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24 Books That Will Captivate Your Kids This Summer

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HuffPost blogger Devon Corneal is grateful that her kid is in school for another week. She's sorry that the rest of your children are already running wild and complaining that they're bored. If you're wondering what to do with your kids after they play all the games and build all the sandcastles, Devon's annual list of summer reads just might help. You'll find modern fairy tales, animals with attitudes, frightening secrets and even a visit to Pemberley in this year's crop. Happy vacation reading!

Picture Books/For Young Readers

  • Ninja Red Riding Hood by Corey Rosen Schwartz
    First it was the Three Little Pigs, now Red Riding Hood is studying martial arts! Thank goodness, because how else can she be expected to fend off the Big Bad Wolf? If you liked The Three Ninja Pigs, you're going to love this new take on an old classic. Get ready -- KIYA!
  • Counting has never been so much fun. Detailed pen and ink illustrations splashed with color will keep young readers engaged as they try to spot the adventurous dragon.
  • Troll Swap by Leigh Hodgkinson
    Tabitha Lumpit is loud and messy and doesn't fit in with her very neat and polite human family. Timothy Limpet is quiet and tidy and doesn't think he belongs with his scary, mucky troll family. So they do what any two kids would do -- they swap places. While it's fun at first, Tabitha and Timothy soon discover what we all know: there's no place like home.
  • Little Pear Tree by Jenny Bowers
    Sometimes I recommend books just because they're beautiful and visually interesting and feel good in my hands. This is one of those times. Little Pear Tree is a gorgeous, eye-catching explosion of color that invites little hands to explore the seasons with an array of images and words tucked behind cleverly designed flaps. Young readers will enjoy searching for the next hidden gem and grown-ups will want to do it right along with them.
  • It's good to know things about our presidents. Important things. Like whether or not a particular president got himself stuck in a bathtub. These are the sort of facts I wonder about when I'm sitting by the pool drinking lemonade. Maybe you do, too.
  • I know, I know. A book about school is the last thing your kids want to read on summer vacation. Get it for them anyway. On the first day of school, Mr. Fish feels out of place. He can't seem to do what the other fish do. He worries that he isn't smart, that he doesn't belong, that he'll never understand what's going on. That is, until he realizes he just needs to find the right class -- and when he does, everything starts making sense.
  • Rupert Can Dance by Jules Feiffer
    Rupert loves to dance, but like most cats, he is very independent. He likes to dance in secret, alone, in the middle of the night when no one can see him. He does not want to be told how to dance by anyone. So when Mandy wakes up one night and discovers him in mid-step, Rupert resolves never to dance again. Can Mandy figure out a way to get this fickle feline back in the groove? Wild and exuberant illustrations marry perfectly with this lovely story about doing our own thing.
  • Sparky! by Jenny Offill & Chris Appelhaus
    If you've ever seen a sloth, you know they're sort of fascinating in an "I can't believe it still hasn't moved. Is it dead? I wonder if it will ever wake up" kind of way. I'm not sure they make good pets, unless your mom says the only pet you can have is one that "doesn't need to be walked or bathed or fed." Then a sloth is perfect -- a little like this book. Chris Appelhaus's magical illustrations will come as no surprise to anyone who loves films like Fantastic Mr. Fox and Coraline, and Jenny Offill's story is wry and funny and charming and sentimental all at the same time.
  • This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris
    It's fine to be a moose, if that's what you want to be. But what if you want to be more? What if you want to be, say, an astronaut, but everyone around you wants you to be a plain old moose? I say follow your dream, although you might need help from a duck, a giraffe and an enterprising chipmunk.
  • Bound to win awards, Peter Sís' The Pilot and The Little Prince traces the life of author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, a boy who dreamed of flying. Saint-Exupéry realized his dream, becoming a noted aviator and world traveler, but is better known as the author of The Little Prince. Now you and your children have the chance to navigate the amazing life of Saint-Exupéry, replete with gorgeous and moving illustrations from a true master of his craft.
  • A Home for Mr. Emerson by Barbara Kerley
    I have a funny feeling that kids today don't know who Ralph Waldo Emerson is. Just a hunch. Barbara Kerley continues her tradition of making historical figures accessible, and dare I say it, interesting, with this homage to one of America's great writers and thinkers. Go ahead, sneak a little education into your kids' summer reading. I won't tell.
  • Emily's Blue Period by Cathleen Daly
    Part picture book, part chapter book, and all heart, Emily's Blue Period tackles a tough subject in a sensitive and lovely way. When Emily's parents separate, she finds life more complicated than she'd like. Things are mixed up and soggy and not quite the same. But Emily also loves art, and with a little help from Picasso, she learns that blue periods can give way to something beautiful.
  • I can't believe I've missed out on Bad Kitty until now. With a snarky author, a mischievous cat and plenty of mayhem, this series was made for me. The latest Bad Kitty: Drawn to Trouble has the added benefit of actually teaching kids something while entertaining them. It's a parent's dream. Keep your kids occupied this summer as they see who wins in the battle between Bad Kitty and her creator -- and learn how books are made in the process.
  • This book is a treasure trove of fascinating animal facts that breaks down complex scientific information into colorful and engaging data visualizations. Want to compare the weight of different animals' brains? Learn the names of hybrid animals? You can! This book has it all and is perfect for elementary school students.
  • Planes, Trains, and Automobiles Illustrated by Mike Lema
    Another visual feast, this six-and-a-half-foot fold-out book features 100 images of the things that have moved us, from bicycles to trains to cars and ships. I could spend a day poring over the designs, marveling at the ingenuity and craftsmanship that brought each of these vehicles to life. Hopefully your kids will too.
  • What's New? The Zoo! by Kathleen Krull
    Chances are, you'll make a trip to a zoo this summer. Before you go, let your kids read up on the history of zoos in this fabulously illustrated guide to over 4,000 years of zoos. From the King of Ur's lions to the Aztecs' palace of birds to buffalo in Grand Central Terminal, there's more to the modern zoo than you might suspect.
  • Middle Grade/YA
    The Vanishing Coin by Kate Egan (with magician Mike Lane)
    Fourth-grader Mike can't seem to do anything right -- he gets in trouble at school, can't sit still and spends a lot of time in the principal's office. Nothing goes his way until he discovers The White Rabbit. It's filled with junk, antiques and a secret. The White Rabbit's owner, Mr. Zerlin, seems to think Mike has what it takes to be a magician. Could Mike's luck finally turn around? Filled with magic tricks, this book will keep your budding magician occupied through the long, hot days of summer.
  • The third in the Hero's Guide series, Christopher Healy's latest foray into the Thirteen Kingdoms has more than the usual amount of wit, hijinks, princes, princesses and adventures. If your kids love slightly off-kilter fairy tales mashed together with daring rescues and death-defying quests, this series will enchant them.
  • I sat down with The Thickety and didn't get up until I'd finished. This book is marvelous -- a lushly woven story of witches and friendship and family and danger and fear and choices set on the edges of a dark and forbidding forest. It's reminiscent of The Giver and The Village, with a modern fairy-tale sensibility -- and readers will quickly relate to The Thickety's heroine Kara Westfall, a girl who suddenly discovers a witch's grimoire and must grapple with the magic it contains.
  • Lizzy Bennet's Diary by Marcia Williams
    Inspired by Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, this illustrated middle grade treasure brings Elizabeth Bennet alive for the younger crowd. Ever wonder what Lizzy's diary would look like? Now's your chance to find out. Austen diehards will be as charmed as girls meeting the Bennet clan for the first time.
  • House of Ivy & Sorrow by Natalie Whipple
    There are never enough books about young powerful witches trying to live an ordinary life in the "real" world, while battling evil in the magical one. Especially when the witch in question is trying to understand and defeat a Curse put on her family years ago -- a Curse that robbed her of her mother and is threatening to destroy everything she holds dear.
  • The 26-Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths
    Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton bring to life a magical multi-storied treehouse where anything can happen, and frequently does. Turn a cat into a canary? Done. Find a boy floating in the middle of the ocean in giant inflatable underpants? Easy. Play on a skate ramp with a crocodile-pit hazard? You got it. It's madness, mayhem, chaos, anarchy and insanity -- with a plot. Reluctant readers won't be able to put this sequel to The 13-Story Treehouse down. If your kids loved Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Captain Underpants, this should be next on their list.
  • The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
    Twin brothers Josh and Jordan Bell are basketball stars in the midst of a winning season. But don't be fooled, The Crossover is more than just a sports story. The Bell brothers are about to learn that life is about more than winning on the court. Kwame Alexander's novel in verse is a kinetic, vibrant and exhilarating exploration of brotherhood, basketball and our ability to rise above our losses.
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
    We Were Liars is a sophisticated, taut, unexpected and thought-provoking suspense novel set on a private island filled with beautiful and accomplished people, all of whom have secrets to hide. Idyllic summer friendships twist and morph into something dark and damaging with consequences no one could predict. Never have lies been so captivating or so necessary.

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