Need suggestions for beach reading or books to bring to summer camp? We’ve hand-picked our top ten in each age range, all published 2013–2014, that are ideal for the season. Grade levels are only suggestions; the individual child is the real criterion. For a handy take-along list of titles, follow this link to a printable PDF.
Middle School Fiction and Nonfiction
Suggested grade level for all entries: 6–8
Outside In by Sarah Ellis (Groundwood)
Lynn, raised by an irresponsible, unreliable bohemian mother, yearns for normalcy. After meeting Blossom, a girl whose family lives off the grid in a self-sufficient underground bunker, Lynn begins to see her city and her own experience through new eyes. 207 pages.
If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth (Levine/Scholastic)
Lewis, from the Tuscarora Indian Reservation in 1970s upstate New York, is beginning seventh grade at a mostly white junior high, and he’s tired of not fitting in. A friendship with newcomer George helps Lewis cope with loneliness and bullying. But does it constitute a betrayal of his identity? 360 pages.
The Clockwork Scarab [Stoker & Holmes] by Colleen Gleeson (Chronicle)
In alternate Victorian London, Mina Holmes (Sherlock’s niece) and Evaline Stoker (Bram’s sister) team up to solve a series of murders involving high-society girls, the British Museum, and ancient Egyptian artifacts. The story veers into sci-fi when an unwitting time-traveler, modern-day boy Dylan, arrives. 356 pages.
The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan (Porter/Roaring Brook)
Sibert Honor Book
“Eccentric” is an apt word for Ohr, a Mississippi blacksmith’s son (1857–1918) who reinvented himself as a potter. Greenberg and Jordan have produced a magisterial portrait that’s both a character study and an appreciation of their subject’s oeuvre. 56 pages.
Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design by Chip Kidd; illus. by the author (Workman)
This overview makes graphic design immediate and accessible, posing questions and answering them in engaging ways. The first four chapters — “Form,” “Typography,” “Content,” “Concept” — tackle design essentials and some advanced ideas. The final chapter presents “10 Design Projects.” 160 pages.
Far Far Away by Tom McNeal (Knopf)
Jeremy has the ability to hear ghosts; long-dead Jacob Grimm becomes his mentor and guardian. With Jacob’s help, Jeremy becomes a whiz at school and charms his crush Ginger — but the presence of the malevolent “Finder of Occasions” gives the story a shiver of horror as dark as any of the Grimm tales. 373 pages.
Cress [Lunar Chronicles] by Marissa Meyer (Feiwel)
This fairy tale/sci-fi hybrid series continues with a “Rapunzel”-inspired story. Cress, taken from her Lunar parents as a baby, is forced to live alone on a satellite, spying on the Earthens for Queen Levana. But her real loyalty lies with cyborg Cinder’s plan to protect Earth by dethroning the queen. 550 pages.
The Cracks in the Kingdom [Colors of Madeleine] by Jaclyn Moriarty (Levine/Scholastic)
In this sequel to the Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor winner A Corner of White, Madeleine (in Cambridge, England) and Elliot (in the Kingdom of Cello) continue to communicate through a “crack” between the two worlds. When the Cello royal family goes missing in Madeleine’s world, Madeleine and Elliot attempt to cross over themselves. 499 pages.
When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum)
Ali’s thing is boxing, Noodles’s is comic books, and Needles’s is…knitting, to help control his Tourette’s syndrome. The three friends live in Brooklyn’s tough Bed-Stuy neighborhood, but the book also shows how zip codes are just one aspect of people’s lives. 232 pages.
Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan (Dial)
After her parents’ death, oddball twelve-year-old genius Willow Chance is taken in by her only friend, high schooler Mai Nguyen, Mai’s mother, and her surly brother Quang-ha. These initially disparate characters, plus cabdriver Jairo Hernandez, ultimately connect to form a new family. What sets this book apart are its lack of sentimentality and its truly multicultural cast. 380 pages.
For past years’ summer reading lists from The Horn Book, click on the tag summer reading.