In the good old summertime

If you’ve already blazed through our Summer Reading: Intermediate and Middle School lists, here are six additional summer-set titles to bring sunshine to your day. See also our Guide/Reviews Database chapter books, middle-grade, and YA summer camp booklists and Guide/Reviews Database subject Seasons: Summer.

by Elizabeth Agyemang; illus. by the author
Intermediate, Middle School    Razorbill/Penguin    256 pp.    g
6/22    978-0-593-20488-7    $22.99
Paper ed.  978-0-593-20490-0    $14.99
e-book ed.  978-0-593-35234-2    $8.99

Stories and truths cross paths in Agyemang’s debut graphic novel. After twelve-year-old Nana (“It’s ‘NAH-na,’ not ‘NAN’”) makes up one too many tales, landing her in the principal’s office again, her parents send her to Ghana to spend the summer with her extended family, including her grandmother, who is also a storyteller. While adjusting to life in her mother’s childhood village, Nana stumbles upon an evil company that’s stealing the village forest’s magic and killing it in the process. She then finds herself negotiating with Ananse, trickster spider and bearer of the world’s stories. Agyemang herself spins this tale by drawing upon stories of the past. Classic folktales come to life through energetic folk art–style illustrations capturing the vibrant setting and colorful Ghanaian attire. Most striking is Ananse’s versatile human-spider form, which shifts around adroitly through the panels. Exploring themes of fitting in, honoring tradition, enacting social justice, and finding one’s truth, the book takes readers on a voyage of self-discovery while demonstrating the magical power of stories and their ability to reach across cultures and generations. JERRY DEAR

Consider the Octopus
by Nora Raleigh Baskin and Gae Polisner
Intermediate    Godwin/Holt    272 pp.    g
4/22    978-1-250-79351-5    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-1-250-79352-2    $9.99

Jeremy’s mom tasks him with inviting famous scientists to a symposium on her sea-bound research ship, which is testing out a tool for cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. He mistakenly sends adult scientist Sidney Miller’s invitation to twelve-year-old podcaster Sidney Miller, who needs to fill her summer with educational and interactive experiences so her parents don’t haul her off to camp. Jeremy agrees to smuggle the younger Sidney (and her goldfish, Rachel Carson) onto the ship instead of admitting his mistake, and the two commit to keeping her presence a secret from the adults onboard. Gregarious Jeremy, who is more interested in sports than science, and introverted Sidney, who has become entranced with the concept of synchronicity, quickly go from mismatched odd couple to dedicated friends with a shared secret. They eventually get caught, of course, but not before their social media advocacy brings the media coverage Jeremy’s mother needs to keep her project funded. Nuanced layers of story take the book beyond its initial quirkiness: Jeremy’s reaction to his parents’ divorce, Sidney’s close relationship with her grandmother, the challenges of sustaining interest in long-term scientific work. The narrative’s nonlinear structure, with sections alternating between Jeremy’s and Sidney’s points of view and flashbacks that develop the characters and reveal how they got to the ship, makes for an engaging read; and the nautical setting is richly developed. SARAH RETTGER

Wreck at Ada’s Reef [Swallowtail Legacy]
by Michael D. Beil
Intermediate    Pixel + Ink    320 pp.    g
2/22    978-1-64595-048-6    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-64595-102-5    $10.99

Lark Heron-Finch is back at her family’s house on Lake Erie’s Swallowtail Island for the first time since her mother’s death. With her younger sister, stepfather, and three stepbrothers also there, the limits of Lark’s temper are tested on a regular basis. She finds a purpose for the summer by becoming a research assistant to family friend Nadine, who is working on a book about the island’s history. Nadine introduces Lark to Dinah, a ninety-three-year-old woman who is one of the island’s oldest residents, and to the story of Nadine’s grandfather’s death, decades earlier, in a boat wreck that might not have been an accident after all. As Lark dives into investigating the mystery, her impulsiveness continues to present problems, but it also allows her to save the day. While some of the mystery’s twists may not be that surprising, the overall execution is a success. The evolution of Lark’s relationship with her stepfather and siblings is well done, giving the book’s fully realized secondary characters a chance to develop along with the protagonist. Even Lark’s soccer-field nemesis turns out to be more complex than the classic bully he’d seemed at first. The book concludes with revelations about another island-related mystery, leaving readers eager for the next installment. SARAH RETTGER

Camp Famous
by Jennifer Blecher
Intermediate    Greenwillow    272 pp.    g
5/22    978-0-06-314068-4    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-314070-7    $9.99

Abby longs to leave the troubles of fifth grade behind for a typical overnight summer camp experience. Instead, her teacher, noticing Abby’s social troubles and unhappiness at school, finagles her a place at Camp Famous, where celebrity kids go to escape the pressure of the public eye. Finding herself among royalty, pop stars, children of social media influencers, science prodigies, and even Oliver — a classmate from school who, it turns out, does reporting for national news outlets — Abby feels self-conscious about being “regular” and pretends to be a best-selling author. Meanwhile, the famous kids all like Abby immediately — and she could develop close friendships were she not hindered by the false identity she has created. The atmosphere is idyllic: likable counselors in cozy cabins, a lake, evening campfires, loads of activity choices and free time blocks, and a tightknit group of campers with complicated lives and a desire for real connection. Abby’s first-person narration, alternating with journal entries in her green fuzzy notebook, builds as the summer of her dreams unfolds, until her secret comes out, upending everything. This enjoyable story of finding self-acceptance through a summer escape is ideal for veteran campers as well as for those who daydream about the experience — and the new friends they might make there. JULIE ROACH

Breda’s Island
by Jessie Ann Foley
Intermediate, Middle School    Quill Tree/HarperCollins    256 pp.    g
7/22    978-0-06-320772-1    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-320775-2    $10.99

Breda didn’t believe her single mother would really send her from Chicago to Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula for the summer if she got caught stealing again, but her theft of a classmate’s gym shorts earns Breda a visit to the grandfather she’s never met. Granda is the epitome of the elderly taciturn farmer, and although he at first seems as unenthused as Breda is about the arrangement, he slowly warms up to her. Breda settles in, exploring the village and finding friends on a Gaelic football team, and she wonders if she might also meet the father who’s never been part of her life. When a health crisis waylays Granda, Breda is able to both take charge and rely on the community she’s developed, putting her newfound confidence to work and expanding her definition of family. She also develops a new appreciation for her mother, an undocumented immigrant who has spent years working for others and is finally able to start her own business. Foley does an excellent job of building the Irish setting — with the help of Granda’s role as a traditional storyteller. Foley’s forthright approach to puberty and periods, which are among Breda’s experiences, is refreshing. This is a quiet book, with an emotionally charged conflict that often simmers beneath the surface of the page, made possible by the authentic and fully realized characters. SARAH RETTGER

by Janet Key
Intermediate, Middle School    Little, Brown    368 pp.    g
5/22    978-0-316-66931-3    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-316-66934-4    $9.99

Theater camp is not how introverted twelve-year-old Maren Sands had planned to spend her summer. Nevertheless, she finds herself following in her sister Hadley’s path at Camp Goodman. Maren generally avoids the stage, but she gains attention on the first day by finding the camp director’s missing phone. This leads to her involvement in a mystery that dates back to the camp’s 1960s founding. Maren follows clues, all connected to Twelfth Night, which seem to be leading her to a diamond ring allegedly hidden at the camp in its early days. Along the way, she processes feelings about Hadley’s diagnosed depression and her parents’ preoccupation with it. Interwoven are episodes from the life of Charlotte “Charlie” Goodman, sister of the camp’s founder, who grew up in Hollywood and (supposedly) died while directing her first film. Key does a good job of bringing in such topics as the 1940s Hearings Against Accused Communists in Hollywood and related “Lavender Scare” without letting history overwhelm the storytelling (back matter provides more detail); and of allowing the book’s themes of gender and sexuality to develop organically. (Having the closing day of camp coincide with the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage is a nice touch.) The book’s primary villains, a classic mean girl and a menacing corporate executive, are more types than characters, but many others, particularly Maren; her nonbinary bunkmate, Theo; and her movement instructor, Eartha, are more satisfyingly developed. SARAH RETTGER

From the June 2022 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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