Ah, summer. Now that we’re wading into fall, I figured it’s a good time to share these middle-grade books set in the summer. There’s just a freedom about summer. Growing up in a tropical country meant it was warm all year round, but for us summer was about the time AWAY from school. It was in the late nights and sleep-ins and time with friends and nothing on the schedule. That’s what these middle-grade books set in the summer encapsulate.
However, it’s not all fun and games. While one or two of these books are set in summer camps, I didn’t focus on those, because I have an entire book list on middle-grade summer camp books. On this list you’ll find heartwarming coming-of-age stories, mysteries, family stories, and hard stories about parents and grandparents with mental health issues and death and grief. But overall, the feel of summer is strong in these books!
Let’s get started. Click on the book covers to go their Amazon pages.
Disclaimer: I use affiliate links for Amazon and will make a cent or two if you buy using these links. It’s a great way to support a blog(ger) you love.
The Battle of Junk Mountain
Published: April 17, 2018
Twelve-year-old Shayne Whittaker has always spent summers on the Maine coast, visiting her grandmother Bea and playing with her BFF Poppy. Both Shayne and Bea are collectors, in their own ways: Shayne revels in golden memories of searching for sea glass and weaving friendship bracelets with Poppy, while Bea scours flea markets for valuable finds, much of which she adds to a growing pile in her house that Shayne jokingly calls Junk Mountain.
This summer, though, everything has changed. Poppy would rather talk about boys than bracelets, and Bea’s collecting mania has morphed into hoarding. Only Linc, the weird Civil War-obsessed kid next door, pays attention to her. Turns out Linc’s collected a secret of his own, one that could enrage the meanest lobsterman on the planet, his grandpa. What begins as the worst summer of Shayne’s life becomes the most meaningful, as she wages an all-out battle to save her friendships, rescue her grandmother, and protect the memories she loves the most.
Best Friends, Bikinis and Other Summer Catastrophes
Published: May 17, 2022
Alex has always known her best friend and next-door neighbor, Will, will be there for her. That’s just how it’s always been. Until a girl from the pool named Rebekah comes over to them and says hi. Suddenly, Will is changing his clothes, restyling his hair, and breaking all of their summer plans and Alex is not happy about it.
Every summer, she and Will come up with a new challenge. This year, it’s a treehouse. Now Alex is wrangling up summer jobs and keeping tabs on the new girl, hoping that in completing their treehouse, she can keep from losing her best friend and her summer from falling apart.
Shouting at the Rain
Published: May 5, 2020
Delsie loves tracking the weather–lately, though, it seems the squalls are in her own life. She’s always lived with her kindhearted Grammy, but now she’s looking at their life with new eyes and wishing she could have a “regular family.” Delsie observes other changes in the air, too–the most painful being a friend who’s outgrown her. Luckily, she has neighbors with strong shoulders to support her, and Ronan, a new friend who is caring and courageous but also troubled by the losses he’s endured. As Ronan and Delsie traipse around Cape Cod on their adventures, they both learn what it means to be angry versus sad, broken versus whole, and abandoned versus loved. And that, together, they can weather any storm.
Published: May 25, 2021
Every Saturday, Pawcasso trots into town with a basket, a shopping list, and cash in paw to buy groceries for his family. One day, he passes eleven-year-old Jo, peering out the window of her house, bored and lonely. Astonished by the sight of an adorable basket-toting dog on his own, Jo follows Pawcasso, and when she’s seen alongside him by a group of kids from her school, they mistake her for Pawcasso’s owner.
Excited to make new friends, Jo reluctantly hides the truth and agrees to let “her” dog model for an art class the kids attend. What could go wrong? But what starts as a Chihuahua-sized lie quickly grows Great Dane-sized when animal control receives complaints about a dog roaming the streets off-leash. With Pawcasso’s freedom at stake, is Jo willing to spill the truth and risk her new friendships?
The Line Tender
Published: April 16, 2019
Wherever the sharks led, Lucy Everhart’s marine-biologist mother was sure to follow. In fact, she was on a boat far off the coast of Massachusetts, collecting shark data when she died suddenly. Lucy was seven. Since then Lucy and her father have kept their heads above water–thanks in large part to a few close friends and neighbors. But June of her twelfth summer brings more than the end of school and a heat wave to sleepy Rockport. On one steamy day, the tide brings a great white–and then another tragedy, cutting short a friendship everyone insists was “meaningful” but no one can tell Lucy what it all meant. To survive the fresh wave of grief, Lucy must grab the line that connects her depressed father, a stubborn fisherman, and a curious old widower to her mother’s unfinished research on the Great White’s return to Cape Cod. If Lucy can find a way to help this unlikely quartet follow the sharks her mother loved, she’ll finally be able to look beyond what she’s lost and toward what’s left to be discovered.
Published: May 3, 2022
Rising star Kat Fajardo’s debut middle-grade graphic novel about a girl who would rather do anything other than celebrate her quinceañera! A funny and heartfelt coming-of-age story about navigating the expectations of family and cultural tradition.
Sue just wants to spend the summer reading and making comics at sleepaway camp with her friends, but instead she gets stuck going to Honduras to visit relatives with her parents and two sisters. They live way out in the country, which means no texting, no cable, and no Internet! The trip takes a turn for the worse when Sue’s mother announces that they’ll be having a surprise quinceañera for Sue, which is the last thing she wants. She can’t imagine wearing a big, floofy, colorful dress! What is Sue going to do? And how will she survive all this “quality” time with her rambunctious family?
Published: February 4, 2020
When Mia moves to Vermont the summer after seventh grade, she’s recovering from the broken arm she got falling off a balance beam. And packed away in the moving boxes under her clothes and gymnastics trophies is a secret she’d rather forget.
Mia’s change in scenery brings day camp, new friends, and time with her beloved grandmother. But Gram is convinced someone is trying to destroy her cricket farm. Is it sabotage or is Gram’s thinking impaired from the stroke she suffered months ago? Mia and her friends set out to investigate, but can they uncover the truth in time to save Gram’s farm? And will that discovery empower Mia to confront the secret she’s been hiding–and find the courage she never knew she had?
The Best Worst Summer
Published: May 4, 2021
This is going to be the worst summer ever for Peyton. Her family just moved, and she had to leave her best friend behind. She’s lonely. She’s bored. Until . . . she comes across a box buried in her backyard, with a message: I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. Things are about to get interesting.
Back in 1989, it’s going to be the best summer ever for Melissa and Jessica. They have two whole months to goof around and explore, and they’re even going to bury a time capsule! But when one girl’s family secret starts to unravel, it’s clear things may not go exactly as planned.
In alternating chapters, from Peyton in present day to Melissa three decades earlier (a time with no cell phones, no social media, and camera film that took days to develop, but also a whole lot of freedom), beloved author Elizabeth Eulberg tells the story of a mystery that two sets of memorable characters will never forget.
Any Day With You
Published: May 5, 2020
Kaia and her family live near the beach in California, where the fun of moviemaking is all around them. Kaia loves playing with makeup and creating special effects, turning her friends into merfolk and other magical creatures.
This summer, Kaia and her friends are part of a creative arts camp, where they’re working on a short movie to enter in a contest. The movie is inspired by the Filipino folktales that her beloved Tatang, her great-grandfather, tells. Tatang lives with her family and is like the sparkle of her special-effects makeup. When Tatang decides that it is time to return to his homeland in the Philippines, Kaia will do anything to convince him not to go.
Published: April 5, 2022
Karthik Raghavan is good at remembering things. Like his bike routes. Or all the reasons he likes Juhi Shah—even if she doesn’t even know he exists. It doesn’t help that she seems to have a crush on his arch nemesis, Jacob Donnell, whose only job is to humiliate Karthik (and get his name wrong). Then Karthik’s luck changes when he secretly agrees to be in a play about the famous musician, Leonard Bernstein. But he can’t tell his parents. The family store is in jeopardy, and they need him delivering groceries on his bike to help save it. His mom is also worried about the Financial Crisis, and she’s convinced that studying hard and staying focused is the only way to succeed. But Karthik is having fun being Lenny. Besides, what if acting is Karthik’s special talent? And what if acting is the one way to catch Juhi Shah’s attention? With all the pressure from his family to succeed, will Karthik be able to really imagine and hope when he’s not sure what will happen next?
Finally, Something Mysterious
Published: April 14, 2020
Paul Marconi has always thought that Bellwood was a strange town, but also a boring one. Not much for an eleven-year-old to do. Fires are burning nearby, Paul’s parents are obsessed with winning a bratwurst contest, and his best friend, one of the founding members of their only-child detective club, the One and Onlys, is about to acquire a younger sister, sort of undoing their whole reason for existing. But then! Hundreds of rubber duckies have appeared on the lawn of poor Mr. Babbage without any explanation. Finally! There is something that Paul and his friends can actually investigate.
In the face of all these bizarre occurrences, Paul is convinced that uncovering who deposited the duckies will finally bring some sense to what has become an upside-down world. Soon the three friends have a long list of suspects, all with their own motives, but no clear culprit. When everything comes to a head at the town’s annual Bellwood Bratwurst Bonanza, Paul discovers that some things don’t have an easy explanation and not every mystery can be solved.
Not Starring Zadie Louise
Published: June 21, 2022
Zadie loves Tae Kwon Do, comic books, and outer space. She also loves visiting the community theater that her mom runs, especially the lighting grid over the stage and the stage manager’s booth, which is filled with levers and buttons like a spaceship control panel. So when the family’s finances suffer a blow and Zadie has to give up her usual activities to spend the summer at the theater, she doesn’t mind too much. After all, she’s always wanted to tech a show.
She knows she’d be great at it, but her mom and the new stage manager are totally opposed to the idea of having a kid do tech. Instead, Zadie’s stuck handing out snacks and folding flyers. But the future of the theater rides on this show, and Zadie is determined to help. She’s going to make Spinderella the hit of the season—unless she accidentally turns it into a disaster.
A Thousand Questions
Published: October 6, 2020
Mimi is not thrilled to be spending her summer in Karachi, Pakistan, with grandparents she’s never met. Secretly, she wishes to find her long-absent father, and plans to write to him in her beautiful new journal.
The cook’s daughter, Sakina, still hasn’t told her parents that she’ll be accepted to school only if she can improve her English test score—but then, how could her family possibly afford to lose the money she earns working with her Abba in a rich family’s kitchen?
Although the girls seem totally incompatible at first, as the summer goes on, Sakina and Mimi realize that they have plenty in common—and that they each need the other to get what they want most.
Published: May 10, 2022
Eleven-year-old Abby Herman is beyond excited that her parents are letting her go to summer camp for the first time ever. Maybe camp will be the place she’ll finally find what she’s always wanted: a best friend. But—surprise!—she’s not going to just any summer camp, she’s going to Camp Famous, the one exclusively for famous kids escaping the spotlight.
Desperate to fit in with the pop stars, princesses, and geniuses, Abby creates a fake identity as a famous author. Everything goes as planned: the other girls welcome her, she participates in camp activities, and she even inspires a pop star! But as camp comes to a close, Abby finds herself torn between who she has pretended to be and who she truly is.
The Emperor’s Riddle
Published: May 2, 2017
Mia Chen is on what her mother calls a Grand Adventure. She’s not sure what to make of this family trip to China, and didn’t want to leave her friends for the summer, but she’s excited about the prospect of exploring with her Aunt Lin, the only adult who truly understands her.
Then Aunt Lin disappears, right after her old nemesis, a man named Ying, comes to visit. Mia knows that years ago, when Aunt Lin and Ying were sent to the Fuzhou countryside to work as laborers, the two searched for an ancient treasure together—one that still hasn’t been found. She’s suspicious that their shared history might be linked to Aunt Lin’s disappearance.
When Mia discovers an old map filled with riddles in Aunt Lin’s room, she quickly pieces together her mission: find the treasure, find her aunt. Now, Mia, along with her big brother, Jake, must solve the clues to rescue the person she knows best in the world—and maybe unearth a treasure greater than her wildest dreams.
Sweet and Sour
Published: September 6, 2022
For as long as she can remember, Mai has spent every summer in Mystic, Connecticut visiting family friends. And hanging out with her best-friend-since-birth, Zach Koyama, was always the best part.
Then two summers ago everything changed. Zach humiliated Mai, proving he wasn’t a friend at all. So when Zach’s family moved to Japan, Mai felt relieved. No more summers together. No more heartache.
But this year, the Koyamas have returned and the family vacation is back on. And if Mai has to spend the summer around Zach, the least she can do is wipe away the memory of his betrayal… by coming up with the perfect plan for revenge!
Only Zach isn’t the boy he used to be, and Mai’s memories of their last fateful summer aren’t the whole truth of what happened between them. Now she’ll have to decide if she can forgive Zach, even if she can never forget.
Published: May 2, 2017
Lemonade Liberty Witt’s mama always told her: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. But Lem can’t possibly make lemonade out of her new life in Willow Creek, California—the Bigfoot Capital of the World—where she’s forced to live with a grandfather she’s never met after her mother passes away.
Then she meets eleven-year-old Tobin Sky, the CEO of Bigfoot Detectives Inc., who is the sole Bigfoot investigator for their small town. After he invites Lem to be his assistant for the summer, they set out on an epic adventure to capture a shot of the elusive beast on film. But along the way, Lem and Tobin end up discovering more than they ever could have imagined. And Lem realizes that maybe she can make lemonade out of her new life after all.
Grow Up, Tahlia Wilkins
Published: April 19, 2022
Twelve-year-old Tahlia Wilkins is ready to kick off the perfect summer at the popular kid’s pool party. But when the Red Goddess of Panties, aka her first period, arrives 24 hours before the pool party, it messes up all her plans. To make matters worse, her mom is out of town, and there’s no way she’s going to ask her dad for help! Tahlia always feared that growing up would be tough, but this is just not fair.
In order to save herself from total embarrassment, it will take all of Tahlia and her best friend Lily’s scheming to keep her reputation—and her favorite jeans—from being ruined. Sneak off to the grocery store only to have the clerk price check your “goods” over the loudspeaker? Check. Trick your mature teenage neighbor into letting you use her bathroom to ‘rehome’ some tampons? Check. Take a dip into a fountain to ‘borrow’ some quarters for a bathroom period product dispenser? Check, check, check!
Published: April 4, 2019
The detective duo everyone is dying to meet! Summer in London is hot, the hottest on record, and there’s been a murder in THE TRI: the high-rise home to resident know-it-alls, Nik and Norva. Who better to solve the case? Armed with curiosity, home-turf knowledge and unlimited time – until the end of the summer holidays anyway. The first whodunnit in a new mystery series by Sharna Jackson.
Coming Up Short
Published: June 21, 2022
Bea’s parents think she can accomplish absolutely anything—and she’s determined to prove them right. But at the end of seventh grade, on the same day she makes a gutsy play to send her softball team to the league championships and Xander, the boy she likes, makes it clear that he likes her too, a scandal shakes up her world. Bea’s dad made a big mistake, taking money that belonged to a client. He’s now suspended from practicing law, and another lawyer spread the news online. To make matters worse, that other lawyer is Xander’s dad.
Bea doesn’t want to be angry with her dad, especially since he feels terrible and is trying to make things right. But she can’t face the looks of pity from all her friends, and then she starts missing throws in softball because she’s stuck in her own head. The thing she was best at seems to be slipping out of her fingers along with her formerly happy family. She’s not sure what’s going to be harder—learning to throw again, or forgiving her dad. How can she be the best version of herself when everything she loves is falling apart?
Stand Up, Yumi Chung
Published: March 17, 2020
On the outside, Yumi Chung suffers from #shygirlproblems, a perm-gone-wrong, and kids calling her “Yu-MEAT” because she smells like her family’s Korean barbecue restaurant. On the inside, Yumi is ready for her Netflix stand-up special. Her notebook is filled with mortifying memories that she’s reworked into comedy gold. All she needs is a stage and courage.
Instead of spending the summer studying her favorite YouTube comedians, Yumi is enrolled in test-prep tutoring to qualify for a private school scholarship, which will help in a time of hardship at the restaurant. One day after class, Yumi stumbles on an opportunity that will change her life: a comedy camp for kids taught by one of her favorite YouTube stars. The only problem is that the instructor and all the students think she’s a girl named Kay Nakamura–and Yumi doesn’t correct them.
As this case of mistaken identity unravels, Yumi must decide to stand up and reveal the truth or risk losing her dreams and disappointing everyone she cares about.
Katie the Catsitter
Published: January 5, 2021
Katie is dreading the boring summer ahead while her best friends are all away at camp–something that’s way out of Katie and her mom’s budget, UNLESS Katie can figure out a way to earn the money for camp herself. But when Katie gets a job catsitting for her mysterious upstairs neighbor, life get interesting. First, Madeline has 217 cats (!) and they’re not exactly . . . normal cats. Also, why is Madeline always out EXACTLY when the city’s most notorious villain commits crimes?! Is it possible that Katie’s upstairs neighbor is really a super villain? Can Katie wrangle a whole lot of wayward cats, save a best friendship (why is Beth barely writing back? And who’s this boy she keeps talking about?!), AND crack the biggest story in the city’s history? Some heroes have capes . . . Katie has cats!
All the Ways Home
Published: May 28, 2019
Sometimes, home isn’t where you expect to find it.
After losing his mom in a fatal car crash, Kaede Hirano–now living with a grandfather who is more stranger than family–developed anger issues and spent his last year of middle school acting out.
Best-friendless and critically in danger repeating the seventh grade, Kaede is given a summer assignment: write an essay about what home means to him, which will be even tougher now that he’s on his way to Japan to reconnect with his estranged father and older half-brother. Still, if there’s a chance Kaede can finally build a new family from an old one, he’s willing to try. But building new relationships isn’t as easy as destroying his old ones, and one last desperate act will change the way Kaede sees everyone–including himself.
This is a book about what home means to us―and that there are many different correct answers.
Published: August 31, 2021
With the arrival of a glossy, cream-colored envelope in the mail, Elena Martinez’s dreams come true: she’s been chosen for the Spread Your Wings Magazine’s Young Flyers program—a week-long summer internship where she’ll get to learn the ins and outs of working for the most popular teen magazine. She heads to New York City, anxious to get away from her best friend, Summer, who is suddenly spending a lot time with another girl from school and being secretive about it.
Once there Elena meets her fellow Young Flyers: Harlow, who can get to the bottom of any story, Whitney, who has spot-on fashion sense, and Cailin, a social media star with thousands of followers and an eye for photography.
As the four new friends explore the city that never sleeps, each girl brings a piece of home, and a few secrets, with them and learns that no one’s life is as glossy as it may appear. But with courage, teamwork, and lots of passion, there’s no stopping a Flyer.
The House That Lou Built
Published: June 12, 2018
Lou Bulosan-Nelson has the ultimate summer DIY project. She’s going to build her own “tiny house,” 100 square feet all her own. She shares a room with her mom in her grandmother’s house, and longs for a place where she can escape her crazy but lovable extended Filipino family. Lou enjoys her woodshop class and creating projects, and she plans to build the house on land she inherited from her dad, who died before she was born. But then she finds out that the land may not be hers for much longer.
Lou discovers it’s not easy to save her land, or to build a house. But she won’t give up; with the help of friends and relatives, her dream begins to take shape, and she learns the deeper meaning of home and family.
Sunny Makes a Splash
Published: September 21, 2021
It’s summer, and Sunny is BORED. Most of her friends are out of town. Her mom wants her to baby-sit way more than Sunny wants to baby-sit. There’s nothing good on TV.
The only place that’s cool (in a not-boring sense) and cool (in a not-hot sense) is the community pool. Sunny loves going there . . . and loves it even more when she’s offered a job at the snack shack. Soon she’s flinging fries and serving soft ice-cream like a pro . . . with the assistance of the very sweet boy who works with her.
Sunny’s mom isn’t sure Sunny should be quite so independent. But Sunny is definitely sure: Life is best when it’s free swim.
Published: April 26, 2016
Eleven-year-old Ema has always been of two worlds–her father’s Japanese heritage and her mother’s life in America. She lives in Japan and has spent summers in California for as long as she can remember, but this year she and her mother are staying with her grandparents in western Tokyo as they await the arrival of Ema’s baby sibling. Her mother’s pregnancy has been tricky, putting everyone on edge, but Ema’s heart is singing–finally, there will be someone else who will understand what it’s like to belong and not belong at the same time.
But Ema’s good spirits are muffled by her grandmother who is cold, tightfisted, and quick to reprimand her for the slightest infraction. Then, when their stay is extended and Ema must go to a new school, her worries of not belonging grow. And when the tragedy of 9/11 strikes, Ema, her parents, and the world watch as the twin towers fall…
As her mother grieves for her country across the ocean–threatening the safety of her pregnancy–and her beloved grandfather falls ill, Ema feels more helpless and hopeless than ever. And yet, surrounded by tragedy, Ema sees for the first time the tender side of her grandmother, and the reason for the penny-pinching and sternness make sense–her grandmother has been preparing so they could all survive the worst.
Dipping and soaring, Somewhere Among is the story of one girl’s search for identity, a sense of peace, and the discovery that hope can indeed rise from the ashes of disaster
Reckless, Glorious Girl
Published: February 23, 2021
Beatrice Miller may have a granny’s name (her granny’s, to be more specific), but she adores her Mamaw and her mom, who give her every bit of wisdom and love they have. But the summer before seventh grade, Bea wants more than she has, aches for what she can’t have, and wonders what the future will bring.
This novel in verse follows Beatrice through the ups and downs of friendships, puberty, and identity as she asks: Who am I? Who will I become? And will my outside ever match the way I feel on the inside?
Millicent Min, Girl Genius
Published: October 1, 2003
Who would have thought being smart could be so hard (and funny)?
Millicent Min is having a bad summer. Her fellow high school students hate her for setting the curve. Her fellow 11-year-olds hate her for going to high school. And her mother has arranged for her to tutor Stanford Wong, the poster boy for Chinese geekdom. But then Millie meets Emily. Emily doesn’t know Millicent’s IQ score. She actually thinks Millie is cool. And if Millie can hide her awards, ignore her grandmother’s advice, swear her parents to silence, blackmail Stanford, and keep all her lies straight, she just might make her first friend.
What’s it gong to take? Sheer genius.
The Great Peach Experiment 1: When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Peach Pie
Published: April 6, 2021
Sweet summer has taken a rotten turn . . .
After a tough year, Lucy, Freddy, and Herb Peach are ready for vacation. Lucy wants to read all of the books on the summer reading list. Freddy wants to work on his art projects (when he isn’t stuck in summer school). Herb wants to swim every day.
Then their dad makes a big announcement: one of the inventions their mom came up with before she passed away has sold, and now they’re millionaires!
But Dad has bigger plans than blowing the cash on fun stuff or investing it. He’s bought a used food truck. The Peaches are going to spend the summer traveling the country selling pies. It will be the Great Peach Experiment–a summer of bonding while living out one of Mom’s dreams. Summer plans, sunk. And there’s one more issue Dad’s neglected: none of them knows how to bake. . . .
Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time
Published: October 1, 2005
Stanford Wong is in big trouble–or as he would spell it, “trubble”–in this laugh-out-loud companion to the award-winning MILLICENT MIN, GIRL GENIUS and this season’s HC, EMILY EBERS.
Stanford Wong is having a bad summer. If he flunks his summer-school English class, he won’t pass sixth grade. If that happens, he won’t start on the A-team. If *that* happens, his friends will abandon him and Emily Ebers won’t like him anymore. And if THAT happens, his life will be over. Soon his parents are fighting, his grandmother Yin-Yin hates her new nursing home, he’s being “tutored” by the world’s biggest nerdball Millicent Min–and he’s not sure his ballpoint “Emily” tattoo is ever going to wash off.
Peter Lee’s Notes from the Field
Published: March 2, 2021
Eleven year-old Peter Lee has one goal in life: to become a paleontologist. Okay, maybe two: to get his genius kid-sister, L.B., to leave him alone. But his summer falls apart when his real-life dinosaur expedition turns out to be a bust, and he watches his dreams go up in a cloud of asthma-inducing dust.
Even worse, his grandmother, Hammy, is sick, and no one will talk to Peter or L.B. about it. Perhaps his days as a scientist aren’t quite behind him yet. Armed with notebooks and pens, Peter puts his observation and experimental skills to the test to see what he can do for Hammy. If only he can get his sister to be quiet for once — he needs time to sketch out a plan.
What Happens Next
Published: May 19, 2020
Astronomy-obsessed Abby McCourt should be thrilled about the solar eclipse her small town of Moose Junction is about to witness, but she’s not. After her older sister Blair was sent away for an eating disorder, Abby has been in a funk.
Desperate to dull the pain her sister’s absence has left, she teams up with a visiting astronomer to help track down his long-lost telescope. Though this is supposed to take Abby’s mind off the distance between her and Blair, what she finds may bring her closer to her sister than she ever thought possible.
An Occasionally Happy Family
Published: May 18, 2021
There are zero reasons for Theo Ripley to look forward to his family vacation. Not only are he, sister Laura, and nature-obsessed Dad going to Big Bend, the least popular National Park, but once there, the family will be camping. And Theo is an indoor animal. It doesn’t help that this will be the first vacation they’re taking since Mom passed away.
Once there, the family contends with 110 degree days, wild bears, and an annoying amateur ornithologist and his awful teenage vlogger son. Then, Theo’s dad hits him with a whopper of a surprise: the whole trip is just a trick to introduce his secret new girlfriend.
Theo tries to squash down the pain in his chest. But when it becomes clear that this is an auditioning-to-be-his-stepmom girlfriend, Theo must find a way to face his grief and talk to his dad before his family is forever changed.
From the Desk of Zoe Washington
Published: January 14, 2020
Zoe Washington isn’t sure what to write. What does a girl say to the father she’s never met, hadn’t heard from until his letter arrived on her twelfth birthday, and who’s been in prison for a terrible crime?
A crime he says he never committed.
Could Marcus really be innocent? Zoe is determined to uncover the truth. Even if it means hiding his letters and her investigation from the rest of her family. Everyone else thinks Zoe’s worrying about doing a good job at her bakery internship and proving to her parents that she’s worthy of auditioning for Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge.
But with bakery confections on one part of her mind, and Marcus’s conviction weighing heavily on the other, this is one recipe Zoe doesn’t know how to balance. The only thing she knows to be true: Everyone lies.
Published: April 6, 2021
It’s All about you and your crew. Your girls, your gang, your SQUAD. They are your support system, you laugh together, you cry together, you share all your secrets, and then some. So why not document that…. some of your best times written down to help when those lifelong memories get a little foggy between some friends. Now of course not everything can be written Girl Code Number 1. But wouldn’t it be great to have some moments to look back on and read. Who knows it may even turn into an actual book or movie.
Summer in the City
Published: March 31, 2020
Where Mango goes, drama is sure to follow! It’s summer break, and Mango is content to spend her time babysitting her brother, hanging with her friend Izzy, and binge-watching movies late into the night. Then she runs into her drama teacher, who has some big news: their middle school play Yo, Romeo! is headed to the stage in New York City . . . and he wants Mango for the lead role! After overcoming her mom’s initial reluctance—and with some firm rules established—Mango goes off to Brooklyn to stay with her Aunt Zendaya in a teeny apartment and prepare for her theatrical debut. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, but soon Mango must confront homesickness, insecurity, and the all-important question of what it means to be a good friend—especially when you’re far away from the people you love.
Forever This Summer
Published: July 6, 2021
Georgie has no idea what to expect when she, Mama, and Peaches are plopped down in the middle of small town USA–aka Bogalusa, Louisiana–where Mama grew up and Great Aunt Vie needs constant care. Georgie wants to help out at the once famous family diner that served celebrities like the Jackson 5 and the Supremes, but everyone is too busy to show her the ropes and Mama is treating her like a baby, not letting her leave her sight. When she finally gets permission to leave on her own, Georgie makes friends with Markie–a foster kid who’d been under Aunt Elvie’s care–who has a limb difference and a huge attitude. Then Markie asks Georgie to help her find her mom, and suddenly summer has a real purpose. But as Georgie and Markie’s histories begin to entwine, Georgie becomes more desperate to find the truth. But words spoken cannot be taken back and once Georgie knows the truth, she may even find a way to right past wrongs and help Aunt Vie and Markie out after all.
Wrong Way Summer
Published: April 21, 2020
Claire used to love her dad’s fantastical stories, especially tales about her absent mom—who could be off with the circus or stolen by the troll king, depending on the day. But now that she’s 12, Claire thinks she’s old enough to know the truth. When her dad sells the house and moves her and her brother into a converted van, she’s tired of the tall tales and refuses to pretend it’s all some grand adventure, despite how enthusiastically her little brother embraces this newest fantasy. Claire is faced with a choice: Will she play along with the stories her dad is spinning for her little brother, or will she force her family to face reality once and for all? Equal parts heartwarming and heartbreaking, Wrong Way Summer is a road-trip journey and coming-of-age story about one girl’s struggle to understand when a lie is really a lie and when it’s something more: hope.
It Doesn’t Take a Genius
Published: April 13, 2021
Emmett and his older brother Luke have always been “Batman and Robin,” though they’re quick to bicker about who’s who. Spending the summer at a historic Black summer camp seems like a wonderful adventure for the two to share, but since Luke is there as a junior counselor, he seems to spend all of his time being everyone else’s big brother, and ignoring Emmett.
As Luke seems to be moving on to new adventures, Emmett struggles in unexpected ways, especially in swim class and the “It Takes A Village” entrepreneurship class. Without his brother to turn to for support, Emmett works to build a new crew of “superfriends,” who’ll help him plan something spectacular for the end-of-camp awards night and celebration. Along the way, Emmett learns that no matter what, there can be many ways to define family.
Rules of the Ruff
Published: August 14, 2018
Twelve-year-old Jessie is in for a long, lonely summer at her aunt and uncle’s house. Her uncle is clueless, her aunt is downright frosty, and worst of all, her cousin Ann thinks Jessie isn’t cool enough to hang out with anymore. But Jessie is industrious, and—not content with being ignored all summer—she convinces Wes, a grouchy neighborhood dog walker, to take her on as his apprentice. Sure, dog walking turns out to be harder than she expected, but she has Wes’s dog-walking code, the Rules of the Ruff, to guide her, and soon, she’s wrangling her very own pack like the best of them. But when Monique, a charming rival dog walker, moves to town, she quickly snatches up most of Wes’s business—and Jessie decides she isn’t going to take this defeat with her tail between her legs.
One Crazy Summer
Published: January 26, 2010
In One Crazy Summer, eleven-year-old Delphine is like a mother to her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern. She’s had to be, ever since their mother, Cecile, left them seven years ago for a radical new life in California. But when the sisters arrive from Brooklyn to spend the summer with their mother, Cecile is nothing like they imagined.
While the girls hope to go to Disneyland and meet Tinker Bell, their mother sends them to a day camp run by the Black Panthers. Unexpectedly, Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern learn much about their family, their country, and themselves during one truly crazy summer.
This novel was the first featured title for Marley D’s Reading Party, launched after the success of #1000BlackGirlBooks. Maria Russo, in a New York Times list of “great kids’ books with diverse characters,” called it “witty and original.”
This middle grade novel is an excellent choice for tween readers in grades 5 to 6, especially during homeschooling. It’s a fun way to keep your child entertained and engaged while not in the classroom.
When Life Gives You Mangos
Published: October 20, 2020
Twelve-year-old Clara lives on an island that visitors call exotic. But there’s nothing exotic about it to Clara. She loves eating ripe mangos off the ground, running outside in the rain with her Papa during rainy season, and going to her secret hideout with Gaynah—even though lately she’s not acting like a best friend.
The only thing out of the ordinary for Clara is that something happened to her memory that made her forget everything that happened last summer after a hurricane hit. Sometimes things come back to her in drips like a tap that hasn’t been turned off properly. Other times her Mama fills in the blanks…only she knows those aren’t her memories and it is hard feeling like she is not like everybody else.
But this summer is going to be different for Clara. Everyone is buzzing with excitement over a new girl in the village who is not like other visitors. She is about to make big waves on the island—and give Clara a summer she won’t forget.
Erik vs. Everything
Published: August 3, 2021
Meet Erik Sheepflattener. Each member of his modern-day Viking-heritage family has a motto to live by. His parents have Family and Pride. His sisters have Conquer and Win. His grandfather has Turnip. But Erik is developing a motto he can truly believe in: Avoid Stuff.
Mostly, Erik’s fierce family ignores or discounts him, especially when he tries to say no. But while spending the summer with his rough-and-tumble cousins and older sister Brunhilde in Minnesota, axe-wielding Bru gets the idea to name and Conquer all of Erik’s fears. Will anyone hear him say no before it’s too late? And will Erik end up defined by his fears, or by his fearless family?
Where the Watermelons Grow
Published: July 3, 2018
When twelve-year-old Della Kelly finds her mother furiously digging black seeds from a watermelon in the middle of the night and talking to people who aren’t there, Della worries that it’s happening again—that the sickness that put her mama in the hospital four years ago is back. That her mama is going to be hospitalized for months like she was last time.
With her daddy struggling to save the farm and her mama in denial about what’s happening, it’s up to Della to heal her mama for good. And she knows just how she’ll do it: with a jar of the Bee Lady’s magic honey, which has mended the wounds and woes of Maryville, North Carolina, for generations.
But when the Bee Lady says that the solution might have less to do with fixing Mama’s brain and more to do with healing her own heart, Della must learn that love means accepting her mama just as she is.
The Summer of June
Published: May 31, 2022
Twelve-year-old June Delancey is kicking summer off with a bang. She shaves her head and sets two goals: she will beat her anxiety and be the lion she knows she can be, instead of the mouse everyone sees. And she and her single mama will own their power as fierce, independent females.
With the help of Homer Juarez, the poetry-citing soccer star who believes in June even when she doesn’t believe in herself, she starts a secret library garden and hatches a plan to make her dreams come true. But when her anxiety becomes too much, everything begins to fall apart. It’s going to take more than a haircut and some flowers to set things right. It’s going to take courage and friends and watermelon pie. Forget second chances. This is the summer of new beginnings.
Published: April 2, 2019
Cat and her brother Chicken have always had a very special bond–Cat is one of the few people who can keep Chicken happy. When he has a “meltdown” she’s the one who scratches his back and reads his favorite story. She’s the one who knows what Chicken needs. Since their mom has had to work double-hard to keep their family afloat after their father passed away, Cat has been the glue holding her family together.
But even the strongest glue sometimes struggles to hold. When a summer trip doesn’t go according to plan, Cat and Chicken end up spending three weeks with grandparents they never knew. For the first time in years, Cat has the opportunity to be a kid again, and the journey she takes shows that even the most broken or strained relationships can be healed if people take the time to walk in one another’s shoes.
There they are: 47 of the best middle-grade books set in the summer! I’ve read many of these and have the others on my TBR. Obviously, there are many more quintessential summer middle-grade books. These make for sweet summer reading, but also work perfectly in the middle of fall or winter when you need a trip back to the carefree nature of summer. I hope you’ll find a few you like.
Which of these middle-grade books set in the summer have you read and loved? Which others did I miss and what are your favorites? I’d love to hear!