Normally, this section of the Tribune is all about giving you ideas for venturing out into the world around you in your down time. (That's why it's called "Get Out" and not "Stay In And Eat Another Bag Of Potato Chips On The Couch.") But we realize we'd be remiss if we overlooked one summer activity that can be every bit as exciting and enriching as hitting up a concert or taking the kids to an interactive museum exhibit, and this one doesn't require leaving the house.
We're talking about reading - the perfect activity for long hot days stretched out on a pool float or under a ceiling fan.
We polled East Valley librarians - the hard-working book buffs who are in the field day in and day out with our readers and their children - on some of their favorite summer reads. Here, we present their suggestions, from new releases to the long-standing favorites they come back to season after season for a little summer escapism.
And a tip for you: This is only a small sampling of the books librarians raved about, so if you want more, all you have to do is go to your local library and ask; these pros are more than happy to share their expertise.
"Mama, Is It Summer Yet?" by Nikki McClure (2010, Abrams Books for Young Readers)
Synopsis: A child and his mother eagerly await the signs of summer in this picture book for 4- to 8-year-olds with exquisite cut-paper artwork highlighting images of nature and the seasonal passing of time.
Why it's a good summer read: "Children will identify with the summer activities of the young boy in the story, who plants seeds, flies kites and picks strawberries with his mother," says Mary Sagar, administrative librarian at Chandler Public Library.
"Paris in the Spring With Picasso," by Joan Yolleck (2010, Schwartz & Wade)
Synopsis: In this colorful fantasy set in early 20th-century Paris, the friends of American writer Gertrude Stein gather for a soiree, and the city comes to life through whimsical illustrations.
Why it's a good summer read: "The images of Paris in the springtime will draw children into the story," says Sagar. "This presents an opportunity to introduce children to a unique time in the history of art and literature."
"Your Pal Mo Willems Presents Leonardo the Terrible Monster," by Mo Willems (2005, Hyperion)
Synopsis: All Leonardo wants to do is scare the tuna salad out of someone, but he's just awful at it - until he hits upon the ingenious idea of finding the biggest scaredy-cat in the world.
Why it's a good summer read: "Mo Willems is an author for all ages. (Readers) young and old will find the story hilarious and touching," says Sarah Lane, a youth paraprofessional at Queen Creek Library.
FOR YOUNG ADULTS
"The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate," by Jacqueline Kelly (2009, Henry Holt and Co.)
Synopsis: With the help of her cantankerous grandfather, 11-year-old Calpurnia Virginia Tate explores the natural world around her in 1899 Texas, despite her mother's efforts to turn her into a proper lady of the time.
Why it's a good summer read: "Adults and teens alike will enjoy this coming-of-age story about an independent girl stuck between learning women's work and exploring the world on her own terms. We especially love the close relationship that develops between the girl and her grandfather," say Kellie Gillespie and Kathy Little, branch coordinators at Mesa's Red Mountain Branch and Main libraries, respectively.
"The Book Thief," by Markus Zusak (2006, Knopf Books for Young Readers)
Synopsis: Death, the narrator of this story for older teens, tries to make sense of the horrors of World War II by telling the story of Liesel - a 9-year-old girl growing up in Nazi Germany whose book-stealing and story-telling talents help sustain her family and the Jewish man they are hiding.
Why it's a good summer read: "It's one of these books that's survived over time; it is always checked out," says Lesley Marshall, Adult Services Librarian at Gilbert's Perry Branch Library. She says the book is also sophisticated enough to make an entertaining, thought-provoking read for adults.
"A Great and Terrible Beauty," by Libba Bray (2003, Delacorte Books for Young Readers)
Synopsis: This historical-gothic-fantasy novel follows 16-year-old Gemma as she attends a London finishing school and becomes aware of her magical powers and ability to see into the spirit world.
Why it's a good summer read: "Bray does a fantastic job weaving magic, corsets, humor and Victorian England together," says Queen Creek Library's Lane. Plus, it's the first book in a trilogy, so if readers take to it, they've automatically got their next reads lined up.
"Horns," by Joe Hill (2010, HarperCollins)
Synopsis: Sweet, likeable Ignatius Parrish spends the 1-year anniversary of his girlfriend's death "drunk and doing terrible things." He wakes up the next morning hung over, with a brand-new pair of horns growing from his temples. To make matters worse, everyone he encounters feels compelled to blurt out their most intimate and embarrassing deeds and their most horrible thoughts.
Why it's a good summer read: "Hill, the son of Stephen King, has crafted a compulsive read of dark humor, leaving the reader questioning the line between good and evil," says Katie Cloudman, librarian at Chandler Public Library.
"Saving CeeCee Honeycutt," by Beth Hoffman (2010, Pamela Dorman Books/Viking-Penguin)
Synopsis: For years, 12-year-old CeeCee has been the caretaker of her psychotic mother, Camille, the tiara-toting, lipstick-smeared laughingstock of town. But when Camille is killed, CeeCee is left to fend for herself, until a great aunt from the South sweeps in to keep the girl enthralled for a summer.
Why it's a good summer read: "It's full of Southern charm, wit and humor and has enough depth to be compelling and rewarding while still being light enough for a summer fling," say Mesa librarians Gillespie and Little.
"The Lonely Polygamist," by Brady Udall (2010, W. W. Norton & Company)
Synopsis: Golden Richards is struggling to keep his failing construction company afloat, keep his controversial current building job a secret (it's a brothel), keep the names of his 28 children straight, and keep his four wives from discovering his budding relationship with another man's wife.
Why it's a good summer read: "Udall is a first-rate storyteller and a fine writer. He populates Golden's chaotic world with memorable characters and treats his readers to a sumptuous tale that is alternately hilarious, terrifying and heartbreaking," says Chandler's Cloudman.