School’s Out: 19 Shining New Books for the Young and Young at Heart

Summer break time! (Nashville families, remember we have our special summer reading section in the store, near the memoirs.) OK, maybe these aren’t “beach reads” in the typical sense but let’s see here: We’ve got an octopus, a starfish, sunshine, a girl from the sea and a song below water. And that’s just breaking the surface! Close enough, right? (We see you, ghosts, unicorns, princes and all the rest.) Whether you’re taking your little ones off to a body of water or relaxing in the shade at home, this month’s edition is full of bookseller-recommended reads to get the adventure started!

Recommended by Ann

The Octopus Escapes Cover ImageThe Octopus Escapes

This gorgeous book is a wonderful way to teach children just how clever and resourceful an octopus can be. Pay attention to the little clam who lives near his cave.

Recommended by Rae Ann

Memory Jars Cover ImageMemory Jars

In this imaginative picture book, a girl tries to save all of her good memories — and even her favorite people — in jars. This is a funny, heartfelt and relatable story.

Recommended by Sarah

Nerdycorn Cover ImageNerdycorn

Fern is a creative unicorn who loves math and science, but the other unicorns think she’s a nerdycorn. What will Fern do when her peers need her help? This is a great story about embracing who you are and being a good friend.

Recommended by Chelsea

Not Yeti Cover ImageNot Yeti

Yeti knows he’s different from the other monsters; instead of destroying, Yeti likes to create, even if this means he’s alone sometimes. Bold lines and dynamic illustrations bring Yeti and his fellow monsters to light in this heartwarming story about kindness and being yourself.

Recommended by Sarah

Sunshine Cover ImageSunshine

This heartwarming story has the perfect blend of big adventure, big questions, and big feelings. It would be a great read-aloud book for the whole family.

Recommended by Becca

Starfish Cover ImageStarfish

This perfect summer read is perfect for any kid struggling with body image issues, or struggling to love themselves in a world that constantly wants to point out imperfections. Written in verse, this is the story of a young girl who loves to swim, and is ready to cast aside the “Fat Girl Rules” that have been keeping her from being her best self.

Recommended by Brad

The Shape of Thunder Cover ImageThe Shape of Thunder

The Shape of Thunder is sure to leave its mark on readers of all ages. Jasmine Warga delicately explores the many versions of grief and does not shy away from the big and heart-heavy questions young readers might have. With themes of friendship, loss, sadness and, ultimately, hope, The Shape of Thunder should be required reading.

Recommended by Brad

Ophie’s Ghosts Cover ImageOphie’s Ghosts

Ophie’s Ghosts is a heartfelt, eerie and compelling story about a young girl with the ability to see ghosts, and those who want to use her powers for both good and wicked purposes. With social commentary woven in throughout and the personified locations and inanimate objects to bring more life to this tale, this is not only a clever story — it’s a timely and important one, as well.

Recommended by Gavin, age 10

Best Nerds Forever Cover ImageBest Nerds Forever

Finn dies and has to leave his friends, but the story is just beginning. Along the way he meets another classmate who has died. Finn keeps wanting to be around his friends who are still alive. His new friend, Isabella, keeps hanging around their school. They work together to figure out why they can’t move on. My mom liked this one, too.

Recommended by Rae Ann

Tokyo Ever After: A Novel Cover ImageTokyo Ever After: A Novel

A girl finds out her father is the Crown Prince of Japan! When she travels to meet him for the first time, royal life is not all she expected. Reading this fun book feels like watching a movie or traveling vicariously through the characters.

Recommended by RJ

Ace of Spades Cover ImageAce of Spades

Set against the backdrop of a prestigious private academy, this tense and twisty story features two teens struggling against an anonymous foe determined to ruin their lives. Àbíké-Íyímídé does a phenomenal job making every character a suspect, with chilling secrets around every turn, all building to an ending you’ll never forget.

Recommended by Brad

Instructions for Dancing Cover ImageInstructions for Dancing

Nicola Yoon makes her triumphant return in this beautifully written and poignant novel about love and forgiveness. With Yoon’s lyrical prose, Instructions for Dancing tackles the question, “Is love worth the risk of heartbreak?” I smiled, I laughed, and I most definitely cried. If you’re looking for a sweet romance for this summer, I have no doubt that Instructions for Dancing will sweep you off your feet!

Recommended by Jordan

The Lucky List Cover ImageThe Lucky List

Emily had always felt lucky, until her mother passed away when she was 14. Three years later, the summer before her senior year, she is feeling stuck and alone until she reconnects with Blake, a childhood friend. After the two girls find the bucket list Emily’s mother made the summer before her own senior year, they decide to complete it together. A fun summer read for YA fans.

Recommended by Brad

Pumpkin (Dumplin') Cover ImagePumpkin (Dumplin’)

Bold, extravagant and fearless, Pumpkin takes the crown for the most fun novel this summer. Julie Murphy’s books never fail to make me laugh, bring tears to my eyes, and dare me to find my own inner superstar. This is the novel I wish I’d had when I was in high school, and I’m so thankful a story like this exists in all its beautiful glory.

Recommended by RJ

A Song Below Water: A Novel Cover ImageA Song Below Water: A Novel

Out in paperback just in time to welcome its companion novel, A Chorus Rises, this is one of the most unique fantasies of last year. With a mix of magical and contemporary elements, Morrow’s story of sirens and strength is a perfect summer read.

Recommended by RJ

You Should See Me in a Crown Cover ImageYou Should See Me in a Crown

What can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said? It’s a happily ever after rom com with a queer Black girl in the starring role and an endless string of prom shenanigans that will keep you turning the pages. It’s charming, romantic, inspiring, and now out in paperback!

Recommended by RJ

The Girl from the Sea Cover ImageThe Girl from the Sea

When a young closeted girl falls for the selkie who saves her from drowning, she begins a romantic journey of self-acceptance. Beautifully illustrated, this graphic novel will no doubt resonate for many teens feeling trapped between the life they have and the life they hope to find.

Spark Book Club: June Selection

Hollow Chest Cover ImageHollow Chest

The Spark Book Club selection for June is Hollow Chest, the debut novel by Brita Sandstrom.

Charlie is excited for his brother to return home to London after WWII. But his brother, Theo, has changed. Charlie sees wolves everywhere. They claim to have eaten his brother’s heart on the battlefield. Together with his grandfather, an eccentric neighbor, and a wounded veteran, Charlie is determined to do whatever it takes to overcome the wolves and get his brother’s heart back. This historical fantasy is a heartfelt tribute to family, community, and resilience.

Early Sparks for the novel:

“A worthwhile exploration of the emotional costs of war.” —Kirkus

Hollow Chest is remarkable on so many levels — its exquisite writing, its startling originality, its deep empathy. But what lingers most is its unwavering heartbeat: in the darkest of times, what will carry us through is love.” —Anne Ursu, award-winning author of The Lost Girl

Spark Book Club is the first editions club for middle grade readers. Every month members will receive a first edition middle grade novel — plus a letter written by the author especially for club members. Makes a great gift for the independent reader! Sign ups are available for 3, 6, or 12 months.

ParnassusNext June Selection

Indestructible Object Cover ImageIndestructible Object

The June ParnassusNext selection is Indestructible Object by award-winning author Mary McCoy.

Lee Swan is devastated after breaking up with her boyfriend on the final episode of their collaborative podcast, and her parents’ looming divorce is only making matters worse. When she stumbles onto some mysterious objects that prove her parents are keeping secrets, she launches a new podcast investigating their failed love story. As Lee asks hard questions about her family and herself, she will find there are no easy answers in love.

Early praise for the novel:

“A thoughtful exploration of love and identity.” —Kirkus

“[Indestructible Object] is a layered and vulnerable examination of everything that makes a heart beat—or break.” —Bookpage (starred review)

“A moving and masterfully drawn love letter to art, found family, and all of the messy but always wonderful shades of love, filled with as much soul as the city of its setting.” —Jeff Zentner, Morris Award-winning author of The Serpent King

ParnassusNext is the book subscription box for YA lovers. 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. 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! Set up a subscription for yourself or buy a gift membership for your favorite YA reader for 3, 6, or 12 months.