Summer Campers, Some Are Not: Must-Read Books for Kids of All Ages

A preschooler teacher in the classroom reading to her class. The multiracial children are sitting on the floor looking up at her. She is talking to a little girl of Pacific Islander ethnicity who is kneeling beside her.
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Summer camp lets inquisitive youngsters take summer reading to the next level. And one doesn’t have to be involved in a sleepaway camp to gather together a list of camp-related reading material. With so many camps on the East End, covering such a wide range of topics, there’s a book (most likely enough to fill a library, actually) to complement whatever your camper’s interests are.

We’ll start with the broadest, most informative series of books out there: Penguin Random House’s Who Was? Series, which began in 2002. The popularity of the series made What Was? and Where Is? inevitable spins-offs. Now there are more than 200 titles about influential people, world-famous landmarks and compelling historical events. An aspiring scientist might be on the lookout for Who Was Marie Curie?; an aspiring artist, Who Was Michelangelo?; an aspiring engineer, What Is the Panama Canal?.

If you’re an educator (or a zealous parent), check out the “For Educators” tab on for lesson plans and activity sheets related to the books. If you’re looking for a cross-over experience, sign into your neighbor’s ex-boyfriend’s sister’s Netflix account to watch The Who Was? Show, a live-action sketch comedy show based on the series of best-selling books.

Readers waited three years since they last saw the Penderwick siblings. The Penderwicks at Last by Jeanne Birdsall is their fifth and final story. Baby sister Lydia is now 11 years old, her older sisters are returning to Arundel and someone is getting married.

Roz the robot is back in The Wild Robot Escapes, the sequel to Robert Brown’s bestselling novel The Wild Robot. In that book, Roz struggled to fit in among the animal inhabitants of a remote jungle island, but now that Roz is off the island, a fresh set of challenges await.

Two novels in verse could spur the inner-poet in a summer camper. First, Kwame Alexander rewinds the shot clock in Rebound, prequel to The Crossover, as he gives readers a look at the basketball-playing youth of Chuck Bell—the father of the twins who starred in his Newbery Medal–winning novel-in-verse.

Fans of Jacqueline Woodson will fall hard for The Poet X, a New York Times-bestselling novel-in-verse by Elizabeth Acevedo, an award-winning slam poet. The novel’s protagonist, Xiomara Batista, has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she develops a crush on a boy named Aman, who her family can never know about. Once Xiomara is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems. In a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

A middle grade novel by Dave Eggers, The Lifters, takes readers on a journey to an underground world where adventure awaits and heroes are made. When Gran and his family move to Carousel, he has no idea that mysterious forces lurk mere inches beneath his feet. When Gran’s friend, the difficult-to-impress Catalina Catalan, presses a silver handle into a hillside and opens a doorway to underground, he knows that he will have no choice but to follow wherever she leads. With luck on their side, and some discarded hockey sticks for good measure, Gran and Catalina might just find a way to lift their sinking town—and the known world—out of danger.

All Summer Long is a coming-of-age, middle-grade graphic novel about summer and friendships, written and illustrated by the Eisner Award winning Hope Larson. Thirteen-year-old Bina’s best friend, Austin, is off to soccer camp for a month, so it’s up to her to see how much fun she can have on her own. At first it’s a lot of guitar playing, boredom and bad TV, but things look up when she finds an unlikely companion in Austin’s older sister, who enjoys music just as much as Bina. But then Austin comes home from camp, and he’s acting weird. The way that Bina and Austin rise above their growing pains and reestablish their friendship, and develop their respect for their differences, makes for a touching and funny coming-of-age story.

Find these books and more at your local bookstore.

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