Summer Reading

Melissa Wiley In the Bonny Glen wrote about seasonal reading choices here. She asks the question, “How do the seasons affect your reading choices?”

Then later on in the post she says that Charlotte’s Web may be the best summer book ever. I agree that Charlotte’s Web is meant to be read in the summertime, and it may be the best. However, I thought I’d list a few other summer books; it may not be summer yet where you live, but it’s definitely headed that direction here in Houston. Karate Kid started swim team practice yesterday.

Picture Books
Roxaboxen by Alice McLarren. A group of children in Arizona or New Mexico, somewhere dry and desert-y, make a play town out of old woden crates, rocks, cacti and desert glass. The illustrations are by Barbara Cooney. This book remends me of the story Engineer Husband tells of making “towns” in the dirt in his backyard and then flooding them with the garden hose. Except I don’t think Roxaboxen ever suffered any floods.

Nothing To Do by Russell Hoban. I love this book. Unfortunately, it’s out of print. Walter Possum, a Frances-like character but related only by author, is bored and can find nothing to do. When he complains his father gives him a “magic stone” that will give him ideas if he will only rub it and think really hard and wait for the ideas to come. This one is just as good as the Frances books, and I wish I owned a copy.

The Moon Jumpers by Janice May Udry Illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Four children play together on a summer evening under the light of the moon.

The Summer Night and The Storm Book by Charlotte Zolotow One’s about a summertime walk at night, and the other’s about a summer thunderstorm. Both are beautiful and delightful, perfect for summer’s day or evening. Charlotte Zolotow wrote gentle, easy-to-digest stories about normal everyday occurrences. These make good bedtime stories, too.

Harry by the Sea by Gene Zion. Harry, a white dog with black spots, tries to find a way to cool off at the seashore.

For children and for reading aloud
The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall. I wrote about our reading this book aloud here. Suffice it to say, we enjoyed this one very much, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the urchins picked it up and re-read it this summer.

Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright. Garnet finds a silver thimble, the summer on her family’s farm becomes a magical one in which fun and interesting things happen to Garnet and her family. This book reminds me of Charlotte’s Web in a way; I guess its because of the fair in which Garnet’s pig wins a prize. Gone-Away Lake by the same author is also a summer time book.

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. A group of children sail boats and camp and have adventures, the Swallows versus the Amazons. There’s a whole series of these books, and we haven’t read them all. However, this summer may be a good time to make a start on the list.

Young Adult Books:

The Moon By Night by Madeleine L’Engle. One really ought to read Meet the Austins before reading this one and Ring of Endless Light afterwards. But this one is the summer book. The Austin family goes on a cross-country camping trip, and Vicky, age 15, meets some interesting characters, including Zachary, a poor little rich boy who’s alternately fascinating and alarming.

Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene. A 12 year old Jewish girl from Arkansas meets a German prisoner of war and helps him to escape. As her family life deteriorates, her emotional involvement with her German friend grows. Rebecca of Bec’s Book Blog reviews Summer of My German Soldier.

Grown-up Books

Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns. Maybe it’s just that Southern books feel like summer books. Summer is a a big part of the setting in lots of Southern fiction. It’s just so hot down here; the heat affects the brain and makes us think and act differently than we do in the winter or than they do Up North. I can’t remember whether it’s summer or spring, but Grandpa Rucker in Cold Sassy Tree goes a little bit crazy and runs off with a woman half his age way too soon after the death of his first wife. My pastor’s wife recommended this book to me a long time ago, and I am indebted to her for the enjoyment and lessons learned.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Of course, not all this book takes place during the summer, but it’s definitely a summer book. Atticus proves himself as a deadly shot during the dog days of August. The trial takes place in the summer in a hot, unair-conditioned courtroom. The children’s games and encounters with Boo Radley are mostly the result of a long summer with nothing to do but get into mischief. Oh, I wish I could read To Kill a Mockingbird again for the first time.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Rich careless people while away a long hot summer playing at life without the energy or attention span to really focus on much of anything.

Madeleine L’Engle’s adult books: Certain Women or A Severed Wasp or, my favorite, The Love Letters, the story of a woman who is running away from a difficult marriage. She runs to Portugal, of all places, where she learns about love and responsibility and commitment from a 17th century Portuguese nun who broke her vows for the sake of a handsome French soldier. All of these books have a summer-y atmosphere.

So, what do you read in the summer? Does the season affect your reading choices?

I noticed that many of the books that felt like summer to me were set in the South. Are Southern novels particularly appropriate for summer because it’s almost always hot down here?

Are there movies that are especially suited for summertime viewing? Maybe that’s another post.

11 thoughts on “Summer Reading

  1. I came over, prompted by Down in the Bonny Glen’s post, and nearly squealed when I saw the title of the first book on your list. I have been trying to remember the name of that book for years! It was a favorite of mine when I was little. I hope to go to the library and pick it up today! 🙂 Thank-you!

  2. Natalie

    I read Cold Sassy Tree after seeing it recommended on your site. I enjoyed it so much! I am marrying into a southern family, and I could see some of my future relatives in that book. Soon I’m going to pick up Leaving Cold Sassy!

  3. Wonderful list! Several favorites here, and other things I need to pick up/read with the kids.

    I’d add, under the YA category, “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” by Carson McCullers ….

  4. Laura

    Yes, my reading choices are usually affected by the seasons. I heartily agree with the selections you listed. We love Ransome’s books, and his adult books are good for summer, also. I also like Cold Sassy Tree and To Kill a Mockingbird. I grew up in AL, moved back in December after a 24-year absence, and am looking forward to enjoying summer reading on the front porch.

    Other Enright books we read every summer are Gone-Away Lake and Return to Gone-Away. The Moffat books are favorite summer reading, as are Dangerous Island by Helen Mather-Smith Mindlin, and No Children, No Pets by – oops, can’t remember the author’s name and can’t find it on the shelf now!

    Some picture books that come to mind are Blackberry Ramble, Wombat Stew, and When Sheep Cannot Sleep.

    I tend to read more mysteries in the summer and fantasy books. Also good for summer are series -type books in which nothing much happens, but they’re still a very pleasant read (for me this would include all books by Miss Read, Barbara Pym, and the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books by Alexander McCall Smith). Izaak Walton’s The Complete Angler is a good book for summer. I also like to read books on polar exploration (Alone, The Endurance, The Worst Journey in the World, The South Pole, and others are wonderful to read while swathed in blankets with the AC cranked down to about 67 degrees). Travel books or books set in hot countries are good: Evelyn Waugh’s book Waugh Abroad, Beryl Markham’s West with the Night, Elspeth Huxley’s The Flame Trees of Thika, and Michael Nicholson’s Across the Limpopo.

    For all of us, the Freddy books by Walter Brooks and E.B. White’s books are fun for summer, as are Ray Bradbury’s science fiction stories.

    We haven’t read The Penderwicks, but I want to after reading your review.

  5. Baby Island by Carol Ryrie Brink always seemed like a summer book to me.

  6. Deborah

    Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars reminds me so much of summer when I was around 12 years old. . . somewhere between childhood and young adulthood.

  7. Gone-Away Lake! I’m gonna have to find a copy of that (and its sequel) for the kids. I hadn’t thought about Gone-Away Lake in years.

  8. I LOVE Roxaboxen!! I spent my entire childhood making playhouses and creating little villages with my sisters, and we quickly adapted some of the ideas in the book to our own use. Another great book illustrated by Barbara Cooney is Miss Rumphius.

  9. I would definitely recommend To Kill a Mockingbird. It has a gripping, strong narrative. Most of the other books you mention are complete unknowns to me.

    However, and if you can get those in a good English translation, I would suggest reading El Aleph, Fictions, and The Book of Sand by Jorge Luis Borges.

  10. Pingback: Semicolon

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *