Mama Reads, Baby Reads.

In the spirit of last week’s column, I thought it would be fun to share my top six summer reading picks for both mama and baby!


1. The Hunger Games

I feel like I recommend this book to anyone and everyone I meet (the other day I found myself giving an uninvited recommendation to the cashier at Circle K. Don’t ask), but it’s for good reason- it’s a GOOD book.  Technically The Hunger Games trilogy is a young adult series, but I’ve found that all ages really get into it in a Harry Potter/Twilight kind of way. I cringe putting Twilight into the same category as H.P. and H.G. but for the sake of making the popular connection I’ll leave it.

To give you some background without giving too much away, the book is basically set in a future-Dystopia, fraught with violence and control by the oppressive Society. The plot includes love, loss, tragedy, hope- basically every component you could possibly want in a book, but it’s written in such a way that it’s incredibly appealing at each of those levels. It’s one of those novels that you absolutely cannot put down, and I promise that if you give it a try, you’ll like it, and probably love the next two books as well. I’ve gotten everyone from my Mom to my 15-year old students reading it (and MAYBE the cashier at Circle K, too).


2. Bossypants

Tina Fey is funny. We know this. And her book is funny. Now you know this. But really, it’s really, really funny. Like legitimately making me laugh-out-loud, not wanting to go to sleep because I have-to, want-to, need-to finish just one more chapter.  It’s one of those books you feel slightly awkward reading in a public place because you keep doing that creepy reading giggle with every other page turn. You know what I mean, I’m sure. It’s when you’re sitting somewhere alone, reading (say the airport), and something is just so funny you laugh out loud, then realize you’re alone, sitting there, laughing out loud, so you then try to stifle the laugh…and you just end up looking really bizarre and slightly maniacal as the dude in the corner, alone, trying not to laugh out loud. Thanks Tina. But anyway. The memoir starts at her childhood and brings you all the way through her adolescence to her days doing comedy- it’s an amazing peek at an amazingly funny woman’s life. Simply put: if you like to laugh, read this book.


3. Valley of the Dolls

When I think about summer reading, the first thing that comes to mind is a fun, carefree novel I can read while floating around in a blue, blue pool, sipping a drink with an umbrella and wearing a huge sunhat, while a pool boy named Javier fetches my towel. Valley of the Dolls is so one of those books. Some would consider this novel to be more on the “trashy” side, but I consider it a classic. The Great Gatsby, The Scarlet Letter, Valley of the Dolls. You know. And if anyone says a word about this book not being in the literary canon, tell them that a very esteemed, former English teacher said so (ahem, me). But really, Valley of the Dolls is so enjoyable. It’s like a glass of cold lemonade on a hot day, a touch of excitement in the otherwise bland abyss of summer reading choices. Written in 1966 but set beginning in 1940s NYC, it tells the story of three young women who achieve immense success, and eventual destruction. The entire novel is riveting- a total page turner and full of drama. I might even say that it’s the perfect summer book.


4. Caps for Sale

This is one of my favorite children’s books of all time. It was originally published in 1938 but I think it’s just as cool today.  Caps for Sale is about a hat-peddling man who falls asleep with all of his hats piled on his head, and wakes up to find some monkeys have caused a bit of mischief involving those caps. I’d like to think that Henry has impeccable taste for a 7-month old and legitimately loves this book for it’s awesome illustrations and vintage quality, but I think he’s just fascinated by the monkeys and the repetitive language in the story-telling. Either way, it’s a great book for the little ones (and adults too). A must-have for any children’s library.


5. Star Wars ABCs

Okay. Just so you guys know for future reference, I married a Star Wars nerd. Not nerdy to the extent of dressing up at Comic Con every year, but sometimes I feel like we could be getting close to that. I mean, the man likes to always have his pillow adorned with one of his many vintage Star Wars cases, and has been known to think soda tastes better out of his Darth Vader mug. But hey, I find it incredibly adorable, and although I’m not necessarily a Star Wars fan (okay, I’ve never actually seen any of them in their entirety), I do think it’s pretty neat from what I have seen. Maybe one day I’ll give in and spend a weekend watching all of them, but until then this Star Wars ABC book is enough for me. It’s graphic, it’s big, it’s a board book…basically all things wonderful in the world of baby lit, and Henry loves it.


6. Miss Nelson is Missing!

This book is another one of my favorites growing up, and Henry and I have been enjoying it a couple times a week.  I like this book for a few reasons- one, I absolutely love the illustrations. Two, I think the story is completely entertaining and even now I find a very magical quality within its pages. And three, I love how the author sneaks in a little moral lesson about good behavior without being overly preachy or obvious.  The book takes you on a fun ride through a sweet teacher’s journey to “tame” the worst class in the world, and the story ends up surprising most kids in the end. It’s a fun book that holds a huge spot in my own childhood library, and it makes me happy to pass it down to Henry.  And for those who have indeed read it, how amazing is the name “Viola Swamp?” I kind of want to get a crabby little Yorkie and bestow that fabulous name on her. I love it.


Happy reading!

images via


Danielle Hampton is a high school English teacher turned stay-at-home Mom, living the small town life in Arizona. She blogs daily at Sometimes Sweet and tweets too much via @danihampton.

  • Cassie Bergman

    I am 100% with you on Hunger Games. I have recommended it to numerous people from my brother (who loved it) to random strangers in check-out lines. Also thanks for the list, I have now added Bossypants and Valley of the Dolls to my summer reading list :)

    • Danielle Hampton

      Yes! I hope you like them!

  • Jennifer Usalis Randall

    Great suggestions!
    Caps for Sale and Miss Nelson were favorites when I was little! My dad probably still knows those by heart-he always did funny voices for the cap salesman and Viola Swamp. SO glad to see them still around(though sadly, my beloved Morris Has a Cold is rare and out of print).
    Valley of the Dolls is perfect escapist summer fun-as is Susann’s follow up(but not a sequel), The Love Machine.
    I still have to begin Hunger Games trilogy, and there’s a huge wait for Bossypants at the library but I am on the list.
    Another book that will make you giggle in public places is Simon Pegg’s Nerd Do Well, an autobio. For giggly fiction, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens will get you stared at. I recommended it to my husband and he’s been having gigglefits in bed every night reading it.

    • Danielle Hampton

      Jennifer thank you so, so much for the recommendations! I just added them to my must-read list! Awesome.

  • Carrie Prytz Koehmstedt

    I LOVE Hunger Games it’s definitely a must read for everyone! I want to read Tina Fey’s new book… just have to get my hands on one.

    • Danielle Hampton

      You must! I know you’ll love it. Creepy reading giggle here you come!

  • Yadzombie Tapia

    I’ve told so many of my friends to read Hunger Games and I haven’t heard any of them complain, in fact they all come back to me questioning why they hadn’t read it earlier. Love love love!

    • Danielle Hampton

      Exactly! Are you excited for the movie?

  • Becca Dickson

    I kid you not, we started a twenty-something book club (Are book clubs still cool? We don’t care.) at my work a few weeks ago, and we are reading “Bossypants!” We read a chapter each week and discuss it every Wednesday at our lunches. So far we are at chapter 3 and I can’t help but read a little ahead … it’s so funny!

    • Danielle Hampton

      Book clubs are DEFINITELY still cool. And now I think you are beyond cool. Can I join your book club? 😉

  • Shawna Parker

    I LOVED Miss Nelson Is Missing when I was younger… thanks for the reminder, I think I’m going to have to track that one down and buy it.

    • Danielle Hampton

      It’s amazing! I am going to be posting a whole post about vintage books on my blog this week or next so keep your eyes out! You may see some old favorites :)

  • Duda Capucci

    Great suggestions!
    I haven’t read any of those, but I’ll sure look them up closely now.
    Great post!

    • Danielle Hampton

      Oh Duda that makes me happy- let me know what you think!

  • Valerie Yvonne Huerta

    Hearted Bossypants so much! Also Caps for Sale & Miss Nelson is Missing! Great suggestions! Will most definitely be reading your other suggestions. (:

    • Danielle Hampton

      Yess! Let me know what you think <3.

  • mandy ellis

    I finished the Hunger Games trilogy a couple of months ago and recommend it to EVERYONE! I’m an elementary teacher, so I’m definitely in love with the children’s books you listed!

    • Danielle Hampton

      Oh I’m so glad I have the elem. teacher approval! 😀

  • Erin Carriker

    haha! Dani you’re so cute! I could so see you recommending a book at Circle K…such a teacher at heart :) I read the Star Wars ABC’s to Noah and Logan and my students every year…the boys go nuts over it! And Ms. Nelson is Missing, how can you go wrong? 😉

    • Danielle Hampton

      I wish Henry could have you as a teacher. Maybe one day, when we’re neighbors!

  • Kate Springer

    Ahh! You are always reminding me of my favorite childhood books! I need to find some kid so I can read them to them! I definitely have to check out those three novels too. I’ve heard so much about the Hunger Games! I’m in desperate need of some “can’t-put-em-down” books!

    • Danielle Hampton

      Please let me know what you think once you read it! 😀

  • Laura Mayaneli Brown

    I don’t know about you, but I’m way excited to read Bossypants! Ever since my mother got a kindle for mothers day, i’ve been so consumed in reading that I haven’t even payed attention to reality.. but anyways! i’ve been planning on reading the Hunger Games. My little brother has been getting into the Percy Jackson series, and I’m reading Julie & Julia by Julie Powell, and then go onto On the Road by Jack Kerouac. Thanks for the suggestions :)

    • Danielle Hampton

      Oh great choices! I absolutely loved Julie and Julia, and enjoyed the movie too!

  • Caitlin Fitzgibbons

    OMG Danielle, I always feared growing up that someone was going to steal my really cool teacher who wore high heels and replace her with Viola Swamp. EEEK! Love these reads esp Hunger Games and Caps 4 $ale.

    • Danielle Hampton

      haha, I felt the same way! I grew up in a small town so we always had the same subs, and there was this one named Mrs. Beauchamp that we always called Ms. Swamp behind her back!

  • Mallory McFall

    ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ < that is how I feel about the Hunger Games! I am seriously in love with Peeta and if I had to marry any fictional character it would be him…and that is beating out Oliver Wood AND Ron Weasley. But I'm not too excited about the movies… the Hunger Games seems too violent to put into a movie. And the actors they cast don't seem that great to me but we'll wait and see!

    • Danielle Hampton

      Oh I agree…I am so curious to see how the book translates. Especially the last one! It’s so insanely violent. We shall seeeee!

  • Melissa Payette

    I reallyyyy loved Hunger Games. I work in a bookstore and hand-sell a dozen a week, if not more! If you liked it Danielle, you should check out a new series, the first book is called Divergent by Veronica Roth and I read it faster than HG. It’s gonna be huge!!

    • Danielle Hampton

      Melissa- you are the second person to recommend those books to me! I will absolutely check them out this weekend. Thanks! :)

  • Ashley Maffioli

    i got both bossypants and hunger games for my bday a few weeks ago. loving bossypants and can’t wait to start hunger games.

  • Pammy Smith Strassburg

    Ahh I completely 100% know exactly what you mean about Bossypants! For the most part, I read it while commuting to and from work on the metro, and I swear every one was making crazy eyes at me because of all my suppressed laughter, snorting and all! I might have to add some of these others to my list :) Thanks!

  • Katie Schultz

    Hunger Games is a great book! I really enjoyed that entire trilogy… and my mom used to read me Caps For Sale when I was little!

  • Diana La Counte

    Awww, I bought the Star Wars ABC’s for Scott last Christmas. It’s too cute!

  • Lauren Kinney

    Oh wow, I completely forgot about “Miss Nelson is missing!” by far one of my favorite books as a child. I want to go to the library and check out so many children’s books I used to read. Maybe I’ll pretend their for my kids that I don’t actually have so the librarians wont look at me weird :).

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