The best middle grade novels set in motels and hotels

The Books I Picked & Why

Front Desk

By Kelly Yang

Book cover of Front Desk

Why 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!


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War at the Snow White Motel and Other Stories

By Tim Wynne-Jones

Book cover of War at the Snow White Motel and Other Stories

Why this book?

I’m cheating a little here, because War at the Snow White Motel is a collection of short stories, and only the first one is set in a motel. But all these stories will draw you into the complicated emotional lives of kids who struggle to make sense of a world populated by adults who don’t always make sense, and each one will surprise you with that lovely twist that makes a short story so satisfying. At the end of the book is an afterword with notes from the author about each story—a delicious dessert after a scrumptious meal.


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The Mouse and the Motorcycle

By Beverly Cleary

Book cover of The Mouse and the Motorcycle

Why 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.


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The Inn Between

By Marina Cohen

Book cover of The Inn Between

Why 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.


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Aliens on Vacation

By Clete Barrett Smith, Christian Slade

Book cover of Aliens on Vacation

Why 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.


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