summer-set novels and chapter books

Hi all!
I meant to get this post out earlier this summer…
…and then it slipped right off my plate.

summer solstice was just yesterday
so there’s lots of warm days ahead for these summer-set novels.
I’ve got a couple new-to-me titles
plus links to a number of summery favorites from past posts
many of which would make splendid read-alouds.
Click on any title to find my full review and age recommendations.

Becca Fair and Foul, by Deirdre Baker
published in 2018 by Groundwood Books
174 pages

Becca, age 11, is spending the summer at Gran’s on British Columbia’s Hornby Island. This year she and her good friend, Jane, are allowed to go to sea in Gull without an adult for the very first time. Gull is a lunk of a boat that wallows more often than truly sails. Nonetheless the girls manage to foul things up dangerously enough on their maiden voyage that they are “beached,” forbidden to sail without an adult for the duration of the summer.

Their new idea is to put on a performance of Shakespeare’s The Tempest in order to earn money for a new, better boat. As the weeks roll by and the girls steadfastly work at their production, a copious amount of drama unfolds. The idyllic setting notwithstanding, a hefty share of this drama carries with it some sorrow and heaviness. Wild animals die; a beloved aunt mourns a stillborn child; another beloved aunt grieves over the AIDS orphans she cares for in Swaziland. Even the ordinary perils of a life spent scrabbling about in the wilderness are amped up here in near shipwrecks, an attacking owl, and various other interactions with the real-life stink and mess of nature.

Yet the overall feel of the book felt a bit like the Penderwicks on steroids, or Gilmore Girls situated on a Canadian island. It’s a coming-of-age story complete with smelly animals and backed-up plumbing, a breathless, gutsy, untamed showcase of both the deep affection and froth of fractiousness that comprise family, the high and low tides of life itself, the rich pulse of beauty and glory that comes from helping our fellow humans and fellow creatures to thrive. I’d recommend this to girls, especially, who love adventure and the great outdoors and who can manage a few confusing jumps in the plot. Ages 10 and up.
(There’s actually an accompanying novel that precedes this. It didn’t seem to matter at all that I had not read it.)

Midsummer’s Mayhem, written by Rajani LaRocca, illustrations by Rachel Suggs
published in 2019 by Yellow Jacket
332 pages

Ready for a delectable mash-up of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the Great British Bake-Off? That’s what’s served up in this magical story.

Mimi, age 11 and the youngest in her Indian-American family, loves to bake.  She’s quite proficient at it, too, so she’s jazzed to discover that a new bakery in town is sponsoring a kids’ baking contest. As the days go by and Mimi practices her bakes, however, weird events begin to occur in her woodsy, Massachusetts neighborhood and strange transformations develop among her family members. Her incisive, food-critic Dad morphs into a compulsive food-snarfing machine. Her older siblings and their friends fall into crazed romantic tangles. In the woods she knows so well she encounters exotic trees, jungle creatures, and a new Indian boy named Vik. What could be behind all of this? Can Mimi discover the key ingredient and create a delicious antidote to these disturbances?

A large part of the joy in this story is the clever riff on Shakespeare’s comedic play. Language echoing the original, characters taken from those pages, key plot elements, are thoroughly woven in such that it’s hard to gauge how this would land on readers unfamiliar with that play. Not that it’s impossible — just that as someone who knows the play well, I am left uncertain how a reader would experience the story without that background. It’s a gem for foodies and bakers, even including two sophisticated recipes for some of Mimi’s award-winning bakes. Lighthearted, delicious, summery fun for ages 10 and up.

Now, here are lots more ace choices for summertime reading. Click on the title to find my original review.

Summery settings for young readers:

Clubhouse Mysteries: The Buried Bones Mystery
Daisy Dawson on the Farm
Georgie Lee
Lulu and the Dog from the Sea
Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea

Swallows and Amazons summertime adventures for reading aloud or middle-grade readers:

Swallows and Amazons (the first book in the series)
Coot Club
The Big Six
Pigeon Post
Great Northern
We Didn’t Mean to go to Sea

Vintage summer gems for middle grade readers and reading aloud:

Gone Away Lake
The Midnight Fox
Minnow on the Say
The Magic Summer
Pinky Pye

Contemporary summertime plots for middle grade and older:

Gone to Drift
One Crazy Summer
The Penderwicks
The Last Last Day of Summer


Coming up soon on the blog —
…books for getting acquainted with Japan, our Summer Olympics hosts
…books for diving into the athleticism of the upcoming Olympic games
…another helping of picture books swimming in summery sunshine
…and I’m nearing the completion of another list of 50 chapter books 100-pages-and-under.

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Know someone who would benefit from these reading recommendations?
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