Summer Reading List: The Star Performers

Whether you’re relaxing on a beach, in the mountains, or on a hammock in your own backyard, it’s the perfect time to pick up a good book. Each year, our divisions develop a list of required and suggested reading for students to prepare them for the upcoming school year. Every book is selected to inspire, engage, and encourage growth in our students while they spend time off campus. Below are a few of our favorites from each division:

Upper School

The Secret Life of Bees — Sue Monk Kidd

Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily's fierce-hearted black "stand-in mother," Rosaleen, insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily decides to spring them both free. They escape to Tiburon, South Carolina--a town that holds the secret to her mother's past. Taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters, Lily is introduced to their mesmerizing world of bees and honey, and the Black Madonna. This is a remarkable novel about divine female power, a story women will share and pass on to their daughters for years to come.

The Glass Castle — Jeannette Walls

The true story of the author’s unconventional family and chaotic childhood. When faced with circumstances that cause many people to give up or repeat unhealthy choices, the author and her siblings find ways to overcome these hardships and thrive. As she looks back, she rarely falls into self-pity or anger, but consistently finds the humor in her parents’ choices.

Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer

In this non-fiction account, Jon Krakauer explores the life of a young man who leaves his comfortable life to take a journey into the American wilderness. Through the telling of Christopher’s story, Krakauer tries to figure out why a young man with privilege would leave everything behind. Into the Wild grapples with many American tensions, specifically individualism versus society and security versus adventure.

Middle School

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas -- John Boyne

This story follows nine-year-old Bruno and his family During World War II as they leave Berlin to take up residence near the concentration camp where his father has just become commandant. Unhappy and lonely, Bruno wanders out behind his house one day and finds Shmuel, a Jewish boy of his age. Though the barbed-wire fence of the camp separates them, the boys begin a forbidden friendship, oblivious to the real nature of their surroundings.

The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

In a future North America, where the rulers of Panem maintain control through a televised survival competition pitting young people against one another, sixteen-year-old Katniss's skills are put to the test when she voluntarily takes her younger sister's place.

The Face on the Milk Carton -- Caroline B. Cooney

Recognizing herself as the missing child on a school milk carton, Janie is compelled to investigate and has to choose between her love for the people she has always known as her parents needing to learn the truth.

Lower School

The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig – Eugene Trivizas

Three little wolves go out into the world to build a house that will protect them from the big bad pig. But neither bricks nor concrete, not even armor plates, can stop the persistent porker--until a chance meeting with a flamingo provides an unexpected solution to the wolves' problem.

Toy Academy: Some Assembly Required — Brian Lynch

Toy Academy is where toys learn to play. It's where action figures train to battle, stuffed animals study the art of the hug, and collectibles practice standing very, very still in a laugh-out-loud chapter book.

The Hero Two Doors Down – Sharon Robinson

Eight-year-old Steve Satlow is thrilled when Jackie Robinson moves into his Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn in 1948, although many of his neighbors are not, and when Steve actually meets his hero he is even more excited--and worried that a misunderstanding over a Christmas tree could damage his new friendship.

View our full summer reading lists:

Upper School Grade 9

Upper School Grades 10-12

Middle School

Lower School

About the Author


The Shipley School is an independent, coeducational day school in Bryn Mawr for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world. Through a strong college-preparatory curriculum in the humanities and sciences, our school encourages curiosity, creativity, and respect for intellectual effort. Shipley upholds and promotes moral integrity, a sense of personal achievement and worth, and concern for others at school and in the larger community.