20 Sci-Fi & Fantasy Middle Grade Books for Excellent Summer Escapes | Summer Reading 2021

Anthropomorphic animals, emotive androids, teen alien hybrids, and more: These 20 titles provide excellent summer escapes for young readers.


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With summer in full swing, these rip-roaring titles will have readers escaping into whole new worlds, or dreaming up some of their own.

The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate. illus. by Patricia Castelao. HarperCollins/Harper. ISBN 9780062991317.

Lovers of The One and Only Ivan will rejoice over this new tale about Ivan’s best friend, Bob. Bob is a street dog who survives on his own until he stumbles upon a roadside attraction featuring a gorilla named Ivan. Driven by favorite characters from The One and Only Ivan, Bob’s story is delightfully heartfelt and adventurous

A Royal Guide to Monster Slaying by Kelley Armstrong. Puffin Canada. ISBN 9780735265356.

Rowan and Rhydd were born to greatness; as twin siblings of the queen and a monster hunter, their roles in the kingdom were determined at birth. Because Rowan is the firstborn she must be Queen, while her brother Rhydd trains to become the Royal Monster Hunter with their aunt Janna—roles they would very much like to be reversed. A tragedy provides an opportunity for that reversal, and a monster hunt ensues that pushes the twins' skills, and their trust, to the limit. 

The Jumbie God’s Revenge by Tracey Baptiste. Algonquin. ISBN 9781616208912.

In this third installment in the inspired “Jumbies” series, Corinne and her steadfast friends Malik, Bouki, and Dru once again face folktales come true. Though all seems resolved, a barrage of storms on the island reveals that Corinne's adventures with Mama D’Leau disturbed the island's natural balance and that Huracan, the ancient god of all jumbies, is upset and trying to force the jumbies and humans into submission. These intriguing stories derived from Caribbean culture never fail to entertain.

Maya and the Rising Dark by Rena Barron. HMH. ISBN 9781328635181.

Twelve-year-old Maya is daydreaming about summer break when time pauses and the color begins to bleed from the world. She and her two friends discover they are godlings of the Orisha, and Maya’s father is the Guardian of the Veil between worlds. With the help of her friends, Maya is determined to find her father and restore order to both worlds. Mixing in hard choices, believable emotions, tough lessons, and mistakes made with the best of intentions, Barron has created a must-read tale.

The Way to Rio Luna by Zoraida Cordova. Scholastic. ISBN 9781338239546.

Danny Monteverde has survived the foster care system because of his brave older sister, Pili; their mysterious book of fairy tales, The Way to Rio Luna; and his unshakable belief in magic. When both his sister and his beloved book disappear, Danny embarks on an adventure through this world, and another, to save her. This is a classic portal fantasy, a portrait of childhood resilience, and an ode to kids who “have hearts that love and souls that are kind and minds that believe.”

Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe by Carlos Hernandez. Disney-Hyperion/Rick Riordan Presents. ISBN 9781368022835.

Sal and Gabi are back with a delightful mix of middle school drama and sci-fi high jinks. In this sequel to Sal and Gabi Break the Universe, the duo, along with their friends and blended families, are attempting to repair the rips in time and space that they created in book one.

Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. ISBN 9780062747273.

After her mother falls ill and a devastating landslide wreaks havoc that leaves the island leaderless, Lalani feels responsible as she’s the one who approached their cursed mountain and wished for rain. She sets out to find the island of Isa, which legend says will provide the help Sanlagita so desperately needs—but, due to a number of protective spirits, the island is nearly impossible to get to, and even harder to survive once you get there. Kelly’s beautifully rendered novel leaves readers with much to ponder, touching on themes of good and evil, hope and despair, and finding the courage to bring change to old traditions.

Tin by Pádraig Kenny. Scholastic/Chicken House. ISBN 9781338277555.

Christopher works as an engineer's assistant, living with mechanical children who together make up a small but loving family in spite of the illegal nature of their owner's pursuits and the conditions of the workshop. When an accident reveals Christopher's true nature and a rival engineer with unscrupulous aims kidnaps him, the other children are determined to rescue him, at any cost. This bittersweet tale of friendship, family, and loss is carried along by the ragtag bunch of mechanical kids, and explores complex questions about the nature of a soul and emotions.

The Last Fallen Star by Graci Kim. Disney-Hyperion/Rick Riordan Presents. ISBN 9781368059633.

Twelve-year-old Riley Oh has always felt like an outsider in her family. They are Gom, one of six secret clans of gifted witches—but Riley’s adopted and doesn’t possess the magical healing powers they all do. Driven by her need to belong, she hatches a plan with her sister Hattie to cast a spell that would share Hattie’s magic with Riley. When the spell backfires, Riley must step up to save Hattie and confront the truth of her heritage. Full of humor and thrills, this bewitching fantasy blends Korean mythology into an empowering adventure.

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger. illus. by Rovina Cai. Levine Querido. ISBN 9781646140053.

Elatsoe (Ellie) is a Lipan Apache teen who lives in Texas, where bizarre supernatural occurrences are the norm and people encounter magic, monsters, shape-shifters, and various supernatural events beyond reason. She uses her supernatural abilities and keen observation skills to investigate the gruesome, suspicious death of her cousin Trevor, with the help of her friend Jay. Together, they uncover a dark secret about blood and power that takes them right to the surprising culprit.

Glitch by Laura Martin. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780062894359.

Regan and Elliot have been trained since birth to be Glitchers—time travelers who protect the past from Butterflies, the criminals who meddle in history. When they find a note from a future Regan that instructs them to travel back in time to prevent a disaster, they become not only teammates, but Butterflies themselves. Martin's novel effortlessly combines history and science fiction, maintaining the energy of a sci-fi adventure and the complexity of historical fiction.

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Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia. Disney-Hyperion/Rick Riordan Presents. ISBN 9781368039932.

Tristan is experiencing severe survivor's guilt after his friend Eddie passed in an accident, clinging to Eddie's journal while unable to open it. When Gum Baby, a figure from West African legend, tries to steal the journal, Tristan races to retrieve it, breaking a bottle on his grandmother’s bottle tree and falling through a flaming hole into a parallel world. Here, the stories Tristan’s grandmother tells are solidly real, and the young boy rapidly discovers he is more than an interloper; he is a pivotal figure in the saving of this strange new world. 

The Magnificent Monsters of Cedar Street by Lauren Oliver. illus. by Ethan Alridge. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780062345073.

Cordelia Clay lives in a world where monsters are real, and it is her father’s job (and hers by proxy) to track down injured monsters to nurse them back to health. When her father disappears, it is up to Cordelia and reluctant companion Gregory to find out why, and bring him back. Oliver’s characters leap off the page and readers of all ages will find themselves eagerly rooting them on and clamoring for more as their story ends. 

Hatch by Kenneth Oppel. Knopf. ISBN 9781984894762.

The second book in “The Overthrow” trilogy proves to be just as absorbing as its predecessor, Bloom. Oppel does a stellar job of picking up seamlessly from its conclusion, when the hybrid teens had finally begun to make headway in the alien invasion of Earth. The evolution of Petra, Seth, and Anaya’s transformations into their alien forms continues to both enthral and horrify them.  The appeal of fantasy, suspense, horror, and relationships will be too strong for readers to resist, and they will be avidly awaiting the final book in this series.

Ghost Squad by Claribel A Ortega. Scholastic. ISBN 9781338280128.

 Something strange is happening to Lucely’s ghost family of fireflies, known as cocuyos—they are fading away. They tell her that something evil is coming. In an attempt to revive her Mama Teresa, Lucely and her best friend Syd perform a spell to raise the dead, but accidentally awaken old evil spirits that want to revenge against their town. Ortega’s fast-paced debut, rooted in Dominican mythology, is filled with action, humor, and originality.

Trouble in the Stars by Sarah Prineas. Philomel. ISBN 9780593204283.

Trouble is a shapeshifter who escaped from prison and has no memory of their past. They stow away on board a ship called the Hindsight disguised as a young white boy in hopes of finding answers. But the Galactic Government is after them, determined to bring Trouble back to the prison. This humorous science fiction adventure is perfect for Star Wars fans looking for something new.

Root Magic by Eden Royce. Walden Pond/HarperCollins. ISBN 9780062899576.

Following her grandmother’s passing, 11-year-old Jez and her twin brother Jay get the opportunity to learn the root work that has been a part of their South Carolina family for generations. These lessons and the protection they teach come just in time, as a racist deputy harasses their family and community and all kinds of evil, supernatural and otherwise, come after them. This is a fantastical tale brimming with family traditions, friendship, and staying true to oneself in the face of hardship.

Twilight Hauntings by Angie Sage. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. (­Enchanter’s Child: Bk. 1). ISBN 9780062875143.

Sage kicks off the first book in her “Enchanter’s Child” duology with a prologue that describes how the King’s Enchanter gave up his baby daughter to an unknown woman. Ten years later, Alex is run ragged doing chores for a cruel family in Luma, a town that's banned magic. When she is caught doing magic, Alex flees with her beloved brother and encounters an entirely new danger in the form of creatures known as the Twilight Hauntings. Sage has built a fully realized world populated by intriguing characters, page-turning tension, and terrifying monsters. 

The Boy Who Grew Dragons by Andy Shepherd. illus. by Sara Ogilvie. Yellow Jacket. ISBN 9781499810110.

Tomas “Chipstick” Liffy has agreed to help Grandad plant a garden in his backyard, but what he finds in the process is most surprising. When Tomas unearths an unidentified spiky, red fruit, the last thing he expects is for a dragon to hatch from inside. Naming him Flicker, the playful duo get into all sorts of tricky situations—but they learn about friendship and how to take care of those they love along the way.

Shuri: A Black Panther Novel by Nic Stone. Scholastic. ISBN 9781338585476.

Princess Shuri takes center stage in this action-packed novel from Stone. Challenge Day is about to arrive in Wakanda and the heart-shaped herb has been poisoned. Shuri sets off on a covert mission with her best friend and Dora Milaje–in-training, K’Marah, to find the source of the poison and figure out how to reverse its effects. With help from Storm of X-Men, Shuri and K’Marah must figure out a way to save Wakanda from its enemies.

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