Don’t Panic, Parents: Great Spring Break Reading for Kids and Teens

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 1.42.42 PM.png

Whether you’re headed out of town or hunkering down for a restful staycation, there’s bound to come a time when someone says, “I’m bored.” That’s where these books come in. Stop by the store or place your order online (just click the title of any book on the list), and we’ll get you all set up for a week off school. 

SEYA-Color (1).pngBut first: Sticking around Tennessee? Your YA and middle-grade readers might want to check out the Southeastern Young Adult (SE-YA) festival — a FREE festival that takes place on Friday, March 10 (for school field trips), and Saturday, March 11 (open to the public!), on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University. This family-friendly festival is perfect for anyone who loves YA and middle grade literature and who wants to hear authors speak, meet them in person, and get books signed. Read more about it in Chapter 16’s recent featuresee the whole amazing lineup here, and download a festival map at

Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 12.20.27 PM.png
Mosquitoland and Kids of Appetite author David Arnold signed books at SE-YA last year and says, “It was literally too fun. I died of fun. And who wouldn’t want to die twice?”

Tickets are not required for Saturday’s public events, which start at 9 a.m. Organizers are especially excited to host more middle-grade authors than ever. Erin Alvarado, librarian at Central Magnet School and one of SE-YA’s founders, says while the festival’s a no-brainer for book-lovers, it also makes books more “personal and meaningful for young people who have either never developed a love for reading or who have forgotten it along the way.”


Now, on to your spring break survival list:

Let’s start with picture books:

Recommended by Rae Ann

Buddy and Earl Go Exploring Cover ImageBuddy and Earl Go Exploring

Mismatched pals Buddy and Earl go on a nighttime adventure to save a hedgehog in distress (Mom’s hairbrush) and conquer the evil villain of the house (the vacuum cleaner) in this delightful read aloud picture book.

Recommended by Jackie

Egg Cover ImageEgg

This fun book is a great introduction to graphic novels that is just right for a new reader or as a read aloud. There are four eggs, and baby birds hatch from three of them. What is in the fourth? Perfect for the spring season.

Recommended by Stephanie

If I Had a Little Dream Cover ImageIf I Had a Little Dream

I can say with confidence that this is going to be one of the most beautiful picture books of the year, and it’s only March. Completely and utterly gorgeous.

Recommended by Stephanie

Not Quite Narwhal Cover ImageNot Quite Narwhal

Although he was born in the ocean, Kelp doesn’t quite fit in with the other narwhals. One day, a strong current washes him near shore, where he sees something that looks a lot like him. Will Kelp stay with the other land narwhals (aka unicorns), or return to the ocean and his friends the sea unicorns (aka narwhals)? Kelp’s story is charming, sweet, and a little bit magical.

Recommended by Stephanie

Everywhere, Wonder Cover ImageEverywhere, Wonder

This is a quiet, lovely book that addresses the reader directly as it encourages them to notice wonders, big and small. “On the near side of the moon, there is a quiet footprint that no rains will ever wash away. In Sheboygan, there is a tractor mechanic named Shirley who has thirty-seven friends.” A necessary book for all times, but perhaps most especially for these times.

Recommended by Stephanie

This House, Once Cover ImageThis House, Once

What makes your house a home? This dreamy picture book takes the question literally and lyrically, exploring the journey the materials of a home travel as they are transformed. Freedman’s poetic language (“This roof was once rock, carved and cleft and shingled to shelter …”) pairs wonderfully with her atmospheric illustrations, and the book itself — the placement of text on each page, the rhythm of the text and the page turns — is just pitch-perfect.

Recommended by Mary Laura

A Glorious Day Cover ImageA Glorious Day

The perfect book for a long day at home with a toddler. We passed many a staycation at our house reading this one aloud when our kids were little.

Recommended by Opie (shop dog)

Job Wanted Cover ImageJob Wanted

The President may have promised new jobs, but this book offers a practical manual for how to get one. (This story brought back memories for all of us shop dogs who found our forever homes and jobs with our people at Parnassus).

Recommended by Stephanie

A Cat Named Swan Cover ImageA Cat Named Swan

A perfect pet-adoption story from Holly Hobbie, the creator of the bestselling Toot & Puddle series. Especially sweet for all you cat-lovers out there.

Recommended by Grace

Go to Sleep, Monster! Cover ImageGo to Sleep, Monster!

Ever wonder what the monster under your bed is afraid of? A charming tale for kids afraid of things that go bump in the night – or just the very curious!

A graphic novel that’s great for early readers:

Recommended by Stephanie

Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea (a Narwhal and Jelly Book #1) Cover ImageNarwhal: Unicorn of the Sea (a Narwhal and Jelly Book #1)

The most delightful graphic novel I’ve read in a while, this book chronicles the adventures of an adorably happy Narwhal and his friend Jelly. Read if you like really cute things and waffles.

For older independent readers:

Recommended by Gennie (junior bookseller, age 11)

The Inquisitor's Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog Cover ImageThe Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog (a Newbery Honor Book of 2017)

I like how this book is narrated. You get to see what people who lived in Medieval times thought about. It’s an adventure!

Recommended by Gennie (junior bookseller, age 11)

The Girl Who Drank the Moon Cover ImageThe Girl Who Drank the Moon (winner of the 2017 Newbery Medal)

This fantasy novel is funny, and it’s also astonishing. I can’t tell you too much about the story, or I’d give it away, but it’s not like anything else I have ever read.

Recommended by Ashley

Some Kind of Happiness Cover ImageSome Kind of Happiness

Reality and fantasy meet in this lyrical and honest story about Finley’s struggle with anxiety, depression, family secrets, and new friends. This is one of those books that will stick with you and leave you wondering how you lived without being part of Finley’s story.

Young adult fiction:

Recommended by Rae Ann

Caraval Cover ImageCaraval

What is real and what is imagined? Scarlett’s sister has been kidnapped by the gamemaker of Caraval and she has five days to rescue her. Fans of The Night Circus and anyone who likes a good fantasy story will enjoy disappearing into the pages of this story.

Recommended by Jackie

The Lost Girl of Astor Street Cover Image

The Lost Girl of Astor Street

In 1920s Chicago, Piper Sail’s best friend disappears during the spring of their final year of high school. Not one to sit around and wait, Piper begins her own investigation. Filled with excitement, suspense, and a bit of a love story, this is perfect to read on a spring break getaway.

Recommended by Katherine

Goodbye Days Cover ImageGoodbye Days

Goodbye Days is YA fiction at its absolute best, perfect for fans of The Serpent King, The Sun Is Also a Star, and Looking for Alaska. Jeff Zentner calls the book his “love letter to Nashville,” and you’ll love all the references to familiar places in the city as Carver grapples with lingering guilt over being the friend who survived a tragic texting-and-driving accident.

Recommended by Cat

The Hate U Give Cover ImageThe Hate U Give

The best books get at your heart and make you take a hard look at yourself and the world around you. This is one of the best books.

Recommended by Grace

You're Welcome, Universe Cover ImageYou’re Welcome, Universe

Julia leads a life that many of us will never experience, but her voice rings with such truth and artistry that it is easy to step into her shoes if only to gain a little more understanding. The art interwoven into the text makes this novel pop like the graffiti on its cover.

Recommended by Ashley

We Are Okay Cover ImageWe Are Okay

Every now and then, a book comes along that just feels… perfect. Perfectly sad. Perfectly beautiful. Perfectly hopeful. For me, that book is We Are Okay. Set against a snowy landscape, this is a story of Marin’s isolation in her grief and the careful, slow, lovely unfurling of her lonely heart.

Recommended by Ashley

Iron Cast Cover ImageIron Cast

Historical fantasy fans, this book is for you. Set against the dreamy, alluring backdrop of 1920s Chicago, Iron Cast follows two best friends who are hemopaths, people whose blood enables them to create powerful illusions through art. Ada and Corrinne are everything I love when reading best-friend stories. You will fall in love with these complex and fierce girls, as well as the lush, lyric language found on every page.

ParnassusNext — March Selection

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life Cover ImageThe Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz

“People aren’t like books—they’re not like books at all. Books make sense. People don’t. You know, like life. All these things happen, and they’re not connected. I mean, they are and they’re not, and it’s not as if my life or your life—it’s not as if our lives have this plot, you know? It’s not like that.”

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life is the story of the year Salvador’s life unraveled—and the year it came together. It’s a story about how he lost his way and found his family. It’s a story rich with humanity and full of small, quiet moments that add to so much more than the sum of their parts. It’s a story so deeply true that only Benjamin Alire Sáenz could have written it.

The hallmarks of Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s best works are all here, from his ear for authentic dialogue to his complex, nuanced characters who strive to understand themselves, the roles they play in one another’s lives, and their places in the world. Sáenz writes with such obvious affection for Salvador, Samantha, and Fito that you won’t be able to help but love them too. The Inexplicable Logic of My Life is a story whose threads are woven with wisdom and wonder.

Every member of ParnassusNext receives a first edition hardcover of the selected book of the month, signed by the author. There is no membership fee to join — and no line to stand in for the autograph. You’re billed just for the cost of each book (+ shipping if you’d like yours mailed to you). Not only will you have one of the best YA books of the month when it comes out, you’ll have it straight from the author’s hands, with an original, authentic signature! Choose a 3, 6, or 12 months for yourself, or buy a gift membership for your favorite YA reader.

And now a special note from Stephanie Appell, our manager of books for young readers, about three beloved authors:
Spring break is the perfect time to dig deep and catch up on a book series, to get lost in book after book that build to a larger story. 2017 will see the publication of three new books by three titans of fantasy for young readers — who also happen to be three of my favorite authors of all time: Tamora Pierce, Phillip Pullman, and Megan Whalen Turner (l-r, below).

Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 1.15.07 PM.png

  • Tamora Pierce received the Margaret A. Edwards Award from the American Library Association in 2013, which honored her significant and lasting contribution in writing for teens. She has written 17 books and one collection of short stories in the world of Tortall, and will finally return to that world this fall. Tamora Pierce’s books are perfect for readers who love stories about magic, fantasy, and characters, especially girls, who kick butt and never stop trying.
  • Phillip Pullman’s most well-known work is the trilogy His Dark Materials. It includes The Amber Spyglass, which won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award — the first time in the history of that prize that it was given to a children’s book. His upcoming new trilogy will be called The Book of Dust, which as he says “doesn’t stand before or after His Dark Materials, but beside it.” Philip Pullman’s books excel at combining fantastical quests with deep moral and philosophical explorations, and are good for readers who don’t mind a bit of jumping from one character to another in the service of a larger story.
  • Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief received a Newbery Honor when it was published in 1997, and she’s since written three more books set in the kingdoms of Attolia and Eddis. A fifth, Thick as Thieves, will be released in May. Turner’s books are tailor-made for fans of Rick Riordan, Grace Lin, and other adventure stories inspired by mythology and folklore.

All three began their writing careers before Harry Potter changed children’s publishing. Over the course of four books, Pierce’s first heroine, Alanna, ages more than eight years, from 11 to at least 19, yet the books themselves are much shorter than the average YA book published today. Similarly, Turner’s The Thief received a Newbery Honor, typically awarded to middle grade fiction published for readers ages 8 to 12, but Thick as Thieves will be published as a YA book, and Turner’s previous books have been recategorized by her publisher as YA. In the UK, Pullman actually led a campaign against an effort by publishers to standardize categorizing children’s books by age, saying, “It’s based on a one-dimensional view of growth, which regards growing older as moving along a line like a monkey climbing a stick: now you’re 7, so you read these books; and now you’re 9 so you read these.”

To my mind, these changes say more about shifting cultural attitudes toward kids, tweens, and teens’ reading interests than they do about the content of the books themselves. Prior to the success of Harry Potter, for example, it was thought that younger readers simply wouldn’t read books longer than 200 or so pages. Now you’d be hard-pressed to find books shorter than 200 pages in our Advancing Readers section! Kids and the grownups who love them are nearly always the best judges of whether a book is “for them,” regardless of where it sits on a bookstore’s shelves.

So if you’d like to be ready for these authors’ spring releases, read up now. Start with Turner’s The Thief; Pullman’s The Golden Compass; and Pierce’s Alanna: The First Adventure. In general, I tend to recommend Megan Whalen Turner to readers ages 8 or 9 and up, Philip Pullman to readers ages 9 or 10 and up, and Tamora Pierce to readers ages 12 and up, but, again, every young reader is different and able to decide for themselves what and when they’re ready to read. If you’re not sure whether your young reader is ready for a particular book, come in and talk with us about it — we’ll help you decide.  – Stephanie

The Thief Cover ImageThe Thief (See more by Megan Whalen Turner)