Passionate About Pittsburgh
and the Moms Who Live Here

Summer Reading: Great Single Books

My previous post detailed 4 great book series to get kids interested in summer reading.  What if your child isn’t ready for or interested in an entire series?  Here are some of my family’s all-time favorite single books…

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Based on a true story, Ivan is a gentle gorilla who has lived in a glass exhibit at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade his whole life. He makes friends with other animals in the exhibit over the years and doesn’t question his situation much. But the arrival of a baby elephant named Ruby gives him a new perspective, and he concocts a creative plan to get Ruby home to her family.

Told from Ivan’s point of view, this beautifully written book makes a powerful statement about animals kept in captivity for human entertainment. Be prepared to think a little differently the next time you go to a zoo or pet store! 

Available at


Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

Kyle Keeley is in the sixth grade and loves games. His hero is Luigi Lemoncello, the most famous game designer in the world, who has just built a new library in Kyle’s small town.  Kyle wins a spot as one of twelve kids invited for an overnight sleepover in the library, where he and the other kids must solve a series of hidden clues, riddles and puzzles in order to find a hidden escape route and get out of the library the next morning.

The book is very fast-paced and a bit of a game in its own right. Readers are asked to solve puzzles and answer riddles alongside the characters, and there are plenty of hidden references to real-life authors and books to keep everyone entertained. It’s a great book for kids who love mysteries, puzzles or strategy.




Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

During World War II, German troops begin “relocating” Jews who lived in Denmark. Annemarie Johansen’s family is part of the Danish Resistance and agrees to conceal Annemarie’s best friend Ellen as a member of their family to protect her.  As the story develops, Annemarie’s family embarks on a trip to smuggle Ellen and other Jews across the sea to Sweden.  Annemarie, who is 10 years old, struggles with bravery and understanding.

The book’s account of the heroism of Danish citizens is truly moving, and reminds us of compassion and human decency even in the world’s darkest moments.   It’s a definite departure from the usual fantasy, science fiction and teeny-bopper romances that are so popular at the moment, and has the potential to make readers confront their own feelings about loyalty and friendship.  The book is more suitable for sixth graders and up, and be ready for some deep questions about that time in history.


Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

This book is different from most others in that it is a graphic novel – how fun!

Written by a real-life roller derby girl, the book details the life of 12 year old Astrid.  Astrid will be starting junior high in the fall and has recently discovered roller derby.  She signs up for derby camp away from her old friends and dance camp.  What follows is an uplifting story of growing up, letting go, finding new friendships, and discovering confidence – all in the setting of a non-conventional sport.  Perfect for girls making any sorts of transition!


Still not convinced that your kid is up for summer reading?  In my next post, I’ll detail some other fun library activities that are suitable for all ages.

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