Behind the Book Summer Reads for Kids and Adults

It’s the height of summer, and a great time to read! Here are a few of our favorite books for kids and adults that we recommend for your reading pleasure.

Love to Langston by Tony Medina

Love to Langston
by Tony Medina
Appropriate for Ages 7-11

Maybe it’s that our recent move to Harlem has put us in the mood for Langston Hughes, but we’re mad about Love to Langston by Tony Medina and we think that you should enjoy it too.

What it’s about: The book is a special kind of biography that tells Langston Hughes’ story in crisp, but heartfelt free verse poems, in the style of the poet himself. Medina has created a book that represents Hughes not only with the facts about his life, but wraps Hughes’ biography in the voice and style of the poet, for an anthology that not only depicts Hughes’ life, but that looks, sounds and tastes like it.

Why kids will love it: Now, everyone knows that Langston Hughes is an important figure in the literary world, but Hughes is important for his accessibility, and we see that all the time in the classroom as the kids gravitate toward this book (of course, it helps that they adore Tony Medina too).

Bird by Zetta Eliott

by Zetta Elliott
Appropriate for Ages 9-13

Be warned: this book will take your breath away and lovingly break your heart. But in the best way imaginable.

What it’s about: With the help of Uncle Son, Mehkai, better known as Bird, remembers his Granddad and brother, Marcus, for the love they shared when they were in his life. For Bird, drawing becomes his way of making sense of the troubles he faces and turning them into something beautiful and meaningful.Why kids will love it: The story alternates between the watercolor illustrations and Bird’s own drawings, as he sketches his hopes, his struggles and his love for his family in breathtaking detail and depth. This is an incredibly moving story, as Zetta Elliott has created the earnest voice of a young narrator who is sweetly direct and easy to love.
Never Fall Down

Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick

by Patricia McCormick
Appropriate for Ages 13 and up
Clear your schedule before you start this book, because it will grab you and refuse to let go until you’ve finished.What it’s about: Based on the true story of Arn Chorn-Pond, a survivor of the Cambodian Khmer Rouge, Never Fall Down chronicles the harrowing story of a young boy caught up in the Khmer Rouge and his long recovery through music and the catharsis of speaking up about his journey. Both terrifying and grittily beautiful, this book is a fascinating and powerful account that cannot (and should not) be easily forgotten.Why kids will love it: Patricia McCormick uses Arn’s unique voice as a narrator with aplomb to create an honest intimacy between the speaker and reader as if Arn himself were giving one of his famous talks through the book.

Big Machine by Victor LaValle

Big Machine

by Victor LaValle

For Adults

If all the awards Big Machine won haven’t convinced you, let us add our recommendation to the mix.

What it’s about: Ricky Rice’s life has been a series of misadventures that have left him physically drained and psychologically haunted, as he works a dead end job at a bus depot. Then he gets an invitation to join a group of African-American paranormal investigators who have all heard the voice of God – or some other supernatural being – and are trying to find out what the voice is and what it wants.

Why you’ll love it: Gritty, eerie yet terribly funny in a snickering, sarcastic way, LaValle’s voice is entertaining as hell, which makes sense in a book about the murky fringes of reality. As an added bonus, LaValle will be reading from his new book (out on August 21) The Devil In Silver: A Novel at our first KGB Bar Reading of the fall and it would be even more fun to see him if you’re already a fan of his.

We also have a new gallery of student books! It’s growing, so check back often to see wonderful children’s art and writing

 We are so proud of the hard work and creativity that the students put into the projects that they do during our programs that we want to share it with the world.

These kids have done some great writing, illustrating and photography in their classes that will knock your socks off, whether you’re in school now or you remember it fondly.

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