Abby’s Top 10

July 24th, 2013 · 17 Comments · Children's Books, Gifts, Culture

Not to be outdone by her sister, Abby — heading into fifth grade — has decided to weigh in with her picks for summer reading. Here are the best books she’s read in the past two years (that she hasn’t already written about here and here), graded on the very official Summer Sun Scale. Ten Summer Suns is, obviously, highest, hottest honor. Thanks, Abby!

Umbrella Summer, by Lisa Graff
This book takes place during summer break. The main character, Annie, is very scared of life because of her brother Jared’s death, and is afraid to do things she used to have no problem doing – like riding down the hill on her bike and getting hurt. Annie and her friend, Rebecca, have always thought the house next door was haunted, but when an old lady called Mrs. Finch moves in Annie goes to visit accidentally while spying on her. After speaking with the lady, Annie learns to let loose more in summertime.
Summer Sun Grade: 9 suns
For Ages: 9-12
If you like this, you’ll likeAs Simple As it Seems, by Sarah Weeks

As Simple as it Seems, by Sarah Weeks
I like this book because it made me think a lot. It’s about a girl named Verbena who is very small. When she’s around 11, she finds out that she is not living with her real parents. Her real mom was an alcoholic and she drank when she was pregnant. (That’s why Verbena was so small.) When she finally finds out about, she’s very mad at her parents because they didn’t tell her. Nearby, a family moves in and the boy, Pooch, becomes Verbena’s very good friend. Together, they encounter fun – and dangerous – adventures.
Summer Sun Grade: 10 suns
For Ages: 9-11
If you like this, you’ll like: Umbrella Summer (see above)

Pieby Sarah Weeks
This was one of my most favorite books I read all year because it’s funny and very creative. Alice’s Aunt Polly owns a pie shop called…PIE. Unfortunately, Polly passes away, and people wonder who she left all her pie recipes to. Alice soon finds out she leaves them in the care of her cat Lardo, named after vegetable oil. When she finds that out, she also learns that Lardo is the care of Alice. She and her friend Charlie Erdling have to figure out what it means to leave recipes to a cat and put all the pieces together so that PIE can live on.
Summer Sun Grade: 10 10 10
For Ages: 8-11
If you like this, you’ll likeEverything on a Waffle, by Polly Horvath

The Green Book, by Jill Paton Walsh
I found this book unusual because it takes place in the future and it is science fiction. It’s about a family who lives on earth and all families are moving off the earth to live on planets they discover in outer space.  Sarah’s family is one of the last families to leave and get one of the worst spaceships (because they didn’t leave earlier). When they find a planet to settle, everyone is unsure if it’s safe or not, so they test it. They find the planet is good to live on, but there are some weird occurrences – including glass grass, giant moths that hatch out of boulders, and green jellyfish.
Summer Sun Grade: 7
For Ages: 8-10
If you like this you’ll like: Zita The Space Girl, by Ben Hatke (it’s a graphic novel)

Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli
Leo has a best friend named Kevin and they go to a school in Arizona. After school, people seem to act all the same until a new girl named Stargirl, who’s been homeschooled, arrives. She knows people’s birthdays and names and she’s different from everybody else – and not afraid to be different from everybody else. This book taught me a lot about standing up for myself, and to appreciate being different.
Summer Sun Grade: 10
For Ages: 10-13
If you like this, you’ll like: Maniac McGeeThe Library Card, or any book by Jerry Spinelli

See You at Harry’sby Jo Knowles
If you’re going to read this book, you should be prepared to cry because I did. It’s about a girl named Fern who lives in a family with her sister Sara, her brother, Holden, and her little brother, Charlie. Her family owns a restaurant called Harry’s. When a terrible, terrible event breaks the family apart, everyone is mad at each other in some way. But in the end, they work through it.
Summer Sun Grade: 10
For Ages: 10-12
If you like this, you’ll like: Someday Angeline, by Louis Sachar

Coraline, by Neil Gaiman (adapted and illustrated by P. Craig Russel)
I’m sure you’ve heard of Coraline or seen the movie, but this is a different format that I loved just as much as the original. This version is a graphic novel, which tells the same story about Coraline, a girl who discovers a door in her house that leads to her other family. Her other mother and her other father want her to stay there and never leave. They hide her parents in order to make her come back to their world, which turns to a disaster. As you can tell, Coraline is very creepy, but one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read. The novel is as good, but the difference here is the art. In the graphic novel the pictures are sooo cool and look real.
Summer Sun Grade: 10-10-10-10-10-10-10-10-10-10 (that’s ten “10s”)
For Ages: 9-11
If you like this, you’ll like: Brain Camp (graphic novel) by Lawrence Klavan and Susan Kim

Rules, by Cynthia Lord
This book falls in the category of empathy books. It’s about a girl named Catherine who has an autistic brother named David. It’s hard to live with him because he does silly things, which annoy her, like putting toys in the fish tank. A new girl moves in and Catherine knows that this could be the friend she’s always wanted. Surprisingly she doesn’t turn out to be friends with her. Instead, one day, dropping her brother off at therapy, she meets a boy named Jason who’s in a wheelchair and can’t talk. She makes him cards that he can hold up to communicate and they become fast friends.
Summer Sun Grade: 9 ¼
Ages: 9-12
If you like this, you’ll like: All of these

Olive’s Ocean, by Kevin Henkes
This book was really good. The main character Martha Boyle finds out that someone in her town, named Olive Barstow, who no one ever paid attention to, dies. She thinks she took her for granted, because now Martha thinks about is how she could’ve been a better friend. On vacation, Martha does something special for Olive, but I’ll let you find out what that is when you read it. This book made me think a lot and I recommend it because it’s perfect for the summer.
Summer Sun Grade: 8
For Ages: 9-11
If you like this, you’ll like: As Simple as it Seems

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
If you are looking for a scary but cool book to pull off your shelf, this is a good choice. Before you read it, please ask your parents because it’s very violent. It’s very scary in the middle and I almost wanted to stop reading. But if you keep on reading, it has such an exciting plot. It’s about Katniss Everdeen who takes her sister’s place to compete in a competition called The Hunger Games, a fight to the death. At first, she’s very scared and not the least bit excited to compete, but after she finds a technique and makes friends, she finds it’s not the worst thing that’s ever happened. There’s a LOT of action in this book.
Summer Sun Grade: 9
For Ages: 11+ (Remember, ask your parents!)
If you like this, you’ll like: Catching Fire and Mockingjay (the sequels)

P.S. A note from Abby’s mom: As promised, Phoebe has been regularly chiming in with book reviews on her own book blog, Nerd Alert. Head over there for more recommendations.

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17 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Amelia // Jul 24, 2013 at 10:38 am

    This is awesome. Jenny, I’m wondering if you would be up for doing a post at some point about “How to raise kids who love to read.” I’m hoping to have my first child in the next two years, and one of my weirdest fears is that I will have a kid who doesn’t like to read – it’s such a big part of my identity and what I love to share with others! I know as a parent you have to let go of many expectations, but would love any tips you have about raising voracious readers!

  • 2 Jenny // Jul 24, 2013 at 10:42 am

    Such a good idea for a post, Amelia. My first thought is that it’s like eating dinner: If they see you eating good food, they’re more likely to try that good food themselves. (Except for when…they don’t and you wonder how the heck this person is related to you.) So you should be just fine! :)

  • 3 emilee // Jul 24, 2013 at 10:45 am

    Amelia, have no fear. If you read…and they see you reading…your kids will be readers (in their own way!) too.

  • 4 Jude McIntyre // Jul 24, 2013 at 10:50 am

    Dear Abbie,
    Thank you for your excellent recommendations. We have read other books that you and your sister have recommended and really enjoyed them. We = Lily, 10 years old and Jude, her mum.
    I will buy some of these on line as a surprise for Lily.
    Might I add I am a school teacher and I’m very impressed with your reading and writing. Go you!
    Jude :)

  • 5 Caitlyn // Jul 24, 2013 at 10:55 am

    I loved, loved, loved The Green Book as a kid. For some reason, it seems to be a lesser known than a lot of other children’s books. I have mentioned it many times to friends, but few ever knew what I was talking about. So pleasantly surprised to see it here!

  • 6 Jude McIntyre // Jul 24, 2013 at 10:55 am

    Oops! Abby! It’s late here! Oh, and I teach with Shaun Tan’s grade school Art teacher. How cool is that? They’re still friends…which I think is pretty cool.

  • 7 Kendra // Jul 24, 2013 at 11:18 am

    I’d like to ask Abby and Phoebe if they recommend books to each other and whether they have overlapping tastes or different ones. Maybe Phoebe should interview Abby for Nerd Alert?

  • 8 Jessica // Jul 24, 2013 at 11:29 am

    What a fantastic post, thank you so much! I’m going to be training to be a primary school teacher from next month, so it’s always helpful to have real opinions about books children *really* like reading.
    I read loads as a child, but of course the fashions change and not all of what I read is relevant now. To those who wondered about rearing a child who loves reading I would simply say to be the role model. My father in particular would always have his nose in a book in his spare time, Mum kept all her books for me to read, I was frequently taken to the library to choose books, and so the love of literature happened by osmosis.

  • 9 Caitlin // Jul 24, 2013 at 11:43 am

    Great suggestions! We love love love Pie and the coconut cream pie has become a staple in our house. I am definitely going to check out Stargirl, See You at Harry’s & Olive’s Ocean. Perfect summer post as camp comes to a close and August hovers…

  • 10 Melissa@Julia's Bookbag // Jul 24, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    FUN!!!!!!!!! Love your book lists, girls, as always!

    The ‘Pie’ books looks like something I must get for my daughter.

    To the comment about instilling a love for reading…just do it. Read with your child. As much as you can. Make it a family event. I know that my daughter will maybe never be the avid reader I was, she’s 100% more active than I was, but we all read together, and we read the classics together, and she loves bookstores and “old book smell” as much as I do! Also, the library is your best friend…always! :)

  • 11 Isabel Graham // Jul 24, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    Hi Abby,
    Thank you for your great book recommendations. I am also a bookworm. My teachers told me to read all the Jerry Spinelli and Kevin Henkes books as well. I am going on vacations soon and will try to read as many of your recommendations as I can. Thank you, Isabel

  • 12 andy // Jul 24, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    Hey Jude (felt good to type that), we LOVE Shaun Tan here at DALS. In fact, he did a post for us a while back and it’s full of cool book recs for kids. Check it out: http://www.dinneralovestory.com/reading-list-shaun-tan/

  • 13 Jane // Jul 24, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    My oldest, Zoe age 11 and I love finding new books. I teach Montessori age 9-12 and when I find a good book, I share it with 25 kids. “Pie” and “See You at Harry’s” are favorites. I suggest “Mockingbird” for a beautifully written stroy about empathy. Blue Balliet’s “Chasing Vermeer” and “The Calder Game” are good mysteries. Historical fiction is my favorite and “Chains,” “Forge” and “Fever” by Laurie Halse Anderson are excellent. Thanks for sharing.

  • 14 Susan // Jul 26, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    Hi Abby,
    On your sister’s recommendation, I picked up “One Crazy Summer” for my 10 year-old. She started AND almost finished it last night when she went to bed. She has “As Simple as it Seems” waiting for her when she finishes. Thanks so much to both of you for the recommendations…it’s tough for a Mom to keep up with all the possible books out there for my kiddos to read!

  • 15 Memegrl // Aug 8, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    Abby, we have enjoyed so many of your suggestions-thank you for breaking us out of our rut!
    And now for a different kind of reading–”I read your newsletter, do I win the Franny’s cookbook?”
    Thanks to you all for your great suggestions– we had yogurt marinated chicken tonight and my son ate three pieces!

  • 16 Leisha // Aug 8, 2013 at 11:43 pm

    “I read your newsletter, do I win the Franny’s cookbook?”

  • 17 Melinda // Sep 6, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    Hi you guys, I love your blog and shared this post with my avid reader/10YO daughter last night. She thought it was great and downloaded a book on her kindle from the list immediately. I told her that Abby’s Mom is the primary writer of the blog but that her Dad writes on it too and they are both great writers. Her response was, “wow, talented family”. I just had to pass that along. Thanks!

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