Cincinnati Family Magazine

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May 23, 2024

Top Kids’ Summer Reading Picks

It's always a great day to read! Fill in your kids' summer reading list with these great reads for school age kids and older. Happy reading!

Julian Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love 

Julian Is A Mermaid is one of our favorite books. It’s described as a “celebration of all children who want to do things differently than the parental figures in their lives – and a love letter to grown-ups who deeply understand them” and I couldn’t have said it better myself! 

A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara 

“Reading it is almost like reading Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, but for two-year-olds — full of pictures and rhymes and a little cat to find on every page that will delight the curious toddler and parents alike.”—Occupy Wall Street

Lovely by Jess Hong

“Big, small, curly, straight, loud, quiet, smooth, wrinkly. Lovely explores a world of differences that all add up to the same thing: we are all lovely!” – Barnes & Noble Description 

Little Bitty Friends by Elizabeth McPike and Patrice Barton

“This gentle rhyming book, featuring a racially diverse collection of small children, highlights the fascination children feel for creatures even smaller than themselves . . . Engaging artwork underscores a valuable message about the joys of close observation.”—Booklist

I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont and David Catrow 

“High on energy and imagination, this ode to self-esteem encourages kids to appreciate everything about themselves—inside and out. Messy hair? Beaver breath? So what! Here’s a little girl who knows what really matters.” —Blue Manatee Description

Just Ask Be Different Be Brave Be You by Sonia Sotomayer & Rafael Lopez 

“An affirmative, delightfully diverse overview of disabilities.” – Kirkus Reviews

What Color Is A Kiss by Rocio Bonilla, author and illustrator

“A sweet and heartwarming story centered around one simple question. 

Sassy and intrepid Monica loves to paint with a rainbow of colors. One day she wonders, “What color is a kiss?” She paints items and animals she knows in every color she can think of, hoping to discover the answer. Monica sees her world in every color of the rainbow, but this question nags at her. She paints and paints, hoping to discover the answer. Charming text and vibrant illustrations help Monica and her mother demonstrate that love comes in any and every color.” – Blue Manatee Description 

Don’t Lick This Book by Idan Ben-Barak and Julian Frost 

My boys love this book and think it’s such a funny read! “Min is a microbe. She is small. Very small. In fact so small that you’d need to look through a microscope to see her. Or you can simply open this book and take Min on an adventure to amazing places she’s never seen before—like the icy glaciers of your tooth or the twisted, tangled jungle that is your shirt. The perfect book for anyone who wants to take a closer look at the world.” – Amazon Description 

The Giving Tree by Shel Siverstein

“A true classic that never gets old – in fact only gets more relevant with time. “If you’re looking for a children’s book that teaches generosity or unselfishness, most people will point you right to The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein’s lovely story of a tree that will do anything for the boy it loves—and for good reason. This classic is always a good place to start.” Brightly

Another by Christian Robinson 

A “multilayered, mind-blowing and truly out-of-this-world adventure.” – BookPage, starred review.

My Papa Is A Princess, My Mama Is A Mechanic by Doug Cenko 

Both of these books get read in our house on the regular! Doug Cenko does an incredible job celebrating mom and dad and how our children see us through their eyes. 

Fiona’s Feelings by Dr. John Hutton and the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden 

If you live here in the Cincinnati area – you know Fiona the hippo and you also love her! This book is such a joy to read with the kids – a total mood booster – they love seeing all of the beautiful Fiona photos. 

Baby Feminists by Libby Babbott Klein and Jessica Walker 

Baby Feminists brilliantly introduces kids to icons like Mae Jemison & RBG … a brilliant and beautiful way for parents to introduce [little ones] to some of the most inspiring, trailblazing female change-makers of our time.” —

Plant A Kiss by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Peter H. Reynolds 

“One small act of love blooms into something bigger and more dazzling than Little Miss could have ever imagined in this epic journey about life, kindness, and giving. Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Peter H. Reynolds team together to share a message of hope and to remind us all of the joys to be gained from being open and unselfish. Plant a Kiss works to spark the imagination of the youngest readers, but it will also resonate with anyone, such as a new graduate, who responds to the power of planting a kiss.” – Blue Manatee Description 

How To Code A Sandcastle by Josh Funk Sara Palacios 

With an introduction by Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani, a diverse cast of characters, and delightful visual background humor, this painless introduction to coding basics will engage, entertain, and educate audiences.”  –Booklist

How to Be a Pirate by Isaac Fitzgerald & Brigette Barrager

“This is a bighearted book about stories and storytellers, told with wit, flair, and abundant tenderness.” – Mac Barnett, New York Times bestselling author

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade by Justin Roberts and Christian Robinson 

“This effective rhyming book by kiddie-rock star Roberts takes on the subjects of bullying, teasing, and excluding others… This is a serious topic given serious treatment, and it should be ideal for initiating discussions.” – Booklist

Directive Gordon: The First Case by Ulf Nilsson and Gitte Spee 

“Gr 1–4 Detective Gordon is a portly toad who would much rather eat cake and drink tea than solve crimes. Alas, being the only policeman in the forest, he agrees to investigate the bothersome case of a squirrel’s disappearing stockpile of nuts. Translated from the original Swedish text, Nilsson offers one of those unique books that deliver age-appropriate content for young but advanced readers. This would also be a good choice for a read aloud in the classroom. The full-color illustrations add whimsy to the tale and perfectly complement this gentle read. VERDICT Hand this one to precocious readers who have graduated from early chapter books but aren’t ready for too much strife in their novels.” – Amy Nolan, St. Joseph Public Library, St. Joseph, MI

Middle School Chapter Books 

New Kid by Jerry Craft 

“This is more than a story about being the new kid – it’s a complex examination of the micro – and macroaggressions that Jordan endures from classmates and teachers. Highly recommended for all middle grade shelves.”  School Library Journal 

Some Places More Than Others by Renee Watson 

“Renée Watson is a gifted storyteller who brings vibrant new meaning to time and place. In this beautiful blend of family, history, and culture, Watson lets us discover that one’s true home is rooted in the heart and soul.” – Andrea Davis Pinkney, New York Times bestselling author of “The Red Pencil”

Sweeping Up The Heart by Kevin Henkes 

“Captured on the threshold of puberty’s tumultuous changes, Amelia and Casey quiver with hope and longing. Like a Chinese brush painting made of words, this short novel distills the slow-building impatience of early adolescence down to its essence — not much happens, yet everything does . . . Spare, luminous, lovely.”  Kirkus Reviews 

Wonder by R.J. Palacio 

“Full of heart, full of truth, Wonder is a book about seeing the beauty that’s all around us. I dare you not to fall in love with Auggie Pullman.Rebecca Stead, Newbery award-winning author of “When You Reach Me”

Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book One The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan 

My 9 year old read this book this year and fell in love! It was a great deep dive into Mythological History and a wonderful first “BIG chapter book!” There were times he didn’t want to sit down and read – but he would start a chapter and I would have to pull him away to come to eat dinner.  He was so proud to finish the book and can’t wait to read more! The 2010 film adaptation just hit Disney+ so it was so fun for him to watch after reading and tell us all the ways the movie did not stick to the book’s timeline. 

Young Adult + Adult Novels 

This Is My Brain In Love by I. W. Gregorio 

“Anxiety and depression can turn your brain into a fake news factory. With THIS IS MY BRAIN IN LOVE, I.W. Gregorio delivers a warm, honest, and timely story about friendship, family, love and asking for help when you need it. The chemistry between Jocelyn and Will is so crackling and irresistible, you’ll fall in love, too.” – Mary McCoy, author of Printz Honor Book I, Claudia

Tweet Cute by Emma Lord 

“Take it from a rom-com fanatic: “Tweet Cute” will make your heart feel warm. It is, in a word, delicious. Emma Lord is an exciting new voice in YA and romance, and this book has me on the edge of my seat waiting for the chance to read whatever she cooks up next.” – Alanna Bennett, culture writer and writer for “Roswell, New Mexico”

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow 

“A Song Below Water is a lush, colorful, and deeply moving masterpiece about mythology, the sometimes masked evils of racism, and all the ways the world hurts black girls. An irresistible and perfectly bewitching read that I couldn’t put down!”Jay Coles, composer and author of “Tyler Johnson Was Here”

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas 

“’The Hate U Give’ is an important and timely novel that reflects the world today’s teens inhabit. Starr’s struggles create a complex character, and Thomas boldly tackles topics like racism, gangs, police violence, and interracial dating. This topical, necessary story is highly recommended for all libraries.” – Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) (starred review)

Naturally Tan by Tan France 

“Tan France has wise words to offer across all areas of life. France gives readers a candid and intimate look at his past and shares all that he’s learned about being a spouse, television personality, and role model.” – Time (“Books You Need to Read this Summer”)

Frankly In Love by David Yoon

“Extraordinary … a beautifully layered novel about first love, tribalism and that brief, magical period when kids have one foot in high school, one foot out the door … Yoon explores themes of racism, forgiveness and acceptance without getting earnest or preachy or letting anyone off the hook. And there’s a universality to the story that cuts across cultures.” – New York Times

Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation by Keith O’Brien

I just kicked off my summer reading with this page turner. I am so in love with these inspirational women and their gender stereotype breaking stories in the 20s and 30s! 

“Keith O’Brien has brought these women—mostly long-hidden and forgotten—back into the light where they belong. And he’s done it with grace, sensitivity and a cinematic eye for detail that makes “Fly Girls” both exhilarating and heartbreaking.” – USA Today

Becoming by Michelle Obama 

“In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms.” – Blue Manatee Description 

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Now a Hulu original series starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington.

“I read Little Fires Everywhere in a single, breathless sitting.” – Jodi Picoult

Camino Winds by John Grisham 

“In American icon John Grisham’s new novel, Camino Winds, an odd assortment of mystery and crime authors, some of them felons themselves, discover one of their colleagues has been murdered during the fury of a massive hurricane—the perfect crime scene. Since officials are preoccupied with the aftermath of the storm, the authors set out to solve the mystery themselves, in the type of wild but smart caper that Grisham’s readers love.” – Delia Owens, author of Where the Crawdads Sing

Blue Manatee Book Store in Oakley

A non-profit local bookstore that donates a book to a Cincinnati child for every book purchased! They offer CURBSIDE PICKUP & are OPEN 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. You must be wearing a mask to shop inside the store. If you prefer to shop online but want to avoid shipping fees, we are still offering curbside pickup. 

Check out some more of our favorite kids’ summertime reads here, plus other ways you can keep it cool this summer! 



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