Tween

The Ultimate Summer Reading List for Kids Ages 9 – 12

by Jennifer Garry

summer-reading=tween
Background image credit: Rusanovska/Getty Images

What better time than the lazy days of summer to get lost in a good book? Whether you’re hoping to put a stop to the summer slide or you just want to arm your tween with a stack of books that will transport them to a new and exciting place, these middle grade books are a great place to start!

  • Clean Getaway

    by Nic Stone

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    When his big spring break trip gets cancelled, 11-year-old Scoob heads out on an unplanned road trip with his grandma. The unconventional road-trip story takes readers through American race relations of the past (particularly the segregation history of the South) and present. Real historical elements — like the Green Book, the subject and namesake of the recent Oscar-winning film — are woven in, making this an educational and powerful read.

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  • The Story Pirates Present: Quest for the Crystal Crown

    by Annabeth Bondor-Stone and Connor White, illustrated by Joe Todd-Stanton

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    Magic, monsters, and a heroic quest — how can you go wrong? This fantasy adventure inspired by a real kid’s story idea will whisk young readers off on a magical journey. Hillview — a hidden lost world without a hill or a view — is under attack! An enchanted arrow pierces the wall protecting the city and a brave young girl must travel outside and search for the powerful, protective crystal crown that can keep Hillview safe.

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  • Confessions of a Dork Lord

    by Mike Johnston, illustrated by Marta Altés

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    This hilarious illustrated adventure follows Wick, a hapless warlock-in-training who also happens to be the son of the Dark Lord and next leader of the Grim World. Wick stinks at spell casting, is allergic to fire and brimstone, and has earned the unfortunate nickname Dork Lord from the bullies at middle ages school. The book follows Wick’s journal entries as he comes up with a plan to live up to his destiny.

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  • Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet

    by Zanib Mian, illustrated by Nasaya Mafaridik

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    Omar and his family have just moved and his imagination is running wild with "what ifs" about his new school. What if the work is too hard, or the kids are mean, or the teacher is a zombie alien? Things look up for Omar when he makes a new best friend — until a bully named Daniel makes his life a nightmare and even tells him all Muslims are getting kicked out of the country. Omar's imagination helps him get through it all in this funny, relatable #OwnVoices story.

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  • The Runaway Princess

    by Johan Troïanowski

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    Princess Robin is bored of princess-ing. This graphic novel follows her on three separate adventures as she sneaks out of the castle and encounters new friends, mermaids, swamps, and pirates on her quest. With reader interaction sprinkled throughout, tweens will feel like they’re part of the story!

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  • Wink

    by Rob Harrell

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    After recently being diagnosed with a rare eye cancer, Ross has lost all hope of blending in at middle school. Based on the author’s real-life experience, this story is both heart-wrenching and hilarious. Comic panels and illustrations throughout help make this uplifting book of survival and embracing life’s weirdness both poignant and unforgettable.

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  • The Imaginaries

    by Emily Winfield Martin

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    Emily Winfield Martin, author-illustrator of The Wonderful Things You Will Be, shares paintings captioned with a single mysterious sentence, designed to inspire. From mermaids and giant flowers to a library occupied with humans and animals, this gorgeous collection of art will inspire young artists and the writers to get to work on their own imaginaries.

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  • When Stars Are Scattered

    by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed, illustrated by Victoria Jamieson and Iman Geddy

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    When Stars Are Scattered is an unforgettable graphic novel about growing up in a refugee camp, as told by a Somali refugee to the Newbery Honor-winning creator of Roller Girl. Omar and his younger brother, Hassan — the only family he has left — have spent most of their lives in a Kenyan refugee camp. There is never enough food and they don’t have access to the medical care Omar knows his nonverbal brother needs. So when Omar has a chance to go to school, he knows it could change their future — but it also means leaving his brother every day.

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  • Behind the Scenes at the Museum

    by DK

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    With museums largely closed right now, it's the perfect time to get a peek at behind-the-scenes with this Smithsonian guide. This book gives tweens an understanding of what it takes to curate the artifacts that go into a museum — from excavating a wooly mammoth skeleton to preserving Anne Frank's diary. Plus, they'll get an exclusive look at items that aren't normally on display!

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  • Echo Mountain

    by Lauren Wolk

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    Because of the economic crisis of the Great Depression, Ellie’s family is forced to leave town and start over in the untamed forests of Echo Mountain. Though she discovers newfound freedom there, little happiness is found after a terrible accident that leaves her father in a coma is unfairly blamed on Ellie. Determined to save both her father and her family, she goes on a quest to the top of the mountain to get healing secrets from the hag that lives there.

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  • Bloom

    by Kenneth Oppel

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    Part one in The Overthrow trilogy, this action-thriller is part Hatchet, part Alien. An invasion begins with rain carrying seeds that sprout everywhere overnight. They take over everything, releasing toxic pollens and blooming into Venus flytrap-like pods that swallow people and animals. They seem unstoppable — except three kids on a remote island (who all have strange allergies) seem to be immune. Can they be the key to stopping the invasion?

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  • The Lonely Heart of Maybelle Lane

    by Kate O’Shaughnessy

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    The only thing Maybelle Lane knows about her father is his laugh, saved on an old voicemail. When she hears that same laugh on the car radio, she begins listening to his new radio show and discovers he’ll be judging a singing contest in Nashville. She signs up and heads to Nashville with unlikely companions: her irritable neighbor Mrs. Boggs who offers to drive and a bully from the trailer park who gets a ride, too.

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  • Kate the Chemist: The Big Book of Experiments

    by Kate Biberdorf

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    Looking for some hands-on learning to balance out all of the inevitable YouTube and video gaming? This book includes 25 kid-friendly experiments that demonstrate just how fun it is to be a scientist. From fake tattoos to edible snot, these fun experiments include step-by-step instructions, an ingredients list, and a messiness factor rating so that you know what you’re signing up for.

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  • Finn and the Intergalactic Lunchbox

    by Michael Buckley

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    The author of the beloved Sisters Grimm and NERDS series is back with a new action-packed middle-grade series: The Finniverse. Finn’s lunchbox is pretty weird. One day he opens it and a robot emerges along with a blinking device that glues itself to his chest. The lunchbox also opens wormholes that take Finn to the farthest corners of the galaxy. Pretty cool, except soon a race of gigantic bugs are after Finn and the blinking thing on his chest — which just so happens to be the most dangerous weapon in the universe. Finn and an unlikely crew of assistants have to work together to fight off the bugs and save the world from destruction.

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  • The Last Kids on Earth: June's Wild Flight

    by Max Brallier, illustrated by Douglas Holgate

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    A spinoff of The Last Kids on Earth series, this book is told from June Del Toro's point of view and takes place between The Midnight Blade and the upcoming sixth book in the series. After the shocking ending of The Midnight Blade, the kids are plotting their next move. But when an unexpected threat emerges, June gets separated from her friends and dragged to a town overgrown with monstrous vines and never-before-seen creatures. Relying on her skills and the help of some strange new companions, June fights to get back home — and uncovers some crucial information in the process.

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  • The List of Things That Will Not Change

    by Rebecca Stead

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    When Bea’s parents get divorced, her life becomes different in a whole lot of ways. But she keeps a list in her green notebook to remember the things that will always stay the same. The most important: Mom and Dad will always love Bea, and each other. Bea is thrilled when she learns that Dad and his boyfriend, Jesse, are getting married — and she can’t wait to meet her new sister, Sonia. But as the wedding gets closer, Bea learns that making a new family brings questions, surprises, and joy.

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  • Pages & Co.: The Lost Fairy Tales

    by Anna James, illustrated by Paola Escobar

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    The second book-wandering adventure in the Pages & Co. series, The Lost Fairy Tales follows Tilly Pages and her friend Oskar on a journey to France to wander inside a peculiar book of fairy tales. Inside, characters are getting lost, stories mixed up, and plot holes open without warning. It’s up to Tilly and Oskar to uncover what — or who — is behind the chaos.

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  • Stepping Stones

    by Lucy Knisely

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    Inspired by the author’s own childhood, Stepping Stones is a graphic novel about family, unlikely friends, and belonging. Jen does not want to move to the country. She doesn’t want to move to a farm with her mom and her new boyfriend, she doesn’t want a stepsister and she definitely doesn’t want to leave her friends and her dad. Jen quickly has to learn to clean the chicken coop, deal with customers at the farmers’ market, and figure out where she fits in with her new family. A perfect read for fans of Awkward and Be Prepared.

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  • Tornado Brain

    by Cat Patrick

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    Frankie is neurodivergent, which means life is not as easy for her as it is for her sister, Tess. She has trouble making friends, although she did have one — Colette — only, they're not friends anymore. But weeks before the end of seventh grade, Colette unexpectedly shows up at Frankie's door and then vanishes the next morning. Convinced that her former best friend left clues behind that only she can figure out, Frankie persuades her sister to help her unravel the mystery of Colette's disappearance before it's too late.

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  • Once Upon a Space-Time!

    by Jeffrey Brown

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    This book is the first in a hilarious space-themed graphic novel series from the author of the beloved Jedi Academy books. Jide and Petra are chosen to join their new alien classmates on a research mission to Mars. What is meant to be an intra-species bonding experience soon turns to hijinks as the kids accidentally launch a mission of their own without any adult supervision — or help!

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  • The Madre de Aguas of Cuba

    by Adam Gidwitz and Emma Otheguy, illustrated by Hatem Aly

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    The kids from The Unicorn Rescue Society series travel to Cuba to help the legendary Madre de aguas, a mysterious water serpent that provides and protects the fresh water of the island. The serpent is missing and the island is suffering from a drought. When Uchenna, Elliot, and Professor Fauna fly to Cuba to try to rescue it, the serpent tries to kill them. At the same time, the Schmoke Brothers’ goons are dumping pink sludge into Havana’s sewers. Can they end the drought and stop the Schmokes? Or will the serpent eat them instead?

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  • The Mystery of the Moon Tower

    by Francesco Sedita and Prescott Seraydarian, illustrated by Steve Hamaker

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    Five curious and unlikely friends set off on a mysterious summer adventure while in search of a legendary treasure in the first book of The Pathfinders Society series. Thrown together at summer camp, the kids decipher clues to find intrepid explorer-inventor Henry Merriweather’s castle. Ornate and beautiful with secret rooms and strange objects, time is warped at the castle. Witnessing scenes from Merriweather’s past, the kids soon realize his experiments and eccentricities might be pointing them on a path to the rumored lost treasure of Windrose.

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  • Mammoth Science

    by DK, illustrated by David Macaulay

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    Perfect for stopping the summer slide (in a fun way), kids can join in as a troop of mammoths lead them through the basics of physics, chemistry, and biology. Both educational and entertaining, this unconventional guide is sure to keep kids engaged during the summer break.

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Looking for summer reading ideas for younger or older kids? Check out our 2020 lists for Kids Ages 3 – 5, Ages 6 – 8, and Teens.