16 Must-Read Realistic Chapter Books | Summer Reading 2021

Whether kids are eager to read about friendship woes, holidays, or new furry friends, they’ll find something to satisfy them in this list of realistic chapter books. Looking for more summer reading recommendations? SLJ is publishing lists all summer long—from family stories to mysteries to teen reads. 

See more Summer Reading 2021 selections


Whether kids are eager to read about friendship woes, holidays, or new pets, they’ll find something to satisfy them in this list of realistic chapter books. Looking for more summer reading recommendations? SLJ is publishing lists all summer long—from family stories to mysteries to teen reads. 

Frankie Sparks and the Class Pet by Megan Frazer Blakemore. illus. by Nadja Sarell. (Frankie Sparks, Third-Grade Inventor: Bk. 1). S. & S./Aladdin. ISBN 9781534430440.

Frankie’s class is getting a pet, and she’s sure that a rat is the best choice, but she’ll have to convince the whole class—including her best friend Maya.

Rafi and Rosi Music! by Lulu Delacre. illus. by author. Lee & Low. (Rafi y Rosi). ISBN 9780892394296.

In this early reader set in Puerto Rico, anthropomorphic tree frog siblings Rafi and Rosi explore their surroundings and learn about the traditions of their culture.

Yasmin in Charge by Saadia Faruqi. illus. by Hatem Aly. Capstone/Picture Window. ISBN 9781515842729.

In this collection of four short stories, Yasmin gets solvin’ at school, in the kitchen, at the zoo, and in her neighborhood. A Renaissance girl for contemporary times.

Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen by Debbi Michiko Florence. illus. by Elizabet Vukovic. Farrar. ISBN 9780374304102.

Every year for New Year, Jasmine Toguchi’s family makes mochi. Though mocha-tsuki, or the creation of these Japanese sweet rice cakes, is reserved for the men in the family, Jasmine is determined to be the first girl and first person under 10 to help.

book covers

Truman the Dog by Debbi Michiko Florence. illus. by Melanie Demmer. Capstone. (My Furry Foster Family). ISBN 9781515844754.

Kaita, a loving pet owner and future vet, is thrilled when her father tells her the family will be fostering another dog, but making Truman feel at home is harder than it looks.

Meet the Crew at the Zoo by Patricia Reilly Giff (text) & illus. by Abby Carter. Holiday House. ISBN 9780823446667.

 Luke and younger sister Benita go on a slew of new adventures through their father's new job as a zoo doctor. Short chapters, interesting facts about the zoo animals and wildlife, and illustrations throughout help accelerate the sweet, informative plot.

Sarai and the Meaning of Awesome by Sarai Gonzalez & Monica Brown. illus. by Christine Almeda. Scholastic. ISBN 9781338236682.

Teenage activist, actress, and internet sensation Gonzalez teams with Brown and Almeda for a feel-good story based on Gonzalez’s own life.

How To Test a Friendship by Theanne Griffith. illus. by Reggie Brown. Random. (Magnificent Makers: Bk. 1). ISBN 9780593122990.

The arrival of new student Deepak turns best friend Pablo and Violet’s duo into a trio, but Pablo isn’t sure he likes competing for Violet’s attention. But when the three must work together at the magical Maker Maze, they soon cement their initially shaky friendship.

Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business by Lyla Lee. illus. by Dung Ho. S.&.S./Aladdin. (Mindy Kim: Bk. 1). ISBN 9781534440098.

After Mindy Kim’s mother dies, Mindy and her father move to Florida, where she finds a new circle of friends, launches a seaweed snack business, and lands herself in the principal’s office.

Rock Star by Kelly Starling Lyons. illus. by Vanessa Brantley Newton. (Jada Jones). Penguin Workshop. ISBN 9780448487519.

After rock lover Jada Jones’s best friend moves away, Jada struggles, but her hopes are lifted when her teacher announces a new project on rocks and minerals.

Juana & Lucas: Big Problemas by Juana Medina. illus. by author. Candlewick. ISBN 9781536201314.

Juana lives happily in Bogotá, Colombia, with her dog, Lucas, but struggles to orient herself when her widowed mother marries Luis.

Sadiq and the Desert Star by Siman Nuurali. illus. by Anjan Sarkar. Capstone. (Sadiq). ISBN 9781515838784.

After a visit to the observatory launches an interest in space, Sadiq and his friends work to build a telescope.

A Lamb Called Lucky by Helen Peters (text) & illus. by Ellie Snowdon. Walker/Candlewick. Mar. 2021. ISBN 9781536210286.

When Jasmine finds an orphaned lamb during lambing season on the farm, she cares for it by feeding it colostrum and giving it shelter. Readers will get a sense of the responsibilities of farm life; Jasmine’s many tasks include teaching Sky, a rescued collie, to herd sheep. Peters turns up the cute factor in these delightful romps, giving readers insight into rearing animals both wild and domestic in this enjoyable series.

The Birthday Castle by Dee Romito. illus. by Marta Kissi. (Fort Builders Inc.: Bk. 1). S. & S./Aladdin. ISBN 9781534452381.

How can a kid earn some fast cash? A fort-building business!

Nina Soni, Former Best Friend by Kashmira Sheth. illus. by Jenn Kocsmiersky. Peachtree. (Nina Soni). ISBN 9781682630570.

When Nina Soni accidentally breaks her best friend’s art project, their relationship turns rocky—and no matter what she does, Nina can’t seem to fix it.

Charlie and Mouse: Even Better by Laurel Snyder. illus. by author. Chronicle. ISBN 9781452170657.

Brothers Charlie and Mouse help their mom make shape pancakes, shop for her birthday present, "help" their dad in the way of all preschoolers, and finally work together to fix a problem and celebrate their family. 

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