Parades of red, white and blue are listed in the calendar pages for every area community, and this year there is more to July.
Helen DeVos Children's Hospital is the beneficiary of GR8BITLive at DeVos Place. Video game music, live performances and Super Smash Brothers Tournament highlight July 11.
Windmill Island in Holland marks its 50th anniversary July 12 but celebrations and activities will continue through August.
Get down for the National Baby Food Festival July 15-18 in Fremont, home of Gerber Baby Foods, highlighted by the baby crawl contest.
The American Quilter's Society Show is back Aug. 12-15, featuring workshops, vendors and hundreds of quilts on display.
Another August treat is the annual Restaurant Week, giving families dozens of options for eating out at reasonable prices. It takes place Aug. 12-23.
Get on the horn: Aug. 15 and16 is the GRandJazzFest at Rosa Parks Circle downtown. It features an incredible array of local and national musicians celebrating an American art form.
West Michigan Flight Academy is sponsoring two summer camp opportunities this summer: "Rockets & Wings" is open to 4th-7th-graders interested in the physics of rocket and airplane flight. "Youth Pilot Camp" is open to 6th-11th-graders interested in flying. Camps will operate out of two airports: Riverview in Jenison and Plainwell Airport. See westmiflightacademy.org.
Summer travelers should take a look at the Lake Michigan Lighthouse Map & Circle Tour Map, a free source to discover lighthouses dotting the Lake Michigan shoreline. The map includes information featuring the entire 1,100-mile Lake Michigan Circle Tour route, including four states and more than 100 lighthouses around Lake Michigan and the Straits of Mackinac. Maps are available online at wmta.org or by calling (616) 245-2217.
Brain games and new aquarium acts
If family vacation routes through Chicago this summer, both the Museum of Science & Industry and Shedd Aquarium offer unique reasons to visit.
The Museum of Science and Industry offers a free, online Summer Brain Games program and registration is open throughout the summer. The eight-week space-themed program aims to keep kids engaged, learning about astronauts, astronomy and other space science and engineering concepts. Every Summer Brain Games registrant receives a voucher good for a free museum entry this summer. See msichicago.org/programs/summer-brain-games.
Shedd Aquarium staff created a special exhibit of amphibians of all types, including salamanders, frogs and rarely seen caecilians. The exhibit teaches children how these animals' lives are defined by big physical changes as they morph from egg to adult, water to land, and season to season. See sheddaquarium.org.
Summer Reads By Tammy Schneider
Summer reads for kids of all ages
Books open the door to unique summer adventures. Grand Rapids Family Magazine requested an assist from the Kent District Library system staffers, who were ready with a full list of new books waiting to be discovered. The libraries also offer an amazing array of programs, DVDs and CDs and hundreds of book and e-book choices in addition to this "starter" list.
Kids of all ages love picture books, and some favorite authors have released fantastic ones just in time for summer reading.
Those who loved Caldecott-winning "The Lion & the Mouse" will be head-over-heels with Jerry Pinkney's companion book, "The Grasshopper & the Ants." Some universally loved characters will make a triumphant return this summer, like Nancy Shaw's woolly heroes in "Sheep Go to Sleep," and everyone's favorite feline in James Dean's "Pete the Cat's Groovy Guide to Life."
Book lovers are the focus in "Look!" by Jeff Mack, and "Where Are My Books?"by newcomer Debbie Ridpath Ohi.
Boys especially may want to read "Bulldozer's Big Day" by Candace Fleming, "Troto and the Trucks" by Uri Shulevitz, or "My Bike" by Byron Barton.
Funny books are always popular, so youngsters who like their funny bones tickled should check out "Never Ask a Dinosaur to Dinner" by Gareth Edwards, or "Your Baby's First Word Will Be Dada" by celebrity author Jimmy Fallon.
Books for middle readers
Some of our favorite authors are releasing books for middle readers.
Jane Yolen's "Trash Mountain" will satisfy lovers of animal fantasy, while fans of fantastical creatures will want to check out"Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures" by Maggie Stiefvater and Jackson Pearce.
Elementary-age readers also love books in a series, and some of the most popular have new editions coming out this summer. Girls will be clamoring for the latest installment of the Dork Diaries series, "Tales from a Not-So-Dorky Drama Queen" by Rachel Renee Russell, or the newest in Sarah Mlynowski's Whatever After series, "Beauty Queen."
Boys may prefer Tom Angleberger's "The Rat with the Human Face" from the Quikpick Papers series, or comedian Dave Barry's hilarious "The Worst Class Trip Ever."
Those who crave a little mystery will want to read "Theodore Boone: The Fugitive" by John Grisham or "Evil Spy School" from Stuart Gibbs' Spy School series.
Books for teens
There are so many highly anticipated titles for teens this summer!
Kiera Cass' wildly popular Selection series will continue with "The Heir,"and fans of the eternally popular chick-lit author Sarah Dessen will not be disappointed in her latest effort, "Saint Anything."
Dystopian fiction is still going strong, and there are two titles we are particularly excited about. Debut author Sabaa Tahir wows with "An Ember in the Ashes," which has already been optioned by Paramount Studios. Veteran author Michael Buckley introduces his readers to his creepy take on a post-sea creature-invasion Coney Island in "Undertow," the first in a new series.
Finally, all good things must come to an end, and James Patterson's Maximum Ride series is no exception."Maximum Ride Forever" is the last in this long-running series.
Need more great recommendations for kids, 'tweens and teens? Check us out at kdl.org
Tammy Schneider is collection development librarian for Kent District Library.