We are living in a golden age of children’s literature, when books ostensibly written for teens and young adults are equally treasured by readers of all ages. In the likes of Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen, authors have produced characters and concepts that have become the currency of our pop-culture discourse, and inspired some of the best writers to contribute to the genre.
Savoring a great read can enhance a sleepaway camper’s experience. There is nothing like lying in the grass on a lazy summer day, reading a book and sharing stories with friends. As a seasoned Bubby with extensive experience in selecting the perfect, unique, and age-appropriate “camp care packages” with which to gift each of my sleepaway campers, here are three outstanding books I enthusiastically recommend:
The Sasquatch Escape (The Imaginary Veterinary #1) by Suzanne Selfors. (Published April 2, 2013, by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Ben Silverstein is set for boredom in his grandfather’s rundown town of Buttonville—until he and reckless Pearl Petal take a wounded baby dragon to the only veterinarian, Dr. Woo, at her “Worm Hospital,” actually for creatures from an imaginary world. After Ben leaves the front door unlocked, the intrepid pair must rescue the giant and hirsute sasquatch.
Truly a page-turner, The Sasquatch Escape has everything a kid could hope to encounter during a middle-school summer vacation: dragons, fairies, a phoenix, wild squirrels, a large cat-man, a Cyclops, a mysterious “worm doctor,” and, of course, the sasquatch, all in the first few days, showing what can happen when the known world and the imagined overlap for a time.
After the two recapture the sasquatch Ben inadvertently allowed to escape, Dr. Woo ponders whether to feed them to the Cyclops, hold them captive, or turn them loose. Finally, she decides to make them her summer interns instead. Suzanne Selfors’s vivid imagination, committed to paper, is a gift to all readers. An ideal summer read for “bored middle-grade students,” when your son or daughter is finished reading it, you can read and enjoy it, as well!
Memories of Babi by Aranka Siegal (Bank Street 2009 Award for Best Children’s Book of the Year).
Although Piri is a city girl, she looks forward to visiting her grandmother Babi on her farm in the Ukrainian village of Komjaty. There is a great deal that Piri finds strange and even frightening in Komjaty, such as the ghost in the form of a rooster, who supposedly haunts the cemetery! But Piri loves country life: making corn bread, eating plums right off the tree, venturing out with her grandmother in the early morning to hunt for mushrooms — and during her time with Babi, Piri learns valuable lessons that will stay with her all her life, about the importance of honest hard work, caring for the less fortunate, and of having the courage to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. In these nine stories, Aranka Siegal paints a tender portrait of the love between a grandmother and granddaughter, inspired by her own experiences with her beloved grandmother.
The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen.
Published in 1988, The Devil’s Arithmetic was nominated for best novella that year and won the National Jewish Book Award for Children’s Literature in 1989. The script for a 1999 Showtime Television Film with the same title was also nominated for a Nebula Award.
A work of historical fiction, it is the story of Hannah Stern, a 12-year-old Jewish girl living in the 1980s. Bored by her parents’ stories about the past, she has little interest in the approaching Pesach Sedarim and feels minimally connected to Judaism. But this year she will be transported to the past. Only Hannah knows what awaits her. As she opens the door for Eliyahu HaNavi, Hannah is transported back in time to 1942 Poland, during World War II. At that time and place, she is mistaken for Chaya Abramowitz, who is recovering from cholera, the dreaded fever that claimed the lives of Chaya’s parents a few months earlier. The strange remarks Hannah/Chaya makes about the future as well as her inability to recognize her “Aunt” Gitl and “Uncle” Shmuel are attributed to the fever. Jane Yolen weaves her web of literary magic, captivating readers both young and old.
Engrossing, exciting, and enriching, these elegantly crafted books are sure to be appreciated and adored by the recipient and enhance their summer.
Rochelle Maruch Miller is a contributing editor for the Five Towns Jewish Times. She is a journalist, creative media consultant, lecturer, and educator, and writes for magazines, newspapers, websites, and private clients. She welcomes your comments at Rochellemiller04@aol.com