When the long steamy days of summer get too much to bear, head to the porch with a cool glass of water and the Clapham School 2021 summer reading suggestions. Each year we suggest a list of books to read to keep your children engaged in reading and learning. Follow these links to our previous reading lists for 2019 and 2020. Throughout the school year, Clapham students spend hours digesting living books with hearty content. Compared to the meatiness of these books, our summer reading list is generally lighter fare but still equally enjoyable.
PICTURE BOOKS, READ ALOUD & EMERGENT READERS
These fun books are perfect for introducing even the youngest of your children to the beautiful world hidden in the words of a book.
Into The Napping House by Audrey and Don Wood
Based on the real-life house of author Audrey Wood and her illustrator husband Don, The Napping House gives us a glimpse of how the inhabitants of this cute and cozy place spend their nights!
In lyrical verse, the author describes how each family member sleeps until a wakeful flea awakens them! The events repeat themselves in cumulative sentences that are fun to remember, and there is a clear connection between cause and effect. Beautiful yet humorous illustrations give life to the charming story.
The Napping House is the perfect book to read to children between three and six as a bedtime (or waking up) story, but I predict it will become a family favorite to be read at all hours of the day.
Corduroy by Don Freeman
Corduroy is another book filled with nighttime adventures, but this time we follow a little bear named Corduroy on his adventure in a department store after dark. In essence, this book is about belonging: there is a little bear in green overalls looking for a button and a little girl looking for a bear—the perfect ingredients for a classic feel-good ending.
Corduroy, who lives alone on a shelf in a department store, loses his button and sets off on an adventure to find it after the store has closed for the day. Through a series of misadventures, he is found by the night watchman who puts him on a shelf where a little girl sees him, and they all lived happily ever after.
This is a story filled with longing and kindness that will pull at your heartstrings. It is a classic tale that ends when the little bear finds the comfort of a loving home.
Corduroy is perfect for ages three to six.
The McDuff Stories by Rosemary Wells and Susan Jeffers
McDuff is a wirey White West Highland terrier with many adventures that takes place in 1930's England. This compilation holds four stories: McDuff Moves In, McDuff Comes Home, McDuff and the Baby, and McDuff's New Friend. Each of these stories (and more) is also available as an individual book.
McDuff is a homeless dog that finds a home (and rice pudding) with the young couple, Fred and Lucy. The 1930's rice pudding recipe is included in this book, along with nostalgic vintage images of what life was like in this era. I am not sure that rice pudding is the treat of choice in 2021!
In subsequent adventures in this series, McDuff chases after a rabbit and gets lost only to find his way home using his sense of smell (probably the smell of rice pudding and sausage). McDuff also learns how to live with a baby, and he makes an interesting friend on Christmas Eve.
The McDuff series will delight your young children as they follow the white Westie on his adventures. It is filled with heartwarming fun, and the stories are easy to understand—perfect for preschool-aged children.
The following reading suggestions are intended for children who can read independently, somewhere around the upper-elementary and lower middle school ages.
The Cam Jansen Series by David A. Adler
Let me introduce you to Cam. Cam is the feisty red hair protagonist of a whole series of easy-to-read chapter books. Her real name is Jennifer Jansen, but everyone calls her the Camera—Cam for short because of her photographic memory. Cam sets this unique skill to use by solving mysteries. Together with her best friend Eric, their adventures will cultivate a love for reading in any young girl's heart.
The Cam Jansen series has been a bestseller since the '80s and is an excellent transition to chapter books. There are twenty-eight books in the series—enough reading material for the whole summer. Some of Cam's sleuthing tactics might make a concerned mom cringe—like when the 12-year old, 5th grade Cam chases after a bad guy with a baby brother in tow, but it's all part of a good story, right? It also makes for great conversation on what not to do.
Cam Series offers young girls a brilliantly strong female role model in an easy-to-read chapter book format that is an excellent read for second to fifth graders.
The Hardy Boys by Franklin W. Dixon
The Hardy Boys series (book 1-66) is the perfect summer series for a young bookworm. These chapter books are filled with mystery and adventure.
Brothers Frank and Joe are best friends, and they love to sleuth! They would be considered average American boys except that their Dad, Fenton Hardy, is an ex-NYPD officer and, according to the boys, "the world's best private investigator." With a role model like that, it is no surprise that the detective duo finds themselves in tricky situations book after book. Their adventures are thrilling but wholesome, albeit a little formulaic. These boys are great role models for young minds; they are honorable, clever, and respectful and still have a whole lot of fun.
I am sure many a parent has read one or all of the books in the series and could comment on the interesting action-packed storylines. (Why don't you take a trip down memory lane and leave your favorite Hardy Boys title in the comment section below?)
The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare
The 1962 Newbery Prize winner, The Bronze Bow, is set in first-century Israel. Daniel bar Jamin, a Zealot, is reeling from seeing his father's crucifixion at the hands of the Romans. He is filled with hatred, and he is hungry for revenge. 18-year-old Daniel and his group of young men spy and plot their attack when he meets a traveling carpenter, Jesus of Nazareth. It is this lowly carpenter that teaches Daniel that hate is the real enemy.
This gripping, action-packed novel explores the ideas of friendship, loyalty, community, hatred, and revenge. Elizabeth George's masterful writing and exceptional character development is an excellent introduction to the ancient world. She does a great job of describing the setting and touching on deep themes. Keep in mind that this story is set amid an uprising, so there are several incidences of violence, even murder, but the story also contains adventure, romance, and history. It is the masterful telling of a journey from vengeance to compassion and is a powerful read in these turbulent times, and it is suitable for upper middle school students and older.
Recommending books for high schoolers is tricky because of the different standards each family has on what is acceptable content. This year I have chosen books with profound themes that I feel are relevant to our lives today, but I would encourage parents to discuss the content with their children.
The Hiding Place Corrie ten Boom
Corry ten Boom lived a quiet life with her father and spinster sister Besty in their little watch shop in Haarlem. Life in the Netherlands was uneventful and straightforward until it was not.
In The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom recounts the decisions she, her sister, and her father made that ultimately led to their imprisonment in Ravensbruck concentration camp—the largest concentration camp for women in the German Reich.
The Hiding Place is a testimony to God's wonderous care in times of plenty and in times of need. In the author's own words:
"The experiences of our lives, when we let God use them, become the mysterious and perfect preparation for the work He will give us to do."
The author recounts miracle after miracle amid the thrilling experience of hiding Jewsig families in their small shop and losing family and friends to the harrowing concentration camp. It is a book that shows the reader what faith in action looks like. Corrie is a believable and relatable character. She is open about her own struggles and how her heavenly-minded sister steered her attitude towards thanksgiving in all things. This book is well worth reading, and that will impact your faith in a profound way.
Animal Farm by George Orwell
All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.
This allegorical indictment of tyranny written by George Orwell in 1945 is based on the Russian revolution and the rise of Stalinism and should be a cautionary tale to us all.
Orwell himself, a democratic socialist and stark critic of Stalinism, uses the setting of an animal revolution on an overworked farm to portray the rise and fall of power and its cyclical nature. The anthropomorphic animals decide the farmer has to go because they can run the farm themselves, or so they thought.
The author tells the story of grumbling livestock that overthrows the farmer. Together, they take on the running of the farm, where all work is shared equally between the animals. But, little by strange little things start to happen. What the animals thought was a common understanding amongst them begins to change almost imperceptibly until the animals ultimately realize they have exchanged the farmer's tyranny for the tyranny of their peers.
Animal farm is a short story with a big punch.
Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
Set in 1932 France during the June Revolution, Les Miserable is the tale of injustice, politics, and love. On a spiritual level, the main characters represent the struggle between grace and the law.
Escaped convict Jean Valjean is mercilessly pursued by Inspector Javert, who hopes his allegiance to the law of men will redeem his own questionable breeding. Valjean and Javert have a cat-and-mouse relationship that lasts for years and ends when Javert is confronted with the grace offered by the man he swore to hunt down for the rest of his life.
A romantic subplot occurs between Cosette, Valjean's ward, and Marius— who both have a very different history with Eponine, daughter of the villainous Thernadier family. In its essence, the author protests the unjust nineteenth-century class-based structure of society and uses the revolution that results as the setting for the novel.
Le Misérables will most likely be the longest book you will ever read, but it will be the one story that stirs your heartstrings. The characters are complex, and the storyline weaves in and out of their lives. Hugo's meticulous attention to detail will transport you to the world of the wretched poor and their struggle for freedom.
This year, I have picked a spiritually-based book and a fitness-based book for the adult recommendations. Both books draw heavily from classic living books for their content—a great connection to the Classical education of Clapham school.
Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund
Gentle and Lowly explores how wide and long and high and deep the love of God is for his people. In addition to Scripture, author Dane Ortlund uses the language of Puritans like Thomas Goodwin, John Bunyan, Jonathan Edwards, Richard Sibbes, and John Newton to demonstrate how God's love for us is not filled with anger and wrath but is instead patient and merciful. If you have seen God as vengeful and angry, then this book might transform your perception to see that God's mercy is ready to spill over for those who find refuge in Christ.
Reading Gentle and Lowly is a great way to celebrate a local author with ties to the Wheaton community. Dane Ortlund is a Wheaton College graduate and a pastor at Naperville Presbyterian Church.
Natural Born Heroes: Mastering the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance
Ultramarathon runner Christopher McDougall examines the habits and characteristics of inhabitants of Crete to discover the secrets of the ancient Greek heroes. He settles on natural movement, extreme endurance, and efficient nutrition as building blocks for elite athletes. His book Natural Born Heroes is a call to take your fitness routine outside into nature. McDougal encourages readers to work towards a place of holistic health so that they can move around as effortlessly as a child on a playground.
McDougall draws parallels between a living book, the Odyssey, and a group of rag-tag men who kidnapped a leading Nazi general during WWII. When he visits the island of Crete, he experiences firsthand the extreme endurance these 'untrained' men employed to pull off this daring capture, and this experience leads him to identify the three essential elements of athleticism. The book is super informational and entertaining.
Natural Born Heroes will delight those who enjoy physical exercise, fitness science, WWII adventures, running, and those who are planning to use the summer to get into shape.
We pray that you will have a restful summer filled with the good company of family, friends and a good book.