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 2015–2016 and ideal for the season. Grade levels are only suggestions; the individual child is the real criterion.
For a handy take-along list of titles, download our printable PDF.
Suggested grade level for all entries: 6–8
Booked by Kwame Alexander (Houghton)
Nick is a wordsmith, thanks to his linguistics-professor father, but he would rather be shining on the soccer field. With accessible forms and engaging formatting, this novel in verse offers sports action combined with spot-on portrayals of middle-school life. 314 pages.
The Trouble in Me by Jack Gantos (Farrar)
By the summer before eighth grade, young Jack Gantos was a “drifty kid…easily led off course.” Trying to be somebody else, he fell into the orbit of juvenile delinquent neighbor Gary Pagoda. Suddenly he felt alive doing stupid stuff with Gary — roller-skating through flaming hula-hoops, for example. This volume acts as a preface to Hole in My Life. 208 pages.
The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge (Amulet/Abrams)
In nineteenth-century England, fourteen-year-old Faith Sunderly learns of rumors that her naturalist father faked his most famous fossil discovery. When he is found dead, Faith knows it was murder, not suicide; she uses her father’s secret “Lie Tree” to induce trances she hopes will reveal the identity of his killer. 378 pages.
To Catch a Cheat by Varian Johnson (Levine/Scholastic)
Jackson Greene (star of caper The Great Greene Heist) has retired from his con-man antics. Until…someone floods Maplewood Middle School, and a video surfaces incriminating Jackson and his diverse set of friends. Blackmail? Revenge? To clear their names, Jackson and “Gang Greene” are back in action. 248 pages.
Shadows of Sherwood: A Robyn Hoodlum Adventure by Kekla Magoon (Bloomsbury)
In this futuristic series-starter, Governor Crown has had all members of Parliament kidnapped — including twelve-year-old Robyn Loxley’s parents. Robyn is determined to locate her family, but finds herself, accompanied by a band of parentless outlaws, on a mission greater than she’d imagined. A thrilling Robin Hood–inspired tale starring a young woman of color. 356 pages.
Baba Yaga’s Assistant by Marika McCoola; illus. by Emily Carroll (Candlewick)
Masha answers a help-wanted ad to become assistant to the child-eating folkloric character. To win the position, Masha must creatively accomplish challenges set forth by Baba Yaga. This graphic novel shines in its harmony of image and text and use of stories-within-stories to advance plot. 132 pages.
Ten Days a Madwoman: The Daring Life and Turbulent Times of the Original “Girl” Reporter Nellie Bly by Deborah Noyes (Viking)
Nellie Bly, determined to make her journalistic mark, accepts an assignment to go undercover inside the “lunatic asylum” on Blackwell’s Island and report on its conditions. Part chronological, part expository, this strong biography allows readers to become investigators into Bly’s life and times. 136 pages.
The Nest by Kenneth Oppel; illus. by Jon Klassen (Simon)
Steve’s baby brother is sick, so his parents don’t pay attention when Steve becomes afraid of the wasps in the backyard. In Steve’s recurring dream, a voice offers to make everything better — but the easy fix starts to look like too sinister a bargain. Black-and-white drawings astutely capture the magnitude of a child’s imagination. 247 pages.
The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz (Candlewick) 2016 Scott O’Dell Award Winner, Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner
In 1911 Baltimore, spirited small-town-girl Joan finds work with the kindly, well-to-do Rosenbach family as their “hired girl,” performing household tasks forbidden to Jews during the Sabbath. Her diary entries, unfiltered and naive, reflect her changing perspectives on those unlike herself. 392 pages.
Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead (Lamb/Random)
Stead’s intricately crafted story (so many connections, so much careful foreshadowing) explores various configurations of love and friendship in three interwoven narratives about middle-school and high school relationships. Just some of the issues raised include feminism, mean girls, and platonic boy-girl friendships. And underwear selfies. 289 pages.
For past years’ summer reading lists from The Horn Book, click on the tag summer reading.