by guest contributor, Joanna P, founder and co-owner of Bookbug
As both bookseller and parent I’ve always claimed that joy trumps all other factors in choosing and reading books together (or on your own), but in an age of school book-leveling, competitive reading and points to be earned by reading book, my insistence on letting kids (especially) simply choose books that make them smile (or otherwise fill their soul) is often up against a few other strong forces. There is one season (THANK YOU sweet summertime) that’s the exception, and I love it for that. For granting freedom to read (and to become a better reader) for the pure, sweet, wonderful joy of it.
In this spirit of freedom and wonder, here are my personal (and a few of our storewide) most loved new books of the Summer of ’16.
This age-old road trip refrain now has a picture book for all ages, and by ages I mean both people and time periods. Loved author/illustrator Dan Santat miraculously turns insufferable backseat boredom on its head (yes, you will have to rotate this book) to travel through a few awesomely illustrated pre-historic, ancient, and modern fearless adventures before reaching a remarkably worthwhile final destination.
Dude. Kwame Alexander is an amazing wordsmith and kindred summertime (anytime) spirit. He’s taken the sweet, slow slang of beach-speak and created a smiling celebration of something totally WHOA, Daddy, O! : getting lost in a good, Great Book.
This quiet, elegant picture book begins with a young child as part of a group of young goats, i.e. a tribe of kids and follows him on subsequent encounters with: a colony of penguins, a smack of jellyfish, a parade of elephants and on and on in the stunning natural world until he discovers, befriends and plays with the final group of animals: a group of children, i.e., a tribe of kids. This book is perfect summer bedtime read-aloud.
Sometimes it takes a child-eye view of presidential politics to stomach an election year, and I’m grateful to this lively, new picture book for offering just that. The whacky whimsy and playful spirit of this high-house-aspiring squid and his eventual understanding of the obligations of the office: to help people and solve problems is a sweet answer (or launch point for more curious kids) to the actual presidential rhetoric they may be hearing elsewhere.
This little book about a man who sets out, upon receiving the simplest of handwritten invitations, to visit his bear friend is irresistibly charming, perhaps mostly because it embraces a philosophy of appreciating the small, simple things in life and suggests that being in tune with such things (like: daily ritual, nature, friendship) is one way to cultivate a meaningful life.
1975. Three girls. One Little Miss contest. The murkiness of Good Deeds; and the realization that everything–absolutely everything–depends on you. Kate DiCamillo uses trademark buoyant clarity and spirited wisdom to weave all into a story that reveals something majestic, and vital , and Grand-Prize-Worthy in insubstantial optimism; and something soft and frightened and Okay in unabashed fearlessness—a tale that proves that the classes you take when you’re 10, be them life-saving or baton-twirling can teach nearly everything there is to know about bodies and souls; that parents can be trapeze artists and beauty queens and leave town with dental hygienists, but who cares? That it’s the strangest thing how Life (and a book called Raymie Nightingale) can come out of nowhere and inflate your soul.
Big HUGE Bonus opportunity if you want to add this to your summer reading list: MUCH LOVED two-time NEWBERRY Award-winning author KATE DICAMILLO will be in Kalamazoo on July 11th to read from and talk about this book with kids. SAVE THE DATE for this opportunity of a childhood/lifetime!
Every kid that’s ever had a Favorite will understand. When six-year-old Billy and his favorite toy, Ollie, get separated from one another, they each embark on a perilous adventure to reunite. Along the way they’ll befriend junkyard castoffs and magical fireflies, battle sinister Creeps and overcome a brokenhearted clown, King Zozo. Tense moments abound, but Joyce’s playful language and beautiful illustrations help to reassure that goodness and “yummy” and friendship will prevail.
Peter Brown stretches his knack for crisp, cunning storytelling into a vibrant chapter book featuring a tenacious, tender robot who washes ashore onto a wildly lovely island and who learns much (so much) about the rules and wonders of nature and nurture. Read-Alone or Together ages 6-11
Shadow Magic – Joshua Khan
I read this book soon after my daughter’s claim of it being her second-favorite book of all time (a huge compliment from a voracious reader, whose ‘all-time’ favorite book is legitimately unbeatable and one I promise to show you if you ask me in-store) But I fully agree with her near-equal affection for this fast-paced, surprising story about thirteen year-old Lily Shadow who becomes the ruler of the shadow kingdom after her parents and brother are killed. Lilly fights for her own life and for the rights and ways of House of Shadow and is smart and strong enough to know when rules should be broken for good. Neither Nina (age 11) nor I could put this book down and recommend it to anyone who loves Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.
The thing about the coloring craze is that you can now find adult-marketed coloring books on nearly every thinkable topic: travel, history, literature, intergalactic war, but there are still only a handful that function in the wonderful way any coloring book should, featuring strong well-spaced lines that invite artists of all levels (and pencil, marker, or crayon tip-sizes) to be wildly creative and successful. This one hits that mark beautifully!
And I can’t let Bookbug’s recommendations of Summer 2016 reads for kids end without mention of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. We’re thrilled about its format: a play in dialogue (not text speak, but not an altogether different or an at all less dramatic reading experience). We haven’t read it yet (obviously), but here’s what we DO know: it takes place nineteen years after the last story. Harry works for the Department of Magic as an auror, his youngest son – Albus Severus – heads to Hogwarts, and neither can shake off their past. Also, we’ll be re-enacting scenes and having a magical release party for this new book at midnight on July 31st. All wizards of Kalamazoo are, of course, invited.
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR
Joanna Parzakonis is founder and co-owner of Bookbug here in Kalamazoo. She’s a passionate reader, community advocate and mom to three young girls.