Here’s what your kids should be reading this summer, according to local experts

We asked the staff behind My Perfect Read at Fairfax County Public Library for children’s book recommendations for your kids’ summer reading lists.

children's book covers
Covers courtesy of publishers

There’s no doubt that with kids set to be home through the remainder of spring and all of summer, they’re going to need something more than screen time and silly dance parties to keep them occupied.

We spoke with the staff of Fairfax County Public Library to find out what books you and your kids should be diving into as an educational and imaginative pastime this summer. Plus, these books were all recommended by “My Perfect Read” advisers, who lead a new program that helps readers of all ages find the best books for them through their local Fairfax County Public Library branch.

If you don’t find a book that you love on this list⁠—although, we’re pretty sure you will⁠—just fill out the My Perfect Read form, explaining what your child likes and doesn’t like to read, and a library staff member will respond with thoughtful, carefully chosen recommendations just for you.

And if you’re wondering how to best access library books in the era of COVID-19, be sure to check out the county’s collection of eBooks and eAudiobooks. All of the books below are available digitally too, so you and your family can enjoy them at home in the weeks and months to come.

Ages 0-8

cover of hoggie & stick children's book
Cover courtesy of Penguin Random House

The Epic Adventures of Huggie and Stick by Drew Daywalt

“This is a hilarious, awesome adventure starring an unlikely pair of toys that fell out of their boy’s backpack—Huggie is a stuffed rabbit and Stick is, well, a stick. Stick’s enthusiasm for adventure versus Huggie’s grumpy attitude will have you laughing, for sure!”

blue cover of meet yasmin children's book
Cover courtesy of Picture Window Books

Meet Yasmin! by Saadia Faruqi 

“In this fun early-chapter-book series, charismatic, curious second grader Yasmin explores the world around her and interacts with her Pakistani-American family. The story also includes Urdu words throughout, as well as a glossary at the end.”

tan and orange cover of The Bad Seed children's book
Cover courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers

The Bad Seed by Jory John 

“This comical book about a very bad sunflower seed covers the seed’s bad behavior, traumatic backstory and ultimate decision to change for the better. It’s funny, but also a great discussion starter to get into manners, reputation and self-reflection.”

fry bread children's book cover
Cover courtesy of Macmillan Publishers

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard

“In evocative metaphors, Maillard, a member of the Mekusukey band of the Seminole Nation tribe, describes the many ways to prepare fry bread and delves into its meaning to members of Native American nations.”

lola plants a garden children's book cover
Cover courtesy of Penguin Random House

Lola Plants a Garden by Anna McQuinn

“With the help of her parents, Lola plants a flower garden to match her favorite nursery rhyme! The illustrations and stories in the Lola books are sweet, engaging and fun.”

the proudest blue children's book cover
Cover courtesy of Little, Brown and Company

The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family by Ibtihaj Muhammad

“On Faizah’s first day of school, her older sister wears a beautiful blue hijab—but not everyone at school understands its beauty. This moving book emphasizes the bond between sisters and their pride in their faith.”

my papi has a motorcycle book cover children's book
Cover courtesy of Penguin Random House

My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero

“Daisy Ramona shows off everything she loves about her neighborhood as she rides on the back of her father’s motorcycle.”

dude! book cover with shark
Cover courtesy of Macmillan Publishers

Dude! by Aaron Reynolds

“A platypus and a beaver want to go surfing, but then they encounter a shark! The only word in the whole book is ‘Dude,’ so even pre-readers can confidently chime in with the text in this one.”

green cover for there's a pest in the garden children's book
Cover courtesy of HMH Books

There’s a Pest in the Garden! by Jan Thomas

“Oh no! There’s a pest eating all the veggies in Duck’s garden! But don’t worry. He has a plan … sort of.”

cover for germs are not for sharing orange with little girl on front
Cover courtesy of Free Spirit Publishing, Inc.

Germs Are Not for Sharing by Elizabeth Verdick

“Young readers will feel empowered by learning about germs and how to fight them in this colorful, kid-friendly book emphasizing proper hand washing.”

Ages 9-12

the firefly code book cover
Cover courtesy of Bloomsbury Publishing

Firefly Code by Megan Frazer Blakemore

“A group of friends live in what seems like an ideal community, until one day a new girl moves in and makes them question everything. A fast-paced adventure for kids who are interested in dystopian fiction but are too young for The Hunger Games.”

counting to perfect book cover
Cover courtesy of Penguin Random House

Counting to Perfect by Suzanne Fleur

“Cassie, a 12-year-old competitive swimmer, suddenly finds that no one has any time or attention for her after her adored older sister has a baby.”

the last last-day-of-summer cover
Cover courtesy of HMH Books

The Last Last-Day-of-Summer by Lamar Giles 

“Otto and Sheed, intrepid junior detectives, are trying to squeeze every bit of fun they can out of the last day of summer vacation when they come across a mysterious stranger with a camera that can freeze time. They’ll have to team up with some odd people, and ever odder creatures, if they’re going to save their Virginia town. Zany, imaginative and fun!”

sal and gabu break the universe book cover
Cover courtesy of Penguin Random House

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez

“From the powerhouse imprint Rick Riordan Presents, Sal and Gabi Break the Universe features Cuban-American amateur magician Sal, who is navigating a new school and Type 1 diabetes while also occasionally causing space-time rifts when he transports objects from other universes!”

sunny side up blue book cover
Cover courtesy of Scholastic

Sunny Side Up by Jennifer Holm

“Sunny Lewin has been suddenly shipped off to live with her grandfather in Florida for the summer. Though it’s more old people and less Disney than she expected, she soon makes friends with Buzz, and they face off against alligators and track down disappearing neighbors. But why was Sunny sent to Florida in the first place?”

gross as a snot otter book cover
Cover courtesy of Penguin Random House

Gross as a Snot Otter by Jess Keating

“This one’s for lovers of the gross and weird! Learn about amazingly icky animals, like fish that communicate through farts and seagulls that can projectile-vomit at will.”

midsummer's mayhem purple book cover
Cover courtesy of Simon and Schuster

Midsummer’s Mayhem by Rajani LaRocca

“In a loose interpretation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Mimi Mackson finds her place in her chaotic Indian-American family through a baking competition, even while mysteries, mayhem and mischievous fairies abound!”

camp murderface book cover
Cover courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers

Camp Murderface by Saundra Mitchell 

“Thirty years after it mysteriously closed, Camp Sweetwater is finally reopening, and Corryn and Tez are so ready for this. But soon after they arrive, strange and spooky things start to happen. Will they live to see the new school year, or will Camp Sweetwater close for good—with the campers still trapped inside? Perfect for fans of R. L. Stine and Christopher Pike.” (To be released Tuesday, May 26)

the turtle of oman book cover
Cover courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers

The Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shahib Nye

“Aref is moving with his professor parents from Oman to Michigan, but before he goes, he takes trips with his grandfather to store up memories to bring with him. This book is a Virginia Readers’ Choice title for 2016-2017.”

look both ways blue book cover
Cover courtesy of Simon and Schuster

Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds

“We follow 10 different middle school students as they head home from school, but how on earth have they become so involved in the goings-on of the neighborhood that they don’t notice a school bus falling from the sky?”

gloom town book cover
Cover courtesy of HMH Books

Gloom Town by Ronald L. Smith

“Fans of chills and thrills will enjoy this quirky dark fantasy featuring two friends who combat supernatural evil to save their tiny fishing village.”

i survived the shark attacks of 1916 book cover
Cover courtesy of Scholastic

I Survived: Shark Attacks of 1916 by Lauren Tarshis 

“It’s the summer of 1916. News reports of a great white shark attacking people up and down the Atlantic coast have enthralled 10-year-old Chet, but surely that wouldn’t happen in his little hometown. Then one day, he and his friends see something in the water while they’re swimming.”

me and sam sam handle the apocalypse book cover
Cover courtesy of Simon and Schuster

Me and Sam-Sam Handle the Apocalypse by Susan Vaught

“Jesse is ‘on the spectrum or whatever.’ Can she and her dog Sam-Sam solve the mystery of the missing library funds and clear her dad’s name?”

martin luther king jr. on book cover children's
Cover courtesy of Penguin Random House

A Place to Land by Barry Wittenstein

“Today we think of Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech as a complete work, perfectly calling our nation to a better tomorrow. A Place to Land shows us how hard Dr. King worked on the speech, and how the rallying final lines came from his background as a preacher, inspired by his community and with help in the moment from those with him in Washington.”

front desk book cover children's
Cover courtesy of Scholastic

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

“Mia Tang’s Chinese-immigrant parents run a motel for an exploitative owner, but the family dares to rebel by sheltering immigrants dealing with worse situations than their own. Mia staffs the front desk and chronicles their story as she finds her funny, thoughtful and inspiring voice through writing.”

Ages 13-18

love from a to z blue book cover
Cover courtesy of Simon and Schuster

Love from A to Z by S. K. Ali

“Ali’s charming romance features two devout Muslim teens—Zayneb, who was suspended from high school for standing up to her Islamophobic teacher, and Adam, who has yet to tell his family about his diagnosis of multiple sclerosis—who fall in love while staying true to themselves and their beliefs.”

that summer sarah dessen book cover
Cover courtesy of Penguin Random House

That Summer by Sarah Dessen

“Haven is sick of all the changes. She’s gotten too tall, her dad is getting remarried and now her sister is engaged and planning a wedding. When her sister’s old boyfriend shows up, Haven is reminded of a past summer when everything seemed perfect. But was it? And is change really all that bad?”

the marrow thieves book cover
Cover courtesy of Cormorant Books

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

“In this rich work of post-apocalyptic science fiction, Indigenous people are forced to live in hiding and constant movement to avoid being captured for their bone marrow, which may hold the secret to dreaming.”

we hunt the flame book cover
Cover courtesy of Macmillan Publishers

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

“Zafira must disguise herself as a man to seek a legendary jewel that will restore magic to her dying land in this evocative, lush fantasy inspired by Arabian mythology.”

truly devious purple book cover children's
Cover courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson 

“At Ellingham Academy, learning is self-guided and involves puzzles, riddles and secret passageways. But the one puzzle true crime aficionado Stevie Bell wants to tackle is the unsolved kidnapping of the school founder’s wife and daughter. She is working on the cold case when a classmate is murdered and everything changes.”

if it makes you happy book cover children's
Cover courtesy of Macmillan Publishers

If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann

“Winnie can’t wait to spend her last summer before college hanging out with friends and working at her family’s ’50s-themed diner, but then she unexpectedly becomes a pageant winner. Winnie loves her identity as a queer, fat African-American girl, but now she must face her fear of the spotlight and challenge others to see her with the same kind of body positivity she has for herself.”

dig by a.s. king book cover
Cover courtesy of Penguin Random House

Dig by A.S. King

“King’s twisty, surreal novel digs deep into the backstory of a dysfunctional family through the alternating narration of five estranged cousins.”

life as we knew it blue and white book cover children's
Cover courtesy of Harcourt Children’s Books

Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer 

“After a meteor hits the moon, 16-year-old Miranda chronicles her family’s struggles to survive the ensuing climate crises of dust clouds, crop failure, tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.”

terry prachett the wee of free men book cover
Cover courtesy of Doubleday

Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

“A young witch goes after the Elf Queen who has stolen her little brother—with a frying pan as her only weapon. This book is action-packed, thought-provoking and hilarious.”

the inexplicable logic of my life book cover
Cover courtesy of Clarion Books

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz

“Sal’s got a lot going for him—support from his adoptive gay father, Vicente, their deeply loving Mexican-American family and his best friend, Samantha. After tragedy hits Samantha’s life, she and Sal draw on the compassion and love of family as they grapple with loss, faith and grief.”

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