Children’s Literature and Guided Questions

A handful of books for younger and older readers to soak up the summer.


Picture Books for K-3

1.       Joseph Who Loved the Sabbath  by Marilyn Hirsch   (Puffin, 1988)   Fun story taken from Jewish scriptures of why Joseph loves the Sabbath.

2.       Why Mosquitos Buzz in People’s Ears by Verna Ardema  and illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon (Puffin Books, 2004)  Mosquitos with a moral about safety, an award winning children’s book.

3.       How to Code a Sandcastle by Josh Funk and illustrated by Sarah Palacios (Viking Books, 2018)  A coder uses her coding skills to figure out how to build a sandcastle

4.       Jabari Jumps by Gala Cornwall (Candlewick, 2017)  A young boy tries to figure out how to jump off a diving board.

5.       What Do You Do with a Chance by Kobi Yamada and illustrated by Mae Besom (Compendium Inc 2018)  Summer is a time for chances.  What should you do with it?

6.       Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018) Lighthouse life.

7.       A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo—Jill Twiss and Marlon Bundo and illustrated by EG Keller (Chronicle Books, 2018) From John Oliver’s staff, the White House has never been this much fun as Marlon the Bunny and Wesley fall in love.

8.       Everything You Need for a Treehouse by Carter Higgins and Emily Hughes (Chronicle Books, 2018)  The best of imagination, climbing trees, and thinking of living in them.

9.       Friends Stick Together by Hannah Henderson (Dial Books, 2018)  Friends can be different from each other.

10.   Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins (Disney-Hyperion, 2015)  Bruce the Bear wants hard boiled eggs. Instead he gets goslings who think he’s their mother.

11.   Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shatterly and Laura Freeman (Harper Collins, 2018)  Summer is a time to look to the stars. Here are the stories of 4 math whizzes who helped us get there.

12.   Biblioburro by Jeanette Winter  (Beach Lane Books, 2010)  The story of how people got to read books in the Colombian jungle.

13.   The Digger and the Flower by Joseph Kuefler (Balzer + Bray, 2018)  Themes of summer: construction work and nature.  This book has both and why nature matters.

14.   How Many Ways Can You Catch a Fly—Steve Jenkins (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2008)  A book about the marvels of animals on the food chain.

15.   Charlotte’s Web by EB White, illustrations by Garth Williams (Harper and Brothers, 1952)  The ultimate summer story of friendship, love, a barn and the fair.


For Older Readers Grade 4-6

1.       The Best Man—Richard Peck (Dial Books, 2016)  Summer is a time of weddings and Archer learns a lot through two of them in this coming of age tale about the male role models in his life, including a teacher and uncle who marry each other.

2.       The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall (Yearling, 2007)  The 4 sisters have a marvelous summer on an estate solving problems and enjoying the summer life.

3.       The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked, and Found by Martin W. Sandler (Candlewick, 2017)  The truer story what piracy was really like, including the Whydah which sunk off Cape Cod.

4.       Legends, Icons and Rebels: Music that Changed the World by Robbie Robertson and Jim Guerinot (Tundra Books, 2013)  Get your music beat going this summer with this engaging collection (music included) about those who have made our modern music

5.       Unicorn Rescue Society by Adam Gitwitz and illustrated by Hatem Aly (Dutton Books, 2018) If you want to preserve and protect creatures of myth and legends then this first book in a series, is totally for you.  

6.       Hoot—Carl Hiaasen (Yearling, 2005)  Engaging mystery with an environmental twist of saving owls.  Great fun.

7.       Wishtree—Katherine Applegate (Feiwel and Friends, 2017) A red oak tree, who has lived through generations sees bigotry toward Muslims from a different point of view.  

8.       We Are the Ship—Kadir Nelson (Jump at the Sun, 2008)  Baseball fan?  Brilliant history and art of the Negro Baseball Leagues.   The illustrations are not to be missed.

9.       Bugged: The Insects Who Rule the World and the People Obsessed with Them by David MacNeal (St Martin’s Press, 2017) For slightly mature readers who want to know why bugs have won the world and will win.

10.   Criss Cross—Lynne Rae Perkins (Greenwillow, 2005) Summer with a thoughtful group of students getting ready for middle school.  Author is UU.

11.   Shiloh—Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (Atheneum, 1991)  UU Author Naylor writes a beautiful story about boy trying to save his abused dog.

12.   The Great and Only Barnum—Candace Fleming (Schwartz and Wade, 2009)  The life of circus creater and Universalist PT Barnum.

13.   One Crazy Summer-Rita Williams-Garcia (Amistad, 2010) Three sisters survive the summer with the mother who abandoned them and learn about the Black Panthers first hand in 1968 Oakland California

14.   The Eye, The Ear, and the Farmer—Nancy Farmer (Orchard Books, 1994)  Zimbabwe, 2194, travel to future Africa in this captivating adventure

15.   Baseball in April—Gary Soto (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2000)  Growing up in Central California


For The Older Crowd—Five Books to Read on Your Own

1.       Nation—Terry Pratchett (Doubleday, 2008)  Terrific alternate fantasy set in the South Pacific and a meeting of different cultures.

2.       Brown Girl Dreaming—Jacqueline Woodson (Perigree Books, 2014)   When you need a captivating biography of one the most gifted writers around

3.       Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Octavia Butler and Damian Duffy (Abrams Comic Arts 2017)   A moving graphic novel adaptation of Butler’s science/historical fiction classic

4.       Eagle Blue—Michael D’Orso  (Bloomsbury, 2006)   A great story to cool you off from the Alaskan Arctic Circle about basketball 

5.       The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child—Francisco Jimenez (U of New Mexico Press, 1997)   A child from Mexico tells stories of growing up in the Central Valley of California.


Adults can go deeper on Sabbath too:

Rev. Ana Levy-Lyons’ new book, No Other Gods: The Politics of the Ten Commandments, gives a fresh perspective on the Ten Commandments, showing how communal religious practices can give us spiritual strength and liberate us from the silent laws of our dominant culture. (Center Street/ Hachette, 2018)

Order now on Indiebound, Barnes & Noble, or  Amazon or find it at your local bookstore. Visit for more information!

Many of us in Western societies today have a complicated relationship with the rules and gods of traditional religion. But secular society has its own hidden rules that we follow and gods that we worship just as obsequiously – of money, social approval, personal comfort, brands, convenience, appearances, Facebook likes, and of the eternal spectacle served up on our screens. When we think we have found freedom in our post-religious world, we underestimate the tremendous, invisible power of our culture – the addictive pull of producing and consuming and the massive pressure to conform to social norms. And likewise we underestimate the power of religion to break us free.

My mission is to help people find a real, deep, spiritual liberation – to take back our power and claim our dignity as beings made in the divine image. No Other Gods delves deeply into the Ten Commandments as modern practices of such liberation.