2023 Summer Reading: Intermediate


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 2022–2023 and ideal for the season. Grade levels are only suggestions; the individual child is the real criterion.


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



Suggested grade level for all entries: 4–6


Odder by Katherine Applegate; illus. by Charles Santoso (Feiwel)

Applegate and Santoso (Willodeen, rev. 9/21) pair for another creature story, this one a verse novel about an otter named Odder who lives off the coast of California near Monterey Bay. Applegate grounds the story in scientific fact, slipping in interesting details in a lyrical way. Santoso’s tender black-and-white drawings, together with the large type, will make this novel very accessible and appealing to young animal lovers. 288 pp.

To Catch a Thief by Martha Brockenbrough (Scholastic)

In this charming small-town mystery, sixth grader Amelia MacGuffin decides to investigate the theft of a mythically lucky wooden staff, the centerpiece of her town’s annual Dragonfly Day Festival — and surprises herself by solving the crime. The story will appeal to a wide range of junior detectives, especially those who are also invested in issues of climate change and environmental preservation. 256 pp.

Total Garbage by Rebecca Donnelly; illus. by John Hendrix (Holt)

“What is garbage, where does it come from, where does it go, why do we make so much of it, and how can we do better?” Using the first-person plural and direct address, Donnelly invites readers to be partners in understanding and seeking solutions to this global issue. The appealing conversational narrative is accentuated by Hendrix’s occasional spot art. 160 pp.

The Grace of Wild Things by Heather Fawcett (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins)

On Prince Edward Island, sometime close to the turn of the twentieth century, a spirited, impulsive orphan is taken in by a grumpy old woman. So far, so Anne of Green Gables — but the girl and the grumpy old woman are also witches. This alternative-universe romp is perfect for readers of light and sentimental fantasy who enjoy a bit of L. M. Montgomery pastiche. 368 pp.

Second Chance Summer by Sarah Kapit (Holt)

Former friends Chloe (a child actor) and Maddie (a self-described “chubby Jewish girl with thick glasses and a tendency to fall over”) find themselves in the same bunk at a drama camp. Scenes of the summer alternate with flashbacks to the previous school year, gradually revealing what caused their rift. There’s lighthearted fun along the way, including a sweet queer romantic subplot for one of the girls. 240 pp.

Squished by Megan Wagner Lloyd; illus. by Michelle Mee Nutter (Graphix/Scholastic)

This graphic novel comically encapsulates the joy and angst of life in a family of seven children. All budding artist Avery Lee, eleven, wants is her own space and privacy. Instead she’s constantly surrounded by her siblings. A warm, heartfelt, relatable comic that shines a light on a “squished” sibling as Avery tries over the summer to become more independent and weather life’s changes. 256 pp.

Frizzy by Claribel A. Ortega; illus. by Rose Bousamra (First Second)

In this graphic novel, every Sunday Marlene must sit for hours while her naturally abundant tight ringlets are styled into straight unfrizzy layers. Over time, she begins to question the white standards of beauty entrenched in her Dominican family; Tía Ruby teaches Marlene how to care for her curls as an act of radical love. Ortega’s narrative shows the complex arc of Marlene’s emotional growth—captured with aplomb in Bousamra’s expressive illustrations. 224 pp.

The Lizard Scientists: Studying Evolution in Action [Scientists in the Field] by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent; photos by Nate Dappen and Neil Losin (Clarion/HarperCollins)

Patent introduces readers to anoles, a genus of lizards that have both dewlaps (neck folds) and toepads. She interviews the scientists investigating them and explains, in easily understandable and scientifically robust detail, their contributions to our understandings of evolution and natural selection. High-quality photographs provide details that readers can scrutinize. 80 pp.

Leeva at Last by Sara Pennypacker; illus. by Matthew Cordell (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins)

Lonely, neglected Leeva Thornblossom’s greedy parents (the town’s crooked mayor and treasurer) believe her job is to make them rich and famous. Although forbidden to leave their property, she sneaks to the library to investigate the question, “What are people for?” Pennypacker’s book is by turns outrageous and wise, funny and touching, fantastical and true; Cordell’s sketches contribute to the levity. 320 pp.

Link + Hud: Heroes by a Hair by Jarrett Pumphrey and Jerome Pumphrey (Norton)

With underwear on their heads and kitchen implements held high (for example), brothers Lincoln and Hudson imagine themselves into various superheroic scenarios around their house. They soon turn to foiling their nemesis — the babysitter — with unexpected results. The Pumphrey brothers’ tale about two highly creative, collaborative, and spirited brothers is told through a hugely engaging mix of lively comic-panel adventures and a copiously illustrated chapter-book format. 240 pp.

Big Tree by Brian Selznick (Scholastic)

Selznick elegantly intertwines pictures and words to tell the macro story of the natural world through the micro perspective of two sycamore seeds, Louise and Merwin, over the course of multiple millennia. Selznick’s style is masterful and idiosyncratic, with fluid shifts between prose and illustrated double-page spreads that are clear, effective, and varied. Ambitious and poignant while still, ultimately, hopeful. 528 pp.

Ghosts, Toast, and Other Hazards by Susan Tan (Roaring Brook)

Confronted with a supernatural mystery surrounding an elephant’s death in a century-old fire, Chinese American sixth grader Mo attempts to solve the mystery and bring the elephant peace. Her quintessentially middle-grade voice pivots from no-nonsense (when she’s in family-caretaking mode) to frightened (in the face of ghost-hunting) to sad (when confronting the state of her family). Tan’s narrative employs rich sensory details that immediately hook readers. 256 pp.

Nic Blake and the Remarkables: The Manifestor Prophecy by Angie Thomas (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins)

Thomas (acclaimed for her realistic YA) presents a fast-paced, mystical, middle-grade adventure. Twelve-year-old Nic is a Remarkable, now old enough to use her gift. She encounters hellhounds, vampires, merfolk, and the devil, but even more shocking are the revelations about her family — and her predicted future. Thomas skillfully incorporates folktales from the African diaspora and infuses her story with energy and emotional nuance. 368 pp.


From the April 2023 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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