By Varian Johnson. Ages 8 to 13.
Candice Miller, 12, has a lot of changes going on in her life. Her parents have recently divorced, and they are trying to sell their house in Atlanta, Georgia.
While the house gets fixed up, Candice and her mom are spending the summer in tiny Lambert, South Carolina, in the onetime home of the girl’s grandmother.
Candice had known that her grandmother, Abigail Caldwell, was the town’s first black city manager. But she never knew why her grandma left Lambert. Candice’s mom reveals that there had been a scandal. Abigail believed a treasure was buried under one of Lambert’s tennis courts. So she had a construction crew dig up the courts, only to find . . . nothing.
Candice’s mom calls the episode a failure. The girl disagrees.
“A mistake isn’t a failure. It’s just an opportunity to try again,” she says, echoing Abigail’s words.
Trying again isn’t possible for Abigail, who died a few years earlier. But Candice wonders whether she might be able to find what her grandmother had been looking for and thereby clear her name. (She also thinks she might earn enough money so that she and her mom could keep the house in Atlanta.)
While exploring her grandma’s attic, Candice discovers an old letter. The writer promises Abigail an “inheritance” of several million dollars if she can solve a puzzle about the town and its poor treatment of black people, especially a teenager named Siobhan (pronounced shi-VAUN) Washington and her family.
Puzzle-loving Candice is eager to investigate, and she asks newfound friend Brandon to help.
As the two talk to Lambert’s older residents, they hear stories about the hatred and prejudice of the 1950s, which led black people to demand their civil rights. (The book’s flashback chapters take the reader back to that time.) They also learn that Lambert still has issues with prejudice.
As Candice and Brandon become more obsessed with the puzzle, it becomes clear that even if they don’t solve it, they may force Lambert to confront its demons past and present.
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The civil rights era also features prominently in Ghost Boys (ages 9 to 13) by Jewell Parker Rhodes. Jerome, 12, is playing with a toy gun when he is shot by a police officer. He becomes a ghost and meets Emmett Till, a 14-year-old who was killed in 1955 because he was black. Emmett — who was a real person — helps Jerome — a fictional character — understand a racist past that may have played into his shooting and the community’s reaction to it.
Hold Fast by Blue Balliett (ages 10 to 13) is the story is of 11-year-old Early Pearl, who ends up in a homeless shelter with her mom and brother after their father disappears. With the police doing little to find her dad, Early must solve the mystery.
By Katherine Applegate. Ages 8 to 12.
For doglike animals called dairnes, life revolves around the pack. That’s especially true for Byx, the smallest in her family. After an enemy attacks their home, Byx finds herself alone. She’s an endling — not just the last of her family but the last of her species. But legend says there might be a distant colony of dairnes. With the help of several oddball characters, Byx realizes that finding the colony is crucial not only to her species but also to creatures of all kinds.
The Summer Book Club is open to kids ages 5 to 14. Children may read some or all of the books on our list. (Find a blurb for each book at wapo.st/kidspostbookclublaunch.) The first 650 kids registered will receive a drawstring book bag. To join the club, children must be registered by a parent or guardian. To register, that adult must fill out our form at wapo.st/kidspostbookclub2018 or send the child’s first and last names, age and address to KidsPost Summer Book Club, The Washington Post, 1301 K St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.