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Great escapes (some quite literal!) for middle-grade summer reading

Tracking an escaped lobster; hiding a dead aunt; investigating a murder; and planning a “stay-cation.” The following four books present some unusual—to say the least—summertime escapades.

Tracing StarsIn Erin E. Moulton’s Tracing Stars, what begins as a typical last day of school for fifth-grader Indie Lee Chickory ends with a high-speed chase through her sleepy coastal town and the disappearance into the sea of her best friend (and pet), a rare golden lobster named The Lobster Monty Cola. Indie enlists the help of oddball new kid Owen, and the two hatch a plan to trap Monty. Moulton’s sensitivity to her characters’ emotions extends this quiet tale’s mood and setting. (8–11 years)

Summer in the CitySixth grade is almost over, and Charlie’s parents haven’t revealed the family’s summer plans yet. What great adventure is in store? Money is tight this year, so in Marie-Louise Gay and David Homel’s Summer in the City (the sequel to Travels with My Family and On the Road Again!), Charlie and his little brother Max will have a “stay-cation” in their hometown of Montreal. The summer begins relatively tamely—walking dogs, camping out in the backyard—but it quickly and humorously escalates. Energy and enthusiasm abound, and Gay’s black-and-white illustrations add visual appeal. (8–11 years)

Summer of the Gypsy MothsSara Pennypacker, acclaimed for her Clementine novels for younger readers, moves into middle-grade territory with Summer of the Gypsy Moths. Stella is living temporarily with her great-aunt Louise on Cape Cod (her mother has taken off—again); so is foster kid Angel. When Louise dies suddenly, the authorities-averse girls decide to hide the death—which means tons of subterfuge. The girls keep it up long enough to figure out what constitutes a home, and a family. Stella and Angel can be both irritating and endearing, and readers will cheer them on to the satisfying ending. (8–11 years)

Three Times LuckyIn Three Times Lucky, Sheila Turnage places her unconventional characters—the inhabitants of Tupelo Landing, North Carolina—within a strong, well-plotted summertime story. Mo LoBeau, twelve, washed up during a hurricane when she was just a baby and was informally adopted by the Colonel and Miss Lana; now the three happily run the town’s popular café. Then a stranger comes to town, investigating a murder, and the book becomes a dandy mystery. Humor sweetens the mix; Mo’s colloquial narration will pull readers in, and the sustained tension will keep them engrossed. (8–11 years)

Summer Reading

From the July 2012 issue of Notes from the Horn Book. For bibliographic information please click here.


Martha V. Parravano About Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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