I spent most of the summer between fourth and fifth grades in the Long Lake public library. It was hot in Minnesota that year, and the library was one of the few air-conditioned buildings I got to visit. The librarian, who played bridge with my mother, was quite good at suggesting books I’d enjoy. What follows are a few of my own.
Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking is a favorite because, seriously, what 9-year-old can resist something that opens: “Way out at the end of a tiny little town was an overgrown garden, and in the garden was an old house, and in the house lived Pippi Longstocking…she lived there all alone…and that was of course very nice because there was no one to tell her to go to bed just when she was having the most fun…”?
From the locals
For mom: Jessie Knadler’s Rurally Screwed: My Life Off the Grid With the Cowboy I Love is a true-life love story about the author, a former New York City magazine editor who abandoned her Manhattan life to live in the country with Jake, a Republican bull rider.
For little one: Marcie Gibbons’ Hawk & Crow: Collision in the Sky tells the tale of an unlikely friendship between two birds that are enemies in the real world. In Gibbons’ 46-page world, however, the “collision of Hamilton Hawk and Bo Crow provides the opportunity for them to get acquainted,” the retired Nelson County school teacher said. As well as show children that “a friend can be anyone, so look and see. Someone in the room is a possibility.”—S.S.
Another can’t-miss for children ages 6 to 9 years old is The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales, Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith’s hilarious and sarcastic take on familiar stories. In one chapter, Jack accuses the giant of “wrecking my whole story,” and suggests that he “climb back up the beanstalk. I’ll be up in a few minutes to steal your gold and your singing harp.”
For kids (and parents) who’re after something on the sweeter side, you can’t go wrong with frog and toad. Specifically, Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad Are Friends, an I Can Read chapter book that chronicles the adventures of two amphibian pals who help one another with a variety of everyday tasks, including getting out of bed, waiting for mail, finding a lost button, and—toughest of all, if you ask me—appearing publicly in a swimsuit.
Finally, there’s Kevin Henkes’ irresistible Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, a colorfully told (and illustrated) tale of a mouse-girl who loves fish sticks, pointy pencils, and the clickety-clickety-click sound her boots make as she struts down the hallway. And don’t even get me started on the Monday morning when Lilly shows up for school with a new pair of movie star sunglasses, three shiny quarters, and “a brand new purple plastic purse that played a jaunty tune when it was opened.” Admit it, people: We’d all be better off with noisy red boots, rhinestone-encrusted sunglasses, and a jaunty tune on demand.