Middle school summer reading titles
Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina 355 p.
Merci Suarez knew that sixth grade would be different, but she had no idea just how different. For starters, Merci has never been like the other kids at her private school in Florida, because she and her older brother, Roli, are scholarship students. They don’t have a big house or a fancy boat, and they have to do extra community service to make up for their free tuition. So when bossy Edna Santos sets her sights on the new boy who happens to be Merci’s school-assigned Sunshine Buddy, Merci becomes the target of Edna’s jealousy. Things aren’t going well at home, either: Merci’s grandfather and most trusted ally, Lolo, has been acting strangely lately — forgetting important things, falling from his bike, and getting angry over nothing. No one in her family will tell Merci what’s going on, so she’s left to her own worries, while also feeling all on her own at school.
Property of the Rebel Librarian by Allison Varnes 275 p.
June Harper is a good kid. She follows the rules, plays flute in advanced band, and spends her spare time reading. Nobody would ever call her a rebel . . . until her parents take strict parenting to a whole new level.
It starts with one book deemed “inappropriate” by June’s parents. What follows is a massive book ban at Dogwood Middle School, and suddenly everything June loves–the librarian, books, an author visit–is gone. All seems hopeless. Then June discovers a Little Free Library on her walk to school. When her classmates realize she has access to contraband, she becomes the (secret) most popular girl in school. A risky reading movement begins at Dogwood, which could destroy June–or gain enough power to protect the one thing she cares most about: the freedom to read!
Equal parts fun and empowering, this novel explores censorship, freedom of speech, and activism. For any kid who doesn’t believe one person can effect change…and for all the kids who already know they can!
Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt 217 p.
Carter Jones is astonished early one morning when he finds a real English butler, bowler hat and all, on the doorstep–one who stays to help the Jones family, which is a little bit broken. In addition to figuring out middle school, Carter has to adjust to the unwelcome presence of this new know-it-all adult in his life and navigate the butler’s notions of decorum. And ultimately, when his burden of grief and anger from the past can no longer be ignored, Carter learns that a burden becomes lighter when it is shared. Sparkling with humor, this insightful and compassionate story will resonate with readers who have confronted secrets of their own.
Sweep: the story of a girl and her monster by Jonathan Auxier 344 p.
A chimney sweep disappears from a London rooftop, leaving six-year-old Nan Sparrow alone, save for a hat and a lump of mysteriously ever-warm charcoal-her char. To survive, Nan joins a gang of “climbing boys” owned by the abusive Wilkie Crudd. By age 11, she is the finest sweep of them all, but following a brutal chimney fire, she discovers that her char has become a golem, which she names Charlie, and that he has saved her life. As the two hide from Crudd, Nan grows to love Charlie and his particular brand of magic, and she learns that golems are, by nature, ephemeral: if Charlie can flame up, he can almost certainly flame out. A cast of fully fleshed (and sooted) characters contribute texture and community, and Auxier mixes moments of triumph and pure delight with dark, Dickensian themes (child labor, sickness, poverty). Told in two allusive sections-“Innocence” and “Experience,” after Blake’s volume-that pivot between Nan’s past and present, this dazzling, warmhearted novel contemplates selflessness and saving, deep love and what makes a monster.
Rebound by Kwame Alexander
Very popular prequel to: The crossover, winner of the Newbery award. In the summer of 1988, twelve-year-old Chuck Bell is sent to stay with his grandparents, where he discovers jazz and basketball and learns more about his family’s past. Written in free verse.
Front Desk by Kelly Yang 286 p.
Recent immigrants from China and desperate for work and money, ten-year-old Mia Tang’s parents take a job managing a rundown motel in Southern California, even though the owner, Mr. Yao is a nasty skinflint who exploits them; while her mother (who was an engineer in China) does the cleaning, Mia works the front desk and tries to cope with demanding customers and other recent immigrants–not to mention being only one of two Chinese in her fifth grade class, the other being Mr. Yao’s son, Jason.
Lifeboat 12 by Susan Hood 314 p.
In the tradition of The War That Saved My Life and Stella By Starlight, this poignant novel in verse based on true events tells the story of a boy’s harrowing experience on a lifeboat after surviving a torpedo attack during World War II.
With Nazis bombing London every night, it’s time for thirteen-year-old Ken to escape. He suspects his stepmother is glad to see him go, but his dad says he’s one of the lucky ones–one of ninety boys and girls to ship out aboard the SS City of Benares to safety in Canada.
Life aboard the luxury ship is grand–nine-course meals, new friends, and a life far from the bombs, rations, and his stepmum’s glare. And after five days at sea, the ship’s officers announce that they’re out of danger. They’re wrong. Late that night, an explosion hurls Ken from his bunk. They’ve been hit. Torpedoed! The Benares is sinking fast. Terrified, Ken scrambles aboard Lifeboat 12 with five other boys. Will they get away? Will they survive?
Award-winning author Susan Hood brings this little-known World War II story to life in a riveting novel of courage, hope, and compassion. Based on true events and real people, Lifeboat 12 is about believing in one another, knowing that only by banding together will we have any chance to survive.
Until Tomorrow, Mr. Marsworth by Sheila O’Connor 348 p.
Set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, one young girl is determined to save her brother from the draft–and gets help from an unlikely source–in this middle-grade tale, perfect for fans of The Wednesday Wars. When eleven-year-old Reenie Kelly’s mother passes away, she and her brothers are shipped off to live with their grandmother. Adjusting to life in her parents’ Midwestern hometown isn’t easy, but once Reenie takes up a paper route with her older brother Dare, she has something she can look forward to. As they introduce themselves to every home on their route, Reenie’s stumped by just one–the house belonging to Mr. Marsworth, the town recluse. When he doesn’t answer his doorbell, Reenie begins to leave him letters. Slowly, the two become pen pals, striking up the most unlikely of friendships.
Through their letters, Reenie tells of her older brother Billy, who might enlist to fight in the Vietnam War. Reenie is desperate to stop him, and when Mr. Marsworth hears this, he knows he can’t stand idly by. As a staunch pacifist, Mr. Marsworth offers to help Reenie. Together, they concoct a plan to keep Billy home, though Reenie doesn’t know Mr. Marsworth’s dedication to her cause goes far beyond his antiwar beliefs.
In this heartwarming piece of historical fiction, critically acclaimed author Sheila O’Connor delivers a tale of devotion, sacrifice, and family.
Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo 227 p.
When Louisiana Elefante’s granny wakes her up in the middle of the night to tell her that the day of reckoning has arrived and they have to leave home immediately, Louisiana isn’t overly worried. After all, Granny has many middle-of-the-night ideas. But this time, things are different. This time, Granny intends for them never to return. Separated from her best friends, Raymie and Beverly, Louisiana struggles to oppose the winds of fate (and Granny) and find a way home. But as Louisiana’s life becomes entwined with the lives of the people of a small Georgia town — including a surly motel owner, a walrus-like minister, and a mysterious boy with a crow on his shoulder — she starts to worry that she is destined only for good-byes. (Which could be due to the curse on Louisiana’s and Granny’s heads. But that is a story for another time.) Sequel to Raymie Nightingale.
Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani 264 p.
It’s 1947, and India, newly independent of British rule, has been separated into two countries: Pakistan and India. The divide has created much tension between Hindus and Muslims, and hundreds of thousands are killed crossing borders.
Half-Muslim, half-Hindu twelve-year-old Nisha doesn’t know where she belongs, or what her country is anymore. When Papa decides it’s too dangerous to stay in what is now Pakistan, Nisha and her family become refugees and embark first by train but later on foot to reach her new home. The journey is long, difficult, and dangerous, and after losing her mother as a baby, Nisha can’t imagine losing her homeland, too. But even if her country has been ripped apart, Nisha still believes in the possibility of putting herself back together.
Told through Nisha’s letters to her mother, The Night Diary is a heartfelt story of one girl’s search for home, for her own identity…and for a hopeful future. 2019 Newbery Honor.
To Night Owl from Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolizter 295 p.
Two popular writers team up for a Where’d You Go, Bernadette–esque tale for the middle-school set. An entire country lies between anxious New Yorker Avery Bloom and adventurous Bett Devlin, but there’s something powerful connecting them: their dads are in love. At first horrified at the prospect of becoming—gulp—sisters, the two surprise themselves by bonding at a summer sleepaway camp while their dads motorcycle their way across China. But when their dads’ relationship sours, they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get them back together. Even if the target readership eschews email these days, they’ll be hard-pressed not to be laughing out loud at the witty, clever email and letter repartee among the girls, their dads, and the rest of the supporting cast. Though the story lacks the emotional depth of more true-to-life novels dealing with blended families, such as Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrey Vernick’s Naomis Too (2018), its escalating stakes and Parent Trap–like setup is sure to appeal to both authors’ fan bases. Alternately heartwarming and hilarious.
Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka
In kindergarten, Jarrett Krosoczka’s teacher asks him to draw his family, with a mommy and a daddy. But Jarrett’s family is much more complicated than that. His mom is an addict, in and out of rehab, and in and out of Jarrett’s life. His father is a mystery — Jarrett doesn’t know where to find him, or even what his name is. Jarrett lives with his grandparents — two very loud, very loving, very opinionated people who had thought they were through with raising children until Jarrett came along.
Jarrett goes through his childhood trying to make his non-normal life as normal as possible, finding a way to express himself through drawing even as so little is being said to him about what’s going on. Only as a teenager can Jarrett begin to piece together the truth of his family, reckoning with his mother and tracking down his father.
Hey, Kiddo is a profoundly important memoir about growing up in a family grappling with addiction, and finding the art that helps you survive.
Estranged by Ethan M. Aldridge 208 p.
In the World Below, the fay king and queen have stolen a human, named Childe, from the World Above and replaced him with a changeling. When the evil Hawthorne takes over the kingdom, Childe has to get out before he’s killed. Along with his golem, Whick, Childe escapes to the World Above to find Edmund, the fay living with his family. Things take a turn for the worse when Hawthorne sends a terrifying group of soldiers to kill Edmund, and in the ensuing fight, Edmund’s sister, Alexis, finds herself caught up in the drama. Together, the four journey back into the World Below to face off against Hawthorne and her otherworldly army. Aldridge’s lavish, fine-lined, painterly artwork makes great work of the fantasy creatures (though there’s barely any variety in body shape and skin tone), and the detailed backgrounds, both above and below, cultivate a rich sense of place that will be sure to capture the imaginations of readers. The deliciously captivating start to this adventure series will leave readers hungry for more.
Illegal by Eoin Colfer 122 p.
Ebo is alone.His brother, Kwame, has disappeared, and Ebo knows it can only be to attempt the hazardous journey to Europe, and a better life–the same journey their sister set out on months ago.
But Ebo refuses to be left behind in Ghana. He sets out after Kwame and joins him on the quest to reach Europe. Ebo’s epic journey takes him across the Sahara Desert to the dangerous streets of Tripoli, and finally out to the merciless sea. But with every step he holds on to his hope for a new life, and a reunion with his family.
New Kid by Jerry Craft 249 p.
Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade.
As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds–and not really fitting into either one. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighborhood friends and staying true to himself?
Code Girls: The True Story of the American Women Who Secretly Broke Codes in World War II (Young Readers Edition) by Liza Mundy 320 p.
More than ten thousand women served as codebreakers during World War II, recruited by the U.S. Army and Navy. While their brothers and boyfriends took up arms, these women moved to the nation’s capital to learn the top secret art of code breaking.
Through their work, the “code girls” helped save countless lives and were vital in ending the war. But due to the top secret nature of their accomplishments, these women have never been able to talk about their story–until now.
Through dazzling research and countless interviews with the surviving code girls, Liza Mundy brings their story to life with zeal, grace, and passion. Abridged and adapted for a middle grade audience, Code Girls brings this important story to young readers for the first time, showcasing this vital tale of American courage, service, and scientific accomplishment.
Roses and Radicals: The Epic Story of How American Women Won the Right to Vote by Susan Zimet 160 p.
“Women’s rights are human rights.” The words are relevant today, but they could just as easily have been used by Elizabeth Cady Stanton at Seneca Falls in 1848. Or Susan B. Anthony when she was arrested for voting in 1872. Or Alice Paul when she was imprisoned and tortured for peacefully protesting outside of the White House in 1917.
The story of women’s suffrage is epic. For over 70 years, heroic women risked their lives for the cause knowing they likely wouldn’t live to cast a vote. At a time when sexism was inherent in daily life, these women (and a few men) created a movement and fought for it passionately until the vote on the 19th amendment was finally called in 1920. It passed by a single vote. This under-explored history resonates now more than ever, and will remind readers that ordinary citizens and peaceful protest can affect lasting change in this country.
The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science by Joyce Sidman 120 p.
Explores the extraordinary life and scientific discoveries of Maria Merian, who discovered the truth about metamorphosis and documented the science behind the mystery in this visual biography that features many original paintings by Maria herself.
The Faithful Spy by John Hendrix 175 p.
Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party is gaining strength and becoming more menacing every day. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor upset by the complacency of the German church toward the suffering around it, forms a breakaway church to speak out against the established political and religious authorities. When the Nazis outlaw the church, he escapes as a fugitive. Struggling to reconcile his faith and the teachings of the Bible with the Nazi Party’s evil agenda, Bonhoeffer decides that Hitler must be stopped by any means possible!
In his signature style of interwoven handwritten text and art, John Hendrix tells the true story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor who makes the ultimate sacrifice in order to free the German people from oppression during World War II.
Dog days of history : the incredible story of our best friends by Sarah Albee 111 p.
What is it we love about dogs so much? From ancient times to the present, dogs have guarded us, worked with us, marched off to war with us, and of course, just sat on the couch with us for a cuddle. Throughout the course of human history, this partnership deepened from dogs doing a service into friendship. Dogs have been by our side through it all, and this book tracks our common story from wild wolves in ancient civilizations to modern-day breeds, highlighting famous pooches of the past and present along the way. You’ll chuckle through the ages as you catch up with the wonders of man’s best friend.
Eleanor Roosevelt : fighter for justice : her impact on the civil rights movement, the White House, and the world by Ilene Cooper 184 p.
Eleanor Roosevelt, Fighter for Justice shows young readers how the former First Lady evolved from a poor little rich girl to a protector and advocate for those without a voice. Though now seen as a cultural icon, she was a woman deeply insecure about her looks and her role in the world.
But by recognizing her fears and constantly striving to overcome her prejudices, she used her proximity to presidents and her own power to aid in the fight for Civil Rights and other important causes. This biography gives readers a fresh perspective on her extraordinary life. It includes a timeline, biography, index, and many historic photographs.
In Harm’s Way : JFK, World War II and the heroic rescue of PT 109 by Iain Martin 255 p.
In September 1941, young Jack Kennedy was appointed an Ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve. After completing training and eager to serve, he volunteered for combat duty in the Pacific and was appointed commander of PT 109.
On August 2, 1943, Kennedy’s PT 109 and two others were on a night mission to ambush an enemy supply convoy when they were surprised by a massive Japanese destroyer. The unsuspecting Americans had only seconds to react as the Japanese captain turned his ship to ram directly into Kennedy’s. PT 109 was cut in half by the collision, killing two of Kennedy’s 12 crewmen and wounding several others in the explosion.
In Harm’s Way tells the gripping story of what happened next as JFK fought to save his surviving crew members who found themselves adrift in enemy waters. Photographs round out the exciting narrative in the first book to cover this adventurous tale for young readers.
Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton
A childhood favorite and summer staple, the Super Soaker was invented entirely by accident. Trying to create a new cooling system for rockets, inventor Lonnie Johnson instead created the mechanics for an iconic toy.
Lonnie Johnson’s life began alongside a whole mess of brothers and sisters and grew to include a love for rockets, robots, inventions, and creativity. With persistence and a passion for problem solving, he became an engineer and worked for NASA. But it is his invention of the Super Soaker water gun that has made his most memorable splash with kids and adults.
Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini
A short, powerful, illustrated book written by beloved novelist Khaled Hosseini in response to the current refugee crisis, Sea Prayer is composed in the form of a letter, from a father to his son, on the eve of their journey. Watching over his sleeping son, the father reflects on the dangerous sea-crossing that lies before them. It is also a vivid portrait of their life in Homs, Syria, before the war, and of that city’s swift transformation from a home into a deadly war zone.
One Fun Day with Lewis Carroll: A celebration of wordplay and a girl named Alice by Kathleen Krull
The wordsmith Lewis Carroll is famed for the freewheeling world of Wonderland in his beloved classics Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. In this gloriously illustrated picture book, Carroll’s childlike love of life is showcased alongside his brilliance at creating and adapting playful words and phrases. Frombrilliganduglificationtofrumiousandchortle, the award-winning author Kathleen Krull uses many of Carroll’s own words to tell the story of a man who wanted to make children laugh and whose legacy continues to entertain and delight.
Drawn Together by Minh Le
When a young Asian American boy visits his Thai-speaking grandfather, despite granddad’s best efforts—a hot dog for dinner, control of the TV remote—the language barrier and the generational divide seem insurmountable. Until, that is, the boy brings out his paper and markers and they’re matched by his grandfather’s sketchbook and paintbrush.
Together, they’re drawn into a vibrant world of boy wizards and mythical Thai warriors, and “all the things we could never say come pouring out.” They discover each other in imaginary battle against a fearsome dragon, before the end of the evening heralds a new beginning for them both. Lê’s poignant and deeply meaningful tale is rocketed into the stratosphere by Santat’s dynamic and playful visuals, imaginatively conceived and action-packed even as they potently evoke the culture they’re drawn from.