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Hammock Reads for All Ages 

Published June 9, 2020 at 10:00 a.m.

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Whether you sprawl out on a sandy beach or your back porch, summer is the season to sink into a good book. Sandy Scott, co-owner of Hardwick's Galaxy Bookshop, shared a few suggestions.

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  • Christine McDonnell's newest picture book, When the Babies Came to Stay, illustrated by Jeanette Bradley, tells the story of four orphaned babies who are left on an island. Taken in by the town librarian and raised by the whole community, this read-aloud is a warm and joyful story. McDonnell is a part-time resident of the Northeast Kingdom. (Ages 2-5)
  • Scott calls Prairie Lotus, by Linda Sue Park, a "fresh take on books in the vein of Little House on the Prairie." New settlers in the Dakota Territories in the 1880s, Hanna — who is half Chinese — and her father struggle to start a business after the death of Hanna's mother. Through determination and friendship, Hanna makes a home for herself and her father. (Ages 10-12)
  • When the Stars are Scattered is jointly authored by Victoria Jamieson — the award-winning author of Roller Girl — and Omar Mohamed, the founder of the nonprofit Refugee Strong, with illustrations by Iman Geddy. This middle-grades graphic novel features Omar, an orphan who grew up in a Somali refugee camp while caring for his nonverbal younger brother. Scott notes that Jamieson and Mohamed depict the challenges of refugee life through an honest and empathetic lens. (Ages 9-12)
  • Inspired by Polish folktales, Don't Call the Wolf, by Aleksandra Ross, is an engrossing young adult fantasy populated by dragons, shapeshifters and killers. Ren — part girl and part lynx — pairs up with Lukasz, a dragon slayer on a quest to rescue his brother. The two are caught up in a battle between monsters and humans. (Ages 13 and up)

Middle School Suggestions

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Every spring since 1957, Vermont kids in grades four through eight have voted for their favorite pick for the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award — from a list chosen by a committee and administered by the Vermont Department of Libraries. Last year — in response to criticism that the Arlington author's legacy was tainted by connections to the Vermont eugenics movement in the 1920s and '30s — the award was temporarily renamed the Vermont Middle-Grade Children's Book Award. Jonathan Clark, state library consultant for children and teen services, notes that this fall students will vote for a new name, from a selection submitted this spring by Vermont youth.

Rebecca Rupp, chair of the committee and writer and homeschooling mother of three grown sons, shared a few of her favorites from the 2020-21 book list.

  • Caitlin Doughty's Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? Big Questions From Tiny Mortals About Death is a nonfiction book in which mortician Doughty answers kids' questions about death. In addition to some captivating science, writes Rupp, "Readers get the scoop on giving Grandma a Viking funeral and find out what happens if you swallow a bag of popcorn before being cremated."
  • Set in India, Padma Venkatraman's The Bridge Home features two young sisters who flee an abusive father. The girls create a makeshift shelter with two homeless boys under an abandoned bridge. Rupp describes the novel as "a painful, compelling and ultimately hopeful story dealing with issues of poverty, disability and grief."
  • In the sci-fi novel We're Not From Here, by Geoff Rodkey, the human race abandons an uninhabitable Earth and zooms off to Planet Choom. There, people must win the approval of Choom's inhabitants: the Zhuri, who look like giant mosquitoes. Young Lan Mifune and family are charged with proving that humans can assimilate with the alien race, so everyone can live in peace.
  • Stacy McAnulty's novel The World Ends in April stars Eleanor Dross, whose survivalist grandpa has been preparing for a pending catastrophe by stockpiling equipment and food. When Eleanor reads an online warning that an asteroid is about to collide with Earth, she starts a secret club preparing for TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it). In the age of fake news, the book offers plenty of discussion material.

This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.

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