Kids book club: – The Washington Post


The Secret Battle of Evan Pao

Ever since he had a baseball coach who tried to hide how much he wanted his team to win, Evan Pao has had a sense for when people aren’t quite telling the truth.

The 12-year-old has just moved with his mother and sister from California to the town of Haddington, Virginia, and he can tell if what people say matches what they’re feeling. It’s a useful skill when you’re coming into sixth grade near the end of the school year and don’t know anybody.

Evan has a lot to figure out, including a mystery concerning his father, but it’s his fellow students who take up most of his attention. He also tries to persuade his mother to get the family a dog.

With the help of his mother’s brother (who has lived in Haddington for eight years), a friendly boy named Max (who has lived there his whole life) and a dog who seems to have no home, Evan slowly gets used to his new town. Through computer searches at the local library, he even finds a meaningful way to take part in his school’s Battlefield Day, which commemorates the Civil War, as well as his town’s discussion of the Confederate statue erected there more than a century ago.

Click here to join the Summer Book Club

As the only Asian American in his school, Evan brings out curiosity in some people and hostility in others. He hadn’t faced any of that in his old school. And when a classmate admits to shooting a bullet at his house, Evan, his mother, and his 15-year-old sister are shocked and upset. They wonder why the police aren’t taking the incident more seriously. Although Evan can sense when someone is lying, it’s hard for him to see what the full truth is or why his classmate is acting like a bully.

Wendy Wan-Long Shang presents the book’s chapters from a variety of viewpoints, but Evan is central to the fast-paced story. He is thoughtful and likable, and his ability to see through insincerity will have you thinking about your own instincts. As eventful as “The Secret Battle of Evan Pao” is, it’s also a good reminder that everyone has inner battles that we can’t see or easily understand.

“The Great Wall of Lucy Wu” (ages 8 to 12), Wendy Wan-Long Shang’s first novel features another sixth-grader who must deal with surprising challenges.

In Melissa Dassori’s “J.R. Silver Writes Her World” (ages 8 to 12), a sixth-grade girl discovers she has a magical power when the short stories she writes come true.

KidsPost reader Edith Dawson of Mount Vernon, Iowa, recommends “On My Honor” (ages 9 to 12) by Marion Dane Bauer. It’s a Newbery Honor-winning story about a tragedy that happens when two friends swim in a dangerous river. “It uses realistic characters with relatable struggles to teach kids that it is their duty to tell the truth and that they must move on from the guilt of mistakes that aren’t entirely their fault.”

In the kingdom of Mangkon, 12-year-old Sai is trying to make it on her own. Her mother died years ago, and her father survives by criminal deeds that sometimes get him put in jail. Sai has worked on her penmanship and blending in with regular society, and she has been lucky to get a job helping the kingdom’s preeminent mapmaker. When the opportunity arrives to escape her father’s shady schemes, Sai goes on a great voyage of exploration. Once onboard, she will have to figure out whom to trust and the truth of what’s beyond the known world.

The Summer Book Club is open to kids ages 6 to 14. They may read some or all of the books on our list. (Find a blurb for each book at launch2022.) The first 600 kids registered will receive a notebook and pen. To join the club, children must be registered by a parent or guardian by August 8. To register, that adult must fill out our form at If you have questions, contact [email protected].

Do you have a suggestion?

The 2022 KidsPost Summer Book Club has the theme “Speaking Truth,” and we would like to know your favorite books that relate to the theme. Kids ages 6 to 14 are eligible to participate; one entry per person. Have a parent or guardian fill out the top part of the form at and then share your suggestions by Thursday. We may include your favorites in KidsPost. At the end of the summer, we will send a selection of books to three randomly selected kids who sent in suggestions. Winners will be notified by August 30.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *