Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Books With Summer Vibes

Today, we’re talking about “summer vibes.” When I think of summer, I imagine time off school, heat waves, camping trips, adventures with friends, vegetable gardens, BBQs, backyard parties, fireworks, bugs, beaches, and being too sweaty to sleep at night. I think about books that are quick to read or are easy to pick up between dips in the pool. Here are 10 excellent books that capture the flavor of summer. I tried to pick stories for every age group.

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🌴 Summer Vibes 🍹 

1. All The World by Liz Garton Scanlon & Marla Frazee

Children’s Picture Book

Following a circle of family and friends through the course of a day from morning till night, this book affirms the importance of all things great and small in our world, from the tiniest shell on the beach, to warm family connections, to the widest sunset sky.

Why I recommend it: The beach illustrations! I don’t know where this book is set, but I want to live there. It’s warm, green, and friendly. Reading this book is a relaxing experience. The author and illustrator capture the sleepy feeling of a seaside town.

2. When Zachary Beaver Came To Town by Kimberly Willis Holt

Middlegrade Historical Fiction

It’s tough for Toby when his mother leaves home to be a country singer. Toby takes it hard when his best friend Cal’s older brother goes off to fight in Vietnam. Now their sleepy town is about to get a jolt with the arrival of Zachary Beaver, billed as the fattest boy in the world. Toby is in for a summer unlike any other, a summer sure to change his life.

Why I recommend it: It deserves its National Book Award. This was one of my childhood favorites and is always the first novel to pop into my head when someone says “summer read.” It’s set in a memorable, vivid, blisteringly hot Texas town. The lives of two young friends are disrupted when “the fattest boy in the world” is abandoned in a parking lot.

3. Honor Girl: A Graphic Memoir by Maggie Thrash

Young Adult Graphic Memoir

Maggie Thrash has spent basically every summer of her fifteen-year-old life at the one-hundred-year-old Camp Bellflower for Girls, set deep in the heart of Appalachia. She’s from Atlanta, she’s never kissed a guy, she’s into Backstreet Boys in a really deep way, and her long summer days are full of a pleasant, peaceful nothing . . . until one confounding moment. A split-second of innocent physical contact pulls Maggie into a gut-twisting love for an older, wiser, and most surprising of all (at least to Maggie), female counselor named Erin. But Camp Bellflower is an impossible place for a girl to fall in love with another girl, and Maggie’s savant-like proficiency at the camp’s rifle range is the only thing keeping her heart from exploding. When it seems as if Erin maybe feels the same way about Maggie, it’s too much for both Maggie and Camp Bellflower to handle, let alone to understand.

Why I recommend it: Graphic novels are perfect for summer reading because they’re quick to get through. You can flop down by the pool and finish the book before you get sunburned. This one takes place at an all-girls summer camp. The dialogue is hilarious. The author vividly remembers what it’s like to be an awkward, confused teenager.

4. Wilderness Tips by Margaret Atwood

Adult Short Stories

Here are brilliantly rendered stories that explore themes of loss and discovery, of the gap between youthful dreams and mature reality, of how we connect with others and with the sometimes hidden part of ourselves.

Why I recommend it: I’ve read a lot of short stories. If you count all the ones I rejected while working for literary journals, I’ve probably read thousands of them. This collection has always stuck in my mind. It’s about how one moment can change a person’s life. The stories involve summer camps, canoe trips, eco-warriors, and long-dead bodies discovered in the wilderness.

5. Hello, Bugs! by Smriti Prasadam & Emily Bolam

Baby / Toddler Board Book

A charming introduction to 10 beautiful little bugs, featuring high contrast black-and-white patterns. A glittering burst of colored foil brings a vivid splash of color to every page.

Why I recommend it: Summer brings out the bugs. Why not get a head start at ogling them? You know your children are going to be doing it. The toddler in my life loves this book. It doesn’t have many words, but it does have shiny foil and smiling illustrations of common backyard beasties.

6. As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds

Middlegrade Contemporary

Genie’s summer is full of surprises. The first is that he and his big brother, Ernie, are leaving Brooklyn for the very first time to spend the summer with their grandparents all the way in Virginia—in the COUNTRY! The second surprise comes when Genie figures out that their grandfather is blind. Thunderstruck and—being a curious kid—Genie peppers Grandpop with questions about how he covers it so well (besides wearing way cool Ray-Bans).

How does he match his clothes? Know where to walk? Cook with a gas stove? Pour a glass of sweet tea without spilling it? Genie thinks Grandpop must be the bravest guy he’s ever known, but he starts to notice that his grandfather never leaves the house—as in NEVER. And when he finds the secret room that Grandpop is always disappearing into—a room so full of songbirds and plants that it’s almost as if it’s been pulled inside-out—he begins to wonder if his grandfather is really so brave after all.

Then Ernie lets him down in the bravery department. It’s his fourteenth birthday, and, Grandpop says to become a man, you have to learn how to shoot a gun. Genie thinks that is AWESOME until he realizes Ernie has no interest in learning how to shoot. None. Nada. Dumbfounded by Ernie’s reluctance, Genie is left to wonder—is bravery and becoming a man only about proving something, or is it just as important to own up to what you won’t do?

Why I recommend it: The childlike voice is funny and spot-on. I adore Genie, the narrator. He’s curious and nerdy and addicted to Googling every question that pops into his head. He has a lot of questions because he’s spending his first summer ever in the country. Big adventures await him in the wide open spaces.

7. This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki

Young Adult Graphic Novel

Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It's their getaway, their refuge. Rosie's friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose's mom and dad won't stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. It's a summer of secrets and sorrow and growing up, and it's a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.

Why I recommend it: Well, it has “Summer” in the title. And, it’s so pretty! The artwork is gorgeous, especially the drawings of the forest. It’s about two kids on the fringes of adult situations. The authors perfectly capture that uncomfortable “tween” age. The characters are dealing with grown-up problems, but everyone treats them like children who aren’t capable of understanding what’s happening.

8. The Shell Collector: Stories by Anthony Doerr

Adult Short Stories

The exquisitely crafted stories in Anthony Doerr’s debut collection take readers from the African Coast to the pine forests of Montana to the damp moors of Lapland, charting a vast physical and emotional landscape. Doerr explores the human condition in all its varieties—metamorphosis, grief, fractured relationships, and slowly mending hearts—conjuring nature in both its beautiful abundance and crushing power. Some of the characters in these stories contend with hardships; some discover unique gifts; all are united by their ultimate deference to the ravishing universe outside themselves.

Why I recommend it: The stories are nature-oriented. Many of them involve fishing trips. The title story is one I’ll never forget. It’s about a blind scientist and his guide dog who live in a hut on the coast of Kenya. They spend their days cataloging different kinds of seashells. One day, the scientist stumbles across a snail that is thought to be poisonous, but he inadvertently discovers that the snail’s venom may actually have healing properties. When news of the healing snail becomes public, chaos ensues.

9. Eli The Good by Silas House

Adult Historical Fiction
(The book calls itself young adult, but I disagree)

Bicentennial fireworks burn the sky. Bob Seger growls from a transistor radio. And down by the river, girls line up on lawn chairs in pursuit of the perfect tan. Yet for ten-year-old Eli Book, the summer of 1976 is the one that threatened to tear his family apart. There is his distant mother; his traumatized Vietnam vet dad; his wild sister; his former war protester aunt; and his tough yet troubled best friend, Edie, the only person with whom he can be himself. As tempers flare and his father’s nightmares rage, Eli watches from the sidelines, but soon even he cannot escape the current of conflict.

Why I recommend it: Well, the cover screams “Summer,” doesn’t it? It’s about life in small-town Kentucky. The main character, Eli, is an observant child who’s trying to make sense of his complicated family. Drama is sparked by a July 4 bicentennial celebration that drags all of his family’s problems to the surface.

10. Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham

Young Adult Mystery

When seventeen-year-old Rowan Chase finds a skeleton on her family’s property, she has no idea that investigating the brutal century-old murder will lead to a summer of painful discoveries about the past, the present, and herself.

One hundred years earlier, a single violent encounter propels seventeen-year-old Will Tillman into a racial firestorm. In a country rife with violence against blacks and a hometown segregated by Jim Crow, Will must make hard choices on a painful journey towards self-discovery and face his inner demons in order to do what’s right the night Tulsa burns.

Why I recommend it: Uncovering a buried skeleton is definitely a unique way to start a summer. The teenage character sets out to learn the skeleton’s identity and finds herself caught up in an unpredictable murder mystery. I didn’t want to put this book down.

Have you read any of these? What did you think?
Do you have any summer books to add to my list?


  1. Oh, I like the sound of As Brave As You! I’m going to check my library for that one. Genie sounds like a gem. :)

  2. I really liked Honor Girl and This One Summer, and I LOVED Dreamland Burning. I like that you shared books for different ages. :)


  3. Your books are all new to me but some of them look really intriguing. All the World has a gorgeous cover that makes me wanna go to the beach now. Sad that the next beach is a few hours away *lol* Thank you for sharing and happy reading. Stay safe and well.

  4. Fabulous list. I love Marla Frazee's picture book art. All the World is beautiful and hopeful. I think I need to reread it. Right now.

  5. I have been wanting to read both the graphic novels. I have heard lots of good things about both.

  6. I haven't heard of most of these, but there are a bunch on here that I need to add to my TBR pile. Thanks for the recs!

    Happy TTT!

  7. I know I had Dreamland Burning on my TBR for awhile, I think I should put it back on!

  8. Dreamland Burning was excellent. I just recently listened to it on audiobook.

    Check out my TTT

  9. I love the sound of the illustrations in All the World. I love it when illustrations can draw me in like that.

  10. These books definitely give off the summer vibes. HELLO, BUGS! by Smriti Prasadam and Emily Bolam is DEFINITELY a summer book. 😆

    Here's my TTT list.

  11. Some of these covers are Uber cute AJ!

  12. I love the sound of As Brave As You! This is such a great list!

    My TTT

  13. What a great list of books to read! I want to read all of them!