This is what I was thinking when I came up with this kooky list:
- Summer read, preferably on the beach or on vacation.
- Has to be a good read but not too strenuous or stressful or heavy (no Grapes of Wrath vibe!).
- The book is about the summer and/or beach and/or beachy vacation vibe; like, hey, we are all on vacation. You in the book and me in real life.
- A great lead GIRL character.
- Counts towards the summer homework book assignment but was thoroughly enjoyable.
- For incoming grades 4-6.
Can you think of any more coming-of-age books for girls set during the summer? I’d love to add your pick! Thanks!
Summer Coming of Age Books for Girls
10. Ida B. … and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster and (Possibly) Save the World by Katherine Hannigan
Every day feels like summer to Ida B. until her mother gets cancer and she has to return to the public school system because her parents no longer have time to home school her. The changes are tough for her but luckily she has a very special teacher, loving parents, and the wisdom of the trees that surround her. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
9. Introducing … Sasha Abramowitz by Sue Halpern
Eleven-year-old Sasha is trying to have a “normal” year despite living on a college campus with her parents while her brother Danny, who has Tourette’s Syndrome, lives in a care facility. When Danny unexpectedly returns, Sasha has to deal with a brother who is different as well the social growing pains that come with middle school friendships. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
8. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
Thirteen-year-old Salamanca Tree Hiddle’s grandparents have agreed to take her on a cross-country trip to Idaho to see her mother who took a trip and failed to return. [middle grade, ages 9 and up]
7. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
10-year-old Winnie Foster goes on the adventure of a lifetime involving murder, deceit, and the fountain of life. [middle grade, ages 10 and up]
“This book is as shapely, crisp, sweet, and tangy as a summer-ripe pear.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Probably the best work of our best children’s novelist.”—Harper’s
“Natalie Babbitt’s great skill is spinning fantasy with the lilt and sense of timeless wisdom of the old fairy tales. . . . It lingers on, haunting your waking hours, making you ponder.”—The Boston Globe
6. The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall
The title says it all. The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy. This book won the Newbery Award and the National Book Award. Not bad for author Jeanne Birdsall’s time out! [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
5. Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
10-year-old Opal adjusts to life after she moves to Naomi, Florida with her dad after her mom abandons them and meets an interesting cast of characters after she adopts an ugly, joyful dog she names, Winn Dixie. [middle grade, ages 9 and up]
4. Rules by Cynthia Lord
*Since making this list, I discovered that Disability in KidLit had issues with this book.
Twelve-year-old Catherine tries to reduce embarrassing situations by creating rules for her younger brother who has autism to follow. It doesn’t always work that well. But she befriends Jason, a nonverbal paraplegic who is a year older, she begins to realize that it’s ok to be different. [middle grade, ages 9 and up]
3. Summer Sisters by Judy Blume
Two friends who are like sisters after spending summers together on Martha’s Vineyard but they couldn’t be more different or have more different backgrounds. Caitlin comes from a privileged background and is wild while Victoria has a more humble background but is more grounded. [young adult fiction, ages 14 and up]
2. Love, Ruby Lavender by Deborah Wiles
9-year-old Ruby Lavender is devastated when her beloved grandmother, Miss Eula Garnet, chooses to visit family in Hawaii instead of spending the summer creating havoc with her. But this trip is necessary for Miss Eula and Ruby to deal with the unspoken tragic death of her grandfather last year. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
1. Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning by Danette Haworth
This gem of a book inspired this list. 11-year-old Violet Raines spends the summer dealing with the transition from childhood to adolescence punctuated by a new girl who moves in and takes over her best friend next door, her now confusing friendship with Eddie, and her own ambivalence about growing up. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
Summer Coming of Age Books for Girls Honorable Mention
Bingo Summer by Dawn Malone
A lucky lottery ticket for Summer Haas’s 13th birthday suddenly makes her family instant millionaires but the change in lifestyle is unsettling. While it’s nice to live in a big house in a new town where no one knows them that her mother impulsively buys in the Chicago suburbs, Summer still has to adjust to making new friends and starting a new school. It’s not that she’s ashamed of why she no longer has to shop at thrift stores for clothes, but she’s not sure if she wants her new friends to know. And some of the new girls, especially Mara who plays the same position for softball, act more like frenemies than friends. Does hiding the source of her newfound wealth also mean Summer can’t be herself anymore? [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
Rocky Road by Rose Kent
Though this wonderful novel is not set during the summer, the story revolves around a mother’s attempt to start a new life in Schenectady with her two children by buying an ice cream store with the last of her savings. The novel is told from Tess’s point of view. As the oldest child, she is both parent and child, trying to help her mother keep it all together when her bipolar disorder knocks her sideways. As a story that revolves around ice cream, I think it’s a perfect choice for a summer coming-of-age summer read on the beach for a girl ages 9 and up. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
A Million Miles from Boston by Karen Day
Lucy’s summer at her beloved vacation house in Pierson Point, Maine isn’t the idyllic break she expected it to be. She’s anxious about starting middle school and her dad seems to be forcing his girlfriend on her. It gets worse; Ian, an annoying boy from school is staying nearby and now she has to deal with him. This is the special place where Lucy remembers her mother best, why can’t things stay the same? [middle grade, ages 9 and up]
Technically this book is not set during the summer and the heroine of the book, Janie Gorman, is a freshman in high school so she’s older than most of the other characters in the books below. This book is special because it bridges both Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction in a G-Rated read about a girl coming of age both in discovering who she is and, even more importantly, that being “normal” is highly overrated. Told from Janie’s point of view, she has a fresh voice with a wry and self-deprecating sense of humor. Her friends are also memorable characters, from her new friend Verbena who reminds me of the girl who used her dandruff to illustrate snow in The Breakfast Club, to her love interest Monster Monroe. My 11-year-old daughter also loved this book! [young adult, ages 12 and up]
Jacquie of KCEdventures says, “We just finished Nature Girl which was a fun coming of age too — it’s about a 6th grader who decides to hike the Appalachian Trail on her own to reach her best friend during their summer break.”
Nature Girl by Jane Kelley
Eleven-year-old Megan is stuck in the wilds of Vermont for the summer with no TV, no Internet, no cell phone, and worst of all, no best friend. So when Megan gets lost on the Appalachian Trail with only her little dog, Arp, for company, she decides she might as well hike all the way to Massachusetts where her best friend, Lucy, is spending her summer. Life on the trail isn’t easy though. And on the journey, Megan faces everything from wild animals and raging rivers to tofu jerky and life without bathrooms. Most of all though, Megan gets to know herself—both who she’s been in the past and who she wants to be in the future—and the journey goes from a spur of the moment lark to a heroic quest to prove herself to Lucy, her family, and the world! [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.