Along with the summer vacation comes a lot of kids at home, with more time than usual on their hands, and lots of parents scratching their heads trying to find something great for their kids to read. The number of choices can often be overwhelming, and it can often be hard for parents to find that right balance of a great story that their children want to read and that they want their children to read. So if you’re one of those parents, here are my 13 favorites for children under twelve years of age, all of them recently published.
Children’s Picture Books — age 3 and up
This Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers. Ever since I read Oliver Jeffers’s first picture book, How to Catch a Star, I’ve been a huge fan of his work — and this new book is another winner. Full of wit and humor, it is a story about a boy called Wilfred and his pet moose, Marcel. Check out the trailer — it will give you a good idea of the signature quirkiness that Jeffers has developed over the years.
Chu’s Day by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Adam Rex. Neil Gaiman is, simply, a genius; no matter if he writes for adults, teenagers or children, he always seems to create something extraordinary. Chu’s Day is a story about an adorable baby panda with a really big sneeze … which we may or may not experience in different parts of this book.Watch Neil talk about the inspiration of this book.
Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown. This is a unique picture book, both for the style of the illustrations (mostly black and white with orange accents) and the storyline, which is wacky and scary in equal measure. It is the story of Jasper the rabbit, who is being stalked by his favorite snack. Watch a great clip of Peter Brown talking about how he came up with the idea of the illustrations for this great story. For those who are looking for a gentler, quieter kind of picture book, I recommend
Bear Has a Story to Tell by Philip C Stead, illustrated by Erin E Stead. This is a very sweet book by the award-winning duo, with gorgeous watercolour illustrations. We also have a lovely trailer for this book, so check it out.
Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger. This is a stunning concept book for really little hands, but older kids would also appreciate it for the beautiful art and the surprises hidden within each cut-out. For me, it’s a classic in the making — and if you’re still not convinced, note that it is a 2013 Caldecott Honor book. You can see all the pages on a beautiful trailer here. Another of my recent favorites is
Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen (another winner of a 2013 Caldecott Honor). Klassen is an award-winning illustrator who really spins some magic with colourful woollen yarns against a black-and-white world, and Mac Barnett creates a story that reads a bit like fairytale with some deadpan humor. The trailer for this book will give you a great sense of the book, so watch it here. There is one more recently published book that I’d like to mention in this category:
The Dark by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen (yes, him again!). I love the work of both Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen, so even before seeing the finished book I was pretty sure it was going to be another winner. The story addresses a well-known issue but, rather than moralizing it, it presents the issue from the child’s perspective, and this is further enhanced by the amazing simplicity of illustrations. I expect to see this book on a few awards lists; meanwhile, you can also watch a trailer for it here.
Young Readers — ages 6 to 12
In a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz Is a highly original retelling of classic fairy tales (such as The Frog Prince, The Emperor’s New Clothes, Jack and the Bean-stalk) with lots of challenges, difficult questions and great laughs thrown in. This is the kind of book that you will love reading to and talking about with your kids. Once you finish it you’ll no doubt want to check out the previous book, A Tale Dark & Grimm, and watch out for the latest volume, coming out in October: The Grimm Conclusion. For those young readers who enjoy fantasy stories and fairytales, I recommend
The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde, a story for children aged 10 and up. You may be familiar with his name from his adult novels; if you are, you’ll know that his trademark is absurdity. Admittedly, Fforde is not everybody ‘s cup of tea, but I like his originality and I think young, imaginative readers will connect well with it too. The second volume in the series will appear in September under the title The Song of the Quarkbeast.
Seven Tales of Trinket by Shelley Moore Thomas is another suggestion for young readers (especially girls) who love a bit of history and a bit of fantasy in their stories. In this wonderful book, eleven-year-old Trinket retells seven classical Celtic stories as she searches for her father. This book is full of suspense, magic and wonderful storytelling. Watch the book trailer here.
I was attracted to The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart by the Edward Gorey–like artwork and Lemony Snicket–esque style of story, which is the fun and often tongue-in-cheek tale of the childhood of the rather precocious Nicholas Benedict. Read more and check out a fun book trailer here. There are plenty of stories of unusual children who are trying to fit into the ordinary world. However, what’s special about
Wonder by R. J. Palacio is that the novel presents this challenge not only from the perspective of Auggie (who has a major facial disfigurement) but also from that of the people around him, including his new classmates. It is a wonderful and touching story — check out this book trailer for a taste of it.
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate is the poignant and moving story of a gorilla named Ivan who endures unspeakable hardship from the hands of humans and yet still has the courage to help others. This story will surely have kids asking you many tearful and confronting questions, so be prepared. You can watch the trailer here. I hope you and your children enjoy one or some — or all — of these remarkable books.
As always, I welcome your feedback and reading suggestions, so please drop me a line. email@example.com