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2017 Summer Reading from The Horn Book: Middle School

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 2016–2017 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.

Picture Books | Easy Readers and Primary Grades | Intermediate | High School

Middle School

Suggested grade level for all entries: 6–8

Maximilian & the Lucha Libre Club: A Bilingual Lucha Libre Thriller [Max’s Lucha Libre Adventures] written and illus. by Xavier Garza (Cinco Puntos)
Max’s luchador uncle invites Max to a big event in L.A., where ex-girlfriend Cecilia lives. There, the equally beguiling Paloma invites Max to join the Lucha Libre club. Tween romance, wish fulfillment, and adventure give this third series entry plenty of appeal. 237 pages.

One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes, illus. by various artists (Bloomsbury)
Grimes pays tribute to the poets of the Harlem Renaissance using the “Golden Shovel” form, in which each line of her new (contemporary-set) poems ends with one of the words in a line from a poem of the era. Themes include self-pride, aspirations, bullying, and peer relations. Engaging illustrations by fifteen artists and a clean layout complement the poems. 120 pages.

One Trick Pony written and illus. by Nathan Hale (Amulet/Abrams)
In this sci-fi graphic novel, Strata becomes fiercely devoted to Kleidi, a robot horse she excavates on a salvage expedition. This discovery ultimately threatens not just the pair, but humanity itself. An engrossing dystopian adventure with a racially diverse cast and a principled, brave heroine. 127 pages.

Dive!: World War II Stories of Sailors & Submarines in the Pacific by Deborah Hopkinson (Scholastic)
The stories of sailors who served on submarines in the Pacific theater during WWII are highlighted, with first-person accounts and numerous photographs providing a vivid sense of immediacy. Various secondary sources, maps, and sidebars place the sailors’ experiences in the larger context of the war. 366 pages.

Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World edited by Kelly Jensen (Algonquin)
This lively anthology includes forty-four essays, comics, poems, interviews, and other material aimed at an adolescent audience. Contributors include celebrities (Laverne Cox, Mindy Kaling), activists (Mia and Michaela DePrince, Wendy Davis), comics artists (Wendy Xu), and young adult authors (Malinda Lo, Nova Ren Suma, Daniel José Older). The book sends a strong message that feminism is for everyone. 228 pages.

When the Sea Turned to Silver written and illus. by Grace Lin (Little, Brown) 2016 National Book Award Finalist
Pinmei seeks a Luminous Stone to pay as ransom for her imprisoned grandmother. As in Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Starry River of the Sky, the richly complex adventure, with Chinese legends and storytelling woven throughout, is complemented by vivid, dynamic illustrations. Together, the books offer one grand generation-spanning epic. 373 pages.

Flying Lessons & Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh (Crown)
Ten stories by authors of diverse backgrounds present young protagonists dealing with common themes of growing up — love, family, friendship, dreams, fitting in, etc. Stories by Jacqueline Woodson, Kwame Alexander, Meg Medina, Grace Lin, Tim Federle, and Walter Dean Myers round out an unusually strong collection. 227 pages.

Ghost [Track] by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum/Dlouhy) 2016 National Book Award Finalist
In this series-starter, Castle “Ghost” Cranshaw is an African American young man with proclivities for getting into trouble and for running. When Ghost impulsively bests the citywide track team’s fastest sprinter, the coach sees his potential. Readers will readily identify with Ghost’s dynamic first-person narrative. 181 pages.

York: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby (Walden Pond/HarperCollins)
In an alternate-reality New York City, twins Tess and Theo and neighbor Jaime hope to solve the Old York Cipher — created by the nineteenth-century inventors of the city’s “mechanical wizardry” — and save their apartment building from a scheming real-estate developer. The sci-fi-meets-mystery novel weaves one web of secrets even as it works to unravel another. 433 pages.

Well, That Was Awkward by Rachel Vail (Viking)
Gracie realizes she like-likes AJ Rojanasopondist. AJ like-likes Gracie’s best friend, Sienna. Despite mild heartache, Gracie helps Sienna compose texts to AJ — whose messages sound like Gracie’s friend Emmett. Breakneck narration captures the anguish and hilarity of middle school. 314 pages.

From the May 2017 issue of Notes from the Horn Book: Summer Reading.

For past years’ summer reading lists from The Horn Book, click on the tag summer reading.

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