Thumb Through Our 2018 Summer Camp Reading List

"Poetry for Kids," "The Phantom Tollbooth"
"Poetry for Kids," "The Phantom Tollbooth," Illustrated: Mickey Paraskevas, Jules Feiffer

What’s a kid to do during down time at summer camp? If you said, “read a good book” then you’re absolutely right. (Thumbing through a copy of Dan’s Papers is also correct.) But with so many choices, how’s one to decide? We’ve put together a short list which you can take to your local bookstore, where real-live booksellers can help you find them, or even recommend others if you’ve already read these. Like grandma always says, “money spent on a book is never wasted.”

Celebrate your local celebrity author by picking up a copy of Neil Patrick Harris’s The Magic Misfits, the first book in the award-winning actor’s new series for kids 8–12. The novel follows a runaway street magician named Carter, who, after a fateful encounter with the local purveyor of illusion, Dante Vernon, teams up with five other like-minded illusionists. Together, using both teamwork and magic, they’ll set out to save the town of Mineral Wells from the villainous clutches of greedy B.B. Bosso and his crew of crooked carnies. Here’s a secret just for the kids: Magic Misfits isn’t just a book. It’s a treasure trove of secrets, ciphers, codes and even tricks. Keep your eyes peeled and you’ll discover more than just a story—you’ll learn how to make your own magic! And if you need something to look forward to, the second book in this series, The Magic Misfits: The Second Story, will be released September 25. Four more books in the series will follow, so you’ll not only be a reader, but a trendsetter.

Older readers might enjoy the work of multi-award winning author, and two-time National Book Award nominee, East Ender Patricia McCormick. Her novels are heavily researched, full of rich historical detail, and discuss serious topics. For example, the main character in her 2000 novel, Cut, 15-year-old Callie McPherson, self-mutilates. To research her National Book Award finalist, Sold, McCormick travelled to India and Nepal to interview survivors of sex trafficking. McCormick also collaborated with Malala Yosafzai to create a young adult edition of her best-selling memoir I Am Malala. While the subject matter might put one off at first, all of McCormick’s novels are must-reads for today’s mature young adults.

If you expose your kids to poetry at a young age, they’ll never have to use the excuse “I don’t get poetry.” (Pro tip: There’s nothing to “get.” Just enjoy the ride.) A new series of books published by Moon Dance Press called Poetry for Kids is a great place to start. The series features poetry by Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Carl Sandburg and Robert Frost, all accompanied by beautiful original art. Any of these four volumes would be a great place to start, but we’ll push you towards the 30-poem Robert Frost volume, as the illustrator is none other than Southampton’s own Mickey Paraskevas. After each poem there’s a short list of words—with definitions—to clarify to a young reader what the poet is saying. There’s also, at the end of each book, a poem-by-poem explanation of what the poet was thinking as he or she wrote each poem. Context is important, after all.

Sag Harbor’s R.L. Stine makes a living by scaring the daylights out of kids and teens. We could tell you which ones to read but, between Goosebumps, Fear Street, Rotten School, Horror Land and so many other series, there are literally hundreds of books. And we mean “literally” literally, as opposed to figuratively….

Pack a classic for camp—1961’s The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, illustrated by Shelter Island’s Jules Feiffer. This children’s fantasy adventure novel tells the story of a bored young boy named Milo who unexpectedly receives a magic tollbooth. Once it arrives he drives through only because he’s got nothing better to do. But on the other side, things seem different. Milo visits the Island of Conclusions (you get there by jumping), learns about time from a ticking watchdog named Tock, and even embarks on a quest to rescue Rhyme and Reason! Somewhere along the way, Milo realizes something astonishing. Life is far from dull—just like camp!

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