We read with interest Nicholas Kristof's column on the importance of summer reading for children—and plenty of other people did, too. The column rose to the top of the most viewed list at nytimes.com. But surely we won’t be the only ones to question Kristof’s reading recommendations. Almost every book on the list was published decades ago (the two exceptions being Harry Potter and the Alex Rider series). Among Kristof's picks for summer reading were the Hardy Boys, Freddy the Pig and Little Lord Fauntleroy. That’s like telling my teenage son to go see a movie, and suggesting that he choose between Gone With the Wind and The Philadelphia Story. Great films, no doubt, but not as likely to interest kids as a well-done recent release.
We all love the classics, but aren’t there plenty of newer books that would hold the attention of children—and teach them a little something as well? Of course there are, and The Book Case is here to prove it! For technical support, we asked husband-and-wife children’s book experts Dean Schneider (a recent Newbery selection committee member) and Robin Smith (an upcoming Caldecott committee member) for quick, off-the-top-of-their-heads recommendations of a few recent children’s books worth reading.
- Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief and the rest of the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series (for any age able to read them)
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (for ages 11 & up)
- Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis (ages 11-14)
- Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos (for high school-aged readers)
- Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
- Miracle's Boys by Jacqueline Woodson (or anything by her, actually)
- The Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan (great minds think alike)
- The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
There are so many more it’s hard to know where to stop, but I have to mention a few of my own recent favorites:
- The Underneath by Kathi Appelt (not the cuddly animal story you’d expect from the cover, but completely enchanting)
- The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (this Caldecott-winning graphic novel would be an especially good choice for reluctant readers)
- The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (a Newbery-winning ghost story that’s more adventurous than spooky)
- The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall (and the sequel, The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, wonderfully nostalgic tales about four sisters).
Go ahead and share your favorite classics with your children this summer—but don't stop there!