Summer reading is a great way to get your child interested in books, on his or her own terms. For the best books for middle school summer reading, we turned to the nation’s finest independent bookstores to get their favorites, from classics to new releases, swashbuckling adventures to the just plain fun, silly or sweet. Here are their recommendations for a summertime full of fantastic books:

Nothing but the Truth by Avi

Ninth grader Philip Malloy is suspended for humming the National Anthem during homeroom. When the story hits the national news, the results of telling nothing but the truth unfold in surprising and thought-provoking ways. Recommended by Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, CO. Where to buy.

The Book of Everything by Guus Kuijer

This lovely little novel’s young protaganist, Thomas, must try to reconcile the religious fervor of his father with the cruel abuse his father inflicts upon his family. Along the way, Thomas spends time talking to Jesus —who's actually visible and talks back — and befriending the next door neighbor, who just might be a witch. This is the kind of book that you can read with skepticism, but I suggest you jump into it and believe. It confronts heavy subjects with light, magical grace. Recommended by Powell’s Books, Portland, OR. Where to buy.

The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas

Protagonist-narrator Conn shows a talent in larceny as well as in his studies with the wizard Nevery in this first book of a trilogy which ought to please Harry Potter fans with its blend of adventure, magic, and youthful hijinks. Recommended by Prairie Lights Books, Iowa City, IA. Where to buy.

Revolution is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine

This beautiful and emotionally challenging novel tackles a tumultuous period in Chinese history. Recommended by 57th Street Books, Chicago, IL. Where to buy.

Cupid by Julius Lester

A fun, witty retelling of the romance of Cupid and Psyche, this book will get readers interested in the tricky ins and outs of Greek mythology. Recommended by Linden Tree Children’s Recordings and Books, Los Altos, CA. Where to buy.

Want to see more from’s book list? Here’s a collection of our favorite books for middle school:

The Invention of Hugo Cabret By Brian Selznick

This novel set in 19th century Paris tells the story of a twelve-year-old orphan boy who lives in the walls of a train station. This artful blending of narrative, illustration and cinematic technique unravels a mystery your child won't soon forget.

Main Street by Ann M. Martin

This is a new series from the author of The Baby-sitters Club, about two sisters who are orphaned and move to their grandmother’s small town.

The Mistfits by James Howe

This is a fantastic book about four friends who band together to stop name-calling at their school.

The Seems: The Glitch in Sleep by John Hulme and Michael Wexler

12-year-old Becker Drane works as a "Fixer" in The Seems, the world behind our world that controls our existence. A glitch in the Department of Sleep is keeping everyone up at night, and he will have to rely on all of his training and intellect to fix the problem and save the world!

School’s Out—Forever by James Patterson

The second in a series about genetically altered bird children, this book is chock full of plot twists, turns, surprises, and nonstop action. A perfect summer read.

Small Steps by Louis Sachar

The sequel to the critically acclaimed Holes, this book shares the theme of redemption while telling the story of a teenager in unpromising circumstances who finds love, with a bit of crime and adventure along the way.

Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis

This is not only a fantastic read in its own right, it also takes place in a time and place shaped by American slavery: 1859, in the Canadian settlement which became a haven for escaped slaves from the south. His narrator and protagonist is young Elijah, the first child born free in Buxton, who is a self-professed 'fraidy-cat best know in the settlement for vomiting on Frederick Douglass as a baby. What happens when Elijah is tasked with making the perilous journey across the border to save the day?

The Giver by Lois Lowry

A thought-provoking novel about a 12-year-old boy in a futuristic society, this classic is stillas powerful as when it first came on the scene. A must read for any child growing toward adulthood.

Or Give Me Death: A Novel of Patrick Henry's Family by Ann Rinaldi

Students know Patrick Henry as one of our founding fathers. But to his kids, he was just dad. This book tells the story of Henry's family from the perspective of his two eldest daughters, growing with an absent father and a mentally ill mom. Although fiction, the text is grounded in historical fact, though Rinaldi's suggestion that it was actually Sarah Henry who first uttered "Give me liberty or give me death" from her confines in the cellar is evocative, and encourages kids to delve beyond the traditional accounts in history books.

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

This epic trilogy has all the trappings of a young adult fantasy series, while delving into some very adult themes and ideas. In the books, 12-year-old tomboy Lyra and her animal daemon travel through interconnecting realities, filled with enough ghostly wraiths, shape-shifting creatures and flying witches to keep fantasy fanatics satisfied. However, Lyra's worlds are grounded in multifaceted characters and real metaphysical questions. This trilogy hits the mark for eighth graders ready to explore the challenges of growing up in a complex world.

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie

Haroun's father, a famous storyteller, regularly performs for huge standing-room-only crowds. Until he loses his gift for gab. This fantastic fable is a father-son quest through magical lands in an attempt to regain his inspiration. Just under the surface of all this fun and adventure, it hints at the dangers of politics and the importance of freedom of speech. An inspirational book for a budding writer, but absolutely accessible for any child.

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke

Mix the magic of Harry Potter with a taste of Oliver Twist, and you'll have some notion of the yarn that awaits young readers with this book. Two orphaned brothers arrive in Venice, attempting to escape from the nasty couple who want to adopt them. They're sheltered by a band of young urchins and their fearless leader, "The Thief Lord". Filled with memorable characters and a galloping plot, this book will have kids under the covers with a flashlight, racing to the end.

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