This week we have middle grade author Will Taylor whose debut book MAGGIE AND ABBY’S NEVER-ENDING PILLOW FORT came out this year (Harper Children’s, April). The sequel is due out next year.

There’s this idea some grownups have that you have to trick kids into reading over the summer. That all kids think books are like chores or homework or running laps in gym. That once that final bell rings on the school year you’ll have to work to convince your middle graders to pause their summertime shenanigans long enough to crack open a cover and flip through a chapter or two.

What these grownups are missing is that all the things they think their kids would rather be doing—having adventures, making up games with friends, getting swept away by stories on the big screen—can be found in today’s stellar world of middle grade books. To paraphrase the brilliant Jason Reynolds: kids don’t dislike reading, kids dislike being bored. Give them something that hooks their imagination, something dangerous, something fun, something cool, and the stories they absorb during those long days of summer will become stories that stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Got a reader who could use a good summer adventure? The stories below are a great place to start.


Hello, Universe (Erin Entrada Kelly): For the kid who daydreams on long afternoons

It’s no surprise this gorgeous book won the Newbery Medal. It tells the story of four very different middle school kids, the woods between their houses, a handful of animals, and all the ways our own view of the world is never as complete as we think it is. Packed with hidden dangers, narrow escapes, snakes, psychics, letters from the universe, and brave guinea pigs, this is one for the young dreamer in your life who wonders if anyone will ever understand them.


The Jumbies (Tracey Baptiste): For the kid who stays out after dark

Corinne La Mer is probably the bravest kid she knows. But when she realizes she’s being stalked by Jumbies—eerie trickster spirits bent on causing trouble on her Caribbean island—she has to summon as much courage as she can to find out why. And when the glowing eyes in the woods are joined by a mysterious beautiful woman as dangerous as the answers she carries, Corinne will have to discover just who she is in the world to save her family, her friends, her island, and herself. For readers who like a good amount of scare, an awesome amount of action, and getting the shivers as they look up at the sky at dusk. And good news, the sequel just came out!


Magic Marks the Spot (Caroline Carlson): For the kid who takes the reins

The first book in The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates trilogy! Hilary Westfield wants nothing more than to be a world-class pirate, and her mother, her father, her peer group, the police, and even the professional pirate league all want nothing more than to stop her. Of course they can’t, and after escaping from Miss Pimm’s Finishing School for Delicate Ladies, Hilary sets out to find a ship, a crew, and an adventure that will win her the professional respect of her piratical peers. Throw in a talking gargoyle sidekick and a healthy dose of hilarious magic, and you’ve got a perfect summer read for the kid who wants to know exactly why grownups act so weird sometimes, and what on earth can be done about