The Storm Makers by Jennifer E. Smith - Ruby and Simon are twins whose family has moved to a small Wisconsin farm. Drought troubles the farm, as does unexpected eruptions of violent weather that seem to be related to Simon's emotional outbursts. When a friendly old man named Otis and a suspicious fellow named London arrive, it is to battle over Simon's powers. Simon is a Storm Maker, a person who has the ability to control the weather, and the twins struggle to master Simon's abilities before they are harnessed by more sinister interests. At the heart of The Storm Makers --- filled with Midwestern mayhem and magic --- is the twin's relationship. Even though she doesn't share her brother's gift, it is Ruby's support and solidarity that helps Simon to gain control of his emotions and his new-found potential as a Storm Maker. Read-a-like titles include Nina Kiriki Hoffman's Silent Strength of Stones and Savvy by Ingrid Law.
The Secret Tree by Natalie Standiford - Minty has lots of plans for her last summer before middle school. These includes mastering new roller derby moves with her best friend, Paz. But Minty's world is changing, and Paz doesn't seem interested in the games they used to play together. Then one day, Minty discovers a hollow tree in the woods filled with the neighborhood's secrets --- some funny, some heartbreaking. She befriends Raymond, a boy who seems to live alone in an abandoned house. Together, they set out to discover who the secrets belong to and why they are being left in the woods. Part coming-of-age story, part mystery, The Secret Tree is about the secrets that tie together the communities we call home. This book is reminiscent of Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia without quite its level of tragedy. Another good comparison would be Katherine Hannigan's True (. . . Sort Of).
Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker - Stella loves the order and routine of living with her Great-aunt Louise. Her Great-aunt's Cape Cod home is a haven from the chaotic life Stella has lived with her free-spirited mother. But there's one problem: Great-aunt Louise has taken in a foster child named Angel. Rough and anti-social, Angel does not resemble her name, and the two girls barely speak until Great-aunt Louise's death requires them to muster their resources for survival. A much weightier book than the cover art implies, Summer of the Gypsy Moths is about the unexpected families people create when they yearn for a place to belong. Read-a-like titles include The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson, Cynthia Voigt's Homecoming, and Jennifer Richard Jacobson's Small as an Elephant. Another recent comparison is Lynda Mullaly Hunt's One for the Murphys, reviewed at Letter Blocks this week by Alexis Burling.
Summer of the Wolves by Polly Carlson-Voiles - Twelve-year-old Nika and her seven-year-old brother, Randall, were left in the California foster system after the death of their mother. But an unexpected phone call from an uncle they've never met sends them to the heart of the Minnesota wilderness. Uncle Ike studies wolves. With his help, Nika cares for an abandoned wolf cub, her relationship with the creature making her feel whole again. But wild animals are not pets, and the book focuses --- along with its careful observation of animal behaviors --- on finding the right balance between caring for the natural world and leaving it alone. A title effective for middle-grade readers interested in nature, it will draw easy comparisons to Jean Craighead George's Julie of the Wolves, and the wilderness titles of Gary Paulsen and Will Hobbs.
The Paradise Trap by Catherine Jinks - Eleven-year-old Marcus would rather spend his summer playing video games than at the beach in the second-hand trailer his mother buys. But the trailer turns out to have mysterious powers. With his new friends Edison and Newt, the vacationers discover that the trailer has a secret cellar that takes visitors to the destination where they would most like to go. For Edison, it's an amusement park; for Newt, a fabulous rock club. But these places have a tendency to turn malevolent when the vacationers try to leave or stop having fun. A showdown with the trailer's former owner --- a siren who has lost her voice, but not her penchant for luring vacationers to their doom --- leads to a summer none of these vacationers will ever forget. Part adventure and part horror, with a pinch of satire and elements of Greek mythology, The Paradise Trap is about the kind of summer vacations that are literally too good to be true. Read-a-like titles include the terrifying tales of John Bellairs, and anyone who enjoys the grotesque humor of R.L. Stine.
What are your favorite summer titles? What books are you looking forward to reading this summer?
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