New Harper Summer Reads for Ages 8-12

Planet Tad by Tim Carvell
Genre: Juvenile Fiction / Boys / Men
Ages 8 to 12, Grades 3 to 7
Pages: 256 Hardcover
Date Published: May 8, 2012
Publisher: Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s

Twelve-year-old Tad is a man with a plan: 1. Start a blog (check). 2. Survive seventh grade (gulp). 3. Get girls to notice him (yeah-like that’s ever going to happen).

In his quest to have the most awesome year ever, Tad will face down a devious little sister, the most embarrassing summer job in history, and a science-fair volcano gone awry. And did we mention the bevy of pretty girls who won’t give him the time of day? Through it all, Tad’s hilarious musings, spot-on wisecracks, and knack for getting into trouble make his daily blog a comedic goldmine.

Told in the form of blog entries covering a year in Tad’s wacky life and with sidesplittingly funny illustrations throughout, Planet Tad is arguably the funniest book of all time. At least Tad thinks so. And so do these important funny people:

“This book will make you laugh. If you’re not into that sort of thing, consider yourself warned.”-Stephen Colbert

“Hilarious to anyone who ever went through, is currently in, might go to, or flunked out of middle school.”-Jon Stewart

Planet Tad is written by the Emmy Award-winning head writer of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Tim Carvell, and based on a blog of the same name in MAD magazine.

Interesting and amusing. Might be a perfect fit for your boy. Probably not the best choice for “quiet time” reading.

Tim Carvell is the head writer for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, for which he has won four Emmys. He has also served as a writer and editor at Fortune, Sports Illustrated Women, and Entertainment Weekly, and his work has appeared in New York magazine, the New York Times, Esquire, Slate, and McSweeney’s; the Daily Show books America: The Book and Earth: The Book; and the anthologies More Mirth of a Nation, Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans, and The McSweeney’s Joke Book of Joke Books. He lives in New York with his partner, Tom Keeton.

Otherworld Chronicles: The Invisible Tower by Nils Johnson-Shelton
Genre: Juvenile Fiction / Legends, Myths, & Fables
Ages 10 And Up, Grades 5 And Up
Pages: 352 Jacketed Hardcover (paperback est. pub. date Sept. 4th, 2012)
Date Published: January 3, 2012
Publisher: Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s

In one week’s time you will come to me at the Invisible Tower. You are special, Arthur. I have been waiting so long for you.
Your humble servant,

When this mysterious message appears in twelve-year-old Artie Kingfisher’s favorite virtual reality game, it leads him straight to a gaming store called the Invisible Tower, where a centuries-old wizard named Merlin holds the key to his destiny. Could it be that Artie is actually King Arthur, brought into the modern world to save it from certain doom? It seems that the fate of the universe rests on the shoulders of Artie and his sister, Kay. If they’ll accept their mission, all they have to do is walk through the door of the tower and into the Otherworld….

Brimming with fire-breathing dragons, powerful sorcerers, and life-changing quests, The Invisible Tower brings the heroes of Arthurian legend to brilliant new life in the 21st century. This first book in the explosive Otherworld Chronicles trilogy is perfect for fans of Rick Riordan, Artemis Fowl, and Ranger’s Apprentice-and the promise of greater danger to come will leave readers breathless for more.

This one is going on the keeper shelf and I’m looking forward to the sequel to come in January 2013, The Seven Swords. Bring on Artie and Merlin!

Nils Johnson-Shelton is the coauthor of the New York Times bestselling No Angel: My Harrowing Undercover Journey to the Inner Circle of the Hell’s Angels. The Invisible Tower is his first middle grade book. Nils lives in Brooklyn, NY, with his family.


Applewhites at Wit’s End
by Stephanie S. Tolan
(Sequel to Surviving the Applewhites)
Genre: Juvenile Fiction / School & Education
Ages 10 And Up, Grades 5 And Up
Pages: 272 Jacketed Hardcover
Date Published: May 8, 2012
Publisher: Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s

When the eccentric Applewhites fall on hard times, the famously artistic family hatches a plan that just may save them all from financial ruin. They will turn their sixteen-acre family compound, Wit’s End, into Eureka!, a summer camp for creative children.

But like most of the Applewhites’ productions, nothing goes according to plan. Amid the chaos of temperamental artists, headstrong campers, and rampaging goats, anonymous notes begin to mysteriously appear in the Applewhites’ roadside mailbox. E. D. Applewhite-the girl with a deep love for order and stability-tries to keep things running smoothly. Along with Jake Semple-the boy who managed to survive his first year in the Applewhites’ home school-she is determined to save her family from a summer that’s hurtling along a collision course to disaster.

In this hilarious, masterful sequel to Stephanie S. Tolan’s Newbery Honor Book, Surviving the Applewhites, the Applewhite family is back and more outrageous than ever.

This one had a smile on my face from the first page. While I haven’t read Surviving the Applewhites, after experiencing this one, it’s one that I’d want to search for to add to our shelves and go back for to read. Definitely a wacky crew. The voice for this one reads much like the Hollywood Nobody series that I enjoyed a few years ago.

Stephanie S. Tolan is the author of the Newbery Honor-winning novel and New York Times bestseller Surviving the Applewhites. She has written more than twenty-five books for young readers, including the novel Listen!, which won the Christopher Award and the Henry Bergh ASPCA Award. She and her husband live in Charlotte, NC. You can visit her online at

The Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker
Genre: Juvenile Fiction / Family
Ages 8 to 12, Grades 3 to 7
Pages: 288 Jacketed Hardcover
Date Published: April 24, 2012
Publisher: Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s

After a tragedy, two foster children must find a way to work together in order to survive.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Clementine, Sara Pennypacker, comes an unforgettable story of two girls, one fateful summer, and the true meaning of family.

Stella loves living with Great-aunt Louise in her big old house on Cape Cod. There’s a garden, blueberry bushes, and pastel-colored vacation bungalows that look like something out of a fairy tale. Best of all, Louise loves routine as much as Stella does, something Stella appreciates since her mom is, well, kind of unreliable. So while Mom “finds herself,” moving constantly, taking odd jobs, and sending sporadic postcards, Stella fantasizes that someday she’ll come back to the Cape and settle down. The only obstacle to her plan? Angel, the foster kid Louise has taken in. Angel couldn’t be less like her name-she’s tough and prickly-and the girls hardly speak to each other. Stella finds it hard to envision a picture-perfect life with Angel in it.

But when tragedy unexpectedly strikes, Stella and Angel are forced to rely on each other to survive, and they learn that they are stronger together than they could have imagined. And over the course of the summer they discover they do have something in common: dreams of finally belonging, of discovering the invisible ties that bind them to family.

While the plot of this one is a bit far fetched. It is interesting and can bring in all sorts of imagination for summer reading. It also opens up many areas for discussion. It’s a read that I would plan to be able to talk about what’s in it with my child when reading.

Sara Pennypacker is the author of the award-winning, New York Times bestselling Clementine chapter-book series as well as the picture books Pierre in Love and Sparrow Girl. She divides her time between Cape Cod, MA, and Austin, TX. You can visit her online at

Cinderella Smith by Stephanie Barden
Illustrated by Diane Goode
Genre: Juvenile Fiction / Family
Ages 8 to 12, Grades 3 to 7
Pages: 176 Paperback (orig. 160 Hardcover April 2011)
Date Published: April 24, 2012

Newcomer Stephanie Barden brings Cinderella Smith—a buoyant eight-year-old known for losing her shoes—to readers looking for longer stories to read by themselves. Diane Goode’s sweet, animated illustrations throughout add to the fun.

Cinderella Smith: The More the Merrier by Stephanie Barden
Illustrated by Diane Goode
Genre: Juvenile Fiction / Family
Ages 8 to 12, Grades 3 to 7
Pages: 144 Jacketed Hardcover
Date Published: April 24, 2012

The Horn Book magazine raves that “Cinderella’s bouncy energy, captured expertly in Goode’s emotive line drawings, is infectious; readers will delight in her expressions and enthusiastic use of adverbs.”

When Cinderella finds out that the winner of her school’s spelling bee gets to choose the theme of the class party, she and her best friend, Erin, are determined to spell their way to victory. With party plans on her mind, Cinderella’s excitement can’t be contained-that is, until her onetime friend starts bullying her for no reason. Should Cinderella keep giving her old friend the silent treatment or speak up?

With the reality of upper-elementary woes balanced by the light and humorous disposition of the series’ buoyant Cinderella, The More the Merrier inspires laughter, love, and confidence. Already recognized by the Committee for Children for its helpful stance on bullying, the Cinderella series is poised to gain an even larger audience as Barden makes Cinderella’s world and her third-grade class a place readers want to be.

Author Stephanie Barden‘s first book, Cinderella Smith, was published to enthusiastic reviews. She teaches classes at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, where she lives with her husband, Tom; son, Joe; and eighty-pound lapdog, Otis. You can visit her online at

And of course!

Fancy Nancy: Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth by Jane O’Connor
Illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser
Genre: Juvenile Fiction / Readers
Ages 7 to 10, Grades 2 to 5
Pages: 128 Hardcover
Date Published: April 3, 2012

In her paper-over-board chapter book debut, Nancy Clancy must find the culprit when a prized possession goes missing at school.

Fancy Nancy is growing up-she’s now appearing in her first ever chapter book!

It’s Parents’ Day at school, and Nancy and her classmates are displaying their most prized possessions. Then one mysteriously vanishes (that’s fancy for goes missing)! It’s up to Nancy and her sidekick, Bree, to crack the case, but will Nancy realize the culprit is right under her nose?

While not quite the same I remember my excitement when a chapter book series I read in my early reader days published their first college book. The series was growing with me and I was ecstatic. Now for readers, having spent their earlier years with Fancy Nancy picture books and then I Can Read! early readers, look and see! Fancy Nancy is growing with you into her very own chapter book! Jump into Nancy Clancy: Super Sleuth Book #1 and see if you can discover the mystery.

As a mother that wants to encourage reading I am very happy about this new series and the chapter names are awesome with things like “Hardly a mystery”, “the plot thickens”, and “crime and punishment”. I think this book and chapters could induce memories to last. Great as a read aloud or for that chapter book reader in your home.

Then… on top of everything else it is a gorgeous book! An amazing and colorful cover image with a slightly older Nancy and then black & white illustrations throughout to enhance the Fancy Nancy text experience. I’m super excited!

The mystery within is fun and exciting to unravel and in the end with a great lesson for all. I cannot wait for the sequel, Secret Admirer to come in January 2013!

Jane O’Connor is an editor at a major publishing house who has written more than thirty books for children, including the bestselling Fancy Nancy, Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy, Fancy Nancy: Bonjour, Butterfly, Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas, and Fancy Nancy and the Fabulous Fashion Boutique. She lives with her family in New York City. You can visit her online at

*Thanks to HarperCollins for providing copies for review.*

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About CherryBlossomMJ

The Creative Madness Mama also known as Margaret is a Christian Stay-at-home Mama, married to the Enginerd, Quilter, avid reader and book-a-holic. A book blogger for bunches of different publicists. She loves to share the latest and greatest about books coming out as well as her quilt and other crafty projects with some pictures of her eight-year-old AppleBlossom, three-year-old Almond Blossom (the Rascal boy!), six-year-old OrangeBlossom (the Princess), and newborn Mermaid Warrior in between. Plotting to be a homeschooler, she's a cloth diapering, breastfeeding, babywearing, list making mama full of a little creative and a lot of madness.