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2018 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 2017–2018 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

Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender (Scholastic)

With “the darkest skin and the thickest hair in the whole Catholic school,” Caroline is bullied by classmates and teachers alike. Things change for the better when new student Kalinda arrives in St. Thomas from Barbados. Callender’s debut masterfully deploys the rich landscape of Caribbean life. 215 pages.

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya (Viking)
2018 Pura Belpré Author Honor

When a scheming real-estate developer threatens their restaurant, Arturo Zamora’s large, extended Cuban American family mobilizes to save it. Arturo narrates his story with liberal doses of Spanish, adding a welcome and authentic texture to this debut novel. 248 pages.

Votes for Women!: American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot by Winifred Conkling (Algonquin)

Conkling’s fascinating account of the bumpy road to women’s suffrage begins with the Women’s Rights Convention in 1848 and culminates with the Nineteenth Amendment. Over half the book focuses on Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony; coverage of the movement’s “second wave of suffragists” is no less compelling. 310 pages.

The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis (Scholastic)

In 1858, Charlie is forced to travel North to help capture “thieves” — or so he thinks. White, ignorant Charlie is a product of his circumstances, but finds his conscience. Curtis seamlessly intertwines humor and tragedy in this companion to Elijah of Buxton and The Madman of Piney Woods. 247 pages.

All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson (Dial)

Ren Faire meets Roller Girl in Jamieson’s read-alike graphic novel. Homeschooled Imogene Vega — squire-in-training at the Renaissance Faire where her family works — starts middle school, with hilariously embarrassing results. Energetic, expressive illustrations let plot and characterization shine. 248 pages.

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson (Levine/Scholastic)

Johnson’s Westing Game–inspired tale is a tangled historical mystery, satisfying multigenerational family story, and exploration of race and racism. Chapters alternate between present and past, when a secret, integrated high school tennis match led to violence. Johnson’s narrative revels in its puzzle-story elements. 344 pages.

The Magician and the Spirits: Harry Houdini and the Curious Pastime of Communicating with the Dead by Deborah Noyes (Viking)

Noyes uses Houdini’s attempts to discredit the late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Spiritualist movement as her entry point into the intriguing phenomenon. She provides historical context and relates incidents from Houdini’s life, including his friendship with staunch believer Arthur Conan Doyle and the magician’s attempts to unmask “flimflammers.” 152 pages.

Miles Morales: Spider-Man by Jason Reynolds (Marvel/Disney)

In this series starter, based on a 2011 Marvel comic, sixteen-year-old Miles Morales, who is black and Puerto Rican, is also Spider-Man. The novel has its fair share of action-adventure (surrounding a white supremacist organization led by a centuries-old villain), and is also a well-spun tale of identity. 263 pages.

Ascent by Roland Smith (Houghton)

In this third installment, teenage mountaineer Peak Marcello (Peak; The Edge) is preparing to climb Hkakabo Razi in Myanmar. Sure enough, disaster strikes. Smith knows how to develop suspense, and this tale has two parts — a perilous journey through the rainforest and the ascent of Hkakabo Razi itself. 231 pages.

Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson (Bloomsbury)
2018 Coretta Scott King Author Award, Newbery Honor

At her mother’s relentless prodding, African American teen Jade takes every opportunity offered to her, including joining a mentoring group with a clueless, careless mentor. This involving, thought-provoking novel is a multifaceted and clear-eyed exploration of race, class, and gender. 264 pages.

From the May 2018 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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