Abel's Island by William Steig—I recently rediscovered this 1976 gem and have a new appreciation for its quiet thoughtfulness and rich vocabulary.
The Battle of Junk Mountain by Lauren Abbey Greenberg—You’ll feel like you’re spending the summer in Maine with Shayne, her grandma, her best friend Poppy, and the Civil-War-obsessed kid next door. Filled with humor and angst, and rich with life lessons.
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo—Opal goes into a Winn-Dixie supermarket and comes out with a big, ugly stray dog that charms his way into all our lives.
Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright—This gentle, quiet story is sweet, slow, and old-fashioned. It reminded me of the joys of my own childhood, when my brother and I would explore the woods, having brave adventures for hours on end. It made me wish children today could experience the same simple pleasure.
Letters from Camp by Kate Klise—This is a fun, amusing, quirky story told via letters and news clippings. I initially got the paperback version, but the quality was poor and the text was really hard to read. If you are going to go for this title, you will definitely want the hardback.
Love, Ruby Lavender by Deborah Wiles—Ruby and her grandma Miss Eula are thick as thieves, so when Miss Eula leaves for Hawaii to visit her new grandbaby, Ruby feels extremely sorry for herself and is sure she is doomed to have the worst summer ever. The book is sprinkled with laugh-out-loud moments and many poignant ones as well, as the main characters learn to navigate grief.
Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown by Jarrett J. Krosoczka—I am embarrassed to say this is my first exposure to the Lunch Lady series. Anyone with experience as a camper or camp counselor will find a ring of truth in the moments of hilarity.
The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis by Barbara O’Connor—Small adventures and big laughs. Almost everyone will enjoy spending part of their summer with these wild and rowdy kids in South Carolina, and learn the meaning of a few great words along the way.
Summer According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney—The sixth book in this series is just as good as the first. Humphrey gets to spend the summer at Camp Happy Hollow, helping campers make friends and enjoy cabin life.
Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker—If you can suspend your disbelief regarding the implausibility of how the girls handle the problem that arises, you’ll thoroughly enjoy the character development, blossoming friendship, and excellent writing.
Tortilla Sun by Jennifer Cervantes—A 12-year-old girl discovers secrets about her past while spending the summer with her grandma in a small New Mexico village. You’ll chuckle, sigh, and maybe shed a tear or two.
Waiting for the Magic by Patricia MacLachlan—Why get one dog at the animal shelter when you could get four . . . and a cat? That is exactly what this family does as they try to recover from their father leaving the family. The animals bring a little magic into their lives that will make all of us want to believe our animals can speak to us, too.