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2022 Summer Reading: Middle School


Need suggestions for beach reading or books to bring to summer camp? Each of our lists — for all age ranges and including fiction, nonfiction, folklore, and poetry — includes thirteen selections (a baker's dozen!), all published 2021–2022 and ideal for the season. Grade levels are only suggestions; the individual child is the real criterion.


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


Middle School

Suggested grade level for all entries: 6–8


The Race of the Century: The Battle to Break the Four-Minute Mile by Neal Bascomb (Focus/Scholastic)

This nonfiction thriller tracks the race to break the four-minute-mile barrier — a feat previously thought to be beyond human limits. Artfully drawing readers into the drama, Bascomb segues between the principal characters — three men poised to make history at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics — fleshing out their biographies, training regimens, running styles, and competition strategies. 256 pages.

Little Monarchs by Jonathan Case (Ferguson/Holiday)

Set in the post-apocalyptic summer of 2101, this exceptionally plotted graphic novel follows ten-year-old Elvie and her caretaker, Flora, as they travel south along the western seaboard. The pair’s quest to reunite Elvie with her parents in Mexico leads to a hard-earned, hopeful ending. Lush, dynamic illustrations immerse readers in a believable near-future. 256 pages.

Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman Chainani; illus. by Julia Iredale (Harper/HarperCollins)

Twelve imaginative fairy-tale retellings are by turns haunting, funny, suspenseful, and sweet. The stories are set in a timeless fairy-tale realm, but they feel fresh and modern, with gorgeous, magical illustrations and with plenty of plot twists (and violence). Welcome diversity and several different kinds of love ensure that all readers will have something with which to identify. 336 pages.

The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera (Levine Querido)

The 2022 Newbery Medalist and Pura Belpré Author Award winner is a thrilling sci-fi adventure. Twelve-year-old Petra Peña must protect the lives — and memories — of those fleeing Earth aboard a spaceship. Following in her grandmother’s footsteps, she becomes a cuentista, using storytelling to save humanity and remind her companions of the histories that were taken from them. 336 pages.

Those Kids from Fawn Creek by Erin Entrada Kelly (Greenwillow)

The twelve students in seventh grade in Fawn Creek, Louisiana, are locked into their roles of mean girls, jocks, goody-goodies, and misfits. All these dynamics are shaken up, however, with the arrival of the fascinating Orchid, who has lived in New York City, Paris, and Thailand. Or has she? Orchid is a subtle and effective catalyst for openness, honesty, and kindness; a borderline magical character who effects startling change. 336 pages.

Salt Magic by Hope Larson; illus. by Rebecca Mock (Ferguson/Holiday)

What begins as a twentieth-century family drama quickly uncoils into a much more sinister — and spellbinding — magical tale. Vonceil Taggert is happy to have her older brother, returned from WWI, back on the family farm; then his jealous ex-lover curses the farm’s spring to run with salt water. Each panel of this mesmerizing graphic novel glints with sharp, precise color work and expert shadow play. 240 pages.

In the Key of Us by Mariama J. Lockington (Farrar)

As the only two Black girls at a prestigious music camp, talented trumpet player Andi and flutist Zora are initially reluctant to be lumped together but soon discover they are just what the other needs. The novel is told in alternating first-person accounts, and the voices of Andi and Zora are distinct and consistent, providing a comprehensive view of this coming-of-age romance. 368 pages.

Ellen Outside the Lines by A. J. Sass (Little, Brown)

On a summer field trip to Barcelona, eighth-grader Ellen, who is autistic, begins to realize that identity isn’t always clear-cut, from her chaperone father’s choice to eat non-kosher food to a teammate’s use of they/them pronouns. The amazing school trip provides an appealing backdrop, but it is the story’s interpersonal aspects that are especially welcome. 336 pages.

The Last Mapmaker by Christina Soontornvat (Candlewick)

In this Thai culture–inspired fantasy, skilled mapmaker’s assistant Sai travels with the master mapmaker through dangerous, mythical seas. Deception, treachery, and temptation await — quite apart from violent storms, sea dragons, and a beleaguered stowaway. With emphasis on an intricate plot and accessible prose, Soontornvat provides plenty of excitement while bringing questions of expansionism to young readers. 368 pages.

The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne by Jonathan Stroud (Knopf)

In a dystopic Britain of the future, Scarlett McCain has survived thanks to her wits, agility, and talents as a bank robber, but when she rescues hapless, unworldly Albert Browne, even she is amazed by the pursuit that ensues. Incisive, elegant action scenes, stuffed with daredevil escapes, shoot-’em-up confrontations, and humor, keep the story racing along. 432 pages.

Healer and Witch by Nancy Werlin (Candlewick)

In 1531 France, Sylvie, an untaught telepathic healer, travels to Lyon in search of a mentor, the renowned magic-user Madame du Bois. Along her enthralling quest, she encounters danger and surprise — including those who may not be who they seem. There’s plenty of momentum and suspense in this elegantly written work of historical fantasy. 304 pages.

When Winter Robeson Came by Brenda Woods (Paulsen/Penguin)

In August 1965, twelve-year-old African American aspiring songwriter Eden, who lives in L.A. just outside of Watts (“a volcano aching to erupt”), is looking forward to the visit of her Mississippi cousin, Winter Robeson. Winter is on a mission to find his father, who disappeared ten years earlier. This engaging verse novel is rich in thematic layers — neighborhood, family, friends, music, justice, and dreams. 176 pages.

Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler by Ibi Zoboi (Dutton)

Focusing mainly on the groundbreaking Black sci-fi/fantasy author’s early life, Zoboi tells Butler’s story through several literary modes: original poems; excerpted quotes from interviews; and descriptive passages. Informational and inspirational, this innovative work will draw committed Butler fans and entice those unfamiliar with her work. 128 pages.


From the April 2022 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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