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7 Fun Summer Books for Reluctant Readers in Grades 6–8

By Lexi Walters Wright

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The best summer books are entertaining but not overwhelming. Encourage your tweens and teens to read more with these approachable titles. Some are classic, some are new. But all of these books are fresh and fun.

Batman Science: The Real-World Science Behind Batman’s Gear, by Tammy Enz and Agnieszka Biskup

As any superhero fan knows, Bruce Wayne was just a normal guy with a seriously tricked-out batsuit. In Batman Science, readers are treated to the inside story about the gadgets that make the protector of Gotham City indestructible. Short chapters touch on science, technology, and engineering. For example, you can find out why the batsuit was black and blue. (To camouflage Batman among the shadows.) And are there really clothes that can withstand fire? (Yes — Nomex, a material found in race car driver uniforms.) For comic book lovers, this is a great summer nonfiction choice.

Flipped, by Wendelin Van Draanen

What better time to bask in a wistful, romantic read than summer vacation? Flipped delivers — for middle-schoolers. This beach-perfect book tells the story of a layered crush between Juli and Bryce in he-said, she-said style. And it’s full of age-appropriate romance like the following. Says Bryce to Juli: “Some of us get dipped in flat, some in satin, some in gloss … But every once in a while, you find someone who’s iridescent, and when you do, nothing will ever compare.”

The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander

Twelve-year-old twins Josh and Jordan live for basketball. In this novel, told in verse, they explain their passion for the game using almost lyrical language: “My shot is F L O W I N G, Flying, fluttering…. ringaling and SWINGALING/Swish. Game/over.” But when a girl comes between the brothers, they need to reevaluate their relationships with the things (and people) they love. The Crossover will appeal to fans of sports and hip-hop. And its message of family loyalty will linger long after they’re finished reading.

Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio, by Peg Kehret

Peg Kehret may be best known for her thrillers for middle-school readers, such as Runaway Twin and Ghost Dog Secrets. But Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio is 100 percent memoir. The true story she shares of becoming paralyzed and having to learn to walk again is every bit as dramatic as her novels. Kehret’s struggles may speak to kids who have had to triumph over their own different challenges.

Chloe by Design: Making the Cut, by Margaret Gurevich

Chloe’s ruling passion is fashion. So of course she’s going to compete for a spot on a new reality TV series devoted to teenage designer wannabes. But the competition is stiff, and every designer is out for herself. In the first book of the Chloe by Design series, Chloe has to focus on her goal and not let her self-doubt (or snarky competitors) get in her way. Project Runway fans will love the fashion illustrations and insider look at the design world. And so will any young reader with big dreams but lots of hurdles.

The Ranger’s Apprentice, Book 1: The Ruins of Gorlan, by John Flanagan

On Training Day, 15-year-old Will hopes to become a knight. Instead, he’s chosen to become one of the spy-like Rangers, darker protectors of the kingdom. The Ruins of Gorlan has fast-paced battle scenes that may appeal to thrill-seeking tweens and teens. (But bear in mind it may be tough on more sensitive kids.) This 12-title fantasy series will satisfy summer readers who crave books about magic, adventure, and monsters.

Tangerine, by Edward Bloor

There’s a lot for readers to latch on to in this dark but well-loved novel for middle-schoolers. A cross-country move forces 12-year-old Paul to start over in Tangerine County, Florida. His parents pay attention only to his football-hero brother, who’s falling in with a bad crowd. And no one will give Paul a solid explanation for the accident that left him nearly blind. That challenge makes even playing soccer — his favorite activity — difficult. Tangerine can be violent at times, and it addresses head-on some of the stigma around having an IEP. But these gritty details make it an unforgettable story and appealing to certain readers.

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