Summer Reads Help Kids Imagine, Learn, and Have Fun!

Summer reading is critical for so many reasons: It helps prevent learning loss while students are off for the summer. It supports children’s social-emotional development. It reinforces the idea that learning doesn’t end when school is out of session. Most important, it’s a time when kids can read just for fun.


Summer reading is critical for so many reasons: It helps prevent learning loss while students are off for the summer. It supports children’s social-emotional development. It reinforces the idea that learning doesn’t end when school is out of session. Most important, it’s a time when kids can read just for fun.

“Summer is the perfect opportunity to be unrestricted, to read for the sheer enjoyment of a story,” says Victoria Stapleton, executive director of school and library marketing for Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. “Students today are under a lot of stress. They need a sense of freedom of imagination—and books are great for that.”

With everything children and teens have had to deal with since COVID emerged, anxiety and depression among youth are growing concerns. Reading can help kids overcome these challenges, as research suggests that children who enjoy reading and writing have significantly better mental health than their peers.

Not surprisingly, books with strong social-emotional learning themes continue to be popular summer reading choices, helping students learn important skills such as resilience and self-confidence as they adjust to an increasingly complex world.

Others see summer as the perfect time to inspire a lifelong love of reading among students with lighter, breezier content and high-interest themes. It’s a time when kids experience the joy and wonder of stories.

Whether students are looking to be inspired or they just want a good book to escape into, here are some new and noteworthy summer reading titles for 2023.

Clavis Publishing

Clavis is a Belgian-based publisher of children’s books whose motto is “We make children’s dreams come true.” The company, which opened a U.S. office in New York in 2008, has been publishing independently in Europe for more than 40 years. Most of its works are picture books for children up to age eight.

A large portion of Clavis’s U.S. list consists of English-language translations of books published overseas, although the company is increasing the number of original North American works it publishes. One way that Clavis is encouraging more English-language submissions is through an award program that it runs every two years called Key Colors. Clavis publishes the winning works from this award program, and the latest winners are coming out in fall 2023.

Connor Crowe Can’t Let Go by Howard Pearlstein, illustrated by Stefani Buijsman, March 2023, ISBN 9781605377315, is a picture book for children ages 5–8. A cautionary tale about our obsession with electronic devices, it’s the story of a boy who dreams he’s physically attached to his tablet. “It’s an important reminder of the need to disconnect from our devices and reconnect with family,” says Marketing Consultant Carolina Schwarz —a timely message for the summer months in particular.

The 11th book in the “World of Wonder” series from Clavis, Brilliant Inventions, written and illustrated by Mack van Gageldonk, April 2023, ISBN 9781605378572, is a nonfiction picture book for children ages 5–8 that profiles more than 25 inventions that have changed our world, from the clock and television to the airplane, submarine, and rocket. “It makes for fun and light summer reading that is also educational,” Schwarz notes.

The World of Worm: Colors, written and illustrated by Esther van den Berg, June 2023, ISBN 9781605377940, is a good summer option for reading to toddlers, according to Schwarz. Available in both English- and Spanish-language versions, the book introduces children ages 2–5 to the world of colors through the eyes of Worm, who’s throwing a party and is shopping for what he’ll need. “It’s a fun book to keep kids entertained in the summer, and the colors really pop,” she says.

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Founded in 1926, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers—an imprint of Hachette Book Group—publishes about 190 books per year in all formats for children and teens ages 0–18.

“We are known primarily for our picture books,” says Victoria Stapleton, executive director of school and library marketing. “We’ve had a lot of success with Caldecott winners in this space.” In fact, Little, Brown is the first and only publisher to have won the Caldecott Medal honoring the most distinguished American picture book for children three years in a row.

Stapleton thinks of summer reading as a chance to inspire children to read by steering them toward lighter, highly engaging books. “We don’t want reading to be seen as a chore,” she explains. “We want to build a lifelong love of reading among students by encouraging them to read what’s pleasurable.”

An author who comes to mind when one thinks of reading for pleasure is James Patterson, whose books have collectively sold more than 425 million copies worldwide. “If you have a kid who’s been struggling with reading all year, have them try reading Patterson,” Stapleton recommends. “They’re going to get a fun story with rich but highly accessible language.”

Treasure Hunters 9: The Greatest Treasure Hunt by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein, illustrated by Juliana Neufeld, May 2023, ISBN 9780316500197, is the ninth book (and reportedly the finale) in this series of books for students ages 8–12 about a family of modern-day treasure hunters, packed with humor and high-octane action.

Young fans of the hit Hulu streaming show Only Murders in the Building are sure to love a new middle-grade detective series that Patterson is coauthoring with Keir Graff. Minerva Keen’s Detective Club, May 2023, ISBN 9780316412230, introduces readers to 12-year-old Minerva, who starts her own detective club to clear her name and help the police solve a rash of poisonings in her building.

Another youth detective series from Patterson is the “Ali Cross” series, which focuses on the son of popular Patterson character Dr. Alex Cross, a specialist in forensic psychology. The third book in this series for students who are slightly older (ages 10–14), Ali Cross: The Secret Detective, June 2022, ISBN 9780316409919, finds Ali witnessing something horrible and grappling with tough questions about what it means to be a detective’s son and a detective for himself.

Cookie Monsters by Erika J. Kendrick, January 2023, ISBN 9780316281485, is a story about competitiveness among girls. Aimed at readers ages 8–12, it focuses on 12-year-old Brooklyn Ace, who’s poised to be the top cookie seller for the Valentine World Scouts in Santa Monica… until a rich rival arrives on the scene.

The Braid Girls by Sherri Winston, June 2023, ISBN 9780316461610, is another story that explores friendships and rivalries among middle-grade girls. Maggie, her best friend Daija, and her new half-sister Callie team up to create the ultimate hair-braiding business during summer camp—but they aren’t the only hairstylists on the scene.

Sounds True Kids

Sounds True Publishing was founded in 1985 by Tami Simon to disseminate spiritual wisdom. This multimedia publishing company produces adult nonfiction and children’s books, with a list of more than 3,000 titles. Its children’s imprint, Sounds True Kids, publishes picture books and board books focused on themes such as mindfulness, kindness, self-care, and personal growth.

Today I Am a River by Kate Coombs, illustrated by Anna Laitinen, April 2023, ISBN 9781683649823, is a picture book poem that encourages children to imagine the world from a variety of perspectives other than their own, such as a river, a tree, a stone, an owl, and the wind.

For instance: “I am the wind,” Coombs writes. “Sometimes I rage! I slash through forests, stamp over mountains…But after awhile, I begin to slow. I walk here and there, touching flowers with a fingertip. I tremble leaves, I shimmer a lake. I breathe in and out, out and in. I am the wind.”

“It’s a chaotic world,” says Coombs, who has taught students from kindergarten through college and is the author of some 20 books altogether. With evocative language and beautiful illustrations, Today I Am a River aims to bring a sense of calm and mindfulness to students, as well as a connection to nature.

These qualities are important any time, she notes, but they’re particularly apt in the summertime, when children have more opportunities to be outside discovering nature.

“We live on this amazing planet,” Coombs concludes, “and kids should get to know it.”

Sequoia Kids Media

An imprint of Phoenix International Publications, Sequoia Kids Media brings perennial favorite series to schools and libraries, giving children the kind of interactive experience and familiar characters that promise high circulation, high fun, and high demand. The company publishes upwards of 100 titles per year.

Last year, the company launched a new series called “Active Minds: Kids Ask About,” which are short, educational books that provide fun, fast facts about various topics. In January 2023, Sequoia Kids Media published “Active Minds: Kids Ask AboutSeries #2, ISBN 9798765401163, comprising eight new titles that are perfect for summer reading.

“They’re educational, but they don’t feel like a lesson,” says Senior Marketing Manager Casey Griffin. “They’re easy to read, with both fun illustrations and live images.”

The books’ question-and-answer format is not only highly engaging but also encourages STEM process thinking. For instance, Spiders by Christopher Nicholas, illustrated by Mike Maydak, ISBN 9798765400326, poses the question, “Why don’t spiders get trapped in their own webs?” And the answer: many scientists believe that spiders’ bodies release a nonstick chemical.

In Mummies by Kenn Goin, illustrated by Will Davis, ISBN 9798765400364, the text asks, “Why were mummies’ faces covered with masks?” The answer is that a mask of the person’s face was placed over the head so the spirits would recognize the person when they returned. Lizards by Christopher Nicholas, illustrated by Greg Harris, ISBN 9798765400340, queries, “Why do some lizards’ tails break off?” The answer—believe it or not—is that many lizards can actually break off their own tail if attacked by a predator. The tail continues to move, distracting the attacker while the lizard makes a getaway.

Librarians can order the entire eight-volume set of Active Minds: Kids Ask About, Series #2 (ISBN 9798765401163), or they can purchase titles individually. The other titles in the series are Apes by Carol Harrison, illustrated by Greg Harris, ISBN 9798765400296; Bats by Roger Generazzo, illustrated by Greg Harris, ISBN 9798765400302; Bears by Christopher Nicholas, illustrated by Pedro Julio Gonzalez, ISBN 9798765400319; Volcanoes by Kenn Goin and Christopher Nicholas, illustrated by Greg Harris, ISBN 9798765400357; and Whales by Irene Trimble, illustrated by Greg Harris, ISBN 9798765400333.

These 24-page books target students in grades 2–4 or 3–5, with content in the Lexile range of 600 to 880. In addition to library-bound versions, ebook and read-along versions are available for each title as well.

VIZ Media

Founded in 1986 and based in San Francisco, VIZ Media is the world’s largest publisher of manga titles in English. VIZ publishes English-language versions of Japanese manga and distributes them to English-speaking readers. The company also creates a handful of original works each year, mostly manga versions of Western franchises such as Star Wars and Marvel comics. Altogether, VIZ publishes more than 300 new titles per year.

Chainsaw Man: Buddy Stories, original concept by Tatsuki Fujimoto, written by Sakaku Hishikawa, July 2023, ISBN 9781974738663, is a work of light prose fiction that makes for perfect summer reading for teens who are fans of "Chainsaw Man," currently the world’s best-selling manga series.

"Chainsaw Man" follows the story of Denji, a young man from a poor family who enters into a contract with a doglike devil named Pochita that gives him the ability to transform parts of his body into chainsaws. With this power, he hunts other devils for money when they become a threat to the country. Chainsaw Man: Buddy Stories is a collection of four prose stories that explores the bonds between Denji and other characters from the series in more detail.

Though not being published until December 2023, “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu Academy,” original concept by Koyoharu Gotouge, story and art by Natsuki Hokami, is a new manga series middle-grade students will find of interest. Set in junior high and high school, it’s a comedy spin-off of the highly popular Demon Slayer series that imagines the characters as their younger selves.

Yeehoo Press

With offices in San Diego and China, Yeehoo Press publishes fun, enchanting, socially responsible children’s books for audiences around the world. Its picture books focus on cultural inclusivity, social-emotional learning, and STEAM-related topics and are published in English and Chinese versions simultaneously.

“I love to share stories that empower children to understand the world,” says Publisher Helen H. Wu.

Many of the company’s titles explore themes such as perseverance and forging your own path in life. For instance, Long Goes to Dragon School by Wu, illustrated by Mae Besom, March 2023, ISBN 9781953458506, is based on Wu’s own experience as a minority student in America, where she often felt like she was an outsider. In the book, Long is a dragon from the East trying to fit in at Dragon School, where young dragons learn how to harness their fire breath. But Long can only breathe out water. How can Long find his own unique way of belonging?

The book also draws upon the differences between Eastern and Western dragon lore: In Western lore, dragons typically breath fire, but dragons from China and other Eastern cultures do not. Instead, they’re known as water spirits who rule the rivers and seas.

In Opal’s Springtime Birdhouse by Emily Matheis, illustrated by Albert Arrayas, March 2023, ISBN 9781953458483, Opal’s class is engaged in a birdhouse-building contest. Opal’s friends have plenty of ideas for how to make their constructions stand out, yet Opal feels stuck. Although the judges don’t pick Opal’s simple creation, she discovers that her humble home is just right for someone else.

Informational back matter introduces students to some of the bird habitats shown in the book, and the story itself may inspire kids to undertake their own birdhouse-construction projects using the simple tools depicted in the illustrations.

Humphrey the Egg-splorer by Nadia Ali, illustrated by Valenti Gubianas, April 2023, ISBN 9781953458575, expands the famous nursery rhyme about a fragile egg into a new story about bravery, creativity, and finding your own way. Even though Humphrey can crack easily, he’s determined to do whatever it takes to become a brave adventurer. This humorous story can also inspire egg-themed crafts.

The Incredible Dreams

In her 17-year career as an administrator and leadership adviser in education, Lisa Young saw how hard it was for teachers to be effective when so much of their time was spent on classroom management. Using Lili, the first name her mother called her as a child, Young has self-published a book aimed at inspiring children through the sixth grade to develop positive character traits that will lead to more productive behavior and help students realize their dreams.

The Incredible Dreams: Your Light Guides the Way, April 2020, ISBN 9781525531408, explores seven key character traits that students should aspire to be: kind, caring, fair, respectful, trustworthy, courageous, and bright. The book is intended to be interactive and reflective, with prompts that ask students to think about what these character traits mean to them and how they can demonstrate these attributes in their daily lives.

“We give children many expectations for their behavior that are externally motivated,” Young says, “but the drive to be a better person should come from within.” She adds, “This book speaks to dreaming, adventure, and how you should show up in the world.”

With all of the vitriol that exists in our society today, Young says she was moved to write a book that would encourage students to treat one another with more kindness and empathy. “I would like to see this concept of good character be embedded within classrooms and celebrated,” she adds.

The Incredible Dreams is available in both English- and Spanish-language versions at Young says she’s open to partnering with school libraries on special programs, and librarians can contact her at for more information.

Stimulating curiosity

Regardless of their genre or format, the new summer reads for 2023 aim to get kids reading outside of school—an activity that could lead to a lifetime of good habits.

“Reading is extremely important,” author Lisa Young concludes. “It opens students to different worlds, perspectives, and experiences. We want to keep stimulating their curiosity for learning.”



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