Summer Reading 2018

Multiple studies now prove what we always knew: summer reading helps prevent the ‘summer slide’ or summer learning loss. And some experts say it takes just five books to reap the benefits. We can do that.

Of course, for some kids, reading is as natural as breathing but for others it’s a struggle. Fortunately, there are many amazing programs out there, including those at your local library, that encourage kids to pick up books during these long, hot, unstructured, wild and free summer days. (Check out my reluctant reader guide for tips, too.)

My personal belief is summer reading should be FUN – it’s the perfect time to indulge in action/adventure novels, thrillers, mysteries, graphic novels and books that make you laugh so hard you kind of think you might barf. To make it easy (because everyone is busy) I made a list. (I love book lists but you have probably already figured that out.)  Many of the authors here have other novels in print and I encourage you to pick those up as well – you know, double your fun with not much effort. 🙂

These books are primarily for middle grade readers but many can be read aloud to younger kids and don’t feel bad about sneaking them away to read yourself. Middle grade authors are producing gold these days and no one should miss out. Some are on shelves already and some are publishing soon.

Enjoy and happy summer!

(I include ‘buy’ links with each title but don’t forget your local indie book store and your local library!)


The Shadow Thieves, by Alexandra Ott (June 5th/Aladdin)

Author Ott goes deep with former thief Alli Roscoe. Torn between two worlds and competing desires, I felt every moment of her confusion.With compelling friendships and family relationships, this sequel to Rules for Thieves delivers action and edge of your seat thrills. Read the author interview here.

(Buy the book: Amazon, B&N, IndieBound)


The Seismic Seven (June 5th/HarperCollins)

Action packed. Science infused.  Six kids race to save the world from a super volcano. The heart pounding adventure ratchets up a notch when it becomes clear that there is more to fear than the volcano. In my mind, this is about as perfect as summer reading can get. Read the author interview here.

(Buy the book: Amazon, B&N, IndieBound)


The Frame Up, by Wendy McLeod MacKnight  (June 5th/Greenwillow Bks)

A fresh take on the idea of art coming to life, with multiple layers of compelling mystery  and intrigue, unexpected friendships and family drama. I especially loved the mash up of historical figures and characters living in the present. Could not put it down! Author interview here.

(Buy the book: Amazon, B&N, IndieBound


The Mad Wolf’s Daughter, by Diane Magras (Deckle Edge)

One of my favorites of 2018 so far! I love the history, twisty plot and bold, heart pounding adventure. The Scottish headlines come vividly to life. But the complicated family relationships and friendships really make this book shine. Read the author interview here.

(Buy the book: Amazon, B&N, IndieBound)


Vanished! by James Ponti (Aladdin)

The winner of the 2018 Edgar Award, this sequel to Framed! is such good fun. I love the brainy mystery elements and the push/pull between best friends Florian and Margaret. I recommend reading them both although I read them out of order and it was fine. Trapped!, the 3rd in series, hits shelves SEp

(Buy the book: Amazon, B&N, IndieBound)


The House that Lou Built, by Mae Respicio (June 12th/Wendy Lamb Books)

A coming-of-age story that explores culture and family, forgiveness and friendship, and what makes a true home. I especially loved how thoroughlyLou plays against type and yet is relatable and familiar. For readers unfamiliar with Filipino culture, Lou is the best kind of guide. Experiencing the world through her eyes is a delight. Middle grade readers are in for a real treat.

(Buy the book: Amazon, B&N, IndieBound)


A Hint of Hydra, by Kati Bartkowski and Heidi Lang (July 10th/Aladdin)

I loved A Dash of Dragon, the first in this series penned by real life sisters, about Lailu, a monster cuisine chef with the best curses (‘What the spatula?’). The amazing world building and fun hold steady in the tense and action packed sequel, which sees Lailu trying to prevent a war between the elves and the scientists. There is also a cute boy.

(Buy the book: Amazon, B&N, IndieBound) (I will be at Kepler’s Books with Heidi and Kati September and it’s going to be fun! Details here.)


The Cryptid Catcher, by Lija Fisher (August 21st/ GS&F)

I loved this action/adventure with mythological roots and lots of humor. Thirteen year old Clivo Wren has his hands full following in his father’s footsteps but with the help of some new friends, he might just pull off the  impossible.

(Buy the book: Amazon, B&N, IndieBound)


The Right Hook of Devin Velma, by Jake Burt (Sept. 4th/Feiwel & Friends)

In this story of friendship, anxiety, families and basketball,  characters struggle with some of the harsher aspects of modern American life and yet come out stronger for the experience. I loved peering into the deep friendship between Addi and Devin and how they had each other’s backs, even when it was uncomfortable.

(Buy the book: Amazon, B&N, IndieBound)


24 Hours in Nowhere (Sept. 4th/Sterling)

Quirky characters and a unique desert setting make author Bowling’s second novel a perfect way to round out summer vacation. Gus wants to escape his dead-end town but first he has to survive the wrath of the local bully and a harrowing 24-hour search for missing gold. There’s

(Buy the book: Amazon, B&N, IndieBound)


Take Us To Your Sugar, by Jonathan Roth

(Beep & Bob #3) (September 11th/Aladdin)

This series is perfect for younger readers and it might have my favorite title ever! I can totally see my eleven year old making the same demand! In this installment, Bob and his best friend Beep discover Halloween will not be celebrated at Astro Elementary, they hatch a plan to save their favorite sweet holiday. Funny, action packed space adventures will have your readers begging for more.

(Buy the book: Amazon, B&N, IndieBound)



An interview with Tricia Springstubb

Tricia Springstubb is the author of many books for middle grade readers and while I hope you will add them all to your child’s To Be Read list, right now I’m especially fond of the Cody series, the fourth of which, Cody and the Heart of a Champion, was recently released. Cody is a spunky young girl who charges headlong into life without thinking through the consequences. The results are often hilarious but what I really enjoy is being in Cody’s head and experiencing how she puzzles through challenging life choices, some of which may feel familiar to younger middle grade readers.

AND We’re lucky to have Tricia Springstubb here to answer some questions on today’s blog!

(Buy the books: AmazonB&N, IndieBound or purchase from your local indie bookstore)

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

I’ve loved stories as long as I can remember—stories in books, stories my grandmother told me, stories I made up and acted out with my dolls or stuffed animals. Once I learned to read,

I never went anywhere without a book. It wasn’t till I was in my late 20’s and early 30’s, though, that I began to write for anyone beside myself. I’m a self-taught writer, and my evolution from reader to reader-writer was slow.

I laughed out loud reading Cody and The Fountain of Happiness. Her heart is in the right place but sometimes she messes up anyway (I’m thinking of the hypnotizing scenes). Is this the way you envisioned her from the beginning or did she evolve on the page? Where did Cody come from?

I was a shy, timid child, and I’m still not good at taking risks. I tend to write characters who think a lot before they act. With Cody, I wanted to inhabit a different kind of kid, one who was impulsive and confident and seized the day—for better or for worse. Her big heart saves her every time, thank goodness. I have loved writing her

The secondary characters in the Cody books have much more depth than I’m used to seeing in books targeting younger middle grade readers. It gives your books real emotional heft. Was this intentional?

I can’t seem to help writing complicated—complicated characters, plots, themes. It’s kind of a curse. With the Cody books, I tried hard to make things simpler, but never simplistic. I’m so glad you liked the minor characters, because I am very fond of them all, including MewMew, who’s based on my own beloved cat.

The fourth and latest Cody book is Cody and the Heart of a Champion (released in April). How many do you envision in the series? In your mind, how is Cody changing/will change as the series progresses?

The fourth book is the last one—at least for now. It’s set in spring, so it brings the series full circle through the year. Cody has learned a lot about patience, empathy, conscience, the ebb and flow of friendship, the inevitability of change, but she’s still her own high-spirited, big-hearted self, thank goodness.

Who are your favorite authors?

Children’s writers I love include E.B. White, Kate DiCamillo, Linda Urban, Lynne Rae Perkins, Julie Falatko, Rita Williams-Garcia, Naomi Shihab Nye—I could go on and on (I am very bad at picking favorites).  Adults writers include Virginia Woolf, Alice Munro, Alice McDermott, Joanne Beard and someone I just discovered—Jane Gardham.

What is your favorite thing to do when not writing?

Uh oh, another favorite question! I could say read (duh), walk, garden, but since my second grandbaby was born yesterday, I will say: Be a nana.

What are you working on right now?

I have a new picture book coming out with Candlewick Press in 2020. It’s tentatively titled “Khalil and Mr. Hagerty”. I love love love the collaborative process of working with an illustrator, and I’m very excited to be working for the first time with the amazing Elaheh Taherian.

I’m also working on a new middle grade novel, this one about a girl named Loah, whose fearless (possibly foolish) mother is off on a scientific expedition to save the rare (possibly extinct) Loah bird. It’s gone through more drafts than I can count.

How do you prefer readers get in touch with you?

Readers can contact me through my website, my Facebook page, or Twitter @springstubb. Whichever way you choose, please do contact me! I can get very lonesome sitting at this desk by myself all day.

An interview with Elly Swartz, author of Smart Cookie

Elly Swartz’s new middle grade novel, Smart Cookie, has all the elements that are sure to delight young readers – friendship, family, secrets, mystery, a cool granny and ghosts.

At a young age, Frankie lost her mother but rather than wait for fate to intervene and choose a new partner for her father, she is determined to influence events. Along the way, she will have to wrestle with family secrets, an irritated best friend and, possibly, a haunted B&B. I loved Frankie’s spunk and grit and I know you will, too.

(Buy the book: Amazon, Barnes and NobleIndiebound)

(Also by Elly Swartz: Finding Perfect)


What were your favorite books as a kid?

I was a huge fan of Pippi Longstocking, Ramona the Brave, and Eloise. I think I loved their spunky, mischievous, independent nature.

In Smart Cookie, protagonist Frankie creates an online dating profile for her dad without his knowledge, with humorous results. What sparked this idea?

The best ideas are everywhere! You just have to store them away for the right story. I run a business where I help students and their families navigate the college process. And a long time ago, one of my students shared that she created an online dating profile for her grandmother. It wasn’t, however, a secret mission. Although this was many years before Frankie came to life, it planted the seed for Operation Mom. That’s the thing about idea seeds, you collect them, but they only germinate when the story is ready to spring to life.

Frankie feels like a classic middle grade hero – her voice is genuine and relatable. Did she show up that way or did you experiment with different versions of her?

Frankie came to me with all her spunk and heart. I loved her from the first moment she started whispering in my ear. She’s filled with a strong sense of loyalty and love of family. But, ultimately, learns that family isn’t about having all the pieces in place, it’s about having people in your life who love you unconditionally. And that circle is so much bigger than those with whom you’ve shared a childhood or a name.

Secrets and mystery are at the heart of Smart Cookie. Are you a mystery fan or did this just evolve as you went along?

The secrets and mystery element of Smart Cookie evolved as an integral part of the story. When I write, I start with the heart of a character. In this case, that was Frankie. From there, it’s like I’m the muse and the characters are whispering in my ear. They are sharing their secrets and telling me why it’s so important to keep them hidden. And, if I am listening, really listening, I get to write their story.

Frankie, her dad and her grandmother live together in a struggling B&B. I loved the details. How did you research what it might be like running a place like The Greene Family B&B?

My husband and I have spent a lot of time in B&Bs. They are warm and friendly and filled with family. And many of these B&Bs have been nestled in wonderful small towns in Vermont. During our stays, I’ve spoken to the owners of the B&Bs about what motivated them to buy the inn, how life has been for them as owners, and the travails that have ensued at the B&B.

What are you currently working on?

I am in the middle of revisions for a new middle grade novel that comes out in 2019. In GIVE AND TAKE, you’ll meet twelve-year-old Maggie. Maggie has a big heart and a hard time letting go. Of stuff. Of people. Of the past. With the help of her turtle Rufus, a baby named Izzie and the almost all-girls trap shooting team, she begins to understand that people are more than the things that hold their memories.

I also have ideas stirring for a nonfiction book and another new mg novel. So stay tuned. Good things are coming!

How do you prefer readers get in touch with you?

I love connecting with readers! They can reach me via my website, or or on Twitter @ellyswartz. And, for all the educators and librarians reading, I also love visiting schools and Skyping!


Smart Cookie Curriculum Guide