Not just any book will do when it comes to summer reading. There’s something about summer, with its heat and long days and hours spent at the pool, that calls for specific kinds of books. All of the chapter books on this Summer Reading list for 8 to 12 year olds feels just right for summer reading (and we’ve read them all here, so you’ve got our endorsement!).
In these books, you will find adventures to liven up long summer days (try #5 and #16 and definitely #19) and maybe even inspire an adventure of your own. You’ll find books that will make you laugh (like #20 and #21) and some that might make you see the world a little differently (read #6, #9, and #11). There are books about camps and clubs and lakes. There are even a few good mysteries thrown in here. And if you’re all grown up and reading with your own littles, there are plenty of books on this list to inspire nostalgia for your own summer days and bring back the magic of a childhood summer (#4 and #24 for sure).
At the end of this list you’ll find a link to print out a handy check list that you can take to the library and bookstore and keep track of your summer reads. Read on!
25 Chapter Books for Summer (8 to 12 year olds)
1. Letters from Camp by Kate Klise
This summer camp story is fun because it is so visually stimulating. Told through letters, notes, and post cards, you’ll find all the best parts of summer camp and a bit of a mystery to solve too.
2. Holes by Louise Sachar
Sachar is one of the greats and this book makes it easy to see why. Stanley Yelnats is plagued by a family curse that lands him digging holes in a boys’ detention center. It’s kind of like summer camp, but the dark crime and punishment version. It’s weird, and funny, and good right to the very end.
The Loch Ness Monster in a lake by a cabin in Vermont? Well, it makes for a pretty intriguing summer mystery.
4. The Penderwicks by Jeane Birdsall
This book oozes summer and childhood nostalgia. It begs to be read aloud. Four girls, a boy, a mischievous dog, and the kind of summer adventures and misadventures almost any kid can relate to. It’s a simple, sweet, old fashioned kind of story with timeless charm.
5. Half Magic by Edward Eager
I’ve written about this one before because it’s one of our favorites. Four kids and a magic coin that gives them half of what they wish for – it’s pretty much a perfect summer read.
6. The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester by Barbara O’Connor
Owen is spending the summer at the rural home of his ailing grandfather. The “Fantastic Secret” falls of a train one night and turns Owen’s ordinary summer into a fantastic adventure.
7. The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis by Barbara O’Connor
Popeye is having an uneventful summer until Elvis shows up and turns it into an adventure. This is beautifully written book and brings up the complicated consequences of what happens when we do things we wish we hadn’t. A great read for boys and girls, but especially one for the boys.
8. Moominsummer Madness by Tove Jansson
The Moomin family is part of a series and all of the books are wonderful (and they don’t need to be read in order). This summer madness book, like the rest of the series, has strange magic and whimsical fantasy in the Scandinavian tradition.
9. Abel’s Island by William Steig
Steig is my favorite. My absolute very favorite. And this book is wonderful. Abel is a thoughtful, civilized mouse who ends up marooned on an island. It’s a quick read with a Robinson Crusoe theme that is completely captivating.
10. James and the Giant Peach by Road Dahl
James Henry Trotter’s parents are eaten by a rhinoceros. James gets stuck with two terrible aunts until he finds himself on an adventure with giant bugs in a magic peach. It’s weird, but that’s why you’ll like it.
11. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
Can you write about the Civil Right’s Movement, Black Panthers, and the Black Power movement in 1960’s Oakland in a children’s book? This book is proof that you can and that historical fiction for children can be beautiful and powerful too. Join these three sisters from Brooklyn as they search for the mother that abandoned them in the craziest summer they’ve ever had.
12. The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt
This is a really fun one – laugh out loud funny. It’s a rowdy read with loyal raccoon brother’s, a fierce swamp loving twelve year old boy, and a world class alligator wrestler who’s causing trouble. Another great one for the boys.
13. The Twenty One Balloons by William Pene du Bois
This is a must read classic. Professor William Waterman Sherman sets off to cross the Pacific Ocean in a hot air balloon, but he ends up in the Atlantic in the wreckage of twenty hot air balloons. You’ll have to read the book to figure out how and why. I’ll tell you this – it’s absurd and wonderful.
14. Summer According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney
Humphrey, the school room hamster, is joining the kids at summer camp this year. My kids love these funny hamster books and this summer adventure is a good one.
15. The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies
A brother and sister are having a lemonade stand war. Who can make the most money in the last week of summer before school starts? It’s an engaging read with real insight into sibling rivalry and competition.
16. Any Which Wall by Laurel Snyder
In the tradition of Edward Eager, this is another story of four kids on a magical adventure. This one will suck you right in – I promise.
17. Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool
Two boys set out on a quest together on the Appalachian Trail. It’s a beautifully written story and adventure set at the end of World War II. A book about friendship, forgiveness, and acceptance rolled into an engaging adventure.
18. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
This is historical fiction that kids will find completely absorbing. Charlotte, a thirteen year old girl, ends up on her own on a ship with a mutinous crew and an evil captain and things go very awry.
19. Runaway Ralph by Beverly Cleary
Ralph, the mouse with the motorcycle, is running away and he ends up at summer camp. Cleary is the master of children’s books, in my opinion, and this is a must read.
20. Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters by Lenore Look |
Written in a Diary of A Wimpy Kid style, Alvin Ho is an Asian-American kid who’s afraid of everything. These books are hilarious and appeal to all of my kids and probably yours too.
21. Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shake Down by Jarret Krosoczka
The Lunch Lady series is perfect for the reluctant reader or the kid who thinks summer shouldn’t include reading. They are so funny that your kids will forget that they are in fact reading a book.
22. Summerhouse Time by Eileen Spinelli
This is a perfect read for the preteen crowd. Every year the family meets at the summerhouse but this year Sophie’s favorite cousin has become a teenager and things just aren’t the same. It’s a book about growing up, and family dynamics, and summer of course.
23. The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
I loved books about clubs when I was a kid and I still do. This club meets in a deserted storage yard dresses up in Egyptian costumes, works on hieroglyphics and secret codes, and holds ancient ceremonies. It’s great fun and mystery.
24. Gone Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright
A sweetly old fashioned summer story with a mysterious, ghostly lakeside resort? Why yes, don’t mind if I do. Enright really got it right with this one.
25. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
Karana, a Native American girl, finds herself alone on an island of the coast of California for many years after her family is forced to flee. She is forced to figure out all the survival skills that she was never taught as a female in the tribe (spear making, hunting, etc.) while she battles hunger and loneliness and wild dogs. It’s a classic survival story that is just as good now as it was when it came out in the 1960’s.
For a Printable Version of this Summer Picture Book Reading List, CLICK HERE. Take it to the library and book store with you and use it to check off the books you’ve read this summer. Happy Reading!