Transitional Readers

Independent Readers

Young Adolescents

Summertime . . . and the Reading Is Easy

    by Pamela Little

Since my premise is that children should choose the books that best suit them for their summer reading (see The Wire), I thought one way to recommend books that many children can have fun reading would be to tell you about the ones that most delighted me during my childhood summers. Many of these are standalone books, but I'm also recommending series such as the Chronicles of Narnia and the Little House books. The nice thing about series is that children can begin with one or two books during the summer and continue to enjoy more stories about the same characters throughout the school year.

Transitional Readers

Freckle Juice by Judy Blume
Nicky's freckles cover his face, his ears, and the entire back of his neck. Andrew would do almost anything to have freckles like Nicky's, because then his mother would never know if his neck was dirty. Sharon takes advantage of Andrew's desire by giving him a concoction she calls "Freckle Juice." This is a delightful novel about desperately wanting something you can't have.

Charlotte's Web by E. B. White
Wilbur, a lovable pig, lives in a barn with a spider named Charlotte. Wilbur is destined for the butcher's block, but Charlotte's clever plan—with the help of Templeton the rat—saves Wilbur's life. Themes of friendship and love make this book both funny and sad.

All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
Taylor presents a historically accurate look at life on New York's Lower East Side prior to World War I, based on the experiences of her own family. Though they are not wealthy, the five sisters and their parents share full lives, enjoying visits to the local library, a trip to Coney Island, and a Fourth of July celebration complete with fireworks. As a child, I was fascinated by the descriptions of Jewish holidays such as Purim. The family's story continues in More All-of-a-Kind Family, All-of-a-Kind Family Downtown, All-of-a-Kind Family Uptown, and Ella of All-of-a-Kind Family.

Independent Readers

The Borrowers by Mary Norton
The Borrowers are a family of tiny people whose home under the floorboards of Great-Aunt Sophy's country house in England is furnished with small items they "borrow" from the "human beans." When a boy visits Great-Aunt Sophy, the Borrowers' daughter commits the unforgivable sin of allowing herself to be seen. A unique friendship develops.

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Little House series tells the story of the great hardships involved in settling the American Midwest and of the support provided by a warm and loving family. The Ingalls family made the most of the many setbacks they experienced and found real joy in their small victories. The honesty and detail of the books makes them interesting historical and social documents of the period. They're also really entertaining.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
Enter C. S. Lewis' magical world of Narnia, where enchanted creatures live and fierce battles are fought between good and evil. Each of the seven books of the Chronicles of Narnia stands alone, but together they tell the entire history of a fantastic world that becomes as real as our own. I read this series when I was ten years old, starting with the first book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Almost four decades later, I am reading it again with my eldest son, starting with the book that tells of the very beginning of Narnia, The Magician's Nephew.

House of Dies Drear and The Mystery of Drear House by Virginia Hamilton
Tales have been told of fabulous wealth hidden somewhere within the walls of Drear House. Thomas Small, whose family moves there at the beginning of the first book, begins to learn many of the house's secrets, as well as those of the people whose lives are inextricably bound to the house. The sequel provides an awesome conclusion. Macky and Thomas still are having the same old conflicts. Both books will keep readers guessing from beginning to end.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Three interesting women—Mrs. Which, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Who—help Meg Murry, her extraordinary little brother Charles Wallace, and her new friend Calvin in the search for her father, who disappeared years ago. Their travels take them around the universe, by way of time travel, to a unique planet controlled by the sinister IT. Meg comes to understand that being different has advantages as well as the all-too-obvious disadvantages.

Young Adolescents

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
A young girl tries to keep her idealism alive and to rise above the hardships of tenement life and grinding poverty in turn-of-the-century Brooklyn. Francie adores her father, a charming and loving man, but his drinking and irresponsible dreaming do nothing to assuage the family's plight. This is a classic coming-of-age story.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
An insightful study of society, the fears of the Cold War, and the workings of censorship, Bradbury's book presents us with an oppressive future in which reading is considered criminal conduct. The job of firemen is to burn books, while the population is sedated by wall-to-wall interactive television and drugs. But then one fireman begins to read the books he is supposed to burn--and then he begins to think for himself, which is not allowed.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is narrated by young Jean Louise Finch, better known as Scout. Scout's father, a respected lawyer in the Finchs' hometown in Alabama, defends a black man who is unjustly accused. The story reflects the details of small-town life in the South during the Depression. In the context of examining the painful and unjust consequences of ignorance, prejudice, and hate, it exemplifies the values of courage, honor, and decency.

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