Great Summer Reads, Part One

Last week I promised to post the list of Great Summer Reads for ages 8 to 12 that I put together for a panel at my local library. This is part one–books, mostly fantasy, that I loved both as an 8 to 12 year old and later, as a library page who should have been shelving in the Children’s Department of the Mary Riley Styles Library but was too often idling by her heavily laden book cart, deep in a new discovery.

Key: A=animal stories, F=fantasy, FL=folklore, HA=historical adventure, M=mystery, S=supernatural/suspense, SF=sci-fi

Adams, Richard (1920-)

Watership Down

Imagine The Hobbit with rabbits. I loved this when I was a kid, and it held up well when my son and I read it while back. (A,F)

Aiken, Joan (1924-2004)

In my humble opinion, Joan Aiken taught Lemony Snicket everything he knows. Ingenious children emerge victorious against the plots of nefarious adults and other perils. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is a good place to start. (HA)

Alexander, Lloyd (1924-2007)

These books, now high-fantasy classics, engrossed and inspired me as a very young writer. The Prydain Chronicles, beginning with The Book of Three and finishing four books later with The High King. (F)

Cameron, Eleanor (1912-1996)

The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet

Two boys are recruited by mysterious Mr. Bass to build a spaceship and fly to the Mushroom Planet. (SF)

Christie, Agatha (1890-1976)

At around age 10, I discovered my father’s stash of Agatha Christie mystery paperbacks, beginning with the short-story collection The Labors of Hercules. The ones set in and around archaeological digs are good choices for kids. (M)

Cooper, Susan (1935-)

The Dark Is Rising sequence, beginning with Over Sea, Under Stone and continuing with The Dark Is Rising. For younger readers, her Boggart books. (F)

Doyle, Arthur Conan (1859-1930)

The real Holmes. Begin with shorter stories such as “The Speckled Band” and “The Red-Headed League” or the secret code of “The Adventure of the Dancing Men,” then work up to “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” (M)

Eager, Edward (1911-1964)

These are especially good as audiobooks for long car trips. (F)

Among others:

Half Magic

Magic by the Lake

Knight’s Castle

Seven-Day Magic

The Well-Wishers

The Time Garden

Fitzhugh, Louise (1928-1974)

Everyone knows Harriet the Spy. But the better book, I think, is the overlooked sequel, The Long Summer.


Garner, Alan (1934-)

Highly atmospheric, spooky fantasy set in a highly atmospheric, spooky part of Cheshire, England. (F)

Among others:

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen

The Moon of Gomrath

The Owl Service

Lang, Andrew (1844-1912)

The Blue Fairy Book and the other 11 colors in the fairy book series. (In fact, I recommend the whole Dewey Decimal range of 398—Fairy Tales and Folklore—for your summer reading pleasure.) (FL)

LeGuin, Ursula (1929-)

Her Earthsea books about the wizard Ged inspired me to become a writer. Originally a trilogy, now a series of six books beginning with 1968’s A Wizard of Earthsea. Younger readers may like her Catwing books. (F)

L’Engle, Madeleine (1918-2007)

One of my very favorite authors. These are characters you really want to spent time with, or move in with!

The Time Trilogy, beginning with A Wrinkle in Time, and the other series about the O’Keefe and Austin families, including The Arm of the StarfishDragons in the Waters, and A Ring of Endless Light.

Beyond category, but if you must have one, mystical science fiction.

Nesbit, Enid (1858-1924)

The Enchanted Castle

The Book of Dragons

…there are dozens more! (F)

Norton, Mary (1903-1992)

The adventures of Arrietty Clock and her parents, Pod and Homily, under the floorboards. (F)

The Borrowers, followed by the Borrowers Afield, …Afloat, …Aloft, and …Avenged

Pyle, Howard (1853-1911)

The Wonder Clock (FL)

Fairy tales, wonderfully illustrated.

Snyder, Zilpha Keatley (1927-)

The Egypt Game

The Headless Cupid

The Velvet Room

Again, sort of beyond category. Supernatural mystery? The Headless Cupid has poltergeists. The Velvet Room was a cherished favorite ghost story. If you like these, there are dozens more titles from this gifted and prolific author. (S)

White, T.H. (1906-1964)

Mistress Masham’s Repose (F)

All kinds of Lilliputian wonderfulness. Recommended for fans of Mary Norton’s Borrower books. Ambitious readers could tackle The Once and Future King, the Arthurian retelling that starts with The Sword in the Stone.