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Thursday, February 15, 2024

Hey Kids! Read These Books on Your Very. Long. Summer

So your normal, too-short summer vacation has suddenly become a hyper-extended, undifferentiated snake-dragon thing. You have a lot of time to read. (And play Minecraft yes, but also to read.)

Closed stores are no excuse, either! Apps like Libby and Overdrive let you borrow almost anything, including some of the newest books and audiobooks, and have them sent straight to your e-reader or cell phone. Barnes and Noble is offering curbside pickup for online orders, and some independent bookstores are making deliveries to your doorstep. You can get a Kindle.

If you don’t have a lot of books on hand, or easy access to devices, San Francisco children’s librarian Elizabeth Perez recommends making use of Little Free Libraries, small collections of free books at more than 100,000 locations worldwide (you can sanitize the cover if you’re worried about germs), or rereading older books with an eye toward creativity, changing parts of the story and telling your own version. Or set up a safety-conscious series of swaps with your friends. Aspiring writers, now’s your time to enter the exhilarating world of fan fiction.

Whether you miss your friends, are annoyed with your brother, or feel like escaping to a far-off world, we’ve got the perfect suggestions for you—for this crazy time in particular, and also for when the world finally returns to normal.

Classics to (Re) DiscoverYoung Ones (Ages 3-7):

The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

After a pilot crash lands in the middle of the desert, he is greeted by a young boy who tells him he’s the prince of an entire planet. After the pilot passes a simple test, the boy tells him the story of his adventures through the universe.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Misbehaving Max is sent to bed early without anything to eat. As he falls asleep, his bed turns into a raft that transports him to a faraway jungle populated by giant, strange creatures.

Middle Grades (Ages 8-12):

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Set in the fictional world of Middle Earth, where elves, dwarves and orcs are as common as humans, a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins is thrust into an adventure that will change his life.

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. le Guin

The world that Ged inhabits is an archipelago, comprising hundreds of islands, warring tribes and homegrown magic. The boy’s aunt believes he has what it takes to one day be a great wizard, but when a mage takes him under his wing, he quickly surpasses his mentor and heads out on his own.


The Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

A young sorceress named Zélie Adebola loses her mother and her way of life the night a ruthless king decides to eradicate magic from their land. Zélie allies herself with a rogue princess in an effort to avenge her mother and restore magic to the world.

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

In an alternate version of Oxford, England, a girl named Lyra Belaqua believes her parents were killed and the only world she’ll ever know is Jordan College, where she lives under the supervision of the faculty, occasionally visited by her powerful Uncle Asriel. Then children begin to disappear, and Lyra is pulled into events far beyond her understanding.

If You Are Missing Your FriendsYoung Ones (Ages 3-7):

You Hold Me Up by Monique Gray Smith

Written in both English and Plains Cree, this picture book celebrates the connections we make with our friends, family, and wider community.

Middle Grades (Ages 8-12):

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson

Ms. Bixby is the teacher that makes coming to school feel worthwhile, especially for three of her students: Topher, Brand and Steve. So when she announces she’ll have to leave them partway through the year to deal with a serious illness, these three students decide to put into words just how much she means to each of them.


Quarantine: A Love Story by Katie Cicatelli-Kuc

Oliver and Flora are two strangers who happen to be spending their spring break in the Dominican Republic, the former on a volunteer trip and the latter visiting her dad and new stepmom. Both want desperately to go home to NYC, but are stopped short when their flight is diverted to Miami because of a sick passenger. They end up in quarantine for 30 days, together.

If your siblings are driving you crazyYoung Ones (Ages 3-7):

The Pain and the Great One by Judy Blume

A brother and sister each try to make the case why the other one is the worst. The cat sleeps on “The Pain’s” bed even though “The Great One” feeds it. And everyone likes “The Great One” just because she can use the can opener and play actual songs on the piano.

Middle Grades (Ages 8-12):

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Three sisters travel to Oakland, California, to visit their estranged mother in the summer of 1968, and find a woman entirely different than who they imagined her to be. Delphine, 11, and her two younger sisters try to reconnect with their mother, a poet and writer, while also attending a Black Panther summer camp.


I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson

Twins Jude and Noah are pretty different, but still inseparable, until something happens to drive them apart. Both tell their own side of the story, and their eventual reconciliation, across a three year gulf of time.

If you want to explore a new world (or this one)Young Ones (Ages 3-7):

Journey by Aaron Becker

A wordless illustrated story that begins with a young girl and a red crayon. With her crayon, she draws a door on the wall of her bedroom which she walks through into vast new worlds. Parents or kids can help make up the story along the way.

Middle Grades (Ages 8-12):

Atlas Obscura: Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid

There’s no end of incredible middle grade fantasy and science fiction, but for a journey a little more down to earth, turn to this kids guide from Atlas Obscura, an encyclopedia of 100 quirky locations in 47 different countries. Full color illustrations take you from an abandoned dragon water slide in Vietnam to the sunken city of Heracleion along the Egyptian coastline.


Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Lazlo is an orphan and junior librarian who is intensely curious about the memory of a lost, mythical city. No one he knows remembers what the city’s name is, and most deny its existence, but Lazlo devotes himself to finding evidence that the city is real. Soon events conspire to launch him on a journey halfway across the world.

If you’re feeling on edgeYoung Ones (Ages 3-7):

Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival

Ruby is happiest when she’s outside exploring, but one day she happens across a “worry,” a yellow dot with thick furrowed brows that follows her everywhere and continues to grow larger, taking over most of the space in her life. At the park one day, she finds a young boy with a “worry” just like her, and together they figure out how to help their worries shrink away.

Middle Grades (Ages 8-12):

As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds

Two brothers leave their Brooklyn home to spend the summer with their grandparents in rural Virginia. Genie, 11, is curious about everything, and a bit anxious as a result, and admires his older brother Ernie, 13, who he sees as cool and collected. Their grandfather is blind and a little strange, and as Genie gets to know him and uncovers his secrets, he finds bravery to be more substantial than a lack of fear.


Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Aza Holmes has a mind dominated by worry, but her best friend Daisy is altogether different. When Daisy learns about a fugitive billionaire's disappearance, she wants Aza to help her piece together the details, but Aza struggles to keep it together as the story unfolds.

If you want to understand what’s going onYoung Ones (Ages 3-7):

Coronavirus: A Book for Children by Elizabeth Jenner, Kate Wilson, and Nia Roberts

Published digitally and completely free, this comprehensive guide to coronavirus explains how the virus works and why it’s changed so much about our daily lives. The book talks about the science behind infectious disease, how to tolerate your time indoors and what kids can expect to happen next.

Middle Grades (Ages 8-12):

Like the Willow Tree: The Diary of Lydia Amelia Pierce, Portland, Maine, 1918 by Lois Lowry

From the author of The Giver, this book is the fictionalized diary of a young girl who is orphaned by the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. After her parents succumb to the flu, Lydia and her younger brother Daniel are sent to live with their uncle in Maine, and struggle to fit into this new community.


Chasing Secrets by Gennifer Choldenko

Set in San Francisco in 1900, Lizzie Kennedy’s father is a physician who she often joins on house calls. But a mysterious plague is taking hold in the center of the city, and after a quarantine is enforced an angry mob tries to burn down establishments in Chinatown. Lizzie’s family employs a Chinese cook, and his son Noah makes Lizzie question everything she knows about her city. Together, they investigate what’s really happening.

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