School’s out for the summer, and while that means lots of days outdoors, there’s also the impending dread parents feel of fending their kids off of mind-numbing devices. To be a step ahead, we asked Laura Taylor, Bookstore Director at Tampa, Florida’s Oxford Exchange, a bookstore, restaurant and general gathering place, for book recommendations for the younger set, ages 3 to 18. Grab your crew and take trip to your local bookstore and let them peruse the titles. Once they find the one they can’t put down, hustle home to a reading nook and prepare to see your kids turn into book worms this summer season.
Picture Books (Ages 3-8)
Sarabella’s Thinking Cap by Judy Schachner: Summer is the perfect time to let your imagination run wild, and in Sarabella’s Thinking Cap, your child will be encouraged to do just that. Sarabella has an enormous imagination, but she has trouble expressing just what she’s thinking to her family and her classmates. When her teacher assigns a project to help her show off her thoughts, Sarabella can’t help but think outside the box. This book has detailed and beautiful illustrations, and your child will find something new in the book with every read.
Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin: This fun, quirky book will inspire laughter and, possibly, a love of tacos, dragons or both! With its brightly-colored illustrations, Dragons Love Tacos chronicles the story of a boy who wants to throw a taco party to attract dragons to his house. Things go awry when he realizes that he has accidentally ordered spicy salsa—which dragons definitely don’t like. If this book inspires too many dragon-and-taco themed parties, you might also love its sequel, Dragons Love Tacos 2.
Ocean Meets Sky by The Fan Brothers: Tender, sweet, and full of magic, Ocean Meets Sky appeals to a love of the ocean and a thirst for adventure. Finn’s grandfather loved the ocean. Now that he is gone, Finn honors his memory by building a boat and going sailing. He embarks on a dreamlike journey past mystical islands to reach the place where the ocean meets the sky, finding along the way that the ocean does not have to be lonely.
Islandborn by Junot Diaz: For the child who loves learning about cultures that are far from home, or perhaps close to the heart, this new children’s book from acclaimed author Junot Diaz will be a perfect fit. In Islandborn, Lola has been asked to draw the place where she is from for a class assignment, but she can’t remember the Island. She asks for the help of her supportive and diverse neighbors, who provide her with vivid memories that light up her imagination and warm her heart, bringing her closer to home.
Middle Grade (Ages 8-12)
Rosetown by Cynthia Rylant: A historical children’s chapter book, Rosetown is set in the fictional Rosetown, Indiana, in the year of 1972. Flora, a nine-year-old who loves to read in the town’s small bookstore, has recently gone through some big changes in her life—and some more are about to come, when she meets a new friend. This calming and sugary-sweet book captures a time when things were simpler, transporting readers to a place where change can be welcomed as a good thing.
The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis: What better time than the summer to let your child visit Narnia for the first time? This book has classic fantasy premises, including talking animals and wicked queens. It will capture the imagination of the child who can’t stop playing the Hogwarts Mystery app on their phone—and will provide them with a new world that is classic and timeless.
The Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes: This timely book will be perfect for the child who considers themselves to be a future-activist, and who is interested in modern political ongoings. Twelve-year-old Jerome is a ghost, having been shot by a police officer who mistook his toy gun for a real threat. The book itself discusses historical racism, as Jerome tries to understand what happened to him while observing how his death affected the world around him. The Ghost Boys is a moving book that tackles heavy and important topics, and will be the perfect discussion read for a child and parent over summer break.
A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle: For the student who loves math and science, A Wrinkle In Time presents a story where intelligence and a kind personality are formidable strengths, taking readers on an interdimensional trip in which the child is the hero, and the parent needs to be saved. This book has a timeless warmth that values family and self-love, making it a great read for any child at an uneasy age. And although the new movie only came out a couple of months ago, the book brings new depth and dimension to that story, and continues forward with four other books in the series.
Young Adult (Ages 12-18)
Renegades by Marissa Meyer: For the Marvel-obsessed teen, Renegades is an action-packed, suspenseful novel that will satisfy the most voracious reader. For as long as Nova can remember, she has been a member of the Anarchist rebellion against the superhero-run government known as the Renegades. When she infiltrates their ranks on a covert spy mission, she finds that she has more in common with the Renegades than she once thought. This book is the first of a new trilogy, and now is the perfect time to start reading it because the second book, Archenemies, comes out in early November.
Ready Player One by Ernest Kline: For the teen who loves retro video games, Ready Player One is a futuristic dystopian novel in which it is common for children and adults alike to enter a virtual reality world called “The Oasis.” When Wade Watts is the first person to solve a long-standing puzzle, he is thrown into a politically-charged race against time with a large corporation. For those who have already seen the recently-released movie, Ready Player One differs greatly from its theatrical counterpart, providing a fresh and exciting story for those looking for an escapist read this summer.
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien: Tolkien single-handedly crafted the rise in popularity of fantasy novels in his day, and it is never too late to start reading this classic fantasy novel. It’s a wonderful introduction to The Lord of the Rings series, and has captivated audiences for generations with its vivid imagery and lush world. Summer is the best time to take on such a challenging read, too, especially for younger readers— the heavier language will make the completion of this book feel like a great accomplishment, and for those who prefer the language of the classics, it may open their eyes to a new genre for future reading.
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi: This is going to be one of the most popular teen reads this summer, for readers who loved Black Panther and its integration of African tribal culture with the supernatural. Zélie lives in a world where magic once coursed strongly through the veins of its people, but has now been forbidden by the King. When she is presented with an opportunity to create an upheaval in the system, she finds herself learning more about herself and her own powers than she ever expected. This is a high fantasy novel that will excite and enrapture readers who want to be introduced to a new and exciting universe.