12 middle grade novels set during summer break

Many readers of all ages first fell in love with Sharon Draper through her 2010 novel Out of My Mind; this new release takes place one year after those events but it stands fine on its own. Melody has cerebral palsy and, now that her horizons have been broadened, she’s on the hunt for a summer camp for kids with disabilities. She's longing for a getaway where she can hike, play, and make new friends. Now equipped with a Medi-talker, she's determined not to let anything stand in her way. But then reality sets in, and Melody finds it’s a little intimidating to go to camp where she knows no one and doesn’t have a support system in place. Thankfully, there’s a first time for everything—and Melody is about to discover how brave she can be. A heartwarming and life-affirming tale of resilience, the power of community, and summer fun.
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In this sweet and inspiring story, four girls who didn't think they had anything in common come together to fight injustice and form a sisterhood in the process over the course of one unforgettable summer. When artist Lane, aspiring journalist Ofelia, bird-watcher Cat, and culinary-focused Aster form their own secret scout troop (winningly named "the Ostentation of Others and Outsiders") as an alternative to the entrenched society the Floras, they initially struggle to find common ground. But then Cat presents a mission that galvanizes the girls, and they begin working to change an outdated and harmful tradition still embraced by the Floras. A powerful and plotty tale of activism, cooperation, and friendship that reminds kids and grown-ups alike that it’s possible to make a difference right where you live.
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In the summer of 1968, Delphine and her younger sisters journey to Oakland, California. They plan to spend the summer vacation with their mother, who abandoned their family years earlier. When the girls arrive, they find a mother who is radically different from the one they've imagined. Seemingly annoyed by their presence, Delphine's mother wants to send them off to a Black Panthers summer camp. From School Library Journal: "Emotionally challenging and beautifully written, this book immerses readers in a time and place and raises difficult questions of cultural and ethnic identity and personal responsibility. With memorable characters (all three girls have engaging, strong voices) and a powerful story, this is a book well worth reading and rereading."
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Grown-ups, if you're nostalgic for the Encyclopedia Brown novels of your youth, this story is for you! In this adorable graphic novel, two ten-year-old girls who don't seem to have much in common are brought together by a common goal: to stay out of the boring summer camps their moms are threatening to send them to. They hatch a plan, and win over their moms: as long as they spend their days together, essentially supervising each other, they're allowed to spend their summer vacation days as they please. This means Jamila gets to shoot hoops at the local basketball court while Shirley does her own thing nearby. When a neighborhood boy asks for Shirley’s help in finding his missing gecko, Jamila learns Shirley is actually a pet detective! As Jamila comes along to help, she realizes she has some detective skills of her own—and a new partnership is born. But it’s not all smooth sailing and the girls will have to learn how to navigate what friendship really means. If you enjoy this story, pick up the sequel for more adventures.
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My tween girls LOVE this book. From School Library Journal: "A humorous yet emotional story with a memorable protagonist and detailed full-color art that make this a perfect choice for fans of Raina Telgemeier."
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This is a contemporary novel but it feels like it could have been written fifty years ago, and is often recommended to fans of Louisa May Alcott, Noel Streatfeild, and Edward Eager. Four sisters spend their summer holiday at a beautiful estate called Arundel, where they have adventures of all kinds (and a few mishaps, of course). The sisters range from ages 4-12, making this a great series to read aloud with the whole family. Each of the four sisters typifies a character trait, often drawing comparisons to the March sisters. Each book takes place in a different part of New England, and the Penderwicks timeless adventures bring about a sense of nostalgia. First in a quartet, The Penderwicks follows the four sisters as they roam the gardens, attics, and have adventures with a very interesting boy named Jeffrey on a sprawling estate in Massachusetts. With five books in the series, there’s plenty of sweet childhood scenes to endear readers. Four of the books are available as a box set.
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This modern-day version of The Parent Trap is fun for the whole family. This collaboration between two highly successful authors—one who primarily writes for kids, the other for grown-ups—features two twelve-year old girls living on opposite coasts who strike up an unwanted correspondence after they discover their single fathers fell in love at a building conference and are now dating. This relationship is not good news to either of them, as they make clear in the ensuing emails that comprise the book. Their situation goes from bad to worse when their fathers force them to attend the same summer camp, hoping they’ll become friends. Things go horribly wrong in more ways than one, but there's not a single page here that doesn’t feel fresh, funny, charming, and real. A big-hearted story for readers of all ages. For fans of C.C. Payne’s The Thing About Leftovers and Rebecca Stead’s The List of Things That Will Not Change.
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From the publisher: "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."
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I might have missed this quiet story had a children's bookseller not pressed it into my hands. (When I described my then 10-year-old's taste she said it would be perfect for her. Thank you, Square Books, Jr.!) Alice is looking forward to celebrating her tenth birthday as she and her family head back to their cottage on Sanibel Island, Florida for summer vacation. She anticipates the unwelcome ways this trip will be different from last year's and wonders whether she’ll finally find an elusive junonia shell. This contemplative book explores the way Alice navigates the changes in her world, from friends growing up and apart to those in the perplexing world of adults, all while holding on to her hopes for the perfect birthday party. It's not for kids who need action-packed plots but will be a wonderful fit for the right reader, young or old.
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Meet 11-year-old cousins Otto and Sheed, local sleuths who come to the rescue of their Virginia town time and again. Summer is starting to wind down—and the specter of the first day of school looms—when Mr. Flux uses his magic camera to freeze time. It’s one thing to wish summer would last longer, it’s quite another when time stands still and no one in town can move. You won’t be able to stop yourself from rooting for the Legendary Alston Boys as they use their wits and enlist the help of their rivals in order to save their town once more. (The author appeared on WSIRN Ep 186: Finding the book that feels like it was written just for you.)
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Twelve-year-old Carol’s summer vacation isn’t turning out the way she wanted. Instead of enjoying pool parties and sleepovers with her friends, she’s helping her parents move her grandfather into a nursing home due to his dementia. It’s a rough adjustment at first, especially because her family members haven't always gotten along—which means she’s never met this prickly grandfather before. But Carol finds herself drawn to Grandpa Serge, and is mesmerized by his magical stories about a hundred year drought and what it will take to bring back the rain. A beautifully told tale of family and loss, with a dose of magical realism.
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In this coming of age story from prolific middle grade author Messner, seventh grader and former gymnast Mia is dealing with more than enough. She's recovering from a broken arm, her family's move to Vermont, and a whole lot more that will soon be revealed. The change in scenery is just what she needs, in addition to spending time with her beloved grandmother. A cricket farm may be an unusual setting but it’s used to good effect as Mia and her new friends investigate the mystery of who might be out to destroy it. This powerful story has layers about finding your voice and bringing secrets out into the light. Readers will want to know that in this too-timely story Mia is healing after experiencing a coach's sexual abuse and its cascading ramifications.
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