Weslandia by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
It’s probably a mistake to read this book in mid-August, because it will make your kid feel like they’ve been squandering their summer. No matter. Read it anyway, it’s worth it.
Weslandia is about a smart boy named Wes who is shunned in his town of follow-any-leader conformists, much to the embarrassment of his parents. Wes learns about civilizations during the last week of school, and decides to create his own civilization as a summer project. He is helped along by a breeze that brings some strange seeds, which he grows in his backyard, and which become giant mysterious plants. He eats the fruit, drinks the juice, weaves clothes from the leaves and stalks, makes ink, creates a whole new language, and convinces the neighborhood kids that they should help him, and also buy his fruit-derived sunscreen/bug repellant at a high price.
The glorious illustrations by Maine’s own Kevin Hawkes make this one that the kids love, and I like the not-so-subtle message about following your own path so you can stick it to your former tormenters. Henry especially is right on with the idea of creating an entire civilization based on one boy.