This Summer, Start a Family Book Club
Can we read? No. 70: Five books readers of all ages can love
I’ve got another guest post for you today, this one from Elizabeth Held of the excellent free weekly (adult) book recommendation newsletter What to Read If:
Elizabeth is a writer — and avid reader — living in Washington, D.C. She runs a romance book club and is a member of at least three more. Her newsletter features curated picks that reflect the news of the day and feature diverse writers and genres, and includes twice-a-month Q&As with writers and readers.
When she told me about her family book club, I knew it was something I wanted to share with you, so without further ado…
This Summer, Start a Family Book Club
As much as part of me thinks it’s still March 2020, the calendar informs me it’s nearly May. That means the summer reading season is here.
While I read all year long, there’s something extra special about lazy summer afternoons spent with a good book — especially if I’m sitting next to a pool or on the beach. I love summer reading so much that I run a bingo challenge each year, inspired by the challenges I completed at my library as a kid.
That love stems partially from those library games and the “book club” my mom organized each summer for my brother and me. The three of us would read the same book and then go out to lunch to discuss it. When you are a kid (and sometimes an adult), there is nothing more exciting than going out to lunch. We’d discuss what we liked and didn’t and why. My mom took the books as seriously as I did.
Since then, my mom and I have continued the tradition with my younger cousins, introducing well-loved books to a new generation (and enjoying milkshakes along the way.)
If this has you thinking of starting your own family book club, here are a few of my favorite middle-grade books. While they’re written for readers aged 8-12, they each pass what I call the Pixar Test, meaning they can be enjoyed equally by kids and adults. (You should also check out this list of options from Hoang Samuelson).
Sheets by Brenna Thummler
Sheets is a charming, sweet coming-of-age graphic novel. It focuses on Marjorie Glatt, a thirteen-year-old who recently lost her mom. As she grieves her mom’s death and tries to hold her family together, Marjorie struggles to keep the family business, a laundromat, open. Her efforts are thwarted by Wendell, a ghost of a young boy, who starts to haunt the laundromat. Throughout the book, the two form an unlikely friendship, each helping the other heal.
The illustrations are gorgeous, and the story is moving. Graphic novels are an excellent option for reluctant readers, creating an engaging experience.
From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks
Janae Marks’ From the Desk of Zoe Washington follows the titular character as she begins to correspond with her imprisoned father. Zoe, a 12-year-old who dreams of appearing on a baking reality show, ultimately uncovers evidence proving her dad’s innocence.
It’s a great, accessible read that explores race and wrongful incarceration in a way kids can understand.
Don’t Check Out This Book by Kate Klise and M. Sarah Klise
In Don’t Check Out This Book, sisters Kate and Sarah Klise tell the story of a scandal gripping the small town of Appleton, using found elements, such as newspaper clippings, memos, and emails. The scandal? A new school librarian named Rita B. Danjerous has books on shelves the school board president wants to ban. The fifth graders at the elementary school are on the case.
I’ve loved the Klise sisters’ books since I was a kid (Regarding the Fountain is still one of my all-time favorites) and Don’t Check Out This Book is timely read, filled with their signature wit and humor. The book is filled with easter eggs that readers of all ages will love to find.
When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller
In this Newbery award-winning novel, preteen Lily starts to see the tigers that only exist in the stories her halmoni, or grandmother, told her. As her halmoni grows increasingly ill, Lily makes a dangerous deal with a tiger: she’ll give the cat something of her grandmother’s, and the tiger will save the older woman’s life.
I cried reading When You Trap a Tiger. It’s a beautiful exploration of grief, loss and the power of the stories we tell.
Hoot by Carl Hiassen
With Hoot, veteran crime writer Carl Hiassen applied his unique tongue-in-cheek voice to a mystery for readers of all ages. It’s about Roy Eberhardt, a middle-schooler struggling to find friends at his new school. When Roy befriends a boy nicknamed Mullet Fingers, he gets caught up in a campaign to prevent a construction project that would harm the endangered burrowing owl.
Hoot is filled with wacky characters, humorous scenes and a fair amount of suspense. Budding mystery lovers will love it.
As someone who once gave my then-12yo niece the Christmas gift of a year-long two-person book club, I could not possibly love the idea of a family book club more. A big thank you to Elizabeth for sharing her experience and, of course, for these great recommendations 💛
💐 Mother’s Day is coming up!
Are you looking for an easy-for-you, helpful-for-her gift for Mother’s Day? (What better way to encourage the beginning of a family book club than a newsletter that helps someone pick engaging books?) Consider a gift subscription to this newsletter.
This makes a great present for your mom, someone else’s mom, a mama friend, anyone else who mothers in whatever way you define it — including you! — because it saves her time, energy, and emotional labor every single week.
If you purchase a gift subscription and would like to have a physical object to tuck into an envelope, wrap, or attach to an email, feel free to print this handy, official Can we read? PDF.
That’s all for this week! Thanks for reading, thanks for subscribing — I appreciate you!