Paging through summer’s offerings for kids

Summer “break” might give some young readers an excuse to ditch books, but it’s the perfect time to read when and what one pleases.

With exciting and engaging titles to choose from — including new books by local authors — now’s the time to dive in. Joining a summer reading club is a great way to find interesting reads and earn free books and prizes. Check your neighborhood public library for details.

Shawnee Mission West sophomore Andy Gottschalk participates in Johnson County Library’s summer reading club and is co-president of the library’s Young Adult Advisory Council.

“We plan lots of events for teens, like video game days and movie programs. We also get to tell publishers and the librarians what we think,” Gottschalk said.

Right now Gottschalk, 15, is reading “Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You” by Peter Cameron, and his friends are reading a mix of classics — like “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen — and fantasy titles — like “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” by Seth Grahame-Smith.

Gottschalk has read local authors, too, including Jennifer Brown’s “Hate List,” noting “how deep the plot was.” He also plans to read her latest novel, “Bitter End,” which was released in May.

Brown isn’t the only KC author having a big summer. Anola Pickett and Roderick Townley also released titles suitable for young readers (and the young at heart).

Jennifer Brown

Though Brown is a former humor columnist, her two books have taken a more serious approach to life. “Bitter End” deals with dating violence.

“Bitter End’s” heroine, Alex, is torn between two boys: an old friend and a new love. But when her boyfriend begins using threats and abuse to push Alex away from her old friend, she feels conflicted.

“I don’t think we can shy away from teens’ issues anymore,” Brown said. “I think teens are inundated with tough stuff, and talking about it can initiate important discussions.”

A KC native, Brown often envisions her high school in Lee’s Summit or the one in Liberty, where she lives, when she writes.

“When you’re reading a local author, there’s a good chance you’re going to know what they’re writing about.”

“Bitter End” (Little, Brown and Co., $17.99), age 15 and older, www.jenniferbrownya .com Anola Pickett

Anola Pickett’s “Wasatch Summer” is a coming-of-age tale that takes readers out of air-conditioned living rooms and libraries and into the Wild West, circa 1889.

Pickett’s heroine, 11-year-old Hannah, spends her summer tending to a flock of sheep in the mountains of Utah — alone. With only a few Blackfoot and her animals to keep her company, she faces dangers unknown to most young readers.

“It’s good for today’s kids to realize all they have,” Pickett said. “In the pioneer days, kids had to do these things so their families could survive.”

Pickett’s novel is based on historical accounts. Hannah was envisioned after an acquaintance told Pickett about his pioneer grandmother who went into the mountains alone at age 8. Pickett also built her novel around the family history of a missionary from Cache Valley, Utah, where the novel is set.

“Even though it’s set in another location and time, it’s relatable,” Pickett said. “It’s about a young person who had to take on a heavy load.”

The story isn’t all hardship, though. Hannah is a playful preteen who amuses herself with simple games and toys, such as her button charm string — collecting enough buttons was thought to reveal a girl’s true love. Pickett found this game and others in “The American Girls Handy Book,” first published in 1887. More pioneer games are available on her website

. “Wasatch Summer” (Cedar Fort; $9.99), age 9 and older, www.anola Roderick Townley

Want to transport your mind to another place? Lovers of fantasy, mystery and quest stories can get lost in Roderick Townley’s “The Door in the Forest.”

“My books are a vacation,” Townley said. “They can take you pretty far away.”

Townley has traveled and researched extensively for previous books, including time in England for “The Red Thread.” But this novel came right out of his Overland Park backyard.

“In my backyard we see coyotes, deer and even a great blue heron,” he said. “And there’s an island surrounded by a stream. And I started thinking: ‘What if the blue heron was a guardian from the island? What if there was quicksand? What if there were poisonous snakes and those snakes had human heads?’ ”

The novel’s characters, Daniel and Emily, are up against all those dangers and more but are still determined to get to the mysterious wooded island. The plot thickens when up-to-no-good soldiers show up in town, the same soldiers who took Emily’s mother away.

This is Townley’s seventh novel and 15th book.

“Expect plenty of explosions … and an unstated love,” Townley said. “Every boy loves explosions and villains, but it was still written with my girl readers in mind.”

“The Door in the Forest” (Knopf; $16.99), age 8 and older,

In May, the Children’s Book Council announced the winners of the 2011 Children’s Choice Book Awards.

Author of the Year:

Rick Riordan for “The Lost Hero” (The Heroes of Olympus, Book One)

Illustrator of the Year:

David Wiesner for “Art Max”

Kindergarten to Second Grade Book of the Year:

“Little Pink Pup” by Johanna Kerby

Third Grade to Fourth Grade Book of the Year:

“Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown” by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Fifth Grade to Sixth Grade Book of the Year:

“The Red Pyramid” (The Kane Chronicles, Book One) by Rick Riordan

Teen Choice Book of the Year:

“Will Grayson, Will Grayson” by John Green and David Levithan


“Zombies may be the new vampires,” said Sherry Ellison, Smithville branch manager of the Mid-Continent Public Library. “There are a lot of zombie books being published right now,” because of the popularity of “Twilight” and other fantasy movies.

Ellison said teen readers are also catching on to the Steampunk genre. “Steampunk writers take a world, like 1850s England, and the characters use modern gadgets that wouldn’t be typical for that time period.”


Picture books •“Alfie Runs Away,” by Kenneth M. Cadow, illustrated by Lauren Castillo

•“My Side of the Car,” by Kate Feiffer, illustrated by Jules Feiffer

•“One Big Rain: Poems for Rainy Days,” compiled by Rita Gray, illustrated by Ryan O’Rourke

•“Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring,” by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by Brian Floca

•“Three by the Sea,” written and illustrated by Mini Grey

•“The Day Ray Got Away,” by Angela Johnson, illustrated by Luke LaMarca

•“Red Wagon,” written and illustrated by Renata Liwska

•“Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes,” written and illustrated by Salley Mavor

•“Pop!: The Invention of Bubble Gum,” written and illustrated by Meghan McCarthy

•“Celebritrees: Historic and Famous Trees of the World,” by Margi Preus, illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon

•“Big Belching Bog,” by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Betsy Bowen

•“Where’s Walrus?,” written and illustrated by Stephen Savage

•“Madlenka Soccer Star,” written and illustrated by Peter Sís

•“A Sick Day for Amos McGee,” by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead

•“Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion,” written and illustrated by Mo Willems

•“Air Show!,” by Treat Williams, illustrated by Robert Neubecker

Early readers and younger fiction •“Bink Gollie,” by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, illustrated by Tony Fucile

•“Just Grace and the Terrible Tutu,” written and illustrated by Charise Mericle Harper

•“Dizzy Dinosaurs: Silly Dino Poems,” by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Barry Gott

•“Ling Ting: Not Exactly the Same!,” written and illustrated by Grace Lin

•“Lulu and the Brontosaurus,” by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Lane Smith

•“Time to Sleep, Sheep the Sheep!,” written and illustrated by Mo Willems

Intermediate •“Keeper,” by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by August Hall

•“Sky Sailors: True Stories of the Balloon Era,” by David L. Bristow

•“I Dreamed of Flying Like a Bird: My Adventures Photographing Wild Animals From a Helicopter,” by Robert B. Haas

•“Turtle in Paradise,” by Jennifer L. Holm

•“Small as an Elephant,” by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

•“Here There Be Monsters: The Legendary Kraken and the Giant Squid,” by HP Newquist

•“The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester,” by Barbara O’Connor

•“The Red Pyramid,” by Rick Riordan

•“What Happened on Fox Street,” by Tricia Springstubb

•“The Romeo and Juliet Code,” by Phoebe Stone

•“Project Seahorse,” by Pamela S. Turner, photographed by Scott Tuason

•“Young Fredle,” by Cynthia Voigt, illustrated by Louise Yates

Middle school •“Close to Famous,” by Joan Bauer

•“No Passengers Beyond This Point,” by Gennifer Choldenko

•“Mockingjay,” by Suzanne Collins

•“Take Me to the River,” by Will Hobbs

•“The Mermaid’s Mirror” by L. K. Madigan

•“Trash,” by Andy Mulligan

•“As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth,” by Lynne Rae Perkins

•“The Grimm Legacy,” by Polly Shulman

•“The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie: A Doll’s History and Her Impact on Us,” by Tanya Lee Stone

•“The Ring of Solomon: A Bartimaeus Novel,” by Jonathan Stroud

•“Alien Invasion and Other Inconveniences,” by Brian Yansky

High school •“Ship Breaker,” by Paolo Bacigalupi

•“Chime,” by Franny Billingsley

•“Dark Water,” by Laura McNeal

•“Sisters Red,” by Jackson Pearce

•“Fat Vampire: A Never Coming of Age Story,” by Adam Rex (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray)

•“Stay,” by Deb Caletti