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NPR Books Summer Reader Poll To Focus On Books For Kids This Year


If you have a very young reader in your life, we have a job for both of you. It's time for the NPR Books Summer Reader Poll. And this year, it's all about books for the youngest readers. So whether your favorite is the "Last Stop On Market Street," "Frog And Toad" or "The Seven Silly Eaters," we want to hear from you. NPR Books editor Petra Mayer is here to tell us how it works.

Hey, Petra.


MCCAMMON: So how does NPR's Summer Reader Poll work?

MAYER: So the name is slightly misleading. It's not a straight-up popularity poll because otherwise, the same five books would win every single time. People vote on up to five of their favorite books in any given genre. And I take the 250 most popular books, and I send those to a panel of expert judges. And what they do is kind of add and subtract and hammer out this final list of a hundred.

MCCAMMON: So kids and adults get to speak up for their favorite books, and then the judges decide. Who are these expert judges who get to curate this list?

MAYER: We've got a really good panel this year. We have a kids' books columnist, Juanita Giles. She writes a column for the NPR website called "Are You There God? It's Me, Juanita." She's also a founder and executive director of the Virginia Children's Book Festival. We've got Andrea Davis Pinkney. She's a bestselling author and editor. Her work has won the Coretta Scott King Award. We've got Karina Yan Glaser, who writes the bestselling "Vanderbeekers" series. And we've also got Margaret Willison, who you may know if you listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour. She is a former librarian and a Pop Culture Happy Hour fan favorite.

MCCAMMON: And Petra, how did you decide to focus on children's books this year?

MAYER: Well, I was really thinking about, like, all the parents and the caregivers who were stuck inside this summer with their kids 'cause I don't have kids; I have cats. But I feel for people who have kids. And I felt like we needed a little joy. And what's more joyous than beautiful picture books? And also, this is kind of near and dear to my own heart because when I was a little kid, I collected really artsy picture books. And I'm so super excited to pass some of my favorites on to the readers.

MCCAMMON: Well, I do have kids, and I'm allergic to cats. But honestly, this summer with the pandemic, I would trade you.

MAYER: (Laughter).

MCCAMMON: And I know my kids are a little older now, but they read all kinds of things - you know, chapter books, magazines, comic books, picture books. What specifically are you looking for here?

MAYER: We're thinking about an age range of roughly 2 to 8. So we want picture books but also early chapter books - you know, easy stuff like "Frog And Toad." But we also understand that kids read all kinds of weird stuff. You know, when I was 6, my favorite book was "Dr. Spock's Baby And Child Care" 'cause I liked to read the disease descriptions. I was weird. And my parents bought me my own copy so I'd stop stealing theirs. So there's going to be a special category for stuff that wasn't meant for kids, but you love it anyways. So it's a pretty broad range, but we're thinking specifically of very early readers.

MCCAMMON: You know, I will confess to being a fellow encyclopedia reader and a dictionary reader as a kid. You know, slow summer days before the Internet...

MAYER: I did that, too. I loved the encyclopedia.

MCCAMMON: How can people weigh in with their favorite books?

MAYER: You can go to The voting guidelines and the form for submissions are there. You can nominate up to five books or series. We're considering series - so for example, the "Elephant And Piggie" books - as a single entry - so up to five books or five series.

And also, I should say that this is kind of an ongoing process. The voting will be open for about a week. We tend to leave the voting open until so many votes come in that I can't deal with it anymore. But the tabulating and accounting and the deciding will go on all summer. So the final list will probably come out sometime in mid-August.

MCCAMMON: Just in time for everyone to be really - I don't want to say tired of the kids being home for the summer but maybe a little tired of it and looking for some new ideas.

MAYER: Well, hopefully we can help a little.

MCCAMMON: That's NPR Books editor Petra Mayer.

Thanks so much for joining us.

MAYER: My pleasure.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Petra Mayer (she/her) is an editor (and the resident nerd) at NPR Books, focusing on fiction, and particularly genre fiction. She brings to the job passion, speed-reading skills, and a truly impressive collection of Doctor Who doodads. You can also hear her on the air and on the occasional episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour.