Need suggestions for beach reading or books to bring to summer camp? Here are our top ten books for different age ranges — including fiction, nonfiction, and poetry — all published 2014–2015 and ideal for the season. Grade levels are only suggestions; the individual child is the real criterion.
Suggested grade level for all entries: 6–8
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander (Houghton)
2015 Newbery Medal Winner, Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor Book
Twelve-year-old twins Josh and Jordan (JB) are a well-oiled machine on the basketball court. But then JB gets a girlfriend, and before Josh knows it, things start to change. This Newbery-winning verse novel has massive appeal for readers both voracious and reluctant. 237 pages.
The Cabinet of Curiosities: 36 Tales Brief & Sinister by Stefan Bachmann, Katherine Catmull, Claire Legrand, and Emma Trevayne; illus. by Alexander Jansson (Greenwillow)
Four “curators” — the authors — fill their Cabinet of Curiosities museum with objects of wonder as well as the (often unearthly) tales behind them. Abundant atmospherics, including stark black-and-white illustrations, will give readers a delicious chill. 488 pages.
El Deafo by Cece Bell; illus. by the author (Amulet/Abrams)
2015 Newbery Honor Book
At age four author/illustrator Bell contracted meningitis, which left her deaf. This graphic-novel memoir (starring anthropomorphized bunnies!) relates how she adapted to deafness as well as describing an experience relevant to most children: finding the “True Friend,” having a falling out, then a reunion. 242 pages.
The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming (Schwartz & Wade/Random House)
2015 Sibert Honor Book, YALSA Nonfiction Award Finalist
Focusing not just on Russia’s last imperial family but also on the Revolutionary leaders and common people, this riveting nonfiction book shows how each group was the product of its circumstances and how they all moved inexorably toward a tragic yet fascinating conclusion. 287 pages.
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson; illus. by the author (Dial)
In this graphic novel, twelve-year-old Astrid faces the challenges of roller derby as well as tweendom. At derby boot camp, coaches, teammates, and celebrity roller Rainbow Bite cheer her on. When the time comes for her big end-of-summer bout, “Asteroid” is ready to roll. 240 pages.
The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects selected by Paul B. Janeczko; illus. by Chris Raschka (Candlewick)
Janeczko and Raschka’s fourth collaboration (beginning with A Poke in the I) offers readers fifty poems about objects; the selections range from the early Middle Ages to the postmodern and contemporary movements. Soft watercolors showcase each poem and visually encourage continuous reading. 80 pages.
The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson (Levine/Scholastic)
In this Ocean’s Eleven–style romp, teen con-man Jackson Greene assembles a crack team of accomplices to help his friend Gaby de la Cruz run for student council president against spoiled, cocky Keith Sinclair. The lively (and racially diverse) cast of characters and intricate plot make this a story to read again. 236 pages.
Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire (Candlewick)
An imprisoned man tells his story in letters to the tsar, beginning when impoverished young Elena meets privileged Ekaterina. The girls’ lives collide and intertwine, sending the story in two directions: to a ball in St. Petersburg and into the forest to the wisecracking witch Baba Yaga. 479 pages.
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki; illus. by Jillian Tamaki (First Second/Roaring Brook)
2015 Caldecott Honor Book, Printz Honor Book
Rose’s family goes to Awago Beach every summer. This year Rose is on the cusp of adolescence — caught between younger friend Windy’s childish interests and the compelling (but confusing) adult world. This graphic novel builds to a poignant, bittersweet conclusion. 320 pages.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (Paulsen/Penguin)
2015 Coretta Scott King Author Award Winner, Newbery Honor Book, Sibert Honor Book, 2014 National Book Award Winner
In this compelling memoir in verse, readers see young Jackie grow up not just in historical context but also in the context of extended family, community, and religion. Most notably, we trace her development as a nascent writer. The poetry here sings: lyrical and full of vivid imagery. 328 pages.
For past years’ summer reading lists from The Horn Book, click on the tag summer reading.