Send your 8th graders off to summer with this summer reading book. Full of a variety of books that will keep your middle schoolers reading and ready for high school in the fall.
This list is curated by a librarian and includes middle grade books from a variety of genres, including a few graphic novels that are written for middle grades.
Your students will learn lessons from these books, develop their literacy skills, but mostly they will have fun reading this collection. Help your eighth graders spend some time away from video games and screen time by giving them this list of book recommendations.
The Best Books for Your 8th Grade Summer Reading List (2023)
1. Everything Sad is Untrue* by Daniel Nayeri
At the front of a middle school classroom in Oklahoma, a boy named Khosrou (whom everyone calls “Daniel”) stands, trying to tell a story. His story. But no one believes a word he says. To them he is a dark-skinned, hairy-armed boy with a big butt whose lunch smells funny; who makes things up and talks about poop too much.
But Khosrou’s stories, stretching back years, and decades, and centuries, are beautiful, and terrifying.
Author Daniel Nayeri weaves a tale of Khosrou trying to save his own life: to stake his claim to the truth.
2. The Elephant Girl by James Patterson and Ellen Banda-Aaku
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Clever, sensitive Jama likes elephants better than people. While her classmates gossip—especially about the new boy, Leku—twelve-year-old Jama takes refuge at the watering hole outside her village. Where a baby elephant becomes her best friend.
When Mbegu’s mother, frightened by poachers, stampedes, Jama and Mgebu are blamed for two deaths—one elephant and one human. Now Leku, whose mysterious and imposing father is head ranger at the conservancy, may be their only lifeline.
Inspired by true events, The Elephant Girl is a great book about the bonds between creatures and the power of belonging.
3. The Ogress and the Orphans by Kelly Barnhill
Stone-in-the-Glen has fallen on hard times. The people put their faith in the Mayor, a dazzling fellow who promises he alone can help. After all, he is a famous dragon slayer. Only the clever children of the Orphan House and the kindly Ogress at the edge of town can see how dire the town’s problems are.
When a child goes missing, all eyes turn to the Ogress. The Orphans know this can’t be.
But how can the Orphans tell the story of the Ogress’s goodness to people who refuse to listen? And how can they make their deluded neighbors see the real villain in their midst?
4. Finally Seen by Kelly Yang
Genre: Realistic Fiction
My sister got to grow up with my parents. Me? I grew up with postcards from my parents.
When ten-year-old Lina Gao steps off the plane in Los Angeles, it’s her first time in America and the first time seeing her parents and her little sister in five years! She’s been waiting for this moment every day while she lived with her grandmother in Beijing, getting teased by kids at school who called her “left behind girl.” Finally, her parents are ready for her to join their fabulous life in America! Except, it’s not exactly like in the postcards. A good book for every middle schooler to read about the difficulties of immigrating to another country.
5. The Pennymores and the Curse of the Invisible Quill by Eric Koester
When her brother vanishes in the night, along with all she thought to be true of magic, Parker Pennymore must unmask family secrets, travel far beyond the castle walls, and convince her sisters Quinn and Aven to break a few laws along the way – but what’s a hero’s journey without a little rebellion?
Created first as a bedtime story, The Pennymores explores a world where all writing has been banned for centuries. But when an unstoppable enemy returns threatening the destroy their world, the Pennymores must set off on a quest taking them inside hidden mystical realms, confronting ancient challenges, and forcing them to step closer to the heroes they are destined to be.
6. Amari and the Night Brothers by B. B. Alston
Quinton Peters was the golden boy of the Rosewood low-income housing projects, receiving full scholarship offers to two different Ivy League schools. When he mysteriously goes missing, his little sister, 13-year-old Amari Peters, can’t understand why it’s not a bigger deal. Why isn’t his story all over the news? And why do the police automatically assume he was into something illegal?
Then Amari discovers a ticking briefcase in her brother’s old closet. A briefcase meant for her eyes only. There was far more to Quinton, it seems, than she ever knew. He’s left her a nomination for a summer tryout at the secretive Bureau of Supernatural Affairs.
7. Ground Zero by Alan Gratz
Genre: Historical Fiction
It’s September 11, 2001. Brandon, a 9-year-old boy, goes to work for the day with his dad . . . at the World Trade Center in New York City. When two planes hit the towers, Brandon and his father are trapped inside a fiery nightmare as terror and confusion swirl around them. Can they escape — and what will the world be like when they do?
In present-day Afghanistan, Reshmina dreams of peace and unity. When she ends up harboring a wounded young American soldier, she and her entire family are put in mortal danger. But Reshmina also learns something surprising about the roots of this endless war.
8. When You Wish Upon a Star by Elizabeth Lim
“Starlight, star bright, first star I see tonight . . . ” so begins the wish that changes everything—for Geppetto, for the Blue Fairy, and for a little puppet named Pinocchio. The Blue Fairy isn’t supposed to grant wishes in the small village of Pariva, but something about this one awakens some long-buried flicker within. Perhaps it’s the hope she senses beneath the old man’s loneliness.
Or maybe it’s the fact that long ago, before she was the Blue Fairy, she was a young woman named Chiara from this very village, one with a simple wish: to help others find happiness.
9. Bea Wolf by Zach Weinersmith
Genre: Classic, Graphic Novel
Listen! Hear a tale of mallow-munchers and warriors who answer candy’s clarion call!
Somewhere in a generic suburb stands Treeheart, a kid-forged sanctuary. One day, these brave warriors find their fun cut short by their nefarious neighbor Grindle.
As the guardian of gloom lays siege to Treeheart, scores of kids suddenly find themselves transformed into pimply teenagers and sullen adults! The survivors of the onslaught cry out for a savior.
They call for Bea Wolf.
10. The Firefly Summer by Morgan Matson
Genre: Realistic Fiction
For as long as Ryanna Stuart can remember, her summers have been spent with her father and his new wife. Just the three of them, structured, planned, and quiet. But this summer is different. This summer, she’s received a letter from her grandparents—grandparents neither she nor her dad have spoken to since her mom’s death—inviting her to stay with them at an old summer camp in the Poconos.
Over the course of one unforgettable summer—filled with s’mores and swimming, adventure and fun, and even a decades-old mystery to solve—Ryanna discovers a whole new side of herself and that, sometimes, the last place you expected to be is the place where you really belong.
11. Grounded by Aisha Saeed, S. K. Ali, Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, and Huda Al-Marashi
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Graphic Novel
When a thunderstorm grounds all flights following a huge Muslim convention, four unlikely kids are thrown together. Feek is stuck babysitting his younger sister, but he’d rather be writing a poem that’s good enough for his dad, a famous poet and rapper. Hanna is intent on finding a lost cat in the airport—and also on avoiding a conversation with her dad about him possibly remarrying. Sami is struggling with his anxiety and worried that he’ll miss the karate tournament that he’s trained so hard for. And Nora has to deal with the pressure of being the daughter of a prominent congresswoman, when all she really wants to do is make fun NokNok videos. These kids don’t seem to have much in common—yet.
Told in alternating points of view, Grounded tells the story of one unexpected night that will change these kids forever.
12. Not An Easy Win by Chrystal D. Giles
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Nothing’s gone right for Lawrence since he had to move from Charlotte to Larenville, North Carolina, to live with his granny. When Lawrence ends up in one too many fights at his new school, he gets expelled. The fight wasn’t his fault, but since his pop’s been gone, it feels like no one listens to what Lawrence has to say.
Instead of going to school, Lawrence starts spending his days at the rec center, helping out a neighbor who runs a chess program.
Lawrence doesn’t know anything about chess, but something about the center—and the kids there—feels right.
Summer Reading in Your Classroom
You may not have much control over assignments for your soon-to-be future or upcoming students. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make the idea of a summer reading list fun. Head over to our Teachers Pay Teachers store to grab our free Summer Reading BINGO to encourage reading this summer. Or have them create book lists with their own books as a final activity.