HomeBooks by AgeAges 9-12The Real Deal Summer Reading List by Joe Ballarini
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The Real Deal Summer Reading List by Joe Ballarini

Joe Ballarini | The Children’s Book Review | June 24, 2017

When I was a kid, I was scared of everything. Sharks in the pool. Shadowy staircases. Pop quizzes. Non-recyclable plastics. And having an older sister who sang the theme song to JAWS every time we went to the beach didn’t exactly help. But there was one thing that truly sent chills up my spine: The Middle School Summer Reading List.

You mean I have to read a book (or books) over the summer? Like, do homework — on vacation? Hahaha! Wait. You’re serious? NOOOOO!

The reading lists were never books I wanted to read. To my twelve-year-old mind these books were stuffy stories about very serious things happening to very serious people with very serious page counts. This is why I wrote my book A Babysitter’s Guide To Monster Hunting. I wanted a summer book to take me on a roller coaster ride!

I have since grown to appreciate the classic books on Ye Olde Summer Reading List as pillars of education, but back then, Summer reading was snooze pie with a side of snore sauce followed by light torture.

And so I present the Joe Ballarini Summer Reading List filled with adventure, humor, heart, and monsters galore. A list the younger me would have loved. And you will, too.

5 Middle Grade Books to Read This Summer


Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of DelawareJasper Dash and the Flame Pits of Delaware

Written by M.T. Anderson

Illustrated by Kurt Cyrus

Commuter catapults. Gyroscopic Sky Suites. Stare Eyes Competitions. A trio of daring friends (each so smart they star in their own book series) go on a recuse mission through the jungles, subaquatic cities, and volcanoes… of Delaware. That’s right. Delaware.

M.T. Anderson’s ‘Pals and Peril’ series is exuberant, irreverent fun you won’t be able to stop reading. There are twists and turns and moments of pure wonder. There is also a cosmic weirdness that I adore. Tonally, it’s much crazier than my book, Babysitter’s Guide To Monster Hunting, but they share the same love of heroic kids, sharp dialog, and unbridled imagination. Where was this book when I was a kid?

Ages 10-14 | Publisher: Beach Lane Books | 2010 | ISBN-13: 978-1442408388

Good Night Stories for Rebel GirlsGood Night Stories for Rebel Girls

Written by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo

Okay, so this would have been a stretch for Middle Grade me to have read in the summer, but I’m telling you, I wish someone had given it to me to read because these are 100 extraordinary women that will rock your world. And the art is incredible and full of variety. It’s the kind of empowering, uplifting book that makes you (guy or girl) feel like you can change the world for the better. I love smart, strong female characters and this book has 100 of them!

Ages 10+ | Publisher: Timbuktu Labs, Inc. | 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-0997895810

Awful Auntie by David WalliamsAwful Auntie

Written by David Walliams

David Walliams is a super star and he is fast becoming the modern day Roald Dahl. However, Mr. Walliam’s has a voice all of his own. His books soar and swoop and laugh and play and then wham-o, they hit you right in the heart. The pages of this book shot by so fast I swear the paper was infused with magic. I won’t spoil it for you, but all you need to know is that a young heroine must outwit her truly, awful auntie with the help of a chimney sweep. A CHIMNEY SWEEP! How can you go wrong with a chimney sweep as a sidekick?

Ages 9+ | Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books | 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-0007453627

A Babysitter's Guide to Monster HuntingA Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting

Written by Joe Ballarini

Illustrated by Vivienne To

C’mon. No truly awesome summer reading list would be complete without the wild, comedic adventures of Kelly and the Babysitters. Kelly is a normal girl who takes her first babysitting job to make a little cash to pay for summer camp. But she discovers an entire world of monsters that lurk in the shadows and a band of merry babysitter’s who protect children from them. What’s not to love? Fun house scares, a deliciously fun villain, a cast of unique, never-seen-before monsters, and an empowering cast of kids. The best part of this book is, as the Little Ponies say, the power of friendship. This is the first book in a series of babysitter adventures and a great roller coaster read.

Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books | 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0062437839

The Once and Future KingThe Once and Future King

Written by T.H. White

What’s that, you say? Too young to read/watch Game of Thrones but you’re dying to know what all the fuss is about? Want swords with a side of magic and unicorns and eeeeevil sorcerers? This is your book, friend. From this, I learned how to be a king and what it really takes to be a knight. T.H. White’s masterpiece greatly influenced the mythology of the babysitters from my own book. I wanted to create a modern day Knights of the Roundtable, but with teenagers who wear backpacks. Truly, an epic, legendary read.

Ages 10+ | Publisher: Ace Books | 1987 (Reprint) | ISBN-13: 978-0441627400

About Joe Ballarini

Joe Ballarini is a professional screenwriter who has penned family films, horror films, silly comedies, and sweeping adventures.  He is a writer on the feature film, MY LITTLE PONY: The Movie for Hasbro Studios and is writing SKYWARD, the true story of two families who escaped East Germany in a hot air balloon for 20th Century Fox with Karen Rosenfelt producing.  He is a graduate of the production program of the USC School of Cinematic Arts with a minor in creative writing. A BABYSITTER’S GUIDE TO MONSTER HUNTING is his first book. The Montecito Picture Company and Walden Films are producing the film adaptation that Ballarini also penned, which will star Keegan Michael Key.

Among other accolades:

Michael Keaton is starring in his screenplay IMAGINE AGENTS for 20th Century Fox, produced by SPOTLIGHT’S Michael Sugar.  Joe adapting Kate Milfords best-selling novel GREENGLASS HOUSE for Paramount Studios . He has been hired to adapt the novel, CHARLIE PARIS, for Fox 2000 with Walt Becker directing. He also adapted the graphic novel CARDBOARD for Blue Sky Animation which will be directed by Chris Wedge.  Sam Raimi’s Ghost House Entertainment and Lionsgate released Ballarini’s horror comedy DANCE OF THE DEAD, which Joe wrote and directed second unit. New Line Cinema commissioned Ballarini to write the epic MERLIN TRILOGY with Offspring Entertainment producing. Walden Media hired Ballarini to write ATLANTIS with Shawn Levy producing and Dean Parisot directing.  Michael Bay and Benderspink are producing his found-footage horror spec, LOCKDOWN AT FRANKLIN HIGH, which Ballarini wrote and sold to Sony Pictures with Federico D’Allessandro directing.  Ballarini wrote and directed episodes of THE ROPES for Netflix which Vin Diesel produced. New Regency commissioned Ballarini to write the biblical epic, THE NATIVITY.  Ballarini wrote for 20th Century Fox Animation’s ICE AGE 4 and EPIC. He also wrote TURBO for Dreamworks Animation.   MODERN FAMILY’S Eric Stonestreet starred in Ballarini’s feature directorial debut FATHER VS SON, produced by Huffington Post co-founder, Michael Huffington.  Jerry Bruckheimer purchased Ballarini’s original spec THE RESIDENCE about a paranormalist hired to investigate a haunting in the White House. Ballarini adapted the science-fiction graphic novel MAINTENANCE for McG to direct and Warner Brothers. Miramax purchased Ballarini’s original spy thriller SPY NEXT DOOR.

Ballarini lives with his family in Los Angeles, California. Learn more at www.joeballarini.com.

Joe Ballarini, author of A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting, selected the 5 middle grade books featured in The Real Deal Summer Reading List. Discover more articles on The Children’s Book Review tagged with .

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Bianca Schulze is the founder of The Children’s Book Review. She is a reader, reviewer, mother and children’s book lover. She also has a decade’s worth of experience working with children in the great outdoors. Combined with her love of books and experience as a children’s specialist bookseller, the goal is to share her passion for children’s literature to grow readers. Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, she now lives with her husband and three children near Boulder, Colorado.

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