In order to have the best summer ever, you’ll need all the essentials: sunscreen, ice cream truck money, and a stack of books. We’ve rounded up this summer’s must-read children’s books, perfect for long car rides, relaxing picnics at the park, rainy afternoons inside, and lazy days at the beach. We’ve got enough picture books and middle grade novels to ensure that your summertime is storytime ready.
Drawn Together by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat
A young boy and his grandfather bond and communicate through art in this dazzling picture book. The boy isn’t looking forward to spending the day with his Thai-speaking grandfather when he’s first dropped off by his mother. Believing that they have nothing in common, the boy turns to his sketchbook and starts to draw a wizard. He’s stunned when his grandfather pulls up a chair alongside him and begins to draw as well. Together they create a vibrant and thrilling “world beyond words.”
On shelves: June 5
Dino enthusiasts will cackle over this hilarious tale of a T. rex named Penelope who just can’t stop gobbling up her human classmates. Penelope is struggling to fit in at school. After she ate
one two a few of her classmates (and spit them back out unharmed!), she was disciplined by her teacher. Understandably, her fellow students are reluctant to get chummy with a kid-eating dinosaur. When she receives her just desserts from a very surprising source, Penelope realizes that she has to turn things around if she hopes to make friends. Prepare for lots of giggles when sharing this delightful tale with a young reader.
On shelves: June 19
Being the new kid at school is never easy; it’s particularly hard when you’re a giraffe. Geraldine’s outgoing nature wilts when she transfers to a human school where she’s the only giraffe. Her classmates call her “That Giraffe Girl” and her long neck makes it impossible to join in on their games of hide-and-seek. This former extrovert finds herself becoming shy and wanting to hide—no easy task for a giraffe, but Geraldine contorts her neck better than a Cirque du Soleil performer. Things start to turn around when she meets Cassie, a human girl who also doesn’t feel like she belongs. Together, the girls build up each other’s confidence and learn to celebrate the things that make them unique. This is a warm, funny, and big-hearted (and long-necked) tale that will remind readers it’s okay to be different. In fact, it can be pretty great.
On shelves: June 26
The Princess and the Pit Stop by Tom Angleberger, illustrated by Dan Santat
Readers, buckle in and start your engines. You’re in for a wild ride. The Princess at the heart of this exhilarating tale is nearing the end of a car race against fairy tale favorites such as Peter Rabbit, Rumpelstiltskin, and three different wicked witches. But with one lap to go, the Princess is in last place. Some might give up, but not this girl. Young readers will be cheering as the Princess skillfully overtakes other drivers, all while the golden-suited frog commentator narrates her race to the finish line. This is ideal storytime fun for readers who love princesses, competition, and Wreck It Ralph‘s Vanellope von Schweetz.
On shelves: July 10
You may need tissues for this one, readers. Brian Lies shares a tale of saying goodbye to a beloved pet and the healing journey that takes place after loss. Evan, a fox, does everything with his dog. Together these best friends garden, attend the local fair, and play games. When the dog passes away, Evan’s emotions overwhelm him and he destroys the garden they built together. Over time, a vine creeps into the yard and a massive pumpkin begins to grow in the garden. When the fair comes around again, Evan decides to bring the pumpkin. He reunites with old friends and, though he still misses his canine best friend, he finds happiness and hope once more. It’s a sensitive and beautiful tale about life, death, and growth—ideal for young readers who have experienced a loss of their own.
On shelves: August 14
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López
Jacqueline Woodson fans are in for a very special treat this summer. She’s returning with two new books (both on this list), and the first is a picture book created with illustrator Rafael López. The book begins with a young girl entering a classroom for the first time and realizing that no one is quite like her. When her teacher asks students to share stories from their summer vacations, the other kids eagerly offer up their vacation tales, while the girl stays quiet. She didn’t travel to far-off places like they did. She spent her summer at home caring for her sister and reading. But when she begins to open up, she discovers that she does have some things in common with her classmates and that the blend of similarities and differences is what makes friendships truly special. This is a stunning and poignant reminder that sharing and celebrating our differences brings us all closer together.
On shelves: August 28
A pile of cardboard turns into a fantasy world of unlimited potential for a group of sixteen creative neighborhood kids in Chad Sell’s graphic novel. Each kid dons a costume and new persona and soon their summer afternoons are filled with monsters, knights, robots, and epic battles of good versus evil. The kids’ escapades are action-packed and thrilling, but some of the book’s best moments come from its insightful looks into gender stereotypes, identity, family struggles, and more. Cardboard Kingdom is the culmination of a wildly imaginative team. Sell created, organized, and drew Cardboard Kingdom with writing from ten authors (Jay Fuller, David DeMeo, Katie Schenkel, Kris Moore, Manuel Betancourt, Molly Muldoon, Vid Alliger, Cloud Jacobs, Michael Cole, Barbara Perez Marquez). This is a can’t-miss summer adventure.
On shelves: June 5
Thirteen-year-old Melly is preparing for the best summer ever at a rock-and-roll camp with her best friend Olivia, the bassist to her drummer. But faster than you can say one, two, three, four, things go downhill. First her parents announce their divorce, and then Olivia ditches her at camp. Without her BFF, Melly goes solo and slowly begins to find her own rhythm. Along the way she meets Adeline, a guitarist who makes her heart pound out one sick beat. Melly’s emotional journey is heartfelt and relatable, making her a character that readers will cheer for every step of the way.
On shelves: June 26
Middle grade readers who like their fantasies on the eerie side will devour this tale about a young boy trapped in a witch’s apartment. At school, Alex’s love of all things horror sets him apart from his classmates, and that obsession may be the only thing that saves him when he’s kidnapped by the witch Natacha. She demands that he tell her one scary story a night… or else. As Alex begins to run out of material (coming face to face with every author’s worst nightmare: writer’s block), he teams up with Yasmin, another captive, to stop the witch and escape. J. A. White, beloved for his Thickety series, delivers a spine-tingling new adventure that will keep readers glued to the page.
On shelves: July 24
Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, illustrated by Giovanni Rigano
Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin, and Giovanni Rigano (the team behind the Artemis Fowl graphic novels) collaborated on this moving and heartbreaking graphic novel. It tells the story of a Ghanaian refugee named Ebo who is traveling to Europe to find his siblings Sisi and Kwame. The book opens with Ebo and Kwame drifting on a raft in the middle of the ocean and then flashes back to reveal how they wound up there, taking readers across the Sahara desert and to the streets of Tripoli. Ebo’s story is powerful and necessary, and will encourage readers to help refugees in whatever ways they can.
On shelves: August 7
If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, you don’t want to call the Inspectres. Instead, call their daughter, Cassidy. While her parents are television ghost hunters, Cassidy is a true In-betweener, a person who can see ghosts. In fact, her best friend is a ghost named Jacob. When Cassidy travels to Edinburgh for her parents’ television show, she encounters more spirits than she ever has before. Some are friendly, some are not, and one appears to be downright evil. But Cassidy ain’t afraid of no ghost, and she’s prepared to confront the spirit haunting the city. We’re huge fans of Victoria Schwab’s adult fantasy series here at Bookish, making this a title we cannot wait to add to our shelves.
On shelves: August 28
Readers, the wait is finally over. Jacqueline Woodson’s latest middle grade novel is here. In Harbor Me, Woodson, the 2018-2019 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, introduces readers to six students who are required to meet every Friday afternoon. They’re left without adult supervision and told to talk to each other. The group quickly dubs the room ARTT (a room to talk) and transforms it into a safe and welcoming space for them to each open up about the problems in their lives and the issues on their minds—a parent’s deportation, bullying, a father’s prison sentence, racial profiling. In a starred review Publishers Weekly said “Showing how America’s political and social issues affect children on a daily basis, this novel will leave an indelible mark on readers’ minds.” Those who adored Woodson’s last middle grade novel, the National Book Award-winning Brown Girl Dreaming, will not want to miss this one.
On shelves: August 28