Librarians were kids once, too

Librarians were kids once, too

"From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler" by E.L. Konigsburg

Every child fantasizes about running away from home to teach his or her parents a lesson. One summer, 12-year-old Claudia showed me exactly how it could be done, in comfort and elegance. Claudia and her brother Jaime hop a train to New York City, enter the Metropolitan Museum of Art and live there for several days. They sleep on historical furniture, fish pennies out of the fountain and research a beautiful statue of unknown origin. Soon, the children set out to visit the mysterious Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, previous owner of the statute and the only one who can unlock its secret.


— Anne Riddick, Manning branch

"Miss Rumphius" by Barbara Cooney


"Miss Rumphius" is the story of a girl with three goals: go to faraway places, live beside the sea and do something to make the world more beautiful. When Alice Rumphius becomes an old woman, she reflects on her life and realizes that she has yet to make the world more beautiful. She decides to plant seeds everywhere she goes, leaving a trail of flowers behind her. It's a simple story with beautiful illustrations for kids who want to leave their mark on the world.

Jessie Hotaling, Rogers Park branch

"The Borrowers" by Mary Norton

Whenever I see dollhouse furniture, I still wonder how it might be useful to those tiny people who borrow what they need from giant "human beans." Fourteen-year-old Arrietty was my kind of girl: impetuous, curious and adventurous. I loved her for being so brave and such a faithful friend. Norton certainly must have known some borrowers herself, perhaps a girl like Arrietty, to write about them so well.


Janet Thompson, West Belmont branch

"A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeleine L'Engle

I recently revisited this childhood favorite for a family book club program at the library. As a kid, I was enchanted by the fantastical creatures (Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, Mrs. Whatsit, The Black Thing, IT) and faraway places of this book. My interests during this recent reading gravitated more toward the human characters and relationships. In particular, I was struck by Meg Murry's struggle to accept herself and her idealization of her father and subsequent disillusionment with him. Also, the book's themes of love and family struck me as being quite real and remarkably well-drawn. L'Engle's seamless layering of elements from multiple genres and her incorporation of varied themes from science and individualism to love and family make this a genuine classic.

Andy Cross, Merlo branch

"The Shrinking of Treehorn" by Florence Parry Heide

Treehorn has a problem: He's shrinking and he can't get anyone to believe him! His parents ask him to stop slouching at the dinner table, his bus driver is convinced that he is his younger brother and his teacher doesn't understand why he can't reach the water fountain. This sly picture book captures a feeling every kid knows: when adults just don't get it. Great for second- and third-graders, this book also resonates with older kids on days they feel a little bit small.

Shelley Hughes, Austin branch

"The Witch of Blackbird Pond" by Elizabeth George Speare


When I was 11, I read a book I still love and recommend to kids today. "The Witch of Blackbird Pond" tells the story of Kit, a teenager who must leave her beloved tropical home in Barbados and travel by sea to cold, gray, puritanical Connecticut, where she's seen as an outsider. When she finally makes friends with a special woman, she is brandished as an outcast during the dangerous era of witchcraft trials. Kit is forced to choose between heart and duty in this memorable tale of friendship and bravery that's still relevant today.

Elizabeth McChesney, Chicago Public Library, children and young adult services department

"The Wheel on the School" by Meindert DeJong

I always was (and am) drawn to shiny Newbery Medal stickers on books. One summer during elementary school, I discovered "The Wheel on the School" by Meindert DeJong. I really loved (and still do) that it was set in the Netherlands and told the story of six kids who saved the day for their entire community by finding a way to bring the lucky storks back. And what does a wheel have to do with it? You'll have to read to find out.

Andrew Medlar, Chicago Public Library, youth materials specialist

"The Enchantress" by Michael Scott

This is the final book in the fantasy series "The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel." Josh and Sophie Newman, both 15, are believed to be legendary twins: one to save the world and one to destroy it. A cast of historical characters help Josh and Sophie on their journey. The historical characters add depth and context, while the twins have an honest sibling relationship. The action is fun, fast-paced and filled with non-stop battles. The entire six-book series takes place within a few days, making every book hard to put down.

Kim Kelley, West Lawn branch

"Nancy Drew" series by Carolyn Keene

Summer vacation is a perfect time to get into a good mystery. As a child, I loved the "Nancy Drew" series by Carolyn Keene. The books are full of suspense, adventure, friends and fun. Keene's classic mysteriesare exciting stories of hidden treasures, family secrets, mysterious hideaways and cunning crimes. After reading one these books, I couldn't help but become an amateur sleuth myself, grabbing some trusted sidekicks, looking for clues and solving my own mini mysteries.

Lori Frumkin, Chicago Public Library, Kraft Great Kids project manager

"Tuck Everlasting" by Natalie Babbitt

Oh, how my 10-year-old self wished my hot, boring summer could be as interesting as Winnie Foster's in "Tuck Everlasting" by Natalie Babbitt. Winnie's summer boredom leads her beyond the iron fence that surrounds her family's property into the cool, dark woods. There she meets Jesse Tuck, a boy whose family has a dark secret. When she finds out the family's secret, Winnie must make a decision that could change the rest of her life.

Alexa Hamilton, Chicago Public Library, PNC Grow Up Great project manager

"Island of the Blue Dolphins" by Scott O'Dell

I remember reading "Island of the Blue Dolphins" by Scott O'Dell during the summer before my 10th birthday. It was on a summer reading list, but my favorite teacher recommended it to me. When I found out that it was based on a true story, I was completely fascinated. How could a young girl survive on a deserted island for 18 years? Karana's character resonated with me because I too felt isolated, struggling to survive the summer in the country without my friends. I also remember this being the first book to make me cry.

Shilo Pearson, Chicago Public Library, youth materials librarian


"The Velveteen Rabbit" by Margery Williams Bianco

When I was younger, one of my all-time favorite stories was "The Velveteen Rabbit." While not necessarily a "summer read," it's a story that unfolds through the seasons. There was definitely something special about believing toys you owned could be made "real" by how much you loved them and that as a toy grew imperfect or worn down, it became a part of you. I still look at tattered and torn books today as "well-loved" treasures because of this favorite childhood story about kindness, love and change.

Robin Willard, Chicago Public Library, young adult specialist

"Tikki Tikki Tembo" by Arlene Mosel

Hanging out in the water is always fun, right? Well, it is unless you happened to have fallen into the water by accident, the water is at the bottom of a well and your brother is having trouble getting help because you have quite possibly the longest name in China. That's what happens to Tikki Tikki Tembo (for short) in the book by the same name by Arlene Mosel. I can't tell you what happens to Tikki Tikki Tembo, but I can tell you that you'll still be able to chant his full name for years to come after reading this story.

John Mangahas, Albany Park branch

"The Doll in the Garden" by Mary Downing Hahn

After young Ashley loses her father to cancer, she and her mother move to Monkton Hills where they obtain an apartment in mean, old Miss Cooper's house. On the first evening, Ashley sees a strange cat running into Miss Cooper's forbidden garden. As Ashley explores the garden in secret, she finds a doll that has been buried in the garden. Upon discovering the doll, Ashley uncovers a ghostly mystery that explains why Miss Cooper is so unpleasant. In this novel, children looking for not-so-scary stories find plenty of suspense and a ghost more endearing than scary.

Stuart Griner, Thomas Hughes Children's Library

"Black Beauty" by Anna Sewell

As a child I enjoyed the poignant, heartwarming coming-of-age story of a young colt named Black Beauty. Anna Sewell writes in the voice of Black Beauty, vividly retelling the details of his life. This story will appeal to a wide audience, especially animal lovers. "Black Beauty" is an extraordinary tale of humanity and inhumanity as seen through the eyes of a horse. It's also a memorable book that addresses the timeless issue of friendship and overcoming adversities.

Cheryl Andrews, West Pullman branch

"Hitty: Her First Hundred Years" by Rachel Field

Hitty, originally named Mehitable, is a wooden doll made in the 1800s for Phoebe Preble, a little girl from Maine. Phoebe is so proud of her doll that she takes it her everywhere with her, even on a long sailing trip. Hitty is thrilled at the adventures she experiences and recounts them in this memoir of her first century. Young readers who enjoyed "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane" by Kate DiCamillo will love "Hitty."

Elizabeth Basile, Chicago Public Library, early childhood specialist

"Seventeenth Summer" by Maureen Daly

In about fifth or sixth grade, I was excited to browse for teen romance. The library of my elementary school, John M. Palmer in Mayfair, is where I found titles such as "Seventeenth Summer" by Maureen Daly or "Practically Seventeen" by Rosamond Du Jardin. Reading about teenage summer love was pure magic for me! Maybe it was my way of connecting with my three older siblings who were older than I, but this summer romance still keeps young teens sighing.

Sharon Anderson, Dunning branch

"The Hobbit, or There and Back Again" by J.R.R. Tolkien

The summer I first read "The Hobbit" was a season full of adventure! When Gandalf, a wizard, turns up unexpectedly for tea, he and his party of fearsome dwarfs convince Bilbo Baggins to leave his tidy hobbit hole to join their quest for Smaug's treasure. Little does Bilbo know that the place he will fill in their company is that of the thief. So by hook, crook and some magic, Bilbo finds that he does have some special skills and the dwarfs do have need of his services after all.

Brandy Morrill, Chinatown branch

Submit your book reports by Aug. 15

Reviews for the children's summer Read & Write program will be accepted until Aug. 15.

This program allows kids ages 5-16 to submit book reviews up to 150 words for possible publication in a future issue of Printers Row Journal or online. Younger children may submit drawings instead.

To participate, visit to download a permission slip, which must be signed by a parent or guardian. Entries will be accepted by email at or by mail at:

Read and Write Program c/o Courtney Crowder, Chicago Tribune, 435 N.Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL, 60611.

For summer reading suggestions for children, visit your local library or check out for a list of more than 100 well-written, age-appropriate books picked by area librarians.