Our Summer Book List: Part One

This summer we created a couple of Summer Book Hunts to help keep your family searching for new books while school is out. Today we’re sharing the first batch of books we’ve found for our summer book list!
summer book list

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Books about Summer

A book about the sun

Bloom by Deborah Diesen

Bloom is technically subtitled An Ode to Spring, but it spans the seasons, showing a year in the life of a girl, her mother, and her garden. Lu noticed the sunny yellow hues throughout the book. It takes the sun to make a garden bloom, after all. You can listen to our interview with Deborah on episode 30 of the podcast.

A book about camping

Rhoda’s Rock Hunt by Molly Beth Griffin and illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell

Lu remembered that Rhoda’s Rock Hunt is all about a camping trip to northern Minnesota. There is a lot to see on Rhoda’s family trip to the North Shore, but Rhoda only has one thing on her mind: Rocks. She picks up all the most interesting stones along the way…until she can no longer pick up her hiking pack. But can she part with any of her treasures and make it home?

A book about playing sports

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

We’ve written about our love of Roller Girl before, and Lu noticed that this graphic novel is not only about a sport—it’s about a summer sports camp. Main character Astrid’s life is in flux: she’s about to start middle school, she’s losing her best friend, and she’s lying to her mom about what’s going on. She joins a roller derby camp to prove she’s strong enough to handle it all, and finds that being tough is even harder than it looks.

A book about a road trip

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

Bean spotted the road trip in Sisters. Like Raina Telgemeier’s other popular graphic novel SmileSisters is autobiographical. The book chronicles Rain’s family’s cross-country trip to a family reunion. While they travel, Raina complicated explores her relationship with her sister and realizes that there are other complicated relationships in her family that need sorting out as well.

A book about swimming

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

Bean chose Jabari Jumps as her book about swimming. In this new picture book, a little boy faces a common summer fear: his first jump off the high dive. Jabari knows he’s brave enough. His dad knows he’s brave enough. His little sister knows he’s brave enough. It just might take him a few minutes to work his way all the way up there. (I can relate). Stay tuned for our upcoming podcast interview with author/illustrator Gaia Cornwall!

A book about freedom

Blue Sky, White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus and Kadir Nelson

Okay, okay, I noticed the freedom reference in Blue Sky, White Stars. I requested for the Fourth of July but we sadly didn’t receive until last week. Sparese text on each spread parallels the majesty of the American flag to the strength and resilience of the American people. Blue Sky, White Stars is for you if you’ve been looking for a book that expresses patriotism and values diversity. (And those illustrations will blow you away.)

It’s not too late to start your Summer Book Hunt! Download it below to start hunting today!

What I Read Last Month

What I read June 2017

Summer truly began for us mid-June and that mean more cabin time for relaxing and reading (including longish drives listening to audio books). I have some mixed reviews to share this month.

This post contains affiliate links, which means that Lu and Bean Read may receive a small commission (at no additional cost to you) on products purchased through external vendors.

Adult Fiction


Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Behold the Dreamers is about the life of a Cameroonian immigrant family in New York City during the Great Recession. Jende Jonga is thrilled to get a job as the chauffer to a Lehman Bros. executive. He works happily for him, developing personal connections to his family members and getting to know a little too much about their lives. When Lehman Bros. comes crashing down, the life Jende and his wife Neni have constructed for themselves in America begins unraveling along with it. A fresh and well-written novel about the often-false promise of the American dream.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

Commonwealth is a story about the joining of two families under less than ideal circumstances. When two parents leave their families to start a new one, their six children are both left behind in the mix of families and brought together as siblings. The book chronicles a decades-long series of relationships made, broken and tarnished. The families’ story is unexpectedly turned into a best-selling novel (and subsequent film), and the siblings must come to grips with feelings they’ve tried to leave behind. If you love strong character development, you will love this book.

Life and Other Near-Death Experiences by Camille Pagan

I don’t read that much chick lit anymore, so I’m not sure if Life and Other Near-Death Experiences technically qualifies. It deals with heavy topics for sure. Our protagonist Libby finds out she has what is likely terminal cancer on the same day that her husband announces he is gay. Libby makes a series of rash decisions that include selling the Chicago condo she shares with her husband, quitting her job, donating all her money to charity, and taking a long, solo vacation to Puerto Rico all while not informing anyone close to her about her illness. Things get even more outrageous from there. This is a good beach read, but it has more than one implausible plot line.

Adult Nonfiction


Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead by Brene Brown

I always try to read a little nonfiction to clear my mind at the beginning of the day. Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly was my pick for last month, all about the subject of vulnerability and how too often we try to evade it. Brown is a researcher, and believes being vulnerability is the pathway to what she calls wholeheartedness. To be truly courageous, she believes, we have to let ourselves be vulnerable. While I was reading the book, there were several instances where I changed my behavior, thinking, “This is what it would mean to be vulnerable right now.” I’ve also heard it has had a major life impact on others. Since I began sharing thoughts about the book, several friends have told me this book saved their lives and marriages.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

I technically test as an extrovert, but I think there’s something wrong with the test. I need a lot—A LOT—of alone time to restore after anything that requires interacting with others or thinking hard. Even if that thinking hard happens alone in my office. My mother-in-law recommended this book to me not only because I suppose she recognizes my introversion, but because there is a section about introverted children that perfectly describes Lu. What I appreciate most about Quiet is that it’s NOT a self-help book for introverts. It’s about why our society needs to value introverts more and design our schools, offices and even churches to value introverts as much as extroverts. It provides concrete examples of the power of introverts in organizations, and describes ways talent could be better used if we recognized there was more than one way to lead. Quiet gave me a better understanding of my own social and leadership style, and the tools to better parent my little introvert.

Young Adult


Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I’m a few years late to this party, but I snagged a cheap Kindle copy of Fangirl  one day and finally got around to reading it during my brief jury duty stint last month. I think it’s hard to read books that have been raved about for so long. The expectations are too high. I thought this would be a page-turner, but I found myself slogging through the story.  Cath, a Nebraska teenager and secretly famous fan fiction-writer moves to college. Despite barely leaving her room and suffering from some pretty serious social anxiety, Cath makes best friends with her mean-girl roommate and lands the perfect boyfriend. Oh, and finishes the fan fiction novel she’s been writing for years and wins writing prizes, etc. I wish there had been more to like in Cath (and her even meaner-girl twin sister) so I at least had someone to root for.

Middle Grade


Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

After finishing Sisters, I think I’ve now read all Raina Tegemeier’s graphic novels (except the Babysitters Club series, which I feel I got a pretty good sense of in the 90s). This was my least favorite among Sisters, Smile and Ghosts. Like Smile, Sisters is autobiographical and is built upon the premise that there is a major ongoing conflict between Raina and her sister. The book chronicled the family’s cross-country road trip to a family reunion, during which there were minor conflicts between family members and a major conflict (although mostly unexplored) between the parents. I didn’t observe the sisters’ conflict to be that catastrophic or even that interesting. This seemed more like a random set of memories from Raina’s life than a cohesive storyline. (Lu and Bean, for the record, think anything Raina Telgemeier writes is amazing and should be read at least weekly.)

What are you reading this month? Let us know in the comments below.

What to do with old or unwanted children’s books

What to do with old children's books

I am not overly sentimental, but when it comes to stuff my kids have outgrown I have the hardest time letting go. Our bookshelves are overflowing with books. In fact, it feels like our whole house is overflowing with books. Last night Luke said, “Everywhere I turn, there is an explosion of books.”

It’s a fun problem to have, but it’s starting to feel a little too crowded. Time to thin the books. Here is what we do with books the kids have outgrown or no longer read regularly:

Give them to a Little Free Library

Our neighborhood has a Little Free Library on nearly every block. This is where I turn to first with gently used books. Each library is run a little differently. Our favorite has a “curator” who chooses books she loves. Other neighbors leave books, too, so there is almost always a wide variety of kids and adult books to choose from. I frequently bring our overflow books to share with the neighborhood kids.

Donate to your school library

Did you know your school library is probably desperate for new books? In our district, the school gets a specific allotment of books recommended by a library consultant. Beyond that, they are dependent on donations (and, sadly, personal purchases by the librarian) to stock the shelves. This is a great option, especially, for diverse books that are sorely lacking in some of the older stock available at school libraries.

Donate to a nonprofit

There are so many nonprofit organizations that need books. Donate your old books that are still in good shape to reading programs, tutoring programs, homeless shelters, churches, preschools and more. Bean’s preschool is a bilingual nonprofit working for 100 percent kindergarten readiness, so we donate all the bilingual books we’re done with there.

Give to friends with younger kids

Books that are still in good condition are a perfect gift for other families. We received our copy of Goodnight Moon as a gift and it remains in perfect condition to this day. I think of the family who gave it to us every time we look at it, and I appreciate that they gave us a treasured book from their collection.

Hold a book swap

My book club has twice yearly event where we exchange clothes and books. This is always a raucous event where we laugh at each other’s horrendous discarded items—and also snag some really great stuff that other people don’t want anymore. I always leave with items that I’m excited about that someone would have otherwise disposed of. Try it.

Try an online book exchange

I’m a member of paperbackswap.com, which is an online book exchange. Members post their available books and if someone requests one, they send it to the requester via media mail (the cheapest way to send books by mail). Every time you send out a book, you get a credit to request a book from someone else. I use paperbackswap.com to get rid of old books, and in return I request books we’ve borrowed from the library that I’d like to add to our collection.

Save your favorites

Even if you’re done a book for now, that doesn’t mean you should necessarily give it away. I save our favorite-favorites and they remain on our bookshelves (for now). The girls even go back to reading their board books sometimes. It’s fun for them to remember what their favorite books were as babies and toddlers. As they get older, I’ll pack them away and decide what to do with them later.

A last resort-recycle them

Well loved paperback books that are no longer in readable condition can be recycled in some communities. Unfortunately, hardcover books cannot be recycled. If they’re too damaged to reuse or donate, they have to be tossed in the garbage.

What do you do with books you’re done with? Leave a note in the comments with your best ideas.


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