An Incomplete Summer Camp Reading List: Ursula Le Guin, Neil Gaiman & More

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If you’re a kid, you’re already dreaming about summer. You’re outside with friends, sculpting sand castles and, of course, you’re not in school. Maybe, in your February dreams, you’re already at summer camp, finally reading all those great books you didn’t even know about. As if it’s a dream come true, we’ve put together a not at-all-exhaustive list of book series to keep you busy at camp this summer.

First is Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea series. Like most modern fantasy stories, this is one of a hero’s journey—but one that will turn your idea of the hero’s journey in literature on its head. It’s been described as an “anti-Narnia,” Le Guin herself having noted that the spirituality in the series is based not on Christian ideals, but on Daoism. The series also features the gold standard for dragons in literature and a wizard academy. Think Harry Potter, but 30 years earlier and—maybe—better.

Jesse from BookHampton in East Hampton recommends the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Mass. This ongoing series stars Celaena Sardothien, a famous assassin rescued from prison by a king who happens to be searching for an assassin for his personal use. Celaena then enters a competition against other shady characters. Jesse says this epic fantasy series is great for fans of The Hunger Games.

For a more modern series, try Maryrose Wood’s series, The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place. This one is great for fans of Lemony Snicket and the Mysterious Benedict Society. It’s a hilarious Victorian mystery series in which three children are found in the woods of Ashton Place and brought under the supervision of Miss Penelope Lumley. You might just howl with laughter as they howl at the moon. Read the first five because the sixth will hit bookstores in August.

For another modern series, but with a historical setting, give The Sixties Trilogy by Deborah Wiles a flip through. The series is set, as you may have guessed, in the 1960s, first in Maryland (Countdown), then in Mississippi (Revolution). The third book hasn’t been released yet. It’s a timely series and the author herself notes in the afterword, “At heart, Revolution is a story about what it means to be a citizen of this country, to live in a democracy, to be a member of a family.”

Gary Paulsen’s Brian’s Saga series is almost too perfect for summer camp. The five book series begins with Hatchet, in which Brian’s plane crashes in the Canadian wilderness. He’s forced to live off the land and learn to survive with his hatchet as his only tool. The series continues to follow Brian as he survives living in the wilderness.

Don’t want to commit to a series? There are more than enough stand-alone books to keep you busy while you’re away. How about Brown Girl Dreaming, the 2015 Newbery Medal, Coretta Scott King Book Award and National Book Award winner? Yeah, it’s that good. The novel, told in verse, is semi-autobiographical, following the author’s childhood as an African American girl growing up in the 1960s and ’70s in South Carolina and New York.

Jesse from BookHampton also recommends Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo. He says it’s a great summer story about three girls who enter a batontwirling contest in Central Florida. Raymie is determined to win the conversation in order to impress her father enough to get him to come home. It’s funny, sweet and perfect for summer.

Greg from Southampton Books recommends The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. This book’s main character, Nobody Owen, was only a baby when he managed to escape to the nearby graveyard after his parents were taken away. In the graveyard, Nobody is raised by both friendly and unfriendly ghosts and grows up among an unlikely crew of spirits who both help to raise and protect him from those who would do him harm.

For the inquisitive summer camper always asking who, what, wherewhen and why, don’t pass on the nonfiction Who Was? series which consists of hundreds of slim volumes covering just about every topic and historical figure you can think of. What Was the Gold Rush? They’ll explain it. Who Was Andy Warhol? There’s a book about him. Where Is the Parthenon? They’ll tell you.

Always consult your local bookseller before making a final decision.

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