The summer before third grade is an exciting time for readers—they are able to read longer, more involved books with chapters and complex characters. Stumped on where to find engrossing books for your burgeoning reader? We've got you covered. We've combed the shelves for new summer titles.

 

Our 2012 Summer Reading List

Tua and the Elephant, by R.P. Harris, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo. When ten-year-old Tua (“peanut” in Thai) meets an enslaved elephant named Pohn-Pohn, she begins an epic journey to free her new friend. Fortunately, Tua’s courage, intelligence and spunk serve the duo well, and Pohn-Pohn finds a new home in an elephant refuge. This charming, well-written tale is a great read-aloud to share together, or send your young reader off with on her own. (Chronicle Books, $11.43)

National Parks: A Kid’s Guide to America’s Parks, Monuments and Landmarks, by Erin McHugh, illustrated by Neal Aspinall. Got a kid who loves being outside? Nurture his love of nature with this adventurer’s guide to the great outdoors. Full of fun facts and colorful illustrations, this book features 127 of our national parks, monuments, historic sites and more. A great accompaniment to any family road trip, kids will be learning a bit of geography, U.S. history, and the importance of protecting nature and the environment. (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, $15.34)

Those Rebels, John & Tom, by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham. Biography meets history in this inventive look at two very different men who forged a collaboration that changed the course of American history.  John Adams and Thomas Jefferson are depicted as wholly contradictory figures, save for a shared patriotism and desire for independence from Britain. The personalities and quirks of these historical figures are captured with wit and whimsy, and the down-to-earth narrative draws the reader squarely into the political challenges faced by the protagonists. Additional historical material at the end of the book rounds out a compelling account of this extraordinary duo and time period. (Scholastic Press, $12.23)

Earthling!, by Mark Fearing & Tim Rummel. Bud caught the wrong bus to school; a galactic mistake! This graphic novel follows 9-year-old Bud as he gets tangled up in the wrong solar system. Luckily, there’s Gort McGortGort, who takes Bud under his wing. These two likeable characters are a blast to follow from one misadventure to the next. With some great vocabulary snuck in between colorful illustrations, this one is great for reluctant readers, comic book lovers and those that just like a good space adventure. (Chronicle, $11.97) 

Our 2011 Summer Reading List

Horton Halfpott: Or, The Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor; or, The Loosening of M'Lady Luggertuck's Corset by Tom Angleberger. The loosening of M’Lady Luggertuck’s corset has made it possible for something new to happen! In fact, it’s what makes the entire fiendish mystery at Smugwick Manor possible. Follow humble Horton Halfpott, and you'll see. Don't let the narrator's tongue twisters twirl you—this book's a veritable carnival ride from page to silly page, making it an outstanding chapter book to read out loud too. (Amulet Books, $10.17)

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. Charlie Bucket, a kind and honest boy with very big dreams and very little to eat, is determined to win a golden ticket to gain entrance into the famous Wonka Chocolate Factory. When he does, his whole world is flipped upside down as he and his grandpa take an adventure of a lifetime through Wonka's world. This award-winning classic by the beloved Roald Dahl has been reprinted with full-page color illustrations by Quentin Blake, who's been bringing Dahl's stories to life with his images for years. Dahl's fantastical plot twists and oddball characters take the reader to an imaginative world where anything's possible. Though the story's well-known, this classic page-turner is one that's worth reading and re-reading. With delightful illustrations and inspired prose, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is perfect for kids who want to get lost in a book this summer.  (Puffin, $10.87)

The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon by Ellen Raskin. This tried and true favorite by award-winning author Ellen Raskin is one most adults will remember reading as a child and one that kids today will love as well. Recently re-released by Puffin, the story of the bumbling Mrs. Carillon and her search for her lost husband Leon (or is it Noel?), and all of the adventures along the way, is still as entertaining as ever. Filled with puzzles, puns, word-play, exploding soup factories, riots, and mind-bending text-as-picture illustrations by Raskin herself, the story is a delightful read with one giant mystery (and lots of tiny ones) to solve. Perfect for inquisitive readers and puzzle-minded kids, this interactive chapter book is tough to put down and even tougher to figure out! (Puffin, $4.01)

Smells Like Treasure by Suzanne Selfors. Everyone likes a quirky protagonist. In this story, there are two: Homer Pudding, an awkward 12-year-old aspiring to become a serious treasure hunter, and his best friend Dog, an overweight basset hound whose only talent is an uncanny ability to smell treasure. In this second adventure, a sequel to Smells Like Dog, Homer and Dog embark on a dangerous quest for treasure. If he completes the mission, he’s a shoe-in for membership in the Society of Legends, Objects, Secrets and Treasure. This swashbuckler is a fun and breezy summer read for reluctant readers and book-worms alike. (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $10.43) 

The Emerald Casket by Richard Newsome. Take a seat, relax and let this book do all the traveling; move from the British countryside to the rich setting of India. Excitement and mysteries continue in this accessible adventure series. One month after Great Aunt Geraldine's murder, Gerald is now a thirteen-year-old billionaire in London, split between trying hard to enjoy a summer holiday and the mysteries left behind by her death. Like the first book, Newsome throws the action of an Indiana Jones flick in with the wonders of the book's setting–India this time–for a fun mix of culture and adventure. Add in a perfectly creepy villain and three likable, scrappy kids (Gerald, and the twins, Sam and Ruby) for hours of summer entertainment. (Walden Pond Press, $10.56)

 

Our 2010 Third Grade Summer Reading Picks

The Unusual Mind of Vincent Shadow by Tim Kehoe. A sweet and ingenious boy. An eccentric inventor. A contest of wit and creativity. Sound familiar? This wonderful book has all the delicious plot trappings of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, except this tale is all about inventing the most amazing toys you've never thought of. A water gun that never runs out of a water. A windless kit. Bubbles that can record sound. These ideas all come to Vincent in blinding visions that everyone else thinks is epilepsy, until he has the opportunity to show his gift to the world in a contest hosted by legendary toymaker Howard G. Whiz. An awesome story that's just begging for a sequel. (Little, Brown and Company, $10.19) 

Noonie's Masterpiece by Lisa Railsback. For the sensitive or art-loving kid, it doesn't get much better than this whimsical, thoughtful hardcover about a little girl with a big imagination. Whether she's showcasing her ingenious body painting or elaborate performance art, Noonie's masterpieces generally go misunderstood, especially by her "temporary" family--the aunt, uncle, and cousin she's been living with since her mom died. Noonie knows she could be the next Vincent Van Gogh or Frida Kahlo, if only she could get her dad back in the picture. She devises a plan: win the Grover Cleveland Art Contest, and her dad will simply have to come home. The problem? Classic artist's block. This touching book teaches kids that a brilliant artist never quits. It's not action packed, but for the right reader, the poignant storyline and splendidly eccentric illustrations make it downright magical. (Chronicle Books, $18.99)

Hank Zipzer, The World's Greatest Underachiever: A Brand-New Me! by Henry Winkler. This final installment in an ambitious 17-book series follows the engaging, relatable Hank Zipzer, as he gets ready to graduate from elementary school. Hank is stunned to discover that his two best friends will be attending Anderson, the "genius" school, while he'll be stuck at MS 245 with all the "regular" kids. But Hank sure doesn't feel like an ordinary kid! Based on the experiences of Henry Winkler, who played Fonzie in Happy Days, but grew up with dyslexia, this heartwarming story prompts the realization that everyone has their own unique strength, whether it be academic or otherwise. Moving and clever, it manages a gentle, lighthearted approach in dealing with learning differences. (Penguin, $4.99)

The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz. This is a classic fairy tale with a modern message about knowing when to be tough and when to negotiate. Not long after Flory was born, her wings were damaged when a bat mistook her for a moth. Now she is forced to live as a day fairy in a human garden, getting the occasional ride from the idiotic and always-hungry squirrel. As she grows older, she discovers that not every creature in the garden will bend to her will, and sometimes you have to give more than you get--a great lesson for blossoming egos. Full-page paintings by illustrator Angela Barrett are interspersed throughout the book, and give the reader a hook on which to suspend their disbelief. If you don't believe in fairies after this, there's no hope for you. (Candlewick, $11.55)

Star in the Forest by Laura Resau. Sometimes when you're down on your luck, all you need is a great dog. This well-written tale details tough times for Zitlaly: her father gets deported to Mexico on her eleventh birthday and her mother sells the truck to pay for a coyote to bring him back. In the midst of this drama, Zitlaly finds a stray dog tied to a rusted truck in the "forest" of junk behind her trailer. She befriends the dog, names him Star for a marking on his fur, and secretly begins to feed and care for him. On the day Star goes missing, Zitlaly's family looses contact with her father, and she realizes that Star is her father's spirit animal. Will her father, and Star, ever find their way home? A big-hearted story your child will remember for a long time. (Random House, $10.79)

Our 2009 Third Grade Summer Reading Picks

Melonhead by Katy Kelly. Silly pranks, sweaty feet, and troublesome tree climbing may not be your idea of story fodder, but they're just the right fuel to get this tale going. Ten-year old Adam Melon is a self-proclaimed expert on famous inventors and the intricacies of toilet paper. When his science teacher announces that every kid in the class will be competing in Challenge America!, an inventing fair, he figures he and his best friend Sam are a shoo-in for first prize. Now they just need to come up with an idea for something explosively cool, without making his mom nervous. A fun read full of pitch-perfect kid humor. (Delacorte Press, 2009, $12.99)

Dessert First by Hallie Durand. It's not always easy being eight. Dessert Schneider finds that out first hand, when her new teacher, Mrs. Howdy Doody, comes into class in her white snowball slippers and urges all her new third graders to learn to march to the beat of their own drummers. For Dessert, that means figuring out her own personal coat of arms, trying to convince her family to eat dessert before dinner, and doing her best to stay out of trouble. If only there weren't so many temptations! Can Dessert resist? Soon-to-be third graders, especially those who've gotten their feet wet with easier chapter books, will enjoy the challenge of reading this confection on their own, while less advanced readers will enjoy it as a read-aloud. Either way, we bet kids will have trouble resisting Dessert! (Atheneum Books, 2009 $14.99)

Wishworks, Inc. by Stephanie Tolan, illustrated by Amy June Bates. To distract himself from the struggles of being the new kid at school, Max imagines a great big dog at his side named King. King is the best dog a kid could want--he's brave, loyal, and intelligent. Unfortunately, he is also highly fictional. When the shopkeeper of a mysterious store called "Wishworks, Inc." guarantees any wish, you can guess what Max wants. But, when a small, ratty dog shows up at the door, he's in for more than he expected. A thoughtful and magical read for kids getting into the groove of chapter books and real-to-life characters. (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2009, $15.99)

Ivy and Bean: Bound to Be Bad by Annie Barrows. Best friends Ivy and Bean are at it again in this fifth paperback installment in the popular series. When the two troublemakers decide that they are going to be so good and pure that wild animals will befriend them, they discover that being good is harder than it seems. Is a little badness a bad thing? Author Annie Barrows' clever and kid-friendly wit, coupled with illustrations that give a kids-eye view of the world, make these books a hit with readers transitioning to chapter books. (Chronicle, 2009, $5.99)

The Sisters Grimm: The Everafter War by Michael Buckley . There's never a dull moment at Ferryport Landing, where Sabrina and Daphne Grimm, descendants of the Brothers Grimm, continue their adventures as "fairy-tale detectives" in this seventh installment of the bestselling series. In a world where fictional characters from fairy tales and nursery rhymes, or "Everafters," are real, it takes everything the sisters have to solve magical mysteries and keep order among the Everafters, even as war is breaking out between Prince Charming's Everafter Army and the dreaded Scarlet Hand. (Amulet Books, 2009, $5.96)

The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies. Jessie Treski can do complex math in her head, come up with grownup business plans, and figure out puzzles, but when it comes to understanding people, she's at a loss. So when a letter arrives from school saying that not only will she be skipping third grade, but that she'll be placed in her brother Evan's class, she's deliriously happy, and can't understand why her brother isn't. He declares war...and not just any war, a lemonade war: whoever makes the most money by week's end gets to keep 100% of the winnings. The stakes are high in this chapter book about sibling rivalry, friendship, and fear, and math and money get a fresh, engaging spin. (Sandpiper, 2009, $5.99)