Summer Series for the Adventuring Child

Summer is here, the kids are out of school, and temperatures are rising. Now I know that during the summer we just want to get those adorable little mess-makers out of the house and into the outdoors to explore nature and discover the world around them, but sometimes it just gets too dang hot. Parts of Arizona are going to be 120 degrees this week – and I’m headed there Wednesday for a family reunion! At the moment, northern California is hotter than southern California! (That never happened when I grew up there.)

So, after you’ve had them run around outside for the cooler hours of the morning here is a list of great series to keep their minds adventuring instead of melting crayons into the carpet. (True story, don’t ask.)

How to Train Your Dragon Series, by Cressida Cowell

The series that inspired the beloved movies, the Train Your Dragon series tells the story of Hiccup and his dragon Toothless and their adventures together. Great for those who love the movies and just can’t get enough of Toothless! Bonus points for having a very well-read audio book by none other than David Tennant!

The Heroes Guide Series, by Christopher Healy

A fun quirky series which doesn’t follow the leading ladies of the more popular fairy tales but the leading men, whom after being discredited by lazy bards are out to prove that they are more than just the “Prince Charming” of their stories. A great read with wonderful illustrations to help you know whom is who.

Enchanted Forest Series, by Patricia C. Wrede

So, we all know that when the dragon steals the princess the brave knight has to go rescue her. But what if the princess didn’t get stolen but instead ran away and is having a much better time hanging out with dragons than being a princess? This quirky series has it all.  Smart Princesses, silly knights, and cunning wizards. Forget rescuing the princess, someone should maybe help that poor knight out instead.

The School  for Good and Evil Series, by Soman Chainani

Not another magical school series! I know its summer break and no kid wants to think about school let alone read about one, but this series is worth it. Following the two lead females who seem to have accidentally been placed in the wrong school (see title) the series leads you to question, what makes one good or evil? And can appearances be deceiving?

The Unicorn Chronicles Series, by Bruce Coville

An oldie but goodie. Following a young protagonist who has been dumped into a magical land by her grandmother, Cara must find out how to make it back to her own world and learn what secrets this land may hold about her missing parents. Unicorns and Adventures! Need I say more?

Hopefully that’s enough to get you started and if your kids are anything like mine you’ll need every one of those books just to survive until July! Don’t forget that your local library is always a great place to check for more series and see if they may be hosting a summer reading contest. Nothing gets kids’ reading like the thought that they might win a gift card or something better!

What are some of your favorite adventure series? Share in the comments!

Happy Reading!


P.S. And if your child likes contemporary stories with adventure and magical realism, you’re always welcome to check out my 4-book MG series set in the mysterious swamps of Louisiana. Gators and danger abound! The Healing Spell, Circle of Secrets, When the Butterflies Came, and The Time of the Fireflies.

Kimberley Griffiths Little is the award-winning author of ten Middle-Grade and Young Adult novels with Scholastic and Harpercollins. She’s been juggling book launch parties, research trips, drafting new proposals, eating too many cookies and wrangling a household that never sleeps . . . On location book trailers and Teacher’s Guides at Kimberley’s website: Friend her on Facebook:

Kimberley Little

Chris Grabenstein Winners!

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Congratulations and have fun with this perfect summer read!

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Tricia Springstubb
Tricia is the author of many books for middle grade, most recently "Every Single Second" (HarperCollins) and the third book in the Cody series, "Cody and the Rules of Life" (Candlewick Press). A frequent speaker at schools, libraries, and conferences, she lives in Cleveland OH. You can find out more about her and her work at

The Art of Summer Reads and Author and Poet’s Laura Shovan’s TBR

Laura Shovan is a celebrated poet whose debut novel in verse, THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY, came out last year to much acclaim. She’s edited poetry anthologies and works with children as a poet-in-the-schools and was the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society’s Writer-in-Residence for 2015-2016. Her second middle novel TAKE DOWN, a dual narrative about middle school wrestlers, comes out next year summer.

I thought I’d interview Laura about summer reading, since in addition to have a much-anticipated summer book in 2018, THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY is on many summer reading lists.

What have been some of your most memorable middle grade summer reads?

When I was a teen, we spent summer weekends in New York’s Catskill Mountains. I loved having a big, juicy novel for the summer and remember reading Jane Eyre as a middle schooler. There were days when I did not come out of my room because I didn’t want to break the spell of a good book.

More recently, when my children were reading middle grade, summers were all about audio books in the car. Family favorites were Harry Potter, the Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud, and classic MG like Ginger Pye and The Indian in the Cupboard.

Can you think of a common denominator?

For many of us, schedules are looser in the summer, without the constraints of the school day. It’s a great time of year for settling in and allowing yourself to become absorbed in the world of a book. Think of a series like Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart. Summer means reading page after page, wrapped up in Meggie’s fantastic story, and not having to loosen the grip of that world to focus on testing, or homework, or going to bed early.

Why do you think certain books get on summer reading lists?

That’s a good question. In part, it depends on who is creating the list and the resources that person is using to choose books.

I like when summer reading lists include something for every reader: Funny books, poetry books, non-fiction, adventure stories, literary novels, fantasy, science fiction. (Librarian Barb Langridge has influenced my thinking on reading personalities. Her website is A Book and a Hug. A varied list encourages children to experiment with new genres. If a young reader tries a book on the list and doesn’t like it, okay! It’s summer. Pick up another book. Try something else.

In addition to summer reading lists, there’s also beach reads, or lake or mountain reads, if you’re not a beach person. Why do we need beach reads?

For me, the experience of reading a book is different on vacation. If I’m reading at the beach, there’s nowhere else I have to be. I have the brain space to let the characters, setting, and ideas of the story settle deeply into my mind. It’s almost like being in two places at the same time – sitting on a towel at the beach with sand sticking to my sunblock, and drinking a butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade. In summer, children don’t have to think about reading levels, or analyzing the text, or doing character studies. They can simply enjoy reading for its own sake and relax into the story.

So, it may not be beach reads that we need per se, but story. Whether it’s ghost tales around a campfire, reminiscing about family history at a reunion, or passing a great book to a friend, storytelling is one of the most important ways that human beings share information, culture, and meaning. And in the summer, we have time to sit and read, or sit and listen.

Two summers ago, I was at a poetry conference in Italy. Walking back to our room one night, my friend and I bumped into another person from the conference, a young poet from Ghana named Richard Botchwey. Because it was summer vacation, we were in no rush to turn in for the night, and the three of us sat at a café for hours, as Richard told us about growing up in Ghana. Because we had time to listen, and Richard was willing to share, the three of us formed a special friendship. Books can become special friends in the same way, if we take time to sit and enter into the stories written on their pages.

I do want to give a plug here for public libraries. One of the great joys of summer is walking into a cool library on a hot day. In the summer, my mother used to let us bring home as many books as we could carry. And we could choose anything! It was heaven.

Can you share your TBR for this summer?

Just finished:
The Maypop Kidnapping (A Quinnie Boyd Mystery), by C.M. Surrisi
The Perfect Trip, by Stacey Mozer

Up next:
One Shadow on the Wall, by Leah Henderson
Ghost, by Jason Reynolds
When My Sister Started Kissing, by Helen Frost
Vampires on the Run (A Quinnie Boyd Mystery), by C.M. Surrisi
Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine, by Caroline Starr Rose
The Peculiar Haunting of Thelma Bee, by Erin Petti

How about you? Can you share a book on your summer TBR? I’m going to be re-reading The Ethan I was Before by Ali Standish. Ali graduated from the Hollins University Graduate Program in Children’s Literature & Writing where I teach. Confession: she’s a former student, so I’m very biased. But I think it’s a book worth re-reading!

Hillary Homzie is the author of the forthcoming Pumpkin Spice Secrets (Sky Pony/Swirl, September 2017), Queen of Likes (Simon & Schuster MIX 2016), The Hot List (Simon & Schuster MIX 2011) and Things Are Gonna Be Ugly (Simon & Schuster, 2009). She can be found at and on her Facebook page.

Hillary Homzie