Best new books for children's summer reading

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJune 12, 2014 

BELLINGHAM - Summer reading programs are kicking off at Bellingham and Whatcom County libraries, and local librarians are encouraging children to use the summer break from classes to read and listen to stories that they didn't have time for during the school year.

There's even a summer reading program at Village Books, where youngsters can earn a $5 gift certificate.

"Studies show that children can lose up to two months of their reading achievement over the summer. The way to counteract that learning loss is through reading," said Bethany Hoglund, head of Children's Services at the Bellingham Public library.

"Children who read over the summer retain, and even gain, reading achievement," Hoglund said.

Reading needn't take a back seat during summer travel, Hoglund said.

"We also encourage children to listen to books, and to count that listening as reading. If your family is taking a road trip this summer, be sure to check out a book on CD from the library, or download an audio book from the website," she said.

Science is the focus of reading programs countywide. Check the library websites at wcls.org and bellinghampubliclibrary.org for information about the reading programs and free activities this summer, including events sponsored by Mindport, the Spark Museum and Whatcom Museum's Family Interactive Gallery.

YOUNG READERS: Hoglund offered several summer reading suggestions that include new books for the youngest lovers of literature, including picture books.

"'What Floats in a Moat' is a fun picture book in which a goat and a hen learn why objects sink or swim as they attempt to bring the Queen her buttermilk," Hoglund said. It's by Lynne Berry, illustrated by Matthew Cordell.

Hoglund also thinks parents and young readers will enjoy a shadowy tale called "The Black Rabbit," by Philippa Leathers, in which Rabbit is followed everywhere by a mysterious black rabbit; and "Rosie Revere, Engineer" by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts, about a girl who dreams of becoming a great engineer and conquers her fear of failure.

Finally, Hoglund suggests "The Lion and the Mouse," adapted from the Aesop's fable by Jenny Broom and illustrated by Nahta Noj.

"(It's a) retelling of the classic story with wonderfully bold, vivid illustrations. Each page contains a peek-through window," she said.

Beginning chapter books that Hoglund enjoys include "The Year of Billy Miller" by Kevin Henkes - a 2013 publication that received a prestigious Newbery Honor this year.

Hoglund said she also likes a classic adventure tale titled "My Father's Dragon" by Ruth Gannett. "This is a fantastic first read-aloud to younger children, ages 4-6 years," she said.

MIDDLE READERS: For Adam Shaffer, a reading guru at Irene Reither Elementary in the Meridian School District, summer is for adventure and "getting immersed" by binge-reading books in a series.

"There's a couple of series that are wrapping up right now or during the summer," said Shaffer, who's been a fourth-grade teacher for 11 years.

His top three series for this summer are:

-- The "League of Princes" series by Christopher Healy, with its third installment, "The Hero's Guide to Being an Outlaw." Shaffer calls it a "humorous fairy-tale mashup."

-- "The Shadow Throne," which is the third installment in Jennifer A. Nielsen's Ascendance Trilogy.

-- "Manhunt," which is a Silver Jaguar Society mystery by Kate Messner.

Shaffer is "highly anticipating" the July 8 publication of "Comics Squad Recess," a graphic anthology by well-known young adult writers, and the Aug. 26 publication of "Sisters," by cartoonist and graphic artist Raina Telgemeier, author of the popular webcomic "Smile (A Dental Drama)."

"It's super popular," Shaffer said of Telgemeier's work. "All the kids love it. I can't wait - I'm going to find an advance copy."

He doesn't frown on the literary power of comic books or graphic novels.

"I can put any comic in my classroom and every kid will read it. It's very intuitive and natural for them," Shaffer said.

"Summer is for fun. Comics often get shuffled to the side. The content can be just as complicated as anything else. It's definitely time for adults to recognize that there are great stories being written in comic form," he said. "Reading should always be fun and summer especially so."

TEENS: Lyndsey Runyan, one of the teen services librarians at Whatcom County Library System, is serving on the Young Adult Library Services Association's panel for the Best Fiction for Young Adults

"It's been really great," said Runyan, who's from Bellevue and recently worked at libraries in Vermont and New Hampshire. "I get to read everything new," something like 175 to 200 books this year, she said.

One of her current favorites is "Noggin," by John Corey Whaley, who won the 2012 Printz Award for "Where Things Come Back." It's about a 16 year-old boy with an incurable disease whose head is severed, stored cryogenically and reattached to someone else's body five years later. He wakes up to find a changed world.

"It looks like it's going to be weird science, but it's really heart-tugging," Runyan said.

She also likes the dystopian "The Winner's Curse" by Marie Rutkoski, "Steelheart," billed as the first book of The Reckoners series by Brandon Sanderson and "Grasshopper Jungle," a book that she said is "a little crass" but enjoyably funny - about 6-foot praying mantises that take over a small Iowa town.

One book that has captivated students around Whatcom County is John Green's 2012 novel "The Fault in Our Stars," which was made into a film that opened last weekend.

"It has not stopped being popular," Runyan said. Students also tell her they have been reading Lois Lowry's 1994 Newbery-winning "The Giver," a dark, dystopian tale that is due out on film this summer, starring Katie Holmes, Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges.

Robert Mittendorf is a Herald copy editor and page designer. Suggest your ideas for local family-friendly events, hikes or day trips at 360-756-2805 or at robert.mittendorf@bellinghamherald.com.

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