Summer is the perfect time to dive into a good book—or 10. These novels, among them mysteries, fantasies, and historical fiction, are sure to please.
Lei and the Fire Goddess by Malia Maunakea (Penguin Workshop, June 6): Spending another summer in Hawai‘i with her grandmother, 12-year-old Anna attempts to reconnect with her Native heritage. When she inadvertently angers the goddess Pele, she must put things right. Maunakea balances thrills with more contemplative moments as Anna finds herself.
Camp Sylvania by Julie Murphy (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, June 6): It’s bad enough that Maggie’s attending fat camp, but things get worse when she suspects Camp Sylvania is run by a vampire. Murphy’s wonderfully spooky tale contains everything readers have come to expect from her novels: humor, a pitch-perfect voice, and fat characters who wholeheartedly embrace themselves and their bodies.
Control Freaks by J.E. Thomas (Levine Querido, June 13): Frederick Douglass Zezzmer, a Black seventh grader, is determined to win an upcoming school competition, but his hopes are dashed when he realizes he’ll have to work on a team…with “sportsters” and “art peeps.” Thomas has crafted an absorbing, witty read about a kid learning that letting others in just might be more rewarding than winning.
Ginny Off the Map by Caroline Hickey, illustrated by Kelly Murphy (Christy Ottaviano Books, June 20): Ginny’s summer plans are upended (goodbye, geography camp!) when her father is deployed to Afghanistan sooner than expected. Before he leaves, her father tells her she must be the glue that holds the family together, and though Ginny initially flails, she eventually comes into her own in this quirky, heart-rending tale.
How To Catch a Polar Bear by Stacy DeKeyser (McElderry, June 27): A companion to A Rhino in Right Field (2018), this novel set in 1948 Wisconsin sees 12-year-old Nick, who’s selling frozen treats at the zoo over the summer, solving the mystery of who freed a polar bear from its cage. Hilarious hijinks and a charming cast of characters make for an enticing read.
The Boy With Wings by Lenny Henry, illustrated by Keenon Ferrell and Mark Buckingham (Andrews McMeel Publishing, June 27): Tunde, a 12-year-old Black British boy, wonders if his adoptive parents are hiding something—and his suspicions are confirmed when he sprouts wings at a soccer game. Bursting with intergalactic drama, comedian Henry’s novel is action-packed, hilarious, and heartwarming.
Where the Water Takes Us written and illustrated by Alan Barillaro (Candlewick, July 4): Spending the summer with her grandparents, Ava is too busy fretting about her mother, whose pregnancy has become complicated, to enjoy the beauty of the Canadian wilderness around her. But, as this lush, meditative novel demonstrates, a connection with nature can be affirming.
Hope in the Valley by Mitali Perkins (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, July 11): Indian American Pandu attends summer drama camp and joins the Historical Preservation Society’s efforts to protect the orchard she and her late mother loved—a decision that brings her into conflict with her sister but spurs her to learn more about U.S. and Indian history. Set in 1980s Silicon Valley, this is both a poignant tale of loss and a thought-provoking exploration of how history informs the present.
The International House of Dereliction by Jacqueline Davies, illustrated by Julia Castaño (Clarion/HarperCollins, July 18): Alice, 10, takes on a task that would daunt most adults: fixing up an abandoned house and helping its ghostly inhabitants resolve unfinished business. Davies’ novel brims with humor and whimsy, and her cast of characters, living and dead, is enchanting.
Barely Floating by Lilliam Rivera (Kokila, Aug. 29): When Natalia, a fat Latina 12-year-old, joins a synchronized swimming team, she knows she’s up against obstacles—from her parents, who don’t want her involved in a sport that holds up thin White women as the ideal, as well as from strangers who make assumptions about her based on her body. But her self-love and persistence make her a winning protagonist for whom readers will eagerly root.
Mahnaz Dar is a young readers’ editor.