My favorite way to pass the long hot summer afternoons of a northern California childhood was with a good book. While the local public pool provided hours of respite there were times when you could just not take the sun anymore and needed to retreat to the shade and what better way to while away those hot hours than by transporting your imagination to another time and place?
The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman
This book took me far back to the cool woods and dusty villages of medieval England. Adventures galore await the reader who jumps into the lives of a young spoiled prince and his whipping boy. I remember being thoroughly confused that there was such a provision made for princes – the punishment for their misdeeds would be placed on another boy? My sense of justice could not reconcile this but as the story progressed I came to see beyond the simplistic preconceptions of rich and poor, privileged and not. There are very funny scenes in this book coupled with adventures and great life-lessons. Reading level: middle school.
Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry
This well-loved classic is a must for summer reading. The salt breezes of Chincoteague island, the wildness of its ponies, the adventures of Paul and Maureen, the elements are all there and Henry creates a beautiful story that will capture your child’s imagination. Once your child has read one of Marguerite Henry’s books, you’ll find yourself trolling used book stores in search of others to quench your child’s new found appetite for all Henry’s “horse” stories. Reading level: middle school.
The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare
When I was about 12 or 13 I went through a serious Elizabeth George Speare phase. I could not get enough of her stories. I must have read Calico Captive, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Sign of the Beaver, and The Bronze Bow a dozen times each and remember being so disappointed when I realized I had read everything she’d ever written – it was almost like being let down by a very good friend. Didn’t she know I needed more of her stories? Four was not nearly enough. Until her death in 1994, I kept hoping that she’d write more. That was not to be the case but in the mean time, I read and re-read The Bronze Bow. Daniel bar Jamin, the story’s main protagonist is a young Jewish boy living at the time of Christ. Fired by zealots angry at Roman rule, Daniel is a young man full of anger and living only to avenge his father’s murder. Set in the volatile first Century, there are so many facets to this story and there are wonderful characters; the Pharisee’s family, the kind Roman soldier, a new preacher from Nazareth. Really a must-read along with any of Speare’s other titles. Reading level: jr. high.
Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
Talk about transporting one’s mind to another time and place – this is such an adventure classic. Fastidious Englishman, Phileas Fogg and his faithful manservant, Jean Passepartout, embark on the unthinkable-at-the-time task of traveling around the world in a record-breaking 80 days. Such a world apart from our current ability to circle the globe in a matter of hours stuffed inside a sterile metal tube, Fogg’s journey is colorful, exciting, dangerous, and funny. Reading level: jr. high.
Escape from Warsaw by Ian Serraillier
Set in Warsaw, Poland in 1942 this story is based on true accounts of a young family trying to escape Nazi occupation. When the children are separated from their parents it seems impossible that they will survive. Grit and determination coupled with great courage drive them onward as the three young children fight against all odds. A brilliantly told story, this one isn’t your classic feel-good summer read, but it’s a great adventure story.
Well, there’s some suggestions for books that will transport your children to distant lands and times. I would love to hear about some of your favorites!