School’s out for summer, and there’s a bumper crop of summer reading picks for readers from toddlers to teens, written and illustrated by Seattle-area authors.
Seattle-area authors will keep young readers busy this summer with books for preschoolers to teenagers. Topics range from tales about pets (the normal kind — dogs — and not-so-normal magical chickens), history (promised to be “100 percent not boring”), nature, retold fairy tales, and rock ’n’ roll.
Even young children will appreciate the visual humor in “My Dog is the Best”(Farrar Straus and Giroux, 40 pp., $17.99, ages 2-5) by author Laurie Ann Thompson and illustrator Paul Schmid, who both live in Seattle. While an enthusiastic toddler insists his dog is fun because “he plays ball,” the delightful pastel pencil illustrations show the chubby dog curled up, sleeping. And he keeps dozing as he smartly “reads books” placed in front of his closed eyes. By the end, readers will want to snuggle up with the napping boy and his lazy companion — until the twist, when the dog is finally ready to play.
“Little Kunoichi: The Ninja Girl” lives on a secret island and attends ninja school in this picture book by Seattle author-illustrator Sanae Ishida (Little Bigfoot, 32 pp., $16.99, ages 4-6). She isn’t very good at her lessons (and her bright-pink ninja outfit doesn’t help), until Chibi Samurai, who is “perhaps not the best samurai-in-training,” inspires her with his constant practicing. The colorful, painted illustrations follow the new friends as they bond over their shugyo (“training like crazy”).
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Readers who want to learn a little over the summer should pick up “The Most Amazing Creature in the Sea” (Henry Holt, 32 pp., $17.99, ages 5-8), but facts about box jellyfish (“millions of stinging toxic cells”) and hagfish (“sticky, slippery slime”) might discourage beach swimming. The interesting nonfiction book, written with vivid descriptions by Seattle author Brenda Z. Guiberson and illustrated with detailed paintings by Gennady Spirin, lets readers decide whether size, venom or even blue-colored blood makes an animal the coolest.
All history lectures should be as interesting as “Guts & Glory: The Vikings” (Little, Brown, $17, ages 9-12) by Seattle author Ben Thompson. His colloquial style (“Bjorn was said to be the son of a dude named Ragnar Hairy-Breeches”) and personal asides will hook readers already fascinated by Norse gods such as Thor and Loki. Interesting facts and sidebars trace the Vikings’ influence in our own culture, from Santa to the Tooth Fairy to Thursday (“Thor’s Day”).
Chickens also are educational, but the ones in “Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer” by Kelly Jones(Knopf Books for Young Readers, 224 pp., $16.99, for ages 8-11) are a bit different. These magical hens lay glass eggs, seem to disappear and change into hawks, as Sophie discovers when she and her family inherit her deceased uncle’s farm. Through letters to her uncle and her also-departed grandmother, sweet, levelheaded Sophie figures out how to cope with homesickness, grief over her grandma’s death, her growing flock of wacky chickens, and a local farmer who keeps trying to steal them. Jones, a debut novelist, lives in Shoreline.
Fans of fractured fairy tales will enjoy two new novels: “Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel” by Renton author Megan Morrison (Arthur A. Levine Books, 384 pp., $17.99, ages 10-13) and “Crimson Bound” by Seattle author Rosamund Hodge(Balzer+Bray, 448 pp., $17.99, ages 14-17). Rapunzel is offended when Jack (yes, of the beanstalk) climbs into her tower, but he isn’t a prince and doesn’t think her hair is glorious. He tricks her into leaving the tower and sets them on an adventure that leads to her real family and the truth about her captivity.
For older readers, “Crimson Bound” retells “Little Red Riding Hood” with a dark, magical twist. When Rachelle strays from the forest path, she ends up bound to an evil master and turned into a killer. With feelings for both the captain of the king’s guards and the prince she is ordered to protect, Rachelle must find a way to save both herself and her world from the Devourer.
“The Game of Love and Death” by Seattle author Martha Brockenbrough (Arthur Levine Books, 336 pp., $17.99, ages 14-18) mixes a touch of fantasy with historical fiction. Love and Death, personified, wage a bet in the Game: If their chosen players “choose each other at the cost of everything else,” Love wins; if not, Death claims the life of her player. The stakes are played out during the Great Depression as Henry, an orphan adopted into a wealthy family, falls for Flora, an African-American girl who sings in a Seattle jazz club but really wants to fly airplanes. With everything from racial prejudice to class bias against them, is there any way Love could finally win?
Finally, teen readers can choose two realistic fiction novels by Seattle authors, one set at a middle school — “Breakout” by Kevin Emerson (Crown, 296 pp., $17.99, ages 13-15) — the other at a high school, “Every Last Promise” by Kristin Halbrook(HarperTeen, 288 pp., $9.99, ages 14-17). In “Breakout,” Anthony Castillo is stuck in a K-8 school, wishing he was in high school and wondering why he always gets in trouble. He likes only his favorite World War II video game and playing guitar at Rock Band Club. He’s a wannabe rebel without a cause, wishing he “could change everything that sucks,” until he writes a viral hit song that drops the f-bomb. Soon he has administrators telling him he can’t sing the word at Art Night, and a group of eighth-graders lobbying him to take a stand against censorship.
In “Every Last Promise,” after a party, a car accident leaves a boy dead and the driver, Kayla, is dubbed “Killer Kayla.” When Kayla returns to school, she just wants things to be back to normal: her popular friends, the small-town friendliness. Except for one cute boy, everyone turns against her, and Kayla knows she deserves it. The car crash was deliberate. Does she have the courage to explain why, and fulfill the promise she made?