Required Reading, Part Two: Must-Reads for Tots, Kids, and Teens

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For kids, August means it’s time to hurry up and finish all that mandatory summer reading. (Everybody did the reading, right?) While reminiscing over back-to-school memories, our specialists in books for young readers started talking about their old favorites, their new favorites, and what they’d assign on a must-read list if they could.

Here’s their current version of “required reading” for everyone from the tiniest pre-school book-lovers to teens and YA fans:

Picture Books
Devin recommends:

Love Is Cover ImageLove Is 

Okay, who is chopping onions in here?! Required reading for the beautiful message that resonates to all ages.

Jackie recommends:

Miss Rumphius Cover ImageMiss Rumphius 

This lovely story should be required reading to remind us that we should all do something to make the world a more beautiful place. Personally, I also share Miss Alice Rumphius’ other goals of traveling the world and one day living in a house by the sea. But making the world more beautiful is something that we can all do wherever we are — even if it just means doing something as simple as planting flowers for others to enjoy.

Catherine recommends:

Leave Me Alone! Cover ImageLeave Me Alone!

Learning that sometimes everyone needs to leave you alone so you can enjoy their company later: it’s a timeless lesson.

Rae Ann recommends:

Hello Goodbye Dog Cover ImageHello Goodbye Dog 

For anyone who misses their dog during the school day.

Rae Ann recommends:

Now Cover ImageNow 

Required reading for, well, everyone — because we can all enjoy a book about living in the now.

Grace recommends:

Are We There, Yeti? Cover ImageAre We There, Yeti? 

Attention, anyone with an upcoming car trip: Pairs perfectly with Emily Arrow Storytime Singalong Vol. 1 — which includes an original song based on this book!

Katherine recommends:

The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales Cover Image

The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales 

Introduce classic fairy tales to little ones with this zany Caldecott Honor recipient. The Really Ugly Duckling, The Princess and the Bowling Ball, and Little Red Running Shorts are just a few of the hilarious and unusually depicted characters in this unconventional modern-day classic.

For Beginning Readers
Katherine recommends:

Wallace and Grace Take the Case Cover ImageWallace and Grace Take the Case 

For chapter book readers who can’t get enough of Mercy Watson and the Princess in Black, meet detective owls Wallace and Grace — and get ready to solve some mysteries!

For Middle Grades / Independent Readers
Katherine recommends:

Walk Two Moons Cover ImageWalk Two Moons 

This Newbery Medal winner should be required for all dreamy bookworms. Don’t miss this story full of adventure, heart, and some of the best writing in a middle-grade book I’ve ever experienced.

Jackie recommends:

A Wrinkle in Time Cover ImageA Wrinkle in Time 

Space/time travel, fantastic creatures, and the fight between good and evil… this is required reading for those who think they don’t like science fiction. I love all of L’Engle’s books, but this one has my favorite opening line: “It was a dark and stormy night.”

Stephanie recommends:

The Thief Cover ImageThe Thief 

Megan Whalen Turner’s Attolia novels are master classes in world-building and myth-making, and it all starts here with the story of Gen, a thief whose claim to be the greatest the world has ever known is put to the test by men and gods alike. These are stories to read again and again, and you’ll find something new in them every time. Turner’s books are some of the finest — and most criminally underrated — fantasies for young readers, period, full stop.

Rae Ann recommends:

Almost Paradise Cover ImageAlmost Paradise 

This delightful book is full of humor with a cast of unforgettable characters (including a rescued pig and a villain named The Catfish). Perfect for fans of Kate DiCamillo, and truly required reading for readers who like funny books.

Young Adult
Rae Ann recommends:

Solo Cover ImageSolo 

Being the son of a drug-addicted rock god is not as fun as it looks in the tabloids. Blade Morrison leaves it all behind and travels around the globe to find his truth. This YA novel in verse is the perfect combination of music and reality-TV life.

Grace recommends:

First Test Cover ImageFirst Test 

Really, everything Tamora Pierce has written should be required reading, This is just my favorite in a sea of favorites. Kel is a hero for everyone: never willing to compromise who she is and never failing to stand up for those who cannot.

Grace recommends:

Because You Love to Hate Me: 13 Tales of Villainy Cover ImageBecause You Love to Hate Me: 13 Tales of Villainy 

Love to hate villians? Love to love them? Look no further than this cleverly compiled collaboration. It’s required reading for anyone who wishes villains had a little more page-time.

Stephanie recommends:

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: Volume 1, the Pox Party Cover ImageThe Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: Volume 1, the Pox Party and

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves Cover Image

Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves

In these two volumes, M.T. Anderson tells a coming-of-age story like none you’ve encountered before, set at the dawning of the United States. The first book won the National Book Award, the second a Printz Honor, and both for good reason: This is some of the most jaw-droppingly stunning historical fiction writing of the past 20 years.

Stephanie recommends:

Jellicoe Road Cover ImageJellicoe Road 

It’s been my experience that there are two kinds of readers: Those whose tattered, dog-eared copies of Jellicoe Road are among their most prized literary possessions, and those who’ve never heard of this surprise Australian winner of the 2009 Printz Award. Pick up a copy and become the first kind.

Stephanie recommends:

Aftercare Instructions Cover ImageAftercare Instructions 

As I read each page of Bonnie Pipkin’s urgent and brilliantly constructed story about a girl in the aftermath of the hardest day of her life, I could only think of one word: “Necessary. Necessary. Necessary.” (Is it cheating for me to choose, as a monthly staff recommendation, the book which last month I chose for ParnassusNext, our YA subscription box? So be it. I’m breaking the rules.)

Devin recommends:

Little & Lion Cover ImageLittle & Lion

If I see you browsing this area, do not be surprised if I forcefully, but nicely, place this book into your hands. Suzette (aka Little) returns home to LA from her east coast boarding school where she was sent after her brother, Lionel (Lion) is diagnosed and is adjusting to living with bipolar disorder. This book captures so well what a teenage experience is like with complex family dynamics, strong diversity, romantic feelings, and making mistakes and learning from them.

ParnassusNext — August Selection

Dress Codes for Small Towns Cover ImageDress Codes for Small Towns

If you’ve subscribed to ParnassusNext for a while now, you might have noticed that we’ve never chosen two books by the same author. This isn’t an accident: when I began selecting books for ParnassusNext, I decided we wouldn’t “go back” to authors. That way, I would always be seeking out fresh, new talent, rather than returning to the same favorites over and over again. But then I read Courtney C. Stevens Dress Codes for Small Towns, and I knew that I must share it with you.

I’m not the only one in love with this book. Check out some of the buzz that’s been building (see below) and, if you’re in Nashville, mark your calendar and join us for a celebration of the book with Courtney on Friday, August 25, at 6:30.

– Stephanie Appell
Manager of Books for Young Readers and the ParnassusNext YA Subscription Box

“A poetic love letter to the complexities of teenage identity, and the frustrations of growing up in a place where everything fits in a box except you.” — David Arnold, New York Times bestselling author of Mosquitoland (March 2015 ParnassusNext selection) and Kids of Appetite

“With singing prose and a rollicking plot, Stevens presents a rich palette of characters daring to brave familial and societal expectations to become what they’re meant to be. A spirited, timeless tale of teen self-discovery in those tense, formative high school moments, captured with grace, lyricism, and insight.” — Kirkus STARRED REVIEW

“Stevens firmly reasserts herself as a master storyteller of young adult fiction; crafting stories bursting with humor, heart, and the deepest sort of empathy.” — Jeff Zentner, Morris Award-winning author The Serpent King (March 2016 ParnassusNext selection) and Goodbye Days

“Small-town hijinks and the true-to-life interconnectedness of the characters bring warmth and humor to Stevens’s bighearted contemplation of love, family, and home.” — Publisher’s Weekly STARRED REVIEW

“This is a beautifully written, quiet, and nuanced exploration of human connection, self-discovery, and living to the fullest no matter what others might think.” — Booklist STARRED REVIEW

“An instant classic. This is The Perks of Being a Wallflower without the angst, for a new generation.” — School Library Journal

* * *

Every member of ParnassusNext receives a first edition hardcover of each month’s  selected book, 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). 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 3, 6, or 12 months for yourself, or buy a gift membership for your favorite YA reader.

Check out the new wall! 

Nashville-based — and world-renowned — artist Rebecca Green has transformed our picture book room with a beautiful new mural.

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If her art looks familiar to you, it might be because she’s the illustrator of several popular books. Green’s own debut picture book, the darling How to Make Friends with a Ghost, will be published this September. In addition to working as an illustrator, Green also helps run The Warren, a studio in Nashville that houses five working artists and hosts a variety of community events.

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We hope you’ll come see it for yourself soon!