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Beat Summer Slide with These Books

These librarian-recommended reads will keep kids glued to the pages while school’s out.


©istockphoto.com / Wavebreakmedia 

Got a kid who isn’t excited about summer reading? You’re not alone. We asked NJ librarians to share books your kids will love so much, they won’t want to put them down (even during summer vacay). Read on for picks packed with adventure, magic, adversity and more.

Play This Book 


Jessica Young
Bloomsbury USA. Ages 2-5.

“This musical-themed interactive picture book encourages readers to play along. Readers can strum a guitar, tap on piano keys and slide a trombone by following instructions on the page. It’s simple enough to be read to young children, with a playful rhyme scheme and simple language, but it’s also appealing to preschoolers interested in learning about musical instruments.”

—Vicky Wright, Cape May County Library

Buddy and the Bunnies In: Don’t Play with Your Food 


Bob Shea
Disney-Hyperion. Ages 3-5.

“This is a laugh-out-loud story about a scary monster who plans to eat some bunnies. Except he isn’t scary—he’s stripey and cute, and the bunnies have no plans to be eaten. This book is a must-read for its delightful illustrations, plus kids will love how the bunnies turn Buddy into their friend.”

—Patti Farmer, Trenton Free Public Library

Can I Be Your Dog? 


Troy Cummings
Random House Children’s Books. Ages 3-7.

“This story is a warm hug in book form, and reminds readers that there’s a friend out there for each of us. It’s wonderful to share with adopted and foster children. Kids will enjoy the bright, colorful illustrations and Arfy’s shameless self-promotion. It’s also great for introducing letter writing to children, a skill that’s seldom discussed before a child enters school.”

—Vicki Wright, Cape May County Library

Let’s Play 


Hervé Tullet
Chronicle Books. Ages 4-6.

“Readers are invited to participate in this book, and can both follow and move the yellow dot on a grand adventure. This story includes the reader in the action, gives directions and really encourages kids to see books in a different way. I love it because it’s the reader that moves the action along and becomes part of the fun.”

—Patti Farmer, Trenton Free Public Library

Rappy Goes to Mars 


Dan Gutman
HarperCollins. Ages 4-8.

“I’ve learned that kids love to read books by the same author their older siblings are reading. There’s a demand for books written by the same author that span all reading levels and Dan Gutman is one of the authors that’s met this need. Take home a Rappy story and see how long it takes before you’re rapping along with these dino-mite books.”

—Jessica Bauer, Hillsborough Library

We Are Growing 


Laurie Keller
Disney-Hyperion. Ages 6-8.

“I know it will appeal to early readers. But more importantly, I like the message: Everyone is growing in their own time in their own way, and we’re all good at something. The characters are blades of grass—familiar, simple and relatable to young readers. Each blade grows in its own way and looks different, just like people.”

—Amy Atzert, Somerset County Library System 

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 


Christopher Paul Curtis
Yearling. Ages 8-12.

“A funny and powerful book about a family’s summer road trip from Michigan to Alabama. The gripping depiction of a black family trying to stay safe and deal with the tragedy in Birmingham at the time of the horrific church bombing gives kids a very personal perspective of the bravery exhibited during the Civil Rights Movement.”

—Kim Field, Central Middle School Library, Parsippany

Amina’s Voice 


Hena Khan
Simon & Schuster. Ages 8-12.

“It’s a coming of age story any middle school child can identify with. Just starting sixth grade, Amina is feeling overwhelmed by changes in her friendships and home life. This story teaches kids the importance of inner strength and how communities come together during difficult times. Children will relate to Amina as she struggles to find her voice.”

—Lanora Melillo, Scotch Plains Public Library

The Curse of the Campfire Weenies: And Other Warped and Creepy Tales 


David Lubar
Starscape. Ages 9-12.

“Kids will love the gross humor and creepy short stories perfect for reading aloud by a campfire or under the covers with a flashlight. The author has discussion questions and activities on his website, davidlubar.com, which are a great way to engage with your kids about what they’re reading.”

—Kim Field, Central Middle School Library, Parsippany

Fuzzy Mud 


Louis Sachar
Yearling. Ages 10+.

“Fuzzy Mud is a suspenseful thriller that tells an eco-cautionary tale of what happens when middle schoolers Tamaya, Marshall and Chad get lost in the woods. This story will fuel children’s interest in ecology, disasters and our environment. Kids who love gross stories with a sprinkle of science and mystery will gravitate towards this title.”

—Lanora Melillo, Scotch Plains Public Library 

The One Memory of Flora Banks 


Emily Barr
Philomel Books. Ages 12+.

“17-year-old Flora has suffered from anterograde amnesia (short-term memory loss) since a tumor was removed from her head at age 10. The reader is often disoriented like Flora, trying to figure out the truth. Everytime she ‘resets,’ the reader feels as lost as Flora with bits of time missing. This story causes readers to think about memories and how they impact who we are.”

—Christine Jansen, Hillsborough Library



Laurie Halse Anderson
FSG Books for Young Readers. Ages 12+.

“Speak is the story of freshman Melinda who figuratively loses her voice to trauma and regains it through art. 2019 will mark the 20th anniversary of its publication, and a graphic novel adaptation was released earlier this year. Many teens and young adults are finding their voices through the #MeToo movement, which resonates with Anderson’s timeless novel.”

—Carolyn Aversano, Ocean County Library

A Note About Reluctant Readers

“For reluctant teen readers, I like to recommend authors instead of specific books. This gives teens the option to explore on their own. The ‘weird’ genre generally resonates with older teens (ages 15-17), and my go-to authors are Andrew Smith (Grasshopper Jungle, Rabbit & Robot) and Libba Bray (Beauty Queens). Both are skilled in creating worlds and characters based on bizarre ‘what if?’ scenarios. For contemporary realistic fiction, Jason Reynolds takes on current issues with honesty and passion.”

—Carolyn Aversano, Ocean County Library


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