Summer Reading

Being Friday and a fabulous 80 degrees outside, it seems like an appropriate time to share this new drawing. I call it Summer Reading. I printed myself up some bookmarks on my dodgey old Brother printer and it got me to thinking that bookmarks (of higher quality) might be nice for Future Print Shop. Hrmm. So, here it is in two colors. And because I do so enjoy a silly style label (I’ll flip through catalogues just to see what inventive names stores come up with for their color offerings. Lemon Splash, Stormy Sea and Warm Pesto are a few choices from the current J. Crew catalogue) let’s call them CITRUS SKY and BEACHY BLUE:

And I suppose a sensible thing to do now would be to recommend some summer reading, wouldn’t it? Here goes:

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain One of my favorite books of wall time and, to my mind, the ultimate summer read. If you first read this in high school, as I did, and bemoaned 1) that it was an assignment and 2) that it contained dialect writing (again, as I did at the time), it might sound like work to reread it but you would be wrong. Twain’s writing is frank, hilarious, and exciting. Tom himself is charismatic, self-obsessed and fun. Multiple times through the year I think about picking this up, but most of all when the weather gets warm and I feel like working on my sun burn aboard a makeshift raft and crawling through a glittery cave. I know Huck Finn gets more critical acclaim and it’s a great summer read for many of the same reasons, but the chapters about the Duke always drag me down. Tom, on the other hand, is fun all the way through. I’ve even seen small pocket editions of you could carry around for impromptu outdoor reading, perhaps whilst leaning against a tree, chewin’ on a piece of hay?

Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson. Probably my favorite YA author. Definitely one of the wittiest out there; this woman can write a hilarious one liner like no other. And if you hesitate to pick up a teen title (even in the year 2012 when the media won’t shut up about The Hunger Games and John Green — a close pal of Johnson’s) Her characters sound like real people, not sitcom teens. I am a big fan of her other titles (Devilish I particularly recommend, but that’s more of a fall read), but this one is perfect for summer. Travel to foreign destinations, awesome dude with equally awesome accent, and a plot that comes together satisfyingly and sweetly. After the death of her aunt, Ginny is left with a stack of 13 blue envelopes. The first instructs her to board a plane to London and not to open the second envelop until she’s completed the instructions in the first. The notes send Ginny on a trip through Europe that is as wonderful as it is haphazard, and that help her get to no herself, and her aunt, in new ways. Sounds standard enough, I know, so you gotta trust me when I say that Maureen Johnson does it well. And the sequel is even better. Wanderlusting? Read this.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. This book is straight up WACKADOODLE. Like, absolutely ridiculous. Teen beauties from all 50 states — though far less than 50 make past the first few pages alive — are aboard a plane to Paradise Cove for the the 41st Miss Teen Dream Pageant when it crashes in the water off the coast of a deserted island. Armed with little more than their own sequin evening wear and curling irons, the girls must find a way to survive not only the island (and the sinister corporate plot they discover taking place there) but each other. Not surprisingly though, given the awesome combo of silly and smart that is author Libba Bray, the girls in this book turn out to be model feminists in their own unique ways. A silly, action-packed summer read that aims in no uncertain terms to teach us that sexuality is beautiful, that girldom is great, and that everybody ought to just go ahead an be their own damn selves. And really, Miss Texas’ accent is reason enough to read this. As Miss Taylor Renee Hawkins herself summarizes: “Ladies! Ladies! My stars! That’s enough. Now. We all know Miss Arkansas’s girls are fake, miss Ohio’s easier than making cereal, and Miss Montana’s dress is something my blind meemaw would wear to bingo night. And Miss New Mexico — aren’t you from the chill-out state? Maybe you can channel up some new-age-Whole-Foods-incense calm right about now, because we have a big job ahead called staying alive.” Though why I’m trying to summarize at all is a mystery when Libba Bray herself has already made the world’s most enticing book trailer for this shiz. Watch and adore:

Nicholas on Vacation by René Goscinny & illustrated by Jean-Jacques Sempé aka Nicholas on Holiday. I’ve talked about my love of Nicholas before. In this, the third installment (though you can read them in any order. Even the chapters themselves are episodic enough to read out of sequence), Nicholas and family hit the beach. “Mom and Dad have a tremendous argument about where to go for our vacation, and then Mom starts to cry and she says she’s going home to her mother, and I cry too because I do love Granny but there isn’t any beach where she lives, and in the end we go where Mom wants and it isn’t to Granny’s”. Nicholas causes mischief, cries, causes more trouble, then returns home to describe his vacation to his mates in magnificent hyperbole. In short, it’s wonderful. Read a sample chapter, Miniature Golf here.

Anything by Polly Horvath. Many of her books are about quirky aunts (or some other version of the substitute parent — usually an aunt — usually two aunts, actually — but occasionally an uncle, foster parents, or rabbits) subjecting their young relative to quirky scenarios in the heat of summer. You would think the same set up would get old, but she does them all differently and all so well that you can’t help but love ’em. In The Canning Season, a teenage girl named Ratchet is sent to spend the summer with her two eccentric aunts. While avoiding bear attacks, her even more terrifying mother, and being seen in a bathing suit, Ratchet experiences family for the first time. Here’s a note I made while reading it: “Okay, so I’ve read 7.5 pages of this and already it is completely obscene. People are falling out windows, “placenta” is being thrown about, and bears are about to attack. Polly Horvath, I think I’m in love with you.” And if that sounds good (or if the mention of placenta has scared you off and you want to try something a bit different but still strange and summery), you could also try The Vacation and/or Everything on a Waffle. OR you could read My One Hundred Adventures, which has a totally different feel but is just as good. In that one twelve year old Jane vows to have a summer full of adventure. What happens instead are a bunch of misadventures that all begin with Jane getting roped into tossing bibles from a hot air balloon with her local minister. In their frenzy to spread the gospel, Jane is lead to believe she has whacked a baby on the head with a falling book and so ends up being guilted into spending her summer babysitting for free, so as not to be sued by the mother. Jane ends up having a ton of adventures throughout the summer, just not the kind she had in mind. All of Horvath’s writing is always tremendously funny, but in My One Hundred Adventures, in a much quieter, even poetic way.

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell because it’s such a thoughtful, interesting book and Russell has a writing prowess that literally makes you stop and say “wow” at times. If you’re going to read about steamy amusement parks and swampy Florida, might as well do it in the heat of summer to commiserate all the better with the characters. You can read my much longer review of Swamplandia! here.

Sabriel by Garth Nix Okay, this is the least obvious summer choice of them all. In fact, it’s really not very summery at all, BUT. I read it on a camping trip to the Catskills and since consider it one. Plus epic fantasy reads are kind of like big budget action movies, right? Sabriel is the first in a trilogy, but a great standalone book as well (though you’re going to want to read its sequel, Lireal; it’s even better.) Sabriel lives in two worlds that are separated by a wall. One one side you have the Old Kingdom. That’s where Sabriel was born. Magic works there but electricity doesn’t. On the other side of the wall, you have a more contemporary, essentially normal, recognizable city. The further you get from the wall, the less people believe in magic or the walking dead; they’ve never encountered it and they don’t believe in it. In fact, a lot of people in neighboring cities don’t even know about what goes on in the Old Kingdom. If they did, they’d realize that necromancers — people who can control the dead through a set of seven badass bells that all have different powers over and can send — or lead ’em out of — different levels of death — are raising a big dead zombie dude to come take over. Sabriel’s father is what you would call an Abhorsen. That’s a type of necromancer who thwarts the other necromancers by trying to put the dead back where they belong. They’re the good guys, and when Sabriel’s father goes missing, it’s her duty to pick up the bells and start wrangling deadbeats. Sabriel is awesome. Entering the Abhorsen’s house is as exciting as Harry entering the Great Hall for the first time, and there’s a really smug talking cat. I’m not a huge high fantasy fan, generally, but this is the stuff. Trust me, internet.


2 thoughts on “Summer Reading

  1. While I have to agree that Tom Sawyer is a perfect read for the summer – I have to throw my weight behind The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn! There’s a certain element that I appreciate about Huck: he’s becoming an adult and having to make some grown up decisions (something that felt at the end of each summer).

    Maybe the best way to read these tales are to start off the summer with the carefree tours of Tom Sawyer and, later on, read Huck’s story!

  2. John – I’ll agree to that! I’m sure I’d rather hang out with Huck, but Tom, for — or because of — all his faults I just find a bit more fun to read about. Best to just read them both though.

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