Kids entering the fourth grade are on a roll with reading, and it's important to keep that momentum going over the summer months. Looking for a solid gold reading list to kick off the summer? Look no further. We've combed the shelves for new titles that have what it takes to engage fourth grade readers all summer long.

2012 Summer Reading List

Popular Clone, by M.E. Castle. Fisher Bas is an uber-geek: blame it on his genes. His mother is a Nobel-prize winning scientist and his dad is no science slacker either. Rather than take the harrowing world of middle school socializing on the chin, Fisher decides to clone himself, so he can stay home playing video games while his clone goes to school. Cool gadgets, a funny plot, and a compelling evil nemesis make this book a great choice for reluctant readers, both girls and boys, who will see themselves in Fisher’s struggle to fit in.  (Egmont, $11.93)

Way Down Deep, by Ruth White. In this tender story of an orphan girl and the town that raised her, Ruth White delivers a book with soul. Little Ruby June was found on the courthouse steps in the whimsical town of Way Down Deep, West Virginia, and, under the tender loving care of a colorful cast of townspeople, grows into a kind and quick-witted girl. But, as Ruby June reaches adolescence, the mystery of how she arrived slowly begins to unravel. In learning the truth, she risks losing her own special place in Way Down. A fantastic read that takes you to the heart of a magical place. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $6.40)

May B., by Caroline Starr Rose. A daughter of the Kansas prairie, Mavis Betterly grew up in rough frontier conditions. Stranded alone in a run-down sod house, she must face a harsh winter by herself. Join May as she braves the unsettled plains of nineteenth century America, and battles her own inner struggles with loneliness and dyslexia. Written in the form of a free-verse poem, this unique novel is a great choice for reluctant readers. (Schwartz & Wade, $10.87)

Basic Drawing Made Amazingly Easy, by Christopher Hart. True to its title, this book really does make drawing look easy by breaking objects down to their basic shapes, then layering in concepts of depth and shading. The writing that accompanies each object is minimal and digestible. It’s easy to learn even if you only follow and copy step by step images. So, if you want summer material that will leave an impression, this is a great pick. (Watson-Guptill, $14.95)


2011 Summer Reading List

The Candymakers by Wendy Mass. For kids curious about how candy is made, this book wraps up the answers in a story as colorful, wacky and engrossing as eating a piece of saltwater taffy. At the surface it's about four kids competing for the glory of making a brand new candy, but below that you can find more in the mix. It's a smart, fun read for parents with their kids, and sheds light on the fact that baking and candy making are real-world applications of science! (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $9.13)

Mal and Chad by Stephen McCranie. Boy genius Mal crash-lands his homemade time machine into the Jurassic world after his (talking) dog Chad suggests he pay a visit to get a leg up on a school assignment. A comedy of errors ensues with a great cast of characters, from hostile dinos to Mal's smug science fair nemesis. Mal and Chad is a quick-witted and utterly charming read that will please fans of comic books and adventure stories. (Philomel, $9.99)

The Worst Case Scenario Ultimate Adventure: Everest by David Borgenicht and Bill Doyle. Scaling Mount Everest is an adventure that’s defeated scores of seasoned climbers: are you ready to take on the ultimate challenge? In this thrilling read, you are part of the youngest team ever to attempt to climb Everest, but you’ll have to make all the right decisions to achieve your goal. A choose-your-own-adventure format lends itself well to this harrowing journey of high-altitude adventure! (Chronicle Books, $12.99)

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin. Times are tough for Minli’s family. Enraptured by the stories her father weaves each night about a dissatisfied dragon and the Old Man in the Moon, Minli sets off to change their fate. Her adventures are full of greedy monkeys, grouchy spirits, and evils to be cheekily outwitted. Stunning illustrations, colorful characters, and a beautiful underlying message make this one of the most enchanting books we’ve picked up all year. (Little Brown, $7.99)

Johnny Swanson by Eleanor Updale. When Johnny’s mom is suspected of a crime she did not commit, it's up to him to save her! A gripping adventure, set in 1929 England during a massive tuberculosis epidemic, this regular kid without a scrap of magical powers will keep kids turning pages as they wait for the mad climax. (David Fickling Books, $16.99)

Our 2010 Fourth Grade Summer Reading Picks

Drizzle by Kathleen Van Cleve. This coming-of-age tale is served a la Wizard of Oz, with flavors reminiscent of Roald Dahl and Norton Juster. Eleven-year-old Polly lives on her family farm, but it's not like any other farm. The rhubarb tastes like chocolate, the bugs can communicate, and it rains at exactly the same time every single day. Then, one day, the rain stops, her brother falls deathly ill, and Polly must use her unique relationship with the farm to bring back the rain and save her brother's life. A well-crafted fantasy, with a message about the magic of nature that is perfect for the summer months. (Dial Books for Young Readers, $11.55) 

100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson. Looking for a heart-pounding but well-written series to keep kids flipping pages frantically all summer long? This page-turner, the first in a three book series, may be just the ticket. Like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe or A Wrinkle in Time, this book features a regular child who unlocks a portal to another world. In this case, it's Henry York, a 12-year-old boy sent to live on his aunt and uncle's farm when his parents go missing. When strange noises are heard behind his bedroom wall, Henry scratches off the plaster to find ninety-nine mysterious cupboards, each of which leads to another world. But when his cousin goes missing, can Henry figure out how to get her back? This sometimes spooky, sometimes scary, and ultimately pitch-perfect adventure will leave kids biting their nails and begging for more. And good news: the next two installments have already hit the shelves! (Random House, $6.99)

A Whole Nother Story by Dr. Cuthbert Soup Imagine The Matrix, with sock puppets, and you'll get the gist of this madcap adventure, full of secret government agents, "three attractive, polite, relatively odor-free children" and their mad scientist father. On the run from the corporate and government suits who would steal their most inventive device, The Cheeseman family must shield their identities as they remain on the lam. Narrated by the bizarre and verbose Dr. Cuthbert Soup, head of the National Center for Unsolicited Advice, this extremely quirky book will keep kids turning pages all summer! A silly, tongue-in-cheek pleasure of a read. (Bloomsbury, $11.55) 

The Dreamer by Paul Munoz Ryan. This book sketches the childhood of beloved poet Pablo Neruda in lyrical and heartfelt prose, interspersed with poetry and woven together with the uniquely stippled illustrations of Peter Sis. His harsh and overbearing father rejects his pensive walks in the woods, his lively imagination, and his collection of artifacts--the things that make him who he is. As young Neruda grows up, he learns about the plight of the indigenous Mapuche of his Chilean homeland, and realizes that while injustice may be a fact of life, it is something that he can fight...with words. This book grapples with serious themes, artistically handled, and is a celebration of the dreamer in all of us. (Scholastic, $12.23)

Once by Morris Gleitzman. It's 1942 in war-torn Poland, in a cold and crowded orphanage, and 10-year-old Felix has just found a whole carrot in his soup. He takes it as a sign, and embarks on a harrowing journey across Poland to find his parents. Along the way, he encounters Nazis, an orphan named Zelda, and the horrors of war. Narrated by Felix himself, Once gives readers a chance to view a horrific time in history through the eyes of a child. This beautiful story touches on some heavy themes surrounding the Holocaust--death, displacement, starvation--but it does so in a way that is at once gentle and profound. Through and through, a fantastic read. (Henry Holt and Company, $11.23)

Our 2009 Fourth Grade Summer Reading Picks

Stonewall Hinkleman and the Battle of Bull Run by Michael Hemphill and Sam Riddleburger. Stonewall Hinkleman is a snarky 7th grader whose parents regularly force him to participate in Civil War reenactments as the Bugle Boy. Needless to say, he's not one bit happy about it. But through a series of uncontrollable events, Stonewall is hurled back in time along with his crush Ashby and her villainous father Dupree, right into the midst of the Battle of Bull Run. Stonewall must stop Dupree from changing the course of history. Along the way, he goes through a series of life-changing (and life-threatening) events. Great for girls and boys alike, this exciting page-turner will transport readers deep into the action of the Civil War. (Dial, 2009, $16.99)

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart. Managing to balance a breathless adventure and language that doesn't talk down to kids is no easy task, but Stewart proves the first time was no accident, with this worthy followup to his original gem. A classic tale of good versus evil, with rich characters, a crafty plot, and plenty of clues young readers can attempt to puzzle out themselves as they race to the end. Underneath all the high-wire action is a story that emphasizes the power of true friendship, loyalty, and courage-- and the fact that kids, no matter how young, are capable of great emotion, courage, and brain power, and that being smart isn't something to be ashamed of, but something of which to be proud. (Little Brown, 2009, $6.99)

The Magic Thief: Lost by Sarah Prineas. Do you have a Harry Potter addict in the house? Stop bemoaning the fact that the series is over and grab her a copy of this fantastic alternative. At the crux of the series is former pickpocket Conn, who should have died when he attempted to steal a wizard's very powerful locus stone. Because he did not, he's of interest, and the wizard takes Conn on as an apprentice, with the stipulation that he must find his own locus stone within the month. But there's evil afoot. Conn must discover who's stealing the city's supply of magic. In this newest installment, he comes face-to-face with the embodiment of evil itself. A gripping page-turner that will grab kids by the collar. If this doesn't fire them up for reading, we don't know what will! (HarperCollins, 2009, $16.99)

The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester. Piper McCloud is just another ordinary girl: a farmer's daughter, with two loving but strict parents. Except that Piper can fly. Once her talent is revealed to her gossip-loving hometown and made public, a chain of events is set into motion. Piper is sent to a school where her gift can be nurtured, and along the way, she meets some other rather extraordinary people. But as Piper knows all-too-well, not everything is always as it seems. This clever and fantastical book is a wonderful cross between X-Men and The Little Princess, making it the perfect summer reading for an advanced reader with a vivid imagination. (Feiwel & Friends, 2008, $16.95) 

May 16, 2011