Top Summer 2019 Books for Kids (Ages 8-12)

  • Posted By: Melissa Kinsler
  • August 4, 2019

Summer is winding down but there’s still time to get in a good book or two before school begins again in a few weeks. The team at Test Innovators has put together a list of our top book suggestions for kids ages 8-12 with the help of actual kids in that age range. All the books on our list were published recently so there’s a better chance that your kids haven’t read them yet!

"All the Greys on Greene Street" by Laura Tucker

“SoHo, 1981. Twelve-year-old Olympia is an artist-- and in her neighborhood, that’s normal. Her dad and his business partner Apollo bring antique paintings back to life, while her mother makes intricate sculptures in a corner of their loft, leaving Ollie to roam the streets of New York with her best friends Richard and Alex, drawing everything that catches her eye. Then Everything falls apart. Ollie’s dad disappears in the middle of the night, leaving her only a cryptic note and instructions to destroy it. Her mom has gone to bed, and she’s not getting up. Apollo is hiding something, Alex is acting strange, and Richard has questions about the mysterious stranger he saw outside. And someone keeps calling, looking for a missing piece of art… Olympia knows her dad is the key-- but first, she has to find him, and time is running out.” (Back cover excerpt)

Why we like it:
  • Diverse characters
  • Emphasis on the importance of art
  • Handles tough topics in an age-appropriate manner

”Freedom Fire (Dactyl Hill Squad #2)” by Daniel Jose Older

“Magdalys and the squad are flying south on pteroback. South to rescue her older brother. South to war. The squad links up with the dino-mounted troops of the Louisiana Native Guard, an all-black regiment in the Union Army fighting to free their people. They’re led by General Sheridan, surrounded by enemy forces in Tennessee and desperate for any edge to sway the tide of battle. Magdalys’s burgeoning powers might be the Union’s last hope. But she doesn’t want to abandon the search for her brother. And she might not be the only one with a mysterious connection to dinosaurs. With the Civil War raging around her and the Union on the brink of collapse, how can Magdalys choose between the army that needs her help to survive and the brother she risked everything to save?” (Back cover excerpt)

Why we like it:
  • Deals with racism and the consequences of war in an age-appropriate manner
  • Strong female of color protagonist
  • Fantasy version of Civil War history

”Knights vs. Monsters” by Matt Phelan

“When a magical boat sweeps the Knights of the Round Table off to Scotland, they take on the evil Queen Morgause and her horde of Monsters. With art on nearly every page, including an epic fight scene depicted in several graphic-novel style spreads, this engaging story is ideal for reluctant readers, aspiring knights, and fans of Gordon Korman’s Masterminds.” (Back cover excerpt)

Why we like it:
  • Use of art
  • Use of humor
  • Fast-paced

”Me and Sam-Sam Handle the Apocalypse" by Susan Vaught

“When the cops show up at Jesse’s house and arrest her dad, she figures out in a hurry that he’s the #1 suspect in the missing library fund money case. With the help of her (first and only) friend Springer, she rounds up suspects (leading to a nasty confrontation with three notorious school bullies) and asks a lot of questions. But she can’t shake the feeling that she isn’t exactly cut out for being a crime-solving hero. Jesse has a neuro-processing disorder, which means that she’s “on the spectrum of whatever”. As she explains it, “I get stuck on lots of stuff, like words and phrases and numbers and smells and pictures and song lines and what time stuff is supposed to happen.” But when a tornado strikes her small down, Jesse is given the opportunity to show what she’s really made of-- and help her dad. Told with the true-as-life voice Susan Vaught is known for, this mystery will have you rooting for Jesse and her trusty Pomeranian, Sam-Sam.” (Back cover excerpt)

Why we like it:
  • Written by a neuropsychologist who has both personal and professional experience to create the main character
  • Female protagonist who has autism
  • Full immersion into the character’s world

”My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich” by Ibi Zoboi

“Twelve-year-old Ebony-Grace Norfleet has lived with her beloved grandfather Jeremiah in Huntsville, Alabama ever since she was little. As one of the first black engineers to integrate NASA, Jeremiah has nurtured Ebony-Grace’s love for all things outer space and science fiction-- especially Star Wars and Star Trek. But in the summer of 1984, when trouble arises with Jeremiah, it’s decided she’ll spend a few weeks with her father in Harlem. Harlem is an exciting and terrifying place for a sheltered girl from Huntsville, and Ebony-Grace’s first instinct is to retreat into her imagination. But soon 126th Street begins to reveal that it has more in common with her beloved sci-fi adventures than she ever thought possible, and by summer’s end, Ebony-Grace discovers that Harlem has a place for a girl whose eyes are always on the stars.” (Back cover excerpt)

Why we love it:
  • Love for science
  • Journey of learning to step outside of your comfort zone
  • Female protagonist of color

”Shouting at the Rain” by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

“Delsie loves tracking weather-- lately though, it seems the squalls are in her own life. She’s always lived with her kindhearted Grammy, but now she’s look at their life with new eyes and wishing she could have a “regular family”. Delsie observes other changes in the air, too-- the most painful being a friend who’s outgrown her. Luckily, she has neighbors with strong shoulders to support her, and Ronan, a new friend who is caring and courageous but also troubled by the losses he’s endured. As Ronan and Delsie traipse around Cape Cod on their adventures, they both learn what it means to be angry versus sad, broken versus whole, and abandoned versus loved. And that, together, they can weather any storm.” (Back cover excerpt)

Why we like it:
  • Handles tough family situations in an age appropriate manner
  • The importance of true friendship
  • True meaning of family

”Up for Air” by Laurie Morrison

“Thirteen-year-old Annabelle struggles in school, no matter how hard she tries. But as soon as she dives into the pool, she’s unstoppable. She’s the fastest girl on the middle school swim team, and when she’s asked to join the high school team over the summer, everything changes. Suddenly, she’s got new friends, and a high school boy starts treating her like she’s somebody special-- and Annabelle thinks she’ll finally stand out in a good way. She’ll do anything to fit in and help the team make it to the Labor Day Invitational, even if it means blowing off her old friends. But after a prank goes wrong, Annabelle is abandoned by the older boy and can’t swim. Who is she without one thing she’s good at? Heartwarming and relatable, Up for Air is a story about where we find our self-worth.” (Back cover excerpt)

Why we like it:
  • Good exploration of self-worth
  • Importance of true friendship
  • Portrayal of learning disabilities in a private school environment