You never quite appreciate what you have till it’s gone, right? Think of all those free summer afternoons you had as a kid — all that time to just read. Turns out you don’t get that as an adult. Faced with grim realities, we at EBYR are trying to make do, trying to find ways to read with the time we do have. We’re sharing what we plan to read — and sometimes where and how — in our Summer Reading Series.

Today EBYR managing editor Kathleen Merz shares her summer picks.

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Mister H
Mister H

Mister H, by Daniel Nesquens

With summer comes what seems to be a near yearly tradition for me — moving. As I pack my things into boxes in the 90-degree heat that inevitably arrived the same week I needed to move, I’ve been thinking a fair bit about how important homes are, and how exactly it is we find our way to them. So I’ve been feeling like something of a kindred spirit to Mister H, a well-mannered hippopotamus who leaves the zoo to look for his home in Africa. This is a book full of wry humor (and bright, lively illustrations); it’s light enough to make a perfect summer read, but I also love the way it captures the feeling of being out of place. And it’s an open-ended book, offering not a neat conclusion but instead a lovely reminder that there are second chances, that we can always start fresh, and that home is probably something we’re never quite done looking for.

When I Was the Greatest, by Jason Reynolds

This book is next up on my summer reading list. It first got on my radar when I heard Jason Reynolds deliver his acceptance speech for the John Steptoe Award at the Coretta Scott King Breakfast at ALA. The breakfast is early in the morning (I’m not at my most lucid at 7:00am), and he was first on the program. But he gave one humdinger of a speech, and I couldn’t help but sit up and pay attention. How many people can weave together a speech that pays grateful tribute to their mother and also draws moving lessons from the Electric Slide? I was laughing and trying not to cry all at the same time. And then I came to find out his book is described as “gritty and triumphant,” hailed by Booklist as “urban fiction with heart, a meditation on the meaning of family, the power of friendship, and the value of loyalty.” Yes, please.

The Penderwicks in Spring, by Jeanne Birdsall

I was a little late to the game on this series — I finally picked them up earlier this year after a glowing recommendation from the bookseller at Lemuria Books. They did not disappoint, and I’ve got this latest book to enjoy over the summer. They’re beautifully written, somehow feeling both fresh and also timeless, full of humor and great characters. Start with the first book, of course, if you haven’t read any of them. And if you’re anything like me and you have a bit of withdrawal whenever you finish reading a good book, finding a series you love is gold: when you’re done with one, there’s still more of that world waiting for you.

The Dog That Nino Didn't Have
The Dog That Nino Didn’t Have

The Dog That Nino Didn’t Have, by Edward van de Vendel

This book is on my summer reading list, frankly, because it’s on all my lists. It is the book on our fall list that I will most readily gush about if you give me the chance. (Probably even if you don’t give me the chance.) It’s the story of a boy who has an imaginary dog that suits him perfectly — until he gets a real dog, which isn’t quite like the one he’d imagined. But this book is so much more than that. The hazy sunset color palette and the retro illustrations perfectly capture the feel of some distant summer break, and the tone is both wistful and playfully exuberant. It’s a story of expectations unrealized as well as the boundless power of imagination, perfect for a summer caught between endless possibility and the realities of life.

Kathleen Merz
Kathleen Merz

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Kathleen Merz is managing editor for Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. Read her From the Editor’s Desk column — packed with editorial insight and behind-the-scenes info on Eerdmans books — one Thursday a month here on Eerdlings.