Summer Reading: Fourth and Fifth Grades

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. The link goes to an interview with my then-eight year old daughter about her impressions of this award-winning book about India Opal Buloni, her smiling dog, and her preacher daddy. First line: “My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog.”

Some Summer by Jean Vandevenne. Charlie Scott and his friends decide to use their summer vacation and some scrap lumber, nails, and some old tools to build a clubhouse. But Aunt Essie comes to visit from Florida, and she has other plans for Charlie’s time and energies. It’s going to be “some summer” if all Charlie gets to do is mow grass and pull weeds for Aunt Essie!

Half Magic by Edward Eager. What if you found a magic coin that gave you only half of what you wished for—half invisibility, half of a rescue, halfway to wherever you wished to go? Four siblings—Jane, Mark, Katharine, and Martha— do find such a coin, and it propels them into a summer full of adventure and imagination and humor and plain fun.

Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright. Summer has a magic all its own, but this summer is different in many ways. Portia Blake and her younger brother Foster are going to the same place they always go in the summer, to visit their cousin Julian. However, this summer they’re going all by themselves while their parents spend the summer in Europe. And this summer Portia and Julian discover a deserted resort town next to a nearly dried up lake. And this summer the children also become friends with the eccentric Minnehaha Cheever and Pindar Payton, elderly sister and brother who are the only inhabitants of the ghost town across the lake. What other “magic” will the children conjure up as they listen to tales of long ago and explore the remains of Gone-Away Lake?

Leepike Ridge by N.D. Wilson. My then-ten year old son’s review of this Tom Sawyer-like tale. This take-off on Tom Sawyer, Robinson Crusoe, and The Odyssey should appeal to boys especially. It has caves, tunnels, hidden treasure, wild water rafting, and wilderness (sort of) survival. There are bad guys, good guys, dead guys, blood, raw food, and near-dismemberment. What more could a boy want in a book? (Girls, too)

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit. “The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning.” So begins the timeless (really, timeless) tale of Winne Foster who stumbles up on a family, the Tucks, who have discovered the secret of eternal life. Would you want to live forever? Would it be a blessing or a curse to never grow old, never die?

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall. The Penderwick sisters—Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty–along with their absent-minded professor father, are spending their vacation in a cottage called Arundel in the Berkshire Mountains. When they meet the boy next door, Jeffrey, they think they have found a a great new summer friend, but Jeffrey’s mother almost spoils both the friendship and the summer with her arrogant and overbearing ways. The Penderwicks are a delightful family, and Jeffrey does become a good friend, but it takes patience, joy, perseverance, and forgiveness to make the summer both memorable and exciting.

Rules by Cynthia Lord. Twelve year old Catherine just wants a few rules to be followed–for herself, but especially for her younger brother, David, who is autistic. Catherine wants her life to be normal. She also wants a friend, but “normal” and friendship and David may not fit together, may not follow the rules that Catherine has written in her little notebook. Then, she meets Jason, a paraplegic, who does therapy at the same clinic as David and Kristi, the girl next door. Can one or both of them be the friends she has been looking for?

Some kids just prefer nonfiction reading. Don’t make them read all fiction when they are more enamored of the true stories that surround us.

In Woods and Fields by Margaret Waring Buck. This book takes the reader on a walk through the woods and fields in each of the four seasons “to look for wild flowers and to watch the birds and other mammals.” Nature exploration at its best.
In Yards and Gardens by Margaret Waring Buck. Ms. Buck describes all of the most common birds, trees, flowers, vegetables, insects, and mammals that are found in typical yards and gardens. This book is a treasure for the budding naturalist.

Sketching Outdoors in Summer by Jim Arnosky. Nature lovers and artists will enjoy the encouragement and illustration that this book by prolific nature artist Jim Arnosky has to offer. “These summer sketches are about things I love doing, as well as things I enjoy drawing,” says Mr. Arnosky, as he shares pencil sketches of garden, pastures, woods and pond.

Hobby Collections A-Z by Roslyn W. Salny. Summer is a great time to start a hobby or maybe a collection. This older book gives kids lots of ideas for starting a new collection from buttons to keys to leaves to playing cards. At the end of the book, there is an “A-Z List of Additional Things to Collect.” The book is pre-internet, and some of the suggestions about where to find items for your collection reflect that low-tech approach. But that’s all to the good, as far as I’m concerned. Kids have plenty of time to get connected; why not give them a book with some non-internet, low technology things to do. Like collecting coins or postmarks or roadmaps?

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