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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Summer reading

Every good intention of posting every weekday … and then a vicious flu attacks and all plans go astray. Flu trumps blog. Now I know.

One good thing to come out of having a week-long flu: my to-be-read pile isn’t as high as it once was.

In fact, it brought back memories of a perfect summer day. All my neighborhood friends were busy doing something else, so I would ride five miles across town to the library on my Schwinn bike with the deep wicker basket. It was an ivy-covered brick Carnegie library set up on a hill. There were two floors. You went up the grand flight of stairs outdoors to the rooms with the lofty ceilings where adults could check out books. If you were a child, you went in the side door, down a flight of steps, to the lower, cozier floor where children’s books were available. The librarian decided when it was time for you to ascend the stairs … a rite of passage for readers.

Returning to my grandparents’ yard, six to eight books in my basket, I would get out the blue blanket that served as my magic carpet for playtime and spread it out under the arching elm tree in the backyard. I’d stack all the books next to me and make that delicious choice: which book to read first? Nestled against the tree trunk, the world grew infinitely larger. I was transported to faraway places, meeting new friends who would become a part of my life, learning about things I couldn’t possibly experience in my small hometown, population 8,000.

This week, I’m going to focus on books that I think would be ideal choices for summer reading on a blanket in the backyard.

Series books were a favorite of mine because you didn’t have to leave the book’s world that soon. The people and the setting went on … becoming a family for a period of time.

Three series are highly recommended, satisfying summer fare. For younger girls, Julie Bowe’s Friends for Keeps. For older girls, Heather Vogel Frederick’s Mother-Daughter Book Club books. For all kinds of kids and readers, Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles.

My Best FrenemyJulie Bowe recognizes that life is about friendships when you’re in third and fourth grade. Ida May is a likable heroine who loses her best friend, gains a new best friend, and is beset by trials, tribulations, and a bossy girl who makes life difficult. Every girl who reads this book will find themselves in one of the characters. Ms. Bowe understands girls, how they think, how they sometimes don’t think, and how easy it is to want to do the right thing and end up making the wrong choice. Filled with adventure, humor, and good friendships, the books in the series are: My Last Best Friend, My New Best Friend, and My Best Frenemy. A fourth book in the series is on its way.

When The Mother-Daughter Book Club series begins, the four main characters are eleven. Set in Concord, Massachusetts, the girls’ moms all attend a yoga class where they cook up the idea of a mother-daughter book club, much to the chagrin of their daughters. Jess, studious and shy, lives on a working century farm. Her mom is living in New York City, starring on a soap opera. Emma’s the daughter of the town’s librarian and a freelance writer. She reads a great deal but she’s not great at math or science. Jess and Emma are friends. They used to be friends with Megan, but when her computer tycoon dad and MIT-grad mother became rich, Megan started hanging out with the popular girls at school. Cassidy has just moved to town. Her dad died recently and her world-famous mom, a fashion supermodel, has decided to move her daughters closer to their family. Cassidy is sports-crazy and manages to play on all the boys’ teams because of Title IX. When this group comes together to read Little Women over the course of a year, the girls don’t want to participate. They’re not even sure they can get along. Each book in the series sees them another year older, with many changes, challenges, and much to applaud. I particularly enjoy the fact that each book revolves around a classic book and the girls have grown a year older. Read them in this order: The Mother-Daughter Book Club (Little Women), Much Ado about Anne (Anne of Green Gables), and Dear Pen Pal (Daddy Long-legs). These books will appeal to all girls. A fourth book is on the way.

I read the Percy Jackson books as quickly as they came out, but Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles is set in Egypt. I tried reading the Egyptian Book of the Dead when I was 12 or 13, but I could never figure out the relationships between and among the plethora of gods. In true Riordan style, this is a rip-roaring adventure ride of a book, with two strongly identifiable characters, a brother and sister who haven’t lived together for a number of years and don’t know each other, but the Egyptian gods make this a different type of book than the Olympian gods did. The Egyptian gods seem more like family and their legendary characteristics help them fit into the story well. There’s plenty of mystery and suspense … just right for summer reading blanket beneath the tree. Only the first book in the series is available: The Red Pyramid. I’m looking forward to the rest.

More suggestions to come …

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