Summertime calls for books set by the sea, whether they are poignant novels about friendship and family set in the present day, or thought-provoking tales of historical fiction. The following are five such books for middle grade (and up!) readers that take place on or near Cape Cod. These stories would also be ideal for caregivers/parents and kids to read together, as the books’ (sometimes heavier) themes lend themselves well to discussion.
The Line Tender, by Kate Allen
This realistic fiction debut novel by Kate Allen, which is highlighted with lovely drawings of sharks throughout, is a touching and moving book—be prepared for tears! Twelve-year-old Lucy lives with her dad in Cape Cod in the mid 90s. They are continuing to learn to to cope with the loss of Lucy’s mother, who was a marine biologist, and sadly died when Lucy was seven years old. But this summer holds another unspeakable tragedy for Lucy, which in turn urges her to soul search even more. Allen adeptly intertwines science, nature, family, and grief in a unique and moving story.
Shouting at the Rain, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Delsie lives in Cape Cod with her grandmother (because her own mother abandoned her). It’s summertime and that means her longtime friend Brandy and her family will be vacationing in Cape Cod again, and Delsie can’t wait. But this year, something seems different. Brandy keeps hanging out with a new girl and leaving Delsie out. And what about the fisherman’s son, Ronan, who is seemingly bad news? A great choice for middle graders in the midst of figuring out their own friendships.
Summer of the Gypsy Moths, by Sara Pennypacker
Stella lives with her great-aunt Louise because her mother is not around; Angel is a foster child who lives with them. Tragedy strikes, leaving them orphaned, and together, the girls, who do not get along well, end up hatching a crazy plan. Will anyone find out their secret? From the author of the Clementine series, this more mature-themed novel set in Cape Cod deals with death, foster care, and friendship in ways the reader will not expect.
Nest, by Esther Ehrlich
Set in 1972, this is another tissues-required story! Naomi, or Chirp, finds herself ill-equipped to cope with her mother’s disease, ensuing depression, and more tragic news. So she ends up relying largely on her friendship with Joey, a troubled boy who lives next door, and her favorite pastime, bird watching, in order to get through it. This poignant debut novel by Esther Ehrlich is a serious and realistic look at the challenges life can hold.
Beyond the Bright Sea, by Lauren Wolk
The setting of this historical middle grade fiction novel (and winner of the 2018 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction) is in the Elizabeth Islands, near Cape Cod. Twelve-year-old Crow lives there with her adoptive father, Osh, who raised her from when she was a baby after finding her in a boat that had washed up on shore. The story unfolds as Crow decides to search for her past, and of course, plenty of adventures follow.
What are some of your favorite stories set by the sea?