"Fatima's Great Outdoors," by Ambreen Tariq, illustrated by Stevie Lewis; Kokila; $17.99; ages 4-8.
Following a rough week at school — where classmates make fun of her lunch and her accent — Fatima can't wait for her family's first camping trip. Eager to take part in a "great American pastime," they enjoy samosas and Bollywood music during the drive; her dad even gets beef at the Halal butcher shop so they can fry breakfast bacon over the campfire "just like the other American families."
In the wilderness, Fatima's worries melt away and her confidence grows as she pitches the tent with her dad, builds a fire with her mom, and eventually succumbs to the "warm, deep sleep that only campers enjoy." A sweet, beautifully illustrated picture book that will inspire kids of all backgrounds to visit the great outdoors.
"Monster Friends," by Kaeti Vandorn; Random House Graphic; $12.99; ages 4-8.
After falling out with his adventuring partner, Reggie looks forward to spending a quiet summer house-sitting for his cousins — that is, until Emily shows up at his door. The bouncy, gregarious Emily coaxes Reggie out of his shell and introduces him to a host of new friends, including a tiger shuttling creatures around the forest and an enormous (but friendly) sea serpent.
This adorable graphic novel for early readers feels like a Studio Ghibli film, with gentle pacing and a lush seaside setting. But it's the charming, budding friendship between reluctant Reggie, slowly shedding the weight of his recent disappointment, and ebullient Emily, ready for any adventure, that makes this book shine.
"An Occasionally Happy Family," by Cliff Burke; Clarion Books; $16.99; ages 8-12.
Road trip! Theo would rather be inside drawing than camping with his sister and father on their first family vacation since his mom died. They encounter sweltering heat, an eager ornithologist and his annoying YouTuber son, and the obligatory bear. But when Theo's dad reveals the trip's true purpose — to introduce his new girlfriend — Theo is left stunned.
While filled with zany characters and situations, this is also a poignant look at a family dealing with grief and struggling to communicate their feelings. Still, it's funny and fast-paced, making it a great summer read for reluctant readers.
"Much Ado About Baseball," by Rajani LaRocca; Little Bee Books; $17.99; ages 8-12.
Twelve-year-old Trish is a math whiz and pitching ace, but that doesn't make things any easier when her mother's job forces their family to move again. Especially when she learns Ben, the boy she bested in a recent math tourney, is on her new baseball team and the team itself is, well, horrible. But when strange pregame snacks improve the team's performance and a book of mysterious math puzzles brings the former rivals together, can they keep the good luck going or strike out looking?
A sparkling, middle-grade update of Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing," told in alternating chapters from Trish and Ben's perspectives, this book is a hit for any reader who enjoys math, baseball, magic — or salty snacks.
"Love & Other Natural Disasters," by Misa Sugiura; HarperTeen; $17.99; ages 13+.
Nozomi and her older brother, Max, are spending the summer in San Francisco, which is perfect for Nozomi, who's trying to forget a humiliating rejection by her crush back home. She quickly finds a new crush, the gorgeous Willow, who's dealing with a rejection of her own. When Willow suggests Nozomi pose as her girlfriend to make her ex jealous, what could go wrong?
Local author Sugiura takes the story far deeper than the typical fake dating trope, however, as Nozomi deals with her parents' divorce, a difficult relationship with her mother, and the homophobia of her very traditional grandmother. More than a straightforward rom-com, this funny, thoughtful story will have you hooked from the start.
"Blackout," by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, and Nicola Yoon ; Quill Tree Books; $16.99; ages 13+.
When a heat wave throws New York City into darkness, sparks fly for a group of Black teens caught in the blackout. In this collection of interwoven stories from six of today's bestselling YA authors, we meet characters like exes Tammi and Kareem, up for the same internship, replaying how their love went wrong. There's basketball star JJ stuck on the subway, trying to reconcile his feelings for his friend Tremaine. Best friends Lana and Tristan are stuck in the library, Grace makes an unexpected connection with her rideshare driver. The book is full of hilarious and heartbreaking stories shining a light through the darkness.
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