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Suggested Summer Reading
by Cale Atkinson Year Published: 2021
Kirkus Reviews starred (December 15, 2020)The human/supernatural duo introduced in Atkinson’s picture book Sir Simon (2018) solves a canine-centered mystery in this graphic-novel series opener. Ghost Simon is busy typing a detective story when bored human child Chester interrupts. Grandma’s napping, and Chester’s going to “IMPLODE from boredom.” Irritated, Simon admonishes Chester to find something to do, which leads to the unearthing of Grandma’s old theater paraphernalia. When Chester discovers a detective costume, Simon is enamored (his eyes turn into hearts at the sight of the deerstalker) and suggests they become real detectives, “taking names, solving cases.” When flyers don’t produce any clients, the pair happily goes looking; when they find a strange dog in their home, the game is afoot! How did the adorable pooch make its way into their house? Whose dog is it? The sleuthing duo is on the case (though Simon may be taking things more seriously—too seriously?—than strictly necessary...) with lots of laughs along the way. The mystery dog is not the only adorable creature in this book: Both traditionally white and amorphous ghost Simon and brown-skinned boy Chester are equally charming. Atkinson easily shifts format with panels that are both colorful and clear. With simple and engaging text and a straightforward plot that moves right along, this story is a winner for new readers and aspiring gumshoes alike. Readers will look forward to seeing more of this entertaining detective duo in the future. It’s no mystery—all clues point to fun! (Graphic mystery. 6-9)
by Kate DiCamillo Year Published: 2003
Booklist starred (July 2003 (Vol. 99, No. 21))Gr. 3-6. Forgiveness, light, love, and soup. These essential ingredients combine into a tale that is as soul stirring as it is delicious. Despereaux, a tiny mouse with huge ears, is the bane of his family's existence. He has fallen in love with the young princess who lives in the castle where he resides and, having read of knights and their ladies, vows to "honor her."But his unmouselike behavior gets him banished to the dungeon, where a swarm of rats kill whoever falls into their clutches. Another story strand revolves around Miggery, traded into service by her father, who got a tablecloth in return. Mig's desire to be a princess, a rat's yen for soup (a food banished from the kingdom after a rat fell in a bowl and killed the queen), and Despereaux's quest to save his princess after she is kidnapped climax in a classic fairy tale, rich and satisfying. Part of the charm comes from DiCamillo's deceptively simple style and short chapters in which the author addresses the reader: "Do you think rats do not have hearts? Wrong. All living things have a heart."And as with the best stories, there are important messages tucked in here and there, so subtly that children who are carried away by the words won't realize they have been uplifted until much later. Ering's soft pencil illustrations reflect the story's charm.
by Angela Dominguez Year Published: 2021
Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2020)Fourth grade is not for the faint of heart. In Book 3 of the Stella Díaz series, Dominguez’s Ramona Quimby–esque heroine of Salvadoran and Mexican descent finds herself a tad overextended as she joins an art club, attempts to fulfill her presidential duties at the helm of the ocean-saving Sea Musketeers, and takes swim lessons with best friend Jenny. As if that weren’t enough, her mom is spending a suspicious amount of time with new neighbor Diego, and Stella is not sure how she feels about her mom having a maybe-boyfriend. Stella’s worry and exhaustion are palpable, but her enthusiasm for all of her hobbies is endearingly earnest. Middle-grade readers will get a taste of what’s to come when Stella and her older brother, Nick, compare extracurriculars as he begins to imagine applying to college. As with previous volumes, occasional Spanish words are presented in italics (a decision explained in the author’s note); they are typically accompanied by context clues or in-text translations, narrator Stella confiding to readers that she needs to work on her Spanish. Her overall vocabulary is robust, however, and she easily weaves in words such as guffaw, devious, and deduction that bolster her go-getter characterization. The Chicago setting and its vigorous Latinx community are well realized. The novel can easily be enjoyed without familiarity with previous books, and Dominguez’s black-and-white illustrations give transitioning readers’ eyes places to rest. The lovable Díaz family has yet to disappoint. (Fiction. 7-10)
by Kelly J. Baptist Year Published: 2021
Booklist starred (August 2020 (Vol. 116, No. 22))Grades 4-7. Isaiah Dunn needs a hustle like his best friend Sneaky’s candy business, something to get him, his mom, and his little sister out of the smoky motel where they’ve been living. Things have been tough since his dad died, and his mom has been drowning her sorrow in the bottle instead of working. He finds refuge in an old notebook where his dad had written a story casting Isaiah as a superhero. If only he was. Instead, his own words—the ones that used to flow into poems—are locked in his head, and his frustration over the current state of his life is bubbling over as aggression and getting him in trouble at school. Debut author Baptist has turned her short story from Ellen Oh’s Flying Lessons & Other Stories (2017) into an exceptional #OwnVoices novel. Isaiah’s experiences as a 10-year-old Black child enrich the narrative, giving it an authenticity that will resonate with or stir empathy in readers. His struggles with grief and poverty are made surmountable by the strong, caring community around him. A school counselor, a librarian, former neighbors, the barber for whom Isaiah sweeps floors, and Isaiah’s friends all rally around him in a realistic and heartening show of support that helps him reclaim his voice and become the hero his family needs. An uplifting, affirming story for every collection.
by Louis Sachar Year Published: 1998
Booklist (Vol. 94, No. 19/20 (June 1, 1998))Gr. 6-9. Middle-schooler Stanley Yelnats is only the latest in a long line of Yelnats to encounter bad luck, but Stanley's serving of the family curse is a doozie. Wrongfully convicted of stealing a baseball star's sneakers, Stanley is sentenced to six months in a juvenile-detention center, Camp Green Lake. "There is no lake at Camp Green Lake," where Stanley and his fellow campers (imagine the cast from your favorite prison movie, kid version) must dig one five-by-five hole in the dry lake bed every day, ostensibly building character but actually aiding the sicko warden in her search for buried treasure. Sachar's novel mixes comedy, hard-hitting realistic drama, and outrageous fable in a combination that is, at best, unsettling. The comic elements, especially the banter between the boys (part scared teens, part Cool Hand Luke wanna-bes) work well, and the adventure story surrounding Stanley's rescue of his black friend Zero, who attempts to escape, provides both high drama and moving human emotion. But the ending, in which realism gives way to fable, while undeniably clever, seems to belong in another book entirely, dulling the impact of all that has gone before. These mismatched parts don't add up to a coherent whole, but they do deliver a fair share of entertaining and sometimes compelling moments.
by Yamile Saied Mendez Year Published: 2021
Kirkus Reviews (October 15, 2020)Two sets of sisters battle to be the best pranksters. The López sisters, 12-year-old Winnie and 11-year-old Ingrid, have lived in the White House for the past eight years. As daughters of the first Latinx president, they’ve carried the burden of being perfect role models as well as they could despite Winnie’s impulsivity and Ingrid’s joker side. However, with only seven weeks left in their father’s presidency and the new first family staying as guests at the White House, the López sisters wholly embrace the tradition of pranking the incoming administration. With 12-year-old identical twins Zora and Skylar Williams moving in as the daughters of the first Black woman president, there are plenty of opportunities to perform elaborate jokes. The Williams twins retaliate with gusto, and soon the pranks escalate, causing trouble in the White House, endangering historical artifacts and First Ferret Lafayette, and leaving Secret Service agents scrambling to do their jobs. The girls must learn to restrain themselves before they do irreparable damage to their families’ images and their parents’ legacies. The story is told through chapters alternating among the four girls’ perspectives, giving a glimpse into their struggles to express their personal identities and the added pressures of being children of color in the public sphere. Readers who enjoy mischief will find this an amusing and instructive read in the art of pranking. Delightfully silly and enjoyable. (Fiction. 8-12)
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