a Minnesota mystery -- these summer reads have something for both children and adults.
Courtesy of publishers

Summer offers plenty of sun — and plenty of time to kick back with a good book.

For kids, summer reading has a sense of freedom to it, said Katy Schulz of the St. Paul Public Library. Reading can be an activity rather than an assignment.

"Kids who read for fun read for the rest of their lives," said Schulz. "We encourage parents and caregivers to bring kids in and check a whole pile of books out."

If parents are stumped about what their kids should be reading, Minnesota librarians are standing at the ready. St. Paul Public Library even offers an online recommendation service called Beanstack. Users can sign up and get weekly book recommendations for their kids, according to their age and interests.

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.

When it comes down to it, though, kids should have the freedom to follow their tastes, said Lauren Kewley, a Youth Services Librarian with Hennepin County.

"We try and emphasize to families: Yes, reading level is important, but summer is such an opportunity to make it fun," said Kewley. "If that means they want to check out a stack of 'Garfield' books, that's not great literature, but who cares?"

Summer reads for kids and teens

Young adult summer reads
Dystopic fiction still reigns in the young adult genre, but there's plenty of real world drama to find as well.
Courtesy of publishers

Young Adult

"Paper Towns" by John Green Grade 7 and up

Green is dominating the young adult genre at the moment with "The Fault in Our Stars," "Paper Towns" and "Looking for Alaska." In "Paper Towns," high school senior Quentin must take off on a road trip with his friends to find the missing girl next door. The film adaptation comes out in July — great material for "Which is better: the book or the movie?" conversations.

"Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" by Jesse Andrews Grade | Grade 7 and up

Another book with a recent film adaptation, "Me and Earl" explores a high school filmmaker's relationship with his dying classmate. The book manages to be both charming and funny while dealing with death head-on.

"Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children" by Ransom Riggs | Grade 7 and up

This isn't a picture book — but you need to see the pictures in it. Riggs' supernatural book series is inspired by bizarre old photographs he collected. He turns the people in the photos into his characters, to haunting effect.

"The Undertaking of Lily Chen" by Danica Novgorodoff | Grade 7 and up

This graphic novel journeys deep into the underworld. A young man in modern China is sent on a journey to find a ghost bride for his recently deceased brother. Novgorodoff's illustrations and story deliver chills in this darkly comic tale.

"Shadowshaper" by Daniel Jose Older | Grade 7 and up

Sierra Santiago just wants to spend her summer painting murals, but she quickly finds herself caught up in a world of magic she never knew existed. Older blends modern-day Brooklyn with a fantastical new take on magic.

"Enchantment Lake: A Northwoods Mystery" by Margi Preus | Grade 6 to 10

This Minnesota mystery brings the intrigue home. Seventeen-year-old Francie becomes a "somewhat reluctant northwoods Nancy Drew" in this supernatural twist on cabin time.

Middle school reads
Sibling rivalry and more magic from J.K. Rowling for the middle school set.
Courtesy of publishers

Ages 8 to 12

"Wonder" by R.J. Palacio | Grades 3 to 7

August Pullman's facial differences have kept him out of a mainstream school his whole life, until he enrolls in fifth grade. The story jumps around from August's point of view to that of his classmates and his sister as he longs to be treated like an ordinary kid.

"Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" by J.K. Rowling | Grade 3 and up

Kids who have torn through the whole "Harry Potter" series can keep the magic going with this companion book. Die-hard Potter fans will recognize the title as one of Harry's textbooks at Hogwarts.

"Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer" by Kelly A. Jones | Grades 3 to 7

"It has supernatural chickens, what more could you want?" said Schulz. The book is told through a series of letters from a 12-year-old girl who has just moved to a farm from Los Angeles. There, she discovers some unusual chickens that belonged to her great-uncle.

"Goodbye Stranger" by Rebecca Stead | Grade 5 and up, coming in August

Stead's "When You Reach Me," a time-traveling story that mixed science fiction with middle-school drama, won the 2010 Newbery Medal. Stead's newest book has librarians and kids alike excited for the August release. "Goodbye Stranger" explores friendship from multiple perspectives.

"Ava and Pip" by Carol Weston | Grades 5 to 7

Weston's story flips the stereotypical sibling interaction in "Ava and Pip." Ava, an outgoing fifth grader, can't understand why her older sister, Pip, has trouble making friends. The book is written in diary entries from Ava's point of view.

"Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library" by Chris Grabenstein | Grades 3 to 7

Grabenstein's bestselling book feels like a mix of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "A Night at the Museum." Twelve kids win a once-in-a-lifetime sleepover at the new library in town — but when they wake up, the doors are locked.

Summer picks for early readers
These early chapter books are ideal for kids reading on their own or with an adult.
Courtesy of publishers

Ages 5 to 8

"Dory and the Real True Friend" by Abby Hanlon | Grades 1 to 3, coming in July

When Dory heads to school for the first time, she decides to leave her imaginary friend at home — but she soon finds a new friend that's even more wild. "Dory" is the second in a chapter book series about a little girl with a big imagination.

"Kung Pow Chicken: Let's Get Cracking" by Cyndi Marko | Kindergarten to Grade 2

"This is a funny superhero story — a goofy one with a mad scientist and an evil knitting granny. It's an off-beat fun for read for summer," said Kewley. Kewley just finished reading it with her book club of second and third graders — it got rave reviews.

"Rad American Women" by Kate Schatz | Grade 2 and up

You can sneak a little learning into summer reading with this one. Schatz profiles 26 women who changed the world — but who may not be in the history books.

"Moon Watchers: Shirin's Ramadan Miracle" by Reza Jalali | Grade 1 and up

The picture book for older readers explores the Muslim holiday of Ramadan through the eyes of a 9-year-old girl in Maine. The watercolor illustrations capture the family's celebrations.

"Where the Sidewalk Ends" by Shel Silverstein | Grades 1 to 3

Silverstein turns kids into instant poetry lovers. His classic, absurd rhymes are still a hit with the grade school set. Kids can practice reading a poem or two a day out of his collections.

"Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos" by Stephanie Roth Sisson | Grades 1 to 3

American astrophysicist Sagan grew up staring at the stars from his bedroom window in Brooklyn. Roth's illustrated book follows Sagan from his stargazing childhood to his groundbreaking work as a scientist.

Summer reads for the youngest set
Pictures book are a quick read -- pick up a whole stack the library.
Courtesy of publishers

Ages 3 to 5

"The Pigeon Needs a Bath" by Mo Willems | Preschool to kindergarten

Pigeon just might be the most popular and hilarious children's book character in recent years. Willems' stylistic illustrations and simple stories have put the Pigeon books on the bestseller lists. In this picture book, Pigeon refuses to bathe — clean and dirty are just words, right? Kids who love Pigeon can follow it up with his adventures getting a puppy, driving the bus and more.

"8: An Animal Alphabet" by Elisha Cooper | Preschool to kindergarten, coming in July

Cooper illustrates the animal world from aardvark to zedu in this new wildlife primer. Each illustration is accompanied by an animal fact. (Did you know gorillas yawn when they are nervous?)

"Gaston" by Kelly DiPucchio | Preschool to Grade 3

Swap poodles for ducks in "The Ugly Duckling" and you've got the start of "Gaston." Gaston may not look like his refined siblings, but that doesn't mean he can't find his own way to fit in.

"Orion and the Dark" by Emma Yarlett | Preschool to Grade 2

Orion is afraid of the dark — so the dark takes Orion on an adventure. This beautifully illustrated story about conquering your fear mixes adventure with a message. Bring your flashlight and read it at the campsite.

"Spork" by Kyo Maclear | Preschool to Grade 2

His mom is a spoon. His dad is a fork. He's a bit of both — he's a spork! Spork feels like a misfit, and just wants to find his place at the table. Maclear's book is a breezy read about family and fitting in.

"The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend" by Dan Santat | Preschool to Grade 1

"Beekle" is set on an island where imaginary friends wait to be chosen by real kids. When no one chooses Beekle, he sets out to the city to find a friend on his own. The book took home the 2015 Caldecott Medal.