Summer Reading and Activities

School's out for the summer! The following books are great for middle school and/or high school readers. Pick a good book or 2 and enjoy some relaxing reading time during the summer break.

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 Book Title
Author Summary Suggested Reading Level
Wonder
R.J. Palacio
August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

Middle School/High School Reading Level
One Perfect Day
Lauraine Snelling

This is the story of two mothers, strangers to one another.

The first has two children—twins, a boy and girl, who are seniors in high school. She wants their last Christmas as a family living in the same home to be perfect, but her husband is delayed returning from a business trip abroad. And then there's an accident—a fatal one involving a drunk driver.

Meanwhile, the other mother has a daughter who needs a new heart, and so the loss of one woman becomes the miracle the other has desperately prayed for. While one mother grieves, and pulls away from her family, the other finds that even miracles aren't always easy to receive.

High School Reading Level
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Maya Angelou

This memoir captures the longing of lonely children, the brute insult of bigotry, and the wonder of words that can make the world right.

High School Reading Level
A Prayer for Owen Meany
John Irving

At a Little League game in New Hampshire, one boy hits a foul ball that kills his best friend’s mother. The boy who hits the ball doesn’t believe in accidents; Owen Meany believes he is God’s instrument.

High School Reading Level
Speak Laurie Halse Anderson

The first ten lies they tell you in high school.

"Speak up for yourself--we want to know what you have to say." From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. Her healing process has just begun when she has another violent encounter with him. But this time Melinda fights back, refuses to be silent, and thereby achieves a measure of vindication. In Laurie Halse Anderson's powerful novel, an utterly believable heroine with a bitterly ironic voice delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school. She speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself.

Speak was a 1999 National Book Award Finalist for Young People's Literature.

Middle School/High School Reading Level
Fever 1793
Laurie Halse Anderson
An epidemic of fever sweeps through the streets of 1793 Philadelphia in this novel from Laurie Halse Anderson where "the plot rages like the epidemic itself" (The New York Times Book Review).

During the summer of 1793, Mattie Cook lives above the family coffee shop with her widowed mother and grandfather. Mattie spends her days avoiding chores and making plans to turn the family business into the finest Philadelphia has ever seen. But then the fever breaks out.
Middle School Reading Level
The Kite Runner
Khaled Hosseini

Amir is a young Afghani from a well-to-do Kabul family; his best friend Hassan is the son of a family servant. Together the two boys form a bond of friendship that breaks tragically on one fateful day. Years later, Amir is called back to Kabul to right his wrongs.

It’s a story of friendship and redemption woven with the history of Afghanistan, a country which will not be leaving the world’s spotlight anytime soon. Reading about the culture of Afghanistan will help give students a better understanding of the Middle East.

High School Reading Level
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
Ishmael Beah, Sierra Leone

At the age of twelve, Ishmael Beah fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By 13, he’d been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found that he was capable of truly terrible acts.

What is war like through the eyes of a child soldier? How does one become a killer? How does one stop? Journalists have profiled child soldiers and novelists have struggled to imagine their lives. But until now, there has not been a first-person account from someone who came through this hell and survived.

High School Reading Level
The Alchemist
Paulo Coelho

Santiago, a shepherd boy, longs for riches, only to find riches far different—and far more satisfying—than he ever imagined. His journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognizing opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams.

Following our dreams is a lesson that seems to be absent in many schools. Especially with many kids being told that more college and more money is the ultimate goal, this book can be a nice peek into alternatives.

High School Reading Level
The Remains of the Day
Kazuo Ishiguro

In 1956, Stevens, a long-serving butler at Darlington Hall, decides to take a motoring trip through the West Country. The six-day excursion becomes a journey into the past of Stevens and England, a past that takes in fascism, two world wars, and an unrealized love between the butler and his housekeeper.

Ishiguro’s dazzling novel is a sad and humorous love story, a meditation on the condition of modern man, and an elegy for England at a time of acute change.

High School Reading Level
The Book Thief
Markus Zusak

Liesel is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

Books feed the soul—that’s this story’s message. And if that’s not compelling enough, the story is narrated by Death, who brings his own unique insights of the world during World War II.

High School Reading Level
I am Malayla
Malala Yousafzai

When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education. On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was 15, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school. Few expected her to survive.

This is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls’ education, of a father who championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.

High School Reading Level
Cry, The Beloved Country
Alan Paton

The deeply moving story of the Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo and his son, Absalom, set against the background of a land and a people riven by racial injustice.

This exploration of post-colonial South Africa explores racism, classism, wealth, segregation, and the abandonment of positive religious teachings, among many other themes.

High School Reading Level
The Light Between Oceans
M.L. Stedman

After World War II, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. After two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel sweeps us into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss.

High School Reading Level
The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins

Each district sends one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, “The Hunger Games,” a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games.

Middle School/High School Reading Level
The Help
Kathryn Stockett

Skeeter, a 22-year-old college graduate; Aibileen, a black maid who is raising her 17th white child; and her best friend Minny, a sassy cook who just lost another job, ban together to write a tell-all book about the work of a black maid.

High School Reading Level
Holes
Louis Sachar

Stanley Yelnats is unjustly sent to a boys’ detention center, Camp Green Lake, where there is no lake. He and the other boys dig holes all day, every day. It quickly becomes apparent that they are not just digging for character improvement; The warden is looking for something.

Middle School/High School Reading Level
The Boy In The Striped Pajamas
John Boyne

Berlin,1942: Bruno’s father receives a promotion and the family moves to a new house, far away. A tall fence stretches as far as the eye can see at the new house, cutting off people in the distance. Bruno befriends a boy on the other side of the fence, and everything changes.

High School Reading Level
Life of Pi
Yann Martel

Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, a Tamil boy from Pondicherry, explores issues of spirituality and practicality from an early age. This is all brought to a boiling point when he is suddenly the lone survivor of a sinking cruise ship. Well, him and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger.

High School Reading Level
Jurassic Park
Michael Crichton

An astonishing technique for recovering and cloning dinosaur DNA has been discovered. Now humankind’s most thrilling fantasies have come true. Creatures extinct for eons roam Jurassic Park with their awesome presence and profound mystery, and all the world can visit them—for a price. Until something goes wrong …

Middle School/High School Reading Level
The Diary of a Young Girl
Anne Frank

Anne Frank's extraordinary diary, written in the Amsterdam attic where she and her family hid from the Nazis for two years, has become a world classic and a timeless testament to the human spirit. Now, in a new edition enriched by many passages originally withheld by her father, we meet an Anne more real, more human, and more vital than ever. Here she is first and foremost a teenage girl—stubbornly honest, touchingly vulnerable, in love with life. She imparts her deeply secret world of soul-searching and hungering for affection, rebellious clashes with her mother, romance and newly discovered sexuality, and wry, candid observations of her companions. Facing hunger, fear of discovery and death, and the petty frustrations of such confined quarters, Anne writes with adult wisdom and views beyond her years. Her story is that of every teenager, lived out in conditions few teenagers have ever known.

Middle School/High School Reading Level
Eaglebait
Susan Coryell

Wardy Sprinks has been a loser for as long as he can remember. Freshman year in high school Wardy becomes the butt of malicious bullying. But, eventually, Wardy's life begins to change. First a charismatic science teacher becomes his mentor. Then, quiet Meg from biology lab seems friendly. And Big Vi takes on a life of her own. Most importantly, Wardy discovers his attitude makes a difference in how others treat him. If Wardy Sprinks doesn't feel like a loser, maybe he won't be one. Awards: NY Public Library "Books for the Teenage"International Reading Association "YA Choice"

 Middle School/High School Reading Level
The Eighth Day (Eighth Day #1)
Dianne K. Salerni

When Jax wakes up to a world without any people in it, he assumes it's the zombie apocalypse. But when he runs into his eighteen-year-old guardian, Riley Pendare, he learns that he's really in the eighth day—an extra day sandwiched between Wednesday and Thursday. Some people—like Jax and Riley—are Transitioners, able to live in all eight days, while others, including Evangeline, the elusive teenage girl who's been hiding in the house next door, exist only on this special day.

And there's a reason Evangeline's hiding. She is a descendant of the powerful wizard Merlin, and there is a group of people who wish to use her in order to destroy the normal seven-day world and all who live in it. Torn between protecting his new friend and saving the entire human race from complete destruction, Jax is faced with an impossible choice. Even with an eighth day, time is running out.

Middle School/High School Reading Level
Traveller
Richard Adams
Traveller is a historical novel written by Richard Adams in 1988. It recounts the American Civil War through the viewpoint of Traveller, the favorite horse of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
Teen
To Be a Slave
Julius Lester
To Be A Slave is a 1968 nonfiction children's book by Julius Lester, illustrated by Tom Feelings. It explores what it was like to be a slave.
Middle School Reading Level
Chasing Lincoln's Killer
James L. Swanson
Based on rare archival material, obscure trial manuscripts, and interviews with relatives of the conspirators and the manhunters, CHASING LINCOLN'S KILLER is a fast-paced thriller about the pursuit and capture of John Wilkes Booth: a wild twelve-day chase through the streets of Washington, D.C., across the swamps of Maryland, and into the forests of Virginia.
Middle School/High School Reading Level
The Duel: The Parallel Lives of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr
Judith St. George
Learn more about the men who inspired Hamilton: The Musical in this fascinating look at the historical friends turned revolutionary rivals!
In curiously parallel lives, Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr were both orphaned at an early age. Both were brilliant students who attended college--one at Princeton, the other at Columbia--and studied law. Both were young staff officers under General George Washington, and both became war heroes. Politics beckoned them, and each served in the newly formed government of the fledgling nation. Why, then, did these two face each other at dawn in a duel that ended with death for one and harsh criticism for the other?
Middle School/High School Reading Level
Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team
Steve Sheinkin
Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team is an astonishing underdog sports story―and more. It’s an unflinching look at the U.S. government’s violent persecution of Native Americans and the school that was designed to erase Indian cultures. Expertly told by three-time National Book Award finalist Steve Sheinkin, it’s the story of a group of young men who came together at that school, the overwhelming obstacles they faced both on and off the field, and their absolute refusal to accept defeat.
Middle School Reading Level
Woods Runner
Gary Paulsen
Samuel, 13, spends his days in the forest, hunting for food for his family. He has grown up on the frontier of a British colony, America. Far from any town, or news of the war against the King that American patriots have begun near Boston.

But the war comes to them. British soldiers and Iroquois attack. Samuel’s parents are taken away, prisoners. Samuel follows, hiding, moving silently, determined to find a way to rescue them. Each day he confronts the enemy, and the tragedy and horror of this war. But he also discovers allies, men and women working secretly for the patriot cause. And he learns that he must go deep into enemy territory to find his parents: all the way to the British headquarters, New York City.
Middle School/High School Reading Level
Copper Sun
Sharon M. Draper
Copper Sun is the epic story of a young girl torn from her African village, sold into slavery, and stripped of everything she has ever known—except hope.
High School Reading Level
Behind Rebel Lines: The Incredible Story of Emma Edmonds, Civil War Spy
Seymour Reit
In 1861, when war erupted between the States, President Lincoln made an impassioned plea for volunteers. Determined not to remain on the sidelines, Emma Edmonds cropped her hair, donned men’s clothing, and enlisted in the Union Army. Posing in turn as a slave, peddler, washerwoman, and fop, Emma became a cunning master of disguise, risking discovery and death at every turn behind Confederate lines.
Middle School/High School Reading Level
A Break with Charity: A Story about the Salem Witch Trials
Ann Rinaldi
Susanna desperately wants to join the circle of girls who meet every week at the parsonage. What she doesn't realize is that the girls are about to set off a torrent of false accusations leading to the imprisonment and execution of countless innocent people. Susanna faces a painful choice. Should she keep quiet and let the witch-hunt panic continue, or should she "break charity" with the group--and risk having her own family members named as witches?
Reader's guide included.
Middle School/High School Reading Level