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2019 Summer Reading from The Horn Book: Intermediate

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 2018–2019 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 | Middle School | High School


Suggested grade level for all entries: 4–6

Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier (Amulet/Abrams)
Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner

When child chimney sweep Nan Sparrow gets stuck in a flue and nearly dies, she is saved by a "soot golem." Nan and the kind, gentle "Charlie" escape from her cruel master and make a home in an abandoned mansion. Weaving together strands of Jewish folklore, Blake's poetry, Frankenstein, child-labor reform, and magical realism, Auxier crafts a beautiful, hopeful story from the ugly realities of nineteenth-century British life. 358 pages.

Wildheart: The Daring Adventures of John Muir by Julie Bertagna; illus. by William Goldsmith (Yosemite Conservancy)

This creatively rendered biography-in-comics, with Muir's imagined voice as narrator, is filled with the naturalist's adventures, from his childhood in Scotland to his pioneering conservation work and formation of America's National Parks. Illustrator Goldsmith's Muir is a feisty character, portrayed in loose pencil sketches with one or two accent colors. Vibrant spreads in the chapter transitions and interludes capture the stunning landscapes in which Muir found his purpose. Timeline. Glos. 128 pages.

Louisiana's Way Home by Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick)

Louisiana Elefante's flighty, unstable grandmother abandons her at a motel, leaving behind a letter revealing that Louisiana is a foundling whom she rescued and raised. Louisiana (Raymie Nightingale) is a resilient and sympathetic character, and the juxtaposition of her down-to-earth observations with Granny's capriciousness lightens the narrative and allows for a good deal of humor. Overarching themes addressing forgiveness, love, friendship, acceptance, home, and family ring honest and true. 230 pages.

Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliott; illus. by Geneva B (Random House)

Jax meets his estranged grandmother-figure, Ma — who has just received a package containing three dragons. The dragons cannot stay in Brooklyn ("They came from one world, and they're on their way to another"), and the pair's quest to return the creatures takes several unexpected turns involving time travel and magic. A suspenseful middle-grade fantasy starring a memorable cast of vividly portrayed, predominately Black characters. 154 pages.

The Last Last-Day-of-Summer by Lamar Giles; illus. by Dapo Adeola (Versify/Houghton)

African American cousins Otto and Sheed Alston are local legends in their small Virginia town for their daring exploits (including getting rid of ghosts). Like many kids, they wish for one more day of summer vacation. They get their wish when they accidentally freeze time and find their town visited by denizens from the "interdimensional community." Giles presents a page-turning magical fantasy adventure with broad appeal. 289 pages.

The Dragon Slayer: Folktales from Latin America by Jaime Hernandez (TOON)

Three amusing and enlightening folktales full of action, magic tricks, and fantasy are presented in a spirited and lively comic-book format (simultaneously published in Spanish as La Matadragones: Cuentos de Latinoamérica, translated from the English by María E. Santana). The (mostly) six-panel pages feature expressive characters and colorful tones that add to the stories' playfulness. An introduction places the tales in the context of the folktale traditions of the Americas; comprehensive back matter provides primary sources. Bib. 48 pages.

The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon (Lamb/Random House) 
CSK Author Honor

Narrator Caleb and older brother Bobby Gene meet Styx Malone, a mysterious, lanky, smooth-talking teenager who adds excitement to their otherwise humdrum summer in small-town Indiana. The boys embark on a journey that encompasses rule-breaking, laugh-out-loud humor, and nail-biting adventure, while exploring the importance of family ties and deep friendships. Spending time with Styx, Caleb, and Bobby Gene is an experience no reader will soon forget. 298 pages.

No More Poems!: A Book in Verse That Just Gets Worse by Rhett Miller; illus. by Dan Santat (Tingley/Little, Brown)

This collection of twenty-three irreverent, kid-pleasing poems by Miller, singer/songwriter of alt-country band Old 97's, covers familiar subjects — a case for staying home "sick" from school, a humorously tyrannical Little League coach/dad, sibling rivalry. With expressive caricatures and varied compositions, Santat's boisterous illustrations amp up the absurdity and enhance the subversion. A solid offering of mostly relatable, occasionally thought-provoking, and always entertaining reflections. 48 pages.

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty (Levine/Scholastic) 

In this highly engrossing, brilliantly plotted fantasy, orphaned ten-year-old Bronte must embark alone on a multi-kingdom visit to her many aunts, a trip minutely scripted by the terms of her parents' will. Due to Moriarty's storytelling aplomb, humor, and imagination, and the tale's many twists and turns, readers will want to begin rereading this spellbinder just as soon as they finish it, to find all the clues and connections and coincidences dropped throughout. 380 pages.

Max & the Midknights by Lincoln Peirce (Crown) 

In this humorous, action-packed, comics/novel hybrid, troubadour's apprentice Max longs to become a knight — but girls aren't allowed to. Then Max discovers she's prophesied to save the kingdom. With help from new friends (who dub themselves "the Midknights"), she sets off on a hero's journey. Peirce's accessible, enlightening narrative flows seamlessly between regular text and speech bubbles in the black-and-white comic panels. 280 pages.

From the May 2019 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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