Posts Tagged Nicole Porter

Seattle Area Librarians Talk About Summer Reading

It’s Memorial Day Weekend! (Well, almost…) And you know what that means. That’s right. Summer reading!

Nicole Porter, Children’s Services Librarian at Belleuve, Lake Hills and Crossroads Libraries in Bellevue, Washington says, “Summer reading is a chance to read for pleasure without other pressures or expectations playing as high of a role in book selection as it does during other times of the year. Kids will often take the opportunity to revisit favorite worlds, characters, and story lines.”

I was curious which books were likely to be popular with middle grade readers this summer, so I asked several of my local librarians. Nicole Porter said, “I expect to see a lot of familiar series and authors continue to be popular over the summer. Books by Riordan, Rowling, Telgemeier, Pierce, Kinney, and Kibiushi disappear from our shelves soon as they appear.”

Laura Simeon, Librarian and Diversity Coordinator at Open Window School in Bellevue, WA says, “The Netflix series has sparked renewed interest in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, for example among kids who weren’t yet born when the final volume was published! Rick Riordan’s new entry in the Trials of Apollo series has also captured my students’ attention.”

Gretchen Oates, Library Media Specialist at Kamiakin Middle School in Kirkland, WA says, “The most popular series in our library at the moment are Amulet, followed by the Lunch Lady, although Telgemeier’s books and those that are similar are also very popular. Any novel by Rick Riordan is also popular and the Harry Potter books are getting some renewed recognition with the new illustrated editions coming out. I think all of these are great and believe that above all children should have the freedom to choose what they want to read most of the summer, even though we librarians do tend to find ways to encourage them to try new things.”


That made me wonder which middle grade novels librarians would like to see kids reading this summer.

Nicole Porter said, “I would LOVE to see everyone reading Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan this summer! It has universal themes that many middle-grade readers  encounter such as shifting friendships, balancing family expectations with personal inclinations, and grappling with self-doubt. Readers will relate to sixth grader Pakistani American Amina’s engagement in these issues as well as see a mirror into their own diverse experiences and the world around them.”


Laura Simeon would love to see her students digging into Nikki Grimes’  One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance. She said, “It’s an accessible, deeply moving, and gorgeously illustrated volume that shows off her masterful ways with poetry while also exposing middle-grade readers to the beauty and power of Harlem Renaissance writers. I also recommend Roddy Doyle’s A Greyhound of a Girl, a gentle, quiet book set in modern Dublin with a supernatural element. With humor and grace it worms its way into your heart and mind, leaving an indelible impression. Finally, I was fortunate enough to pick up an ARC of In the Shadow of the Sun by Anne Sibley O’Brien at ALA Midwinter, and couldn’t put it down! It’s a thrilling, fast-paced adventure set in contemporary North Korea, and O’Brien’s thorough research and personal knowledge of Korean culture really shine through.”

Debbie Pearson, Librarian at Seattle Country Day School, says her top choices this year have been a bit heavier and more introspective than usual. “Definitely not ‘beach reads,’” she says. “I just finished reading Ghost by Jason Reynolds about a boy who has had more than a few knocks in life and seems to find a crack in a window of opportunity through the school track team, but the problem is he can’t afford the running shoes that will take him to where he wants to go. What to do when he finds the perfect shoes in a shop one day? A great book to look at the many sides of individuals. Do we ever really know someone else? Can we risk telling the truth about ourselves? This year, I’ve also produced a mini-following for Pax by Sara Pennypacker about a boy and his pet fox in a time when the world is unsettled and war may be at his doorstep. The only one he can trust is his fox and even that gets taken from him. Allegorical, thoughtful, and tear-jerking.  Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate also tugged at my heartstrings this year. Who doesn’t remember relying on an imaginary friend for comfort and companionship? Crenshaw happens to be a gigantic cat who just may be real in so many ways and only comes when the need is the greatest. My final book is The Poet’s Dog by Patricia MacLachlan, a master storyteller and weaver of words. I haven’t read anything by her in recent years, but picked this up and loved the tale of loss and newfound hope. The dog loses his beloved poet master, but finds two children in need of rescue in a snowstorm. The dog’s musings about his past life, while based on fantasy as the story of an anthropomorphized dog would be, ring so very true to the heart. We can experience loss, but find life in our beloved memories.

Nancy Palmer, a librarian at the Little School in Bellevue, WA would also like to see kids at her school reading Jason Reynolds’ Ghost because “it provides real insight into a life very unlike that of the kids at my school, in a multi-faceted portrayal that will help the kids see Ghost as a person, not a stereotype.” She’d also like to see them read Lauren Wolks’ Wolf Hollow because “anything that strengthens their bent toward kindness is a plus, and this is told in a direct, powerful way that will get to them, I think.” Journey to Topaz by Yoshiko Uchida “gives them a very personal look at the internment experience and helps them on the road to becoming world-minded.” Book 3 of Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain is “such a well-written fantasy, with wondering characters, but can be too slow-starting for some kids. Here’s hoping they plow ahead to the terrific rest!” And finally, The Gammage Cup by Carol Kendall is “an oldie but goodie. It’s a fantasy about the tiny Minnipin folk in the Slipper-on-the-Water, a nonconforming few of whom rise up as heroes to defend their village against an invading threat. It offers humor, wonderful characters and true courage and also celebrates independent thinking and a willingness to do the right thing in the face of authoritarian opposition.”

Stephanie Zero, Teen Services Librarian at the Redmond Library in Redmond, WA, is book-talking these books to sixth graders: Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology (especially for readers who enjoy the mythology in Rick Riordan’s books). Pamela Turner’s Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune, which “documents the true story of the legendary samurai who was raised in the household of the enemies who killed his father before being sent to live in a monastery where, against the odds, he learned and perfected his fighting skills.” Deborah Ellis’s, The Cat at the Wall, which centers on the Israeli Palestine conflict as told by a talking cat. “A cat sneaks into a small Palestinian house on the West Bank that has been commandeered by two Israeli soldiers. The house seems empty, until the cat realizes that a little boy is hiding beneath the floorboards. Should she help him? After all, she’s just a cat. Or is she? She was once a regular North American girl, but that was before she died and came back to life as a cat.”  Caitlin Alifirenka’s, I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives, which is the true story of an all-American girl and a boy from Zimbabwe and the letter that changed both of their lives forever.  Andrea Davis Pinkney’s, The Red Pencil, which is a Battle of the Books selection. “After her tribal village is attacked by militants, Amira, a young Sudanese girl, must flee to safety at a refugee camp, where she finds hope and the chance to pursue an education in the form of a single red pencil and the friendship and encouragement of a wise elder.” Andrea Gonzales’s Girl Code. “The teenage phenoms behind viral video game Tampon Run share the story of their experience at Girls Who Code and their rise to fame, plus a savvy look at starts-ups, women in tech, and the power of coding. Dustin Hansen’s Game On! Video Game History, which covers video Game History From Pong and Pac-man to Mario, Minecraft, and More. Jazz Jennings’ Being JazzTeen activist and trailblazer Jazz Jennings–named one of The 25 most influential teens of the year by Time–shares her very public transgender journey, as she inspires people to accept the differences in others while they embrace their own truths. And finally, Ashlee Vance’s Elon Musk and the Quest for A Fantastic Future, which is an authorized portrait of one of Silicon Valley’s most dynamic entrepreneurs evaluates his role in the successes of such innovations as Tesla and Space X while evaluating America’s technological competitiveness.”

Rebecca Moore, Middle School Librarian at the Overlake School in Redmond, WA, says, “This is a golden age for middle grade and YA nonfiction, narrative and informational books.” She recommends Presenting Buffalo Bill: The Man Who Invented the Wild West by Candace Fleming, Isaac the Alchemist: secrets of Isaac Newton, reveal’d by Mary Losure, Elon musk and the quest for a fantastic future: young readers’ edition by Ashley Vance, Women in science: 50 fearless pioneers who changed the world by Rachel Ignotofsky, No better friend: young readers edition: a man, a dog, and their incredible true story of friendship and survival in World War II by Robert Weintraub and The Boy who harnessed the wind by William Kamkwamba.

Rebecca would also love for kids to read books that “present them with a greater variety of ‘windows and mirrors’ to build empathy and understanding of other cultures and ways of life, as well as to see their own experiences and situations reflected in books.” For instance: Flying lessons & other stories edited by Ellen Oh, Anything by Jason Reynolds (Ghost, As Brave as Youetc.), The War that saved my life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley), Makoons by Louise Erdrich, Lily & Dunkin by Donna Gephart, Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky and Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee.

She would also love for kids to pick up “books with unusual structures, to stretch their minds and their concepts of what constitutes a ‘story.’ Unusual structures also help the reader become more involved because they have to have a greater role in assembling and comprehending the story themselves.” She suggests, The Inquisitor’s tale, one story told in many sometimes contradictory voices by Adam Gidwitz, Booked a novel in verse by Kwame Alexander, Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer an epistolary novel by Kelly Jones and the documentary novels, Regarding the… by the Klise sisters.

Finally, Rebecca would love for kids to pick up books with “lush world-building, complex characters, thoughtful narratives, no easy answers, and glimpses into something deeper than the typical action adventure fantasy. Complexity is not limited to fantasy, of course, but these are the titles that popped into my head: The Girl Who Drank The Moon by Kelly Barnhill, The Glass Sentence and sequels by S.E. Grove, When the Sea Turned to Silver and prequels by Grace Lin, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, Anything by Robin McKinley or Frances Hardinge, The Naming and sequels by Alison Croggon, Sabriel and sequels by Garth Nix.”

If you’re like me and you like your summer reading lists to coming in actual list form, here’s a list (alphabetical by author) of above mentioned titles as well as other summer reading recommendations by other Seattle area librarians:

  • Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander
  • Playbook by Kwame Alexander
  • Booked by Kwame Alexander
  • I Will Always Write Back by Caitlin Alifirenka
  • Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
  • Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
  • The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
  • See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng
  • Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova
  • World’s Collide (last book in the Land of Stories series) by Chris Colfer
  • The Naming (and sequels) by Alison Croggon
  • Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee
  • A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle
  • Cat at the Wall by Deborah Ellis
  • Makoons by Louise Erdrich
  • Presenting Buffalo Bill: The Man Who Invented the Wild West by Candace Fleming
  • Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
  • Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart
  • Spy School Secret Service (book five in the Spy School series) by Stuart Gibbs
  • Panda-monium (book four in the FunJungle series) by Stuart Gibbs
  • The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz
  • Girl Code by Andrea Gonzales
  • One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes
  • The Glass Sentence (and sequels) by S.E. Grove
  • Real Friends by Shannon Hale
  • Game On! Video Game History by Dustin Hansen
  • Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
  • The Warriors series by Erin Hunter
  • Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky
  • Being Jazz by Jazz Jennings
  • Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones
  • The Man Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba
  • The Gammage Cup by Carol Kendall
  • Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan
  • The Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi
  • Regarding the… series by the Klise sisters
  • Restart by Gordon Korman
  • The Lunch Lady series by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
  • When the Sea Turned to Silver (and prequels) by Grace Lin
  • Isaac the Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton, reveal’d by Mary Losure
  • Point Guard by Mike Lupica
  • The Poet’s Dog by Patricia MacLachlan
  • Sabriel (and sequels) by Garth Nix
  • In the Shadow of the Sun by Anne Sibley O’Brien
  • Flying Lessons & Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh
  • Timmy Failure: The Cat Stole My Pants by Stephan Pastis
  • Pax by Sara Pennypacker
  • The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney
  • Gracefully, Grayson by Ami Polonsky
  • Ghost by Jason Reynolds
  • The Dark Prophecy (book 2 of The Trial of Apollo series) by Rick Riordan
  • Hidden Figures Young Readers Edition by Margot Lee Shetterly
  • Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan
  • Finding Perfect by Elly Swartz
  • Samurai Rising by Pamela Turner
  • Journey to Topaz by Yoshiko Uchida
  • Well, That Was Awkward by Rachel Vail
  • Elon Musk and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance
  • No Better Friend: Young Readers Edition: A man, A dog, and their incredible true story of friendship and survival in World War II by Robert Weintraub
  • Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

That’s what we’re reading here in the Seattle area. Which middle grade novels are popular summer reading where you live?