Selecting the "50 Sensational Books of Summer"

Alexandra Wladich  //  Jun 20, 2016

Selecting the "50 Sensational Books of Summer"

Scholastic Teacher Magazine has curated a list of 50 Sensational Books of Summer. Geared toward children grades K-8, the list highlights the year's best fantasy and realistic fiction, and every genre in between!

I caught up with Catherine Louge and Chris Borris from the Teacher Magazine team to hear exactly how these 50 books were selected.

1) What is the process of selecting the 50 best books for summer?

Catherine Logue: We started in January by talking about which genres we wanted to represent (such as Fantasy, Humor, Nonfiction) and sending out requests to publishers. By the end of February our desks were covered in stacks of books. We were practically walled in! 

Chris Borris: It was the best sort of problem to have – so many great books to wade through. We winnowed our lists down several times, keeping an eye on representing a diversity of styles, levels, and authors. We met as a team to discuss possible choices, and, in a couple of cases, had to pry books out of each other’s hands when we went over the magic number! We could’ve done a list of 100 if we’d had the space and time.

CL: Our best sources are teachers and librarians. We reached out to school and public librarians as well as classroom teachers and they delivered a few of our favorite recommendations, including Booked by Kwame Alexander and The Night Gardener by Terry Fan and Eric Fan. 

CB: The people promoting the books can be a great source as well. Yes, they have books to promote, but our favorite publicists have a true love of books, and deeply support their authors.

2) Do you read all the books? If yes, please share your experience reading.

CL: This year it was just the two of us. We split the work 50/50 and read each book that we recommended as well as several others. The wonderful thing about children’s books is that each one is entirely different from the next. In the morning I would be tearing through the woods alongside the witches of Grayling’s Song and that evening I would find myself cheering for Stephen Curry on the basketball court in Rising Above. It’s an adventure.

CB: I found myself in tears on the subway as I was nearing the end of Dan Gemeinhart’s heartrending Some Kind of Courage, cheering on the bear-bunny hero of William Joyce’s brilliant Ollie’s Odyssey (and feeling sympathy for the story’s villainous clown king), and laughing out loud while reading Julius Zebra in the backyard of my favorite local café.

3) So you select 50 books, but how many do you review/read/consider?

CB: We perused at least twice that number, reading portions of them to either rule them out or put them on the “yes” or “maybe” list. We reluctantly said “no” to some that truly deserved to be on the list. It was an embarrassment of riches.

4)  Do you see a theme across books selected to represent the top 50 this summer?

CL: That’s a tough one! I would say perseverance. I read a lot of wonderful stories about kids, and adults, overcoming adversity—from broken legs (Booked, Pax) to racial prejudice (Save Me a Seat, It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel). I hope these stories will inspire kids to believe in themselves, too.

CB: I would echo Catherine’s theme of perseverance in a number of books I read—from Peter Brown’s oddly profound The Wild Robot to Deborah Hopkinson’s page-turning historical novel A Bandit’s Tale. Humor was also a big criterion, and not just in the humor category: Many of our favorite books made us both laugh and cry at once.  

5) Do you have any favorites titles we should be on the lookout for?

CL: All of them…Seriously! Everyone should read Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo. It’s a classic tale of friendship, which we can all relate to.  

Two writers who I hope are on your radar are Firoozeh Dumas and Natalie Lloyd. Dumas had me laughing aloud and tearing up—sometimes at the same time—in It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel, while Natalie Lloyd conjured up the most delicious images in The Key to Extraordinary. Her whimsical word choices are pure magic.

For picture books, Finding Wild, by Megan Wagner Lloyd (illustrated by Abigail Halpin), is gorgeous. We have a spread from the advanced reader copy hanging up in our office!

CB: I mentioned them earlier, but Ollie’s Odyssey, The Wild Robot, and Some Kind of Courage are all must-reads – and you don’t even have to have a kid around to read them, they’re that universally good.

I never got tired of thumbing through the hilarious illustrations in Wolf Camp, about a goofy little dog who becomes an honorary wolf, and was utterly charmed by Thunder Boy Jr., and only wish we had more great stories about families like this one.