As the summer days stretch long and wake up calls come later and later, it is the perfect season to indulge in late night reading. The following list, filled with classic and contemporary works, is sure to sate any little bookworm!
It is hard to compile a list without some of the classics that we, and our parents even, grew up with. Where the Wild Things Are, (Maurice Sendak) has a simple, uncomplicated story with dark and page encompassing illustrations. The beauty of the story lies in the simplicity.
Another such classic is Winnie-the-Pooh. This is not the primary colored Disney version, A. A. Milne’s sweet collection of stories about a silly old bear and his forest friends are complimented by the sedate and nostalgic illustrations. Corduroy (Don Freeman) is another simple little bear, though not nearly as silly as Pooh. His story of finding a friend is timeless and heartwarming. Frog and Toad are Friends (Arnold Lobel) is a wonderful chapter book for early readers. The earthy colors and illustrations are balanced by the mini-adventures these two friends experience together. A story that reads with deeper meaning and understanding each time a child goes back to it is The Giving Tree (Shel Silverstein). Diverging from his mildly irreverent and always funny poetry, in The Giving Tree Silverstein tells a story of unconditional love and selfless friendship.
Those classics are not alone in offering beautiful illustrations and moving stories. Stellaluna (Janell Cannon) tells the story of a little bat who struggles to find where he fits in. The crisp images from Cannon bring to life the plight of this adorable little fruit bat. Another unlikely hero is Hedgie a hedgehog, found in many of Jan Brett’s books, but featured initially in Hedgie’s Surprise. Brett’s illustrations include a unique feature in side panels that offer foreshadowing in pictorial form. Another modern classic, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (Laura Numeroff) has a wonderfully circular plot that children love to read over and over. Coupled with Felicia Bond’s vivid and color filled illustrations, the story is an instant favorite!
For the older elementary reader there are heaps of books to enjoys. Older books include The Key to the Treasure (Peggy Parish) which features three siblings intent on solving a family mystery one summer at their grandparent’s house. Author Lynne Reid Banks has an amazing ability to write stories that capture the imaginations of both girls and boys. The Fairy Rebel and The Indian in the Cupboard tell tales that, though steeped in magic and the impossible, seem very believably real. The Giver and Number the Stars (both by Lois Lowry) are two books that are compelling in their content and emotionally gut wrenching.
More contemporary works that will appeal to the upper elementary reader include the Judy Moody series and the Stink series from Megan McDonald. The very realistic family and experiences Judy and her brother Stink are a part of are fun and lively. Another big name in the reading world is Greg from Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Jeff Kinney). This graphic novel will carry a reader through their early skill set to proficiency. The Boy Who Dared (Susan Campbel Bartoletti) is a work of realistic fiction about a young boy growing up in Nazi Germany. This book is intense and definitely a must read for the mature reader. The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins), also for the mature reader, tells the gripping story of a young girl forced to fight, to the death, for her chance to live a life without the fear of starvation. The Lightning Thief (Rick Riordan) shows the reader the world of Greek gods and their “half-blood” children as they navigate through a world that is unaware of the mythological battles that rage around them.
My final three picks, though can be read by the child, are my personal favorites to read aloud. Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are) once said of reading aloud to a child, “I think children who are hugged, and children who are held on laps- nice yummy laps- will always associate reading with the bodies of their parents, the smells of their parents. And that will always keep you a reader.”
There is something to be said for controlling the pace of the story, reading with different voices for each character, and snuggling with your child as you enjoy a great book. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (Kate DiCamillo) tells of the epic journey of one china rabbit; Gossamer (Lois Lowry) is a story of dream givers and more importantly of those upon whom they bestow dreams; and finally, Charlotte’s Web (E. B. White) whose iconic characters and beautifully written story remain a favorite throughout the years.