Friends Over Books volunteers have been busy all spring reading, discussing and selecting the best kids’ lit to recommend for summer 2014. In addition to all of Richard Peck’s wonderful books listed elsewhere on this website, we suggest you look through the list below for something that appeals to your reader’s interests. You’ll find books for all ages, a selection of old and new, adventure, history, fantasy, graphic novels, challenging serious topics, and just plain good reads.
Download IRW Summer 2014 Booklist for your upcoming book shopping!
Pearl loves words! She collects words, decorates her room with words, and fills a treasure chest with words! One day a tornado of words whirls all around Pearl, making her lose most of her words! How will she get them back? Wonderful illustrations make this story come alive. This would be a perfect book for one reading A Snicker of Magic (also recommended below) to read to a younger sibling or friend.
Around The World: Three Remarkable Journeys, by Matt Phelan, for grades 2-5.
This is a trio of adventurous biographies captured in a vivid and evocative graphic novel. The circumnavigators chose three different ways to travel in the late 1800’s: Thomas Stevens used an early form of bicycle. Nellie Bly, an intrepid newspaper reporter tried to beat the record of an 80-day trip around the world in a hot air balloon. Captain Joshua Slocum rebuilt a wreck of a wooden sailing vessel. Phelan uses color washes in his illustrations to convey memories, hallucinations and emotions in retelling these daring exploits.
Twelve-year-old Zane’s father died before he was born, and his mother never knew his father’s family. When Zane’s mom discovers the Grandma who raised Zane’s dad living in New Orleans, she sends Zane to meet his Grandma. The visit goes well until Hurricane Katrina arrives. Zane is separated from his Grandmother and struggles to get to safety. This is a suspenseful story, with action, adventure and appealing characters. It is also a well-researched account of an event of historical significance, and addresses issues of race relations and poverty.
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K.G.Campbell, for grades 3-5.
This is an enchanting tale in which we meet sad and lonely Flora Belle, a natural-born cynic, who reads superhero comics. Her quirky neighbor, Tootie, who accidentally vacuumed up a squirrel, joins Flora on an adventure with a superhero-inspired ending. K. G. Campbell’s gently shaded art is presented in a comic book format that mirrors Flora’s reading material of choice. “Holy unanticipated occurrences!”- What a tale!
In September of 1949, before the development of the Salk Polio vaccine, 12-year old Peg thinks she has the flu because of a high fever, goes home from school, and at midnight her parents take her to the hospital where she is diagnosed with polio. Her world becomes one of hospitals, doctors, and nurses. Peg is not alone however, and together with other hospitalized children, creates a friendly and hopeful world within the hospital. This is an inspiring story of courage and resilience, the power of friendship, and the importance of medical research and treatment.
Joe Wood runs the town newspaper with his friend Charlie and apprentice Owen in the early days of the Civil War. Historical perspectives frame the narrative and are interwoven with stories of town life in Wiscasset, Maine: the store Joe’s parents run, an African American family, the telegraph office, a young spiritualist who communicates with the dead, and the volunteer militia. The reader has an exciting front row seat to the action as the Civil War develops in the state of Maine. This book is based on real people and events in 1861 Wiscasset. Maine had the highest percentage of volunteers of any Union state.
Newbery Honor winner Sheila Turnage takes us to the small town of Tupelo Landing, North Carolina, for a second adventure with Mo LeBeau and her partner, Dale, of the Desperado Detective Agency. Mo and Dale search for the town’s oldest resident, investigate the haunting of an old inn, and try to understand a new student who comes to school with mysteries of his own. The book features unusual family situations, colorful characters, a bootlegging grandfather, and one child whose father is serving time in prison for abuse. The reader learns how these young detectives forge strong friendships, put the pieces of the puzzle together, and live with determination and forgiveness.
by Kathryn Erskine, for grades 4-8.
2010 National Book Award Winner for Young People’s Literature. Caitlin’s family and community have just been rocked by tragedy. Two students and a teacher were killed in a shooting at Virginia Dare Middle School. One of the students was Caitlin’s brother. Caitlin has Asperger’s Syndrome, which allows her to see the world in very specific narrow ways, in black and white; she has trouble processing feelings. One day, after hearing a newscast about the shooting, she discovers the word “closure,” and decides that closure is exactly what she and her father need. How will she and a grieving community find closure after something so horrible?
These sketchbooks offer an incredible selection of drawings and doodles. The sketches are organized into four sections: Untold Stories; Book, Theater, and Film; Drawings From Life; and Notebooks. Mr. Tan gives the reader insights into his work by sharing some of his thoughts about his creative process. For those who love to daydream or tell stories visually, this book will be a guide as well as an inspiration.
Half a Chance,
by Cynthia Lord, for grades 5-8.
Twelve-year old Lucy doesn’t like being the new kid at school, but she often is. This time, her Dad moved the family to a lake in New Hampshire (though it sounds a lot like Maine!). Lucy and her father share a passion for photography, but when he leaves the new house for an assignment in Arizona, Lucy has to find her own way. The theme of photography is used to pose ethical choices and to reveal other challenges in her new world. As Lucy develops her photographic skills, she becomes involved in kayaking, hiking, the realities of nature, the challenges of illness, and new friendships. This is a quiet and sensitive coming of age story.
Meg Wilson, for grades 5-7.
Jess Amory’s father has died, her mother is remarrying, she can’t stand her stepsister “Fishface,” her friends are ganging up on her, and she may have to move! In overcoming these obstacles she learns to appreciate her stepsister, move on from some friends and embrace others (the boy next door), understand her mother better, and become a finer and more sympathetic person. This book is true-to-life, and would hold special appeal for girls who are navigating life’s challenges and would enjoy some humor along the way.
by Terry Lynn Johnson, for grades 5-8.
Fourteen-year old Vicki, whose father has recently died, competes in important dog sled races in Alaska. When traveling through unfamiliar woods with her dog team she finds an injured teenager whose snowmobile has crashed. A blizzard strikes and they and the dogs must survive and find their way through the forest to safety. The realistic adventures and episodic nature of the chapters makes this book great for reluctant readers.
Midnight Gulch, Tennessee, a remote mountain town, was once known for its magic. It is also the hometown of Felicity and Franny Jo Pickle’s wandering mother. The family drives to Midnight Gulch in a run-down van to find it filled with family curses, banjo music, dueling magicians, ice cream, and a boatload of crazy characters. This is a tale about the magic of words and stories, and the power they hold to heal, hurt, and cause trouble and fun. This book shows how families in difficult circumstances can overcome them, with love, forgiveness and maybe some magic.
Out of My Mind,
by Sharon Draper, for grades 5-8.
Melody is a very intelligent 11-year old girl who cannot speak or move her limbs. It is told entirely from her inner voice point of view. While the topic seems very difficult, Melody’s personality shines through, brings you into her world, and has you rooting for her to break “out of her mind.” Themes of perseverance, not judging others by their appearance, true friendships, dealing with siblings, the challenge of disappointments, the thrill of achievement, and above all the importance of words, are all explored in this page-turner. Young readers will not look at disabled people the same way again after reading this book.
Roberta and her best friend Marilee, two 11-year old girls from Allagash, Maine, try to win the upcoming science fair when they return to school in the fall. They have to beat their chief competitor, a very smart and nerdy student who has always won it in the past. Mysterious lights in the night sky, perhaps aliens in the area, give them some bright ideas. An older brother has some ideas of his own and many tricks and adventures take place.
The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights,
by Steve Sheinkin, for grades 5-9.
The segregated Navy base at Port Chicago, California, was rocked by an intense explosion in July 1944, killing more than 300 sailors. Less than a month later, 50 young African American sailors refused to return to work loading munitions due to lack of training and improper procedures that made the work even more dangerous. The “Port Chicago 50” were tried in a military court and convicted of mutiny. Segregation in the military is addressed through interviews with some of the survivors, courtroom testimony, and photos. This is a fascinating story that remains fairly unknown about the beginning of desegregation.
This is a charming quick read about a family who welcomes winter because it means the coming of skating season. Excitement builds from finding ice frozen in pails to skating on “field ice,” then on streams and ponds, until finally it’s cold enough to flood the family’s vegetable garden and they all work to create “Bryan Gardens” where the whole neighborhood comes to skate. This is a short but memorable little book, with simple black and white drawings. It will make you wish you had grown up in a college town in Maine – in the Bryan family.
As a teenager growing up during the Depression, with an alcoholic father who cannot support his family, Moss Trawnley doesn’t have time to be a kid. In search of opportunity, Moss lies about his age and heads west to join Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps. While working to protect Montana’s wildlife, he goes to school, makes lifelong friends, falls in love, and finds what he almost lost in the crisis of the Great Depression: himself. The Civilian Conservation Corps also operated work camps on Mount Desert Island to help develop Acadia National Park.
Something About America, by Maria Testa for grades 5 to 8. A 13-year old girl thinks of herself as totally American, but her family came to Maine from Kosova, Yugoslavia, and she has to deal with the complicated feelings of her father and mother who miss their homeland. Despite terrible tragedies and dishearteningly menial work, the family feels lucky to be alive in America. When her father hears of a protest against Somali refugees in Lewiston, he organizes a rally in support of the Somalis. This short, lyrical book written in beautiful verse, is based on true events in Maine.
This picture book comes complete with Babe Ruth’s hitting and pitching stats. It tells of the life of George Ruth, born into a poor family in Baltimore, who got in so much trouble as a kid that when he was 7, his parents placed him in St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. He lived there with 800 other boys and had to follow strict rules. He missed his family, but one thing very good thing happened – Brother Matthias taught him to play baseball. This is an inspiring biography that shows how one person can make a huge difference in the life of a child, and the enduring bond that is created.
This humorous, rhymed story reflects the idea that sometimes we want to be what we’re not! Quentin Fenton Herter always did the right thing, but he had a shadow who was as bad as bad can be, called Quentin Fenton Herter Three. He interrupted, never shared, lied, and skipped chores. Yet, each wished he could have a few of the others’ traits. This book is great fun to read aloud.
There are now about 2500 Cambodians living in Maine, refugees from the Khmer Rouge. This book highlights a special aspect of Cambodian family structure – the closeness of grandparents with their grandchildren. In this beautifully written and illustrated story, Daya enjoys hearing her grandmother’s stories of the Cambodian countryside, describing the smell of hibiscus, the taste of mango, the fireflies and more. Daya does an incredibly sweet and sensitive job of cheering her grandmother despite the deaths of many family members, and thus showing that she has internalized all the best of their native culture.
This book features a tough and plucky female protagonist who possesses the rare talent of dragon keeping. She cares for a domesticated herd of small dragons, until one day she finds a large dragon egg and takes it. This eventually leads her face-to-face confrontation with a large, fire-breathing dragon who is dying, and who makes her promise to take the egg to the fabled Hatching Grounds. Thus begins a long, at times perilous, journey. Ultimately, they prove that humans and dragons can peacefully coexist and can even become friends.
Malala Yousafzai, the daughter of an educator, spoke out for her right to educationafter the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan. Returning home on herschool bus in 2012, Malala was shot in the head by the Taliban, and was not expected to survive–her recovery was miraculous.Malala has taken her message of education and peace to a worldwide audience. She is the youngest person to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.This remarkable story of a family willing to stand up to global terrorismand champion the rights of girls’ education, shows the deep love of a familyfor a daughter in a society that values sons.
A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park, for grades 4-6.
This thought-provoking book based on recent African events, is the story of two young people who are forced by war and primitive conditions to live with terrible hardships. Salva, who belongs to the Dinka Tribe in the Sudan, is forced to flee into the bush when a vicious rebel army attacks his school. He joins other refugees trying to reach Ethiopia and the safety of a refugee camp. Nya, a young girl of the rival Neur tribe must walk half a day to get water from a muddy pond for her family. An American family adopts Salva, and he plans to free Nya from her hard life. A beautiful, inspiring story that also brings awareness of the need for clean water.
This is a touching story of courage, conviction of principles and strength that documents the beginning of the civil rights movement in Montgomery, Alabama in the 1950s. It is a true story about how Claudette, at the age of fifteen, bravely refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white person. That led to her arrest, unjust trial, and jail, leaving the credit for the protest to go to Rosa Parks later that year because she was an older and more respected “face” to put on the civil rights movement. The book showcases the beginning of the influence of Dr. Martin Luther King.
The Good Braider
by Terry Farish for grades 8 and up.
Viola lives with her mother and grandmother in Juba, Sudan, where life is filled with war, fear, poverty, and soldiers who do not protect, but torture the people. In moving, “open” verse, Viola weaves her story of difficult escape from Sudan to a new life in Portland, Maine. The book contains clear, but not graphic, descriptions of Viola’s rape, soldiers murdering innocent people, and Viola’s punishment by her mother for disobeying as they adjust to American ways. The story highlights the striking differences between cultures and the many things that are universal.