Yes Day!

Lyla Schanz, 5, of Orland Park, drew a favorite activity from "Yes Day!" by Amy Krouse Rosenthal: Jumping on her bed. (Lyla Schanz illustration)

Summer is a quintessential time for reading. For kids, it entertains and inspires, nurtures imagination and creativity, and helps bridge the gap between school years. It's probably a safe bet that Printers Row Journal readers well remember childhood days spent in the pages of a favorite book. Earlier this year, the Journal invited kids ages 5-16 to submit reviews of their favorite summer reads as part of our Children's Read & Write program. Here's what these aspiring book critics had to say. Submissions were edited with a light hand, mostly for space. More reviews are coming in future weeks; be sure to visit to share your favorites.

The BFG by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake

The BFG is the big friendly giant who protects a little girl named Sophie. Together, they successfully planned to save children of England from evil child-eating giants.

One lesson learned from the novel is that people can succeed even when bad things have happened to them in their past. Sophie, the orphan, and the BFG, the smallest giant of his land, made a creative solution to a big problem.

I enjoyed reading "The BFG" by Roald Dahl. I liked the strange and funny drawings in each chapter. Honestly, I would not have read the book if it weren't for my teacher, Ms. Wilkins. I learned to have patience and to pace myself as I read this chapter book. This novel was good to read. There were funny, dramatic and serious parts.

— Blake Bradford, 9, Chicago

Nature Girl by Jane Kelley

Alone and lost on the Appalachian Trail, with only a small dog and a minuscule food supply — and not wanting to be found? This usually does not apply to any situation, but in "Nature Girl" by Jane Kelley, it definitely does. Eleven-year-old Megan is being forced to spend the summer away from her city home, and in Vermont's wilderness without any form of technology whatsoever. Her best friend, Lucy, was supposed be with her the whole trip, but canceled at the last minute because of her mom's cancer. Megan keeps complaining about having nothing to do, and her parents are really fed up with her attitude, so they send her on a hiking trip with her sister, Virginia, and Sam, Virginia's boyfriend. So when she finds herself lost on the Appalachian Trail, she thinks she might as well hike up to Massachusetts to see Lucy. She soon realizes that hiking is much harder than it looks, and with a bit of help, starts to see who she really is, and who she wants to be in the future. The hike quickly changes to a quest to find out her true self, and to prove herself to Lucy, and the world! I was quickly intrigued by the story, and parts of it could be connected to real life. Heartwarming and adventurous, "Nature Girl" is sure to please many.

— Janelle Finton, 12, Wheeling

Totally Joe by James Howe

"Totally Joe" is an eye-opening book that shows kids what it is like to be different. Joe Bunch is a gay teenager who struggles with opening up to his family. He is constantly teased by the school bully, Kevin Hennessey. Joe starts to secretly date a popular boy named Colin. Joe wishes that they could be more public, but Colin doesn't want anyone to know that he is gay.

This book taught me a lot about how it feels like to be mocked every day and to keep secret from your family out of fear that they won't love you anymore. "Totally Joe" has many lessons, and a few are that it's OK to be different, and there is no such thing as normal, perfect or right.

— Catherine Lynch, 10, Evanston

Socks by Beverly Cleary, illustrated by Tracy Dockray

This book is about a cat named Socks who lives with a Mom and a Dad. Socks doesn't know that Mom will soon have a baby. When he does find out, Socks is very worried. Will the baby be nice or mean? After the baby is born, Socks realizes the baby is not the kind of baby he was expecting. The baby was not nice to Socks. Socks did not like when the baby kept pulling on his tail and hitting his head. Socks decides to get rid of the baby. You'll have to read "Socks" to find out how he tries to get rid of the baby.

— Annie Rabenhorst, 9, Northbrook

One Way, Uphill Only by Chris Quick

"One Way, Uphill Only" by Chris Quick, a cross country and track coach and English teacher at Palatine High School, is more than just a "running book." Though it highlights the events leading up to Palatine's state title in cross country in 2011, athletes from all sports as well as non-athletes will enjoy this book as much as I did.

"One Way, Uphill Only" chronicles the trials and tribulations of the varsity squad on their journey to becoming champions. Runners will relish the detail Quick uses to describe each grueling workout, lighthearted road run, and gutsy race — as well as the racing strategies — they can learn from this book. Other athletes and sports fans will admire the hard work and drive to win that propelled the team to success. But all readers will appreciate the tale of dedication and perseverance, which is punctuated by insightful words and short bursts of humor. "One Way, Uphill Only" shows readers that success does not come easily, but that hard work pays off. Though I am a runner myself, I know that other athletes and non-athletes alike will find "One Way, Uphill Only" as entertaining and inspiring as I did.

— Jennifer Bolek, 16, Elk Grove