Kids entering fifth grade definitely know what they like and dislike about everything ... including books! Getting your child to read over the summer is all about finding just the right book. Looking for fresh reading options for your fifth grader? Look no further. We've combed the shelves for new titles to spice up summer reading.

Our 2012 Summer Reading List

Looking For Me, by Betsy R. Rosenthal. Set in Depression-era Maryland, the heroine of the story is 11-years-old and wedged in the middle of a big family.  Edith’s search for identity is completely relatable to kids today, and because this novel is told in verse, it unburdens the reluctant reader from the daunting appearance of a block of text. For kids who already love reading this book makes poetry accessible and relevant. (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, $13.28)

Castle of Shadows, by Ellen Renner, Illustrated by Wilson Swain.  Eleven-year-old Charlie is a mischievous girl; unwashed, uneducated and unsupervised. She is also the princess of Quale. But ever since her mother mysteriously disappeared and her father, the King, went mad, her life as a royal has never been quite right. And to make things worse, a rebellion is brewing in the kingdom. When Charlie accidentally discovers a clue about her mother’s disappearance, she is bent on finding out the truth. The misfit princess will have to battle an evil housekeeper, a slimy Prime Minister and more to get to the bottom of the mystery, save her mother, and save her kingdom. This hybrid of historical fiction and fantasy will be fun for any reader. (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, $10.87)

The Adventures of Beanboy, by Lisa Harkrader. Diary of a Wimpy Kid...move over! This graphic novel leans more towards novel than graphic, paving the way for more text-heavy books, while interspersing comics to keep kids engaged. Its humor, about a superhero powered by the gas he passes, is perfect for 10-year-old boys who’ve outgrown Captain Underpants, but can still appreciate a gross guffaw. The comic book story runs in parallel to the life of its author, who needs some superhero intervention in his own life, and what makes this book stand out is how its well-drawn hero prevails in the face of difficulties. (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, $9.99)

Gifts From The Gods, by Lise Lunge-Larsen, Illustrated by Gareth Hinds.  Action-packed illustrations make this a novel of graphic proportions. It tells tales of Greek legends and gods, bringing pomp, circumstance and muscle to vocabulary enrichment. Did you know that “Janus”, god of the doorways and hallways, gave us the name janitors? Learn other fun facts about words like chaos, genius, nemesis, panic, and echo. This book is sure to spark a love of linguistics and Greek mythology. (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, $13.86)

Our 2011 Summer Reading List

Dogtag Summer by Elizabeth Partridge. 12-year-old Tracy finds an ammunition box that her father brought home from the Vietnam War. Tracy has always known of her Vietnamese heritage, but can't explain the violent scenes playing in her mind since finding the box. This book captures the warm and easygoing essence of classic coming-of-age summer stories while also exposing maturing readers to the vast and complex extent of war's human toll. (Bloomsbury, $12.74)

True (...Sort of) by Katherine Hannigan. Complex, flawed, and deeply interesting characters set up a story that is at once realistic and transcendent. Delly is a big-hearted, but tough-as-nails tomboy who seems to find trouble at every turn. Best friend Ferris helps to put her on the straight and narrow, but all that changes when Delly finds out the truth: Ferris is in some real trouble of her own. A compelling story about friendship, trouble, and facing the truth. (Greenwillow Books, $11.55)

The Silver Bowl by Diane Stanley. Scullery maid Molly might have the key to the kingdom’s safety.  It's a fast read to find out how. Grounded in her life at Dethemere Castle, Molly is perfectly poised for the moment when a grisly curse rears its head. A no-nonsense plot leads the way through a good starter book for beginning fantasy readers. (Harper, $11.19)


The Trouble With Half a Moon by Danette Vigilante. Dellie’s family is struggling with the death of her younger brother. When Corey moves into her building, Dellie starts taking care of the boy, and finally begins the process of healing. This realistic portrayal of grief can be a tearjerker at times, but has a lot to teach tweens in the throes of adolescence about life, love and friendship. (Putnam, $13.25) 

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, illustrated by Inga Moore. Got an independent reader on your hands, but nostalgic for the days when he'd cuddle up at night and listen to you read aloud? Don’t pass this book up! This story has been leaving kids open-mouthed since it was first published in 1908. The abridged and gorgeously illustrated version is a great introduction for kids not quite ready for the original. (Candlewick, $14.95) 


Our 2010 Fifth Grade Summer Reading Picks

Raider's Ransom by Emily Diamand. It's the 23rd century and much of what used to be Great Britain is under water: Scotland has stretched its arms to gobble up more territory, and England is now just Ten Counties barely scraping by. When Lilly's fishing village is invaded by Raiders and the Prime Minister's daughter is kidnapped, the entire citizenry is suspected of treason. Armed with her wits, a barely floating sailboat, a mysterious jewel to trade as ransom, and a magical seacat, Lilly sets off on a brave journey to free the little girl. Suspenseful, intriguing, and teeming with pirates, technology, and danger, this book reads almost like historical fiction, even though it takes place in an unexpected future. Great characters, high seas adventure, and a racing plot will keep even reluctant readers interested. (The Chicken House, $12.23)

The Shadows of Elsewhere by Jacqueline West. When Olive and her parents move into a mysterious old mansion, it doesn’t take long for her to realize that something isn’t right. Maybe it’s the talking cat, maybe it’s the moving paintings … but Olive knows that she needs to solve the mystery of the old house, before it’s too late. Full of magic and mystery, this spine-tingling tale features a spunky heroine and first-rate story-telling.The best part? It's the first in a series called The Books of Elsewhere, so stay tuned for more installments of magic and mystery! (Dial, $11.55)

The Lost Tales of Ga' Hoole by Kathryn Lasky. Want more Ga'Hoole? This collection of stories that follows the popular 15-book series, The Guardians of Ga'Hoole, is just the ticket. The fantasy-filled anthology chronicles the forgotten beginnings--giving followers a final glimpse into the enchanted owl kingdom. Filled with bad guys, heroism, and a lovable main character, it's mesmerizing from the very first page. But if your kid hasn't yet discovered the captivating world of Ga'Hoole, it's best to start with The Capture. And with a 3D film, Legend of the Guardians, hitting theaters in September, it's set to be all the rage this summer. (Scholastic, $6.99)

Simon Bloom: The Octopus Effect by Michael Reisman. Simon Bloom and his friends, Owen and Alysha, are not your normal, everyday seventh graders. Because normal, everyday seventh graders don't usually play games with the laws of physics. In Simon Bloom: The Octopus Effect, the second installment of this sci-fi series, we find Simon and his friends at it again with their sworn enemy, Sirabetta, who is now more determined than ever to take over all of the Teacher's Editions of Physics--a powerful collection of knowledge about the physical world. Simon, as the Keeper of the Teacher's Editions, along with the help of his friends, must travel to the realm of the Order of Biology and use the Octopus Effect to stop her. This hilarious and enthralling sequel to Simon Bloom: The Gravity Keeper will take you to the edge of reason and the edge of your seat. (Dutton, $12.23)

Is It Night or Day? by Fern Schumer Chapman. It's 1937, and life is harrowing for Jews in Germany. Desperate to get their daughter out, Edith's parents send her to live with a set of American relatives she's never met. But Chicago couldn't be more different than her small German village. Bullied at school and worked to the bone by her aunt, she waits anxiously for her parents to arrive. There is no fairytale ending here—far from it—but this spare, well-written historical novel teems with universal themes to which all tweens can relate. Sometimes heartbreaking, always eloquent, this is a fascinating look at one girl's narrow escape from Nazi Germany as part of the real-life One Thousand Children Project. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $12.23)

Charlie Bone and the Red Night by Jenny Nimmo. Unabashedly Harry Potter-like, but still a thrilling and bewitching read all on its own, the Charlie Bone series is a page-turning adventure. With his dear friend Billy, trapped 900 years in the past, and his parents hopelessly off on vacation, Charlie must find a way to put a stop to the evil Bloor family once and for all. There is a will hidden deep within the magical Bloor's Academy that names Billy the rightful inheritor of the Academy, but the Bloor family, determined to take over the Academy, will stop at nothing in destroying the will. The series should definitely be read as a whole in order to experience the full breadth of what Nimmo's storytelling has to offer. (Orchard Books, $9.35)

The Fizzy Whiz Kid by Maiya Williams. As a sixth grader who changes schools every other year, Mitch Mathis has come up with a few rules for surviving a new school: don't wear pants that are too short, don't wear brand-new white sneakers, don't hang out with the class egghead, and, most importantly, DON'T STAND OUT. Mitch and his parents have just moved to Hollywood, California, and it's week one at Cecil B. DeMille Elementary. Already things aren't looking good: he wasn't named after a famous actor, he got a wedgie on the very first day, and his dad came to career day dressed as a cockroach. Mitch knows something has to change...and fast. Can an open casting call save him from being dubbed the class weirdo for the rest of the year? Snappy dialogue, quirky characters, and lighthearted humor make this sweet story about fitting in a fun and refreshing summer read. (Amulet Books, $9.38)

Our 2009 Fifth Grade Summer Reading Picks

The Mousehunter by Alex Milway. Mice may not be too popular in our world, but in Emiline's world, people don't run from them screaming: they collect them! Mousehunters roam to the far reaches of the earth, seeking out the most unique breeds - from the fearsome Sharpclaw to the rope weaving Rigger mouse. Twelve-year-old Emiline dreams of becoming a famous mousehunter, and one day, fate intervenes when she's given the chance to join the crew of Captain Devlin Drewshank and hunt down the infamous pirate Mousebeard. What follows is a high sea adventure full of mythical sea creatures, double-crossing pirates, mysterious islands, and of course, incredibly interesting mice. (Little Brown Young Readers, 2009, $15.99) 

Ranger's Apprentice Book One: The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan. Choosing Day is the most important day in the life of a castle ward-- the day when Baron Arald gives each of the ward orphans the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to apply to be apprenticed to a master craftsperson. When Will gets chosen to become a Ranger, he's horrified. Mysterious, magical, and somewhat scary, Rangers (particularly his new master, Halt) have always made him nervous. But there's a lot more to being a Ranger than stalking around in the shadows, and soon Will learns that the kingdom's safety rests in their hands. Your child will thrill to the unfolding of this heart-poundingly great adventure. And the best news? There are half a dozen sensational followups in the series, once she's gobbled this one up. Book 6: The Siege of the Macindaw, a race of a read, full of humor, friendship, and nail-biting tension, will be released this August. We dare even the most reluctant fifth grade reader to resist this series! (Puffin, 2006, $7.99)

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly. It's the summer of 1899, and 11-year-old Calpurnia Tate does not want to be knitting, cooking, and preparing to be a respectable lady. She'd much rather be a naturalist, exploring the streams and fields of her Texas home with her eccentric grandfather. The only girl in a family of six brothers, Calpurnia has her work cut out for her, as she must contend with piano lessons, a bevy of brothers wooing her best friend, and the societal norms that dictate what girls can and can't do, all the while trying to get a new species recognized by the National Geographic Society. This delightful and rich debut novel blends historical fiction with a curious, clear-eyed, and extremely funny female protagonist. A straight up great read. (Henry Holt and Co., 2009, $16.99) 

Toby Alone by Timothee de Fombelle. Toby is only one and a half millimeters tall, but he has some big problems. Toby's father, a famous scientist, has discovered an inconvenient truth about the oak tree they inhabit--the tree's lifegiving sap is running out due in part to over-development. Now Toby is on the run from the builders who control things, with a mission to save his parent's lives and that of the tree itself. For kids just wanting to enjoy a swashbuckling, albeit dark, adventure--it's all in there, just add imagination. For kids ready and willing for allegory--this tale presents a thoughtful look at the exploitation of natural resources. Originally published in France in 2006 and already translated into 22 languages, this is one huge adventure. (Candlewick Press, 2008, $11.42)

39 Clues: Beyond the Grave by Jude Watson. Siblings Dan and Amy Cahill are on a mission to find clues to unlock the secret of their family's incredible history, and make them the most powerful people in the world. The only catch? They're competing with a very large, and very dangerous, extended family. In this fourth installment of the acclaimed 39 Clues series, Dan and Amy, betrayed by their cousins and abandoned by their uncle, jet off to Egypt on the trail of another clue. On arriving, they get a message from their dead grandmother. Should they trust the message, or disregard it? Like previous books in the series, this one features a healthy portion of history, and a fascinating multimedia component that includes collectible cards and an online world where your child can get in on the clue chasing. (Scholastic, 2009, $7.79) 

The Black Book of Secrets by F.E. Higgins. Ludlow Fitch escapes his rotten life in the big city, by flinging himself onto the back of a carriage heading for the remote countryside. He arrives in the village of Pagus Parvus, and gets hired as the assistant to a mysterious pawnbroker-- a man who pays people for their deepest darkest secrets. Ludlow's job is to write the villagers' secrets down in an ancient leatherbound book. But when the town's richest man decides the pawnbroker must be stopped, both Ludlow and his mentor are in grave danger. Fifth graders will love this suspenseful tale, but parents, breathe easy-- while it's full of danger and anticipation, its bark is worse than its bite. There's nothing here to give your child nightmares...just enough danger to keep him under the covers with a flashlight, turning pages like mad! (Feiwel and Friends, 2007, $14.95) 

May 16, 2011