Backlist Reads — Beat the Heat(wave) [Guest Post]

By: Guest Post Photo By: @a.o.tales

Whether August sees you returning to school, in the middle of your summer break, or somewhere in-between, we can all agree that now is the time to squeeze every last drop of summer out of the season. Here are some more great backlist middle grade reads to add to your end-of-summer TBR, and some super fun accompanying activities to go with them!


The Swallowtail Legacy: The Wreck at Ada’s Reef
by Michael D. Beil

In this touching contemporary middle grade mystery, you will meet Lark and her blended family as they head to Swallowtail Island on Lake Eerie to take possession of her late mother’s summer house. A family friend tells Lark about a tragic boat accident that occurred many years ago off the coast of the island, a murder that was never solved. As the summer stretches on, keen-eyed Lark works to unravel this mystery, along with her own grief, as she learns to lean on and trust her loving stepfather, stepbrothers, and sister.


Bob by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead

This adorable story follows Livy, a young girl returning to visit her grandmother over a dry, hot Australian summer. It’s been five years since she’s visited and she has this strange feeling she’s left something behind . . . Bob, a small greenish creature in a chicken suit, has been waiting five years in the closet for Livy to return after she promised she’d help him return home. The only problem is he can’t remember where he is from! Little by little, Livy and Bob solve the clues to Bob’s identity and form an everlasting friendship amidst the oppressive heat of a historical Australian drought. This story is tender, moving, and beautifully illustrated by Nicholas Gannon.



Build a birdhouse! Birds play an important theme throughout The Swallowtail Legacy (as you might have guessed by the name). Lark and her sister are both named after birds as their mother was an avid bird enthusiast and scientist. Build your own birdhouse using the OwlCrate Jr kit like we did, or one of your own making, to hang it in your backyard. Remember to put some bird seed inside to encourage some bird friends to stay a while!


After reading Bob, visit Wendy Mass’ website for some excellent STEAM extension activities. Here you will find six educator-created challenges, such as building Bob a flashlight or a Lego pirate ship! Each activity comes from a problem faced in the book and lists the challenge, the materials allowed, criteria, and constraints for each challenge. How many will you and your crew be able to complete?



E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

When you’ve finished reading Bob (and completed some of those STEAM challenge projects!) reward yourself with this classic film that surprisingly shares many similarities to Bob! After E.T. crashes to earth and becomes stranded, Elliot finds the gentle alien and befriends him. This film is full of laughs as Elliot and his sister keep E.T. secretly in their home. But when E.T. falls sick, it is up to the children to help him find a way home.



Root Magic by Eden Royce, read by Imani Parks

Be transported back in time to the muggy South Carolina swamplands in 1963 and meet Jezebel Turner as she is about to begin her first year in the desegregated South. Everything is changing for Jez and her twin brother, Jay. Their beloved Gran has just passed, they are navigating a new school with new rules, they are about to turn eleven, and their uncle Doc has informed them he’ll be training them in root magic.

Fascinated by the African American folk magic that has been the legacy of her family, Jez soon discovers their true power goes far beyond small charms and elixirs, and her mastery of it will be critical to fight the evil — both natural and supernatural — that is circling her family.

An arresting, dark, magical read that is brought to life by an amazing narrator Root Magic is the perfect story to wait out the dog days of summer!

Thanks so much, Cheryl! Be sure to give her a follow on Instagram and check out her blog, And Other Tales, for more great book reviews and recommendations!