Local Books for Summer Reading

Has your child had enough screen time by now? (Haven’t we all?) Instead, grab a good book and a picnic blanket or hammock and head outdoors for some fun summer reading. Here are some great new books for tots to tweens from Bay Area authors and illustrators.

U is for Unicorn: The ABCs of Silicon Valley

The perfect baby gift for techie parents, U is for Unicorn is a wry, fresh take on ABC books, from Angel Investor to Zero-Emissions Vehicle, stopping along the way for rhymes about Cryptocurrency, Hoodies and Incubators. Author Loren Girimonte works for Redwood City-based EA. Alameda illustrator Jasmine Wibbens adds colorful, cartoony drawings. There’s even a free, downloadable coloring book. Chronicle Books, March 2021. $12.95. 

I Love Boba!

I Love Boba! is the latest title in the Mina Learns Chinese series by Katrina Liu, a San Francisco Chinese-American mom who created it when she had trouble finding books that included Pinyin for her daughter, Mina. The bilingual series is available in traditional or simplified Chinese and English, with Pinyin, the romanization of Chinese characters based on pronunciation, which can help non-native speaking parents support their children’s language learning. Self-published, March 2021. $18.99. 

Nia and the New Free Library

When her town’s library is destroyed by a tornado, a little girl sets out to replace it, despite competing interests from her neighbors. Written by San Rafael author Ian Lendler and illustrated by Mark Pett, this new twist on the Stone Soup fable shows the power of community and the importance of working together toward a common goal, as well as the value of libraries. Chronicle Books, June 2021. $18.95. 

I Am Grateful

San Mateo mom Pinky Mukhi and her 10-year-old son Parem Patel explore the common, simple things for which children are grateful throughout the world, from family, friends and food to school, toys and nature. Vibrant illustrations by Devika Oza take readers on a journey around the world from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Eiffel Tower to the Taj Mahal. Self published, 2020. $8.95. 

Jack Gets Zapped

In the eighth and final book in this early reader series, mischievous bunny Jack gets zapped and trapped in a video game and needs to escape before it ends. Written by bestselling Oakland author Mac Barnett and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli, the Jack books are a great bridge between picture and chapter books, with each in a different genre, from Western to sci-fi, mixed with a good dose of humor and adventure. Penguin Random House, 2021. $9.99. 

Home: A Story of Resilience and Healing

After her home was destroyed in the 2017 Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa, first-time author Carrie Barnes wrote Home to help her son and other children like him process the grief of losing a childhood home. Illustrated by Lyn Meredith, the story follows a boy as he learns that by talking about his pain, his heart can find a home again. Roundtree Press, 2020. $16.95. 

Project Startup: Eat Bugs

In this middle-grade novel, two sixth-grade girls are teamed up for an entrepreneurship contest, and one thinks the winning ticket is selling bugs as food. The story may sound far-fetched, but it’s inspired by the true story of Bay Area entrepreneurs Laura D’Asaro and Rose Wang, who met at Harvard, landed a deal on Shark Tank and went on to found San Francisco-based cricket protein firm Chirps. Penguin Random House, 2021. $14.99. 

Three Keys

In the follow-up to her bestselling middle-grade novel Front Desk, Richmond author Kelly Yang returns to the story of Chinese immigrant Mia Tang, whose family lives in and runs the Calavista Hotel against the backdrop of the passage of California’s anti-immigration Proposition 187. Like Mia, Yang herself grew up managing the front desks of California motels from age 8, before leaving for college at 13.Three Keys, with a spunky heroine and timely themes of social justice and community, has been called a must-read. Scholastic Press, 2020. $17.99. 

Janine DeFao is an associate editor at Bay Area Parent.