By Jeana Gockley
JOPLIN, Mo. —
The Joplin Public Library's annual Summer Reading Club kicks off on Tuesday, May 28, so in preparation for a great summer of reading, I have been digging for titles that fit with this year's "Dig Into Reading" theme.
The following is a list of chapter books -- appropriate for most children in fourth through eighth grade -- with short descriptions that showcase our earthy theme.
"Gregor the Overlander" (Underland Chronicles, book 1) by Suzanne Collins: Eleven-year-old Gregor's mind is constantly filled with thoughts of his missing father, so when his 2-year-old sister, Boots, crawls into an air vent in the laundry room, he barely notices.
He immediately goes in after her, and the two are dropped into Underland, a fantastical world of translucent-skinned humans, giant cockroaches, bats and rats. Upon arrival in Underland, Gregor is terrified, but soon he is transformed into a warrior who is charged with leading a battle against an invading army of rats.
"The Tale of Despereaux" by Kate DiCamillo: Four stories combine to make one in this fairy tale of love and unlikely heroes.
First, there is Despereaux, a tiny mouse with huge ears who is an embarrassment to his entire family; secondly, Princess Pea, whom Despereaux is madly in love with; then Roscuro, a rat who craves light and soup; and lastly, Miggery Sow, whose heart's desire is to be a princess.
"City of Ember" (Books of Ember, book 1) by Jeanne DuPrau: Ember is an underground city, one that was built to ensure the survival of the human race. However, the instructions for getting out of the 241-year-old city have been lost.
Not such a big deal, except now the power is starting to fail. Nothing like flickering lights and lengthy power outages to inspire 12-year-olds Doon and Lina to embark on a mission to find a way out of the doomed city.
"Hoot" by Carl Hiaasen: In his debut novel for kids, Carl Hiaasen pens an ecological mystery that centers on tiny burrowing owls and the loss of their habitat. A mission to save these endangered owls brings together three unlikely friends and leads them on the journey of a lifetime.
"Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH" by Robert O'Brien: This winner of the 1972 Newbery Medal is a timeless story of a widowed mouse's mission to save her son. Mrs. Frisby's son has pneumonia and, despite needing to move him to a safe location, she has been told that he must not be moved.
In order to find a way to save him, she braves a visit to the rats of NIMH -- a brilliant group of creatures that are also her enemies. Her visit provides a workable solution, but it also ties Mrs. Frisby to the rats and thus begins her journey to help save them.
"Holes" by Louis Sachar: Stanley Yelnats is cursed. This curse started with his "no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather" and has now landed Stanley in a boys' detention center at Camp Green Lake, where boys spend all day, every day, digging holes 5 feet wide and 5 feet deep.
Almost immediately Stanley realizes that things aren't what they seem at Camp Green Lake and begins digging for the truth.
Jeana Gockley is the children's librarian at Joplin Public Library.