Let’s Take an Adventure: Summer Books for Kids and Moms


I loved summer when I was a kid. It was a season of anticipation, of adventure, of endless days in the sun. And it was a season of books, books, and more books. My favorite summer activity was, and still is, to hit up the library for a fresh story. I thought maybe your kids {and you!} might be the same. So I wrote up a list of summer books that I  recommend. Most take place during summer. A few make me think of summer with their vibrant illustrations. I separated them out into Picture Books, Middle Grade, Young Adult, and even a few recommendations for us moms. I think my soul still craves adventure during summer. All of these summer books make me want to get out there and have my own!

young girls laying in grass reading summer booksPicture Books

A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat
by Emily Jenkins, illus. by Sophie Blackall

I recently found this gem at the library. I must have read it to my son approximately 50 times. Through its simple, explanatory narrative and beautifully painted illustrations, we see how four families made a traditional summer dessert, blackberry fool, over the last four centuries. It shows the families using different technologies, methods of acquiring the ingredients, and customs in serving. My son thought the differences throughout the centuries were fascinating, and the story sparked so many questions from him. We talked about how women have traditionally been in charge of cooking, but now its normal for men to cook. We talked about slavery, as the second family depicted is an enslaved woman and her daughter working on a plantation. And then we made blackberry fool, following the method laid out in the book. This book is a treat, and it would be so much fun to read with your kiddos this summer!

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt 
by Kate Messner

Any gardeners out there? I love this book for explaining the process of gardening, from prepping the ground, to planting the seeds, all the way to harvesting. It shows the story of a young child and their Nana, as they prepare and plant the garden and how the earth is working “down in the dirt”, while we are planting, watering, weeding, “up in the garden”. The story goes through each season, describing how the planting season changes throughout the year. The illustrations are lovely, and this sweet story will inspire your young gardeners to get their hands down in the dirt!

A Sky Blue Bench
by Bahram Rahman, illus. by Peggy Collins

Aria is a young girl living in Afghanistan. It is her first day back at school, after recovering from a serious injury and receiving a helper-leg. When she arrives at the school, she is nervous to discover there are no benches for her to sit on. She is embarrassed to be so uncomfortable sitting on the floor with the rest of the class. After a difficult first day, she has an idea: she will build a bench for her classroom! She and a friend canvas the city for discarded pieces of wood, and, with the guidance of a local carpenter, builds a beautiful, sky-blue bench. Aria’s tale is partly based on the author’s experiences of growing up in Kabul in the 90’s. Though the underlying subject matter is not light, the author’s words, combined with the playful illustrations, beautifully share the resiliency and creativity of the Afghan children. A lovely book, and well worth checking out this summer.

Climb On
by Baptiste Paul, illus. by Jacqueline Alcántara

One summer day, a child and her father go on a hike. Her father is a bit hesitant, but she is so excited to go to the tippy top. They gather their supplies, and they’re off! They hike past lush plants, exotic animals, and buzzy mosquitoes. They swing over rivers and climb rocks, until, they reach the very top. This story captures the youthful spirit of adventure to explore, to climb on, and to marvel at the world around them. The illustrations are vibrant and will inspire your kiddos to seek out their own adventures this summer.

Goldfish on Vacation
by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illus. by Leo Espinosa

H, Little O, and Baby Em live in an apartment in New York City with their three goldfish: Barracuda, Patch, and Fiss. Across from their apartment is an abandoned old stone fountain. One early summer day, the children see a notice, announcing the fountain as a summer vacation destination for all goldfish! Each day, they watch and wait as a man cleans the fountain, until one bright summer day, it is ready. Your kids {and you!} will love the retro illustrations, as well as the cheerful story that, at it’s heart, is about the simplicity and innocence of a childhood summer vacation. Bonus for any history lovers: it is based on a true story!

Middle Grade

What Happens Next
by Claire Swinarski

Abby McCourt is a 12 year old girl living in Moose Junction, a destination town in Moose Junction, Wisconsin. It is summer vacation, and astronomy obsessed Abby is looking forward to the summer’s solar eclipse, and hosting world-renowned astronomer Dr. Leo Lacamoire at her family’s Camp McCourt. But her summer is not as carefree as she’d hoped. After the incident at the Memorial Day picnic, her friends avoid her, her parents are always upset, and her sister Blaire has been sent away to a treatment facility for an eating disorder. And then there is the mystery of Dr. Lacamoire’s stolen telescope. Abby must come up with a plan to help Dr. Lacamoire and help heal her family’s broken past. The author grew up vacationing in a Wisconsin town similar to the fictional Moose Junction, and she really brings summer to life on the page. You can practically smell the sunscreen. Abby’s story combines mystery, sisterly bonds, and heavier topics like eating disorders, for a sweet summer adventure you’re not likely to forget.

The Emperor’s Riddle
by Kat Zhang

Mia Chen is spending her summer in China, with her mom, brother, and her favorite Aunt Lin. One day, a mysterious stranger comes by, asking questions about an ancient treasure that he and Aunt Lin used to search for. The next day, Lin disappears, and Mia knows that she must search for her. Together with her brother, Jake, and an old map she finds in Lin’s room, Mia embarks on a quest to find her aunt and seek out this grand treasure. This is a great summer adventure, set against the backdrop of Chinese countryside of Fuzhou and incorporating cultural details and landmarks. It is a fast paced mystery that your middle grade reader won’t be able to put down!

Honestly Elliott
by Gillian McDunn

Elliott is struggling. Sixth grade is hard, especially for a boy with ADHD. His best friend moved away. He hates sports and loves cooking, which his dad doesn’t understand. His parents are divorced, and his dad and new stepmom are about to have a baby. And after The Incident, he owes his dad $600, the money he’d worked and saved for an exclusive summer culinary program in their town. But with his new class project, he has a chance to team up with super smart Maribel, and come up with a business idea to make money.  Elliott just wants a chance to be himself and wants everyone, especially his dad, to understand him. I loved this book. Elliott is such a sweet character, and I like that his passion is cooking, which is typically portrayed as a feminine hobby. This story also incorporates therapy, neurodivergence, and divorce in a frank and helpful manner.

Young Adult

The Firekeeper’s Daughter
by Angeline Boulley

18 year old Daunis Fontaine feels stuck between two identities: her white French ancestry and her Native Ojibwe ancestry. She is looking forward to starting fresh at the University of Michigan in the fall. Then her uncle dies under mysterious circumstances and her grandmother has a debilitating stroke after Daunis’ college graduation. Daunis defers her fall enrollment to stay and take care of her mother. There is a sense that something is off in their hometown: drugs are circulating through the community, there is political tension about the upcoming tribal elections, and no one really knows what happened to her Uncle David. After witnessing a murder, Daunis gets drawn into an FBI investigation and must use her Ojibwe knowledge of traditional medicine to help solve the crime. This story is a fast paced murder mystery adventure, combined with Native culture and social justice themes. It has won a slew of awards, including the Michael L. Printz award for YA literature, and is a Hello Sunshine Book Club YA pick.

When Dimple Met Rishi
by Sandhya Menon

Dimple is so ready for her summer. She just graduated from high school and is excited to attend her summer program for up and coming web developers. Dimple is also ready to escape her parents’ constant reminders that she needs to find a good Indian husband. Rishi is a hopeless romantic, and he is excited to meet his intended fiancee at the same summer camp. Surprise! Dimple’s parents arranged her marriage to Rishi without her knowledge. She isn’t having any of that though, and is determined to ignore Rishi this summer and focus only on web development. This was such a delightful read. I laughed out loud when Rishi encounters Dimple for the first time. Highly recommend for your teen who enjoys witty banter, a sweet romance, and a sense of possibility that last summer before college.


Finlay Donovan is Killing It
by Elle Cosimano

Finlay Donovan is a recently divorced mom of 2, struggling to make ends meet as a murder mystery/romance novelist. One day, after a meeting discussing her latest plot ideas with her manager, Finlay finds a mysterious note on her table. It turns out that a woman overheard her conversation, and assumed Finlay was a contract killer. The woman offers her $50,000 to murder her husband. What follows is a hilarious and twisty adventure that draws Finlay into the path of a murder investigation, the Russian mafia, and dealing with the affections {and suspicions} of a hot detective. I may have ignored my 3 children to read this book in less than two days. It is a fun, witty, and delightfully cozy mystery, and it is the first in a series. Perfect for light summer reading!

The Layover
by Lacie Waldon

Ava loves her life as a flight attendant, but she is ready to settle down and put down roots with her fiance, Alexander. She has one last flight in the books, to the holy grail of layovers: Belize. She intends to make the most of her last days of adventure, until Jack, fellow flight attendant and overall jerk, boards to work the flight with her. When they’re forced to spend hours together, both in the air and on the ground in romantic Belize, Ava realizes that Jack might not be the jerk she originally thought. And she might not be ready to trade in her miles for marriage like she thought. Though predictable, this enemies to lovers rom com has everything to be a perfect beach read: witty banter {my favorite!}, a romantic beach setting, stuck together on a layover, and a healthy dose of adventure. Grab your lounge chair, a cocktail, and enjoy this one with your toes in the sand.

What summer books would you add to our list? 


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Rebecca Slocum
Rebecca S. is a born and raised Houstonian; she grew up in Katy, graduated with a BS in Hotel and Restaurant Management from the University of Houston {go Coogs!}, and made a home in West Houston with her native Houstonian husband. She quickly realized that the chaotic lifestyle of the hospitality industry was not for her and soon found her calling in education. She taught while earning her masters in Library Science from the University of North Texas. Currently, she is staying home with her son, Thomas {2016}, daughter Charlie {2020}, son Zack {2021}. In her free time, she loves to read, write, run, and roam the world. While her roots are firmly planted in H-town, she takes every available opportunity to go on an adventure and explore historic cities, hike and run new trails, and, of course, try beers from every country.


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