MMGM: 15 Summer-themed Books

With summer coming up, I’ve been craving a middle-grade read set in the summer. Something about the adventure of it. Sometimes the mystery. Always the magic.

And these 15 books have all of these. They will get you ready for summer-or get you through the summer-with a smile on your face.


Publisher’s Description:

In this companion to A Tangle of Knots, it’s summertime and everyone is heading off to camp. For Talented kids, the place to be is Camp Atropos, where they can sing songs by the campfire, practice for the Talent show, and take some nice long dips in the lake. But what the kids don’t know is that they’ve been gathered for a reason–one that the camp’s director wants to keep hidden at all costs.

Meanwhile, a Talent jar that has been dropped to the bottom of the lake has sprung a leak, and strange things have begun to happen. Dozens of seemingly empty jars have been washing up on the shoreline, Talents have been swapped, and memories have been ripped from one camper’s head and placed into another. And no one knows why.


Publisher’s Description:

Finding out you were wrong about something important can be a let down. But Poppy is pleased to learn she’s not just a Monday. She’s a Cusper, a weekday lucky enough to have TWO powers. Poppy’s elation is short-lived when she, Ellie, Logan, and Sam return to Power Academy as camp counselors, only to find themselves out of their element and struggling with the new drama teacher and his disaster of a school musical. When some campers go missing, Poppy and her team of weekdays are on the case. Soon, Poppy begins to realize that much like her powers, the seemingly-perfect town of Nova has some flaws, and the origin of her powers is as questionable as Headmistress Clothes-too-tight Larriby’s choice in outfits. If only there were more days in the week!


Publisher’s Description:

11-year-old Alex Petroski loves space and rockets, his mom, his brother, and his dog Carl Sagan—named for his hero, the real-life astronomer. All he wants is to launch his golden iPod into space the way Carl Sagan (the man, not the dog) launched his Golden Record on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977. From Colorado to New Mexico, Las Vegas to L.A., Alex records a journey on his iPod to show other lifeforms what life on earth, his earth, is like.

But his destination keeps changing. And the funny, lost, remarkable people he meets along the way can only partially prepare him for the secrets he’ll uncover—from the truth about his long-dead dad to the fact that, for a kid with a troubled mom and a mostly not-around brother, he has way more family than he ever knew.


Publisher’s Description:

Everyone has secrets…

Who killed Annabel Harper?

When a popular teen beauty’s body is discovered by the pool at an elite tennis club, the regulars are shocked—especially twelve-year-old Evie and her best friend, Chelsea. While everyone else is haunted by Annabel’s death, Evie and Chelsea jump on the case, dogging the footsteps of the lead detective as he investigates. As temperatures soar ver the summer, tensions rise, fingers are pointed, and a heroic act sets in motion a chain of events readers will never see coming.


Publisher’s Description:

It’s the first real summer since the devastating accident that killed Cedar’s father and younger brother, Ben. But now Cedar and what’s left of her family are returning to the town of Iron Creek for the summer. They’re just settling into their new house when a boy named Leo, dressed in costume, rides by on his bike. Intrigued, Cedar follows him to the renowned Summerlost theatre festival. Soon, she not only has a new friend in Leo and a job working concessions at the festival, she finds herself surrounded by mystery. The mystery of the tragic, too-short life of the Hollywood actress who haunts the halls of Summerlost. And the mystery of the strange gifts that keep appearing for Cedar.

Infused with emotion and rich with understanding, Summerlost is the touching middle grade debut from Ally Condie, the international bestselling author of the Matched series, that highlights the strength of family and personal resilience in the face of tragedy.


Publisher’s Description:

When you’re the third of six kids, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle, but Sunday Fowler is determined that this summer she’ll find the one thing that makes her stand out from her siblings.

And when she discovers a silver box in the basement of the library her parents are renovating, she might just have found something to gain her the attention she so craves. Inside is a series of letters addressed to “The Librarian” and a manuscript. But who wrote them? With the help of annoying neighbor-turned-new-friend Jude, Sunday is determined to track down the author. And when she unveils this novel to the world, she’ll be famous!

But uncovering this manuscript means stirring up secrets that some people in the town hoped to keep buried. And Sunday must decide if some things — loyalty, trust, friendship — are worth more than her name in the headlines.


Publisher’s Experiment:

A boring summer vacation turns unexpectedly interesting when mysterious lights appear over Roberta’s hometown in northern Maine. Roberta is convinced she and her best friend Marillee can win the Maine State Science Fair if only they can find an amazing project to showcase. Communicating with aliens would certainly do the trick. But in order to win they’ll need to defeat their chief competitor, “The 4H’s of the Apocalypse”: Henry Horton Harris Helmsby.

This is a story told in a distinctive voice that is by turns funny, exciting, and sometimes heartbreaking.


Publisher’s Description:

Who eats Cheetos with chopsticks?! Avery and Becca, my “Chinese Sisters,” that’s who. We’re not really sisters—we were just adopted from the same orphanage. And we’re nothing alike. They sing Chinese love songs on the bus to summer camp, and I pretend like I don’t know them.

To make everything worse, we have to journal about our time at camp so the adoption agency can do some kind of “where are they now” newsletter. I’ll tell you where I am: At Camp Little Big Woods in a cabin with five other girls who aren’t getting along, competing for a campout and losing (badly), wondering how I got here…and where I belong.


Publisher’s Description:

Kids vs. parents! An epic treehouse sleepover! An awesome group of friends! An exciting new book from National Book Award finalist Lisa Graff.

Winnie’s last day of fourth grade ended with a pretty life-changing surprise. That was the day Winnie s parents got divorced, the day they decided that Winnie would live three days a week with each of them and spend Wednesdays by herself in a treehouse smack between their houses, to divide her time perfectly evenly between them. It was the day Winnie s seed of frustration with her parents was planted, a seed that grew and grew until it felt like it was as big as a tree itself.

By the end of fifth grade, Winnie decides that the only way to change things is to barricade herself in her treehouse until her parents come to their senses and her friends decide to join her. It s kids versus grown-ups, and no one wants to back down first. But with ten kids in one treehouse, all with their own demands, Winnie discovers that things can get pretty complicated pretty fast! Even if they are having the most epic slumber party ever.

In the newest novel by beloved National Book Award finalist Lisa Graff, kids have turned the tables on their parents, and all the rules have been tossed out the window. But does Winnie have what it takes to hold her ground and keep everyone happy?


Publisher’s Description:

Newbery Medalist Erin Entrada Kelly’s Hello, Universe is a funny and poignant neighborhood story about unexpected friendships.

Told from four intertwining points of view—two boys and two girls—the novel celebrates bravery, being different, and finding your inner bayani (hero). “Readers will be instantly engrossed in this relatable neighborhood adventure and its eclectic cast of misfits.”—Booklist

In one day, four lives weave together in unexpected ways. Virgil Salinas is shy and kindhearted and feels out of place in his crazy-about-sports family. Valencia Somerset, who is deaf, is smart, brave, and secretly lonely, and she loves everything about nature. Kaori Tanaka is a self-proclaimed psychic, whose little sister, Gen, is always following her around. And Chet Bullens wishes the weird kids would just stop being so different so he can concentrate on basketball.

They aren’t friends, at least not until Chet pulls a prank that traps Virgil and his pet guinea pig at the bottom of a well. This disaster leads Kaori, Gen, and Valencia on an epic quest to find missing Virgil. Through luck, smarts, bravery, and a little help from the universe, a rescue is performed, a bully is put in his place, and friendship blooms.


Publisher’s Description:

Brian can think of a few places he’d rather spend his summer than with his aunt and uncle in Boring, Illinois. Jail, for example. Or an earplug factory. Anything would be better than doing summer school on a computer while his scientist dad is stationed at the South Pole.
Boring lives up to its name until Brian and his cousin Nora have a fight, get lost, and discover a huge, wooden house in the forest. With balconies, turrets, and windows seemingly stuck on at random, it looks ready to fall over in the next stiff breeze. To the madcap, eccentric family that lives inside, it’s not just a home—it’s a castle. 
Suddenly, summer gets a lot more exciting. With their new friends, Brian and Nora tangle with giant wasps, sharp-tusked wild boars, and a crazed bureaucrat intent on bringing the dangerously dilapidated old house down with a wrecking ball.
This funny, fantastical story will resonate with any reader who’s ever wished a little adventure would find them.


Publisher’s Description:

A California girl born and raised, Mai can’t wait to spend her vacation at the beach. Instead, though, she has to travel to Vietnam with her grandmother, who is going back to find out what really happened to her husband during the Vietnam War. Mai’s parents think this trip will be a great opportunity for their out-of-touch daughter to learn more about her culture. But to Mai, those are their roots, not her own. Vietnam is hot, smelly, and the last place she wants to be. Besides barely speaking the language, she doesn’t know the geography, the local customs, or even her distant relatives. To survive her trip, Mai must find a balance between her two completely different worlds.


Publisher’s Description:

Garland, Derby, and Triple Clark spend each season traveling highways and byways in their Rambler—until summer, when small-town Ridge Creek, Virginia, calls them back. There they settle in, selling burgers and fries out of Garland’s Grill after each game the Rockskippers play in their battered minor-league baseball stadium. Derby’s summer traditions bring her closer than she’s ever been to a real home that isn’t on wheels, but this time, her return to Ridge Creek reveals unwelcome news. Now the person Derby loves most in town needs her help—and yet finding a way to do so may uncover deeply held stories and secrets.
Told in Derby’s unforgettable voice, this warm-hearted debut novel is about taking risks, planting roots, and discovering the true definition of home.


Publisher’s Description:

In this heartwarming, funny middle-grade novel by the bestselling author of Counting by 7s, Julia grows into herself while playing a Munchkin in a production of  The Wizard of Oz
Julia is very short for her age, but by the end of the summer run of The Wizard of Oz, she’ll realize how big she is inside, where it counts. She hasn’t ever thought of herself as a performer, but when the wonderful director of Oz casts her as a Munchkin, she begins to see herself in a new way. Julia becomes friendly with the poised and wise Olive–one of the adults with dwarfism who’ve joined the production’s motley crew of Munchkins. With her deeply artistic neighbor, Mrs. Chang, Julia’s own sense of self as an artist grows. Soon, she doesn’t want to fade into the background–and it’s a good thing, because her director has more big plans for Julia!
Bubbling over with humor and tenderness, while emphasizing the importance of role models, this is an irresistible story of self-discovery.


Publisher’s Description:

he magic-infused story of a golden gator, two cursed kids, and how they take their destinies into their own hands.

When the red moon rises over the heart of the Okefenokee swamp, legend says that the mysterious golden gator Munch will grant good luck to the poor soul foolish enough to face him.

But in 1817, when TWO fools reach him at the same time, the night’s fate is split. With disastrous consequences for both . . . and their descendants. Half of the descendants have great fates, and the other half have terrible ones.

Now, Tumble Wilson and Blue Montgomery are determined to fix their ancestors’ mistakes and banish the bad luck that’s followed them around for all of their lives. They’re going to face Munch the gator themselves, and they’re going to reclaim their destinies.

But what if the legend of Munch is nothing but a legend, after all?




Author: Diane Magras

Publisher: Kathy Dawson Books

Publication Date: March 6, 2018

Publisher’s Description:

A New York Times Editors’ Choice

“[I]t’s clear we’re in the hands of a master storyteller….’The Mad Wolf’s Daughter’ feels like an instant classic.’”
— Soman Chainani, New York Times

A Scottish medieval adventure about the youngest in a war-band who must free her family from a castle prison after knights attack her home.

One dark night, Drest’s sheltered life on a remote Scottish headland is shattered when invading knights capture her family, but leave Drest behind. Her father, the Mad Wolf of the North, and her beloved brothers are a fearsome war-band, but now Drest is the only one who can save them. So she starts off on a wild rescue attempt, taking a wounded invader along as a hostage.

Hunted by a bandit with a dark link to her family’s past, aided by a witch whom she rescues from the stake, Drest travels through unwelcoming villages, desolate forests, and haunted towns. Every time she faces a challenge, her five brothers speak to her in her mind about courage and her role in the war-band. But on her journey, Drest learns that the war-band is legendary for terrorizing the land. If she frees them, they’ll not hesitate to hurt the gentle knight who’s become her friend.

Drest thought that all she wanted was her family back; now she has to wonder what their freedom would really mean. Is she her father’s daughter or is it time to become her own legend?

This is the book I would’ve read and re-read over and over as a child. It makes the adventurous, sword-wielding girl in my heart happy. There was so much to love about this book.

The setting is gorgeous. From the first page, the reader feels like they are in medieval Scotland and the descriptions are beautiful and detailed. I wanted to live there. I felt like I traveled through the villages and forests and towns.

Drest is a fiery girl with a lot of sense and heart. She can defend herself but she thinks about things. She is bold but she is kind. She loves her family and she loves her land. So much depth for a middle grade main character and Magras does an excellent job of filling her out while still making her believably young.

I also love a book with different sorts of villains. Yes there was the bandit, but there was also war, and doubt, and fear. A child’s villains aren’t just people in their lives ,and this book handles it so well.

It has a classic feel that will last through the years but is fresh with ideas that are important to today’s youth.

Highly recommend for young readers both boys and girls.





Author: Wendy Mass

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: October 1, 2008

Publisher’s Description:

And as streams of light fan out behind the darkened sun like the wings of a butterfly, I realize that I never saw real beauty until now.

At Moon Shadow, an isolated campground, thousands have gathered to catch a glimpse of a rare and extraordinary total eclipse of the sun. It’s also where three lives are about to be changed forever:

Ally likes the simple things in life–labyrinths, star-gazing, and comet-hunting. Her home, the Moon Shadow campground, is a part of who she is, and she refuses to imagine it any other way.

Popular and gorgeous (everybody says so), Bree is a future homecoming queen for sure. Bree wears her beauty like a suit of armor. But what is she trying to hide?

Overweight and awkward, Jack is used to spending a lot of time alone. But when opportunity knocks, he finds himself in situations he never would have imagined and making friends in the most unexpected situations.

Told from three distinct voices and perspectives, Wendy Mass weaves an intricate and compelling story about strangers coming together, unlikely friendships, and finding one’s place in the universe.

This book has been on my mind the last few weeks and I realized today that I haven’t reviewed it yet. So, what better day to review this than on Eclipse Day!

Ever since I read this book, I imagined that for the next solar eclipse, I would go to a campground just like this one and have an adventure fitting such a unique experience. What I actually did this morning was spend it in my front yard with my four boys, wondering and in awe at the science and cosmos of this amazing world. I think Wendy Mass would approve anyway.

But that’s what this book causes you to do. It makes you dream. It inspires you to look outside yourself and help others and find out your place in the mixed up strings of the universe.

What I loved about this book:

The three POV’s. Three narrators is tough to do, but when it’s done right, you get three distinct voices and three characters to love. Mass does it right. I loved being in each of these kids’ heads and learning what they thought of their world.

The tension. Watching the clock tick down to the final moment of the moon eclipsing the sun, and seeing all of the little details in the character’s lives as they fell into and out of place to get them to that point … brilliant.

The science. All of the space facts were captivating. I wanted to be an astronomer after I read this … and I was an adult who had finished with my education. No problem, I’ll teach my kids to reach for the stars, right? Whichever starts they aim for 🙂

The friendships. The publisher’s description calls them unlikely, and they are, but they are so genuine. It’s such an important message for middle school kids to learn … you can be friends with anyone and it’s what’s inside that connects us, not physical appearances.

The heart. Anyone who reads my reviews can tell I gravitate toward a book with heart, so it’s not surprising this book has it, and a lot of it. I felt for each child character, and now as an adult, the supporting characters. And the heart I’m speaking of actually comes out through all of the previous things I’ve mentioned. It’s infused through every scene and every word.







Author: Ali Standish

Publisher: Harper Collins

Publish Date: January 24, 2017

Publisher’s Description:

Ethan had been many things. He was always ready for adventure and always willing to accept a dare, especially from his best friend, Kacey. But that was before. Before the accident that took Kacey from him. Before his family moved from Boston to the small town of Palm Knot, Georgia.

Palm Knot may be tiny, but it’s the home of possibility and second chances. It’s also home to Coralee, a girl with a big personality and even bigger stories. Coralee may be just the friend Ethan needs, except Ethan isn’t the only one with secrets. Coralee’s are catching up with her, and what she’s hiding might be putting both their lives at risk. 

My mind is still reeling and my heart is still feeling fuzzy from finishing this wonderful MG read. This book has so many aspects I love in a story: complex characters, setting as a character, mystery, secrets, a little spooky, humor, sadness, love, healing.

Standish writes Ethan so spot-on with what I imagine he would be in real life. This boy has been through something so tragic, but she strings us on wanting to know what exactly happens without frustrating us as a reader. Ethan has voice without being untrue to his experiences and issues, and his growth and struggles made me feel so much! His family were also very well-written and I found myself rooting for them and aching in the way their lives were falling apart and being put back together.

As soon as Coralee entered the story it was like a spotlight illuminated her everywhere she was. I love her, and I loved her and Ethan and their adventures together even more. The way they lean on each other, hide from each other, and reveal each other’s true selves was so special. I was captivated by this duo.

And Grandpa Ike. I just want to hug him and his own secrets.

So many secrets, guys! But it’s all worth it in the end as Standish meticulously pieces it all together and shows us all of the hard and beautiful parts of life. I love and admire when an author can write about hard things but make it about more than that hard thing.

I can’t recommend this book enough and have put Ali Standish on my must read list for any future stories she writes.


MMGM: ORPHAN ISLAND by Laurel Snyder

orphan island


Author: Laurel Snyder

Publication Date: May 30, 2017

Publisher: Walden Pond Press

Publisher’s Description:

From acclaimed author Laurel Snyder comes a deep, compelling, heartbreaking, and completely one-of-a-kind novel about nine children who live on a mysterious island.

On the island, everything is perfect. The sun rises in a sky filled with dancing shapes; the wind, water, and trees shelter and protect those who live there; when the nine children go to sleep in their cabins, it is with full stomachs and joy in their hearts. And only one thing ever changes: on that day, each year, when a boat appears from the mist upon the ocean carrying one young child to join them—and taking the eldest one away, never to be seen again.

Today’s Changing is no different. The boat arrives, taking away Jinny’s best friend, Deen, replacing him with a new little girl named Ess, and leaving Jinny as the new Elder. Jinny knows her responsibility now—to teach Ess everything she needs to know about the island, to keep things as they’ve always been. But will she be ready for the inevitable day when the boat will come back—and take her away forever from the only home she’s known?

So, I pretty much knew I’d love this book before I read it … and I was right. Which isn’t always the case, sometimes the high expectations can kill something. But, I’m a pretty good gauge now of whether or not I’ll like something having been a reader for so long. And this book appealed to me on so many levels, I just had to read it.

From the beginning, it was everything I wanted it to be. I was transplanted to a magical place and got to live in someone else’s head for a bit. But, it also felt familiar.

It brought back memories of me reading THE GIVER for the first time and learning things new for the first time through Jonah and applying this knowledge to my life. I’m far older now than I was when I was reading Lois Lowry for the first time, but this book made me feel like I wasn’t.

I wanted to know things about the island: why they were there? Who created it? How does the magic work? What is going on? But I knew that it would burst my enchanted bubble if I got those answers, so I enjoyed swimming around in the world Laurel Snyder created and just let myself experience it.

And it was lovely. Jinny and her cohorts on the island were perfectly imperfect. Jinny especially loved so deeply and also had a selfish streak a million miles long. This is the part that reminded me of myself now. As a mother. I love my Cares, I want to teach them things, I want to protect them. Sometimes I need a little alone time. Most of the time I don’t do things exactly right or how my mother before me did. Someday, instead of me getting my turn to leave the island, they’re going to leave. And this will break me. But there is always another day. There is always new choices.

I think this book will be magical for middle grade readers. I think they will see themselves in it the way I did, in their past, present and future.

This quote is on Snyder’s website:

“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable.”

~Madeleine L’Engle

This beautifully captures the spirit of this book, and also what draws me to Snyder’s other books and writing in general.

The ending. I will not talk about the ending aside from saying I LOVED it. It made me sigh in happiness. I love Jinny and her optimism. Sometimes things only feel like an ending, but there’s always more.

When you’ve read the whole book, go HERE to see what Laurel Snyder has to say about her ending and what people think of it. I didn’t need this to change my mind about anything, but it rooted me more firmly in my convictions.

This was a quick, easy read and maybe that was because I didn’t want to put it down. I loved the mystery of it, the way the characters were evolving, and I wanted to see just what Snyder would reveal.

She says there may be a prequel in the works someday and that is something I will definitely watch and wait for.