Reading Suggestions for Families and Children

Elm Grove Public Library Summer Recommended Book List 2021    

Grades K-1                                                                                                            

Picture Books (Click here to see the book covers!) 

I See You See by Richard Jackson. Jonah, who uses a wheelchair, tags along when his sister takes the dog for a walk and turns it into a fanciful adventure.

I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott (Schneider Family Book Award 2021) A boy who struggles with stuttering learns how to view it in a new way.

Itty-Bitty Kitty-Corn by Shannon Hale & LeUyen Pham. Unicorn lovers will enjoy this story of a kitty who thinks she is a unicorn and the unicorn who understands.

Jayden’s Impossible Garden by Mélina Mangal. Jayden lives in a city apartment with no green space until his neighbor Mr. Curtis helps him make a change.

The Lost Package by Richard Ho. A package takes a detour on its way to its destination showing some of the work of the post office.

Packs: strength in numbers by Hannah Salyer. An exquisitely illustrated celebration of animals who live in packs, herds, pods and more.

Someone Builds the Dream written by Lisa Wheeler; illustrated by Loren Long. This is a different kind of construction book showing the connection between the people who make the plans like architects, engineers and designers, and those who bring the plans to life.

Ten Beautiful Things by Molly Beth Griffin. Lily is moving to her grandmother's farm in Iowa and she is sad about all the changes necessary in her life, but on the long drive her grandmother challenges her to find ten beautiful things that they can share together.

Ten Little Dumplings by Larissa Fan. In the city of Tainan, there lives a very special family--special because they have ten sons who do everything together. But if you look closely, you'll see that someone else is there, listening, studying, learning and discovering her own talent--a sister.

We are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom; illustrated by Michaela Goade (Caldecott winner 2021). Water is essential to life and this book highlights both its value and the need to protect it from contamination. This book was inspired by the many indigenous-led water conservation movements across North America.

Zonia’s Rain Forest by Juana Martinez-Neal. Zonia is enjoying her Amazon home when the rain forest calls out to her for help.

Early Readers:

Swim, Mo, Swim by David A. Adler. On Field Day, Mo takes part in a swimming competition. (series)

Snail & Worm Again: three stories about two friends by Tina Kugler. More silly stories about two friends exploring the world together.

The Evil Princess vs. The Brave Knight Take Turns by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. When they both want to go first every time, it causes problems. (series)

Grades 2-3 (Click here to see the book covers!)

The Cat Man of Aleppo by Irene Latham and Karim Shamsi-Basha. Based on the true story of a man who rescued the local cats when war came to Aleppo and caught the attention of the world.  (Picture book)

Chick and Brain: Egg or Eyeball? by Cece Bell. Another story about Chick who thinks he knows it all, and Brain who is smarter than you might think. (Graphic book)

Honeybee: the busy life of Apis Mellifera by Candace Fleming. Informative, illustrated book about the life of a honeybee. (Nonfiction)

Lily to the Rescue: Lost Little Leopard by W. Bruce Cameron. Lily is a recue dog who now has a mission of her own:  helping other rescued animals.  When a lost little Amur leopard is brought to the zoo and needs a friend, it’s Lily to the rescue! (series)

Overground Railroad by Lesa Cline-Ransome. A girl tells the story of her family’s train journey from North Carolina to New York City as part of the Great Migration. (Picture book)

Salma the Syrian Chef by Danny Ramadan. Between English classes, job interviews, and missing Papa back in Syria, Mama always seems busy or sad. To make her smile again, Salma decides to learn how to make Mama’s favorite foods with the help of new friends. (Picture book)

Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake. A rock-loving badger and a story-telling skunk become roommates when Badger’s Aunt Lula loans both of them the use of her vacant brownstone. Skunk invites a houseful of chickens to join them which causes conflict with Badger. Sometimes silly, sometimes thoughtful, this book is for readers who like buddy stories like The Wind in the Willows or Frog and Toad.  First in a new series.

Starla Jean: Which Came First, the Chicken or the Friendship? By Elana K. Arnold. When Starla Jean finds a chicken in the park, she is determined to make it her pet. (Series and early chapter book)

Summertime Sleepers: animals that estivate by Melissa Stewart. Estivation is just like hibernation only it happens in the summer instead of winter. From the pixie frog to the desert hedgehog, discover how a variety of animals survive during the hottest days of the year. (Nonfiction)

Sydney & Taylor Explore the Whole Wide World by Jacqueline Davies. Taylor, a hedgehog, sometimes gets big ideas, but he is too timid to act on them. So when he decides to explore the whole wide world, it is up to his friend, Skunk, to get the expedition off the ground. Hedgehog and Skunk have never left Miss Nancy’s garden, so they have a lot of exploring to do. Adventure, and perhaps a little danger, await them!  

Too Small Tola by Atinuke, illustrated by Onyinye Iwu. Tola lives in an apartment in Lagos, Nigeria with her sister, Moji, who is very clever; her brother, Dapo, who is very fast; and Grandmommy, who is very bossy. Though small, Tola proves to be stronger than she seems and she saves the day when others need her help.

Grades 4-6 (Click here to see the book covers!)

All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat. (Newbery Honor 2021) In 2018, this news story from Thailand captured the attention of the world. Twelve boys and their soccer coach became trapped in a cave they were exploring when it flooded unexpectedly. Their way out was cut off and they couldn’t communicate with the outside world.  As their situation became known, rescuers from various countries pitched in to try to save the boys before time ran out and this book tells the whole story. You can learn all the suspenseful details of the rescue as well as a little about Thailand and Thai culture; caves and cave diving; and some of the difficulties of bringing together people from different cultures to achieve one goal. (Nonfiction)

Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson. Told in verse, this is a story about a boy and his father and the potential devastating impact of head injuries on professional athletes. ZJ’s dad is a pro football player and a neighborhood hero until he begins to have headaches, memory loss and personality changes. The doctors don’t have answers and ZJ feels like he is losing his best friend, especially when his dad can’t remember his name.  

The Fowl Twins Deny All Charges by Eoin Colfer. In this second adventure for Artemis Fowl’s younger brothers, the twins are under house arrest because of a previous adventure gone wrong. When Myles is kidnapped from their lockdown, Beckett and their pixie elf ambassador, Lazuli, spring into action. If you like the action and humor in the Artemis Fowl books, you should definitely see what his brothers are up to.

Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park. Take a new look at the American frontier through the eyes of Hanna who is half-Chinese and all too familiar with being looked down on because of it. Hanna’s Chinese mother has died and her white father copes with anti-Chinese discrimination by moving to a new town. Hanna hopes that this town will be different: she wants to go to school instead of having to learn at home and she wants to open a dress shop using the sewing skills her mother taught her. Most of all, Hanna would like to be surrounded by people who care for her and will stand up for her so she can stay in one place and call it home. You should read this book if you liked the Laura Ingalls Wilder books but you want to know more about America’s western settlers.

Raising Lumie by Joan Bauer. Olive’s life has just been upended by the death of her father and she is in desperate need of comfort. She has been begging for a dog but her older sister, Maudie, who has just become her guardian, says no because she can’t take on another responsibility right now. So when Olive is asked to help with some puppies who are being trained to be guide dogs for the blind, it is a wish come true. She becomes especially close with a golden retriever puppy named Lumie and in an unexpected twist, is offered the chance to train him herself. Olive has a lot to work through as she adjusts to the big changes in her life, so what will she do when Lumie finishes her training and leaves to live with her new owner?  

Starting From Seneca Falls by Karen Schwabach. It is 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York and Bridie Gallagher has just moved from the poor house to working for Mr. Kigley, a man with a foul temper and unpleasant family.  Bridie immigrated from Ireland with her mother to find relief from the potato famine, but her mother died in the poor house leaving her an orphan. When Bridie flees the Kigleys, she is rescued by Rose, a free Black girl who has connections to Frederick Douglass and the Underground Railroad as well as to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, an early campaigner for women’s rights. Bridie is given a job working for Mrs. Stanton and she moves through historic events (like the Seneca Falls Convention), meets historic people, and begins to dream of a future where she can have the career of her choice, control her own money and have a say in the world around her.

The Summer We Found the Baby by Amy Hest. Julie and her little sister, Martha, are spending the summer in Belle Beach, Long Island with their father. Pop is a writer and he is interviewing the soldiers at nearby Camp Mitchel for his next book. The Ben-Eli’s live next door and 12-year-old Bruno becomes a friend to Julie and Martha. The story is told from three different viewpoints: Bruno, who is missing his older brother who is away fighting WWII in Europe; Julie, who fills the role of mother in her family even though she is only 11; and Martha, who is surprisingly insightful for a six-year-old. Each narrator contributes details to the story from their own viewpoint, starting with Julie finding a baby in a basket on the steps of the library, including everything that led up to that moment, and the surprising resolution to it.

Twins by Varian Johnson and Shannon Wright. Maureen and Francine are twins who have always done everything together so as middle school begins, Maureen expects to have her sister right by her side. However, Francine is ready to establish herself as an individual apart from her twin, creating tension between the sisters as they are in different classes and activities for the first time. Francine is outgoing and confident and ready for this new step, but Maureen is reserved and change is hard for her. When both girls decide to run for class president, their relationship is put to the test and their friends and family are all dragged into the battle. Just putting aside their differences will not solve this problem. Maureen and Francine have a lot to learn about each other and themselves if they are going to survive and thrive in middle school. (Graphic book)

When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller. (Newbery Award 2021) Lily, her mom and sister move in with Halmoni, her grandmother, to help her through an illness. Halmoni has told Lily stories from her Korean heritage about tigers who are magical and clever, so when a mysterious tiger appears to Lily, she decides to make a deal. If the tiger will heal Halmoni, Lily will do something for the tiger. However, tigers are tricky and Lily may have to deal with her grandmother’s illness and the other challenges in her life without the tiger’s help.  While the tiger is a magical character, most of the book is a realistic story about a family coming together during a difficult time and a young girl absorbing stories about her heritage while she can.

The Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor by Ally Carter. The Winterborne Home is a mansion that has been empty since Mr. and Mrs. Winterborne died at sea and their only child, Gabriel, disappeared. The mansion is cared for by the Winterborne’s butler and by a family friend, Isabella, who has brought together some orphans with connections to the Winterbornes, to live in the mansion. When April arrives at the Winterborne Home, she has just discovered that the key she wears on a chain around her neck, bears the Winterborne crest and she hopes she will find clues about who her mother is and where she has gone. But the Winterborne Home is hiding several secrets, and as April and the other children begin to find answers, they also discover more questions. Action, mystery and a new sequel now available!

A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat. Chattana is a Thai-inspired fantasy city where light and heat must be purchased from the Governor, who has a unique, magical ability to produce them. Pong admires the Governor and is excited to meet him when he visits the prison, Namwon, where Pong, an orphan, has spent his whole life.  However, the visit from the Governor doesn’t go well, leaving Pong disillusioned and restless. When an opportunity arises for Pong to escape from Namwon, he seizes it. Fortunately, Pong is taken in by Father Cham, a compassionate monk who protects and teaches him, but his past haunts him. Pong fears that someone will figure out that he escaped from prison and send him back, and when the Warden of Namwon shows up to visit with Father Cham, Pong’s worst fears might come true.  

A Wolf Called Wander by Rosanne Parry. Swift is a young wolf with a big family living in the wilderness of eastern Oregon. He got his name because he is the fastest young wolf in his pack and his speed helps him survive when another wolf pack attacks. However, Swift is injured and separated from his family which starts him on a long journey as he searches for his pack, tries to find food and water, and ultimately, finds a new home. This story is based on the true journey of a wolf named OR-7 who was a tagged wolf in the wild when he took off on his own.  Swift’s adventures are fictional, but the route he travels is the same as OR-7’s and there are many interesting facts about wolves woven into the story and included in notes at the back. If you like stories with animal characters like Pax or The One and Only Ivan, or you want to learn more about wolves, you should try this book.

Grades 7-8 (Click here to see the book covers!)

Class Act by Jerry Craft. Remember Jordan and his friends from the Newbery- winning book New Kid? The story continues here as we get to know Jordan’s friend Drew better in this humorous look at race and class at an upscale prep school. (Graphic book)

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang. (Printz Honor Book 2021) Yang has written several graphic books but he used to be a high school math teacher and he worked at a school in California with an awesome basketball team called the Dragons. The Dragons made it to state several times but never won the championship, so when Yang heard rumors that this year might be the year, he started paying attention. Yang didn’t know anything about basketball and didn’t care about sports in general, but he was looking for a story for his next book and he thought this might be it. So he set out to learn about basketball by doing research and getting to know the coach and the team. This book traces the journey of the team that year, as well as the team’s history and some important history about basketball in general. The author decided to commit to writing the book whether the team ended up winning the championship or not, and you will have to read it to find how the season turned out. This is a great book for sports fans, but it also shows how a writer crafts a story and reminds us that we are never too old to learn something new. (Graphic book)

Dustborn by Erin Bowman. In this dystopian novel set in a dry, dusty wasteland, Delta is the only survivor in her pack with information about the Verdant, the legendary paradise everyone dreams of finding. However, there are people hunting her for this information and they attack her village when she is away and kidnap her family. With the help of a former friend, Delta begins a quest to rescue her pack and find the Verdant without knowing where to look or who to trust. If you like adventure stories with rich world building like The Hunger Games or Divergent, you will find this book hard to put down.

Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri. (Printz Award winner 2021) This autobiographical story weaves together memories, traditional tales and family history in the form of class assignments presented by Daniel to his classmates. Khosrou (Daniel) and his family were refugees from Iran, escaping religious persecution, but it took several years and stops in other countries before they arrived in Oklahoma. Daniel describes the challenges of adjusting to life in the US, as well as his disappointment in his father for staying behind and his overall search for acceptance. Daniel’s stories are entertaining, told with humor and hope, but they provide a window into a different culture and the sometimes heartbreaking challenges of starting over.

Hood by Jenny Elder Moke. This spin-off from legend is a fast-paced adventure story that introduces us to the daughter of Robin Hood and Marien. Isabelle has grown up in the convent where her mother is Prioress, unaware that her father is the outlaw, Robin Hood. When she defends some townspeople who are being harassed by soldiers, Isabelle comes to the notice of the Wolf, the king’s assistant and Robin’s enemy, and she must run for her life. Marien sends her to find help and ultimately, she finds Robin’s Merry Men.  However, this is a new generation of outlaws – some the offspring of Robin’s legendary men and some new recruits – and Isabelle must prove that she is worthy to join their ranks. When the Wolf tries to capture Robin Hood by holding Marien captive, Isabelle must come up with a plan to save them both. With a bit of humor and romance to keep it light and an ending that leaves you wanting more, there may be a sequel in the future.

A House Divided: The Accursed Inheritance of Henrietta Achilles by Haiko Hornig and Marius Pawlitza. Henrietta leaves the orphanage that has been her home for the last nine years when she learns that she has inherited a house from someone she has never heard of.  Arriving in the town of Malrenard, Henrietta finds the townspeople uncivilized and suspicious, and the house is gigantic and full of danger. Treasure hunters, magic and a mysterious cat all contribute to a tale that is fast, fun and first in a series. (Graphic Book)

Just Like That by Gary D. Schmidt. After the tragic death of her best friend, Holling, Meryl Lee goes to St. Elene’s boarding school in Maine for a fresh start. At first, Meryl Lee is completely lost. She doesn’t get along with snobby Mrs. Connolly, her English teacher, who finds Meryl Lee’s friendship with the service staff unacceptable. Meryl Lee doesn’t know how to make polite conversation at school teas, and her roommates, who have known each other for years, won’t let her into their circle. However, the year is 1968 and changes are happening everywhere.  At the same time, a runaway boy finds shelter in the home of the headmistress at St. Elene’s school. Matt has been on the run from a violent criminal but finds comfort and safety with Dr. MacKnockater, at least for a while. The stories of Meryl Lee and Matt become intertwined as Dr. MacKnockater helps each of them face the sadness of their pasts and look forward to a brighter future.

The Secret Life of Kitty Granger by G.D. Falksen. Prepare to channel your inner James Bond!  It is 1967 and 16-year-old Kitty lives in East London with her Dad where she goes to school and helps out in the family shop. A bit of a loner, Kitty doesn’t like crowds, obsesses over details, and panics when her senses are overstimulated. One day, Kitty’s awareness of details and her curiosity land her in the middle of a criminal transaction where she attracts the interest of the leaders of an off-the-grid spy organization. Mrs. Singh and Mr. Pryce proceed to recruit Kitty for her unique observational skills and train her to work for the British government alongside a handful of other teen spies, complete with fast cars and high-tech gadgets. Kitty’s first assignment, a simple information-gathering mission related to a threat against Parliament doesn’t go as planned, and Kitty must fight through the panic that threatens to overwhelm her if she is going to save herself and her team. Note: Kitty is a refreshingly different character for this genre but it is still a spy thriller and the story contains some gun violence.

Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare Lezotte. (Schneider award 2021) This story transports you to 1805 Martha’s Vinyard off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts and is based on historical fact. Mary Lambert has lived in Chilmark, a town on the island, her whole life and she is the fifth generation of her family to do so. Her great-great-grandfather was an early settler and the first deaf islander. Mary and her father are also deaf as are many other residents of the island. In fact, deafness is so common, a special sign language was created and spoken by everyone in the community, whether hearing or deaf. When a young scientist arrives on the island, Mary’s worldview is challenged. Andrew is seeking to discover why so many in the population are deaf, thinking there is an environmental cause, and he treats the deaf population as imbecilic, lesser people, which is a new position for Mary to be in. He is determined to return to Boston with a “live specimen” for scientific examination and because Mary is in the wrong place at the wrong time, she is kidnapped and transported to Boston. There are other subplots including the recent death of Mary’s brother and various tensions within the village. The story has some slow places as Mary ponders new ideas but the final third of the book is an exciting tale of survival. 

Compiled by Sue Daniels, Youth Services Librarian, Elm Grove Public Library / May 2021