Summer reading lists are always popular with readers. This year I took the terms literally and created lists of picture books set in summer, chapter books set in summer, and non-fiction books about summer or summery things. Amy Hest’s The Summer We Found the Baby is the next book I will add to the chapter book list, but I will be recommending it to readers all year long.
Told in three voices (an 11-year-old girl, her 6-year-old sister, and their 12-year-old neighbor boy), the story moves between a moment during World War II when a baby in a basket is discovered on the steps of the soon-to-be-opened library and glimpses from the past that inform the reader of each narrator’s personal experiences that make known the importance of the baby to them. Julie says, “It’s true. I loved her. I loved everything about her. Kissing her cheek. Rubbing my nose on her soft little neck.” Her sister Martha says, “All my life I wanted a baby sister now she was finally here!” Martha wants to name the baby Nancy. Bruno says, “Usually I don’t even care that much about babies. But this was different. This one came in an actual basket. With actual instructions.” How did that baby get to those steps? Who was watching to be certain she got to the right people? Who was the tall lady in the clunky brown shoes who arrived to celebrate the library and ended up feeding the baby on the beach? All is revealed as the three voices fill in details and endear themselves to the reader.
Amy Hest’s other chapter books are equally poignant and charming (Remembering Mrs. Rossi and Letters to Leo), but this one is my favorite.