Happy Summer Reading
Happy Official Start of Summer (in the US, at least) and welcome back to the blog!
What are your goals for the summer? (If it’s summer where you are.)
Mine are to finish writing and illustrating the THIRD Princess Olivia of Genovia book (yes, I know the second book just came out last month, but that’s how publishing works – as soon as one book comes out, it’s time to hand in the next one!) and then to finish the pass pages for The Boy is Back, the manuscript I just handed in, which will be out in October.
From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess, Books 1 and 2, in stores now!
These goals are not so lofty. I feel as if they’re completely attainable. Not like past summer goals I’ve had, such as passing the Florida driver’s exam (written), or getting a dog, at which I failed miserably. I have faith that everything is going to work out this summer.
Not my dog. Keeping it this way.
In the meantime, I had a great time on my Princess Tour! Thanks to all of you who came out to see me. I met a ton of fun new people, especially at Book Con, where I got to hang out with celebrities like the Property Brothers.
OK, lie, I never met the Property Brothers, but a lady popped her head into the Green Room and asked, frantically, “Are the Property Brothers in here? I can’t find them!”
“OMG,” I screamed. “YOU LOST THE PROPERTY BROTHERS?”
“I didn’t say that!” she cried, and ran out again.
HA HA HAHA!!!
But I DID get to hang out with a lot of fun readers and authors:
YA readers in Irving, TX!
Marissa Meyer at BookCon!
In the Escalade with Harper’s Pam Jaffee!
But ultimately I was happy to come home because as I think I’ve mentioned, the cat has feline dementia (50% of cats over the age of 10 do), so I have to keep an eye on her. There’s no telling what she’s going to get up to at any given time. Mostly it’s sleeping but it could be:
- Meowing at her own reflection in the mirror.
- Fighting with Carlos the iguana.
- Sleeping on anything that remains still long enough for her to sit on, including tourists.
Mainly what I wanted to mention in today’s post is that a lot of you asked on tour what I’ll be working on next after the Princess Olivia books and the Boy is Back are turned in, and the truth is, I’m not allowed to tell.
FOR REAL. It’s a secret.
So instead, I’m going to tell you about the books I would put on a summer reading list for kids if I was in charge of designing one (and also if I had time to read anymore, which I do not, given my
busy Netflix viewing schedule busy writing schedule).
Anyway, a friend of mine told me what was on her kids’ summer reading list, and it was APPALLING, so I volunteered to make a new one for her.
She tried to say, “Uh, no thanks, Meg, you don’t have to,” and “That’s not how it works,” but I’m pleased to sacrifice my time for this cause. I do understand that a lot of careful scientific research goes into what kids are assigned to read over the summer, and also that parents complain a lot about what the kids get assigned to read (and the students do, too).
However, I really think my summer reading list is the best since I modeled it after the kinds of books I would have wanted to read if I were a kid who’d just seen Star Wars: Force Awakens, and then wanted to read some books that were in that vein (you know, adventure-y, or at least fun).
So here it is:
Princes and Princesses:
This was my all time favorite series as a kid, particularly the books that included Princess Eilonwy, a kick-ass teen sorceress who was always showing up on the adventures that the hero, Taran, had warned her were “too dangerous” for her to take part in. Ha ha, that did not turn out well (for Taran).
Neither did the not-so-good Disney movie—The Black Cauldron—that was based on the series and released in 1985. They’re trying again, though, and this time around, they might actually get it right.
Shannon Hale’s Princess in Black (for younger readers) and Book of a Thousand Days (for older readers).
These would be much better books to assign for summer reading than Of Mice and Men. Everyone already knows that people can be cruel and that unfair things happen, because they’ve seen Force Awakens. So let’s just read about the bravery of young royals instead, and forget about those damned rabbits.
Sarah Mlynowski’s Whatever After series
When a modern brother and sister find a magic mirror in their basement, it takes them on amazing adventures, and they end up improving the lives of characters in fairy tales in hilarious ways, helping Cinderella get a paying job, etc. While of course these books could lead naive kids (like I was) to constantly be looking for magic mirrors in basement, dreaming big is actually good thing. Look what happens to Rey!
Going along with the sibling theme, let’s throw in Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth.
Only in this book instead of finding a magic mirror, Jarrett finds himself with a foster brother he doesn’t like, Kevon. If you’ve seen Force Awakens, you already know what happens when family members disagree (KIDDING), but this is the child friendly version, with crushes and farting instead of murder. Anyone who’s ever had to live with a sibling (or a troublesome roommate at camp) can relate to this book, which is why it makes a perfect summer read that Booklist calls just plain “excellent.” Every kid will love you for putting this on their required reading list.
This was my all time favorite book as a child because I could relate to the casual cruelty of the kids it depicted (in a much more realistic fashion than the kids in Lord of the Flies).
Whatever standardized test they give to 4th graders should be abandoned so that teachers have time to read this book out loud to them instead. Because Blubber will prepare them much more for whatever lies ahead. And yes, you know I’m talking about middle school and of course dating after college.
I don’t have kids (for which many are grateful) but I do have a lot of nieces and nephews, and all I can say is that many of them seem to experience a lot of social media drama. So this is a good book to give to any kid you know who might be having the same. And though Rachel is a friend of mine, I can say with total impartiality that because she actually has kids, she has a good grasp on this subject.
Do you know a reader who just wants to read about normal life? How about Alice McKinley?
These books (over twenty in all!) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor follow a young girl named Alice who lives with her dad and annoying (at least sometimes) brother. These books describe the daily ups and downs of Alice and her friends from their pre-teens all the way to college. I got hooked on them in my thirties, and read them all. Look out, or it could happen to you (or a reader you know), too.
Do the young readers in your life like disasters? What about survival stories? What about plagues? YES PLEASE. This is why The Living and The Hunted by Matt de La Pena need to be on your summer reading list, because there’s nothing more fun that reading about a world in peril while you’re sitting in the sun on the beach. And Matt does disaster (and survival) like a pro.
I’ve never read this book, but I know a lot of young people who have, and they tend to give it raves. It’s the story of a sad young man who gets stuck in the woods and survives thanks to his lightcaber–what? Oh, sorry–hatchet.
Hey, if you get stuck in the woods and your kid gets you out of there thanks to his hatchet, you will owe me a martini for recommending this book.
If your reader prefers historicals, I recommend Kathleen Baldwin’s Stranje House series.
It’s a spy school for girls, but in the 1810s! A little something for everyone…danger, intrigue, history, hot guys, romance, fancy clothes, Napoleon, horses, and humor. Kathleen has got you covered.
If the younger reader you know is more into historical with bad guys but no kissing, then the Newberry award-winning Al Capone series by Gennifer Choldenko might be just the ticket.
A young boy and his sister move with their parents to Alcatraz in the 1930s (the dad is working at Alcatraz, not imprisoned there. Duh, that would be creepy). Drama and hilarity ensues.
It’s rare for me to read sic-fantasy these days because I read so much of it as a kid that I burned out on it almost entirely and now can only read books about serial killers, but these authors are so good, they have revived my love for it:
You can’t go wrong with Tamora Pierce. She is the original gangster when it comes to fantasy fiction, and she’s got something for readers of every age. If you haven’t tried Tamora, you’re in for a treat.
Cindy’s writing is lyrical and breathtakingly entertaining at the same time. Plus, she makes drawing look so easy. Sometimes I look at Cindy’s website and get mad at myself for being so lazy.
All of Malinda Lo’s books are good but Huntress in particular drew me in. (Full disclosure: I know Malinda and like her – and her writing– a lot so it’s hard for me to be impartial about her…and her great books!) I loved Adaptation and its creepy sci-fi sequel, Inheritance, as well.
OK I haven’t read all of Ellen’s Prophecy series yet, but I have it on good authority that it’s great, so get on it.
And finally, for your more mature readers who are sneak reading the sex scenes in your books behind your back:
I honestly can’t remember which specific books by Ursula K Le Guin I loved. I’m pretty sure it was all of them. But I also remember thinking Le Guin’s books were quite racy (in a good way) back when I was 13, so these are good books for readers who are ready for something more adult, but not, say, more ADULT.
The Dragon Riders of Pern series by Anne Mccaffrey
A very kind lady gave me the Harper Hall series when I was 13 and sick in bed with raging poisoned oak (on my FACE) and it definitely distracted me from scratching. A teen girl on a far away planet feels like an outcast and runs away from her cruel parents only to find nine rare baby “fire lizards” that imprint on her and follow her around everywhere (including music school–it’s a long story, but it’s like the Jedi Academy for musicians).
This series (and then the more adult Dragon Riders of Pern) might be a bit dated but will definitely resonate with anyone who might have felt like an outcast too from time to time.
Well, I know I’ve left off a ton of great books, but that’s only because I’ve run out of time and have to get to work on my own books or I won’t achieve my summer goals.
Have an excellent summer break (if I don’t talk to you before it ends, although I suspect I will) and remember:
Be safe! (Use sunscreen! Stay away from poison oak!)
Be happy! (Read books!)
But most of all