16 Books for Summer Reading

In honor of summer reading programs at our local libraries, Hilltown Families contributing writer, Lisa Woods, shares  a listing of books by several of her favorite authors, starting with chapter books and then rounding out her list with recommended titles for new readers too!

Summer Reading At Your Local Library
by Lisa Woods

The love of reading for pleasure can be encouraged in young children, especially middle school-aged kids, via our local libraries! Summer reading programs help maintain classroom learning while increasing vocabulary and exposing young readers to new subjects and ideas. The children’s room librarian at your local library, an amazing community-based resource available to everyone, can help match the interests of young readers with books that inspire and engage.

Have some fun this summer and take advantage of all the free community-based educational programs offered right in your local library. My family loves to go to the different events scheduled all summer long (also for self-directed teens and life-long learners). Make sure you’re subscribed to the Hilltown Families weekly eNewsletter to keep posted on upcoming events. As you participate in summer reading programs, you can accumulate hours that result in prizes or raffle tickets. A fun incentive to encourage reading and literacy! Take a book to the beach, read outside by the pool, and listen to an audiobook in the car with your kids while on the way to your vacation destination. I let my kids check out books that interest them, and I also check out chapter books and read to them before bed. We’ve done this since my kids were little, enjoying it as much as they do.

This month I’m listing books by several of my favorite authors, starting with chapter books and then rounding out my list with recommended titles for new readers too.

The Underland Chronicles-Gregor the Overlander #1
by Suzanne Collins

From the author of the fantastic Hunger Games Trilogy comes this epic tale about a 12-year-old boy named Gregor who falls through the grate in his New York City apartment laundry room into an underground world. He finds the people inhabiting this dark world ride on bats to get around. The bugs are enormous, and the dangerous rats want to capture him and his little sister Boots. He is stunned to find that his father, who had mysteriously disappeared years before, is being held captive by the rats. This five-part series starts with him teaming up with the Underlanders to fight the rats and free his father. It’s a thrilling story that gets better and better as you read it. We just started reading the second book in this series, and it’s as good as the first.

Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible
By Ursula Vernon

There are six books in this hilarious series. In the first book, we meet Harriet, a hamster princess who is described as brave, intelligent, and excelling at checkers and fractions. She has been cursed by an evil rat fairy so that on her twelfth birthday she will prick herself on a hamster wheel and fall asleep for 100 years. One perk of the curse is that it makes her invincible so that she can enjoy fighting cat-ogres and cliff diving with no injuries. When she turns twelve, the evil fairy comes to make sure she falls asleep. Instead, Harriet tricks the fairy into shaking her hand so she can pull the evil fairy into the hamster wheel, causing her to be pricked instead. The curse then backfires and makes the wicked fairy and everyone in the castle fall asleep except Harriet and her trusty steed (an adorable quail named Mumfrey). They have to find a prince who will kiss everyone and wake them from their slumber. In her quest to find a prince to help break the curse, she travels around the countryside and has a lot of adventures. These well-illustrated novels are hilarious, especially Harriet’s conversations with Mumfrey. I love the covers of these books; the pictures don’t do them justice; they are sparkly and eye-catching. All of the books in this series retell a different well-known fairy tale, like Whiskerella and Little Red Rodent Hood. This title is another win for a wonderful author. She is also responsible for a hilarious graphic novel series called Dragonbreath.

By Katherine Applegate

Crenshaw is about a ten-year-old boy named Jackson, and his imaginary friend Crenshaw, who is a cat. Jacksons family was homeless when he was younger, and Crenshaw helped him through that tough time. Now that his family is facing homelessness again Crenshaw pops back into his life, but now he’s embarrassed by him and doesn’t want him around. As it turns out, Crenshaw helps him deal with what’s happening at a time when Jackson feels he has no control over his own life. It’s a fantastic story of a family struggling financially through the eyes of a tween.

The One and Only Ivan
by Katherine Applegate, Patricia Castelao (Illustrations)

The One and Only Ivan is a fantastic, must-read book. This story is based on real events surrounding a silverback gorilla named Ivan who lived in a stationary circus at a shopping mall in the 1960s. He was born in the jungle but spent 27 years behind glass and concrete walls as an attraction. His days are mostly content filled with watching his TV and painting. He’s friendly with two of the other animals in his life, Stella, an old elephant and Bob, a stray dog. One day he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from the wild and things start to change. When we finished reading this book, my kids wanted to know more about Ivan, and we were able to find a video about his life, including his time spent at the B&I Shopping Mall and a talk from one of the zookeepers from The Atlanta Zoo where Ivan spent ten years of his life.


Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel
by Mariah Marsden (Author), Brenna Thummler (Illustrator)

Anne of Green Gables is a must-read. There are eight books in this series that take you on the journey of Anne’s life. If you have a child who is having difficulty getting into the reading spirit, this wonderfully illustrated adapted version might help. If you’re not familiar with the books, they take place in the early 1900s and are about a very interesting eleven-year-old orphan, Anne Shirley, who is adopted by the elderly Cuthbert siblings. When she arrives, there has been a mix-up. They had requested that a boy be sent so he could help on the farm. Her endearing spirit wins them over, but her trials and tribulations along the way and adventures throughout her life are so inspiring and interesting that kids won’t want to put it down. The original is by author L.M. Montgomery.

Little House on the Prairie
by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Author), Garth Williams (Illustrator)

There are nine books in this series about a family of the original American pioneers. The stories are about a little girl named Laura and her experiences growing up on a farm. Little House on the Prairie is a fantastic story that will keep your child coming back for more. Once your kids read the books, they may want to check out the television series. My kids enjoyed seeing the stories come to life and watching something from my childhood.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
by Roald Dahl (Author), Quentin Blake (Illustrator)

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the story of Charlie Bucket, an impoverished boy who lives with his bedridden grandparents and his hardworking mom. One bright spot in his life is a contest Willy Wonka is holding to allow people into his candy factory. Unfortunately, you need to buy Willy Wonka candy bars to get a chance to find a golden ticket. As the rich and spoiled kids are finding the golden tickets, the reader is hopeful Charlie will get one. Against all the odds he does, and he chooses his favorite grandfather to come with him. They embark on the adventure of a lifetime. Even if your kids have seen this movie, the book is worth reading. This four-story set includes the book Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, James and the Giant Peach, and Fantastic Mr. Fox.

by Roald Dahl (Author), Quentin Blake (Illustrator)

Matilda is an extraordinarily bright and friendly girl who is unfortunate enough to have a terrible family. She can’t wait to go to school but finds that the principal, Miss Trunchbull, is even more awful than her parents. The surprise of the story is that Matilda discovers that she has magical powers and can thwart Miss Trunchbull’s attempts to continue being terrible to the students. I love that Matilda never loses a sense of who she is and has a bright and sunny attitude. She is rewarded in the end when she meets a wonderful teacher who notices what a great kid she is. My children loved this book and the movie so much that it’s on regular rotation in our house.

Dog Man
By Dav Pilkey

Dog Man comes to you from the creator of the award-winning Captain Underpants series. There are twelve books in the Dog Man series, and almost all of them are named after a famous novel, like A Tale of Two Kitties and Lord of the Fleas. In the first book, we learn the origin of Dog Man. A police officer and his police dog have emergency surgery, and the only way to save them both is to fuse them. Sounds gross but really, it’s amazing. These books are excellent and capture kids’ attention. They are especially useful for kids who don’t love reading yet. When they finish one, they’ll be eager for the next.

Strega Nona
by Tomie dePaola

Tomie dePaola has written over 200 books, and some of my favorites feature Strega Nona (Grandma Witch). There are many books in this series, and in this first book, we meet Strega Nona and her hapless helper, Big Anthony. She’s getting older and needs some help around the house, but he gets himself into a hilarious mess that she has to help fix. There is a great message here about not eavesdropping and also listening carefully and following instructions.

The Knight and The Dragon
By Tomie dePaola

The Knight and The Dragon is a fantastic book. I love the story, and the pictures are simple but beautiful. A knight and a dragon decide to fight, but neither has ever done this before. They both read books on what their role will be during the fight, but it becomes clear that they have no idea what they’re doing. The princess saves the day when she brings them two different books to read, one about how to BBQ and an outdoor cookbook. I love that the knight makes use of his armor by turning it into a BBQ grill. Here is a reading of the book:


Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!
by Mo Willems

There are nine of these Mo Willem gems in circulation right now, all of them are engaging and hilarious. I have had the pleasure of reading these to many children, and they are always well received. Pigeon is ridiculously funny and in this first book he wants to drive a bus badly. The bus driver has to step away for a minute and gives the reader explicit instructions not to let the pigeon drive it. Kids love all the tricks, whining and begging the pigeon tries. The illustrations are so simple and yet carry so much emotion and feeling. All of the books in this series are funny and pigeon usually horns is way into any of Mo Willems other books if you look carefully. My kids always loved looking on the inside of the front and back cover to find him.


Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale
by Mo Willems

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale is another excellent story brought to you by local author, Mo Willems. Knuffle Bunny is part of a three-book series featuring Trixie’s stuffed animal, Knuffle Bunny. In this book, Trixie goes with her dad to the laundromat, and Knuffle Bunny is left behind. I love the illustrations and the use of real black and white photographs for the background. All three of these are fantastic books that will quickly become favorites. Bonus, Pigeon makes his way into this video of Knuffle Bunny from Weston Woods (hint, he shows up in front of the laundromat):


Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea
by Ben Clanton

Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea is a cute early reader graphic novel about an adorable narwhal and his jellyfish friend. I read this with my kids, and we all loved it. I even learned some facts I didn’t know about narwhals. There are four books in this series, and all of them are worth checking out. The illustrations are so funny. I laughed out loud more than once.

This Is Not My Hat
By Jon Klassen

I love this book about a little fish who steals a hat from a big sleeping fish. He’s pretty sure the big fish will never find out about it. The pictures are simple, and the story is quick, but it’s funny. My kids loved the naughtiness of the little fish because they knew stealing wasn’t right. The big fish does get his hat back, but we never see the small fish again. I think it’s implied that the big fish ate him but we have a lot of fun coming up with different ideas about what could have happened since the book never reveals it. My son decided that the little fish felt so bad about stealing that he moved to China, where he opened a school for wayward fish where they could be taught right from wrong. My daughter wanted something happy to come out of it, so she imagined that the big fish went to the hat store and bought the little fish a hat that matched his and they were best friends forever.

I Want My Hat Back
By Jon Klassen

Bear has lost his hat, and he misses it. He wanders the forest asking all the animals if they have seen his hat. Finally, a deer helps him remember that he has seen his hat, and now he knows where to find it. My kids loved being in on the joke since they also saw where the hat is. Here is an excellent video of someone reading the book. I like this video because it gives you some ideas about using different voices while reading to kids to keep their interest. Sometimes my kids liked hearing different voices, and other times, they just wanted to listen to a story in my voice.


Lisa Woods

Lisa spent a decade traveling the world for her work before realizing her dream was to create art and write. She now lives in Chicopee, MA with her husband and two children where she homeschooled her kids for the early grades. Lisa has a real passion for books, especially children’s literature, collecting children’s books since the age of fifteen. She is now working on her first children’s book.

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