By Rebekah Benoit
Summer is a great time to get your kids reading! When you announce that there’s no WiFi at the campground and your kids react with shock and horror, follow up your announcement with some new books from the public library to ease the pain. This summer, there are some great new additions to popular series, as well as re-releases of old favourites sure to take parents back to their own childhoods.
For Little Ones
Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt
Summer can be a time of anxiety for little ones. Comforting routines are often missing when families travel, and new experiences can be frightening. As the mom of a particularly timid little kid, we loved the Scaredy Squirrel series. These light-hearted picture books feature a main character who is literally afraid of everything, from germs to sharks to mosquitoes. In each book, the squirrel manages to overcome his anxieties, reassuring little ones with humour that being scared is okay, and encouraging them to face their fears. Kids love the bright illustrations, laugh out loud at the antics of the paranoid squirrel, and enjoy the repetitious nature of the book, reminiscent of Dr. Seuss, Robert Munsch and other beloved children’s authors. Some good pics for summer include Scaredy Squirrel At the Beach, Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping, and Scaredy Squirrel At Night.
Ten Little Pirates by Mike Brownlow
No matter how many books line my toddler’s bookshelves, we always seem to go back to the same classics, the stories she wants to hear again and again and never seems to tire of. Most of these books have some common themes: they have a catchy, easy to follow rhythm, the words rhyme, the illustrations are bright and colourful and the book follows a pattern that my little one quickly picks up on and comes to anticipate. I’m always on the lookout for new books which share these qualities, and Ten Little Pirates is another modern-day classic, fated to end up dog-eared, sticky and much-loved on our bookshelf.
Ten little pirates set out to sea and face obstacle after obstacle, from sharks to hurricanes. For little ones learning their numbers, counting backwards from 10 to 1 makes the book easy to follow as they anticipate the next number in the series, and each page is colourfully illustrated, with lots of small objects for little ones to find. The catchy rhythm and fun rhyme scheme make this one a perfect read for your little pirate, not just for the summer but all year round.
For Kids 6-10
Nancy Drew Series by Carolyn Keene
All moms of a certain age will remember the Nancy Drew series. Many a summer afternoon was whiled away at the cottage during my childhood with such classics as Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase or The Mystery At Lilac Inn.
I was so excited to discover that Nancy Drew has received a new lease on life with the re-release of the beloved titles of my childhood (updated with gorgeous new cover art), as well as brand-new titles aimed at older readers and even a series for younger kids.
For younger readers, Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew is an engaging series with colourful characters, fun-to-solve mysteries and age-appropriate writing. Nancy Drew and her friends search for clues and solve mysteries at the mall, ski school, the zoo and lots of other interesting locales. This series has a number of titles, which is great if your child loves them and can’t get enough of them, and it’s also a wonderful way to introduce young readers to a series that can grow with them – as your little kid matures as a reader, she’ll be interested in the original series as well. Plus these are available as Kindle books, which makes them easy to pack if you’re travelling on a plane!
Nancy Drew: Girl Detective takes the classic Nancy Drew mystery genre and updates it for the new millennium. For those who find the writing of the original Nancy Drew series a bit dull (and to be fair, as I read the original series aloud to my daughter, it wasn’t as engaging as I remembered it to be), this is a version that older readers might enjoy more. For readers who find the original series a tough read, this is a good middle ground – it’s a somewhat easier read, and there are quite a few books in this series as well, so it will keep your reader busy on those rainy days at the lake or the cottage, or those long plane rides.
For boys, The Hardy Boys original series has been re-released as well, providing a great read-aloud opportunity for younger kids or a fun summer series for older readers.
The Lemonade War series by Jacqueline Davies
Another fun series for summer, the Lemonade War is a five-book series that begins the title book and addresses sibling rivalry, teamwork and cooperation over competition. Evan and Jessie normally get along pretty well for a brother and sister who are fairly close in age, but when Jessie skips a grade, Evan is a bit unsettled by the idea that his kid sister will now be in his class. As the summer heats up, the two find themselves increasingly at odds. When the idea to make extra money by opening up a lemonade stand creates open warfare between the two siblings, Evan and Jessie are forced to team up against a common enemy.
My 9-year old loved this series – it addresses common themes of sibling rivalry and the childhood search for identity in a fun, fast-paced and engaging way. For parents who are reading this book aloud, you’ll enjoy the snippets that teach kids about the basics of economics. Definitely a fun summer read, and there are four more books in the series that follow the siblings through a series of adventures, a good bet to keep your child engaged on long car trips or lazy summer days.
Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi
For reluctant readers or kids who struggle to read, finding good summer books can be a bit of a nightmare for parents. Before you give up and buy your child an iTunes gift card, consider a graphic novel like the Amulet series. As a teacher, I find this series perfect for enticing reluctant readers and those who struggle. This five-book series tells the story of Emily and Navin, who have lost their father in a tragic accident. They move with their mother to a new house in the hopes of starting over, but before they’ve got their boxes unpacked, the two find themselves lured into a mystery stranger than they could have imagined. The house stands as a gateway to a weird alternative reality, peopled with talking animals and evil spirits. The discovery of a powerful amulet could help the children conquer the evil that inhabits their home, as long as they can learn to work together to control its power.
Written as an extended comic book, these books grab reluctant readers from the first page. The graphics are amazing, the text readable and engaging, and the plot fast-paced and creepy enough to appeal to even the most distractible of readers. Parents sometimes shy away from graphic novels because they worry their children aren’t reading “real books”, but if your child is reluctant to read, you really can’t go wrong with this series as a way to grab their attention, engage them and build their confidence in their ability to read. Plus, there’s a sixth installment in the series coming out at the end of August, so if your child loves this series, it’s a great way to keep them excited about reading as summer draws to a close.