Sum­mer book club sug­gests sev­eral reads

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - CHRISTINA BAR­RON

July in Arkansas means un­bear­able heat at times, mean­ing out­side play is lim­ited. How about giv­ing chil­dren a book to read in­doors dur­ing the heat of the day? A book they’ll ac­tu­ally en­joy but one that might chal­lenge what they think?

Here’s where The Wash­ing­ton Post’s Kid­sPost Sum­mer Book Club, with the theme of “Chal­lenge Your­self,” comes into play.

The sum­mer book club of­fers eight books for vary­ing ages in which char­ac­ters face chal­lenges. One child can’t read. An­other deals with racism. Sev­eral strug­gle to keep fam­i­lies to­gether. The ex­pe­ri­ences may be very dif­fer­ent from what your chil­dren are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing.

That’s where the chal­lenge comes in. Pick up a few of th­ese books, even if they don’t sound like some­thing your child would nor­mally read. They can help your child un­der­stand oth­ers’ strug­gles, a chal­lenge that’s well worth the ef­fort.

■ A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold. Ages 6 to 10.

When his mom brings home an or­phaned baby skunk from her ve­teri­nary prac­tice, Bixby Alexan­der Tam in­stantly bonds with the tiny crea­ture. The boy, who’s known as Bat, starts think­ing about ways to keep the skunk even though his mother says they must send the an­i­mal to a wildlife cen­ter. Bat has a hard time get­ting along with peo­ple, so it’s go­ing to take a lot of work to con­vince his mom that he’s ready to care for an an­i­mal, es­pe­cially one that’s meant to be in the wild.

■ Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan. Ages 8 to 12.

Why did Ju­lia Marks’ mother make her au­di­tion for a sum­mer pro­duc­tion of The Wizard of Oz? To tor­ture her, prob­a­bly, though Ju­lia’s turn in show­biz turns out to be way bet­ter than sit­ting at home think­ing about the re­cent death of her dog Ra­mon. Cast as a Munchkin, Ju­lia learns to em­brace her size (she’s short) and be­gins to re­al­ize that the adults around her — in­clud­ing a pe­cu­liar neigh­bor — aren’t quite what they seem.

■ Ge­orge by Alex Gino. Ages 8 to 12.

Ge­orge is a girl who has been la­beled “male” since birth. She knows she is a girl, but ev­ery­one else sees her as a boy. Even her mother, older brother and best friend have no idea. Ge­orge is tired of pre­tend­ing but afraid that oth­ers won’t be able to ac­cept her true self. Then she comes up with a plan. If she plays a fe­male char­ac­ter in the school play, maybe oth­ers will see that she is, in­deed, a girl. There’s only one way to find out.

■ Mid­night With­out a Moon by Linda Wil­liams Jackson. Ages 9 to 13.

Rose Lee Carter, 13, won­ders how much more she can take of her small-town Mis­sis­sippi life. Rose nar­rates Mid­night With­out a Moon, set over four months in 1955, and she can’t stand the dis­crim­i­na­tion, money trou­bles and vi­o­lence her fam­ily faces. The now-fa­mous mur­der of a young Chicago vis­i­tor named Em­mett Till has hap­pened nearby. For­tu­nately, Rose has a best friend and a strong sense of pur­pose to help her get through this ter­ri­ble sum­mer. ■ The Way Home Looks Now by Wendy Wan-Long Shang. Ages 8 to 12.

Base­ball was the shared love of Peter Lee’s fam­ily. But that was be­fore the ac­ci­dent, the one that killed his older brother. Now Peter’s mom is barely func­tion­ing, and the fam­ily is fall­ing apart. The 12-year-old de­cides to play base­ball again to cheer her up. The plan gets com­pli­cated when his old­school dad vol­un­teers to coach the team.

■ I Lived on But­ter­fly Hill by Mar­jorie Agosin. Ages 10 to 14.

Ce­leste’s happy life in Chile changes when a cruel dic­ta­tor takes over the coun­try. Peo­ple are ar­rested; books are burned. Ce­leste’s par­ents go into hid­ing. Ce­leste is sent to stay with an aunt in the United States, where she is lonely and wor­ried. She makes friends and learns English, but she yearns to re­turn home. When she does, though, she finds her town very changed. Her fa­ther is still miss­ing, and it’s up to Ce­leste to find him.

■ Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mul­laly Hunt. Ages 10 to 14.

Dis­tract­ing peo­ple is one of Ally’s best skills. Read­ing is not. As she bounces from school to school, Ally causes a com­mo­tion so that teach­ers don’t no­tice the real prob­lem. How­ever, Mr. Daniels, a sub­sti­tute teacher at her new mid­dle school, fig­ures out what’s go­ing on. Ally is em­bar­rassed and con­vinced that she’s just a dumb kid. With Mr. Daniels’ help, she be­gins to un­der­stand that some­one with a learn­ing dis­abil­ity can also be in­tel­li­gent.

■ As Brave as You by Ja­son Reynolds. Ages 10 to 14.

Broth­ers Ge­nie and Ernie are forced to leave their New York home to spend part of the sum­mer with their grand­par­ents in ru­ral Vir­ginia. The dif­fer­ence be­tween the two worlds is star­tling, and so is re­al­iz­ing that their grand­fa­ther is blind. At first, Ge­nie con­sid­ers Grand­pop brave be­cause he ac­com­plishes so much with­out be­ing able to see. Then the boy re­al­izes Grand­pop stays in the house … all the time. As he and Ernie re­con­sider their grand­fa­ther’s char­ac­ter, they face their own test of brav­ery.

Look­ing for some read­ing ma­te­rial for chil­dren this sum­mer? The Wash­ing­ton Post’s Kid­sPost Sum­mer Book Club rec­om­mends th­ese eight ti­tles.

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