Summer Reading List for Middle Schoolers

Oprn Drdsmr: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

A Dozen Quick Picks for Middle Grade Summer Reading

It’s summer! The perfect time to get away with a great book. Whether relaxing at the beach or the park, chilling in a tent or a hammock, traveling by car or plane, or even standing in line at the amusement park, here are a dozen quick picks for middle graders, all with the common thread of taking place during summer. These books are so good, some of you grown-ups may enjoy reading them as well…

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo.
10-year-old India Opal spends her first summer in the Florida town where she and her dad have moved. Sent to the Winn-Dixie for macaroni-n-cheese, she comes back with a big, ugly, smelly dog who transforms her lonely life into one rich with kind, good people. A heart-warming story told in an honest, genuine voice.
Candlewick Press, 2000    0-7636-1605-2

The Wanderer by Sharon Creech.
13-year-old cousins, Sophie and Cody, share their sailing adventures as they cross the Atlantic Ocean en route to England. Through alternating travel logs, they reveal the adventure and danger of their exciting journey, as well as stories of their grandfather and the complex weave of their family’s history.
Scholastic Inc., 2000     0-439-31629-4

Holes by Louis Sachar.
Unfairly sent to a boy’s detention center, Stanley Yelnats digs holes at Camp Green Lake, where he discovers dark truths about the camp wardens, unravels a generations-long curse, and finds his own legendary strength. Interweaving tales of dark humor, magic, and mystery yield surprises at every turn. The hot, dry landscape and the masterful storytelling make this book a great summertime read.
Dell Yearling of Random House, 1998     0-440-41480-6

The Goats by Brock Cole.
Howie and Laura are different than the other kids at summer camp, and are targeted in a cruel, practical joke. Left on Goat Island, naked and humiliated, the two decide not to go back to camp at all. What ensues is three days of adventure, survival, and deepening friendship, as they rely on each other to subsist on the outskirts of society.
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1987    0-374-42575-2

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall.
The four Penderwick sisters spend their summer on the Arundel estate where the expansive grounds provide amazing adventures, and Jeffrey, the estate owner’s son, proves to be the best kind of companion, much to the dismay of his mother. Old fashioney feel in a modern tale.
Yearling of Random House Children’s Books, 2005     978-0-440-42047-7

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos.
It’s the summer of 1962, and young Jack Gantos has been “grounded for life.” The only glimmer in his boring summer vacation is being loaned out to an elderly neighbor to type the obituaries of the people who founded their town of Norvelt. As more people die, Jack finds himself in the midst of intrigue, suspicious fires, and possibly murder. Fact and fiction mix together in a sharp-edged narrative full of twists and turns, wrought with wit and humor.
Farrar, Straus, & Giroux     978-0374379933

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool.
The summer of 1936, 12-year-old Abilene Tucker is sent to stay with an old friend in Manifest, Kansas, where her drifter father grew up. When she finds an old cigar box full of mementos, she and her new friends find themselves hunting for a spy while uncovering the history of her father, the town, and her self. Artfully written and steeped in emotion.
Yearling, 2011     978-0-375-85829-1

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia.
The story of three sisters from Brooklyn, NY, who travel to Oakland, CA, in the summer of 1968 to spend time with the mother who abandoned them. As their mother writes poetry in the privacy of her kitchen, the girls are sent to a center run by the Black Panther Party. They learn about the cultural and political revolution taking place and come to honest realizations about their mother. Set during a pivotal moment in African-American history.
Amistad of Harper Collins, 2010     978-0-060-76090-8

A Long Way from Chicago: A Novel in Stories by Richard Peck.
For a handful of summers during the 1930’s, Joe and Mary Alice have made an annual summer trek to visit their eccentric grandmother in a quiet Illinois town. They share their hilarious escapades and the unforgettable characters their grandmother introduces them to in the first of three books about Grandma Dowdel.
Dial Books for Young Readers, 1998    0-8037-2290-7

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen.
13-year-old Brian survives a plane crash and must survive in the Canadian wilderness with only the clothes on his body and a hatchet. A gripping survival story, full of adventure and action.
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1987    978-1-416-92508-8

Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes.
During an annual summer trip to New England, 12-year-old Martha deals with the sudden death of her classmate, Olive, the growing, complex world of her feelings, the relationship with her grandmother, and her dreams of being a writer. A quiet, powerful book.
Greenwillow Books, 2003     978-0060535452

The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis.
9–year-old Kenny and his family travel from their home in Flint, Michigan, to Birmingham, Alabama, to drop Kenny’s older brother off at their grandma’s before he gets into any more trouble. But it’s the summer of 1963, and racial tensions are high. Their grandmother’s Baptist Church is burned down with four little girls inside. Weaving fictional characters and factual events from 1963, this is a remarkable story of family love and endurance, told in a great narrative voice.
Delacorte Press, 1995     0-385-32175-9


Cheli Mennella

Cheli has been involved with creative arts and education for most of her life, and has taught many subjects from art and books to yoga and zoology. But she has a special fondness for kid’s books, and has worked in the field for more than 20 years. She is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Valley Kids and teaches a course for adults in “Writing for Children.” She writes from Colrain, where she lives with her musician-husband, three children, and shelves full of kid’s books.

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