17 Adventure-Filled Transitional Books to Kick Off Summer Reading | We Are Kid Lit Collective

These early readers and chapter books will be just the thing for independent readers looking to meet new characters and engage with fun stories during the summer months.


School Library Journal has proudly partnered with We Are Kid Lit Collective to share and promote the group’s 10th annual summer reading recommendations. In the next couple of weeks, SLJ will publish individual posts featuring their recommendations for picture books, transitional books, middle grade, and young adult titles.

Amid all the challenges and disruptions that our youth face, we’re releasing our 10th We Are Kid Lit Summer Reading List as a message to young readers: We see you. We hear you. We are with you. You motivate us every day to keep moving the needle by elevating narratives that feature Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) voices while being inclusive of intersectional queer and disability representation and limiting the harms of biases and microaggressions.

These early readers and chapter books will be just the thing for independent readers looking to meet new characters and engage with fun stories during the summer months.

ALIKHAN, Salima. Soraya and the Mermaid. illus. by Atieh Sohrabi. (Soraya: Bk. 1). Reycraft. 2020. ISBN 9781478868156.
Iranian American third grader Soraya dreams of being a cartoonist, but living in her fantasy world makes it hard to connect with her classmates—until a trip to the aquarium and an encounter with a trapped mermaid show that mermaids are real and working with others for a common goal is the best way to make new friends.

DAVID, Arihhonni. Who Will Win? illus. by author. Holiday House. 2023. ISBN 9780823449484.
With simple text and images, this early reader, based on a traditional Haudenosaunee tale, focuses on a race between a fast-moving bear and a quick-witted turtle. It features some words in Kanien’kéha.

AVERY, Bryan Patrick. Mordecai’s Magic. illus. by Arief Putra. (Mr. Grizley’s Class: Bk. 1). Capstone/Picture Window. 2022. ISBN 9781663910264.
Mordecai needs to make a poster highlighting his talents. Though he thinks that he only has one, his talent for magic, an impromptu cancellation of a magician’s performance allows Mordecai to show his other talents to the whole school.

BOLLING, Valerie. The Gray Day. illus. by Kai Robinson. (Rainbow Days). Scholastic. 2023. ISBN 9781338805949.
Zoya loves to make art with her puppy, Coco. But an outdoor art excursion turns to rainy gray, ruining their sunshiny painting and bringing them back indoors. Remembering that gray is a combination of black and white, Zoya reframes the dreary weather into things she loves that are black, white, and gray, while adding her own colorful twist.

GASTON, Stephanie. Sea, Sand, and Sun. illus. by Katie Crumpton. (Luca and Lucky Adventures). Seahorse/Dolphin. 2022. ISBN 9781638975069.
On a sunny day at the beach with his mom, Luca and his dog, Lucky, swim, play, and build sandcastles. But when Luca’s sandcastle gets knocked down, he thinks about what he can do to build a new and improved one. Can he and Lucky do it?

GRANT, Shauna J. Mimi and the Boo-Hoo Blahs. illus. by author. (Mimi: Bk. 2). Scholastic/Graphix. 2023. ISBN 9781338766707.
One morning, Mimi, a young Black girl, wakes up with the Blahs. How can she get rid of them? With the help of her friends, Mimi learns that facing hard emotions is usually better than avoiding them.

HEUER, Lourdes. Esme’s Birthday Conga Line. illus. by Marissa Valdez. Tundra. 2022. ISBN 9780735269408.
It’s Esme’s birthday, and Mimi and Pipo have given her a guitar. She plans to play at her birthday party, only there is no party planned … yet. Esme will problem-solve and plan this party with a lot of help from her neighbors and her cat, El Toro.

KHAN, Hena. Zara’s Rules for Record-Breaking Fun. illus. by Wastana Haikal. (Zara’s Rules: Bk. 1). S. & S./Salaam Reads. 2022. ISBN 9781534497597.
When a new family moves in across the street, Zara is a bit put off by how the dynamics with her neighborhood friends change. While looking at the Guinness World Records, Zara develops a plan: maybe if she breaks a record, the kids from her street will go back to following her lead?

KIM, Carol. Project Earth. illus. by Ahya Kim. Capstone/Picture Window. (Jina Jeong). 2023. ISBN 9781484679449.
Korean American Jina Jeong always has the best of intentions. After learning about how climate change affects polar bears, Jina springs into action, unplugging all the devices at home to reduce energy—without telling her parents. Discussions with her parents, teacher, and a new friend lead to sustainable ideas for change that can still make an impact on protecting the environment.

MORA, Pat. Wiggling Pockets/Los bolsillos saltarines. illus. by Maribel Suárez. (My Family: Mi familia). HarperCollins Español. 2009. ISBN 9780060850470. BL
Gathering together in the kitchen, Danny’s family is in wonder when he comes home with pockets full of wiggling, hoppy surprises in this fun bilingual book.

RANSOME, James E. New Red Bike! illus. by author. (I Like to Read). Holiday House. 2011. ISBN 9780823422265.
Tom loves his new red bike, but when he knocks on Sam’s door, Tom turns around to find his bike is missing! Simple text and uncluttered spreads help support emerging readers.

RHUDAY-PERKOVICH, Olugbemisola. Makeda Makes a Birthday Treat. illus. by Lydia Mba. (Makeda Makes). Harper/Balzer + Bray. 2023. ISBN 9780063217263.
Makeda and her family enjoy sharing back-home stories and special treats. For her birthday this year, Makeda wants to share coconut drops, something her family really enjoys eating. She hopes her classmates like them, too!

SMITH, Elliott. Bo and the Poetry Lesson. illus. by Subi Bosa. (Bo at the Buzz). Lerner. 2023. ISBN 9781728476124.
Bo has no idea how to write a poem until Darius gives him a quick lesson at the barber shop. Bo learns that poetry and music go hand in hand.

STARK, Andrew. Liam and the Pigeon. illus. by Emily Faith Johnson. (Liam Kingbird’s Kingdom). Capstone/Picture Window. 2022. ISBN 9781666395068.
Ojibwa Liam Kingbird is special. He speaks two languages, loves to draw, has a cleft lip, is a good thinker, and loves animals. Finding an injured pigeon, Liam and his mother take the bird to the nature center, where Liam learns the importance of care, respect, and responsibility for all creatures and nature.

THOMAS, Joyce Carol. Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea. illus. by Floyd Cooper. HarperCollins. 1996. ISBN 9780064434393.
The first of several collaborations between poet and artist, this lovely collection celebrates a Black family through Thomas’s sensitive, empowering verse and Cooper’s luminous illustrations.

TORRES, Jennifer. Skateboard Star. illus. by Gladys Jose. (Catalina Incognito: Bk. 4). S. & S./Aladdin. 2022. ISBN 9781534483132.
Mexican American Catalina Castaneda’s sister, Coco, is competing in the Valle Grande Games skateboarding competition. But having outgrown her lucky flannel, Coco has lost the confidence and courage to win. Can Catalina’s encouragement and alterations using her magical sewing kit help Coco get her mojo back?

UNIGWE, Chika. Obioma Plays Football. illus. by Chinyere Okoroafor. Cassava Republic. 2023. ISBN 9781913175375.
Obioma is the best football (soccer) player on her school’s team. But when she moves to a new school, no one thinks a girl in a wheelchair can play football. Also available in an Igbo language version, this young athlete’s story is a winner.

Sam Bloom is a children’s collection development librarian at the The Lane Libraries in Butler County, Edith Campbell is a librarian at Indiana State University. Ariana Hussain is a teacher librarian at the Blake School, Hopkins, MN. Dr. Sujei Lugo is a children’s librarian at the Boston Public Library and an independent researcher. Lyn Miller-Lachmann is an award-winning author and translator of children’s books.

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