5 Middle Grade Books on My Summer Reading List by Madeleine Riley

I've read only 15 middle grade books this year, which feels less than normal for me (though I don't actually have any data to back that up). I think it's partially due to the fact that I'm teaching a younger age group (whereas in previous years, I've taught fourth and fifth grade), so my focus has shifted from middle grade to beginning readers and early chapter books. It's also due to the fact that many of the books I've picked up just haven't kept my interest, so I've abandoned a lot this year. I'm hoping that this summer will give me an opportunity to dive back into the middle grade world and reignite my love for it. 

I have a whole stack of great-looking middle grade novels to read this summer and though I can't speak to any of them yet, I thought I'd share the list with you all, in case you're looking for some new middle grade reads to add to your own stack!

5 Middle Grade Books on My Summer Reading List

Breakout by Kate Messner

Thank you to Bloomsbury Children's Books for my free copy!

I'm reading this for the #DBCsummer -- Lorraine is hosting an Instagram discussion on July 9th, which gives me a deadline for picking it up! (Though you can jump in on that discussion at any point in the summer.)

From the Publisher:

Nora Tucker is looking forward to summer vacation in Wolf Creek--two months of swimming, popsicles, and brushing up on her journalism skills for the school paper. But when two inmates break out of the town's maximum security prison, everything changes. Doors are locked, helicopters fly over the woods, and police patrol the school grounds. Worst of all, everyone is on edge, and fear brings out the worst in some people Nora has known her whole life. Even if the inmates are caught, she worries that home might never feel the same.

Told in letters, poems, text messages, news stories, and comics--a series of documents Nora collects for the Wolf Creek Community Time Capsule Project--Breakout is a thrilling story that will leave readers thinking about who's really welcome in the places we call home.

Fadeaway by Maura Ellen Stokes

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for my free copy!

From the Publisher:

When Sam's best friend Reagan dies after her heart suddenly gives out, Sam must learn to deal with her grief and ultimately discover who she is without her best friend by her side.

Fourteen-year-old Sam thinks she has all summer to hang out with her best friend, Reagan. But then her life changes forever. Sam's world, once filled with school, basketball, and Reagan, has now abruptly changed and she must learn to navigate high school on and off the court without her best friend.

But when Reagan suddenly "reappears," Sam clings to her friend's presence, even as it hurts rather than helps her grief. Can Sam learn to accept herself without her other half? This authentic, powerful story of friendship, grief, and discovering yourself is a can't-miss debut novel from Maura Ellen Stokes.


Evangeline of the Bayou by Jan Eldredge

Thank you to Keely Platte PR for my free copy!

From the Publisher:

Twelve-year-old haunt huntress apprentice Evangeline Clement spends her days and nights studying the ways of folk magic, honing her monster-hunting skills while pursuing local bayou banshees and Johnny revenants.

With her animal familiar sure to make itself known any day now, the only thing left to do is prove to the council she has heart. Then she will finally be declared a true haunt huntress, worthy of following in the footsteps of her long line of female ancestors.

But when Evangeline and her grandmother are called to New Orleans to resolve an unusual case, she uncovers a secret that will shake her to the soles of her silver-tipped alligator-skin boots.

Set in the evocative Louisiana bayou and the vibrant streets of New Orleans, Evangeline’s is a tale of loyalty and determination, the powerful bonds of friendship and family, and the courage to trust your gut no matter how terrifying that might be.


The Bonaventure Adventures by Rachelle Delaney

Thank you to Tundra Books for my free copy!

From the Publisher:

Sebastian Konstantinov comes from a long line of talented circus performers. Somehow, however, he has not inherited any of their acrobatic skill: he has no balance, he's afraid of heights, he can't even turn a somersault. But there's one thing he does know: his father's circus, which travels through Eastern Europe, is out of date and is fast running out of money. 

Seb has a solution, though: if he can somehow get into the Bonaventure Circus School in Montreal, Canada, he might be able to learn something valuable to help his father. Seb secretly writes to the Directrice (an old friend of his father's) and is accepted into the school. All he has to do is convince his father to send him away -- oh, and keep his lack of talent a secret from all his teachers and classmates. Fortunately for him, he befriends two other students, who also don't seem to quite fit in. 

Seb is not the only one with secrets, it turns out. The school is literally crumbling beneath the feet of its students, and the directrice may be counting on Seb's "talent" to save the day. Can he and his new friends figure out what's really going on in the school that bills itself as the World's Best Circus School?

The Orphan Band of Springdale by Anne Nesbet

Thank you to Candlewick Press for my free copy!

From the Publisher:

It’s 1941, and tensions are rising in the United States as the Second World War rages in Europe. Eleven-year-old Gusta’s life, like the world around her, is about to change. Her father, a foreign-born labor organizer, has had to flee the country, and Gusta has been sent to live in an orphanage run by her grandmother. Nearsighted, snaggletoothed Gusta arrives in Springdale, Maine, lugging her one precious possession: a beloved old French horn, her sole memento of her father. But in a family that’s long on troubles and short on money, how can a girl hang on to something so valuable and yet so useless when Gusta’s mill-worker uncle needs surgery to fix his mangled hand, with no union to help him pay? Inspired by her mother’s fanciful stories, Gusta secretly hopes to find the coin-like “Wish” that her sea-captain grandfather supposedly left hidden somewhere. Meanwhile, even as Gusta gets to know the rambunctious orphans at the home, she feels like an outsider at her new school — and finds herself facing patriotism turned to prejudice, alien registration drives, and a family secret likely to turn the small town upside down.

I'd love to hear your recommendations for grade middle grade books! You can find some of my favorites from past years here.

Diverse Books Club July 2018 Calendar by Madeleine Riley

DBC Summer Logo Inverse.png

It's been a great #DBCSUMMER so far!

Our team loves seeing readers with our selections in hand! This past weekend, we had our first Instagram discussion about Jordan's pick, Children of Blood and Bone! You can join in the discussion on that book @diversebooksclub.

You can check out the full June calendar here. We still have several discussions coming up, so don't miss out! Today we want to share our July calendar with you so that you can plan to read along with us next month too!


Friday, July 6th at 10am EST

Our Children's Lit Moderator, Lori, will host an Instagram discussion on Orphan Island. You can check out the post at any time over the summer!


Monday, July 9th at 4:30pm EST

Our Classroom Coordinator, Lorraine, will host an Instagram discussion on Breakout. You can check out the post at any time over the summer!

Tuesday, July 17th at 10am EST

Our Children's Lit Moderator, Sara, will host an Instagram discussion on Far From the TreeYou can check out the post at any time over the summer!

Saturday, July 21st at 12pm EST

Our Recommendations Moderator, RA, will host an Instagram LIVE discussion on The Fire This Time with DBC Member Hillary! After the live, a post will go up in our feed for further discussion!

Wednesday, July 25th at 12pm EST

I will host an Instagram discussion on Jefferson's Sons. You can check out the post anytime over the summer!

Are you planning to join our moderators in any of the above discussions? Tell us below!

#TeachwithTST - My Summer Break Teacher Read Along! by Madeleine Riley


It's almost summer break (we had so many snow days that we're in school until June 27th) and I am so ready! I absolutely adore the group of students I have this year and am sad to see them move on to third grade, but I'm looking forward to a season of rest and rejuvenation before I get to meet my new crew! I'm spending this summer taking a few courses, adjusting to some changes for next year, and implementing lots of self-care practices.

For those of you new to TST, a quick background: I currently teach second grade special education in a teeny little district in Massachusetts. I work on a grade level team and spend time both supporting in the classroom and delivering specialized instruction in my own little space. I'm actually licensed to be a general classroom teacher too, but I've found my niche in special education and really love the flexibility of getting to know an entire grade versus just one class. Bonus: I get to advocate for kids whose learning profiles are a little different from their peers. Every kid deserves a champion, and I just happen to love my quirky crew.

I don't talk a lot about my work on TST, and that's because most of it is confidential for the sake of my students. However, I did recently ask for recommendations from fellow teachers on Instagram for summer reading. I was looking for an education-related text that I could dig into, and I specifically asked for recommendations related to social justice or the ethics of teaching. Many of you expressed a desire to join in for reading and discussions with me, so I've decide to host a little read along for the month in July! I'm including the full list of suggestions at the bottom of this post, but this one stuck out to me as a must-read. 

#teachwithTST Summer Read Along Selection


Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools by Monique W. Morris

From the Publisher:

In a work that has rapidly become "imperative reading" (Lisa Delpit) on education, gender, and juvenile justice, Monique W. Morris (Black StatsToo Beautiful for Words) chronicles the experiences of Black girls across the country whose intricate lives are misunderstood, highly judged—by teachers, administrators, and the justice system—and degraded by the very institutions charged with helping them flourish. Equally "compelling" and "thought-provoking" (Kirkus Reviews), Pushout exposes a world of confined potential and supports the rising movement to challenge the policies, practices, and cultural illiteracy that push countless students out of school and into unhealthy, unstable, and often unsafe futures. 

Called a book "for everyone who cares about children" by the Washington Post, Morris’s illumination of these critical issues is "timely and important" (Booklist) at a moment when Black girls are the fastest growing population in the juvenile justice system. Praised by voices as wide-ranging as Gloria Steinem and Roland Martin, and highlighted for the audiences of Elle and Jet right alongside those of EdWeekand the Leonard Lopate ShowPushout is a book that "will stay with you long after you turn the final page" (Bookish).

Join the Discussion on Tuesday, July 31st on @topshelftext!

On the above date, I'll post a photo of the book along with my own thoughts after reading. Whether you're an educator, librarian, parent, or just interested in the well-being of children, you're welcome to join! If you're reading along, use #teachwithTST so I can see your posts!


For Self-Care: Happy Teachers Change the World Read Along

Hosted by @naturally.elementary


I follow a lot of teaching accounts on my personal Instagram, and I happened to stumble across this reading challenge on the same day that I went to order my copy of Pushout. This challenge is hosted by Cheyanne Hardin, a first grade teacher in Colorado and although it's already started, I'm jumping in and following along. You can download the reading schedule from Cheyanne's TPT store here.