What do you want from your summer read?

July 11, 2008|By CATHERINE HALL

For many years now, deciding what to read at the beach has been a breeze. Why? The newest "Harry Potter," of course. So this year, with no new "Harry Potter," we have some choices to make. And with so many books out there, choosing a beach read may be even trickier than figuring out which SPF to use on your nose or elbow.

So I suggest trying to choose your next beach read by first determining what you expect out of the book: Do you want to be relaxed and entertained or engaged and educated?

If you want to be relaxed and entertained, then you are probably looking for a frolicking adventure, an enchanting setting, a suspenseful plot or a happy ending. And you'd probably prefer all four in one. Try one of these wholly entertaining books from the Washington County Free Library's collection:

"Babymouse: Beach Babe" written by Jennifer Holm and illustrated by Matthew Holm (ages 7 to 10)


This graphic novel stars Babymouse, a sassy mouse with attitude to spare, who is taking the beach by storm ... well, almost. It won't take long to read, so be sure to pick up a few other Babymouse books, too.

"Summerhouse Time," by Eileen Spinelli (ages 8 to 12)

The month of August is Sophie's favorite time of year. That's when she and her extended family spend the entire month on vacation at the beach.

"Stormbreaker," by Anthony Horowitz (ages 12 to 17)

In the first installment chronicling the missions of a teenage spy, Alex Rider finds his uncle's windshield riddled with bullet holes -- and he knows his uncle didn't die by accident.

"I am Rembrandt's Daughter," by Lynn Cullen (ages 12 to 17)

Amsterdam in the mid-1600s, Cornelia's life as the illegitimate child of renowned painter Rembrandt is marked by plague, poverty and despair at ever earning her father's love, until she sees hope for a better future in the eyes of a weathy suitor.

"Ranger's Apprentice: The Battle for Skandia," by John Flanagan (ages 10 to 13)

In this fourth episode of Ranger's Apprentice, after Will battles Temujai warriors to rescue Evanlyn, Will's kingdom of Skandia joins forces with rival kingdom Araluen to defeat a common enemy.

If you want to be engaged and educated, then you probably looking forward to choosing your own book. Even so, you'd rather it be a book that will still challenge your mind and help you keep up your reading skills so that your brain hasn't turned to mush come fall. Try one of these mind-exercising books from the library's collection:

"Beowulf" retold and illustrated by Michael Morpurgo (ages 8 to 12)

Beowulf saves the land of the Danes from a merciless ogre named Grendel, Grendel's sea hag mother and the death-dragon of the deep.

"An Inconvenient Truth," by Al Gore (ages 11 to 17)

Adapted for a new generation from the New York Times bestseller about what we can do to battle global warming.

"Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood," by Ibtisam Barakat (ages 12 to 17)

In this groundbreaking memoir set in Ramallah during the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War, Barakat captures what it is like to be a child whose world is shattered by war.

"We Are The Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball" written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson (ages 8 to 12)

Using an "Everyman" player as his narrator, Nelson tells the story of Negro League baseball from its beginnings in the 1920s through its decline after Jackie Robinson crossed over to the majors in 1947.

"The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano," by Margarita Engle (ages 12 to 15)

Written by a contemporary poet, this biography explores the tragic yet inspiring life of 19th-century slave and poet Juan Francisco Manzano.

Unlocking the treasure

Occasionally you'll find a book that measures up to both expectations. Those are the gold pieces in the treasure chest of summer reading -- all the fun of a beach read mixed with all the makings of a classic. Try one of these good-and-good-for-you books from the library's collection:

"Traitor's Gate," by Avi (ages 10 to 13)

When his father is arrested as a debtor in 1849 London, 14-year-old John Huffman must take on unexpected responsibilities, from asking a distant relative for help to determining why people are spying on him and his family.

"Golden Compass," by Phillip Pullman (ages 10 to 17)

Accompanied by her daemon, Lyra Belacqua sets out to prevent her best friend and other kidnapped children from becoming the subjects of gruesome experiments in the Far North.

"The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," by Sherman Alexie (ages 11 to 17)

Junior, a budding cartoonist, leaves his school on the Spokane Indian Reservation to attend an all-white school.

"The Penderwicks on Gardam Street," by Jeanne Birdsall (ages 8 to 12)

The four Penderwick sisters are faced with the unimaginable prospect of their widowed father dating, and they hatch a plot to stop him.

"The Wednesday Wars," by Gary Schmidt (ages 10 to 14)

Holling Hoodhood, a seventh-grader at Camillo Junior High, contends with a bully demanding cream puffs, angry rats and reading Shakespeare outside of class.

Whether you plan on spending your summer by the pool, at the beach or in a hammock, you'll need a good book. And whether you want to be relaxed and entertained or engaged and educated, you'll need a good book.

Catherine Hall is children's librarian with the Washington County Free Library.

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