It’s time to save the chupacabras.
Or you could become a secret agent, pull a Camelot-themed caper, or figure out why your family’s doppelgangers live in a parallel world.
If it all sounds more interesting than “it’s summer reading time!” — that’s the idea.
Summer reading lists take aim at the “summer slide,” or the tendency of students to drop in reading levels if they don’t crack a book over break. Austin Independent School District Superintendent Paul Cruz hatched the 5 Book Dive campaign in 2016 to bolster students’ interest in reading for fun because research also shows reading five books keeps the slide at bay.
The Summer Reading Splash kickoff event showcases a variety of authors for young people, capitalizing on one of the best ways to stoke interest in a not-yet-avid reader — seeing an author live. While the event is geared toward students in grades three through six, all ages are welcome. About 600 students attended last year’s program.
Adam Gidwitz and David Bowles, co-authors of “Unicorn Rescue Society: The Chupacabras of the Río Grande” (Dutton, $14.99), will keynote.
Gidwitz – who authored the “Grimm” fairy tale reboots and the “Inquisitor’s Tale,” which won a Newbery honor — is a lively presenter who calls on his years teaching in New York City classrooms to engage the audience. The prolific Bowles is fresh off dual Texas Institute of Letters wins for best middle-grade (“They Call Me Guero”) and best young-adult book (“Feathered Serpent, Dark Heart of Sky”), the first time in TIL’s history that one author has won both awards.
The “Unicorn” series centers on a secret society that protects mythical creatures, such as unicorns, dragons and Bigfoot. Bowles is the perfect co-author for this fourth volume in the series, which takes the society to Laredo and pairs protagonists Elliot and Uchenna with locals Lupita and Mateo.
Dan Santat will be on hand to entice the youngest attendees with “Harold and Hog Pretend for Real” (Hyperion, $9.99), which finds elephant and pig BFFs gleefully reading a book about another elephant and pig (Mo Willems’ “Elephant and Piggie,” of course). Stuart Gibbs showcases the latest edition of his “Spy School” series, and Margaret Peterson Haddix launches a new series, “Greystone Secrets: The Strangers” (HarperCollins, $17.99), which follows three siblings as they travel to a parallel world on the hunt for their mother.
Austin authors anchor sessions as well. Mari Mancusi brings online gaming to life with her Camelot series, “The Once and Future Geek” (Disney, $16.99); Christina Soontornvat introduces us to “The Changelings” (Jabberwocky, $16.99), magic beings traded for babies; and Varian Johnson uncovers “The Parker Inheritance” (Scholastic, $16.99), which was named to multiple best-of-2018 lists and recently added Coretta Scott King Honor Book to its accolades.
Free and open to the public (no, you don’t need to be an Austin school district student to attend), the Summer Reading Splash is a joint effort of the Austin Independent School District, Austin Public Library and BookPeople, which will be on hand to sell books. Students may bring three books from home to be signed for every title purchased at the event. Those who complete the 5 Book Dive challenge will be recognized by their school librarians and can show a completed log for a $5 coupon at BookPeople.
More to read this summer or before
Get warmed up for the Summer Reading Splash with two picture-book authors who are sharing stories of activism.
Carmen Oliver spotlights the childhood of Simon Jackson, who founded the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition, in “A Voice for the Spirit Bears: How One Boy Inspired Millions to Save a Rare Animal” (CitizenKid/KidsCan Press, $16.99). Kermode, or “spirit” bears, are a rare subspecies of black bear with white fur that live in Canada. Logging damaged the bears’ habitat, and Jackson — who stuttered and struggled to find friends as a child— found solace and purpose as a teen fighting for awareness.
Debbie Gonzales celebrates women’s contributions to sports in “Girls With Guts! The Road to Breaking Barriers and Bashing Records” (Charlesbridge, $16.99). “Guts” traces the history of female athletes from ancient Greece (Melpomene, who ran alongside the male marathoners even though she was forbidden) to the passage of Title IX, aimed at providing equal programs and federal financial assistance to women in sports.
Oliver and Gonzales will be at BookPeople at 2 p.m. May 11 to read from and sign their books. (Both books ages 6-9)