2024 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 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 | Intermediate | High School


Middle School

Suggested grade level for all entries: 6–8


Super Boba Café by Nidhi Chanani; illus. by the author; color by Sarah Davidson (Amulet/Abrams) 

After an embarrassing mishap on social media, almost-fourteen-year-old Aria unplugs for the summer and goes to San Francisco to visit Nainai, her Taiwanese grandmother. Aria learns that her grandmother has been staving off an underground monster — and decides to help free Nainai from this burden. Chanani's (Pashmina, rev. 1/18; Jukebox) inventive graphic novel explores themes of healing, friendship, personal responsibility, and intergenerational communication. The illustrations feature plenty of warmth and cartoonish cuteness. 224 pp.

Abeni’s Song by P. Djèlí Clark (Starscape/Tor)

On Abeni’s twelfth birthday, a witch issues a grave warning: an evil is coming. Malevolent women and a shadowy goat man, aided by magical black ropes and an enchanted flute, attack. Abeni survives, but the village has been destroyed and its residents have disappeared. With the aid of two spirits, she sets out to find her friends and family before they are completely consumed by the dark. Clark presents a rich story of love, loss, and friendship steeped in West African lore. 336 pp.

Mari and the Curse of El Cocodrilo by Adrianna Cuevas (Harper/HarperCollins) 

Twelve-year-old Mari is self-conscious about her Cuban family sticking out in her small town. When they burn effigies on New Year's Eve to ward off bad luck, she refuses to participate — and becomes the victim of strange events. Luckily, she has a newfound power to summon the ghosts of her ancestors. They explain that she has incurred the curse of El Cocodrilo, which she breaks by embracing her family's "Peak Cubanity." A humorous investigation of identity, family history, and friendship with some mildly creepy elements. 256 pp.

The Astrochimps: America’s First Astronauts by Dawn Cusick (Chicago Review)  

Chimpanzees were "America’s first astronauts," but how did their voyages help NASA send humans into space? Through Cusick's well-researched look at the primates' training and flights, readers learn that the chimps were highly skilled astronauts performing difficult mental challenges to give scientists useful information. Back matter that includes extensive endnotes, a glossary, an index, and additional resources rounds out this propulsively readable account of a little-known aspect of astronautic history. 216 pp.

The Hurricane Girls by Kimberly Willis Holt (Ottaviano/Little, Brown)

Greer, Joya Mia, and Kiki become inseparable friends when they interview their New Orleans community about the impact of Hurricane Katrina. When Greer begins to withdraw from the group, blaming herself for her sister's disabling accident, the three participate in a relay triathlon to rebuild their faded friendship. Holt takes time developing these characters, allowing readers to see both their individual and collective growth in this appealing and sensitive novel. 288 pp.

Slugfest by Gordon Korman (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins) 

If he doesn’t take summer school PE, eighth grader and star athlete Arnie Yashenko won't graduate to high school in the fall. But taking the class means missing the workouts necessary for pitching for his high school's JV baseball team. By the end of the term, he learns the value of friendship and teamwork in this big-hearted novel with chapters that alternate between Yash's and other reluctant summer school attendees' perspectives. 304 pp.

Unhappy Camper by Lily LaMotte; illus. by Ann Xu; color by Sunmi (HarperAlley/HarperCollins) 

When at-odds sisters Claire and Michelle attend a Taiwanese American summer camp, Michelle strives to forge her dual cultural identity. This engaging graphic novel explores the experiences of not quite fitting in, being stereotyped, and embracing one's heritage and individuality. The panels are packed with details, and moments of humor are captured through playful manga-like facial expressions and gestures, propelling the plot forward. 208 pp.

Enlighten Me by Minh Lê; illus. by Chan Chau (LB Ink/Little, Brown) 

Binh isn't happy about his Vietnamese American family's trip to a silent Buddhist meditation retreat. His beloved Game Boy is taken away, and, worse, Binh has to write an apology for shoving the school bully who had taunted him with racist comments. During the retreat, Binh learns to find the inner wisdom, strength, and community to constructively address life's challenges. Frequent cool colors in dynamically composed panels make for a sweet, surprisingly soothing graphic novel. 144 pp.

Forsooth by Jimmy Matejek-Morris (Carolrhoda)

Calvin Conroy lives in the shadow of his best friend, Kennedy, who will be attending performing arts school in New York City next year. Calvin enlists his neighbor Blake — the only person able to soothe Calvin’s growing anxiety — to help him create a film spectacular enough to convince Kennedy to stay, all while worrying about what his Catholic parents will think about his crushing on another boy. These conflicts are balanced with lightheartedness and references that will delight any theater kid. 360 pp.

We Built This City by Cat Patrick (Paulsen/Penguin) 

It’s the summer of 1985 and twelve-year-old Stevie is on a (chaperoned) cross-country tour with Synchronicity, a performing troupe whose shows are part lip synch, part dance, and some ASL. Stevie's attempts at first romance and her concern about her brother, who has epilepsy and keeps brushing her off, take center stage in a road-trip novel that's chaotic but deeply joyful. Patrick captures the thrills and anxieties of performing — and all the complicated relationships that go on behind the scenes. 272 pp.

The 21: The True Story of the Youth Who Sued the U. S. Government Over Climate Change by Elizabeth Rusch (Greenwillow)

In 2015, lawyer Julia Olson filed Juliana v. United States on behalf of twenty-one young plaintiffs who were affected in some way by climate change. The still-pending case wound its way through the legal system with dramatic twists and turns. In this timely and empowering nonfiction account, Rusch weaves together multiple strands into an empowering story of youth activism, a primer on the role of the judicial branch in our democracy, and a cautionary tale about climate change. 400 pp.

Grounded by Aisha Saeed, Huda al-Marashi, Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, and S. K. Ali (Amulet/Abrams) 

After attending the annual MONA (Muslims of North America) conference, twelve-year-old Feek meets fellow conference attendees Hanna, Nora, and Sami at the (fictional) Zora Neale Hurston Airport. The kids come together to search for Feek's younger sister, who wandered off, and Hanna's missing cat. This is more than a cute caper with humorous airport antics: it's a thought-provoking adventure about growing up and the need for individuality, independence, and autonomy. 272 pp.

Summer at Squee by Andrea Wang (Kokila/Penguin)  

Phoenny, a thirteen-year-old Chinese American girl, is ecstatic to return to SCCWEE (Summertime Chinese Culture, Wellness, and Enrichment Experience) with her best friends. When new (and initially unfriendly) campers arrive and internet trolls threaten the camp, Phoenny feels unsettled and afraid. Nightly camper meetings lead to honest and transformative conversations about what it means to be Chinese in this rich portrait of the ups and downs of middle school friendships complete with a few crushes and hilarious camp hijinks. 320 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.

Horn Book
Horn Book

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