I know what you want. I see you. You come in to the library with that little-bit-panicked look in your eye: "Oh shit there's no school for like MONTHS and they're going to do nothing but play Minecraft and moan about being bored." Or pull scary crap like balance-beam on an 8-foot fence. YEESH.
I am right there with you. Milo is in the basement right this second watching those awful Sky Does Minecraft YouTube videos. Or porn. No I did not just write that. I take it back. Wait, let me just get him up here, I'll be right back.
He was practicing guitar. OF COURSE. God, I am so not ready for him to be a teen.
Anyway, you want book recommendations for your children so that they do not forget how to read / become glassy-eyed screen zombies over the summer. You want books that are IRRESISTABLE, books that they will plough through and then ask for the next. In short, you want series books, and you want series that have been out for long enough that there's no waiting for the next book.
Don't get me wrong - believe me, I spend a lot of time extolling stand-alone books - or as we used to call them, "books." Here are five I am recommending right this second. I'd even go so far as to say that with a few exceptions, the classics of children's and teen literature are all one-off books. Creating living characters that grow and learn (or don't), establishing the world of the book, and setting up and resolving (or not) situations all within the space of 350 pages makes for a satisfying reading experience and I think brings out a writer's best abilities.
But this is summer, and sometimes you just want to hook a kid up to a literature pipeline. You want that kid consuming books like a string of sausages. Ew. Where the hell did I get that? That's gross. Anyway, we don't want to give them ANY OPPORTUNITY to put one down and not pick up the next. So here are a few addictive series that I recommend for when you pry them away from the screens or yank em out of the pool or when it's too wet to play outside.
Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot by Dav Pilkey. You know Dav Pilkey - he's the Captain Underpants man. New editions of this cute series, SPECTACULARLY illustrated in full blazing color by Dan Santat are on shelves right now. These books are great bridges from Beginning Reader books to longer books like Mal and Chad, Magic Trixie, or...
Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke. Third in this irresistable graphic novel series about brave, happy Zita and her adventures with her friends is available now.
Platypus Police Squad by Jarrett K. Krosoczka. Action-packed hard-boiled buddy detective action for third graders. Detectives Zengo and O’Malley fight crime and solve mysteries on the mean streets of Kalamazoo. The first two books of this series are available.
The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates by Caroline Carlson. Hilary wants to be a pirate, but she is instead shipped off to boarding school to learn how to be a lady! How will she escape to the life of adventure she craves? The 2nd book will be out later this summer.
The W.A.R.P. series by Eoin Colfer. Colfer is the author of the very popular Artemis Fowl series, and has a terrific knack for funny dialog. He used to be a teacher. In Ireland. It was probably make 'em laugh or be killed over there. This series is about time-traveling kid secret agents saving the world. Basically.
Twice Upon a Time by Wendy Mass, Whatever After by Sarah Mlynowski, and Ever After High by Shannon Hale. These three fairytale-adjacent series are very popular, and for good reason - they are light-hearted and clever. Bonus: they introduce readers to Wendy Mass, Sarah Mlynowski, and Shannon Hale - all three are wonderful authors who will reliably take a reader all the way up to Young Adult.
The Hero’s Guide series by Christopher Healy. In my last post, I described Milo's outrage upon learning that there was a third in this series, and that he hadn't gotten his mitts on it yet. Tyrant! So I brought home The Hero's Guide to Being an Outlaw and he read it in two days, cackling out loud all the while. 500 pages, but that doesn't trouble a lot of young readers.
Eleven-year-old Ezra loves historical fiction. I'm going to grab him the Sixties trilogy by Deborah Wiles. The new one is Revolution.
If your kid is more the blood 'n' guts kind of reader than the hilarious hijinks reader, that kid will want the Prisoners of the Empire series by Graham Salisbury. WWII stories of conflict and survival, three are out already and the fourth, Hunt for the Bamboo Rat, is coming in September.
Readers who crave suspense should be introduced to a little lady I like to call Margaret Peterson Haddix. Her two series The Shadow Children and The Missing are tense page-turning speculative fiction. Best of all, there are a LOT of books in each of those series, enough to take a kid through the whole summer.
And for the kid fantasy reader, hit up Tui T. Sutherland's Wings of Fire series. The fifth book in this series about a world populated entirely by dragons came out this spring. GORGEOUS covers, for what it's worth.
Middle school and up:
Gail Carriger writes the popular Alexia Tarabotti books for grownups, which can best be described as romantic Victorian paranormal secret agent romps. In other words, this woman ought to be writing YA. Which she is. Look for the Finishing School books if you've got a reader who would enjoy spy fiction with a side of peppy dialogue and fancy clothes. Two books are out, I think more are coming.
Superhero action fans should get their hands on the Super Human series by Michael Owen Carroll. Terrific characters, unexpected plot twists - this author is British and reading him is like... it's like catching up on Sherlock when all you've been watching is Elementary. BETTER, is what I mean.
Garth Nix. Fantasy readers who haven't already read everything by Garth Nix should just start.
You'll never believe it, but the Escape from Furnace series by Alexander Gordon Smith is - well yes it's grotesque horror set in a nightmare world, but also it's very concerned with questions of loyalty and right and wrong. It may look like Saw on the outside but its moral center is quite sound. Five are on shelves, not sure if it's going to continue or not.
But they can move right from Furnace to London - the Enemy novels (five so far) by Charlie Higson are also grotesque horror and also surreptitiously high-minded. Also clever as balls.
And then hightail it to - I think it's somewhere in California - the setting of the Gone novels by veteran serialist Michael Grant. There are six of these hefty puppies on your library shelves. Grant doesn't believe in soft-pedaling sore subjects for teen readers so if they like intense drama and crazy action, get 'em going on Gone. And then if they're TOTAL psychos, give 'em BZRK and its sequel, BZRK Reloaded. Third book in that series will be out in October.
Back to Earth and loaded with emotion: for TFIOS fans: Look for If I Stay and Where She Went by Gayle Forman. There’s going to be a movie and I triple dog DARE you to make it to the end of that trailer without a little something dribbling out the eyes. Whew. That beautiful novel deserves a beautiful movie. You can also give this to *shudder* Nicholas Sparks fans.
Equal parts romance and action: the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor. Romance, action, supernatural creatures. I couldn't resist popping all three of those covers up there - they're just so cool together.
For fans of sassy and suspenseful - people who enjoy, say, Pretty Little Liars - I recommend Robin Benway's new series about an international teen secret agent living in Manhattan, Also Known As. Maggie's best friend Roux is one of the best sidekicks EVER WRITTEN. Two books out already.
More safe and fun girl-centric mystery action: The Gallagher Girls novels by Ally Carter. We listened to the first one on audio and it hopped right along, lots of fun. That series is complete, so no waiting!
Last but not least: action horror fans will like the Quarantine trilogy by Lex Thomas. A high school is quarantined after an outbreak of a virus that makes them toxic to any grownup they encounter. The finale to this series is out in July. Very intense. And that's quite the metaphor, eh?
If those wretched children of yours begin to make the air in your house feel a little close, a little poisonous this summer, get to the nearest public library at once. It is air conditioned and packed full of fun things to read. And stop for snowballs on the way home.