Beach reads for kids

Grade schoolers can explore far-off places (an island or asteroid, perhaps?) with these summer adventures.

By GreatSchools Staff

The Little House

The Little House

The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton
Sandpiper (1978), $7.99
Amazon / IndieBound / Powell's

Virginia Lee Burton is one of my all-time favorites. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel is just one of her many fantastic books, which feature themes such as how to treat others and believe in yourself. The Little House is modestly told and illustrated. What happens when the world changes around you? An early commentary on urbanization. Winner of the 1943 Caldecott Medal. 40 pages.

— Danielle Marshall and the Kids' Team at Powell's.com


Danielle Marshall is a former longtime bookseller, most notably for Powell's Books in Portland, Ore.

Nim's Island

Nim's Island

Nim's Island, by Wendy Orr, illustrated by Kerry Millard
Yearling Books (2001), $5.50
Amazon / IndieBound / Powell's

Take a spunky heroine competently surviving on her own on a deserted island (the ultimate kid fantasy). Add in animal friends who seem to understand, the vaguest of villains hovering in the background, a smattering of scientific information effortlessly absorbed, and a very satisfying conclusion. Then write it in a breezy style, making the various pieces of the story fit together in a nicely coincidental, jigsaw-puzzle way. All together it makes for one delightful story. 125 pages.

Common Sense Media

The Cricket in Times Square

The Cricket in Times Square, by George Selden
Square Fish (2008), $4.95
Amazon / IndieBound / Powell's

The Cricket in Times Square has been initiating bookworms since 1960 and shows no sign of stopping. These days fantasy-series books rule the bookshelves, yet this quiet tale of friendship endures. Chester Cricket, Tucker Mouse, and Harry Cat meet at a newsstand in a New York City subway station when a lonely little boy, Mario Bellini, finds the cricket in a pile of trash. He decides to keep Chester as a pet, and a series of adventures follow. Perfect for a quiet read on a long trip this summer. 144 pages.

Danielle Marshall and the Kids' Team at Powell's.com


Danielle Marshall is a former longtime bookseller, most notably for Powell's Books in Portland, Ore.

The Stories Julian Tells

The Stories Julian Tells

The Stories Julian Tells, by Ann Cameron
Random House (1989), $4.99
Amazon / IndieBound / Powell's

Julian loves to tell tall tales and make his little brother, Huey, believe them. Each chapter in this wonderful early-reader's chapter book is an individual story and makes for a great introduction to the concept of short stories in general. The tales are imaginative, fun, and a great depiction of a loving family in everyday situations. The bite-size length of the chapters keeps the book from feeling overwhelming for a young reader. 80 pages.

— Danielle Marshall and the Kids' Team at Powell's.com


Danielle Marshall is a former longtime bookseller, most notably for Powell's Books in Portland, Ore.

The Little Prince

The Little Prince

The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Harcourt (1943), $8
Amazon / IndieBound / Powell's

This beautiful children's classic really isn't for kids. It looks like a picture book, with its size, brevity, and delicate watercolor illustrations, but its thoughtfulness and nostalgia for childhood appeal more to teens and adults. Nevertheless, curled up with the right adult, kids with the patience will find their introduction to The Little Prince's kindly philosophy one of their most vivid childhood moments. 96 pages.

Common Sense Media

Evangeline Mudd and the Golden-Haired Apes of the Ikkinasti Jungle

Evangeline Mudd and the Golden-Haired Apes of the Ikkinasti Jungle, by David Elliott, illustrated by Andrea Wesson
Candlewick (2007), $15.99
Amazon / IndieBoundPowell's

In this first book in a series, the main character, Evangeline, has a pair of primatologist parents. When her parents are called away on a research trip to the Ikkinasti Jungle and mysteriously fail to return, it's up to Evangeline to find them. With a wild, fast-paced plot and illustrations that drive the narrative, this book about a plucky heroine will have your child asking for the next book in the series. Perfect for those "climb into a tree and read" summer days. 196 pages.

Danielle Marshall and the Kids' Team at Powell's.com


Danielle Marshall is a former longtime bookseller, most notably for Powell's Books in Portland, Ore.

Porch Lies

Porch Lies

Porch Lies: Tales of Slicksters, Tricksters, and Other Wily Characters, by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Andre Carrilho
Random House (2006), $18.95
Amazon / IndieBound / Powell's

Pour the lemonade, climb aboard the porch swing, and prepare to pass the time listening to these nine original stories hung on the bones of the "slicksters, tricksters, and other wily characters" the author came to know and love as a child growing up in the rural South. The storytelling cadence is just right: The characters are a colorful mix of guile and gumption, and the lessons vary from laugh-out-loud funny to touching. A thoroughly engaging collection handsomely presented — what more could you ask for? 160 pages.

Parents' Choice

Island of the Blue Dolphins

Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O'Dell
Yearling (1971), $4.50
Amazon / IndieBound / Powell's

The 1961 Newbery Medal winner, this book could be seen as a precursor to Gary Paulsen's Hatchet. Karana is a 12-year-old Native American who refuses to abandon her 6-year-old brother when her island, Ghalas-at (off the Southern California coast), is evacuated. Shortly thereafter, he tragically dies after being attacked by wild dogs, and Karana begins her solitary wait for a rescue ship. She waits 18 years.

Karana survives by foraging, fishing in the ocean, defending herself from wild dogs and elephant seals, and hiding from the Aleut tribe. Told from her point of view, the book shares the details of her day-to-day life, as she watches the days turn into years and waits for a ship to carry her off the lonely island. Scott O'Dell based the novel on an actual historical figure, the Lost Woman of San Nicolas, who lived on the island from 1835 to 1853. 192 pages.

— Pauline Harris


Pauline Harris is a children's librarian with the San Francisco Public Library and the mother of three daughters, all under the age of 6.

Peak

Peak, by Roland Smith
Harcourt (2007), $4.50
Amazon / IndieBound / Powell's

When 14-year-old Peak Marcello is caught scaling a skyscraper to place his signature graffiti tag, he is offered a choice: spend three years in juvenile detention or climb Mt. Everest with his long-absent father. Though the choice might be easy, the journey is not. Peak is physically and emotionally challenged by the grueling climb, the weather, and the politics and drama of climbing culture. And the pressure is on, because if Peak can reach the summit before his 15th birthday, he'll break a world record and gain glory and money. Peak is gripping and surprising, and though it's written for a middle school audience, readers young and old will be sucked in by the sharp writing and memorable characters. 246 pages.

— Sheila Ashdown and the Kids' Team at Powell's.com


Sheila Ashdown is a marketing production coordinator at Powell's Books in Portland, Ore.