While picture books are my bread and butter, all families should be reading aloud longer chapter books with their children. With summer peeking over the horizon now, it's a good time to plan out your summer read-aloud(s). Reading as a family, morning, noon or at night, is an excellent way to stay connected with all the activities of a freewheeling summer. Audio books make for a superb option as you are road tripping. And certain books are just perfect for this warm season in particular... here are my choices for optimal summer reading that the whole family will enjoy:
It's a classic for a reason. The four siblings are slightly more grounded in this world than the Narnia children, but the similarities are still there. I was unsure that my children would really get into the fairly descriptive, not-exactly-cliff-hangar-chapters, but they ate it up! Sailing, adventure, independent children soaking up summertime bliss. Something about Ransome's style just weaves enough magic into the story to make a solid impression on children aged 7-13 in this house! The only unfortunate thing is that while this book makes its way on lots of "best of" lists, not a lot of people make efforts to continue the series; the books are a bit lengthy... but so worth it. We are knee deep into the sequel: Swallowdale in our family and loving every bit of it.
Don't be mislead by the sweet cover. While it's tempting to want to curl up with your 5 year old daughter with this for a cute innocent adventure (try Milly-Molly-Mandy for that), the book is admittedly best suited for slightly older children... maybe age 10 or so. Feuding and intrigue and happy endings... all taking place in the heat of the south. Grab some iced tea and enjoy!
So, it sounds like a Roald Dahl comedy: boy finds a bunch of monkeys who escaped from a circus train. A large reward goes to whomever can return them to the owner. But the book isn't a funny book by design. It's full of adventure and suspense and for the sake of all that is good, do NOT get the paperback version which has a photograph of the boy on the cover. Photograph covers on books constitute a cardinal sin in my opinion (more on cardinal publishing sins to come)—no room is left for a child to form his own personal impression in their own minds; photograph covers ruin imaginations! Anyway, it's a great book!
We love Homer Price in this family! He is just the bee's knees if you asked my boys and easy, independent chapters of his adventures back in the 'good ol' days' will be perfect for lazy summer reading... don't forget the sequel! Light, enjoyable reading at its finest.
Boys only please (okay, I would've read and loved them as a tomboy 'tween but your mileage may vary). These guys have a clubhouse, impressive IQs and adventures galore that would fill your child's brain with plain old good stuff during summertime.
Summertime is E.B. White time! This is the time to bust out the glorious, early chapter books to your 5 and 6+ year olds. Be it Charlotte's Web or Stuart Little or The Trumpet of the Swan... all are so perfectly suited to long, slow summer days. I re-read Stuart Little recently with my children and was reminded again at how unique White is in the children's literature world: the ending is moving and poignant... but not your typical super-happy, loose ends tied up conclusion. Same with Charlotte's Web now that I think about it. I remember feeling sad at the dear little spiders floating away to find their place in the world... (even though I can only WISH that spiders in my house would float away...)
Oh my! Oh my! Have you seen the "Puffin in Bloom" collection yet?! The covers are stunning! Yeah, yeah, Heidi is fantastic summertime reading (watch out for the photograph covered editions, blech!). What could be greater than the Alps and a wild child and new friendships?! But seriously, check out this new cover by artist Anna Bond. And there's a whole set of them coming soon! What a stunning gift even an individual title would make here. Take a look at the individual covers here.
Often called "The boy's Little House series", Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers is great for boys and girls in my opinion. And this title is where it all starts. And let me tell you: these stories are so incredibly satisfying for both parent and child. There is just enough of a hat tip to adult sensibilities to make these books fantastic for everyone. I bought it on audio and we listened to it on our way to a camping trip last year. So, so, so good. A must have for anyone who loves the value of hard work, simple humor, and excellent storytelling.
But of course!
Back in print! Back in print! I'm so excited to find The Happy Hollisters revived in popularity. What is so lovely about this family of five children who get mixed up into lots of little mysteries and adventures is that they are always positive and fun. I devoured almost the entire series of these books when I was about 10 or so and longed for more titles. My cousin and I used to spend hours reading together, pretending we were just reading them to make fun of the funny, vintage language some kids used ("Gee whillakers!") but that's because we thought we were too cool to actually enjoy the fun in these books. Thankfully, my children don't think they are too cool for these books and they are eating up every copy I manage to acquire. They are all great reading, don't need to be read consecutively, and some particularly summery titles are The Happy Hollisters on a River Trip and The Happy Hollisters at Sea Gull Beach...
* * * The Honorable Mention "Next 10"or "After Further Thought" Additions to this list. * * *