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Summer Reading for Kids and YA

July 15, 2008

This is the text of the Summer Reading Round-Up, which appeared in the Star-Ledger on June 29th.

Summer reading for kids

Sunday, June 29, 2008 

Word count: 800

Rude bunnies, cats with a film deal, a pig in a classroom. No doubt about it, the selection of children’s books is a little wild these days.

For independent readers and teens, there’s also plenty of proof that coming of age is a wilderness all its own — although stories of a disappearing cousin or a mother running for president could make your family life look tame by comparison. Following is just a small selection of what’s new to read — alone or aloud.


Wendy Ulmer’s “A Isn’t For Fox: An Isn’t Alphabet” (Sleeping Bear Press, $16.95), illustrated by Laura Knorr, offers a whimsical poem, teaching the alphabet by describing what each letter isn’t for. Lively animals balance um brellas, wear striped socks, have pillow fights and cavort through pages of read-aloud fun for ages 4 and up.

Anna Dewdney has written and charmingly illustrated “No bunny’s Perfect” (Viking, 32 pp., $12.99), a sweet poem about good and bad bunny behavior, perfect for reading aloud to young children and preschoolers just learning to share their toys, show kindness to others and not spit out their carrots.

Written by Laura Bush and her daughter, Jenna, with bright, playful illustrations by Denise Brunkus, “Read All About It” (HarperCollins Children’s Books, $17.99) turns the First Lady’s commitment to literacy into a fun, imaginative romp, great for a young child’s story time. Tyrone thinks reading is boring, until the characters in his classroom’s books leap from the pages and come to life.

Each of the cats in Jessie Lynch Frees’ “Jackie Winquackey and Her 43 Cats Go to Holly wood” (Tisbit, 32 pp., $14.99), il lustrated by Jaroslav Gebr, seems to have its own mischie vous personality, vibrantly painted and ready to leap from the page. When Jackie takes all 43 cats to Hollywood to be in a movie, they create giddy chaos wherever they turn. Fun for 5 and up.

Lovers of fairy tales ages 4 and up will adore Kate Bernheimer’s lyrically written “The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum” (Schwartz & Wade, 40 pp., $16.99), dreamily illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli. This modern fairy tale will enchant children and their parents, although very young children may find the surreal illustrations a little spooky.


Set in Central Park, Peter Howe’s “Waggit’s Tale” (Harper Collins, 288 pp., $16.99) is a richly imagined story of a puppy, aban doned by his owner, who must learn to trust the misfit band of feral dogs who adopt him. The adventures of Waggit, who also learns bravery, independence and confidence, will delight readers 10 and up, and younger children are likely to enjoy it read aloud.

Baseball fans 10 and up will love Mike Lupica’s “The Big Field” (Philomel, 288 pp., $17.99). Fourteen-year-old Keith “Hutch” Hutchinson, second-baseman for the summer team in Palm Beach, wishes he could play shortstop, as his dad did, or as his teammate Darryl Williams, who acts like he’s so good at baseball that it bores him. Mostly, he wishes his team could make it to the championships. And that his hardworking dad would come to games.

All Ana Shen wants after 8th-grade graduation is to have everyone in her family get along — her African-American mother and grandparents, and her strict, traditional Chinese-American father and grandparents. But in Sherri L. Smith’s “Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet” (Delacorte, 166 pp., $15.99), cultures and tempers are clashing in the kitchen. Smith presents multicultural conflicts and complex family relationships with a deft touch.

The title of Donna Gephart’s smart, funny novel, “As If Being 12 3/4 Isn’t Bad Enough, My Mother is Running for President” (Delacorte, 240 pp., $15.99), says it all. Vanessa Rothrock has enough trouble fitting in when her Mom is the governor of Florida; but once the presidential campaign begins, Vanessa feels she can’t even talk to her mother without an appointment with the press secretary. Gephart does a beautiful job blending a tense political race with Vanessa’s junior high dramas.


What happens when your cousin gets in a pod on the London Eye ferris wheel, but doesn’t get out? “The London Eye Mystery” (Square Fish, 322 pp., $15.99) by Siobhan Dowd is an engrossing mystery. When his cousin vanishes, quirky and literal-minded Ted teams up with his older sis ter Kat to try to find him.

You might think an international pop star is living every teenage girl’s fantasy. But Kris ten Harmel’s debut YA novel, “When You Wish” (Delacorte, 273 pp., $15.99), tells Star Beck’s story: A domineering mother won’t let her eat anything but salad, and her first kiss was a staged publicity stunt! Can she escape to live her fantasy of a normal teenage life?

In “Guinevere’s Gift” (Knopf, 336 pp., $15.99), Nancy McKenzie introduces King Arthur’s future wife as a fearless, outspoken 13-year-old at the center of a mysterious prophecy. The start of a four-volume series will leave readers eager for the next installment and curious about Arthurian legend.


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