2024 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 2023–2024 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


Maggie Lou, Firefox by Arnolda Dufour Bowes; illus. by Karlene Harvey (Groundwood)

Maggie Lou, full of “pee and vinegar” according to her grandfather, always gets into scrapes. The book comprises three episodic stories full of fast-paced action and humor, each focusing on her tenacity in learning new skills. Maggie Lou’s connection to her family, her awareness of her Native roots and the Northern Michif language, and her interests (including boxing, home construction, and hunting) give these tales a distinctive and refreshing flavor. 220 pp.

The Mona Lisa Vanishes: A Legendary Painter, a Shocking Heist, and the Birth of a Global Celebrity by Nicholas Day; illus. by Brett Helquist (Random House Studio/Random)

This work of narrative nonfiction starts when the Mona Lisa disappeared from the Louvre in 1911. It then jumps forward and backward in time, tracing Leonardo da Vinci’s career and the painting’s history. Readers also follow the painting’s path away from the museum in a case with more than its share of ridiculous moments, delivered with a dose of whimsy. The book combines age-appropriate true crime with art history and historiography. Cartoonlike black-and-white illustrations bring dramatic moments to life. 288 pp.

The Puppets of Spelhorst by Kate DiCamillo; illus. by Julie Morstad (Candlewick)

The frame story of this absorbing book of nested tales involves a sea captain and his history of unfulfilled love. Within that story is a chronicle of his five puppets and the sisters who inherit them, and within that narrative is the puppet play itself, about a young man tragically cursed to a life of loneliness and despair. The melancholic mood is perfectly captured in digitally rendered pencil drawings that add specificity, dignity, drama, and sheer beauty. 160 pp.

Max in the House of Spies [Operation Kinderspion] by Adam Gidwitz (Dutton)

Eleven-year-old Max arrives in England as a Jewish evacuee from WWII Germany, accompanied by two opinionated, invisible-to-others creatures: a kobold and dybbuk. Precocious Max resolves to be accepted as an undercover agent and sent back to Germany, hoping to protect his parents. The unlikely and fantastical elements are balanced by a rich and realistic depiction of WWII London. Max’s training as a spy is described in riveting detail, with readers rooting for the determined boy even as we know the dangers awaiting him if he passes the test. 336 pp.

My Head Has a Bellyache: And More Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups by Chris Harris; illus. by Andrea Tsurumi (Little, Brown)

Come for the funny poems; stay because there’s so much to pore over that you can’t put this collection down. This meta extravaganza includes a “book-within-a-book”; a meteor heading for the pages; and poems appearing in footnotes, in the glossary, and even in the page numbers. The green and grayscale digital illustrations are often a critical part of the action, with hilarious results. Don’t miss the back matter — don’t miss anything. 192 pp.

A Little Bit Super: With Small Powers Come Big Problems edited by Leah Henderson and Gary D. Schmidt; illus. by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (Clarion/HarperCollins)

This imaginative collection presents thirteen stories from an all-star team of authors, all about kids growing in self-knowledge and empathy as they realize that they each have some sort of gift — from time-jumping to the courage to speak truth to power to the ability to sense when avocados are ripe. Whether big or small, silly or serious (or both), the powers are brought to life through nuanced, diverse casts of characters and entertaining, thought-provoking plots. 288 pp.

Bumps in the Night by Amalie Howard (Delacorte)

While Darika is spending the summer in Trinidad, her grandmother asks her to finish a mural her mom started. While painting the mural, Darika has strange visions of her mom trapped in a tree she painted, and she soon learns that she is a witch and must save her mother. Howard mixes Trinidadian folklore with present-day issues to create a fast-paced adventure. Her descriptions of the island are vivid and create a strong sense of place; references to popular video games add appeal. 304 pp.

The First State of Being by Erin Entrada Kelly (Greenwillow)

It’s the summer of 1999, and Michael worries about the approach of Y2K. Then he meets Ridge, who has time-traveled there (without permission) from two hundred years in the future. A technical blip might trap the traveler at the end of the twentieth century, putting himself and possibly all of civilization at risk. A well-crafted adventure surrounding a big philosophical idea. 272 pp.

Continental Drifter by Kathy MacLeod (First Second)

This introspective graphic memoir explores bicultural identity and the path toward self-acceptance. Kathy’s father is American, and her mother is Thai; Kathy appreciates Thai culture but feels that she’s not Thai enough. She’s acutely aware of how her family stands out during a summer in Maine and struggles to fit in at summer camp. Kathy learns to embrace the unique qualities that connect her to both sides of her family. Pastel-toned panels, black-and-white flashback scenes, and cleanly drawn and expressively detailed characters support Kathy’s internal growth. 224 pp.

Mission One: The Vice Principal Problem [Blue Stars] by Kekla Magoon and Cynthia Leitich Smith; illus. by Molly Murakami (Candlewick)

Cousins Riley and Maya both move in with their grandmother. At first, sharing a room is a difficult adjustment for only child Maya and for Riley, who is used to being surrounded by her Muscogee relatives. But when they realize the vice principal plans to cut afterschool programs for more detention space, the girls work together to expose his plans and to “be the stars” their grandmother wants them to be. The graphic novel format, with varied panel layouts in the digital illustrations, helps create a fast-paced adventure. 176 pp.

The Lumbering Giants of Windy Pines by Mo Netz (Clarion/HarperCollins)

At the motel where Jerry lives with her mom and her imaginary pocket-sized dragon, a radio station broadcasts strange messages in the middle of the night. And then her mom goes missing, which leads Jerry and friends on a hair-raising quest. Part thrilling adventure in a fight against “demons,” part mystery about the secrets hidden in the woods, the novel is populated by an endearing cast of characters. Casual inclusion of disability is another plus, with Jerry’s wheelchair proving an asset in multiple parts of the tale. 208 pp.

The Queen of Thieves [Moonwind Mysteries] by Johan Rundberg; trans. from Swedish by A. A. Prime (Amazon Crossing Kids)

In this sequel to The Night Raven (rev. 9/23), young detective Mika discovers that some of the children from her 1880s Stockholm orphanage have been taken under the wing of an elegant, savvy performance artist — but “something doesn’t quite make sense.” A wonderfully eventful mystery, with unpredictable plots, schemes, and a successful get-out-of-jail attempt engineered by a team of juvenile explosive experts — not to mention the indomitable Mika and her sidekick, unorthodox police detective Hoff. 207 pp.

A Royal Conundrum [Misfits] by Lisa Yee; illus. by Dan Santat (Random)

In this series starter, Olive Cobin Zang is shipped off to a school for the “artistically adventurous.” She finds she’s a good fit with the other misfits on a team of crime-fighting preteens assembled to thwart an expected jewel heist on campus. A madcap escapade featuring likable heroes and dastardly villains, with good kids working together to defeat the bad guys and, in the process, finding their place in the world. 288 pp.

From the April 2024 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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