The best middle grade novels set in motels and hotels

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was a kid, staying in a motel, even a run-down one, was a real treat. Flicking on all the switches to see what they controlled, exploring the bathroom for fun soaps and little shampoo bottles, sharing a room with my sister, swimming in the motel pool, and getting to eat sugar cereals at breakfast—all this was a wonderland to me as a kid. It was part of what made writing No Vacancy so much fun. There’s so much you can do with a motel or hotel setting, and I love to see what other authors come up with. I hope you do too!


I wrote...

Book cover of No Vacancy

What is my book about?

Buying and moving into the run-down Jewel Motor Inn in upstate New York wasn’t eleven-year-old Miriam Brockman’s dream, but at least it’s an adventure. Miriam befriends Kate, whose grandmother owns the diner next door, and finds comfort in the company of Maria, the motel’s housekeeper, and her Uncle Mordy, who comes to help out for the summer.

But when it becomes clear that only a miracle is going to save the Jewel from bankruptcy, Jewish Miriam and Catholic Kate decide to create their own. Otherwise, the No Vacancy sign will come down for good, and Miriam will lose the life she’s worked so hard to build. A Sydney Taylor Honor winner and National Jewish Book Award finalist.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Front Desk

Tziporah Cohen Why did I love this book?

Based on Yang’s own experience as a child in an immigrant family who came to California from China, spunky ten-year-old Mia Tang works alongside her parents at the Calivista Motel near Disneyland. But this isn’t simply a fun adventure story; it’s also the story about the daily challenges of poverty, racism, and discrimination faced by Mia, her family, and the various guests at the Calivista, including some immigrants hiding at the motel unbeknownst to the unsympathetic owner. I loved Mia’s spunk and determination to fight for what she believed in. Inspiring!

By Kelly Yang,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Front Desk as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Four starred reviews and over ten best-of-year lists!* "Many readers will recognize themselves or their neighbors in these pages." -- Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Winner of the Asian / Pacific American Award for Children's Literature!* "Many readers will recognize themselves or their neighbors in these pages." -- Kirkus Reviews, starred reviewMia Tang has a lot of secrets.Number 1: She lives in a motel, not a big house. Every day, while her immigrant parents clean the rooms, ten-year-old Mia manages the front desk of the Calivista Motel and tends to its guests.Number 2: Her parents hide immigrants. And if the mean…


Book cover of The Mouse and the Motorcycle

Tziporah Cohen Why did I love this book?

I grew up reading just about everything that Beverly Clearly wrote, and while it would be impossible for me to choose a favorite, Ralph S. Mouse’s adventure with a boy named Keith, who is vacationing in the Mountain View Inn with his family, is one that doesn’t get old, even after all these years. What kid wouldn’t love a story about a talking mouse, not to mention a mouse that saves the day riding a toy motorcycle in search of medicine for his sick new human friend? I certainly did! And if you can’t get enough of Ralph, there are two more books in the series.

By Beverly Cleary, Jacqueline Rogers (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Mouse and the Motorcycle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, 9, and 10.

What is this book about?

In this imaginative adventure from Newbery Medal–winning author Beverly Cleary, a young mouse named Ralph is thrown into a world of excitement when a boy and his shiny toy motorcycle check in to the Mountain View Inn.

When the ever-curious Ralph spots Keith's red toy motorcycle, he vows to ride it. So when Keith leaves the bike unattended in his room one day, Ralph makes his move. But with all this freedom (and speed!) come a lot of obstacles. Whether dodging a rowdy terrier or keeping his nosy cousins away from his new wheels, Ralph has a lot going on!…


Book cover of The Inn Between

Tziporah Cohen Why did I love this book?

Oh, this book! I loved this creepy mystery, set in a strange and isolated inn where something unusual is most definitely going on. The author deftly uses flashbacks to slowly unravel the mystery, and when you figure out what is happening, I guarantee you will gasp. This is a genre-bending book that doesn’t shy away from grappling with emotionally intense issues while being an absolutely riveting read.

By Marina Cohen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Inn Between as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Eleven-year-old Quinn has had some bad experiences lately. She was caught cheating in school, and then one day, her little sister, Emma, disappeared while walking home from school. She never returned. When Quinn's best friend, Kara, has to move away, she goes on one last trip with Kara and her family. They stop over at the first hotel they see, a Victorian inn that instantly gives Quinn the creeps, and she begins to notice strange things happening around them. When Kara's parents and then brother disappear without a trace, the girls are stranded in a hotel full of strange guests,…


Book cover of Aliens on Vacation

Tziporah Cohen Why did I love this book?

From the title to the fantastic cover illustration, you know this book will be a treat. David, nicknamed Scrub, is sent to spend the summer with his grandmother, who owns The Intergalactic Bed and Breakfast. And yes, its clientele is just whom you would expect! Full of hijinks, discoveries, a new friendship, and a meddling, suspicious sheriff (who just happens to be the new friend’s father), this book is a fun, out-of-this-world read.

By Clete Barrett Smith, Christian Slade (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Aliens on Vacation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

13-year-old David discovers that his grandmother's inn is a portal for comical aliens from all over the universe---a secret that, until now, she has been able to keep from her small town.

Scrub isn't happy about having to spend the summer with his hippie grandmother in "Middle of Nowhere," Washington. When he arrives at her Intergalactic Bed & Breakfast, he's not surprised by its 1960s-meets-Star Wars decor; but he is surprised by the weird looking guests. It turns out that each room in the inn is a portal and his grandma is the gatekeeper, allowing aliens to vacation on Earth.…


You might also like...

We Had Fun and Nobody Died: Adventures of a Milwaukee Music Promoter

By Amy T. Waldman, Peter Jest,

Book cover of We Had Fun and Nobody Died: Adventures of a Milwaukee Music Promoter

Amy T. Waldman

New book alert!

What is my book about?

This irreverent biography provides a rare window into the music industry from a promoter’s perspective. From a young age, Peter Jest was determined to make a career in live music, and despite naysayers and obstacles, he did just that, bringing national acts to his college campus atUW-Milwaukee, booking thousands of concerts across Wisconsin and the Midwest, and opening Shank Hall, the beloved Milwaukee venue named after a club in the cult film This Is Spinal Tap.

Jest established lasting friendships with John Prine, Arlo Guthrie, and others, but ultimately, this book tells a universal story of love and hope…

We Had Fun and Nobody Died: Adventures of a Milwaukee Music Promoter

By Amy T. Waldman, Peter Jest,

What is this book about?

The entertaining and inspiring story of a stubbornly independent promoter and club owner 

This irreverent biography provides a rare window into the music industry from a promoter’s perspective. From a young age, Peter Jest was determined to make a career in live music, and despite naysayers and obstacles, he did just that, bringing national acts to his college campus at UW–Milwaukee, booking thousands of concerts across Wisconsin and the Midwest, and opening Shank Hall, the beloved Milwaukee venue named after a club in the cult film This Is Spinal Tap.

This funny, nostalgia-inducing book details the lasting friendships Jest established…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in hotels, Chinese Americans, and Snow White?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about hotels, Chinese Americans, and Snow White.

Hotels Explore 27 books about hotels
Chinese Americans Explore 53 books about Chinese Americans
Snow White Explore 13 books about Snow White