Reading List: Best Vintage Middle Grade Books for Summer

by | Jun 19, 2021 | Books, Reading | 3 comments

As the title of this blog post explains, I’ve put together a summer reading list that includes some of my favorite vintage middle grade picks for this wonderful season. If you or your kids are in the mood for something fun, breezy, summery, and refreshingly old-fashioned – these books are for you! I’m re-reading some of these myself this summer. 🙂 Be forewarned that some of these can be hard to find, but the reward will be well worth the effort!

Gone-Away Lake (Elizabeth Enright, 1957), which features cousins exploring an old summer resort where two elderly residents still live. The sequel, Return to Gone-Away, is just as deliciously good. Check out my blog post on all of Enright’s lovely novels for even more delightful summer choices, especially Thimble Summer.

Jill’s Story (Jean Fiedler, 1965); one of my VERY favorites at age nine or so, about a 10-year-old aspiring writer whose family travels to Cape Cod for the summer. The climax – a birthday and a writing contest – is immensely satisfying.

Canadian Summer (Hilda van Stockum, 1948) is about a family who uproots to the Canadian wilderness in the post-World War II era – full of marvelous Montgomery-ish descriptions and exquisite characterization. For more info, you can read my posts here and here.

The Magic Summer (Noel Streatfeild, 1966), in which four siblings are sent to live with their eccentric great-aunt for the summer, and encounter a world of poetry, hard work, and mystery.

Jane of Lantern Hill (L.M. Montgomery, 1937). I’ve discussed this one many times on this blog before, because it’s possibly my favorite novel of all time. The story centers around Jane Stuart, who visits her father for the first time in her life one unforgettable summer. They subsequently buy a charming cottage on Prince Edward Island and all the whimsy begins.

Look Alive, Libby! (Catherine Woolley, 1962) is the charming story of a girl who has to overcome her many fears (like wild animals!) when she and her aunt go to spend the summer at a seaside cottage.

Cobblers’ Knob (Eleanore M. Jewett, 1958) was one of my favorite novels of 2019. The story centers on a brave girl who explores a supposedly haunted summer residence and makes friends with the foster child living there. The many unexpected twists kept me turning the pages!

Maggie Rose: Her Birthday Christmas (Ruth Sawyer, 1952). This one is just adorable. And incredibly well-crafted, and sweet, and poignant. Over one long summer, Maggie Rose picks all kinds of berries to sell in hopes of having a special celebration at the end of the year. Will she succeed against numerous obstacles that threaten to thwart her joyous plans?

Katie John (Mary Calhoun, 1960). Another absolute favorite from age nine or ten; an impulsive yet idealistic girl has a bunch of exciting (and humorous!) adventures in a nineteenth-century house alongside her new best friend. I think this book sparked my love of hunting down family history, because my favorite chapter was the one where Katie discovers the story of her great-aunt. The sequel, Depend on Katie John, is also terrific (I just re-read it)!

Half Magic (Edward Eager, 1954) focuses on the magical adventures that touch the lives of four children in what they thought would be a dull summer. A coin that grants them only half a wish proves more difficult than they originally suppose!

Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill (Maud Hart Lovelace, 1942) is another one of my very favorites from a young age – I think I was seven when I first read this one. It’s such a sweet story, and also perfect for young girls who will identify with Betsy and Julia’s quarrel. 🙂 The next book in the Betsy-Tacy series, Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown, is also awesome for summer (even though it’s more of a fall/winter book, LOL!) and I think I’ll re-read that one very soon!

No Children, No Pets (Marion Holland, 1957) is a book I discovered just last year, and I enjoyed it so much. The story opens when three children and their mother receive a letter informing them that they’ve inherited an old apartment house in Florida, so of course they head off to live there, with many escapades to follow!

Important note: If you like the sound of these books and know of any others in a similar vein, please leave a comment because I would LOVE to check them out! 🙂


  1. Julie Aamoth

    Thank you as always for doing this! I have been so busy that I forgot it was time to think about special summer reading :-). I start every summer by reading Enright’s “Then There Were Five”, which captures the season perfectly, in my view. I too love Jane, BT, and Half-Magic. I am looking forward to running some of the titles you listed that are new to me by our children’s book book club; I definitely want to read “The Magic Summer”, as I love NS. As for other summer iconic titles, I am partial to “Maida’s Little Camp” (but you have to read the others in the series first) and “The Brownie Scout Mystery” (largely because i have memories of reading that outside one happy childhood summer).”The Enchanted Castle” is another good one.

    • Anna Rose Johnson

      Thank you so much, Julie! I’m glad you liked the list! The Magic Summer is pretty wonderful; one of those books that improves with every reread! I’ve never read any of the Maida books, I should try to start tracking them down! I enjoyed “Enchanted Castle” as well – especially because I could see the influence that book had on “The Penderwicks”!

  2. Marion

    Anna Rose I love this book list. The only ones I am familiar with are The Betsy-Tacy ones and Jane Of Lantern Hill. the books sound so good I want to try and get a hold of them. Understood Betsy is a good read and of course All Of A Kind Family series you can’t go wrong with. Most of the historical original American Girl books are informative ones to read. My all time favorite children’s books are the HONEY BUNCH series. I am a lover of Ballet and Horse books too.
    Thank You for this delicious list.


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