Brief Reviews

Summer Books for Young Readers – 2021


Graduations, Graphic Novels, and More

Reviewed by By Erin Wasinger
ERB Contributing Editor
Specializing in Books for Young Readers

Books for grads and growing kids

Can you count on one hand how many stores are featuring Oh! The Places You’ll Go, just in time for graduations and all those firsts to come? If you’re looking for an alternative, check out Never Grow Up! by illustrator Quentin Blake and “inspired by the mischief and magic” of the late Roald Dahl (Viking, 2021). More irreverent than Seuss, sure. But more to the point, too, for the dreamers and doers and artists and I-don’t-know-what-I-want-to-be’s who are growing a school year older this year. For instance, it issues a warning against becoming a boring grownup doing boring work: “It’s simply absolutely tragic to watch them waste each day (and weekend!) / Until they die. That’s it. The End.” Need more sentiment? Try the lovely I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld, illustrator (Chronicle Books, 2015).

Graphic novel summer

Situation: The library’s begun its summer reading program, but all your child wants is Smile or Dog Man (again)? Try the Science Comics series (they cover sharks, dogs, cats, robots, volcanoes — so many!). Non-fiction and just as colorful as Raina Telgemeier and Dav Pilkey’s popular masterpieces. (If that won’t do, Pilkey’s Cat Kid Comic Club and graphic novelizations of Ann M. Martin’s classic Baby Sitter’s Little Sister books are also hard to keep on the shelves). See also: Shirley and Jamila Save Their Summer by Gillian Goerz; and Pawcasso by Remy Lai.

Stamped For Kids

Jason Reynolds turned the academic into the accessible when he remixed Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning to Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You. Reynolds’s YA book quickly became book club fodder, a conversation starter, and an entrypoint to Kendi’s theses on antiracism. Now, Sonja Cherry-Paul’s Stamped for Kids continues the good work of introducing sometimes abstract, often complex ideas to students from about age 7 to age 12. The fits-in-a kid’s-hand, illustrated chapter book is just 140 pages, broken into 24 chapters. Cherry-Paul uses “Let’s Pause” features to give heavy content some extra context (about, say, Confederate statues). The value in the book, of course, isn’t just that a child will read this and begin the hard work of antiracism. It’s in equipping grownups to read along with a student, to continue conversations, to make connections with real life. Perhaps most important, this book can help all of us to become more comfortable talking about tough stuff with children.


Erin Wasinger

Erin F. Wasinger is a writer, speaker, and an elementary school “library lady," as well as our Contributing Editor Specializing in Books for Young Readers. Erin’s also the cofounder of Spark Writers of Southern Michigan, blogger for, and author of The Year of Small Things: Radical Faith for the Rest of Us (Brazos, 2017). Find her online at:

Reading for the Common Good
From ERB Editor Christopher Smith

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