Summer Reading: Big Adventures for Little Readers

While it’s well known that summer reading provides benefits well past summer, perhaps the greatest benefit of summer reading for kids is choice. In fact, trusting kids to pick their own books is essential. And publishers of children's books provide a plethora of choices for summer reading.


As the song says, “school’s out for summer,” and adventures await! For some kids, that means beach trips, barbeques, summer camp, or family visits. For other kids, that can mean adventures to be had by becoming immersed in a great book.

While it’s well known that summer reading provides benefits well past summer, perhaps the greatest benefit of summer reading for kids is choice. In fact, trusting kids to pick their own books is essential. According to Scholastic, almost 90 percent of kids ages 6–17 say they are most likely to complete books they choose themselves.

Publishers of children's books provide a plethora of choices for summer reading. Lavishly illustrated picture books take kids under the sea or frolicking with the animals in their neighborhood or offer fun mystery stories or “escape room” adventures for older readers.

“Interactive” titles, like those from VOX Books, take young readers on unforgettable journeys with self-contained audiobooks bound into its print books for a read-along experience. “It’s all about adventure, but also a love of books and libraries,” says VOX Books Executive Editor Margot Wallace.

Interactive adventures also take the form of “seek and find” books that let kids expand their vocabularies while learning about a host of subjects as diverse as animals or Greek mythology. “’Seek and find’ books are great for summer reading because they get that reading bug going,” says Casey Griffin, senior marketing manager for Sequoia Kids Books.

Read on for eight publishers’ summer reading titles, which guarantee not just choice but big adventures for kids of all ages.

Sequoia Kids Media

Phoenix International Publications puts out 150 books a year across five imprints. The school library imprint Sequoia Kids Media offers titles in the grades K–4 range, although the company plans to “age up” in the near future, says Senior Marketing Manager Casey Griffin. Sequoia Kids Media books offer readers interactive experiences through picture books, “point and say” titles, and graphic novels.

In January, Sequoia Kids Media launched its “Beautiful Community” series of ABC picture books that allow children to learn about the world around them, offering fascinating facts about how the world is being shaped. There are currently four titles in the series, each covering a specific topic via the letters of the alphabet.

One such title, A Is for Athlete by Kathleen Hanrahan, illustrated by Giovana Medeiros, January 2024, ISBN 9798765403020, focuses on accomplished female athletes (“B is for Simone Biles,” “S is for Sheryl Swoopes”), as well as related topics (“T is for Title IX”). The book is geared to 4–8-year-olds. The company focused the title on female sports because “it’s not a space that we’ve really seen filled yet. It’s a different way of looking at sports,” says Griffin.

The “Active Minds: More Than 101 Words to Know” series starts building a child’s vocabulary 101 words at a time. These “point-and-say” books feature over 400 essential words grouped into fun themes. In More Than 101 Animal Words to Know, illustrated by Jill McDonald, Tony Neal, and Carolyn Gavin, January 2024, ISBN 9798765403211, animals including kangaroos, butterflies, and octopuses are paired with adorable illustrations, helping young readers associate the image with the word. Other titles in this series for 4–6-year-olds include More Than 101 Everyday Words to Know, More Than 101 First Words to Know, and More Than 101 On the Go Words to Know.

The stunningly illustrated “Seek and Find” series presents readers with a detailed image and brief explanatory text. They are then tasked with finding specific images hidden within the illustration. Myths and Heroes Seek and Find by Melanie Zanoza Bartelme, illustrated by Douglas Holgate and Bryan Beach, January 2024, ISBN 9798765403433, takes readers into Greek mythology, presenting the minotaur’s labyrinth, Mount Olympus, ancient Troy, and other scenes. Other titles including Eww! That’s Gross!, Noah’s Ark, and Ultimate Doodles are both fun and educational.

VOX Books

VOX Books, an imprint of Library Ideas, focuses on reprints of high-quality picture books from the Big 5, as well as independent and foreign book publishers. VOX is also expanding into titles for older readers. Currently, the company publishes 20 picture books every quarter—16 fiction titles, 4 nonfiction titles—as well as Spanish, English/Spanish, Mandarin, and English/Mandarin picture books.

VOX Books editions combine print and audio. Each hardcover title features the built-in VOX Reader that plays an audio version of the book, so young readers can “read along.” The reader eliminates the need for external media, batteries, computer, tablet, or even an internet connection—readers just push a button to listen. VOX works with top narration talent to produce interactive editions that are not only enjoyable, but also valuable tools for literacy development.

In Tiny Troubles: Nelli’s Purpose, written and illustrated by Sophie Diao, May 2024, ISBN 9798885194815 (HarperCollins), readers aged 4-8 will be charmed by the adventures of two small plants who have big questions. Succulents and best friends Nelli and Worthi spend their days sunning themselves and sipping on water drops, until Nelli starts to wonder—is there more to life than this? This debut picture book by New York Times best-selling illustrator Diao has been hailed as “laugh-out-loud funny” by reviewers.

NY Times best-selling picture book How Rocket Learned to Read, written and illustrated by Tad Hills, May 2024, ISBN 9798885194457 (Penguin Random House), is a classic in the picture book space that was adapted into a PBS Kids movie and is soon to be a TV series. Readers follow along as Rocket, an adorable dog, is taught to read by a wise bird—learning his alphabet, sounding out words, and reading on his own. “It’s a story that makes the idea of reading fun,” says Wallace. “Our engaging audio will help listeners learn to read along with Rocket.”

Best-selling novelist Barbara Kingsolver teamed up with her daughter Lily and illustrator Paul Mirocha for Coyote’s Wild Home, May 2024, ISBN 9798885195003. Coyote is Kingsolver’s first children’s book, about a young girl’s adventures with a coyote pup in the Appalachian Forest. More than an adventure, it provides facts about coyotes and their habitats, offering readers insight into these fascinating animals. It was originally published by Gryphon Press, whose books center on human-animal relationships. This title is geared to readers aged 6–9.

Henry and the Something New by Jenn Bailey, illustrated by Mika Strong, May 2024, ISBN 9798885195010 (Chronicle Books), is an early chapter book for 6–9-year-olds. Henry’s class is taking a field trip to the natural history museum. Henry, who is autistic, is nervous about his impending adventure but excited to see dinosaurs. “It’s a funny, big-hearted tale about trying new things and exploring new places,” says Wallace. This is the second title in the popular, critically acclaimed “Henry” series.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library written and illustrated by Chris Grabenstein, May 2024, ISBN 9798885194754 (Yearling), is a middle grade chapter book, the latest in the NY Times best-selling series. Kyle is an avid gamer and his hero, game maker Luigi Limoncello, is building a new library. Kyle wins a coveted invitation to stay overnight but is surprised when the visit itself becomes an adventure game. “It will appeal to kids who are gamers, but also to kids who love a good adventure,” says Wallace.

The Collective Book Studio

The Collective Book Studio is an independent, woman-owned publisher based in Oakland, CA. Founded in 2019, the company published its first list of three titles in fall 2020. Having weathered the pandemic, the company now publishes 25–30 books a year—half of which are children’s titles—and has secured distribution through Simon & Schuster.

Collective Book Studio prides itself on producing books that not only boast top-notch editorial but also outstanding visuals and production values, including beautiful covers with intricate gold leaf, embossing, spot varnish, and other high-end print finishing techniques.

“We believe that each book is something that you're proud of, that you loan to people, but you want it back. It’s a gift, something that you really treasure,” says Angela Engel, founder and publisher. The company’s spring list exemplifies these values.

Our Home: The Love, Work, and Heart of Family by Lori Sugarman-Li, illustrated by María Perera, April 2024, ISBN 9781685554286, is about the power of family. It was inspired by the pandemic lockdown and “captures the idea that vacuuming, folding your laundry, and making dinner brings you together as a family or as a community,” says Engel. Without mentioning the pandemic, the book follows diverse families as they discover the special connection and value of family members who share a space.

The Schlemiel Kids Save the Moon by Audrey Barbakoff, illustrated by Rotem Teplow, April 2024, ISBN 9781685556037, puts a modern twist on an old Yiddish Chelm folktale. In this picture book, it’s the children—Sarah and Sam Schlemiel—who are the wise ones; they must persuade the foolish adults that the moon hasn’t fallen out of the sky. This is Barbakoff’s first children’s book; with Israeli illustrator Rotem Teplow, they have crafted a humorous tale that is also an accurate visual representation of a modern Middle Eastern Jewish family.

“When we got the manuscript, I challenged my staff to find an Israeli artist who could really depict the characters,” says Engel. “I think that’s the magic of truly good children’s books: the pairing of illustration with words.”

Patterns, Patterns Everywhere, written and illustrated by Kellie Menendez, June 2024, ISBN 9781685556600, is a big picture book perfect for summer reading, featuring beautiful images of patterns throughout nature. The bold, entirely hand-painted illustrations depict patterns of snowflakes, stars, forests, and more, while the book’s back matter explores the connection between patterns and math. This book will help small children ages 4–8 develop pattern awareness, a key milestone in childhood development.

The Knitting Witch by Norma Kassirer, illustrated by Mark Richardson, September 2024, ISBN 9781685552251, is a posthumous work by Kassirer, whose previous works have sold over a million copies. It came to Collective’s attention after Kassirer passed away in 2013. “Her daughter found this manuscript while cleaning out her mother’s attic and sent it to us,” says Engel. “And we loved it so much! We’re creating this gorgeous hardcover with full four-color illustrations.”

In this enchanting and funny modern fairy tale for middle grade readers, Ivy Lou lacks friends—until a witch appears and knits some for her. But the witch has a secret agenda: to turn Ivy Lou into a child witch. Is Ivy doomed to a witch’s life? The book’s cover will feature intricate gold embossing, “tiny foil that’s hidden in the yarn of the knitting witch,” says Engel, “so the book has a ‘search and find’ element of these tiny objects that kids love.”

Brown Books Kids

An imprint of Dallas, TX–based Brown Books Publishing Group, Brown Books Kids specializes in all kid-centric formats, including picture and board books, early readers, chapter books, middle grade readers, and graphic novels.

Encouraged by her daughter to write a children’s book, Teresa Argenbright wrote Charlotte & Penelope and Their Magical Menagerie, illustrated by Dan McGeehan, April 2024, ISBN 9781612546599. Charlotte and Penelope is a picture book targeted to readers in the 4–8-year-old range, although “fourth and fifth grade teachers could use it as a vocabulary builder,” says Argenbright.

Charlotte and Penelope are sisters, and their “menagerie” includes their animal friends with whom they have unusual adventures. “They go sledding with a cricket, climbing trees with a poodle, and learning to skate with two octopuses who happen to be siblings as well,” says Argenbright. Back matter in the book offers “fun facts” about the animals in the menagerie.

Argenbright says she wrote the book that she would have enjoyed reading to her kids. “My overarching goal for readers and listeners is to have fun reading a book and create a bonding experience that gives them time together—giggling, laughing, just creating that magical moment,” she says.

But she also has a goal beyond entertainment. “I’m very language-centric,” she explains. “I’ve always loved words, and that’s how I got into writing fun poems in the first place. And this book has a broader vocabulary than probably most children’s books. I think kids like to be challenged.”

The book is brilliantly and beautifully illustrated by Dan McGeehan. “This book is just masterful,” says Milli Brown, founder, CEO, and publisher of Brown Books. “Dan did a phenomenal job. I was blown away when I saw it. The colors are just so vibrant for a children’s book. I enjoyed reading it—and I learned some fun facts in the back of the book.”

Argenbright is already planning future titles in the series. “There are 10 animals, and I could see spin-offs for any of them,” she says. “So, there’s another 10 books!”

Nosy Crow Inc.

Nosy Crow Inc. is the North American offshoot of the U.K.’s multi-award–winning Nosy Crow, which has been active for 14 years. The U.S.-based company launched in 2023 and currently Americanizes and reprints U.K. titles domestically. But the company plans to start acquiring its own titles soon.

Nosy Crow publishes 60 books a year in all children’s categories, from ages 0–12. “We strive to create books that inspire children to read for pleasure and, ultimately, to become lifelong readers,” says Marketing Manager Ally Russell. The three titles featured here certainly fit that bill.

Dig, Dig, Dinosaur by Anjali Goswami, illustrated by Maggie Li, August 2024, ISBN 9798887770796, features three young adventurers who dig for dinosaur bones, uncovering parts of bigger and bigger dinosaurs. A picture book for readers ages 2–5, it features die-cut “holes” in the pages that let readers peer into their “digs” and find additional bones. “For young readers who are headed to preschool or kindergarten, this is a really good book to get them interested in science and paleontology,” says Russell. “It includes dinosaur names, illustrations of fossils, and tools they might need.” Dig, Dig, Dinosaur also includes a QR code to access “Stories Aloud,” where an audio version of the book lets kids read along.

Animal Tales from India: Ten Stories from the Panchatantra by Nikita Gill, illustrated by Chaaya Prabhat, May 2024, ISBN 9798887770642, is a modern retelling of ancient Sanskrit animal fables, which were passed down to Gill through her family. Prabhat’s lush illustrations capture Gill’s tone perfectly. “Even though these tales have been passed down for thousands of years, the stories don’t get old,” says Russell. “They’ve got common themes of wisdom, friendship, speaking out, being courageous, helping others—that’s always relevant, especially for kids in that age range [7–10].” Gill reads the book herself for the “Stories Aloud” version.

This Book Will Make You an Artist by Ruth Millington, illustrated by Ellen Surrey, February 2024, ISBN 9798887770420, is an instruction book designed to help kids develop an interest in art. It offers step-by-step activities and crafts as it introduces them to 25 of the best-known artists and their artworks—including Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, Leonardo da Vinci, and more. “Readers learn about the artists, their techniques, their style, and then there are activities so they can create their own art in the same style,” says Russell.

Hippo Park

Launched in fall 2022 and named after a playground in New York City’s Riverside Park, Hippo Park is an imprint of Astra Publishing House, whose other children’s book imprints include Astra Young Readers and Calkins Creek. Hippo Park publishes 12 to 14 titles a year targeted at kids in the 0–14-year-old age range. The imprint specializes in picture books, chapter books, and middle grade graphic novels.

Hippo Park books are, above all else, fun—they’re “books that take silly seriously,” says Editorial Director Jill Davis. “There are some ‘big feelings’ books, but they’re mostly just very experiential.”

One of their summer titles, Mermaids’ Song to the Sea by Dianna Hutts Aston, illustrated by Renée Kurilla, April 2024, ISBN 9781662640285, can best be described as “Goodnight Moon for underwater,” says Davis. Written in verse by the author of An Egg Is Quiet and beautifully illustrated, this picture book features three mermaids in different oceanic scenes singing to the various forms of sea life. One verse reads, “Bless clams in their beds/and lobsters in pods/Bless sharks in their shivers and squids in their squads.”

“We thought that since [the book] was so environmentally friendly and naturalistic, it’s a nice way to appreciate the ocean,” says Davis.

Itty Bitty Betty Blob by Constance Lombardo, illustrated by Micah Player, June 2024, ISBN 9781662640148, is a story about being different, a kind of Addams Family for the 4–8-year-old set. The titular Betty is not your typical monster. Although she tries to be frightening and scary, she can’t pull off the look. As she gets ready for picture day at school, she tries to perfect a “scary face,” but she just can’t growl for the camera. Ultimately, Betty learns how to just be herself. “[Betty] is the kind of person who doesn’t quite fit in and then finds a place where she does,” says Davis.

Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Owned by the UK-based Bloomsbury Publishing (home of Harry Potter), Bloomsbury Children’s Books has been an active imprint for about 20 years, offering a wide range of titles from picture books to teen titles. The company publishes 75 to 80 titles a year, including works by authors such as Shannon Hale, author of the Newbery-winning “Princess Academy” series, and Kate Messner, whose The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z won the E. B. White Read Aloud Award.

Gillian McDunn’s Honestly Elliott was a 2023 Schneider Family Book Award Honor Book, and this summer, Bloomsbury is highlighting McDunn’s latest book, Trouble at the Tangerine, April 2024, ISBN 9781547611003. Targeted to 8–12-year-olds, Trouble at the Tangerine is like Only Murders in the Building for kids. Simon’s family is constantly moving. “It’s one of those ‘#vanlife’ families,” says McDunn. However, Simon decides that the family’s next move is going to be their last—to their “forever home.” But shortly after they move into the Tangerine Pines building, an heirloom ruby necklace is stolen. To keep his parents from thinking about moving again, Simon is compelled to crack the case.

The idea for the book came from McDunn’s love of mysteries. “As much as I love reading mysteries, writing mysteries is even more fun,” she says. “As the clues come together, there are little arcs that pay off quickly. And the entire time kids are reading, it’s increasing their comprehension because they are trying to literally decode what’s going on.”

The book comprises shorter chapters, which makes it perfect for teacher or librarian read-alongs. “It’s also good for kids who are reaching beyond the really young chapter books,” says Beth Eller, senior director of school library marketing. “This book is more like a middle grade reader. It’s a novel, but it’s very accessible.”

“Gillian’s books are the kind of books that kids really want to read,” Eller says, “so they’re great independent reading, which is why we want to focus on them for summer reading. This is also a perfect book for family book clubs and those kinds of communities.”

Nomad Press

Based in Vermont, Nomad Press has been publishing children’s books for more than 25 years. The press now specializes in science but has a backlist that also includes social studies and history titles. “We’ve turned our focus to science,” says Content Marketing Manager Andi Diehn. “There’s always room for more science literacy in schools and we support that. We’re a small company of passionate, lifelong learners and we tend to do books about what we’re interested in.” In 2024, Nomad is publishing six titles—two this spring and four in the fall.

This summer, Nomad is highlighting two titles in its “Build It Yourself” series for readers aged 9–12. Renewable Energy: Power the World with Sustainable Fuel with Hands-On Science Activities for Kids by Erin Twamley and Joshua Sneideman, illustrated by Micah Rauch, April 2024, ISBN 9781647411190, is activity-based, as are other books in the series. It teaches kids about solar, wind, geothermal, water, and biofuel energy using explanatory text and hands-on projects, such as creating soda straw rockets, fashioning a light box, and making a solar oven. Each chapter includes “essential questions” to get kids thinking beyond the page, “so they start connecting what they’re learning to how they’re living,” says Diehn.

The Science of Seeds: Why We Eat Maize, Wheat, Rice, and Potatoes with Hands-On Science Activities for Kids by Carla Mooney, illustrated by Micah Rauch, June 2024, ISBN 9781647411121, was inspired by Nomad’s staff’s interest in gardening. “We grow vegetables and flower gardens, so we wanted to do a book about the science of how our food grows,” says Diehn. This fascinating book explores the science of how various crops grow, as well as the history of how ancient peoples defined what we eat today. Activities include seed dispersal, the “nixtamalization” of maize, and recipes.

“Build It Yourself” titles feature QR codes that link to online material—videos, articles, maps, etc.—via a tablet or smartphone. “Kids are really used to looking up information on their phones, on their parents’ phones, or on their computers,” says Diehn, “so we just want to offer that as another layer of learning.” In addition, the books also offer keyword prompts, allowing young readers to search online for related information either from a specific website or on their own. “Research skills are important,” adds Diehn.



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