Summertime and the Reading is Nerdy by Erica S. Perl
As my family likes to say, I come by it honestly. Nerdiness, that is. I come from nerdy stock. Both my parents wear glasses – my dad rocking his Clark Kents back in the day with exactly zero irony. My extended family has a penchant for crossword puzzles and Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. I think you’re probably getting the picture.
At any rate, I was – and still am – a Nerdy Book kid. I have great memories of the books I inhaled as a child, as well as the places I read them. In the summer, these places included my bunk at Camp Hochelaga, “tar beach” a.k.a. our garage roof, and the outfield (no idea why my team did so poorly). And as luck would have it, I ran into some of my old pals during a summer trip (another sign that you are Nerdy… you immediately establish library borrowing privileges in any town you visit on vacation). So in honor of summer, please take a trip back with me to some of my favorite Nerdy Book kid summer reads:
THE GREAT BRAIN SERIES. Oh please, publishing powers that be! Rebrand and reintroduce this series. Make a movie if you must, but help another generation find these characters. Tom, the eternal schemer, and J.D., his alternately irritated and enamored younger brother, are growing up as non-Mormon kids in their Utah town in the early 1900s. I found their adventures totally fascinating, much as I did books like GINGER PYE and THE BROTHERS LIONHEART. I was always a fan of books in which the adventures centered on the kids and the adults were either absent or distinctly minor characters.
NOBODY’S FAMILY IS GOING TO CHANGE. This title now sports a great new cover that I hope will win it a new readership. In Louise Fitzhugh’s lesser known work, Emma, a smart, fat, black girl is a huge disappointment to her lawyer father. So is her brother, Willie, who only wants to tap dance. I loved Emma’s fierceness as well as her softer side, both of which come out when she realizes how much Willie needs to dance, and needs her.
A GIRL CALLED AL (and subsequent books). Growing up in Vermont as the child of transplanted New Yorkers, I loved realistic stories set in The City. I loved the obvious choices (for example, FROM THE MIXED UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER, TALES OF A FOURTH GRADE NOTHING and THE PIGMAN). But I particularly loved Constance C. Greene’s series about two girls — the shy unnamed protagonist and her apartment building neighbor, the pseudo-sophisticated, opinionated and irrepressible titular character — who hang out in the basement with their superintendent and basically do nothing yet make it seem like exactly where you’d love to be.
I realized recently that when I wrote WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU O.J. and its new companion book, ACES WILD, I hoped kids would find them any time of the year, but especially in summer. Looking back on the books I’ve listed here, I wanted to write that kind of book – a book that gave kids new friends between its cover, but that also could be a Nerdy Book kid’s friend in and of itself. A friend to be tucked in a beach bag or a baseball glove and taken along on adventures, getting greasy with sunscreen and salty from the surf… yet, hopefully, surviving so that one day it could be rediscovered and presented with gushing enthusiastically to one’s own children.
Just as I did with every book on this list.
Erica S. Perl is the author of novels including WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU O.J. and the brand new sequel ACES WILD, as well as picture books including DOTTY, CHICKEN BUTT! and the forthcoming KING OF THE ZOO. Erica is an enthusiastic and crowd-pleasing presenter. She is also a fairly decent ice skater.