Books open up a magical opportunity for kids during the summer. We asked NoVA librarians and booksellers for their recommendations.
8 and Under
Hot Dog by Doug Salati
“The sensations of summer leap off the page in this award-winning book. No words are needed to convey the little dog’s exhaustion as he is dragged through the sizzling city until collapsing and refusing to budge — a move kids will immediately recognize. The relief is palpable as his owner whisks him away to the beach, with soothing blues and open skies replacing the crowds and scorching reds and oranges of the city scenes. A wonderful reminder to young and old to slow down and enjoy the joys of an unscheduled summer afternoon!” — Heather Williams, Ashburn Library
It Began with Lemonade by Gideon Sterer and Lian Cho
“An industrious child decides to start a lemonade stand on a hot summer’s day, only to realize that she’s far from the only one with that idea. When fate brings her to the river’s edge, she finds her own entirely unique band of customers. With messages of persistence and creativity, this story is sure to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs.” — Monica DiMuzio, Brambleton Library
Knight Owl by Christopher Denise
“Knight Owl is the beautifully illustrated story of a tiny owl who becomes a knight and saves the day in a most unconventional way. An instant classic that shows that finding similarities and using your brain can make the smallest into the most brave.” — Courtney Pippin-Mathur, Hooray for Books!
Big by Vashti Harrison
“A touching message for children and adults alike is the center of this beautifully illustrated picture book by author and artist Vashti Harrison. Sweet and compassionate, Big is a reminder of self-love for everyone who reads it.” — Lelia Nebeker, One More Page Books
Can I Be Your Dog? By Troy Cummings
“Arfy is a lovable mutt who just wants to find the perfect family to live with. He writes letters to every house on his street (signed with his paw of course), but everyone has a different reason for saying no. Arfy finally gets his happy ending when the mail lady who’s been delivering his letters asks if she can be his person. The humorous illustrations are perfect for young students learning how to compose letters in school.” — Erin Faulk, Brambleton Library
When You Can Swim by Jack Wong
“This exquisitely illustrated picture book celebrates all the wonder and adventure to be found when you sink your body into water; be it a pool, lake, ocean, river, or watering hole. Dive in and rejoice!” — Amy Lane, Bards Alley Bookshop
Lei and the Fire Goddess by Malia Maunakea
“12-year-old Anna has loved spending the last several summers visiting her grandmother’s village in Hawaii, where she learned about the legends and lore of her heritage, but things feel very different this summer. In a moment of frustration, Anna insults the legendary fire goddess Pele, who unleashes an ancient curse upon Anna’s family and friends. How can she make things right when she’s got a missing best friend, a moody companion in the form of a talkative bat, and an angry goddess to contend with? This action-packed story is a love-letter to Hawaiian culture and full of humor, which makes it the perfect middle-grade read for summer.” — Monica DiMuzio, Brambleton Library
Odder by Katherine Applegate
“Odder is a precocious sea otter pup, made all the more adorable by her exuberance, curiosity, and daring swimming exploits. She wants nothing more than a life of play with her best friend, until a terrifying run-in with a shark injures her body and damages her spirit. Can she ever return home? Applegate, author of The One and Only Ivan, and a master of creating empathetic animal characters, uses verse to capture Odder’s acrobatics as well as her roller coaster of emotions. If you weren’t already an otter fan — and who isn’t?! — Odder will win you over.” — Heather Williams, Ashburn Library
A Spoonful of Time by Flora Ahn
“This wonderful book [by an Arlington author!] combines food and family into a perfectly seasoned story. Maya learns about her family’s ability to time travel into memories via different foods, and in doing so, she experiences her grandmother’s memories of her life in Korea.” — Lelia Nebeker, One More Page Books
PAWS: Gabby Gets It Together by Nathan Fairbairn
“This new graphic novel series is about a group of friends who start a dog-walking business but soon realize that running a business is harder than it looks. Perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier and Shannon Hale; you can think of this as ‘The Baby-Sitter’s Club with pets’. This series is ideal for middle-grade readers who enjoy themes of friendship and animals.” — Erin Falk, Brambleton Library
My Aunt Is a Monster by Reimena Yee
“A girl who wants to explore the world and her mysterious aunt get caught up in an ocean cruise heist of the century! Spunky characters make this graphic novel shine, with a complex plot full of secret agents, ancient treasures, and monsters. A charming and chaotic story from beginning to end.” — Mallory Sutton, Bards Alley Bookshop
Sir Callie and the Champions of Helston by Esme Symes-Smith
“This is the queer book I needed to read as a kid. In a world where boys fight and girls have magic, nonbinary Callie wants to be a knight. Can they make Helston’s court accept not only their knighthood but the varying identities their friends begin to explore?” — Dana Brown, Hooray for Books!
Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
“Legendborn follows 16-year-old Bree, who is Black, as she infiltrates a secret society of King Arthur’s white descendants because she suspects they’re involved in her mother’s death. While it deals with some heavy topics, Legendborn is an important, nuanced depiction of a Black girl as a powerful magical heroine.” — Dana Brown, Hooray for Books!
Pride and Premeditation by Tirzah Price
“It’s a retelling of Pride and Prejudice that is a YA novel and a murder mystery. It’s the perfect fun and suspenseful read. It would be a great audiobook for a long trip or a casual read by the pool.” — Laurel Taylor, Alexandria City Public Schools
The Fever King by Victoria Lee
“Noam Álvaro is an immigrant, Jewish, and recent survivor of a plague that gave him technomancy skills. When a politician recruits him to help overthrow the president, things get complicated. One of the best sci-fi/fantasy combinations out there, with complex characters you’ll never want to leave behind.” — Austin Ferraro, Brambleton Library
A Scatter of Light by Malinda Lo
“During the summer between high school and college, Aria Tang West makes new friends, falls in love, and discovers her queer identity. Lo cements her place among the stars of teen literature, past and present, with this sophisticated, achingly relatable novel, a modern counterpart to her award-winning Last Night at the Telegraph Club.” — Amy Woolsey, Bards Alley Bookshop
The Witch King by H.E. Edgmon
“When his (ex?) fiancé shows up, Wyatt is talked into returning to Faerie. Unfortunately for Faerie, they are entirely unprepared for the chaotic energy Wyatt is about to bring. A truly unique perspective on the popular genre of Fae-oriented fantasy spurred by Sarah J. Maas.” — Austin Ferraro, Brambleton Library
Accomplished: A Georgie Darcy Novel by Amanda Quain
“Revisit the much-overlooked Georgiana Darcy in this laugh-out-loud funny take on Pride and Prejudice. Georgie Darcy sets out to repair her reputation among her fellow marching band, as well as her older brother. This is a perfect homage to Jane Austen — combining high school dynamics of popularity with issues of class, family, grief, and romance.” — Lelia Nebeker, One More Page Books
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
“Marissa Meyer has created a stunning series that might take you back in time to a favorite childhood story of ’once upon a time’ but with a distinctly grown-up twist and feel. Cinder (Book 1 of The Lunar Chronicles) is a variation on that classic tale of a shoe left at a ball, but this time it’s a cyborg foot left on the stairs. Read the text or the graphic novel version at the start of a series that will take readers out of this world.” — Megan Bell, Ashburn Library
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