Summer book club suggests several reads
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.