Summer Reading List
Asterisks (*) indicate increasing level of sophistication, which may include content, reading level, or analysis.
The Arctic Code
Matthew J. Kirby. 2015. Fiction *
The first in The Dark Gravity Sequence, this novel tells the story of Eleanor Perry’s quest to uncover the truth of her mother’s recent disappearance. Dr. Perry is a climatologist in this futuristic tale in which the earth is in a new ice age. As young Eleanor discovers, she must trust her gut reactions about people as spies, corporations and governments become obstacles in her race to save her mother and the world.
Alistair Grim’s Odditorium
Gregory Funaro. 2015. Fiction *
Meet 12 year old Grubb with a Double B. In this delightful and hard-to-put-down book, odd things are ordinary. A young chimney sweep inadvertently finds a new life for himself as he runs away from a nasty guardian and a dismal life. This young stowaway steps into a world of magic, secrecy and adventure in this tale of good vs. evil and the desire for friendship and family.
The Encyclopedia of Me
Karen Rivers. 2012. Fiction *
What to do when you’re grounded? For Tink Aaron-Martin, the answer is simple: write an encyclopedia of your life, of course! As her alphabetic entries unfold, the reader develops an awareness of who this kid is, what her summer has been like and how challenging it can be sometimes to live with her family. Be prepared to learn about her frustrations with her brothers, her growing confusion about her best friend and her crush on the new boy next door. A humorous and engaging book!
The Book of Boy
Catherine Gilbert Murdock. 2018. Fiction*
Oh, this book is so good that it’s hard to stop reading! Boy has an interesting and mysterious past, one that even he does not completely understand. When he becomes caught up in a medieval treasure hunt for relics, he encounters villains and thieves at every turn. Fortunately, his quest is aided by helpful animals and his developing sense of who he really is.
Holly Black. 2013. Fiction *
In this 2014 Newbery Honor Medal winner. Zach, Poppy, and Alice have been friends forever and have been playing a continuous, ever-changing game of pirates and thieves, mermaids and warriors. Ruling over all is the Great Queen, a bone-china doll cursing those who displease her. Since they are now middle schoolers. Zach’s father pushes him to give up make-believe. The trio plans one last adventure to lay the Queen’s ghost to rest. But nothing goes according to plan.
The Dyerville Tales
MP Kozlowsky. 2014. Fiction *
Two stories emerge and then blend in this engaging book. Vince Elgin has lived in a group home since his parents died in a house fire. One day a letter arrives accompanying his deceased grandfather’s journal which tells of witches, giants and magic. Determined to discover if his father somehow survived the fire against the odds, Vince runs away to where his family came from. As Vince reads the inherited journal, he begins to wonder if the challenges he encounters are somehow related to the stories his grandfather chronicled. Good and a bit creepy.
Julia Alvarez. 2006. Fiction *
Milly returns to the country from which she was adopted to discover a world very different from her Vermont home. This book successfully represents adoption concerns of abandonment, difference, and fear.
Cracker! The Best Dog in Vietnam
Cynthia Kadohata. 2007. Fiction *
A valuable weapon, Cracker is a US Army German Shepherd who sniffs out bombs, traps and enemy soldiers. Cracker’s partner, soldier Rick Hanski, is out to prove himself as these two pair up in an unforgettable story.
The Sound of Freedom
Kathy Kacer. 2018. Fiction *
Seen through the eyes of a young girl, this is a fictionalized account of the heroic efforts of Bronislaw Huberman, who rescued nearly 1,000 Jewish people from Europe in the 1930s by assembling the Palestine Symphony Orchestra. As Anna watches the streets of Krakow become increasingly dangerous, she searches for a way to save her clarinetist father and her grandmother – a way which may mean leaving their home.
Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes
Jonathan Auxier. 2011. Fiction *
A blind orphan who is known to be one of the best thieves in the city, Peter Nimble steals three pairs of magical eyes from a mysterious stranger. As Peter’s adventures continue, he encounters a host of new friends and dangerous enemies in his attempts to determine his future.
The Seven Professors of the Far North
John Fardell. 2006. Fiction *
Three children find that their vacation has become a rescue mission. Their uncle is kidnapped by evil Professor Murdo. The trio races to the Arctic to save him. They are challenged by encrypted messages, secret passages, and dangerous ice fields, never certain of whom they can trust.
My Family for the War
Anne C. Voorhoeve. 2012. Fiction *
As events build toward what would become World War II, a ten year old girl, of Jewish roots but who was raised Protestant, is sent from Nazi Germany on a kindertransport train to London. As she adjusts to a new life and to her host family, she wonders and worries about her friends and family in mainland Europe as the war develops.
A Mirror of Fire and Dreaming
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. 2005. Fiction *
Set in contemporary India as well as several hundred years in the past, The Mirror of Fire and Dreaming continues the adventures of Anand and his efforts to become a fully fledged member of The Brotherhood of the Conch. On his journey, Anand encounters powerful wizards, arrogant princes, noble warriors and evil spirits. This book is a skillfully written, action-packed tale of suspense—and hard to put down.
Mitali Perkins. 2010. Fiction *
For two teenage boys in Burma, becoming a man means choosing between war and peace. These boy soldiers from different tribes and on opposite sides of the conflict are challenged by loyalty and must choose between what is right and what is easy.
Falcon in the Glass
Susan Fletcher. 2013. Fiction *
A drudge in a Venetian glassworks, Renzo’s dreams are too far from his reach – until he meets a girl who is part of an outcast group of children accused of witchcraft. Renzo must test his loyalty to his family and his skills as a glassmaker to try and save his new friends. This adventure is one you won’t be able to put down!
19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East
Naomi Shihab Nye. 2002. Poetry *
Nye gives us a heartfelt and hopeful look at the Middle East and the Arab American experience despite the politics and protest. Drawing from her family and travels, the poems have a sentimental and tender touch. Each poem is a portrait of what it means to be at war and peace in an ancient and beautiful culture.
Why I Wake Early
Mary Oliver. 2004. Poetry *
In this collection of 47 poems, Oliver presents the reader with the voices and concerns of the wild animals of nature. Her poems are direct and yet expansive, revealing a sensibility about life, death and how we all interlock.
Delights and Shadows
Ted Kooser. 2004. Poetry *
In 59 poems, Kooser shares his insights and observations about life and the things one encounters while living it. From applesauce to birthdays, he shares universal reactions and feelings from the mundane to the exquisite.
Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science
Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos. 2010. Nonfiction *
Combining history, science, and human rights, this book follows sugar through 10,000 years of global influence. This sweet treat has had a bitter past in political power, religious conflict, and slavery. The husband and wife team of authors uses a variety of resources from photos to song lyrics to give you a new look at a common substance.
Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story about Brain Science
John Fleischman. 2004. Nonfiction *
In rural Vermont during the Industrial Revolution, a railroad worker has an accident that sends a metal pole through his head. Although he survives and his wounds heal, Phineas Gage is never the same. Learn how the doctors treated this rare but real case and how they made huge discoveries about the brain.
Colors of the Mountain
Da Chen. 1999. Memoir *
Growing up in rural China during the Cultural Revolution proved difficult for Da Chen. Despite the hardships of politics, he is still just a normal teen trying to find his identity and improve his life situation. This memoir explores class struggles and authority.
Facing the Lion
Joseph Lekuton. 2005. Memoir *
Lekuton retells his story of growing up in a nomadic Maasai community in Kenya as the only child in his family to attend school. This book chronicles his reflections on finding the balance between two cultures and highlights the lessons he has learned from his efforts.
Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography
Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón. 2010. Graphic Biography *
This graphic biography covers the full lives of Anne Frank and her parents. It depicts the family life Anne describes in her diary, while placing it in a larger historical context. This impressive work of art is both dramatic and factual, capturing both Anne’s personality and the struggles of the Holocaust in great detail.
Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World
Sy Montgomery. 2012. Biography. *
Temple Grandin looks at the world differently. Diagnosed with autism, Temple has worked hard to live in a world of sensory overload and constant communication. Through her struggles, Temple connected with animals, and discovered her passion for science. Eventually, she became a world-renowned speaker and improved the livestock industry dramatically by developing cruelty-free facilities.
A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic.
Lisa Papademetriou. 2017. Fiction **
Imagine a book that writes itself in response to what you are thinking! This is what Kai and Leila encounter as they live their distinct lives in the United States and Pakistan. How these girls have come in contact with two volumes of this mysterious book entitled The Exquisite Corpse and have unlocked a mystery buried on shelves for generations is a tale awaiting those who choose to read Papademetriou this summer. It’s really fun to read.
Lauren Wolk. 2016. Fiction **
This is the story of young Annabelle who lives in mid-20th century rural Pennsylvania. As she negotiates her way in the world, she learns how to handle bullies and diffuse mean-spirited assessments of others. Tensions mount as Annabelle must confront a cruel and manipulative schoolmate. A true cliffhanger.
Eleanor Glewwe. 2014. Fiction **
In this thought-provoking novel, a community is divided into social status based one’s ability to cast spells. Fourteen year old Marah is a whiz at languages and playing the violin but has little hope of real success because she belongs to the oppressed lower class. She becomes friends with Azariah, a wealthy magician boy, when their city becomes infected with a dangerous and mysterious illness. Marah and Azariah join forces to find a cure, even if that means going against the law. This book is hard to set aside!
When the Emperor Was Divine
Julie Otsuka. 2002. Fiction **
The author tells the story of a Japanese American family during World War II through the perspective of four family members. Forced to leave their California home, the family travels to a relocation center in Utah, where they remain for three years. The book chronicles the father’s arrest on suspicion of anti-US activities. This haunting book concludes with the family’s struggles after their release.
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Oscar Wilde. 2011. Fiction **
A handsome young man sits for the painting of his portrait. As the last session of posing for the painting occurs, Dorian is advised to live life fully and to enjoy his attractiveness while he can, as life is best lived by the young. See what happens.
The Martian Chronicles
Ray Bradbury. 2011. Fiction **
Master storyteller Ray Bradbury creates a vision of Mars that excites, enchants and enthralls with imagination and elaboration. This 20th century classic remains an extraordinary example of science fiction for those who love this genre.
City of Thieves
David Benioff. 2009. Fiction **
Set during the Nazi siege of Leningrad, this is the story of two young men who find their lives threatened unless they secure a dozen eggs for a powerful Soviet colonel for his daughter’s wedding cake. It is a hard book to put down as the reader follows these two desperate men on their frantic quest.
George Orwell. 2003. Fiction **
Written in 1948, this futuristic tale centers on the conflict between individual freedom and governmental control. A classic, this novel spawned the phrase, “Big Brother is watching you!”
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Mary Ann Shaffer and Anne Barrows. 2009. Fiction **
Written as an exchange of letters, this book offers a delightful yet sobering view of life under Nazi occupation. A farmer summons his neighbors to correspond with a war journalist to tell her the story of their lives; as she reads these letters, the journalist finds they inform not only her understanding of the war, but of life.
A Thunderous Whisper
Christina Diaz Gonzalez. 2012. Fiction **
In a seemingly sleepy fishing village called Guernica, 12 year old Ani manages a challenging relationship with her mother while her father fights in Spain’s Civil War. Ani struggles to live up to her father’s expectations of her during his absence and comes to rely on her new friend Mathias for support and guidance. Mathias’ father is part of a network of spies, and Ani and Mathias become involved in his secretive efforts. Feeling like she is making a difference, Ani faces challenges as she struggles to fight back against forces determined to take over her life and her world.
Fat Kid Rules the World
K.L. Going. 2004. Fiction **
An unlikely friendship develops between a teenaged musical legend and an overweight high school senior contemplating suicide. As the legendary Curt woos Troy away from self-destruction and into his band, Troy’s self-confidence grows.
James Howe. 2005. Fiction **
Joe, one of the characters in Howe’s The Misfits, has his say, in a voice uniquely his own. Twelve year old Joe knows he is gay. Written in the form of an assignment – an “autobiography” – the story takes readers through the school year, one letter at a time.
Are We There Yet?
David Levithan. 2007. Fiction **
In an attempt to reconcile their two vastly different sons, Elijah and Danny’s parents send them to Italy on vacation together. This amusing and insightful story explores psychology and philosophy as well as mentioning some mature situations.
Rain is Not My Indian Name
Cynthia Leitich Smith. 2001. Fiction **
Rain lost her best friend and then pushed all others away. After six months of grief, she begins to recover through photography and starts to confront her issues of identity. When her aunt’s Indian Camp is threatened on a mixed-heritage reservation, Rain must decide who she is and what she believes in.
Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong
Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks. 2013. Graphic Novel **
The captain of the basketball team and the president of the robotics club battle in an election campaign for limited student funding. This lighthearted graphic novel explores high school friendships and stereotypes with no shortage of humor.
Anna Akhmatova (trans. W. Arndt). 2009. Poetry **
As one of the leading poets of 20th century Russian literature, Akhmatova writes with incredible depth and emotion as she discusses everyday occurrences. Her work frequently reverberates with intensity of image and feeling.
Our Town: A Play in Three Acts
Thornton Wilder. 2003. Play **
First published in 1938, this Pulitzer Prize–winning play tells of life in a small New England town. This vision of early 20th century American lifestyle is a classic and Wilder’s most frequently performed play. Young and old, male and female characters represent the expectations, dreams and dangers of this time period.
The Road to Character
David Brooks. 2015. Nonfiction **
In this book, the author examines the way we live our lives today compared to how folks may have made choices in the past. In the age of the selfie, Brooks suggests self-restraint in favor of a broader sense of calling and community. For those who like them, there are interesting stats throughout this philosophical book grounded in biographies of people who meet Brooks’ criteria for character-building.
Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now
Maya Angelou. 1993. Nonfiction **
This book compiles miniature chapters into a collection of life lessons, opinions and philosophy that is a treat to read. Angelou discusses everything from racism to generational differences to death and international understanding.
Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World’s Greatest Comics
Les Daniels. 1991. Nonfiction **
Take a visual journal on the history of Marvel from the first comics to the modern printing process. This giant book includes thousands of images, the reprint of four classic stories, character profiles, and a look at collectibles.
Salt: A World History
Mark Kurlansky. 2002. Nonfiction **
A world tour through time and cultures, this book provides great detail on how and why people have harvested, used and traded this substance. For those who enjoy broad-stroked yet comprehensive tales. Quirky and fun.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Rebecca Skloot. 2001. Nonfiction **
Over 60 years after her death, Henrietta Lacks is changing the field of science and the healthcare industry through her genetic makeup. Still available in labs around the globe, her cells have been used to test and develop many medicines and vaccines. A story of ethics, race and scientific discovery.
Throw Like a Girl
Jennie Finch with Ann Killion. 2011. Nonfiction **
Written by Finch, who played softball collegiately and later professionally and won 2 Olympic medals, this book provides detailed advice as it motivates, inspires and empowers readers to “dream big and believe in yourself.” Topics include finding life balance, and considers body image, sports, peer pressure and nutrition.
The Pact: Three Young Men Make a Promise and Fulfill a Dream
Sampson Davis, George Jenkins and Rameck Hunt. 2002. Memoir **
Sam, George and Rameck lift themselves out of the gritty street life of Newark, NJ by pledging to be each other’s support. As they struggle through school, past temptations and against the odds, they learn a lot about themselves on their way to becoming doctors. Inspirational.
Maus: A Survivor’s Tale
Art Spiegelman. 1993. Graphic Memoir **
This classic graphic memoir depicts Nazi Germany as a cat and mouse game. Spiegelman uses the survival story of his parents as a basis for the Holocaust metaphor. The stark black ink drawings carry the tension and emotions of a dark time in history.
The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism, & Treachery
Steve Sheinkin. 2010. Biography **
Everyone knows that Benedict Arnold was a traitor, but his heroism is not often discussed. This book uses primary sources and first person accounts to paint a more complete picture of Arnold. It reads like an adventure story with battle scenes and suspense. Explore all the complicated sides of this important historical American figure.
Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mother
Amy Chua. 2011. Biography **
In this memoir, Chua describes the way that she parents, which at times may seem extreme to some readers. She explains her challenges of raising two teenagers in a modern American world and trying to maintain the Asian American values with which she herself was raised.
John Lennon: All I Want is the Truth
Elizabeth Partridge. 2005. Biography **
A photojournalistic look at John Lennon’s full life, including his time before, during, and after the Beatles, is highlighted by first-person accounts in letters and interviews. As the reader dives into Lennon’s emotions, a clear picture of his songwriting process emerges. The rock and roll lifestyle is set in a political context, covering the culture of three decades.
Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different
Karen Blumenthal. 2012. Biography **
All sides of Steve Jobs, the good and the bad, are covered in this smart biography. Learn about his public successes and failures while getting an intimate look at his family life. The history of computers depicted in this book complements the descriptions of Job’s big personality.
Either the Beginning or the End of the World.
Terry Farish. 2015. Fiction ***
Set on New Hampshire’s small coastline, this haunting story is told by sixteen year old Sofie. Sofie’s father makes his living on the ocean, struggling to keep his fishing business afloat; her mother has been absent from her life for large chunks of time, something Sofie resents. When Sofie meets Luke, a young Afghani War veteran, there is no stopping the attraction they feel for each other. When Sofie refuses to obey her father’s warnings to stay away from Luke, she is forced to navigate life with her mother’s influence for awhile. Her circumstances with family and romance lead to Sofie maturing into an awareness of life’s complexities.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson
John Green and David Levithan. 2010. Fiction ***
When two emo teens named Will Grayson meet, their worlds become much more interesting places. As they work towards the most fabulous high school theater production ever, the Wills encounter the many forms of romantic love and friendship. Green and Levithan each write one of the Wills, alternating chapters with very different styles.
The Professor and the Housekeeper
Yoko Ogawa. 2009. Fiction ***
The title characters are a brilliant mathematician who has a memory that restarts every 80 minutes and the woman who cares for him and for her ten-year-old boy. The ways in which these three learn from each other and give to each other is the heart of this book. There is a lot of math information woven into the book as well.
OCD Love Story
Corey Ann Haydu. 2013. Fiction ***
This mature novel of high school love takes an honest and humorous look at mental illness. Beck is the only person that makes Bea feel normal, but she cannot stop thinking about another guy. When that little obsession turns into stalking, Bea needs to figure out how to regain control of her love and her life.
Gustave Flaubert. 2010. Fiction ***
Emma Bovary, wife of a successful country doctor, chafes against the tedium of her life and seeks solace in reading books, caring for her child, spending too much money, and in the arms of another man. Her struggle to find happiness evolves through Flaubert’s expertise in crafting his work.
Emily Bronte. 2011. Fiction ***
This is the deep and dark tale of the anguished Heathcliff who falls madly in love with Catherine Earnshaw, the daughter of his benefactor. For those who like complicated stories of love that cannot be.
The Screwtape Letters
C.S. Lewis. 2009. Fiction ***
Screwtape, a high official in Hell, tells a tale of temptation which is both comic and serious. This study of humanity and religion continues to entertain and inform readers.
War and Peace
Leo Tolstoy. 2010. Fiction ***
This novel chronicles the lives of five Russian families during the Napoleonic wars. As their stories unfold, Tolstoy masterfully explores human strengths and weaknesses, temptations and situations. At times challenging in terms of keeping characters straight, this book is humorous, vivid and unforgettable.
Khalil Gibran. 2019. Poetry ***
This classic, frequently translated and reissued since its initial publication in 1923, offers poetic essays on many aspects of life. Topics range from personal considerations such as clothing and eating to more communal concerns like crime and punishment. A valuable read.
June Fourth Elegies
Liu Xiaobo. 2012. Poetry ***
Liu Xiaobo was a protestor in Tiananmen Square and has been an active voice in the human rights struggle in China ever since. Every year on the history of the massacre, Liu wrote another poem about free speech and peace, memory and healing. The mature analogies and graphic descriptions of struggle force the reader to question injustice and morality.
Amit & Khalil. 2011. Graphic Novel ***
This first-person narrative presents a fictionalized account of the political climate in Iran in 2009. In graphic novel form, the authors convey the brutal truths of life under a corrupt and cruel regime as a family searches for a son who “disappeared” during protests against the Iranian government.