Vacation reads for 5th graders
Island of the Blue Dolphins
by: Scott O'Dell - (Yearling, 1971) 192 pages.
The Newbery Medal winner for 1961, this book could be seen as a precursor to Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet (see below). 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 ship to come for her. 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, we share the details of her day-to-day life, watch the days turn into years, and wait for the ship to carry her off her lonely island. O’Dell based this novel on an actual historical figure, known as The Lost Woman of San Nicolas, who lived on the island from 1835-1853.
Perfect for: Kids who like historical fiction.
Find Island of the Blue Dolphins at your local library.
The True Meaning of SmekDay
by: Adam Rex - (Hyperion, 2007) 423 pages.
A rollicking adventure told by young Gratuity Tucci, this is the story of the invasion of Earth by aliens known as the Boov. All Americans are relocated to Florida (but then to Texas, once the Boov figure out the joys of orange juice). Gratuity only wants to find her mom. She sets out on her own, joins forces with a renegade Boovian mechanic named J.Lo, has to figure out how to save the Earth, and then the Boov from the Gorg. Good grief, what a mess! But Gratuity Tucci is a heroine of the most invincible kind: a small, 12-year-old girl. And in the grand tradition of small, 12-year-old girls everywhere, she is completely underestimated by absolutely everyone!
Perfect for: Kids who like science fiction and fantasy.
Find The True Meaning of Smekday at your local library.
How Basketball Works
by: Keltie Thomas, illustrated by: Greg Hall - (Maple Tree Press, 2005) 64 pages.
Young readers who enjoy basketball will love this book. Beyond the usual retelling of the history of the game (the physical education teacher who nailed the peach baskets to the gymnasium balcony to give athletes something to do in the winter), this book provides information about the rules of the game, how to become a better player, anecdotes about legendary players, how equipment has evolved over time and tips on game strategy. Conversational text is interspersed with lively illustrations, diagrams and photographs. Even reluctant readers might actually take a break from shooting hoops to read this one.
Perfect for: Kids who like sports.
Find How Basketball Works at your local library.
by: Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller - (Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2014) 368 pages.
Charlie Laird is sure his new stepmother, Charlotte, is a witch. Ever since he, his dad, and his little brother moved into her creepy purple mansion, Charlie’s nightmares have been out of control. When the over-the-top characters haunting his dreams creep into his waking life, Charlie has to face his fears. The first book in a trilogy, it’s a scary-funny and touching treatment of what it’s like to stand up to real fears with good friends by your side.
Perfect for: Kids who loved Monsters, Inc.
Find Nightmares at your local library.
The Unwanteds series
by: Lisa McMann - (Aladdin, 2011) 400 pages.
The hook: Every year in Quill, 13-year-olds are sorted into wanted, necessary, and unwanted. Wanteds will be educated and trained to join the highest levels of society. Necessaries will be trained for menial jobs. Unwanteds will be eliminated. When Alex is deemed Unwanted because of his creativity, he says goodbye to his family and prepares to die — and then discovers that there’s a magical parallel world where his abilities are valued. The first book in a series, this mildly dystopian, Harry-Potter-meets-The-Hunger-Games tale has lots of fun magical details and friendship drama to lighten the mood.
Perfect for: Kids who didn’t get into Hogwarts.
by: Kenneth Oppel, illustrated by: Jim Tierney - (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2015) 352 pages.
Young artist Will Everett, a circus ringmaster, a magical painting, and nefarious villain all meet up on the greatest train ever built for a thrilling ride through the Canadian wilderness. Before boarding The Boundless, Will hadn’t had much adventure in his life. Now on the train ride of his life, he must decide who to trust and why.
Perfect for: Travel-lovers and thrill seekers.
Find The Boundless at your local library.
by: Brian Selznick - (Scholastic Press, 2015) 672 pages.
Brian Selznick, author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, is a groundbreaking storyteller. This stunningly illustrated novel tells two separate consecutive stories, the first comprised solely of illustration, the second told in prose. Billy Marvel survives a shipwreck in 1766 and finds his way to a London theatre, where successive generations of his family thrive as actors. Joseph Jervis is an unhappy modern-day student who runs away from school to his uncle’s house in London in search of clues about his family’s past. The two stories connect at the end in a poignant homecoming.
Perfect for: Artists of all stripes.
Find The Marvels at your local library.
The Case of the Missing Moonstone
by: Jordan Stratford, illustrated by: Kelly Murphy - (Yearling, 2016) 240 pages.
In the world of upper-class Victorian London, Ada and Mary, who are based on the historical figures Augusta Ada Byron and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, meet and form their own detective agency. With deductive reasoning and resourcefulness worthy of Sherlock Holmes and Watson, the two friends solve a series of diabolical crimes.
The first in a series, this story has vivid period details, plenty of action, and fun Victorian contraptions.
Perfect for: Science, mystery, and history lovers.
Find The Case of the Missing Moonstone at your local library.
The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp
by: Kathi Appelt - (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014) 352 pages.
Chap Brayburn wants to save his beloved Bayou Tourterelle. Alligator wrestler Jaeger Stitch wants to develop the land into an alligator theme park, which would spell the end of the Sugar Pie Cafe, which Chap and his mom depend upon for their livelihood. Bingo and J’miah are raccoon brothers whose mission is to protect the swamp, with the help of the Sugar Man, an elusive, yeti-like creature. Lots of threads come together in this atmospheric tale of courage and conservation.
Perfect for: Kids who love nature.
Find The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp at your local library.