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.
Bea is winning at being a shortstop, finally making headway with her crush, and is excited to go to summer camp with her friends when her dad’s legal license is suspended in a town scandal. Suddenly, she develops a case of the yips and begs her parents to send her to another softball summer camp on Gray Island, where her mom grew up. Throughout the summer, Bea learns more about her parents’ previous marriages and other secrets.
Alex is looking forward to spending the summer (as she’s always done) with her best friend, Will. Will’s mother runs the concession stand at their community pool, and both kids have spent several summers playing games at the pool. This summer, though, a schoolmate named Rebekah has eyes for Will — and him for her! As Rebekah and Will begin a tentative crush-friendship, Alex feels threatened and ropes Will into a big summer project (building their treehouse) for which they’ll need several summer jobs to afford building supplies. Surprisingly to Alex, Rebekah also wants to be her friend too. Can Alex get over her jealousy and other issues in her life to figure out this summer friendship drama?
14-year-old Karthik Raghavan is spending his last summer of middle school delivering groceries for his father’s Indian grocery store. When he’s not playing delivery boy, he’s hanging out with his best friends and sneaking glances at his crush whenever he runs into her. It’s the early 2000s in Boston, Massachusett and the recession is leading to store closures. Karthik’s father’s store becomes at greater risk of closure when Juhi’s family opens an Indian restaurant (also selling pre-packaged ready-to-cook items). But the most interesting part of Karthik’s summer? A university student wants him to act as Leonard Bernstein in her play. Can Karthik deliver?
Flor’s parents’ mattress store is struggling this summer, and her parents are fighting more than ever. The summer seems to get brighter when she gets a chance to be in their town’s local honey pageant with her frenemy (former friend turned bitter enemy) Candice. The girls’ friendship was ruined when Flor won the pageant in third grade, and Candice (the runner-up) suggested that she only won because she was half-Indian. Can the girls make it work now? And with Flor make it through the summer with her family intact?
What if all you wanted for the summer was to go to camp with your best friends and draw comics in peace — BUT your parents thought it was better to go to Honduras, where they’re from instead? That’s Sue’s dilemma. And then, on top of that, she finds out that her family is throwing her a surprise Quincenera against her wish. Will Sue survive the summer?
In Grow Up, Tahlia Wilkins, young Tahlia is excited to redeem herself at the end of school summer party hosted by the popular kid, Noah. The year before, she’d dressed in what she now realizes was a childish outfit (wearing a rashguard and shorts) while everyone else wore fancy swimsuits. This year, she’s ready to correct her mistakes and make a statement with her best friend Lily. That is until she gets her first period. It’s more stressful because her mother is out of town leaving her with her dad and two older brothers whom she can’t stand to tell about her period. With only Lily on her side, Tahlia has to figure out how to buy pads and tampons, use a tampon, avoid toxic shock syndrome, and make it to the pool party. Unbeknownst to her, life has a couple of other changes in store for Tahlia.
Keeping It Real is Paula Chase’s latest upper middle grade offering. It follows Marigold Johnson, daughter of the media moguls who own Flexx Unlimited. Marigold’s friend and crush, Justice hates their private school where both kids are part of the token number of Black kids. Marigold on the other hand tries to conform to white expectations and fit in with the kids and both she and Justice quarrel about this regularly.
Jubilee and her Nan are always moving, on the search for their perfect place, and this time Jubilee has her heart set on Hope Springs, Texas. The small town is where her crafting heroine Arletta Paisely is from, and Jubilee is sure that if it’s good enough for Arletta, Hope Springs will immediately feel like home for them, too — because she’s honestly tired of moving and saying (or not saying) goodbyes.
Mystery on Magnolia Circle begins with what seems to be the worst summer ever. Ivy’s summer plans are disrupted when she breaks her leg at the start of summer. Her best friend Teddy is having it any easier as his dog is diagnosed with a terminal illness and has to be put down. But while Ivy is standing at her window, trying to make the best of the summer, she witnesses a possible burglary and that both kids off on a summer of solving a mystery — or is it?
Pawcasso is what 11-year-old Jo names the basket-toting dog in town when a group of kids at the library mistake her for the dog’s owner. Jo is a lonely kid bored at home during the summer holidays and missing her father who works in a different city and visits the family periodically. She’s seen the dog walking through her neighborhood several times. The dog goes grocery shopping and can find its way home through pedestrian traffic and everything in town. As the kids fall more in love with “Pawcasso,” and by extension, Jo, she begins to enjoy having friends in her life. But what happens when the lie is exposed?
The Best Worst Summer follows two sets of kids three decades apart. In the present, Peyton and her family have just moved from Minneapolis to a small town named Lake Springs, leaving her best friend and their summer soccer camp tradition behind. She’s having the worst summer! Her brother is always playing video games. Plus, her mom’s new job has her pretty occupied, just as her dad’s graphic design job. But her summer gains new life when she discovers a box of secrets: a cryptic note to a friend, half of a “best friends” necklace, a playlist and several other items.