Need suggestions for beach reading or books to bring to camp? Check out The Horn Book's list of 51 titles for children of varying ages and abilities. The Horn Book even hand-picked some favorite new titles, all published within the last year, that are ideal for the season. Note tha a suggested grade level is listed with each entry unless otherwise noted.
Picture books (Fiction and Nonfiction)
Alfie Runs Away written by Kenneth M. Cadow, illustrated by Lauren Castillo (Farrar/Foster)
When his mother wants to give away his favorite shoes just because they're too small, Alfie decides he's had enough. Grade level: PS. 40 pages.
My Side of the Car written by Kate Feiffer, illustrated by Jules Feiffer (Candlewick)
It might be raining on Dad’s side of the car, but imaginative Sadie argues that it is not raining on her side, so their trip to the zoo doesn't need to be postponed. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.
One Big Rain: Poems for Rainy Days compiled by Rita Gray, illustrated by Ryan O'Rourke (Charlesbridge)
Illustrated with an appropriate palette of grays, blues, and olive greens, this invitingly small anthology of twenty poems quietly celebrates rain. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.
Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by Brian Floca (Roaring Brook/Flash Point/Porter)
Using spare, concise sentences, the authors echo Graham's approach to dance: nothing's wasted, and in such exactness lies beauty. Floca's fluid, energetic illustrations also reflect the plain boldness of Graham's choreography. Grade level: K–3. 48 pages.
Three by the Sea written and illustrated by Mini Grey (Knopf)
A cat, mouse, and dog coexist harmoniously in their beach hut until a manipulative fox plants seeds of discontent. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.
The Day Ray Got Away written by Angela Johnson, illustrated by Luke LaMarca (Simon)
This hard-boiled story of a parade balloon who makes a break for freedom lies somewhere between picture book noir and mock crime report. Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.
Red Wagon written and illustrated by Renata Liwska (Philomel)
When Lucy and friends take her wagon to the market, it's no ordinary errand: the pals imagine sailing on the high seas and crossing the great frontier, among other adventures. Grade level: PS. 32 pages.
Pocketful of Posies written and illustrated by Salley Mavor (Houghton)
Sixty-four nursery rhymes appear in an intricate tapestry of wool, felt, embroidery, beads, and every kind of needlework. Grade level: PS. 64 pages.
Celebritrees: Historic and Famous Trees of the World written by Margi Preus, illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon (Holt/Ottaviano)
This picture book gallery of impressive trees offers information on what makes each specimen (including world record holders, oddities, and cultural icons) unique. Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.
Pop!: The Invention of Bubble Gum written and illustrated by Meghan McCarthy (Simon/Wiseman)
This light-as-air biography presents Walter Diemer as a likable hero who introduced bubble gum to the American public in 1928,. Trivia about bubble gum continues the fun. Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.
Big Belching Bog written by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Betsy Bowen (Univ. of Minnesota)
Root's prose conveys the mellow characteristics and funkiness of a northern Minnesota bog, while Bowen's stylized woodcut illustrations capture the murky but nonetheless teeming-with-life place.
Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.
Where's Walrus? written and illustrated by Stephen Savage (Scholastic)
A walrus heads out the zoo gates with the zookeeper in pursuit, but Walrus hides easily in plain sight over and over again. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.
Madlenka Soccer Star written and illustrated by Peter Sís (Farrar/Foster)
Madlenka challenges a dog, parking meter, and trashcan to play soccer before meeting up for a game with a friend, and by extension, children around the world. Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.
A Sick Day for Amos McGee
written by Philip C. Stead,
illustrated by Erin E. Stead (Roaring Brook/Porter)
This Caldecott winner follows zookeeper Amos ‘s daily routine with his charges. When Amos stays home sick, his animal friends have the right medicine: a visit to their pal. Grade level: PS. 32 pages.
Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion written and illustrated by Mo Willems (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray)
Trixie’s family visits her grandparents in the Netherlands; once there, she realizes someone never got off the plane. Trixie finds comfort dreaming of Knuffle Bunny’s new life. Grade level: PS. 48 pages.
Air Show! written by Treat Williams, illustrated by Robert Neubecker (Hyperion)
Stunning spreads depict Ellie flying to an air show in her dad’s plane. At the show, Ellie rides in a stunt plane—with a pilot named Amelia, of course. Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.
Early Readers and Younger Fiction
Bink & Gollie written by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee,
illustrated by Tony Fucile (Candlewick)
Three short stories star two friends who live in a duplex-style treehouse: petite, excitable Bink and lanky, unflappable Gollie. The odd couple weathers ups and downs in their friendship. Grade level: 1–3. 82 pages.
Just Grace and the Terrible Tutu written and illustrated by Charise Mericle Harper (Houghton)
A babysitting job seems like a perfect opportunity for Grace’s best friend Mimi to practice being a big sister—until their charge snubs Mimi for Grace. Grade level: 1–3. 170 pages.
Dizzy Dinosaurs: Silly Dino Poems [I Can Read] written by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Barry Gott (HarperCollins/Harper).
Nineteen dinosaur poems (humorously featuring dinos set amidst modern life) plus a pronunciation guide to dinosaur names make up this easy reader collection. Grade level: K–3. 48 pages.
Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same! written and illustrated by Grace Lin (Little)
Six chapters tell brief, humorous stories about twin sisters. Despite identical outfits, readers will recognize the girls by their unique personalities (and Ting's uneven bangs). Grade level: K–3. 44 pages.
Lulu and the Brontosaurus written by Judith Viorst,
illustrated by Lane Smith (Atheneum)
Spoiled Lulu seeks a pet brontosaurus; she finds one who, to her shock, wants to make Lulu his pet. Lulu learns compassion and manners while fleeing the dinosaur. Grade level: 1–3. 115 pages.
Time to Sleep, Sheep the Sheep! written and illustrated by Mo Willems (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray)
Cat the Cat lets her animal friends know bedtime is nigh and helps each prepare for bed, but she’s stumped when she happens upon Owl the Owl. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.
Intermediate Fiction and Nonfiction
Suggested grade level for each entry: 4–6
Keeper written by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by August Hall (Atheneum)
Ten-year-old Keeper "borrows" a boat to search for her (possibly) mermaid mama. 409 pages.
Sky Sailors: True Stories of the Balloon Era written by David L. Bristow (Farrar)
Nine anecdotes relate strange, dangerous, and exciting adventures of the pre-airplane balloon era. 136 pages.
I Dreamed of Flying like a Bird: My Adventures Photographing Wild Animals from a Helicopter written by Robert B. Haas, photographs by the author (National)
Along with an exhilarating sampling of his photographs, National Geographic aerial photographer Haas describes the unique perspective on nature to which his job makes him privy. 64 pages.
Turtle in Paradise written by Jennifer L. Holm (Random)
In 1935, narrator Turtle is sent to live in Key West. With her stoic nature and quick wits, she's able to fit in with her boy cousins. 189 pages.
Small as an Elephant written by Jennifer Richard Jacobson (Candlewick)
When Jack’s not-quite-right mother disappears during their camping trip, he embarks on a series of desperate misadventures, not realizing that the whole state is searching for him. 277 pages.
Here There Be Monsters: The Legendary Kraken and the Giant Squid written by HP Newquist (Houghton)
Text augmented by illustrations and photos segues smoothly between the giant squid’s history as “sea monster” and the current study of these mysterious creatures. 73 pages.
The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester written by Barbara O'Connor (Farrar/Foster)
Owen finds the best salvage ever: a submarine built for two. To figure out how to retrieve and navigate the sub, Owen needs help from his irritating neighbor Viola. 168 pages.
The Red Pyramid [Kane Chronicles] written by Rick Riordan (Hyperion)
Carter and Sadie's father, a magician, disappears after accidentally summoning gods into the mortal world. While fleeing assassins, the siblings discover their own powers. 516 pages.
What Happened on Fox Street written by Tricia Springstubb (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray)
After intercepting a letter that may mean an end to her beloved neighborhood, Mo clings to Fox Street, finding memories of her mother and searching for the fox she swears is calling to her . 218 pages.
The Romeo and Juliet Code written by Phoebe Stone (Scholastic/Levine)
Londoner Felicity is deposited with relatives in coastal Maine to escape the Blitz. Where her parents have gone—and why—are just two of the family's many secrets Felicity investigates. 300 pages.
Project Seahorse [Scientists in the Field] written by Pamela S. Turner, photographed
by Scott Tuason (Houghton)
A conservation group fights to preserve seahorses, coastal reefs, and a community’s fishing-based livelihood. Facts about seahorses and underwater photos are interspersed. 57 pages.
Young Fredle written by Cynthia Voight , illustrated by Louise Yates (Knopf)
House mouse Fredle finds himself banished to the great outdoors. He longs for home, but it takes an extended mouse odyssey before he returns there. 229 pages.
Middle School Fiction and Nonfiction
Suggested grade level for each entry: 6–8
Close to Famous written by Joan Bauer (Viking)
Cupcake-baker Foster and her mother flee Mom’s abusive ex-boyfriend to small-town West Virginia, where an odd assortment of characters welcome them. 250 pages.
No Passengers Beyond This Point written by Gennifer Choldenko (Dial)
Three siblings are horrified to learn they’re being sent to live with an uncle—tomorrow. Their journey takes a surreal turn when the kids are picked up by a feather-covered taxi. 244 pages.
Mockingjay written by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic)
In this final installment in the Hunger Games trilogy, Katniss reluctantly accepts her role as figurehead of the rebellion. She must work through both the ethical minefield of warfare and her complicated relationships with Peeta and Gale. 392 pages.
Take Me to the River written by Will Hobbs (HarperCollins/Harper)
Dylan and Ryan’s rafting trip down the Rio Grande becomes unexpectedly dangerous with the additions of a hurricane and a kidnapping. 184 pages.
The Mermaid's Mirror written by L. K. Madigan (Houghton)
Lena secretly (and against her father’s wishes) takes surfing lessons in order to investigate a woman with a "glistening silver tail" in a dangerous ocean cove. 313 pages.
Trash written by Andy Mulligan (Random/Fickling)
"Trash boys" Raphael and his friend Gardo never find anything of value—until one day they do. A leather bag containing a wallet, money, map, and key sends the young men on a quest. 234 pages.
As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth
written by Lynne Rae Perkins (Greenwillow)
On his way to summer camp, Ry learns the camp’s gone out of business.
When he hops off the train to call his grandfather, it leaves without him,
stranding him in the middle of nowhere. 354 pages.
The Grimm Legacy written by Polly Shulman (Putnam)
Elizabeth, a page at the New York Circulating Material Repository, discovers someone has been stealing magical fairy-tale artifacts from the Grimm Collection. 327 pages.
The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie: A Doll's History and Her Impact on Us written by Tanya Lee Stone (Viking)
This eye-opening cultural history reveals the devotion and loathing generated by Barbie; black-and-white and color photos help flesh out Barbie’s story. 126 pages.
The Ring of Solomon: A Bartimaeus Novel written by Jonathan Stroud (Hyperion)
In this prequel, wisecracking djinni Bartimaeus is bound to one of King Solomon's evil magicians. Meanwhile, Asmira, guard to the queen of Sheba, is sent to assassinate Solomon. 398 pages.
Alien Invasion and Other Inconveniences written by Brian Yansky (Candlewick)
When most of the human race is annihilated by invading aliens, a small minority are kept alive to serve as slaves, protagonist Jesse among them. 229 pages.
High School Fiction
Suggested grade level for each entry: 8 and up
Ship Breaker written by Paolo Bacigalupi (Little)
In a dystopian future America, “ship breaker” Nailer discovers a wrecked clipper ship and its sole survivor, Nita. Nailer chooses to protect Nita and help find her family. 326 pages.
Chime written by Franny Billingsley (Dial)
Briony, a self-proclaimed witch, blames herself for her twin sister's brain damage.
A new boarder at her family’s parsonage inspires Briony to uncover suppressed memories. 362 pages.
Stay written by Deb Caletti (Simon Pulse)
Clara and her father rent a summer house on the seashore to escape Clara's possessive stalker ex-boyfriend. 313 pages.
Dark Water written by Laura McNeal (Knopf)
Pearl starts a secret relationship with Amiel, an undocumented migrant laborer. When fire consumes southern California, Pearl abandons her family to warn Amiel of the approaching flames. 289 pages.
Sisters Red written by Jackson Pearce (Little)
In this urban "Little Red Riding Hood" interpretation, sisters Scarlett and Rosie were attacked by a Fenris (werewolf) as children. Now teenagers, they don red capes and hunt the creatures. 328 pages.
Fat Vampire: A Never Coming of Age Story written by Adam Rex (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray)
Vampire Doug, destined for eternal tubbiness despite his liquid diet, tries to attract girls with his sense of humor. 324 pages.
Also see: A Parent's Guide to Summer in the NYC Area