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Independent Reader Books ~ Summer Picks 2015

"Independent Readers" are able to tackle longer books with more complex plots and sometimes themes designed for slightly older kids (I will note these).  Frequently the books are not illustrated, so the reader is capable of making their own "mind movies" as opposed to relying on pictures to aid comprehension.  In my experience, children not quite ready for this level will easily grow bored with books or complain that something is boring.  On the flip side, when kids are ready for these, their reading can take really take off.  It's a huge, rich category of books!  Below are some of my recent favorites, though I'm still quite fond of last year's list, so don't forget to look back on those!


The Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye, is the touching and humorous tale of a boy leaving his beloved home country of Oman-- and his grandfather-- for a three-year stay in Michigan. It will resonate with anyone who has moved between countries and enlighten those who have not.  Wonderful storytelling!
In Fish in a Tree, author Lynda Mullaly Hunt introduces us to Ally, a fifth grader who has somehow never learned to read.  Sure she is stupid, Ally has learned to mask her embarrassment by causing trouble in school.  But there's a new teacher in town, and he sees right through her pranks and recognizes her for the bright, creative girl she is.  A great cast of classmates, lively dialog and Hunt's ability to mix the heartbreaking with the humorous make this a wonderful and uplifting read.
Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin is narrated by Rose, a fifth grade girl with high-functioning autism.  Her matter-of-fact approach to her social and family troubles is both moving and amusing, and her obsession with homonyms is informative as well as entertaining.  When her dog goes missing after a hurricane, Rose embarks on a search that reveals her ingenuity.  She's a character everyone will root for!  While all kids with autism are different, Rose can help build empathy in kids learning to accept differences.

A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord, set in the eastern Maine blueberry barrens, centers around two girls from very different backgrounds.  Lily is a local girl, while Salma is the daughter of seasonal migrant workers. When Lucky, Lily's beloved blind dog, slips away, Salma rescues her, and the ensuing friendship is transformative for Lily.  Lord explores themes of bias and friendship against a backdrop that's all Maine, lovingly rendered.


Stronger readers who love swashbuckling adventure and fantastical creatures The Map to Everywhere, jointly authored by Carrie Ryan and John P. Davis, in which an orphan boy accidentally releases an ancient wizard  while a suburban adventure seeker finds a pirate ship in a parking lot.  The lives and worlds intersect, of course, and a wildly imaginative adventure ensues.
will love

 Lynne Rae Perkins imagines what a squirrel's life would be like--if squirrels talked and did martial arts-- in Nuts to You, a rollicking comic adventure.  A hawk carries off Jed, a gray squirrel, only to drop him in a foreign land filled with brown squirrels.  While he navigates his new reality, his friends from home set out to find him.  A lot of laughs in this one, as well as cartoon-like illustrations to add to the humor.

Chris Grabenstein followed up last year's popular Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library with The Island of Dr. Libris, which is equally action-packed, far-fetched, and engaging.  Classic books somehow come to life on the eponymous island, and Billy meets the likes of Hercules and Robin Hood.  Is Dr. Libris responsible?  Is he evil?


The Terrible Two by Jory John and Mac Barnett have co-written this ode to friendship, making your mark, and the art of excellent pranking.  Miles Murphy prides himself on his master pranking, and when he moves to dull Yawnee Valley, he assumes he'll reign supreme.  But he meets his match in Niles, a master prankster himself.  Let the games begin!


Missing on Superstition Mountain by Elise Broach feels like the new generation of Hardy Boys.  The three Barker brothers think they've moved to a boring Arizona town in the shadow of the Superstition Mountains until they learn of the legends and lore of the area. The promise of lost gold, the fear of protective ghosts or bandits-- the Barkers' new home is paradise for the boys.  A new friend, Delilah, shows the Barkers that girls can be just as daring and clever as boys, if not a little bit more.  A fun read and the first in a three-book series.

I could go on and on with suggestions, but here it is for now.

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