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The 50 Best Books for 11- and 12-Year-Olds
By melissa taylor.
Eleven and twelve is a time of big change for kids, both emotionally and physically. Which is why reading coming-of-age books becomes very relevant at this age. Just like the characters in the books they’re reading, 11- and 12-year-olds are experiencing emotional mood swings and physical changes from puberty that can lead to increased feelings of self-consciousness. Kids this age are also highly influenced by friends, wanting more independence from parents, and making improvements in their abstract thinking abilities. Preteens need good books that both resonate with their complex lives as well as educate and entertain them.
Which brings us to this book list — our 50 best books for 11- and 12- year-olds, curated by a panel of children’s literature experts . You’ll find a wide variety here, excellent books that appeal to a range of preteen interests, backgrounds, and even moods.
You can download the entire printable list here.
uniE601 Fantasy, Magic, and Horror
Fantasy, magic, and horror provide tech-free escapism for kids. Readers can travel to other worlds to experience illusions, ghosts, dragons, and more.
by Cassie Beasley
Dealing with Dragons
by Patricia C. Wrede
by Holly Black, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler
by Henry H. Neff
by Christopher Paolini
by Tahereh Mafi
The Girl Who Drank the Moon
by Kelly Barnhill
His Dark Materials Trilogy
by Philip Pullman
by J.R.R. Tolkien
Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase
by Jonathan Stroud
The Phantom Tollbooth
by Norton Juster, illustrated by Jules Feiffer
uniE601 Mystery and Adventure
Kids love to imagine themselves as the main characters, especially in kids-can-do-anything adventure and mystery stories like these selections. These books are great confidence boosters and great fun.
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library
by Chris Grabenstein
by Carl Hiaasen
The Nameless City
by Faith Erin Hicks, color by Jordie Bellaire
by Shannon Hale
by Stuart Gibbs
The Westing Game
by Ellen Raskin
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
by Grace Lin
These characters grow and change by facing life’s challenges. Readers will connect with the struggles of daily life and growing up. What’s more, you’re more likely to develop empathy and understanding after walking a mile in someone else’s story.
Al Capone Does My Shirts
by Gennifer Choldenko
American Born Chinese
by Gene Luen Yang
Because of Mr. Terupt
by Rob Buyea
The Best Man
by Richard Peck
As Brave As You
by Jason Reynolds
Counting by 7s
by Holly Goldberg Sloan
by Kwame Alexander
Flying Lessons & Other Stories
edited by Ellen Oh
by Rebecca Stead
The House on Mango Street
by Sandra Cisneros
by Kathryn Erskine
Okay for Now
by Gary D. Schmidt
by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Jon Klassen
Return to Sender
by Julia Alvarez
The Seventh Most Important Thing
by Shelley Pearsall
by Jerry Spinelli
Touching Spirit Bear
by Ben Mikaelsen
When You Reach Me
by Lauren Wolk
uniE601 Inspired by History
Few things stick with you as much as a deeply memorable story. These historical fiction books bring history to life through their dynamic characters and plots, and will stay with readers long after the last page.
Before We Were Free
Boxers & Saints Series
by Pam Muñoz Ryan
The Inquisitor’s Tale
by Adam Gidwitz, illustrated by Hatem Aly
by Louisa May Alcott
The Mighty Miss Malone
by Christopher Paul Curtis
uniE601 Page-Turning Nonfiction
Unforgettable and often unbelievable, these well-written nonfiction books inspire and educate readers. Learn more about significant people and specific periods of history in one of these compelling book choices.
by Steve Sheinkin
Hidden Figures (Young Readers' Edition)
by Margot Lee Shetterly
I Am Malala (Young Readers' Edition)
by Malala Yousafzai
Isaac the Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton, Reveal'd
by Mary Losure
Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White
by Melissa Sweet
What Color Is My World? The Lost History of African-American Inventors
by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld, illustrated by Ben Boos and A.G. Ford
Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World
by Rachel Ignotofsky
Learn more about the experts behind this reading list .
Get the printable version of the list.
Explore our 50 Best series to get great recommendations for other ages.
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100 Best Books for 7th Graders (12 Year Olds)
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There are so many upper middle grade books for 7th graders in middle school ages 12 and 13, so how do you find the best book choices for your 7th grade student or child? Using my background as a teacher, parent, and book reviewer, I’ve written a curated list of my top book picks with reviews for 7th graders to help you find good middle-grade books for 7th graders with different interests, topics, and genres!
I update this book list on a monthly basis to include the newest releases. Last updated November 2023!
Top 7th Grade Fantasy Books
- Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston
- The Ruins of Gorlan: Ranger’s Apprentice by John A. Flanagan
- Willa of the Wood by Robert Beatty
- Once There Was by Kiyash Monsef
- An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
- Barren Grounds: The Misewa Saga by David A. Robertson
- Legend of the Dream Giants by Dustin Hansen
- Unwanteds by Lisa McMann
For a bit easier books, read the Best Books for 11-Year-Olds . Also, look for the label SHORT by the genre tag to find books that are shorter reads.
For short nonfiction books, which I love giving to readers, try this book list .
Best Coming of Age Books for 7th Grade Boys and Girls
- How to Stay Invisible by Maggie C. Rudd
- The Probability of Everything by Sarah Everett
- The Fire, The Water, and Maudie McGinn by Sally J. Pla
- Rain Rising by Courtne Comrie
- A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
- House Arrest by K.A. Holt (verse)
- Starfish by Lisa Fipps
- No Place Like Home by James Bird
- Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
- Rare Birds by Jeff Miller
- Across the Desert by Dusti Bowling
- Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dees
- Sara and the Search for Normal by Wesley King
- Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel by Jason Reynolds
What if my 12 year old needs harder books?
For more challenging books, check out my Best Book for Teens list or Challenging Books for Young Advanced Readers .
Get a PDF download of the top books from this 7th grade book list!
What are the best book series for 7th graders.
- Best Book Series for 7th Graders
Best Books for 7th Graders (12 year olds)
Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston FANTASY Fantastic fantasy world-building, excellent writing, a strong Black female heroine, and a surprise plot twist ending are just a few reasons you’ll love this book. Amari’s beloved older brother has vanished but she gets a virtual message from him revealing that she’s a magician and will get to attend a secret magician school. At the school, she discovers she’s actually an outlawed dark magic magician. Amari knows she’s not evil and is determined to prove it and stay in the school so she can find her missing brother who used to attend there.
How to Stay Invisible by Maggie C. Rudd REALISTIC A heartbreaking and hopeful survival story . Raymond’s neglectful parents abandon him completely so he takes his dog Rosie, and they set up camp in the woods behind his middle school. There, he survives on his own, foraging in dumpsters and fishing for food as he continues to attend school. When a playful coyote hurts Rosie, he meets an old man who helps them both — which is especially significant because it’s over the Christmas break when he can’t get dumpster food from school. Raymond doesn’t want to tell anyone, including the old man or his two friends at school, what he’s surviving, but the truth comes out when another boy discovers his campsite and a snake bite almost kills him. HOW TO STAY INVISIBLE is a powerful story of grit, survival, and longing for family. I couldn’t put it down.
Allies by Alan Gratz HISTORICAL FICTION Written from many different voices about one day in history, readers easily can see the massive amount of cooperation, planning, and troops from different countries involved in D-Day (when the Allies invaded France at Normandy.) We hear from an American teenage soldier who was born in Germany, a French Algerian girl whose mom who is a recently captured spy, a Canadian paratrooper who lands in the wrong spot, and an American black medic. It’s violent and disheartening yet despite terrible losses, racism, and injuries, the fighters persist despite everything to accomplish their goal — to take back the area for the Allies. What an incredible retelling of this day!
Ali Cross by James Patterson MYSTERY ADVENTURE If you want an enthralling adventure & mystery book for 7th graders that you can’t put down, read this one next. It’s Christmas Eve. Ali’s friend Gabe is missing, his FBI-agent dad is falsely accused of murdering an old man, and someone broke into their house while they were at church and stole his dad’s service weapon. Ali knows he has to try to fix things, starting by finding his friend Gabe. Don’t miss book two, Like Father, Like Son .
The Probability of Everything by Sarah Everett REALISTIC (For this book review, I’m not going to tell you too much about the story– because it would spoil your reading experience.) Kemi adores her close-knit family, her African American artist mom, her baby sister, a baby sibling on the way, and most of all, her beloved Nigerian dad. When an asteroid threatens everyone on Earth with imminent death, Kemi and her family leave for her cousins’ house, where she starts a time capsule. The exceptional storytelling is emotional (I cried SO MUCH) and important with themes of family, racism, and values. A must-read, must-experience-for-yourself-kind-of book.
The Mona Lisa Vanishes: A Legendary Painter, a Shocking Heist, and the Birth of a Global Celebrity written by Nicholas Day, illustrated by Brett Helquist NONFICTION You will love the incredible writing, the fun illustrations, the biographical information about the curious, brilliant, and distractable Leonardo Da Vinci, the other art heists from the poorly guarded Louvre (one involving Pablo Picasso), the burgeoning science of fingerprints to replace France’s ear-measuring methodology and the surprising, eventual discovery of the Mona Lisa. Interestingly, the Mona Lisa wasn’t a well-known painting until this art heist in 1911. And the Louvre wasn’t well-attended until after this dramatic theft. The theft was dramatic because the thief simply walked out with the stolen painting tucked under his shirt. Highly recommended!
Rain Rising by Courtne Comrie REALISTIC RAIN RISING is a multilayered story about mental health , racism, family, friendship, and self-love — with a main character that you’ll cheer on through her complicated growing-up journey. Rain’s older brother Xander gets brutally attacked and barely speaks anymore. Rain can barely cope. In an after-school group, she starts to make new friends, and she slowly finds her way back to health through therapy and group support. Intense and heartbreaking and heart-putting back together, This good book for 7th graders is important, beautiful, and hard to put down.
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, illustrated by Jim Kay MAGICAL REALISM Worth reading and rereading because there are layers of meaning, skillful writing, and a haunting truthtelling that resonates with us all. Ever since Conor’s mom got breast cancer, a wild, ancient tree monster visits Conor’s nightmares. The monster demands that Conor admit the truth about his mother, but Conor refuses. In the awake world, Conor moves in with his cold, unfriendly grandmother. The metaphorical nightmare echoes Conor’s real-world experiences as we journey with him into pain, loss, and eventually, healing. Astonishing and powerful, this is one of the best books I’ve EVER read.
Gone to the Woods by Gary Paulsen MEMOIR This is a compelling, disturbing, and hopeful childhood story of hardship and survival with moments of kindness and time in nature that sustain the neglected, determined young boy. I highly recommend this book for 7th grader book clubs and 12-year-olds who like survival stories .
What Happened to Rachel Riley? by Claire Swinarski REALISTIC / SEXUAL HARASSMENT Stunning, thought-provoking, and anger-inducing, this is a superbly written story about an ostracized middle school girl and the new student determined to figure out why…It’s about sexual harassment and negligent teachers, girls touched without consent, and the path out of that shame toward justice and empowerment. I highly recommend this middle grade book for middle school book clubs and everyone!
The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera SCIENCE FICTION Petra is on a spaceship traveling to a new home after the Earth is destroyed. When Petra awakens, she learns that her parents have been killed and her brother is missing, plus all the other humans’ memories have been erased. Except for her’s! Petra is determined to foil the sinister Collective’s plan to control everyone, but she plays the part of a mind-controlled teenager and secretly shares Mexican cuentos with the other Zetas. Her determination will save not only the Zetas but possibly an entire civilization of settlers. Petra is a brave, fierce girl who shows us that we are less than human without art, music, and stories. Había una vez…
A Duet for Home by Karina Yan Glaser REALISTIC / HOMELESSNESS A powerful story with complex, three-dimensional characters about grief, family, community, and homelessness. When their family becomes homeless after her dad dies, June helps her little sister and non-speaking mom get settled at Huey House. Despite the shock of their new situation, June finds kindness from many of the people at the shelter. But when Mrs. G, their social worker gets fired for not agreeing to the city’s new homeless policies, June helps organize a protest and discovers that home isn’t a place and family isn’t always blood.
The Brave by James Bird REALISTIC When Collin, a neurodiverse boy, gets kicked out of another school, his neglectful father sends Collin to live with his mom. Collin has never met his mother but he’s curious to meet her and live on the Ojibwe reservation. Living with her is a totally different experience than his previous home — because with his mother, he’s welcomed and not judged. He befriends the neighbor girl who teaches Collin how to be brave. Which he needs. And so does she because she’s going to be a butterfly soon…
Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dees REALISTIC Middle schooler Mila is feeling trapped— a group of basketball-playing boys is getting too close, grabbing her, touching her, and then telling her that she’s imagining it. Ignoring doesn’t stop the behaviors, neither does telling an adult, telling her friends, or wearing baggier clothing. Now her toxic friend Zara is acting mad and jealous that Mila’s getting the boys’ attention. Unexpectedly, Mila finds her strength when she starts karate classes. That helps her find what works to put a stop to the harassment. This is one of the essential books for 7th graders; it should be shared widely with middle school boys and girls.
House Arrest by K.A. Holt REALISTIC You’ll feel so many emotions reading this tender, heartwarming story that shows a brave boy who feels anger, fear, worry, and love over his challenging situation. Timothy is under house arrest for the next year, living with a brother who needs constant medical care, and feeling so much pain over his big life changes. Part of his year-long punishment is to meet with a probation officer, meet with a therapist, and write in a journal which is the book we’re reading. When his little brother gets assigned an abusive new nurse, Timothy feels like even if he gets thrown in juvie, he must do something drastic to help his brother. Written in poetic verse , this great book speeds along and pulls your heart along with it.
Hands by Torrey Maldonado CONTEMPORARY (SHORT) Trev thinks a lot about throwing hands. He starts learning how to box so he can protect his mom and sisters when his stepdad gets out of jail. But when his Uncle Larry, Quick and Uncle Frankie all ask him why and encourage him to use his brain, Trev sees how fighting could make things even more of a mess. And that if he wants to have a future, he can use his hands differently than fighting, including for his drawings. Maldonado writes shorter books so keep that in mind if your 7th grader is looking for a short book.
The Ruins of Gorlan: Ranger’s Apprentice book 1 by John A. Flanagan FANTASY Will is apprenticed to become a Ranger, a job he’s unsure about. But as he develops a relationship with his master and learns what being a Ranger is all about (spying for the kingdom,) and comes to embrace his new life. When an old enemy of the kingdom sends out dangerous beasts to attack Will’s master, Will is instrumental in getting help and killing the creatures. Action, fantasy, adventure, friendship, excellent writing — this book series has it all! Ranger’s Apprentice is a must-read, mesmerizing epic fantasy.
Starfish by Lisa Fipps REALISTIC / BODY IMAGE & SIZE / VERSE Heartbreaking and inspiring, this poignant book for 7th grade readers in verse shows a girl who learns, after years of fat-shaming and bullying, to define herself not based on what others say but on who she really is. Ellie’s mom won’t buy her new clothes because she thinks it encourages Ellie’s weight gain and is pushing for a dangerous gastro-bypass surgery. Fortunately, Ellie gets support from an understanding therapist who helps her move from powerless to powerful — and accept herself as she is–beautiful and worthy.
Willa of the Wood by Robert Beatty HISTORICAL FANTASY Set in the time of early American settlers, this is a beautiful story of love about a night spirit who is still connected to the powerful wood magic of her ancestors . When Willa accidentally discovers that her clan is keeping human captives and forbidden technology, her Faeran clan leader wants her dead. Fleeing the danger of her home, Willa cautiously observes a human man, slowly learning to trust him. When she realizes that one of his children was one of the human captives she saw, Willa knows she must return to her clan and make things right.
No Place Like Home by James Bird REALISTIC / HOMELESSNESS / OJIBWE Beautiful character development, vivid details, and a strong narrative voice draw you into this story about homelessness, Ojibwe culture, growing up, family, and the love of a dog. Based on James’ childhood, Opin is a sweet, hopeful boy who lives with his mom and his older brother in their car, traveling from city to city. He adores his mother, but he’s scared of his angry, violent older brother, who comes and goes as he pleases. When Opin finds a hurt dog, the love of a dog fills a friend void for Opin–until his brother takes the dog away. Despite the challenges of Opin’s life, beauty and joy are threaded throughout this compelling story that is one of the best of 2023. *Sensitive readers, there are a few swear words.
Rare Birds by Jeff Miller REALISTIC / SAD 288 pages Graham’s mom moves them to Florida to wait for a heart transplant. When his mom gets approved, Graham stays with his mom’s friend and his angry son. Fortunately, at the hospital, he befriends a girl named Lou. When he finds his mom’s rare bird journal, Lou helps him search for the last bird on the list–the Snail Kite. But because there’s prize money for finding the bird, bully kids not only thwart them but endanger them–stranding Lou and Graham in a swamp with a giant alligator and no cell service. The friends’ search is filled with challenges, which they face with bravery and determination, including the truth about Lou. I loved the two-page chapter lengths and the emotionally resonate story of friendship and family that will make you cry.
Free Lunch by Rex Ogle REALISTIC / MEMOIR Powerful, memorable, and beautifully written for mature readers, Ogle writes about surviving his poverty and violence-filled childhood. It’s sixth grade, and every lunch, Rex must loudly announce to the hard-of-hearing lunch ladies that he gets free lunch. Not only is Rex shamed by free lunch but also his outfits and constant hunger and violent home life. It’s ultimately a story of survival that may be relatable to some readers and will build empathy in others.
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes REALISTIC This book brilliantly addresses the very real issue of police violence against black children , but it does not vilify or stereotype. The author shows us the complexity of issues and the humanity of a police officer from the perspective of his daughter. After Jerome is shot by her father, he becomes a ghost. Sarah, the policeman’s daughter, is the only one who can see and talk to him except for the other ghost boys who were also killed in racially motivated violence. It’s a well-written, fast-paced read but one that is going to stay with you as you ponder the important topics it addresses.
Lockwood & Co The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud GHOST ADVENTURE Dangerous ghosts and spirits are appearing everywhere in London, but only certain kids can see them. Teens Lucy, Anthony, and George badly need money for their ghost-hunting agency, Lockwood & Co., so they take a perilous job that, if the ghosts have their way, may just be their last. It’s also a book made into a Netflix show ! BOXED SET.
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling REALISTIC Aven Green is used to making up creative stories for why she doesn’t have any arms. Especially now in Arizona where her parents are the new managers of a rundown theme park. She befriends a boy at school who, like her, feels different and isolated from the other kids. His name is Connor and he has Tourette Syndrome. Together, he, another new friend named Zion, and Aven investigate a mysterious storage shed that connects to Aven’s past. This story is about restorative friendship, facing your fears , and discovering your true (significant) potential.
Once There Was by Kiyash Monsef FANTASY This brilliant book mesmerized me from the first page with layered storytelling, plot twists, and surprises. Marjan’s alone and the owner of her dad’s veterinary practice since he died, even though she’s only a sophomore in high school. When asked to help a sick gryffin, she’s shocked to discover her father’s secret job as a mythical creature vet. She tries to unravel the lies and secrets in her father’s life, including if he was murdered, but the world of magical creatures is confusing and filled with trickery. Marjan isn’t sure if she can trust her instincts about right and wrong…and she feels like she’s missing part of herself. Woven within the narrative story are her father’s Iranian folktales about mythical creatures. Worth every page!
Black Bird, Blue Road by Sofiya Pasternack HISTORICAL FANTASY Set in the historical Turkic Jewish empire of Khazaria, Ziva’s beloved twin brother with leprosy continues to deteriorate , and she learns he’ll be taken by her uncle, so she steals him away to search for a cure. Along their journey, they meet a half-demon boy who tells them about a mythical city where the Angel of Death can not enter. They journey toward the city and Ziva clings to the hope that the city will be the answer to everything. She’ll bargain and beg with Death, but ultimately, she’ll have to accept that in life, we all must die. This feels like an epic adventure and will sure to be a favorite new book.
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir HISTORICAL / FANTASY Part historical (ancient Rome) and part fantasy, Elias and Laia live in a world that enslaves them both in different ways — Elias with fighting and Laia with serving and spying. This is an epic page-turning series with lots of mystery, action, and a hint of romance. It’s SO good that it’s one of the most popular YA books right now but one that could be read by younger readers in 7th grade.
The Fort by Gordon Korman (his 100th book!) REALISTIC Tension-filled, disturbing, and powerful, this story alternates the points of view of a group of boys who are each dealing with their own struggles including poverty, OCD, bullying, and domestic abuse. When the boys discover an abandoned bomb shelter in the forest, they make it their fort, which becomes a special and safe place. When one boy, the outsider who isn’t friends with everyone yet, figures out what’s happening with the abused boy who is secretly sleeping in the fort, all the friends try to help him, but it’s tricky and complicated.
Barren Grounds: The Misewa Saga by David A. Robertson FANTASY / INDIGENOUS CULTURE Foster kids with Indigenous heritage , Morgan and Eli, discover a portal in the attic leading to a magical world of Cree language and mythology. It’s a world with talking animals who walk on two legs and need their help. Ochek, the Fischer, asks the kids to end the starving community’s forever winter by finding the human man who stole all the birds and, with them, summer. Their dangerous quest triggers Morgan’s memories of her mother and a new perspective on who she is. The children travel far with their new friends and experience danger and trials in order to save this beautiful world.
How To Find What You’re Not Looking For by Veera Hiranandani HISTORICAL FICTION In a beautiful story of family, love, and forgiveness, a Jewish girl named Ariel’s older sister falls in love and runs away to marry a Hindu boy after the Loving vs. Virginia verdict. Ariel misses her sister terribly, but her parents refuse to talk about her sister or let Ariel have her sister’s contact information. Meanwhile, Ariel’s teacher thinks she has a learning disability called dysgraphia but Ariel’s mom refuses to consider it. Her teacher encourages her to write poetry which helps her express her feelings.
Legend of the Dream Giants by Dustin Hansen FANTASY Gorgeous, sensory writing fills the pages of this beautifully-crafted story about a young, naive giant named Berg who is searching for his place in the world. He doesn’t want to be like the monstrous but because he’s so innocent, he’s tricked and becomes a prisoner of a town. This one of my favorite books for 7th graders about trust, hope, belonging, friendship, and truth.
Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson SCI-FI I love this unique world with its plot twists and turns. E pics are super-powerful, evil god-like creatures who control the world’s cities . Because David’s father was killed by Chicago’s Epic named Steelheart, David wants revenge. He joins the rebel group, the Reckoners, to learn how to assassinate Steelheart– a next to impossible feat for a regular human like him. This is a page-turning, mesmerizing YA book series. Boxed Set HERE .
Children of the Fox by Kevin Sands FANTASY ADVENTURE Callan’s a gaffer who joins a group of kids who are hired by a Weaver to steal something magical called the Eye. It’s a tricky job with not enough time to plan and all the kids know it’s dangerous but the monetary reward is too tempting. The misfits use their individual skills including climbing, mapping, acrobatics, and knife throwing to plan a heist in less than a week. It’s an exciting, complex, and unexpected plot involving magic and mythological gods from the stories with themes of problem-solving, friendship, and trust that ends with both an amazing resolution and a cliffhanger.
Escape from Atlantis by Kate O’Hearn ADVENTURE Don’t miss this wildly inventive, exciting, and thought-provoking adventure. Riley, her dad, her cousin, and her aunt are sailing in the Bermuda Triangle when they’re attacked by a leviathan. Riley and her unpleasant cousin, Alfie, wake up on an island with overly friendly, rule-centered people including half-animal people. They soon learn the sinister truth of the rule-centric community and are determined to escape. What a great book for 7th graders!
Across the Desert by Dusti Bowling REALISTIC / DRUG ADDICTION Across the Desert is a stunning story about a brave girl who has been secretly dealing with her mother’s opioid addiction. Jolene is the only person who knows that her only friend Addie has crashed her ultralight plane alone in the middle of the desert. So Jolene steals her mom’s phone and credit card to takes the bus as close as she can to Addie’s location. On the bus, she meets a kind and helpful teenager named Marty who, despite Jolene’s reluctance and mistrust, helps Jolene. The story is about trust, relationships, boundaries, addiction, survival, and family; it’s also an emotional journey of inner and outer strength that leads to hope and healing.
Taking Up Space by Alyson Gerber REALISTIC / BODY DYSMORPHIA & EATING DISORDERS Sarah’s mom’s dysfunctional relationship with food is affecting Sarah– who now thinks that her slowness in basketball is related to eating too much or too many “unhealthy” foods, instead of being from the normal growing pains of puberty. She’s confused, starving herself, and stressed out. Finally, a friend pushes Sarah to get help…and, help is just what Sarah needs to understand the truth about her body, what health truly is, and how her mom’s disordered eating has affected her. EXCELLENT!
The Fire, The Water, and Maudie McGinn by Sally J. Pla Maudie is an autistic girl staying with her father for the summer but a California fire forces them from their cabin. She and her dad head south to where her dad grew up. A friend sets them up in an old camper at a campground near the beach. While her dad looks for work, Maudie works up her courage to ask an older surfer woman for lessons. She spends the summer worrying about her big secret and learning to surf, hoping to win the beginning surfer competition at the end of the summer. Maudie makes a new friend who is friendly and neurodiverse like her. All of these things help her consider that she is more than what her mom and her abusive stepdad think of her. This is a moving coming of age story of a girl who learns to thrive instead of survive.
96 Miles by J.L. Esplin SURVIVAL “ Dad always said if things get desperate, it’s okay to drink the water in the toilet bowl. ” Isn’t this a great first sentence? An apocalyptic event has happened, there’s no electricity, the brothers are alone, and all their dad and their survival supplies are stolen at gunpoint. Now John and Stewart are on the road trying to get to a friend’s ranch for their supplies. It’s not going well–they’ve picked up a girl and her little brother, not to mention Stewart is nonstop fighting with John. If you like survival stories, sibling stories, and adventure, this is a great choice.
Attack of the Black Rectangles by A.S. King REALISTIC Multi-layered and compelling with themes of censorship, family, crushes, and growing up… 6th grade Mac lives in a town that bans Halloween, pizza delivery, bright house colors, and staying out past curfew. At school, his book group notices that certain words and phrases are blacked out in The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen. Mac and his friends Denis and Marci decide to find the original and fight back.
A First Time for Everything by Dan Santat MEMOIR In this memoir, Dan describes a transformative trip during the summer before high school that helped him grow from awkward and insecure to confident and outgoing. The trip gave the students lots of freedom. He tries beer and cigarettes. He meets a cute girl and finds the courage to get to know her, even sharing a kiss. He falls in love with the cultures and languages, too. Readers will probably want their own European experiences, too. Although, I hope that the kids would be better supervised than Dan was!
Omar Rising by Aisha Saeed REALISTIC A superb book of determination, resiliency, and community set in Pakistan . Omar gets a scholarship to attend a prestigious Pakistani boarding school, a step in fulfilling his dream of becoming an astronomer and buying his mom a house. But, his hopes are dashed when he’s told that scholarship students must work, must get A+ grades, and can’t do sports or clubs. Omar is grateful for his new friends and teachers but he’s worried he’ll lose it all, so he studies all the time, even asking for tutoring help from the strict headmaster. Despite his efforts, his grades aren’t enough and he gets kicked out. Until, his classmates support him with a walk-out and the headmaster gets the board to change their mind, and the rules.
The Door by the Staircase by Katherine Marsh, illustrations by Kelly Murphy FANTASY / FAIRY TALE Middle schoolers will LOVE this fantastic Baba Yaga story about a brave and smart orphan girl, Mary, who wants a home, even if it’s with Baba Yaga. She just has to figure out how to be sure Baba Yaga won’t eat her, and she does so with help from her friend Jacob and MAGIC!
Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt REALISTIC Joseph is an abused boy with a violent father, a parent at age thirteen, and is now living as a foster kid with Jack’s family on their organic farm . As he learns to trust them, we slowly learn about Joseph’s deep love for a rich girl named Maddie, his daughter named Jupiter, who he’s never seen, and his shattering heartbreak. This is an amazing story– painful yet filled with redemption and hope — beautifully written and one that will give readers so much to ponder.
Front Desk by Kelly Yang REALISTIC Mia and her parents have struggled ever since moving to America from China. When her parents take a new live-in job at a motel, they end up working around the clock for very little pay. Mia helps out by working at the front desk. She befriends the weekly tenants and uses her English skills to write letters advocating other people in tough spots— like her uncle whose sweatshop boss has taken his passport and weekly, Hank, who needs a letter of recommendation to get a job. This book is more than a memorable coming-of-age immigrant story, it’s also about tolerance and diversity and a must-read story you won’t soon forget.
Winterhouse by Ben Guterson, illustrated by Chloe Bristol MYSTERY Elizabeth, an orphan, is unexpectedly sent to a large, stately hotel with a kind, grandfatherly proprietor for Christmas vacation. There, she discovers a magical book, a sinister couple, a family mystery , and a new friend who loves puzzles as much as she does. The writing is mesmerizing, the mystery is fascinating, and the characters are enchanting.
See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng REALISTIC Luminous and heartfelt, 11-year-old Alex Petroski’s story will grab your heart and expand it. His dream is to launch a rocket into space with his iPod of recordings about life on earth. The story is a transcription of what he records on the iPod — his solo journey to the rocket convention, the interesting people he befriends on the way and there, his trip Las Vegas to find information about his deceased father, and his unique, innocent perspective that tries to make sense of the world.
Unwanteds by Lisa McMann FANTASY In this society, you are sorted as Wanted, Necessary, and Unwanted. Alex is an Unwanted and is sent to die. But instead of death, Alex is rescued by a magician who has created a secret, magical haven for the Unwanteds where they live and train to use their magic skills. I love the creative magical characters in this world, like Alex’s art teacher — an octagator! Here’s the problem — Alex is a twin whose brother is a Wanted. Alex risks the safety of his new home to see his twin in the old world. His actions reveal the secret world and war breaks out.
Sara and the Search for Normal by Wesley King REALISTIC / MENTAL ILLNESS Sara wants to be cured of her mental illnesses and be “normal” like other kids so she makes rules for herself. She hates her out-of-control brain but begins group therapy where she makes a friend; a friend who is covered in hidden bruises. Sara and Erin think of themselves as Star Children, kids wth alien DNA. It’s profoundly sad to witness Sara’s self-loathing. For readers, it’s a valuable opportunity to see inside Sara’s mind and how painful it is to have an invisible disease.
The Van Gogh Deception by Deron Hicks MYSTERY / ADVENTURE Written like an adult suspense novel, this is one of the best edge-of-your-seat mystery books for middle grade that I’ve ever read. The author jumps around, showing various incidents and people. You’ll have no idea what is going on or what will happen next. A boy with no memory is found at the National Gallery staring at a Degas sculpture. Strangely, this boy does know a great deal about art and artists. Soon we learn he’s being hunted by a team of professional bad guys. The boy, Art, and his foster sister escape from several kidnapping attempts and begin to unravel who he is and what’s going on.
Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel by Jason Reynolds REALISTIC / GRAPHIC NOVEL An illustrated version of Jason Reynolds’ free verse book about Will, a teenager who witnesses his own brother get shot. He needs to follow The Rules and take revenge on the killer. But, as he travels seven floors in an elevator, each level provides an encounter with a deceased person, and their conversations halt Will’s plans and reveal to him the bigger story of what really happened with his brother.
Bomb by Steve Sheinkin, illustrated by Nick Bertozzi HISTORY / GRAPHIC NOVEL Three major storylines depict the significant historical events around the making of the atomic bomb : the Germans breaking the atom, the spy who was caught after giving the Russians the American plans for a nuclear bomb, and the American scientists working in New Mexico at a secret site to develop the atomic bomb. The stories are fascinating, more so because they’re based on actual events, but I did get bogged down with some of the science. Sheinkin and Bertozzi successfully capture the urgency scientists felt to compete with other countries and their singular focus. *some bad language
Bloom by Kenneth Oppel SCI-FI Get ready for a wild ride of suspense, action, adventure, science fiction, and coolness!! Bloom tells the story of three kids who are not affected by the strange-looking plants that appear out of nowhere and take over land all over the world, covering houses and streets, swallowing animals and people but doing nothing to these kids. Scientists figure out that the plants are an alien invasion…and think these kids may be the only chance they have to stop them. To avoid spoilers, I’ll just tell you that it’s an AWESOME story…and ends on a crazy cliffhanger.
Sky Full of Song by Susan Lynn Meyer HISTORICAL FICTION Shoshana, her mom, and her siblings flee Jewish persecution in Ukraine in 1905 for North Dakota to a mud house on the plains with her father and brother. But being Jewish isn’t always accepted, even in this new country. And Shoshana wants to fit in so much that she agrees to participate in the Christmas activities. Ultimately, Shoshana learns (with a little help from her sister Libke) to be proud of being Jewish, even when others don’t accept her. Stunning writing with a loveable main character makes this a middle grade book that you won’t want to miss.
The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman REALISTIC Set in India, Viji writes this story as letters to you, her little sister Rukku who has intellectual disabilities. Viji tells how the two of them ran away from an abusive father to the big city where they met two friendly brothers and lived with them under a bridge, scrabbling to survive by collecting trash. Their lives are hard but made easier by the two boys, their new “brothers.” When Rukku gets a terrible cough and fever, so does one of the brothers. And what happens next almost destroys Viji. Ultimately, it is the kindness of her new “family” that helps her to see more than misery in the world. It’s an honest, eye-opening story that reveals the plight of many homeless children in India and yet, finds a way to be hopeful, too.
Booked by Kwame Alexander REALISTIC Alexander skillfully writes about the teenage human condition — he just gets it! 12-year old Nick struggles with his parents’ separation, a school bully, and the awkwardness of a first crush. The only thing that feels right is soccer. That is until he gets injured and can’t play. Written in free verse, this is a lyrical, fast-paced story that feels honest and relatable.
Wink by Rob Harrell REALISTIC / CANCER A funny cancer memoir for kids who like humorous but emotion-filled stories. When Ross is diagnosed with a rare kind of tumor, he immediately starts radiation treatment. His eye is goopy, he has to wear a hat, and his hair starts falling out in clumps– made funny with his cartoon drawings. A goofy, kind-hearted radiation tech gets Ross interested in alternative punk music, and in order to impress a girl, Ross asks the tech for guitar lessons. Turns out, the guitar and his new music, help Ross both express his frustrations and find his joy, leading to some surprising results.
Not an E asy Win by Chrystal B. Giles REALISTIC Lawrence has been beaten up by a group of bullies, blamed for the fighting, and kicked out of the mostly-white school. His Granny tells him he can’t stick around the house. A kind, older neighbor takes Lawrence to his work at the local rec center where Lawrence helps out while doing online school and learning to play chess. P Through the wisdom of his neighbor and learning to focus on chess, Lawrence finds purpose and inner fortitude that leads to his success in life and in chess.
Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson REALISTIC / VERSE Written in verse with precise text, this is an important book to bring awareness to CTE as well as show families in grief. ZJ’s professional football player dad is changing. He’s stopped playing, gets terrible headaches, surprising anger outbursts, and forgets ZJ’s name. ZJ contrasts this with memories of his dad before the ever after; the before dad who played with ZJ, made him breakfast, and treated his friends like family. Now, there are a lot of doctor’s appointments and not much hope. It’s real, raw, and profoundly sad to watch ZJ slowly lose the dad he once knew.
Invisible by Christina Diaz Gonzalez, illustrated by Gabriela Epstein REALISTIC /GRAPHIC NOVEL Spanish-speaking kids are thrown together to complete before-school community service hours. When the kids notice the homeless mom and her child living in a van, they try to help with leftover food. But they get into trouble with the mean cafeteria lady who thinks they’re stealing and watches them like they’re delinquents. This is a story about kindness, racism, differences, and marginalized individuals — both non-English speakers and homeless individuals. It’s excellent, and I love the Spanish dialogue written first with English-translated text second.
Violets Are Blue by Barbara Dee REALISTIC / DIVORCE / ADDICTION Wren’s mom is skipping work, sleeping more, and not eating. Despite her mom’s strange behavior, Wren finds purpose in doing special FX makeup. At school, her new friends convince her to do the makeup for the school musical, Wicked. Then, her mom’s situation reaches a breaking point and Wren discovers the secret her mom’s been keeping — she has an opioid addiction. As usual, Dee writes about difficult topics, in this case, addiction and divorce, in a compelling, relatable story with complex, sympathetic characters, and an interesting plot.
Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds REALISTIC (SHORT) Ten short stories tell about the lives of different kids after their middle school day ends. With complex backstories and incredible depth of character development, Reynold’s fiction feels truthful… so much so that I’m so very glad that I’m not in middle school anymore. What kinds of topics are these kids dealing with? Bullying , fear of dogs, parents who have cancer, stealing, comedian goals, OCD, skateboarding, and friendships. Some stories are funny, some are serious, and all ring true.
Snow White: A Graphic Novel by Matt Phelan GRAPHIC NOVEL / FAIRY TALE In this reimagined Snow White story, set in New York City in the 1920s, Snow White’s dad is a Wall Street king, her stepmother is a Zigfield Follies star, and her seven small protectors are street kids. It’s SO interesting how Phelan uses this historical setting to animate a familiar fairy tale. The black and white illustrations set the tone for this dark story with a happy ending
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Danger and Other Unknown Risks by Ryan North and Erica Henderson review by Jemma Taylor ADVENTURE / GRAPHIC NOVEL This book is genuinely one of my new favorite graphic novels EVER. The world collapsed on New Year’s Day of the year 2000, but not because of technology; because magic became real. Billions died, electricity became a thing of the past, and everyone had to rebuild their lives in the new post-apocalyptic society. Everything sucks, but Marguerite is the chosen one who will save the world. (Or is she?) With visually stunning art, a creative setting, and a fantastic story, I cannot recommend this book enough.
Sweep by Jonathan Auxier HISTORICAL MAGICAL REALISM Set in Victorian London, this is a beautiful, bittersweet story about a plucky girl and her protector golem . When another sweep tries to burn Nan alive, a charcoal golem emerges to save her life. She and her protector golem find a new place to live but must stay vigilant so her old master doesn’t find them. On their own, they are helped by a street boy and a kind Jewish teacher. This is an irresistible story that will expand your heart.
Boy, Everywhere by A.M. Dassu IMMIGRATION Sami’s family flees from modern Syrian life to detention in England and a new home in England with hateful relatives. We feel Sami’s emotions every step of this journey — from thinking about playing video games and soccer to his worry about capsizing in an overcrowded boat in the ocean and to blaming himself for his mom and sister being at the mall when it was bombed. In sharing his experiences, readers will see how much they can relate to Sami who is just a regular kid trying to be safe.
Mockingbir d by Kathryn Erskine REALISTIC Caitlin’s brother Devon is killed in a school shooting, leaving Caitlin, who has Aspergers, to make sense of the world on her own, without his compassionate and understanding guidance. Her father isn’t helpful, he’s lost in his grief. So when Caitlin reads about grief and closure, she decides to go after closure in a literal, hands-on way. And it will help both her and her father build their relationship and let go of Devon. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read — so powerful and honest.
Book Lists By Age
Easy Reader Books for 5- and 6- year olds Beginning / Easy Chapter Books for 6- and 7- Year Olds Books for 3rd graders, 8-year olds Books for 4th graders, 9-year olds Books for 5th graders, 10-year olds Books for 6th graders, 11-year olds Books for 7th graders, 12-year olds YA Books
Book Lists By Genre
Adventure Books for Kids Fantasy Books for Kids Funny Books for Kids Historical Fiction Books for Kids Mystery Books for Kids Nonfiction Books for Kids Realistic Books for Kids Science Fiction Books for Kids ALL Picture Book Reviews
Melissa Taylor, MA, is the creator of Imagination Soup. She's a mother, former teacher & literacy trainer, and freelance education writer. She writes Imagination Soup and freelances for publications online and in print, including Penguin Random House's Brightly website, USA Today Health, Adobe Education, Colorado Parent, and Parenting. She is passionate about matching kids with books that they'll love.
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Thanks for this great list! Have you read My Life As A Potato? It’s a fun one for this age too.
I have seen it but not read it. Sounds like I should! Thanks, Kim!
I love reading so much! I have not seen a majority of these books. I feel that it is has a great variety of books listed. I can’t wait to read these!
I hope you find lots of books that you love!
- Books for children
32 best books for 9 – 12-year-olds
These books for nine, ten, eleven and twelve-year-olds are sure to keep readers captivated and inspire more independent reading..
With new schools, friendships and their growing independence to navigate, the pre-teen years can be a challenging and exciting time for kids and parents alike. If you're looking for book recommendations for the middle-grade reader in your life, check out our edit of the best books for nine, ten, eleven and twelve-year-olds. With tales of magic, mystery and adventure, there's a book on the list every kid is sure to love.
If you're looking for more great recommendations for kids, discover our list of the best new children's books for every age, or for readers that are a little older our edit of the best YA books is full of this year's must-reads.
Books for 9+ year olds
The ice children, by m. g. leonard.
The Ice Children is an exciting, modern, magical mystery adventure inspired by classic fairy tale 'The Snow Queen'. On a cold December dawn, young Finn Albedo is inexplicably frozen at a park, yet he remains alive. His situation appears to be tied to a vanished enchanting book. Finn's sister, Bianca, grows alarmed as more 'Ice Children' cases come to light. With time running out, Bianca navigates a dangerous winter world, which deceives with its beauty. Can Bianca unravel the truth and rescue the Ice Children, including her brother, from their freezing fate?
The Boy With Wings
By sir lenny henry.
Comic Lenny Henry has written a suitably laugh-out-loud adventure story for readers of 9 to 12 years, with dazzling illustrations throughout by Keenon Ferrell. Tunde has some problems with the school bully, but when he sprouts wings and realises his true mission is to save the Earth, school becomes the least of his problems. Flying high in the face of danger, Tunde is the boy with wings.
The Umbrella Mouse
By anna fargher.
A Second World War story with a difference: in this timeless middle-grade tale, we meet Pip Hanway, a young mouse whose world is turned upside down when a bomb destroys her home. This story of courage, resistance and friendship will teach children about the impact of war, while taking them on a journey with a lovable cast of furry characters. Pip returns for more adventures in the sequel Umbrella Mouse to the Rescue .
The Highland Falcon Thief
and Sam Sedgman
The first book in a new mystery series for middle-grade readers, The Highland Falcon stars Harrison Beck, who, while on a seemingly dull train journey through Scotland, finds himself on the trail of a priceless missing brooch. This intriguing locked-room mystery is sure to keep young readers guessing as they try to help Harrison identify the thief and save the day. The adventure rolls on with the rest of the books high-speed series: Kidnap on the California Comet , Murder on the Safari Star and Danger at Dead Man's Pass .
The Breakfast Club Adventures
By marcus rashford.
The first novel by everyone's favourite international footballer, child food-poverty campaigner and #1 bestselling author. Written with Alex Falase-Koya, Marcus Rashford tells a story strongly influenced by his own childhood. Something odd is happening at school . . . When twelve-year-old Marcus boots his football over the school fence, he knows it's never coming back. But the next morning Marcus gets a mysterious note inviting him to join the Breakfast Club Investigators, and fun and adventure beckons in a bid to reclaim the ball.
The Book of Legends: What if all the stories were real?
From comedy legend Lenny Henry comes the story of two ordinary kids who are about to go on one extraordinary adventure! Bran and Fran love living with their mum, who is the storyteller at the Once Upon a Wow bookstore in their small Midlands town. But when mum goes missing and her stories turn out to be a portal to another world, they're going to have a huge, magical adventure on their hands. Luckily, they have Wilma, the Wizard's Wife, and Zack, the wisecracking Zebracorn, to help them on their journey . . .
The Cloud Horse Chronicles: Guardians of Magic
By chris riddell.
This is the first illustrated book in Chris Riddell’s magical adventure series The Cloudhorse Chronicles. The Guardians of Magic are three children who have no idea how powerful they really are. In their world, enemies of magic are working together to destroy it. Can Zam, Phoebe and Bathsheba believe in the impossible and fight back? If they don’t, soon magic and the mysterious cloud horses will be gone forever.
A Dinosaur Ate My Sister
By pooja puri.
Illustrated by Allen Fatimaharan
A Dinosaur Ate My Sister is the first book selected in the Marcus Rashford Book Club .
Esha Verma, her snotty apprentice Broccoli and his cunning pet tortoise have a dream. They are going to win the legendary Brain Trophy – the ultimate inventing prize. This year's entry: A TIME MACHINE. But the day before the competition, Esha's IGNORAMUS big sister hijacks the time machine and gets lost in the Cretaceous age. With help from a new recruit for The Office of Time, Esha and Broccoli will have to face hungry dinosaurs, mysterious black holes and malfunctioning inventions to get them back in time . . .
Peanut Jones and the Twelve Portals
By rob biddulph.
Some legends are born, some are drawn . . . This second title in the funny, exciting adventure series for boys and girls of 8 to 12 fizzes with magic, danger, friendship and art. Famous works of art are disappearing from all over the world, and Peanut Jones and her friends suspect it might have something to do with the magical world of Chroma and the wicked Mr White's plot to wipe out colour, art and creativity. It's time to head back to the Illustrated City and help the resistance fight back.
By katie tsang and kevin tsang.
Expect mythical beasts, brave adventurers and lots of peril in Dragon Mountains , the first book in Katie and Kevin Tsang's new fantasy series. Young readers will love this brilliant new fantasy story's brave characters, epic dragon battles and mountainous Chinese setting.
Coming to England
By floella benjamin.
Illustrated by Joelle Avelino
Floella Benjamin was just a young girl when she, her sister and two brothers arrived in England in 1960 to join their parents, whom they had not seen for fifteen months. They had left their island home of Trinidad to make a new life in London – part of a whole generation of West Indians who were encouraged to move to Britain and help rebuild the country after the Second World War.
With a foreword by the author and some additional historical information, this is the incredible story of Floella's journey from Trinidad to London, as part of the Windrush generation, to the House of Lords. It is gloriously illustrated throughout by Joelle Avelino, perfect for readers aged nine years and over.
By frank cottrell-boyce.
Packed with mystery, adventure and laughs, Noah's Gold is the exciting new novel from the bestselling author of Millions and Runaway Robot , Frank Cottrell-Boyce. Eleven-year-old Noah sneaks along on his big sister's geography field trip, but everything quickly goes wrong, and six kids end up marooned on an uninhabited island - disaster! Until Noah discovers a treasure map and the gang goes in search of gold.
Books for 10+ year olds
You have the power, by leah williamson.
Leah Williamson, captain of the England women's football team, encourages us to be leaders and follow our dreams in You Have the Power. In 2022, Leah led the Lionesses to victory in the European Championships. Now, she shares her positive guide for life to show you really can achieve anything you put your mind to – both on and off the pitch. Filled with stories from Leah's own life as well as practical and helpful advice, this is the perfect read for any child looking to be empowered by a brilliant female role model.
by Gary Paulsen
Another compelling read from Gary Paulsen, the bestselling writer of Hatchet . Leif is an orphan who lives in a small fishing village, on a wild coast where the seas rage. When a plague approaches, he leaves in a cedar canoe, heading north along the fjords and paddling from one peril to the next. And as he journeys, Leif discovers his authentic self, connecting to the heartbeat of the sea itself. This is a wonderful historical adventure, which conjures up Norse myths and legends.
By dapo adeola.
Joyful, Joyful is a book to sing about: a colour-illustrated collection of stories and poems celebrating joy, showcasing forty talented Black writers and artists from across the world. Beautifully illustrated with artwork from an array of talented illustrators, alongside stories and poems by the likes of Malorie Blackman, Alex Wheatle, Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé and Dorothy Koomson, Joyful, Joyful is perfect for readers age 8-11, but can be enjoyed by all ages.
Greenwild: The World Behind The Door
By pari thomson.
An extraordinary fantasy book with an environmental twist and a mystery at its heart. Daisy Thistledown has escaped from boarding school and is trying to find her missing mother. Her search takes her across London and through a hidden doorway into a world bursting with plants and magic: the Greenwild. But it soon becomes clear that all is not well. Can Daisy revive the Greenwild, save our world, and solve the mystery of her mother's disappearance? A botanical genius, a boy who can talk to animals and cat with an attitude are on-hand to help.
by Roald Dahl
No list of the best books for children aged nine to twelve would be complete with Roald Dahl's Matilda . Children will be delighted to discover Matilda's magic powers, Miss Honey's kindness and Miss Trunchbull's wicked ways for the very first time. And parents will enjoy taking a walk down memory lane – and hoping they didn't end up like the grown-ups in the story!
The Girl of Ink & Stars
By kiran millwood hargrave.
Kiran Millwood Hargrave creates a mythical fantasy world filled with intriguing characters, incredible detail and tons of adventure in The Girl of Ink and Stars . This award-winning book for nine to twelve-year-olds is perfect for young readers who are intrigued by all things magical and dream of embarking on their own mythical adventures.
The Orphans of St Halibut's
By sophie wills.
With stolen cakes, massive explosions, and interfering Inspectors to hide from, life is certainly never boring for The Orphans of St Halibut's . This chapter book, which is the first in a new series from Sophie Willis and David Tazzyman, will have kids and adults alike laughing out loud as the crew of crafty kids try to outsmart the nosy adults and save their home.
You Are A Champion
By marcus rashford with carl anka.
'There is no finish line when it comes to your dreams.'
You Are A Champion will empower young people to develop positive thinking, build mental resilience, learn how to navigate adversity and, ultimately, achieve their full potential.
Written with journalist Carl Anka, You Are A Champion is the empowering and life-changing first children’s book from Marcus Rashford MBE. It is full of practical advice and engaging illustrations and infographics, including input from performance psychologist Katie Warriner.
By lauren st john.
Twins Jess and Jude Carter live a dream life sailing from one exotic destination to the next with their guardian, Gabriel. But after Gabe vanishes and a storm smashes up their lives, they’re left penniless and alone. When a wealthy, glamorous family offer them a home, everybody tells them they’re the luckiest children in the world. But the Blakeneys’ stately mansion is full of secrets – secrets that seem entangled with the twins’ own fate. As they race to uncover the truth, Jess and Jude must confront their deepest fears.
My Big Mouth
By steven camden.
Illustrated by Chanté Timothy
When Dad leaves, ten-year-old Jay has questions.
Where has he gone?
Why did he go?
When no one can give Jay the answers he needs, he makes up his own stories, setting off a chain reaction that sees regular old Jay go from just another face in the crowd, to the centre of attention. But being the coolest kid in school comes at a cost. And as things spiral out of control, can the most unlikely person help him learn the most important lesson of all?
Return to Wonderland
Enjoy a twist on Lewis Caroll's Alice in Wonderland with this collection of contemporary short stories, each based on the classic tale. Young readers will love finding out what would have happened if Alice hadn't fallen down the rabbit hole, whether the Mad Hatter still goes for tea, and if Tweedledum and Tweedledee ever solve their argument.
Books for 11+ year olds
The shadows of rookhaven, by pádraig kenny.
in the long-awaited sequel to The Monsters of Rookhaven , shadows are gathering over Rookhaven. It is the time of The Great Configuration, a once in a hundred years event. Family and monsters descend on Rookhaven from all over the country to take part. But amid the guests there is an interloper. One who is disguised and has an eye on their destruction. Meanwhile Mirabelle – part human, part monster – discovers that to those from outside Rookhaven she is not considered family at all . . .
Owl and the Lost Boy
By amy wilson.
Owl and the Lost Boy is the follow up to Amy Wilson's hugely popular middle-grade fantasy novel, A Girl Called Owl . A sparkling tale of friendship, this charming and magical story will be loved by children who are captivated by nature and the great outdoors.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
By j.k. rowling.
The book that inspired millions of children to become avid readers – as well as launching Hollywood smash-hit movies, theme parks and an annual day to celebrate its protagonist's birthday (July 31st) – needs no introduction. Perfect for more confident readers to read alone, or for you to enjoy together as a family (the audiobook, read by Stephen Fry, is fantastic too): every child aged nine to twelve should have a copy on their bookshelf.
The Marcus Rashford You Are a Champion Action Planner
An interactive guide, packed full of fun and engaging activities and challenges as well as brilliant advice, The Marcus Rashford You Are a Champion Action Planner is the perfect way to get kids reading and empower them to achieve their dreams. Having already inspired millions of children around the world with his guide for life, You Are a Champion , this new book cements Marcus Rashford's place as the ultimate role model for young readers.
The Swallows' Flight
By hilary mckay.
From the Costa Award-winning author Hilary McKay, The Swallows' Flight is a moving WWII story of family and friendship on opposite sides of a devastating conflict. Erik and Hans are German boys. Ruby and Kate are English girls. They grow up in worlds that would never meet, until war tumbles their lives together. This clever and compassionate story is the stunning companion novel to The Skylarks' War .
Books for 12+ year olds
Are you there, god it's me, margaret, by judy blume.
There's nothing like the shock of recognition, and relief, that comes from realising that you're not the first or only person who feels the way you feel. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret is a bold, empathetic exploration of what it's like being a teenage girl who feels that they don't quite fit in. Originally published in 1970, it's a timeless YA classic, and is now a major film starring Rachel McAdams ( Mean Girls , The Notebook ) and Abby Ryder Fortson ( Ant-Man ).
Vega Jane and the End of Time
By david baldacci.
Bestselling storyteller David Baldacci wraps up his epic fantasy adventure series with this fourth book centring on Vega Jane. She has tried to escape and elude her enemy, but now the showdown Vega Jane has feared is finally upon her: with her ragged group of friends and fighters, she must stand up against a fully trained army. This is a fast-paced breathtaking tale, illustrated throughout in black and white.
Journey to the River Sea
By eva ibbotson.
Maia, an orphan, can't wait to reach her distant relatives a thousand miles up the Amazon. She imagines a loving family with whom she will share great adventures. Instead she finds two spiteful cousins who see the jungle as the enemy and refuse to go outdoors. But the wonders of the rainforest more than make up for the hideous twins and their parents. And when Maia meets a mysterious boy who lives alone on the wild river shores, she begins a spectacular journey to the heart of an extraordinary and beautiful new world.
by Frances Hardinge
In a world where anyone can cast a life-destroying curse, only one person has the power to unravel them. Kellen does not fully understand his unique gift, but helps those who are cursed, like his friend Nettle who was trapped in the body of a bird for years. She is now Kellen's constant companion and his closest ally. But the Unraveller carries a curse himself and, unless he and Nettle can remove it, Kellen is a danger to everything – and everyone – around him . . .
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Beyond the Bookends
A Book Blog for Women and Moms who Love to Read
Book Lists for 12-Year-Olds
Are you a lover of middle-grade fiction? Then you’ve come to the right place! We’ve got an amazing selection of book lists for 12-year-olds to enjoy. Scroll down to find your next favorite read!
Table of Contents
The Best Books for 12-Year-Olds
If you don’t know where to start on your middle-grade book journey, this is the list for you.
It includes 40+ mini book reviews separated by sub-genre from spy books to historical fiction to non-fiction, sports, and more. With easy navigation tools and great book recommendations, this is the list you’ll come back to again and again.
For more middle-grade reads, scroll down to see our full collection of book lists for 12-year-olds!
New and Upcoming Releases
The hottest newest and upcoming books for 12-year-olds so you can find the latest book releases by month or season.
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More Book Lists for 12-Year-Olds
The book lists below are carefully curated with our favorite middle-grade books. You’ll find posts featuring books about camp, spies, mysteries, candy, WW2, Holiday books, and more.
Have a special request? Drop a comment or send us an email to let us know if you want a customized list based on your favorite book or sub-genre.
Which book lists for 12-year-olds are your favorite? Did you find anything you are dying to read?
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12 Can't-Put-Down Books for 12 Year Olds
In order to make this list of books for 12 year olds I decided to poke around my tween's bookshelf to see what he was reading! I can't believe my kid is already 12 years old! I started making these book lists based on what he was reading with 8 books for an 8 year old boy . And now look where we are!
I picked titles on a variety of topics, as I tend to do, and tried to choose books your own 12 year old might not have read yet, but I know will enjoy no matter what their interest! Middle grade books are generally aimed for 8-12 year olds, but I've chosen books in the 10-14 age range ( in my opinion ). Plus, there are more lists with books for 12 year olds at the bottom of this post.
Please note: while in general you can be confident that I have read every book I recommend, in this case there are several books on this list which my kid has read, but I have not read yet. However, I chatted with my 12 year old and read professional reviews so I feel very confident recommending them! (Note: covers and titles are affiliate links.)
Books for 12 Year olds
More books for 12 year olds:
- Classic books for tweens
- Graphic novels for grades 4-8
- 6th grade summer reading list (with a global emphasis)
- Thrilling historical fiction for kids
- 11 books for 11 year olds
- Check out the index of all our book lists .
January 16, 2017 at 11:59 pm
Love this! I teach 7th grade. I have a huge classroom library and book talk at least one book to my class each school day. You list is awesome because I have only heard of one of them! I love having more new ideas of tried and true books for this age! Thank you!
January 22, 2017 at 11:24 am
I'm so glad you found some new books!
January 24, 2017 at 11:32 am
Thanks for the list! As a librarian, I know of the books that get great reviews, but not always of the books that kids are reading and loving.
January 31, 2017 at 6:07 am
I'm glad you found the list useful.
Alison at NOVA Frugal Family says
February 28, 2017 at 6:37 pm
My son already read all of the books in the Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales so I was looking to see if there were an other books that might be good for him. The hardest part is he is 8 so the subject material is a little tougher to judge then the reading level. I just might have to look a few of these up now at the library!! Thanks for the tips.
March 01, 2017 at 11:45 am
The content of many of these books may not be right for an 8 year old, but I have other age appropriate chapter book lists which you can find listed here: https://www.whatdowedoallday.com/books-for-kids
Hank Ellis says
August 03, 2018 at 5:51 pm
I have written a book (more for young-preteen boys) than girls, but most people who have read it (including adults) loved it. The title is The Promise A Perilous Journey by Hank Ellis. If your kids like good clean adventure then I'm sure they'll love The Promise. It's at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Google play books. If you really like it I'll send some free books to pass around to friends.
Sonia Gonzalez says
January 18, 2020 at 12:13 am
My son would love to read it!
July 13, 2017 at 12:47 pm
i am only 10, but i already luv these books!!! this will definitely giv me a head start on middle school
March 17, 2019 at 6:52 pm
I'm eleven but books are so interesting for all ages! No my b-day wish list is complete!
November 16, 2020 at 10:10 pm
I am 11 and have not heard of any of theese books!!!! I love all of them and will really help me going into middle school.
July 07, 2018 at 4:31 pm
These books are so great and fun
December 20, 2018 at 7:26 am
I'm an eleven year old and have always loved reading what books would you recommend for a kid of my age? I've read the hunger games little princess Andersons tales for the young ect ect and I enjoy reading dystopian future.
October 23, 2021 at 10:11 am
hmm if you like dystopian societies you should read the giver and the series! 😀
November 04, 2021 at 10:43 am
Thank you for compiling this list. My 12 year old son is not an avid reader, and our biggest problem is choosing books that are "good". I will try a few of these and see if we can't get the ball rolling! Again, thank you for putting this together!
November 07, 2021 at 7:06 pm
I'm glad the list was useful. Happy reading!
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50+ Best Books for 12-Year-Olds: Adventure, Classics, and More!
The age of twelve is a momentous one for kids. There are major things happening in terms of brain development and puberty, and children are having to navigate new social relationships.
Great books for twelve-year-olds offer an escape, companion, and, importantly, can help provide the tools needed to make sense of the world around us in all its complexity. All the books on the list below are perfect for this age group and beyond—many are likely to be enjoyed by the entire family, too.
Books for Summer Holidays
Coming-of-age books, mystery books, books about fantasy and magic, adventure books, science fiction books, inspired by history, non-fiction, funny books, graphic novels, other interesting books for 12-year-olds, turning kids into readers, up for air by laurie morrison.
Up for Air/amazon.com
Recommended for kids in grades 5-7, Up for Air features the main character Annabelle who is the fastest swimmer in her school. While she excels in the pool, Annabelle struggles socially and academically. When she loses the ability to swim, Annabelle must discover her worth beyond the surface of the water.
- Author: Laurie Morrison
- Reading Age: 11–13 years
- Grade Level: 5–9
- Length: 304 pages total
- Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
- Publication Date: April 13, 2021
- ISBN 1419751425
Buy the book.
The Ice Cream Machine by Adam Rubin
The Ice Cream Machine/amazon.com
This quirky book for 12-year-olds is actually a collection of six different stories, all with the same title. Funny, light-hearted, and reminiscent of summers passed, this is a great beach book or family vacation read. Each story features different characters, a unique setting, and illustrations by a range of talented artists.
- Author: Adam Rubin
- Reading Age: 8–12 years
- Grade Level: 3–7
- Length: 384 pages total
- Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s & Sons
- Publication Date: February 15, 2022
Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers by Celia C. Perez
Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers /amazon.com
A great summer read for 12-year-old girls, Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers tells the story of four friends who come together for a great cause. Driven by their love of animals, the girls take on the local scout group “The Floras” and its tradition of using a hat made from real bird feathers. As their mission develops, so too does their friendship and commitment to social change.
- Author: Celia C. Perez
- Reading Age: 9–12 years
- Grade Level: 4–7
- Publisher: Puffin Books
- Publication Date: September 1, 2020
Mostly The Honest Truth by Jody J. Little
Mostly The Honest Truth by Jody J. Little/amazon.com
Add this to your holiday packing: your twelve years will be engrossed in this thought-provoking story that’ll take their mind off a long plane trip and help to relax by the pool. The story follows Jane, beginning with her arrival at her latest foster home, and is a poignant, bitter-sweet, inspiring tale of forgiveness, community, and kindness—and how families can come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
- Author: Jody J. Little
- Length: 288 pages total
- Publisher: Harper Collins
- Publication Date: April 5, 2022
- ISBN 0062852507
Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson
Before the Ever After/amazon.com
For kids dealing with the impact of mental health on their family life, like protagonist ZJ, there can be a significant emotional toll. Exploring these issues with sensitivity and compassion, Before the Ever After follows ZJ as he tries to figure out how his family can move forward when everyone seems stuck mourning the past, and how life used to be. Poignant and, at times, heartbreaking, this book is ultimately an inspiring and uplifting tale of how love can overcome even the most difficult of situations.
- Author: Jacqueline Woodson
- Reading Age: 10–13 years
- Grade Level: 5–6
- Length: 176 pages total
- Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
- Publication Date: September 6, 2022
- ISBN 0399545441
Lei and the Fire Goddess by Malia Maunakea
Lei and the Fire Goddess/amazon.com
Looking for a great vacation read for a twelve-year-old? This could be the perfect option! When Anna heads to Hawaii for the summer she has no idea of the adventure that awaits her. Upon inadvertently insulting the fire goddess, Pele, Anna’s best friend is kidnapped by a giant hawk, and she must team up with demigods and talking animals in a bid to save both her friend and her family members.
- Author: Malia Maunakea
- Reading Age: 10–12 years
- Publisher: Penguin Workshop
- Publication Date: April 23, 2024
- ISBN 0593752503
Books for 12-Year-Old Girls
Wonderland by barbara o’connor.
Wonderland: A Novel/amazon.com
Written by beloved children’s author Barbara O’Connor, Wonderland is a book about a girl and her dog—at least on the surface. Buried in the pages, though, are lessons about growing up, overcoming hardship, and what it means to be a friend. Tween girls will find connections with the feisty, but big-hearted main character Mavis while they fall in love with her dog, Henry.
- Author: Barbara O’Connor
- Grade Level: 3–4
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
- Publication Date: August 28, 2018
- ISBN 0374310602
Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk
Set during the Great Depression, Echo Mountain follows Ellie who leaves her home during hard times to start over in a rural area near Echo Mountain. When her father has a serious accident and Ellie is blamed, she treks to the top of the mountain in search of a miracle cure. However, what she finds is something even more healing.
- Author: Lauren Wolk
- Length: 368 pages total
- Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
- Publication Date: April 27, 2021
- ISBN 0525555587
Tall Story by Candy Gourlay
Tall Story by Candy Gourlay/amazon.com
Unfolding in alternate chapters, one by Andi in the UK and the other by her eight-foot-tall half-brother in the Philippines, Tall Story is an exploration of two very different cultures and a sibling relationship. The story draws on the author’s own experience growing up in the Philippines and is a sensitive narration of the challenges of coming of age in a country that offers a heady mix of modern internationalism alongside primitive superstitions and living conditions.
- Author: Candy Gourlay
- Publisher: Yearling
- Publication Date: February 14, 2012
- ISBN 0385752334
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
All the Birds in the Sky/amazon.com
A wondrous mix of science fiction and fantasy, this contemporary classic by one of the masters of the genre is, at its heart, a charming coming-of-age narrative full to the brim of wisdom, romance, and humor. Talented witch Patricia and ultra-bright engineer Laurence find themselves on different sides of a culture war—what each chooses to do next will have repercussions not just for their friendship, but the whole world.
- Author: Charlie Jane Anders
- Reading Age: 12+
- Grade Level: 7+
- Length: 320 pages total
- Publisher: Tor Books
- Publication Date: April 11, 2017
- ISBN 0765379953
The Girl Who Looked Beyond the Stars (Series) by L.B. Anne
The Girl Who Looked Beyond the Stars (Series) by L.B. Anne/amazon.com
Sheena Meyer was just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life… until her father ends up in hospital following a car accident, and she encounters a beautiful, glowing creature healing him. Sheena doesn’t realize it, but she possesses a special gift, and dark forces—in the form of the Murk—are marshaling against her. When it comes to mystery books, this coming-of-age drama weaves a magical spell that’ll have your young reader captivated from the first page.
- Author: L.B. Anne
- Reading Age: 10–12
- Grade Level: 5–7
- Length: 181 pages total
- Publisher: Independently published
- Publication Date: October 28, 2019
- ISBN 1700075721
Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams
Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams/amazon.com
Genesis doesn’t like herself much. She particularly dislikes her dark skin, and her dad’s and grandmother’s criticism isn’t helping. A challenging book that sees Genesis as the target of emotional and verbal abuse, its themes are both powerful and important. When the family moves to a new neighborhood, Genesis joins a choir, and her sense of self-worth increases. She begins to see that, actually, she’s beautiful inside and out, after all.
- Author: Alicia D. Williams
- Reading Age: 9–13 years
- Grade Level: 4–8
- Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
- Publication Date: August 18, 2020
- ISBN 1481465813
Hannah Saves the World (Series) by A.M. Luzzader
Hannah Saves the World: Book 1: Middle Grade Mystery Fiction/amazon.com
In this contemporary “Nancy Drew” spin-off, middle-schooler Hannah and her best friend Mia embark on a mission to save the world. Along the way, clues are unveiled, and epic adventures are shared. Readers who agree that this is one of the best books for 12-year-olds will be happy to learn that it is part of a 3-book series. Hannah Saves the World is recommended for girls aged eight to twelve, so it will likely be an easier read for tweens.
- Author: A.M. Luzzader
- Grade Level: 3–6
- Length: 172 pages total
- Publisher: Knowledge Forest Press
- Publication Date: December 13, 2020
- ISBN 1949078205
Premeditated Myrtle (Series) by Elizabeth C. Bunce
Premeditated Myrtle (Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery 1)/amazon.com
Another top pick for mystery lovers, Premeditated Myrtle , is an award-winning mystery series starring 12-year-old sleuth Myrtle Hardcastle. Readers will be enthralled by the unfolding mystery of a spinster’s untimely death as Myrtle follows clues that lead her to exciting revelations. This novel explores real-life science like crime scene analysis, forensics, and toxicology while keeping young readers hanging onto every word .
- Author: Elizabeth C. Bunce
- Reading Age: 10 years+
- Grade Level: 5+
- Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
- Publication Date: September 7, 2021
- ISBN 1643751875
The Owl Service by Alan Garner
The Owl Service by Alan Garner/amazon.com
Already hailed as a modern classic, this beautiful, haunting tale combines mystery and adventure and has won accolades including the Guardian’s Children’s Books Award and the Carnegie Medal. Your young reader will fall under the spell of the story of Alison who, with her family, is spending a holiday in a guest house in Wales, UK. Alison discovers a mysterious dinner service in the attic, which features a pattern of owls that seem able to rearrange themselves by magic—and this is just the beginning of the adventure.
- Author: Alan Garner
- Reading Age: 12 years+
- Length: 224 pages total
- Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication Date: August 5, 2002
- ISBN 0007127898
The Many Mysteries of the Finkel Family by Sarah Kapit
The Many Mysteries of the Finkel Family by Sarah Kapit/amazon.com
At the center of this story is a pair of autistic sisters, Caroline and Lara. When Lara decides to set up a detective agency, the Finkel Investigation Agency Solving Consequential Crimes Only (FIASCCO) she’s annoyed to find that her sister isn’t interested in joining—the latter is too busy texting other kids from school on her tablet. When Lara’s investigation uncovers a major family secret, however, events threaten to spiral out of control.
- Author: Sarah Kapit
- Publisher: Dial Books
- Publication Date: March 23, 2021
- ISBN 0593112296
Tornado Brain by Cat Patrick
Tornado Brain by Cat Patrick/amazon.com
Neurodivergent Frankie finds it difficult to make friends. So when the one friend she does make, Colette, vanishes, and it transpires that Frankie is the last person to see her, she’s determined to get to the bottom of it. A mystery book with a huge heart, Tornado Brain is a touching depiction of Frankie’s experiences navigating the world, and her attempts at creating a space in which she can be her authentic self.
- Author: Cat Patrick
- ISBN 1984815334
The Mystery of the Moon Tower by Francesco Sedita and Prescott Seraydarian
The Mystery of the Moon Tower by Francesco Sedita and Prescott Seraydarian/amazon.com
During summer camp, five friends come across an old film that sheds light on both the camp’s founder and the history of their town. The intrigue deepens when this film also leads the group to a strange tower, where time itself is distorted—and there may even be treasure to be found. Fast-paced, exciting, and lots of fun, The Mystery of Moon Tower will have even less-than-eager readers hooked.
- Author: Francesco Sedita and Prescott Seraydarian
- Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
- Publication Date: April 21, 2020
- ISBN 0425291871
The Silver Arrow by Lev Grossman
The Silver Arrow/amazon.com
Weaving in important lessons regarding environmental issues and animal rights, The Silver Arrow is a must-read adventure story. In it, a girl named Kate receives a magic locomotive as a gift for her eleventh birthday. Kate and her brother Tom then proceed to take a trip of a lifetime, exploring exotic locations and meeting talking animals. This book is your tween’s ticket to hop on board and find inspiration along the way!
- Author: Lev Grossman
- Reading Age: 7–12 years
- Length: 272 pages total
- Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
- Publication Date: August 31, 2021
- ISBN 0316539546
T he Patron Thief of Bread by Lindsay Eager
The Patron Thief of Bread/amazon.com
A main character raised by sea urchins, a talking gargoyle, and a moral dilemma. These are just some of the things your twelve-year-old will encounter within the pages of the mystical novel The Patron Thief of Bread . Eight-year-old Duck is assigned to be the apprentice for the local baker, and her sea urchin family urges her to steal from the baker’s coffers. Duck must decide where her loyalty lies and ultimately, who she really is.
- Author: Lindsay Eagar
- Reading Age: 10–14 years
- Length: 448 pages total
- Publisher: Candlewick
- Publication Date: May 11, 2022
- ISBN 1536204684
City of Stolen Magic by Nazneen Ahmed Pathak
City of Stolen Magic by Nazneen Ahmed Pathak/amazon.com
Set in a fictional India of 1855, where magic is forbidden under British rule, the story revolves around Chompa, whose mother—due to her magical powers—has been kidnapped and shipped across the sea to England by the mysterious and nefarious Company. Resolving to rescue her mother from the Company’s clutches, Chompa must use her own magic abilities, as well as her innate courage. It quickly becomes clear that power, whether wielded for good or bad, always comes at a price.
- Author: Nazneen Ahmed Pathak
- Reading Age: 9–14 years
- Grade Level: 4–9
- Publisher: Puffin
- Publication Date: May 28, 2024
- ISBN 0241567483
The Witches of Willow Cove by Josh Roberts
The Witches of Willow Cove by Josh Roberts/amazon.com
Ever since she was a young girl Abby Shepherd has known she was different. Now in seventh grade and a fully-fledged teenage witch, Abby suddenly discovers, from her new mentor, that she’s not the only one in town with magical abilities. She also finds out that her home of Willow Cove has a secret past, that inherently connects with her own witchy powers. Abby must dig deeper to unearth the mystery, and decide who she can—and can’t—trust along the way.
- Author: Josh Roberts
- Length: 310 pages total
- Publisher: Owl Hollow Press
- Publication Date: May 26, 2020
- ISBN 194565449X
The Inheritance Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
The Inheritance Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes/amazon.com
Mystery books don’t come more suspenseful than this page-turner from author Jennifer Lynn Barnes. Full of twists and turns, the story follows Avery who, out of the blue, inherits a fortune—and she has no idea why. Moving into her newly acquired mansion, Avery finds herself surrounded by the deceased’s surviving relatives—who aren’t best pleased, to say the least. The house is also full of fantastical clues and secrets that seem to point to an even deeper mystery.
- Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
- Length: 400 pages total
- Publication Date: July 27, 2021
- ISBN 0759555400
The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy by Anne Ursu
The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy/amazon.com
If you have a Harry Potter fan in the house—or have one in the family—then they’ll be sure to love The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy . When Marya is sent to the academy, she finds herself far from home and among strangers, in the service of a powerful sorcerer. When the Dread attacks, all the girls must work as a team, and they discover that they wield more power than they ever thought possible.
- Author: Anne Ursu
- Publisher: Walden Pond Press
- Publication Date: December 6, 2022
- ISBN 0062275135
Books for 12-Year-Old Boys
Children of the flying city by jason sheehan.
Children of the Flying City/amazon.com
Orphan Milo Quick has lived in the flying city of Highgate since he was a little kid. Now twelve years old, he finds himself in possession of a dangerous secret. He’ll need his close friends Jules and Dagda to help him elude the bounty hunters as a war erupts around them all. This fast-paced narrative will encourage even young readers to slow down and ponder questions of character and loyalty.
- Author: Jason Sheehan
- Length: 416 pages total
- Publication Date: March 15, 2022
- ISBN 0593109511
Tristan Punches a Hole in the Sky (Tristan Strong series) by Kwame Mbalia
Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky /amazon.com
Though it’s packed with action, the first book of the Tristan Strong series isn’t your run-of-the-mill middle-grade adventure story. When Tristan experiences a traumatic loss, he’s sent off to his grandparents’ farm to recover. There, he stumbles into a strange and mysterious world full of monsters, a burning sea, and African-American folk heroes. Since it’s part of a trilogy, readers will have more to look forward to as Tristan’s journey continues in books two and three.
- Author: Kwame Mbalia
- Length: 528 pages total
- Publisher: Rick Riordan Presents
- Publication Date: September 22, 2020
- ISBN 1368042414
My Brother is a Superhero by David Solomons
My Brother Is a Superhero/amazon.com
A fun story that your twelve-year-old will love, My Brother is a Superhero is a must-read for fans of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. Luke can’t believe that it’s his boring, nerdy brother Zack who gets turned into a superhero when it’s him with the love of all things super. However, when his bro’s alter ego, Star Guy, gets into major hot water, it’s Luke who must come to the rescue…
- Author: David Solomons
- Publication Date: June 27, 2017
- ISBN 0147516056
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien/amazon.com
The much-loved classic that’s enchanted generations of kids and adults alike, this amazing story of adventure follows the most unlikely of heroes: the hobbit Bilbo Baggins. A very unexpected adventure awaits, and Bilbo finds himself swept off on a road that takes him to mysterious forests, troll-infested mountains, and a cave where the dragon Smaug is guarding a stolen horde of gold. Can Bilbo and his companions defeat the dragon and rescue the treasure? The Hobbit reminds us that we all have the potential to master our own destiny and make a difference—no matter how little we are.
- Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
- Grade Level: 7–9
- Length: 300 pages total
- Publisher: Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt
- Publication Date: September, 2012 (this version)
- ISBN 054792822X
The Extinction Trials by S.M Wilson
The Extinction Trials by S.M Wilson/amazon.com
Did your twelve-year-old devour The Hunger Games ? If so, they’ll adore this novel, set in a world of two continents: the barren, plague-riddled Earthasia, and the beautiful, green—and dinosaur-infested—Piloria. Narrated alternately by characters Storm and Lincoln—who must undertake a seemingly impossible quest— The Extinction Trials offers a slice of suspenseful fantasy adventure that’ll fulfill your kid’s The Hunger Games cravings perfectly!
- Author: S.M. Wilson
- Publisher: Usborne
- Publication Date: July 12, 2018
- ISBN 1474927343
Skink No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen
Skink No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen/amazon.com
This thoroughly contemporary adventure story sees Richard set off on a mission to rescue his cousin, Malley, who has run off with a man she’s met on the internet. Richard is worried his cousin could be in real trouble, so when he meets eccentric drifter Skink, he’s keen to enlist any help he can get. The pair set off on a madcap ride around Florida, determined to stop at nothing to bring Malley home safely.
- Author: Carl Hiaasen
- Reading Age: 12–15 years
- Publisher: Ember
- Publication Date: December 1, 2015
- ISBN 0307930599
The Lion of Mars by Jennifer L. Holm
The Lion of Mars/amazon.com
Is your tween obsessed with science fiction? If so, The Lion of Mars will make a great addition to his reading list. This popular book follows eleven-year-old Bell who lives on Mars. When a virus breaks out that targets the adults, it’s up to Bell and his friends to literally save the planet. Full of epic space adventure, fun science, and lessons about community, this book has it all!
- Author: Jennifer L. Holm
- Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
- Publication Date: January 5, 2021
- ISBN 0593121813
Greystone Secrets (Series) by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Greystone Secrets #1: The Strangers/amazon.com
Siblings Chess, Emma, and Finn Greystone lead ordinary lives. That is until their very existence comes into question when a local kidnapping raises eyebrows. When details of the incident reveal that the victims are strangely similar to themselves, the Greystone kids are thrust into a startling mystery. Your tween won’t want to put this book down, but when he does, he can pick up the next two books in the series!
- Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix
- Length: 432 pages total
- Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
- Publication Date: March 3, 2020
- ISBN 0062838385
We’re Not From Here by Geoff Rodkey
We’re Not From Here by Geoff Rodkey/amazon.com
This middle-grade book from bestselling author Geoff Rodkey asks readers to imagine a scenario in which they are the aliens! With Earth no longer habitable, humans must search for a new home in the stars; which is how the book’s narrator finds himself living on Planet Choom, among its giant mosquito-like inhabitants, the Zhuri. While the two species don’t have much in common, unlikely friendships are formed which could have profound consequences for all.
- Author: Geoff Rodkey
- Publication Date: March 10, 2020
Ender’s Game (Series) by Orson Scott Card
Ender’s Game (Series) by Orson Scott Card/amazon.com
Buy this book for your twelve-year-old and they may not emerge from its pages for some time! Ender’s Game has won a slew of awards including the prestigious Nebula and the Hugo and takes the reader on an epic sci-fi adventure. Protagonist Andrew “Ender” Wiggin believes he’s simply playing computer-simulated war games, but the truth is much more deadly, and Ender must grow up fast: the world’s survival could depend on him.
- Author: Orson Scott Card
- Reading Age: 7–14 years
- Length: 256 pages total
- Publisher: Tor Trade
- Publication Date: May 4, 2021
- ISBN 1250773024
A Small Zombie Problem by K.G. Campbell
A Small Zombie Problem by K.G. Campbell/amazon.com
August DuPont is delighted when he receives an invitation in the mail from an aunt and cousins he didn’t know he had—and they want to meet him! Things take a strange turn, though, when August accidentally reanimates and befriends a zombie. As well as contending with a whole new set of family members, August must also navigate this friendship with Claudette, which could become a little more than a “small” problem.
- Author: K.G. Campbell
- Length: 240 pages total
- Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
- Publication Date: June 4, 2019
- ISBN 0553539558
Finn and the Intergalactic Lunchbox by Michael Buckley
Finn and the Intergalactic Lunchbox by Michael Buckley/amazon.com
Finn Foley’s lunchbox is not all it seems. For starters, it contains a seven-foot-tall robot and opens wormholes that Finn can use to visit the farthest corners of the galaxy. It also contains a blinking device, and it’s this that’s caught the attention of the Plague, a race of giant bugs. They want this little device, which just so happens to be a weapon of unimaginable power, back. And they’ll stop at nothing to get it.
- Author: Michael Buckley
- Publication Date: March 2, 2021
- ISBN 0525646906
Duet by Elise Broach
Fans of music and mystery will be spellbound by this charming story about a boy, a bird, and some of the best creative minds of the 19th century. As 11-year-old prodigy Michael Jin struggles to learn a complex piano score in preparation for the renowned Chopin festival, something magical happens. A goldfinch named Mirabelle sings the tune for him as he plays. Soon after, the plot thickens, and the duo goes on a quest to find a lost piano worth a fortune.
- Author: Elise Broach
- Publisher: Chrissy Ottavanio Books
- Publication Date: May 10, 2022
- ISBN 0316311359
The Storm Runner (Series) by J.C. Cervantes
The Storm Runner/amazon.com
Based on Mayan mythology, The Storm Runner follows Zane, an awkward kid who walks with a limp but is destined for greatness. When Zane’s dog Rosie becomes a victim of mayhem, Zane discovers his inner strength and embraces his destiny as the Storm Runner. Your tween will be on the edge of his seat as Zane confronts volcanoes, demons, and warring gods. And that’s just the beginning of this exciting three-part adventure series.
- Author: J.C. Cervantes
- Length: 464 pages total
- Publication Date: August 20, 2019
- ISBN 1368023606
Eleven by Tom Rogers
Eleven by Tom Rogers/amazon.com
One of the more challenging books on this list, Eleven is based on the events of the 9/11 terrorist attack in the US, written from the perspective of Alex, who is due to turn eleven on the now notorious date. This multi-award-winning novel deals with both the reality of the events and their aftermath and explores, in an accessible way, the complex ways in which 9/11 changed the world forever.
- Author: Tom Rogers
- Length: 200 pages total
- Publisher: Alto Nido Press
- Publication Date: January 14, 2014
- ISBN 099118100X
A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park/amazon.com
This tween book weaves a beautiful story, taking the reader back to twelfth-century Korea in an unforgettable coming-of-age drama about the importance of determination in overcoming adversity and working towards our dreams. The book is full of intrigue, danger, and excitement, as Tree-ear resolves to prove his skills to the village’s master potter, an endeavor which ultimately takes him to the royal court seeking a commission, bearing just a single celadon shard.
- Author: Linda Sue Park
- Publisher: Clarion Books
- Publication Date: January 10, 2011
- ISBN 0547534264
A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen
A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen/amazon.com
From a New York Times’ bestselling author comes this extraordinary tale of Gerta, who finds her family divided as the Berlin Wall rises. Gerta, her mother, and her brother are on the east side of the wall, while her father and another brother, who had traveled west in search of work, can no longer get home. Offering a fascinating look at the realities of this period of history, A Night Divided is utterly captivating and boasts a cast of colorful characters that kids will love.
- Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
- Length: 352 pages total
- Publisher: Scholastic
- Publication Date: April 24, 2018
- ISBN 0545682444
Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai
Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai/amazon.com
An Amazon’s Teachers’ Pick, Shooting Kabul is set in the summer of 2001, when Fadi’s family make the difficult decision to illegally leave Afghanistan to travel to the United States to resettle. Tragically, Fadi’s sister Mariam becomes separated as the family flees, and ends up being left behind in Kabul. In the aftermath of the events of September 11, Fadi’s family struggle to settle into their new home, but remain determined to locate Mariam and bring her to safety.
- Author: N.H. Senzai
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster
- Publication Date: July 12, 2011
- ISBN 9781442401952
While books are a fantastic way for your preteens to learn and explore new worlds, it’s also crucial to ensure their safety in the real world. As a parent, you can provide an extra layer of protection by downloading the Findmykids app . This app allows you to keep track of your child’s location and stay connected, giving you peace of mind while they enjoy their books and adventures!
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
An instant bestseller and now modern classic, Hatchet tells the story of young teen Brian Robeson who finds himself alone and deserted in the wilderness after a plane crash. While grappling with his parent’s divorce, Brian must find it within himself to survive the 55 long days until his eventual rescue. When he does triumph over his circumstances, he is changed by the experience. This is a must-read classic survival story that’s perfect for ages twelve and up.
- Author: Gary Paulsen
- Reading Age: 8+
- Length: 192 pages total
- Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
- Publication Date: December 26, 2006
- ISBN 1416936475
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Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Number the Stars/amazon.com
A classic work of historical fiction for preteens, Number the Stars recounts 10-year-old Annemarie’s experiences as a member of a Jewish family living in German-occupied Denmark during World War II. Taken in by her friend’s family, she must hide in plain sight while her people are relocated to Sweden to escape the Nazis. Readers will come away with knowledge of the Holocaust as well as timeless lessons about humanity.
- Author: Lois Lowry
- Length: 160 pages total
- Publication Date: May 2, 2011
- ISBN 0547577095
Stig of the Dump by Clive King
Stig of the Dump by Clive King /amazon.com
A classic read for both younger readers and older kids, Stig of the Dump has been loved since it was first published back in 1963. While exploring an old chalk pit, Barney makes an unexpected discovery: stone-age Stig, a caveboy who has made the pit his home. The pair learn how to communicate, and Barney helps Stig improve his den, while the caveboy teaches his new friend how to fend off bullies.
- Author: Clive King
- Length: 184 pages total
- Publisher: Open Road Media Teen & Tween
- Publication Date: September 6, 2016 (this version)
- ISBN 1504037707
The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann D. Wyss
The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann D. Wyss/amazon.com
The iconic story of survival that has fascinated readers for decades, The Swiss Family Robinson is a perfect middle-grade book for kids who are keen to try the classics. After surviving a shipwreck, the Robinson family wash up on a tropical island, and have only their survival skills, tenacity, sense of humor, and love for each other to rely on. If you have a young avid reader in the household, this book won’t disappoint.
- Author: Johann D. Wyss
- Publisher: Signet
- Publication Date: December 7, 2004 (this version)
- ISBN 0451529618
The Borrowers by Mary Norton
The Borrowers by Mary Norton/amazon.com
First published in 1952 and still a much-loved classic, Mary Norton weaves a story of the tiny people living, unseen, in our homes—staying out of the eye line of “human beans” is the number one rule of bringing a borrower, after all! The exploits of Pod, Arrietty, and Homily Clock are sure to entertain middle-grade readers, who will sympathize with Arrietty’s determination to explore beyond the boundaries of her miniature world.
- Author: Mary Norton
- Reading Age: 6–12 years
- Length: 180 pages total
- Publication Date: January 1, 2001 (this version)
- ISBN 9780439325103
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken/amazon.com
Adored by readers for more than six decades, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is a fast-paced, gothic fairy tale adventure that’ll have kids hooked from the first line. When Bonnie’s parents leave on a voyage Miss Slighcarp is left in charge—she wastes no time in selling the family furniture, dismissing the staff, and shipping Bonnie and her cousin off to a bleak orphanage. Escaping from this prison-like establishment, the girls must figure out how to save Willougby Chase from the human wolves who now inhabit it.
- Author: Joan Aiken
- Publication Date: October 1, 1987 (this version)
- ISBN 0440496039
A Wizard of Earthsea (Series) by Ursula K. Le Guin
A Wizard of Earthsea (Series) by Ursula K. Le Guin/amazon.com
Twelve-year-olds who enjoy fantasy and mystery books will devour this first book in the Earthsea series, which follows Ged (known as Sparrowhawk) who discovers he possesses powerful magical abilities. Journeying to the School of Magic on the Island of Roke, the young wizard begins to hone his craft. However, a miscast spell results in the release of a terrifying shadow creature, and now Ged must decide whether to leave the island or confront the entity he’s set loose.
- Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
- Length: 264 pages total
- Publication Date: September 11, 2012 (this version)
- ISBN 0547722028
Becoming Muhammed Ali by James Patterson and Kwame Alexander
Becoming Muhammad Ali/amazon.com
Tweens interested in the sport of boxing or even just the game of life will be intrigued by this story of heavyweight champion Muhammed Ali’s childhood. Readers will learn fascinating details about the kid named Cassius Clay, his friends and family, as well as his brushes with racism. Most of all, they’ll be inspired by his hard work and perseverance from the age of twelve to seventeen as he begins his professional boxing career and “becomes” Muhammed Ali.
- Author: James Patterson
- Publisher: Jimmy Patterson
- Publication Date: May 3, 2022
- ISBN 0316498173
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, Young Reader’s Edition/amazon.com
If you’re looking for one of the most uplifting books for 12-year-olds, don’t miss this inspiring true story of a boy who builds a windmill to save his village in Malawi. When his family finds themselves destitute after a drought, young William takes action. After reading everything he can find on the subject, William constructs a fully functioning windmill from scrap. Readers will come away from the book awestruck and believing their ideas matter!
- Author: William Kamkwamba
- Publisher: Rocky Ponds Book
- Publication Date: January 5, 2016
- ISBN 9780147510426
Survivors of the Holocaust: True Stories of Six Extraordinary Children Edited by Kath Shackleton
Survivors of the Holocaust/amazon.com
This book has won numerous awards including the UK’s School and Library Association Information Books Awards 2017. Taken from their homes, separated from their families, and imprisoned or forced into hiding, these six true stories from holocaust survivors are powerful, emotional, and utterly unforgettable. The book includes a timeline to help the reader and recently taken photographs of each contributor, along with updates on their lives.
- Author: Kath Shackleton
- Length: 96 pages total
- Publisher: Sourcebooks Explore
- Publication Date: October 1, 2019
- ISBN 1492688932
Why is Art Full of Naked People? by Susie Hodge
Why is Art Full of Naked People? by Susie Hodge/amazon.com
If you’ve got a middle-grade child in the family who is interested in art, then this is the book for them! The beauty of this book is that it explores the sort of questions that this age group tends to have about artworks, such as why some artists paint in a ‘blurry’ fashion, and what makes certain works so expensive. Both irreverent and informative, this book may teach the entire family a few things about the art world!
- Author: Susie Hodge
- Publisher: Thames & Hudson
- Publication Date: October 18, 2016
- ISBN 9780500650806
History’s Unsolved Mysteries by Arch Stanton
History’s Unsolved Mysteries by Arch Stanto/amazon.com
Is your middle school kid a fan of both mystery books and historical fiction books? Then send them on a thrilling voyage of discovery with this gorgeous tome that takes the reader to the Great Pyramid of Giza, the mysterious Bermuda Triangle, and Easter Island (among many others) to try to solve some of the globe’s most perplexing puzzles. History’s Unsolved Mysteries fuses fascinating factual information with tantalizing legends, myths, and cryptic clues.
- Author: Arch Stanton
- Reading Age: 9–15 years
- Length: 177 pages total
- Publication Date: July 18, 2023
- ISBN 979-8852624062
Marcus Makes a Movie by Kevin Hart and Geoff Rodkey
Marcus Makes a Movie/amazon.com
If you’re in search of a funny book for your 12-year-old, you can’t go wrong with a novel written by a world-famous standup comic! In addition to a kid-friendly dose of Kevin Hart’s comedic prowess, this book manages to have an actual heart as well. The story features middle-schooler Marcus who, with hard work and a little help from his friends, realizes his dream of being a filmmaker.
- Author: Kevin Hart
- ISBN 059317917X
Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid (Series) by Jeff Kinney
Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid/amazon.com
From the author of the immensely popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid series comes a spin-off series narrated by the beloved character Rowley Jefferson. Full of hilarious situations recalled by the notoriously clueless narrator, the book will make your tween laugh out loud (and not just online, but in real life!). Perhaps more importantly, the book’s style is not overly complex, making it an easy read even for reluctant readers.
- Author: Jeff Kinney
- Publisher: Harry N.Abrams
- Publication Date: April 9, 2019
- ISBN 141974027X
The Summer I Robbed a Bank by David O’Doherty
The Summer I Robbed a Bank by David O’Doherty/amazon.com
The main character Rex’s summer holidays hasn’t gotten off to the best start. His parents have split up and he’s been packed off to a remote and wet Irish island to stay with his eccentric—but brilliant—Uncle Derm. Things take a turn for the hilariously unexpected, however, when Uncle Derm tells his nephew that he’s planning to rob the island’s traveling bank… and he needs Rex’s help to pull off the heist.
- Author: David O’Doherty
- Publication Date: May 27, 2021
- ISBN 0241362237
Midnight at the Barclay Hotel by Fleur Bradley
Midnight at the Barclay Hotel by Fleur Bradley/amazon.com
Looking for mystery books for your 12-year-old that’ll also tickle her funny bone? If so, Midnight at the Barclay Hotel could be just the ticket! Spooky, suspenseful, and frequently hilarious, the novel centers on JJ, who is thrilled to receive an invitation for an all-expenses-paid trip to the Barclay Hotel, alleged to be one of the most haunted establishments in Colorado. It turns out, though, that there are scarier things than ghosts lurking in the hotel’s dark corridors…
- Author: Fleur Bradley
- Length: 336 pages total
- Publication Date: August 24, 2021
- ISBN 0593202910
Little Badman and the Time-Traveling Teacher of Doom by Humza Arshad and Henry White
Little Badman and the Time-Traveling Teacher of Doom by Humza Arshad and Henry White/amazon.com
Fans of David Walliams’ and David Badiel’s books are sure to enjoy this laugh-out-loud story about eleven-year-old rapper Little Badman (aka Humza Khan) whose dad is threatening to ship him off to summer school in Pakistan. Little Badman and his best bud Umer soon discover that this summer school is far from run of the mill, though—in fact, the very fabric of time is being messed with by the staff.
- Author: Humza Arshad and Henry White
- Publication Date: August 20, 2020
- ISBN 0241378508
The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor by Shaenon K. Garrity
The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor/amazon.com
If your kid loves graphic novels, this one is worth a trip to the bookstore. Heroine Haley is also an avid reader and is obsessed with Gothic romance novels. One night, she quite literally falls into one while trying to save a stranger from drowning. This dark, yet strangely whimsical book-within-a-book will have your 12-year-old hooked from page one.
- Author: Shaenon K.Garrity
- Publisher: Margaret K.Elderry Books
- Publication Date: July 20, 2021
- ISBN 1534460861
The Witch Boy (Series) by Molly Knox Ostertag
The Witch Boy: A Graphic Novel/amazon.com
Happily, this graphic novel is a three-part series because your pre-teen is going to want more after turning the final page. In The Witch Boy , the main character Aster is a boy who wants to be a witch. Unfortunately for him, his fantastical society doesn’t allow males to be anything other than shapeshifters. Young readers will identify with Aster as he struggles to find his identity while navigating societal pressures.
- Author: Molly Knox Ostertag
- Publisher: Graphix
- Publication Date: October 31, 2017
- ISBN 133808951X
The Nameless City (Series) by Faith Erin Hicks
The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks/amazon.com
Rat and Kaidu are from very different worlds, but when they meet in the streets of the Nameless City they form a friendship that will change their fates forever. With breathtaking artwork that’ll instantly draw readers into the story, this tale encompasses everything from adolescent angst to explorations of identity and belonging. Readers will be relieved to learn that the action doesn’t end with the turning of the final page—it’s the first book in a series.
- Author: Faith Erin Hicks
- Grade Level: 4–6
- Publisher: First Second
- Publication Date: April 5, 2016
- ISBN 1626721564
New Kid by Jerry Craft
New Kid A Newbery Award Winner/amazon.com
When Jordan is sent to a prestigious private school he discovers he’s one of just a handful of kids of color in his entire grade. Any child who has felt like an outsider, or had to contend with getting to grips with life in a new school will relate to the main character of this graphic novel, which explores how to navigate new environments while staying true to ourselves.
- Author: Jerry Craft
- Publisher: Quill Tree Books
- Publication Date: February 5, 2019
- ISBN 0062691198
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi/amazon.com
Great comic books aren’t always about superheroes or set in a magical world, as proved by this award-winning memoir in the form of a graphic novel. The book offers an insight into what it was like to grow up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution and the Iran-Iraq war and the aftermath of these events. The black-and-white comic strip form is strikingly powerful, offering a child’s eye perspective on the seismic events that took place in this region.
- Author: Marjane Satrapi
- Publisher: Pantheon
- Publication Date: June 1, 2004
- ISBN 037571457X
Samuel Borges Photography/Shutterstock.com
- The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty (Fantasy).
- Better Nate than Ever by Tim Federle (Coming of Age).
- My Own Lightening by Lauren Wolk (Coming of Age).
- Willodeen by Katherine Applegate (Fantasy).
- Holes By Louis Sachar (Classics).
- The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera (Science Fiction).
- The Secret Fountain by Grace Lockhaven and Michael Jaymes (Science Fiction).
- The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis (Historical Fiction).
- Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (Coming of Age).
As parents, we all know how important it is for kids to get off their phones and put their noses in a book. Yet, it can be an uphill battle getting some preteens to open a book instead of an app. Consider the above list your free handbook to turning your social media-obsessed tweens into lifelong readers. Just put one of these novels in their hand, and let the authors do the rest!
Did you find this article useful? Don’t forget to share it with your tribe of tween parents—they’ll thank you later!
The picture on the front page: wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock.com
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Reading Middle Grade
Books for Kids and Grown Ups
Best Books for 12 Year Olds
Finding the best books for 12 year olds can be tricky because many of them are aging out of the average middle grade books. They’re more interested in upper middle grade literature , which features older kids dealing with more serious issues or funny books starring older kids.
Whichever their preference, you’ll find these books for 12 year olds helpful with filling the void. I’m sharing 20+ of my personal favorites (most of which are new releases). If you’d prefer more backlist titles, check out this list of books for 7th graders I made a couple of years ago.
📚 Disclaimer in the books: Just so you know, Reading Middle Grade uses affiliate links. This means that when you shop via the links in our posts, we may earn a cent or two at no extra cost to you. Thanks for adding to our book buying fund.
25 Excellent Books for 12 Year Olds
Here are 25 of the best books for 12 year olds:
Published: March 14, 2023
It’s the 1970s, and Judi loves to shoot hoops in the driveway with her brother and his friends. She hopes she can join a basketball team someday, but her school doesn’t have a female team. So when she gets to high school, she chooses the next best thing: cheerleading with her best friend Stacey. But one day, the school announces that they’re starting a team for the girls because of the Title IX ruling.
Unfortunately, as willing as the girls who sign up are (Judi inclusive), there’s little to no funding for their team. They have to DIY their jerseys and practice only when the boys’ team isn’t using the court. On top of that, Stacey is upset that Judi has left cheerleading to play ball, and some girls want to quit because they’re so frustrated. Can Judi and the team make it work?
The House Swap
Published: February 28, 2023
In The House Swap Allie and Sage are forced together when their families plan to swap houses goes awry. Allie is a British girl living in the countryside and preparing to be a spy when she grows up. She’s also the (overlooked, she feels) middle child, stuck between a teen brother and a talkative little sister. Sage is an only child in sunny California, growing up with parents who seem to be growing apart. She gets more worried when she discovers that only her mom will be coming with her to the English countryside.
Both girls realize that they have more in common than they think and decide to help each other — Ally with Sage’s parents and Sage with being Allie’s friend.
The Braid Girls
Published: June 13, 2023
Maggie’s world is turned upside down when she learns that her father, whom she admires, has a second daughter, Callie, whom no one knew existed. But she won’t let a new family member get in the way of her summer plans with best friend Daija. They’re determined to make tons of money braiding hair for kids around the neighborhood.
Daija’s always felt like she had a sister in Maggie. So she can’t let new half-sister Callie take her place! And she can’t let her interfere with their new Braid Girls business, either. She needs the money to pay for extra ballet lessons so she can go en pointe and earn a spot in the fall dance showcase, making her distant father proud at last—if she pulls this off, he’ll have to pay attention to her.
Callie’s still grieving her late mom. Now she’s leaving her old home in the Bahamas behind, including her old school and friends to move in with the father she’s never met, plus his family. When she hears of Maggie’s and Daija’s business, she sees a chance to prove her skills and a way to be accepted.
With three very different girls on board, the Braid Girls arrive to a summer camp full of kids with locs begging to be braided. Business is booming, until rival Angela shows up with her friends and starts a new braiding business—the Sistahs Who Braid. With competition heating up, the Braid Girls are sure to have an unforgettable summer
Absolutely, Positively Natty
Published: May 9, 2023
When Natty’s mom kind of takes a break from her dad and sort of the whole family, Natty and her dad move to his childhood hometown of Miller Creek. Now she’s starting middle school for the second time, this time in Miller Creek—without her mom— or her BFF. But Natty’s doing great! Really. Anything is possible. And what’s the point of dwelling on the stuff that stinks when there’s so much good stuff to think about?
Natty is absolutely, positively sure that she can turn it all around. Like 1,000 percent sure. As long as she stays absolutely positive! She’ll get her dad off the couch, make her tons of new friends, and even convince her mom to come live with them in Miller Creek. First step? Starting a pep squad to spread the good vibes.
My Not-So-Great French Escape
Rylan O’Hare has been drifting apart from his best friend, Wilder, for months. Wilder’s family became mega-rich when his mom invented an app that reminds people to drink water, and now he barely has time for Rylan. So when Wilder invites Rylan to join him at a summer farming program in France (all expenses paid), Rylan sees it as a chance to repair the friendship. Not only that, but he’ll get to learn French, milk goats, and eat lots (and lots) of cheese.
But before they take off, Rylan’s mom drops a bomb: His dad (whom he hasn’t spoken to since he was three) lives in France, too, and he wants to meet.
Between being swarmed by bees, pooped on by pigeons, and sprayed with goat milk, Rylan’s great French escape isn’t quite what he thought it would be. Even worse, Wilder ditches him for some cool French kids he meets along the way. And Rylan still can’t decide whether or not he should actually meet his father.
But somewhere in all the chaos, Rylan begins to find his way, and he realizes that sometimes you have to release old expectations to discover new destinations.
Aniana Del Mar Jumps In
Aniana Del Mar Jumps into her love for swimming despite her mother’s disapproval. Aniana is a child of Dominican parents growing up on Galveston, an island in the state of Texas. Her mom has undiagnosed PTSD from the death of her (Aniana’s mother’s) brother years ago in a storm back in their home country, so she doesn’t want her daughter near the water.
Aniana’s father wants his daughter to pursue her passion and takes her to swim meets without her mother’s knowledge. But when Aniana wakes up one day with painfully swollen joints and other weird symptoms after swimming, their secret is exposed, and Aniana is faced with a new diagnosis that may threaten the one sport she loves.
Finally Seen by Kelly Yang
In this book for 12 year olds, Lina is finally moving to the US to reunite with her parents after five years apart. She’d been living with her grandmother in China, but now her grandmother is ill, and her parents want her to come to North Carolina with them and her little sister Millie.
But when she arrives, nothing about their life is as her parents have told her. They live in an apartment, not a house like her mom said and her parents owe a ton of back rent after the pandemic. Her dad is an organic farmer and her mom is trying hard to launch a bath bomb business with little capital.
Things aren’t any easier at school with Lina’s poor English. When she finally finds a graphic novel she loves and her teacher wants the class to read it, influential parents at her school are determined to stop it from being read. Will Lina use her voice?
Published: January 3, 2023
Sincerely Sicily features young Panamian-American Sicily who’s dealing with a major social upheaval: she’s changing schools. After planning to coordinate first-day-of-school outfits and looking up each other’s schedules, she won’t be attending the same middle school as her best friends (the group calls themselves the Tether Squad).
At the new school, Sicily, fortunately, reconnects with an old friend and decides to do her first school project on the culture of the Panamanian people. But her classmates protest the fact that she — a Black girl–can’t possibly be Latin American. Sicily is rattled.
Add to that a new crush that threatens to ruin her new friendship and an Abuela who thinks her braids are “ghetto” and it’s looking like a tough year for Sicily. Thankfully, she’s also rediscovering her love for writing just in time.
It’s been a tough year for Sasha―he’s been bullied at his middle school and his anxiety, which he calls the Gray, is growing. Sasha’s dad tells him to “toughen up”―and he does, but with unfortunate, hurtful results.
His parents and therapist agree that a summer in the country with his aunt might be the best medicine, but it’s the last place he wants to be. He’ll be away from his best friend, video games, and stuck in the house that reminds him of his beloved uncle who died two years earlier.
His aunt is supportive, and there are lots of places to explore, and even some potential new friends. When Sasha is introduced at a local ranch to a horse coincidentally–incredibly–nicknamed the Gray, he feels he’s found a kindred spirit.
But his own Gray is ever-present. When one of his new friends disappears, Sasha discovers that the country is wilder and more mysterious than he imagined. He tries to muster enough courage to help in the search . . . but will the Gray hold him back?
Published: June 27, 2023
Seventh-grader Viv never looks forward to picture day. It’s just another day where she wears a boring braid and no one notices her. (Her two best friends, Milo and Al, don’t count, of course.)
But enough is enough. This year, she’s taking matters into her own hands. Literally. Viv grabs a pair of scissors, her phone for live-streaming, and, well, bye-bye braid.
Suddenly Viv is an over-night influencer at Brinkley Middle School. Everyone wants her help planning their next big moment—from haircuts, to dance proposals, activist rallies and mathlete championships. She hardly even has time for her friends anymore. It’s exactly how she dreamed of reinventing herself…right?
Lo and Behold
Published: May 2, 2023
When you’re named after a 250-year-old tortoise, you grow up believing life is full of possibilities and wonder. But ever since Addie’s family got turned upside down, those things have been harder for her to see.
The last thing Addie wants to do is make a new friend, but when her dad’s summer job takes them across the country, she meets Mateo and finds herself caught up in an exciting project. With the help of a virtual reality headset, she’s suddenly scaling castle walls, dodging angry kittens, and seeing the world in whole new ways. Plus, she has an idea that could be bigger than anything she’s imagined before, but can she right some wrongs first . . . or is it too late?
The Rhythm of Time b
Published: April 18, 2023
Seventh grader Rahim Reynolds loves testing out the gadgets invented by his brilliant friend Kasia Collins. First, there were the X-ray glasses and all the trouble they caused.
Now there’s the new cell phone she built for his birthday, even though his parents won’t let him have one. But Rahim is excited to use the phone to search for videos of his favorite old-school rap group. What he doesn’t know is the phone has a special battery that interfaces with a secret government satellite, which spells trouble when the phone transports him back to 1997.
Almost immediately, he learns what every time traveler before him has: Actions in the past jeopardize the future. With Kasia as his only lifeline to the present, Rahim works with her to get home unscathed, all the while dodging bullies (on his end) and suspicious government agents (on hers).
Benjamin Banneker STEM Academy is the top middle school in Denver. Let’s just say the kids are . . . competitive. When Principal Yee announces the start of an epic Team Competition for the school, Frederick Douglass Zezzmer knows that trophy’s got his name on it. That’ll show his sports-obsessed Dad that he’s worthy, right? Only problem is, it’s a TEAM competition … and Doug isn’t so great working in a team environment (except with his best friend Huey, of course).
Indigo and Ida
Published: April 4, 2023
The friends who’ve recently drifted away from her want to hang out again. Then Indigo notices that the school’s disciplinary policies seem to be enforced especially harshly with students of color, like her. She wants to keep investigating, but her friends insist she’s imagining things.
Meanwhile, Indigo stumbles upon a book by Black journalist and activist Ida B. Wells―with private letters written by Ida tucked inside. As she reads about Ida’s lifelong battle against racism, Indigo realizes she must choose between keeping quiet and fighting for justice.
Tethered to Other Stars
Published: October 3, 2023
Seventh grader Wendy Toledo knows that black holes and immigration police have one thing in common: they can both make things disappear without a trace. When her family moves to a new all-American neighborhood, Wendy knows the plan: keep her head down, build a telescope that will win the science fair, and stay on her family’s safe orbit.
But that’s easier said than done when there’s a woman hiding out from ICE agents in the church across the alley—and making Wendy’s parents very nervous.
As bullying at school threatens Wendy’s friendships and her hopes for the science fair, and her family’s secrets start to unravel, Wendy finds herself caught in the middle of far too many gravitational pulls. When someone she loves is detained by ICE, Wendy must find the courage to set her own orbit—and maybe shift the paths of everyone around her.
The Fire, the Water, and Maudie McGinn
Published: July 11, 2023
Maudie always looks forward to the summers she spends in California with her dad. But this year, she must keep a troubling secret about her home life—one that her mom warned her never to tell. Maudie wants to confide in her dad about her stepdad’s anger, but she’s scared.
When a wildfire strikes, Maudie and her dad are forced to evacuate to the beach town where he grew up. It’s another turbulent wave of change. But now, every morning, from their camper, Maudie can see surfers bobbing in the water. She desperately wants to learn, but could she ever be brave enough?
As Maudie navigates unfamiliar waters, she makes friends—and her autism no longer feels like the big deal her mom makes it out to be. But her secret is still threatening to sink her. Will Maudie find the strength to reveal the awful truth—and maybe even find some way to stay with Dad—before summer is over?
The Fifth Quarter
Published: May 25, 2021
Lori Block is dedicated to her fourth-grade basketball team, despite being relegated to an extra period before the real game starts, known as the fifth quarter, where the not-so-good kids play and the points don’t count. That doesn’t matter to Lori though, because working on her skills gives her hints of self-confidence, which is a nice break from feeling awkward and out-of-place in her daily life.
With athletic promise and a dogged determination to keep improving, Lori pursues her passion while navigating awkward social dynamics, her own expectations, and her first overnight away from home. Will her drive allow her to find true courage both on the court, in school, and at home?
Doodles from the Boogie Down
Published April 25, 2023
Eighth grade in New York City means one thing: It’s time to start applying to high schools! While her friends are looking at school catalogs and studying for entrance exams, Steph is doodling in her notebook and waiting for art class to begin.
When her art teacher tells her about LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, Steph desperately wants to apply. But she’s in the Bronx, and LaGuardia is a public school in Manhattan—which her mom would not approve of. Steph comes up with a plan that includes lying to her mom, friends, and teachers. Keeping secrets isn’t easy, and Steph must decide how far she’ll go to get what she wants.
Published: March 29, 2022
Thirteen-year-old Ava loves to surf and to sing. Singing and reading Rumi poems settle her mild OCD, and catching waves with her best friend, Phoenix, lets her fit in—her olive skin looks tan, not foreign. But then Ava has to spend the summer before ninth grade volunteering at the hospital, to follow in her single mother’s footsteps to become a doctor. And when Phoenix’s past lymphoma surges back, not even surfing, singing, or poetry can keep them afloat, threatening Ava’s hold on the one place and the one person that make her feel like she belongs.
You Are Here: Connecting Flights
Published: March 7, 2023
You Are Here: Connecting Flights is a series of interconnected stories (a different one per chapter) about 12 Asian-American kids at the international terminal of a major airport. We follow each kid as they deal with microaggressions, disdain, and outright racism. This collection was edited by Ellen Oh and features stories from a star-studded group of authors, including Christina Soontornvat, Erin Entrada Kelly, and Linda Sue Park.
Published: September 13, 2022
Thirteen-year-old Maddie is on her community’s swim team and loves hanging out with her friends at the community pool her parents run. She also has clinical anxiety and uses medications to manage it. Her one big issue is that a boy in her class, Lucas, wants to date her and won’t take no for an answer even though Maddie isn’t interested.
When she rejects his gift of a snow globe, odd vandalism incidents start happening at the pool, threatening her parents’ source of income and causing them to consider selling to a bigger sports company (which, coincidentally, Lucas’s brother is part of). Maddie feels sure that Lucas is responsible and teams up with her friend Esmeralda (Ez) to get to the bottom of the mystery. But are they on the right track?
Mirror to Mirror
Published: March 21, 2023
Twins Maya and Chaya, who, although opposites are inseparable. Where Maya is quiet and reserved, Chaya is outgoing. Both girls also share a few similar interests, top of which is their love for music. They even share friends, although they each have a different best friend. Suddenly, Maya starts to pull away from Chaya and the two begin to fight more.
Concluding that her sister needs space from her, Chaya starts trying to distinguish herself — getting a pink streak in her hair and dropping music and trying a new art form. But the girls keep butting heads. When matters come to a head, their parents send them off to camp together with the aim of resolving their conflict.
There, the girls decide to pretend to be each other (walk in each others shoes) and and whoever can keep the ruse going longer will get to decide where they both attend high school — the main thing they keep arguing about. But will this pact work? Or is there more to their fights than meets the eye?
Published: October 24, 2023
Sparkle Moore is destined to be a star. Her mother is determined to turn her and her younger sister, Nova, into social media influencers and budding superstars. And after her dad has lost work as a sitcom actor, Sparkle wants to do whatever she can to help her family financially, too.
But at the onset of middle school, Sparkle begins losing her hair—first her lashes, then her eyebrows, and then small circular bald spots appear in various sections on her head. It’s hard enough having to go to school and hide her diagnosis from her friends—all while they’re trying out for big roles in the school play—but Sparkle quickly has to deal with weird medications, itchy wigs, and lost opportunities her mom has wrangled, including a big shampoo commercial.
Despite everything she might do to hide what’s happening, and all her work keeping her friends together, when Sparkle’s secrets start coming to the surface—Sparkle has to come to terms with the changes in her life and show her classmates and her family what she can do with or without hair.
Coop Knows the Scoop
Published: July 7, 2020
When a dead body is found in Coop’s small town, he and his best friends Justice and Liberty are intrigued and want to help solve the mystery. But the stakes get even higher when Coop’s grandfather is accused of murdering the victim (who turned out to be Coop’s missing grandma!). Can Coop get the scoop on this mystery and save his grandfather before it’s too late?
This is a thrilling mystery with a winding path and high stakes. I found it easier to get into on audio because the narrator is engaging, and her Southern accent brings the small-town effect to life.
Fox Point’s Own Gemma Hopper
Published: April 11, 2023
In their tiny corner of Fox Point, Rhode Island, Gemma Hopper’s older brother, Teddy, is a baseball god, destined to become a Major League star. Gemma loves playing baseball, but with her mom gone and her dad working endless overtime, it’s up to her to keep the house running. She’s too busy folding laundry, making lunches, getting her younger twin brothers to do their homework, and navigating the perils of middle-school friendships to take baseball seriously.
But every afternoon, Gemma picks up her baseball glove to pitch to Teddy during his batting practice–throwing sliders down and away, fastballs right over the middle (not too fast or he’ll get mad), and hanging curveballs high and tight.
Could baseball be Gemma’s ticket to the big leagues or will it mean the end of her family as she knows it?
Published: January 24, 2023
Trev would do anything to protect his mom and sisters, especially from his stepdad. But his stepdad’s return stresses Trev—because when he left, he threatened Trev’s mom. Rather than live scared, Trev takes matters into his own hands, literally. He starts learning to box to handle his stepdad.
But everyone isn’t a fan of his plan, because Trev’s a talented artist, and his hands could actually help him build a better future. And they’re letting him know. But their advice for some distant future feels useless in his reality right now. Ultimately, Trev knows his future is in his hands, and his hands are his own, and he has to choose how to use them.
Free Throws, Friendship, and Other Things We Fouled Up
Cincinnati, Ohio, lives and dies by college basketball, with two elite Division I rivals separated by a mere three miles. Rory’s dad just secured a new coaching gig at the University of Cincinnati, so it means yet another school and move for her, only this time to her dad’s hometown. Rory’s life revolves around basketball; she’s never had a close friend outside of it. Could this be a chance for a fresh start?
Abby has always lived in Cincinnati, where her dad grew up playing ball and now coaches at Xavier University. But Abby has recently retreated from basketball after a frustrating season that left her confidence in shambles. This year, she finds herself on the outside looking in when it comes to her former teammates, and she could seriously use a new friend.
The coaches’ daughters connect over their shared love of the game when Abby chaperones Rory on her first day of school. But when Abby’s dad practically forbids their friendship because of something that happened between him and Rory’s dad when they were younger, Abby and Rory have no choice but to move their budding friendship underground.
Can the two of them get to the bottom of what went down between their dads in the 1990s before history repeats itself?
There they are: 25 of the best books for 12 year olds! Which of these books have you read and loved? What did I miss?
More Books for 12 Year Olds
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- About Afoma Umesi
Afoma Umesi is the founder and editor of Reading Middle Grade where she curates book lists and writes book reviews for kids of all ages. Her favorite genre to read is contemporary realistic fiction and she'll never say no to a graphic novel.
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74 Brilliant Books For 12-Year-Olds
November 16, 2023 // by Cassie Caroll
Trying to get your 12-year-olds hooked on reading can be a real challenge! No matter how much you impress upon them that reading can improve everything from their vocabulary to their critical thinking skills to their social-emotional learning, your reluctant readers still dig their heels in! We’ve put together a multi-genre list of books that are perfect for your kids – even the most reluctant of readers! Dive in and find out which ones will turn reading into your class’ new favorite pastime!
1. night on fire by ronald kidd.
Based on 1961’s Anniston, Alabama, Night on Fire tells the story of two maturing children who confront the ugly truth of racism and segregation when the Freedom Riders pass through their town. Beautifully written and emotion-packed, this is a book that will stick with your readers for a long time.
2. Eleven by Tom Rogers
Eleven explores the chilling reality and resulting aftermath of 9/11 through the perspective of a young boy who turns eleven years old on that fateful day. This is an eye-opening read for your students who have grown up in a post-9/11 world.
3. A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
Award-winning author Linda Sue Park immerses readers in 12th-century Korea in this coming-of-age story about dreams, determination, and overcoming adversity. This historical fiction novel is all the more prevalent with its tale of mentorship and the pursuit of passion.
4. A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Set during the construction of the Berlin Wall, Jennifer A. Nielsen’s A Night Divided features a protagonist with incredible bravery and resilience whose family has been broken apart by the Cold War. This is another book that will stay with your readers long after they read the final page.
5. Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai
This book is a poignant exploration of immigration and maturation set in 2001 Afghanistan and San Francisco. While fleeing from the Taliban, a family loses their youngest daughter, and their search for her never ceases. Meanwhile, young Fadi struggles to adapt to a society prejudiced against him and his family.
6. The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis
Your historical fiction readers will love the story of Deza Malone! Readers will follow this strong and smart protagonist as she tries to survive the Great Depression with her family. Deza’s father leaves to find work, while she along with her siblings and her mom must find a way to endure on their own.
7. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Some stories never get old and this is one of them! This classic story is about Anne, a young orphan in the late 19th century, who is accidentally sent to siblings who actually want to adopt a boy to help them on their farm. The siblings must now figure out how to raise the free-spirited and adventurous Anne!
8. Refugee by Alan Gratz
This poignantly written book is perfect for exploring the plight of refugees. It follows three refugee children from different places and time periods as they flee conflict. Your readers will read about Isabel is escaping from Cuba in 1994, Mahmoud is leaving Syria in 2015, and Josef is looking for solace from Nazi Germany during World War II.
9. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Another classic, Little Women is sure to hold your kiddos’ attention. This is the story of the four March sisters who live with their mother while their father is away fighting in the Civil War. Follow the trials and tribulations of each sister as they negotiate the difficulties of life.
10. The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
History meets adventure in this fun book your kiddies are sure to love! This story takes place in the 18th century and is about a boy named Matt whose father leaves him alone in their Maine cabin. Matt must fend for himself, but soon meets a group of Native Americans who help him survive the winter.
11. The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis
Pavana’s family has to find a way to survive after the Taliban takes control of their home in Afghanistan and her father is taken away. As a girl, Pavana is not allowed to work, so must disguise herself to help her family survive.
12. the warden’s daughter by jerry spinelli.
This novel by award-winner Jerry Spinelli tells the story of a young girl named Cammie who grows up in the prison system as the daughter of the prison warden. As her twelfth birthday approaches, Cammie grapples with her unique family structure with the help of some inmates along the way.
13. Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo
This is a favorite book among many middle-grade readers. Raymie Nightingale tells the story of three very different girls who form a surprising friendship amidst great tension and high-stakes competition. Your kids will love the themes of found family, trust, and love in this beautifully memorable young adult novel.
14. A Mango Shaped Space by Wendy Mass
This charming story of self-discovery and individuality is the perfect read for any of your middle school readers grappling with what makes them different and unique. When animal lover Mia Winchell discovers that she has synesthesia, she embarks on a quest to learn how to transform this apparent defect into a strength.
15. The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon
Take your class along for the adventure in this incredible exploration of friendship, greed, and risk-taking. Styx Malone makes Caleb and Bobby an offer they can’t refuse: one big dream in exchange for some worthless junk. Kekla Magoon creates unforgettable characters that you can’t help but root for despite the turmoil they create.
16. One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Lynda Mullaly Hunt does it again with this amazing book about found family. The protagonist, Carley Connors, struggles with her new situation after being displaced from her mother and taken in by a new family. As she learns to adapt, she must also confront the darker parts of her past.
17. Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds
Jason Reynolds weaves together ten different stories about the walk home from school. Don’t be deceived by the often funny stories that fill the book- each tale tackles serious and relevant themes facing youth today.
18. The Lonely Heart of Maybelle Lane by Kate O’Shaughnessy
The protagonist, Maybelle, goes on a search for her radio-host father whom she never really knew, hoping to win over his heart through a singing contest he is judging. The Lonely Heart of Maybelle Lane is an inspiring story about family and the search for self-packed into a beautifully written YA novel.
19. Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr
This is a beautiful, true story about grief and hope. Sadako is diagnosed with Leukemia, but through the act of folding paper cranes, she finds solace and acceptance. After she passes away, her classmates fold more paper cranes with the goal of reaching one thousand!
20. How To Steal A Dog by Barbara O’Connor
Your animal lovers will enjoy this read! In this novel, a young girl and her family are evicted from their home and have to find money to survive. In an effort to help her family, the young girl steals a dog and tries to collect reward money. This is a super story for exploring themes of survival and morality.
21. Gone Camping: A Novel in Verse by Tamera Will Wissinger
This is a fun novel for readers of any level! Written in verse, this story follows two kids who go on a camping trip with their family. The poems are simple but weave together an enjoyable adventure with themes of family bonding.
22. Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee
This book tackles the #MeToo movement from the perspective of middle schoolers. When Mila starts receiving unwanted attention from boys, she doesn’t know what to do, and her friends and family aren’t much help. She ends up joining a karate class to find her voice and harness her power!
23. Schooled by Gordon Karman
Every middle schooler will relate to this story of trying to fit in! Capricorn Anderson has been homeschooled his entire life, but now he has to go to public school and find a way to fit in. When his classmates vote him in as class president as a prank, he begins a journey of acceptance and finding his own way.
24. The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart
This tear-jerker weaves heartfelt content with fast-paced action! It tells the story of Mark, a boy with a terminal illness who has a limited amount of time to live. He decides to run away from his family and goes on an adventure to climb Mount Rainier.
25. Unteachables by Gordon Karman
Unteachables is another humorous but touching book by Gordan Korman. This story tells the tale of a group of 8th graders who everyone has decided are unteachable. In his last year before retirement, Mr. Kermit has to take on this difficult class with unexpected results for all involved!
26. Sarah Weeks Save Me a Seat by Gita Varadarajan
This story is perfect to spark class discussions about friendship and bullying. Joe and Ravi are two unlikely friends who share similar struggles; Ravi just moved to the U.S., and Joe is missing his friends, but they find common ground while standing up to the class bully!
27. My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich by Ibi Zoboi
This unique and imaginative book is perfect for your students who love realistic fiction! The story takes place in 1980s Harlem and centers on a girl whose grandfather was one of the first African-American engineers to work for NASA. Now she has to navigate a world with her grandfather no longer in it.
28. Zoe in Wonderland by Brenda Woods
Your readers will cherish this fun adventure story! Zoe feels invisible compared to her popular older sister and smart younger brother. When Zoe’s best friend moves away, she immerses herself in the botanical world of her family’s greenhouse until a mysterious botanist appears to kick off some fantastic adventures!
29. On a Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna
This one is a perfect story for your tech-obsessed students! In this book, the main character drops his video game in the lake and has to find fun in nature! As the story unfolds, he learns about the magic the forest has to offer. The illustrations make this story even more beautiful.
30. Wonder by R.J. Palacio
This heartwarming book will get your class talking about acceptance. Auggie looks different from other kids because he was born with a facial deformity. Your students will love following his ups and downs as he goes to school for the first time and navigates both prejudice and curiosity.
31. El Deafo by Cece Bell
This is a great graphic novel that will get your kids talking about the themes of self-acceptance and self-confidence. Cece is a deaf bunny who has to wear a unique type of hearing aid. She feels self-conscious about this device and in order to cope, she creates El Deafo, a superhero alter ego!
32. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
This book is good for kids who are ready to explore the complex issue of gun violence. Long Way Down is a story about a 15-year-old boy who lost his brother in a shooting. The story takes place in an elevator and follows this character as he travels to the ground floor while being visited by victims of gun violence.
33. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
The Outsiders is another classic novel that will still be relatable to your 12-year-old readers of today! This dramatic novel explores the concepts of boyhood and stereotypes while following Ponyboy as he navigates friendships and a rival gang.
34. Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri
This book is a gripping and heartbreaking read that is perfect for exploring the theme of identity with your kids. It’s an almost true story about a young Iranian boy who moves to Oklahoma. Formerly wealthy and now unable to afford his lunch, this new life is very different from the one he once knew.
35. Starfish by Lisa Fipps
Starfish is a story all about self-acceptance. A Texas girl named Ellie is bullied mercilessly about her weight, but with the help of her therapist, friend, and father she finds a way to love herself and feel confident in her own skin.
36. Linked by Gordon Korman
Another book that shakes up narration is Linked . When Swastikas start appearing in their community, five kids each react differently. The novel is told from each child’s perspective and explores what happens when an individual takes a stand and a community band together for change.
37. Real Friends by Shannon Hale
Your pre-teen readers are sure to relate to this graphic novel! Best friends Shannon and Adrienne have to navigate the new course of their friendship in this realistic depiction of life in middle school. Have your readers explore themes of friendship, bullying, anxiety, and the desire to fit in with this read.
38. The Shape of Thunder by Jasmine Warga
This story is perfect for your more mature readers. In this tale of grief, survival, and perseverance, Cora has to cope with the death of her sister who was killed by her best friend’s brother. Cora is grief-stricken and wants to time travel in an attempt to go back and stop this from ever happening.
39. A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée
This book will get your kids talking about social justice issues! Shayla Willows is a seventh grader who witnesses and experiences racial injustice in her town. It tells the story of a white police officer who is found not guilty in the shooting of a Black man, despite the overwhelming evidence against him.
40. Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt
Okay For Now grapples with some pretty tough issues. It tells the story of hardships faced by Doug and his family. when his dad loses his job, forcing the family to move. Doug must fit into his new community and cope with his father’s abusive and alcoholic behavior.
41. A High Five For Glenn Burke by Phil Bildner
Get your sports enthusiasts hooked on reading with this next pick! Silas is in sixth grade and is absolutely baseball-mad! He decides to give his class presentation on Glenn Burke, a professional baseball player who invented the high five and who was also gay. Soon, Silas’ presentation begins his own journey to self-discovery.
42. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
You can’t beat a book by the talented author, Sharon Creech! Walk Two Moons is a beautifully written novel about two characters who both lose their mothers. Sal and Phoebe must cope with this loss but as they reconstruct the events in their minds, neither of them can accept what really happened.
Mystery and Fantasy
43. the stitchers by lorien lawrence.
This book is the first in Lorien Lawrence’s series Fright Watch and is perfect for the new generation of readers in your class looking for mysteries and thrillers. When Quinn and Mike decide to investigate their mysterious neighbors across the street, they have no idea what kind of haunting story they are unraveling.
44. This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews
When Ben and Nathaniel make a pact, they mean business. These two boys set out on a journey to travel from their backyard to the Milky Way. This is the perfect read for any of your 12-year-olds who enjoy stories of friendship and adventure with a healthy dose of magic.
45. The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani Dasgupta
The Serpent’s Secret is the first book of the Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond series. Not only is this book packed with action and magic, but it will immerse your kiddos in a story inspired by traditional Indian folklore- sure to keep them on the edge of their seats!
46. Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar
When mysterious mud leads to nationwide panic, Tamaya and Marshall are helplessly caught in the crossfires. Brimming with suspense and chills, Fuzzy Mud is an excellent choice for any lover of mystery and spooky reads. Beneath the science fiction, however, is a tale about bravery and, surprisingly, environmentalism!
47. The Witches of Willow Cove by Josh Roberts
Witchcraft, mystery, and secrets combine to create a positively spooky and captivating read in The Witches of Willows Cove . Better yet, a sequel is in the works, giving your readers another title to add to their to-read list!
48. The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
This is a cozy story about a house of misfits learning to grow and manage their various gifts and powers. Quickly becoming a classic, this book is the perfect read for nearly any reader with its genius combination of humor, drama, mystery, and kindness.
49. True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle tells the harrowing story of a young woman trapped aboard a ship with a murderer on the loose. Reading this book feels like watching an old-fashioned thriller with all the chills! Avi will have your kiddies at the edge of their seats from the very first sentence.
50. The Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan
This book series is a Gen Z classic, and the next generation will love it just as much! This series is similar to The Lord of the Rings series with heroes, villains, and a healthy dose of fantasy adventure. Your tweens will love this trilogy.
51. The Bad Guys Series by Aaron Blabey
This is a graphic novel with fun drawings and humorous narration that your kiddos will love. Society views the main characters of this book – a fox, shark, and snake – as criminals, but they are determined to prove everyone wrong by performing some good deeds.
52. The Great Cake Mystery by Alexander McCall Smith
The Great Cake Mystery is a fun and emerging detective story that’s sure to hook your readers. It is the story of Precious Ramotswe, a young investigator from Botswana who, in her first ever case, has to figure out who’s stealing cake from her school; but it won’t be easy!
53. Bloom by Kenneth Oppel
When mysterious seeds rain down on Earth and sprout into toxic, human-eating plants, there’s no question about it; planet Earth has been invaded! The fate of the planet lies in the hands of three children who seem to be immune. Can they figure it out before it’s too late?
54. Wishtree by Katherine Applegate
This unique story is told from the perspective of an old tree named Red. Red is beloved by everyone in the neighborhood and they tie their wishes to its trunk – that is, until a new unwelcoming family moves in. Red’s experiences become more valuable now than ever!
55. Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger
This graphic novel series is sure to be a hit with your kiddos! Sophie Foster is different from other kids – she’s an elf with magical telepathic powers! Find out what happens when Sophie goes to elf school to learn about these powers and figure out what her memories mean.
56. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
This novel is great for any of your readers who love dystopian fiction. The main character, Juliette, has a special power; just one touch from her can kill! Her dystopian world is controlled by a dictator called The Reestablishment, who wants to harness this power and weaponize her.
57. The Giver by Lois Lowry
This is another great pick for readers who love dystopian stories. The Giver is a classic middle school-level novel about a world where Jonas is selected as the Receiver of Memories. Jonas receives all the community’s memories from the Giver, and as he does, he begins to question his society.
58. The Apothecary by Maile Meloy
This will be a hit with both lovers of historical fiction and fantasy! Set in London during the Cold War, Janie meets Benjamin, the son of a chemist. Benjamin’s father suddenly disappears and the friends set out on an adventure full of spies and danger to find him!
59. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is an absolute classic! This short story tells the tale of Scrooge, a grumpy man who lacks the Christmas spirit. After a visit from three ghosts, will Scrooge have a change of heart and change his ways? Or is it too late for him?
60. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
This award-winning book is considered a modern-day classic. In this story, Bod lives in a cemetery after his parents are murdered and is raised by ghosts and his guardian, Silas. Each chapter details an event in Bod’s life as he navigates a world of ghosts and grief.
61. Big Foot Crossing by Gail Anderson-Dargatz
Your mystery lovers will love this outdoor adventure story! During a family camping trip, Jay begins to think his family is being hunted by Bigfoot. When his father disappears, he realizes he must rescue his dad and deal with the threats in the woods!
62. Below the Surface by Allison Finley
Dive into this adventure with your class! In this novel, a thirteen-year-old boy named Theo finds a pocket watch below the haunted Sawyer’s Bridget. Follow Theo as he searches for answers that link this pocket watch to a mysterious local legend!
63. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Your readers will fall in love with this story and its beautiful illustrations! It tells the tale of a young boy named Hugo who while living in a Paris train station is trying to fix an automaton in the hopes of reconnecting with his deceased father. Things go wrong for him when he is caught stealing parts he needs.
64. Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
This is a novel perfect for readers who love rooting for the underdog! Hoot is a timeless mystery about a Florida boy named Roy. Let them follow his journey as he and his two friends work together to stop the building of a restaurant that will displace a colony of owls.
65. Once Upon a Tim by Stuart Gibbs
Tim is a peasant with big aspirations, but Tim isn’t born into nobility. He doesn’t want to be a woodsman, but he’s determined to find a way around the hierarchical system. Tim wants to be a knight, but can he do it? Your middle school readers will adore this twisted fairytale!
66. Cress Watercress by Gregory Maguire
This book is a great starting point to talk about what it takes to start over. Cress is a rabbit who lives in the forest with her mom and little brother. After Cress’s dad dies, they have to move and learn to deal with death, grief, and loneliness
67. The Secrets of Shakespeare’s Grave by Deron R. Hicks
Who wouldn’t love a book about secret passages and treasures? Colophon is a twelve-year-old who must travel to London with her uncle, Julian, to solve a mystery with secret clues that lead to a treasure. This is a fun and exciting graphic novel that your students are sure to love!
68. Earthborn by Sylvia Waugh
This is a quirky book that your sci-fi fans won’t be able to put down! Nesta is living in England where she discovers that her family are actually aliens and hey not only that, they have to return to their home planet! Nesta doesn’t want to go but will have to find a way to accept who she is.
69. lost in the pacific, 1942 by tod olsen.
This book tells the true story of World War II soldiers who made an emergency landing in their B-17 bomber on October 21, 1942. Your middle-grade readers will be quickly hooked by this adventure story and can continue their reading marathon with more in the nonfiction book series.
70. Roses and Radicals by Susan Zimet
The brave people behind the women’s suffrage movement are heroes, and this book tells their story. This is an excellent middle-grade book for blossoming historians or anyone committed to learning more about the fight for freedom that continues to this day.
71. Undefeated by Steve Sheinkin
Undefeated is a favorite book amongst young sports fans and historians but is accessible and enjoyable for many different readers. This book tells the true story of Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team’s fight against racism and segregation that made history.
72. My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero
Diane Guerrero’s young reader’s edition of her memoir is equal parts heartwarming and eye-opening. This actress’ rise to fame was littered with obstacles and social injustice. Her patient storytelling and honest voice pierce through each page; an absolute must-read for your kids.
73. Amelia Lost by Candace Fleming
Chronicling the life and disappearance of the famous female pilot, Amelia Lost is a captivating read for your middle-grade readers. Amelia Earhart’s amazing story is timeless and still unravels today, making this both prevalent and commemorative.
74. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
Your 12-year-olds will love this historical fiction novel! It tells the story of a rowing team competing in the 1936 Olympics in Germany. As the American team crosses the finish line, Hitler leaves the competition enraged. Find out what happens by picking up a copy of this captivating story!
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21 Best Books For 11- And 12-Year-Olds To Read In 2023
A good book can help satiate a child’s curiosity or interest in learning.
H. Shamsi BSc
Specialty: Book Reviewer and Blogger
H. Shamsi graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Management Information Systems from the United Arab Emirates University in 2010. Since then, she has utilized her Management and IT knowledge to create solutions and methods for book-related... more
wedetso chirhah MA English
Specialty: Literature, Electronics, Automobile and Homeware Products
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“There are many little ways to enlarge your world. Love of books is the best of all.” –Jacqueline Kennedy
A middle grader’s mind is filled with a lot of questions. And to satisfy their curiosity, you will need the best books for 11- to 12-year-olds. You can choose from adventure, fantasy, mystery, and other genres to keep your child hooked on the books, encourage reading, and develop their literary proficiency.
In this post, we have listed some of the most engaging books that your little one can read for entertainment and learning. So, keep scrolling and pick one of these best-selling books.
The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer
Oliver twist, a christmas carol, harry potter and the sorcerer’s stone, circus mirandus, the secret garden, furthermore, the hobbit or there and back again, 21 books for 11- and 12-year-old kids.
Here is a list of books that tell stories of adventure, fantasy, and magic and take children on a spectacular world of fiction.
1. The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer
Author: Mark Twain
Set in the year 1840, this story showcases the life of a young boy named Tom Sawyer, who lived with this Aunt Polly in a fictional town situated along the river Mississippi. Tom was notorious for skipping and going swimming and playing instead. As punishment for this, his aunt made him paint the fence around the house.
Tom being a clever boy would persuade the children in the neighborhood to do the job. He would make the job sound exciting, and when they’d ask if they could do it, he’d take small trinkets and treasures from them in return for painting the fence. This middle-grade book tells you about the unstoppable Tom and the several adventures he goes on.
This humorous book for 11- and 12-year-olds has a story that features satire, humor, and social criticism, making it one of the finest works of classic literature for children.
2. Oliver Twist
Author: Charles Dickens
The story revolves around an orphan named Oliver Twist, who was born in 1830 in a workhouse in England. One day, he decides to escape the orphanage where he lives and go to London. There, he falls in the hands of a criminal who trains orphan boys to pickpocket.
He tries to escape their company, but the bad guys are still after him. The powerful story puts you across the situations that Oliver goes through during his journey until a gentleman named Mr. Brownlow adopts him.
It is a best-selling children’s classic that kids aged eleven and twelve years will want to read again and again.
3. A Christmas Carol
The story is about an elderly miser named Ebenezer Scrooge, who doesn’t care about Christmas. To him, it is just another day, and he has hated Christmas ever since the death of his business partner, Jacob Marley. But his attitude towards the festival changes when the ghost of Marley appears and tells Scrooge to change his ways or he will be cursed.
It is an excellent pick for the kids’ holiday reading.
4. Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone
Author: J.K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré (Illustrator)
The magical story is about a kid named Harry Potter , who has lost his parents and is forced to live a miserable life with his unloving relatives. One day he receives a letter that reveals the truth about him: he is a wizard kid. His destiny changes after that. He is picked up by a mysterious rescuer from his house, who takes him to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
A new life of magic, new friendships and challenges await Harry Potter at his new home. Filled with magic and fiction, the parent-recommended book series of Harry Potter is a series of coming-of-age books for 11- and 12-year-olds in middle school, but adults, too, enjoy reading them.
A reader says, “There is a reason why Harry Potter Books have garnered the love of so many people around the world, it’s not just because it’s magical, it is a coming of age story where the reader follow harry from his teens to his adulthood through So many Adventures and hardships alongside his friends in these 7 Series Books, definitely a book that deserves to be introduced to any 11 – 12 years old.”
5. Circus Mirandus
Author: Cassie Beasley
A young boy named Micah Tuttle believes a story that his dying grandfather, Ephraim, tells him. The story is about the magical Circus Mirandus, an invisible tiger that guards the gates, a flying bird woman, and a powerful magician who can bend light.
At the end of the story, his grandpa says that ‘The circus’ and the ‘Lightbender’ are real. He offers proof and tells Micah that the ‘Lightbender’ owes him a miracle that could probably save his life. Micah sets off on a journey with his friend Jenny Mendoza to find the circus and the man whom he believes can save the life of his grandpa.
Circus Mirandus is an adventure fantasy story that can transport children to a marvelous world or miracles and magical beings .
6. The Secret Garden
Author: Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Secret Garden is a classic of English literature for kids.
The story is about a 10-year-old girl named Mary Lennox, who is born to a wealthy British family in India. Never loved by her parents, Mary grows to be an aggressive, selfish, and spoilt brat.
After losing her parents, she is sent away to Yorkshire, England, to live with her rich uncle, Archibald Craven. There, she meets a maid named Martha Sowerby, who tells her about the late Mrs. Craven who would spend hours growing roses in the private garden of the mansion and died in an accident in the garden. As Mary grows, she wonders about the secret garden and the mysterious cries that echo through the house during the night. She decides to follow the strange sounds and unravel the secrets of the house.
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Twelve-year-old Alice Alexis Queensmeadow is determined to find her beloved father who disappeared from Ferenwood three years ago. The journey is not going to be easy for her as she needs to travel through the dangerous land of Furthermore where nothing is as it seems. She is accompanied by a boy named Oliver in her quest. All it takes is Alice’s wisdom to fight all the odds and bring her father back home safely.
Furthermore, it is a captivating and adventurous tale that will be thoroughly enjoyed by 11 to 12 year old girls.
8. The Hobbit
Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
The story revolves around a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins, who enjoys a cozy life in his comfortable abode, a hole inside the ground. One day, a group of dwarfs and the wizard Gandalf visits him to explain a plot they have made to raid the treasure guarded by a dangerous dragon called Smaug, the Magnificent. He sets off on a quest to win a share of the treasure. The best-selling book revolves around his encounters with several magical and mysterious creatures during his journey and how he uses his wits and common sense to win over them.
This cult-favorite book features an adventurous story filled with humor and suspense to enthrall the little readers.
Author: Carl Hiaasen
The story sets off in Florida with the main character Roy Eberhardt, who is on a mission to stop the construction of a pancake house on a site that serves as a colony for a group of endangered species of owls. He befriends a vandal boy called ‘Mullet Fingers’ who also wants to save the home of the burrowing owls. Roy also encourages his classmates to join him in the protest to save the habitat of the endangered species.
This inspiring book for 11- and 12-year-olds has a motivating tale of adventure and teaches children the importance of having compassion towards another species.
10. The War That Saved My Life
Author: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
This historical book is about Ada, a ten-year-old girl, who lives in an apartment in London with her brother Jamie and her abusive mother. Embarrassed of Ada’s twisted foot, her mom would never let her go out. Around that time, when World War II begins, Ada’s mother decides to send off Jamie to the countryside and let Ada stay with her in London.
However, Ada decides to leave with her brother without letting her mother know about it. When they reach the countryside, they meet a woman named Susan Smith, who gives them shelter. Will the kids stay with her forever or will they be taken back by their abusive mother? You will know when you read the book.
The War That Saved My Life is a historical fiction book for 11- and 12-year-olds that gives them a glimpse of how times were during war and how difficult it was for children to stay away from the comfort of their homes.
11. The Phantom Tollbooth
Author: Norton Juster
The story is about a young boy named Milo and the mysterious tollbooth that appears in his room. He drives through it in his toy car and reaches the kingdom of wisdom that seems to be troubled. There, he makes two friends and goes on a journey to find and bring back two exiled princesses named Rhyme and Reason. During his journey, he learns many invaluable lessons and rediscovers his love for education. It further helps him to develop as a better person in life.
This is a great adventure book for 11- and 12-year-olds and has a lot of valuable lessons for children.
12. Number The Stars
Author: Lois Lowry
The story is set in 1943 and is centered around a ten-year-old girl called Annemarie Johansen, who lives with her family in Copenhagen, Denmark. During World War II, Copenhagen was facing a shortage of even basic goods. Nazis could be found at every corner of the street.
For reasons unknown, the Germans start a campaign to relocate the Danish Jews. In this book, the author lets you experience the Danish resistance through the eyes of the ten-year-old Annemarie. It shows how she risks her life to protect her best friend Ellen Rose, who is Jewish, by lying that she is her older sister.
This book was awarded for its contribution to American literature for children .
13. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland & Through The Looking-Glass
Author: Lewis Carroll
Sitting on a riverbank with her sister, seven-year-old girl Alice sees a clothed rabbit with a pocket watch run past her. Curious, she follows the rabbit down a hole to find a hall with many doors of different sizes. She finds a key to a door that is too small for her to pass through.
She finds a solution to that and is surprised by what she sees behind that tiny little door. This marks the beginning of her many adventures in the wonderful land with talking rabbits, invisible cats, and many more unique and interesting characters that teach her something. Alice’s adventures make one wish they could find a wonderland like that too, filled with surprises and intriguing plot twists.
Alice in Wonderland is a fantasy story that makes it very popular among children. Loved by many reviewers, this book is an exciting read for 12-year-old kids.
Author: Robyn Mundell
The book depicts the story of a fourteen-year-old teen named Bernard, who thinks out of the box. Bernard is suspended from his school for idly sitting in the classroom, which lands him at his father’s workplace. Unknowingly, he gets into a particle accelerator from where he is transported through a wormhole and dropped in the middle of a battle that is taking place inside his father’s brain.
Charlie is one of the lucky kids and gears up for the factory visit. But little does he know about the surprises awaiting him in the mysterious factory. An adventurous and charming story, this book is the perfect read for chocolate-loving 11 to 12-year-old children.
15. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory
Author: Roald Dahl
Eleven-year-old Charlie Bucket is fascinated by the stories that his grandfather tells him of a chocolate maker called Willy Wonka. He learns that for some reason, the legendary chocolatier had to shut down his factory to the outsiders. One day, the newspaper announces that the chocolate factory is open again for visitors. The announcement also invites five kids to take a tour of the factory if they find a golden ticket for the entry.
Charlie is one of the lucky kids and gears up for the factory visit. But little does he know about the surprises awaiting him in the mysterious factory. An adventurous story, this book is the perfect read for chocolate-loving 11 to 12-year-old children.
16. The Frog Princess
Author: E. D. Baker
The book is about Princess Emeralda, also known as Emma, whose unique trait is her laugh that sounds like a donkey’s bray. Her mother wants her to marry Prince Jorge, who Emeralda deeply dislikes. She runs away to escape the wedding and meets Prince Eadric, who has been turned into a frog by a witch. To her surprise, she turns into a frog herself by kissing Eadric. Both annoyed and frustrated, they begin their adventurous journey to find the witch and get their human form back.
It is a fantasy book for 11- and 12-year-olds. The storyline is both intriguing and funny enough to keep the kids hooked to reading.
17. Harriet The Spy
Author: Louise Fitzhugh
The story revolves around an eleven-year-old girl named Harriet M. Welsch. Harriet is a spy who observes everyone, including her classmates and even her best friends, and writes about them in her notebook. One day, Harriet loses track of her notebook and it falls into the wrong hands. Her friends come to know about the awful and truthful things she has written about them. Will Harriet be able to put the things rightly in place and get her friends back?
One of the best children’s classics, Harriet The Spy makes an excellent read for 11- to 12-year-old girls.
18. Sherlock Academy
Author: F.C. Shaw
Rollie and her best friend Cecily are invited to the Sherlock Academy, where they are trained to become detectives as good as Sherlock Holmes. The kids soon discover that a burglary has been committed in the academy and the mystery needs to be unraveled. Rollie is determined to use his learned skills to investigate the case. Soon he realizes that appearances are a hoax, the truth is hurtful, and friends can be foes. The story of this mystery book for 11- and 12-year-olds fascinates the reader and keeps them hooked as they try to know if Rollie can solve the case.
It makes an excellent pick for children in the middle grade.
19. Emil And The Detectives
Author: Erich Kästner
If Emil’s mother had known about the adventures her son was going to have in Berlin, she would not have sent him there. But Emil goes on the trip, one that becomes a marvelous adventure in Berlin and loses his seven pounds on the train. He is determined to get the money back and teams up with some detectives in Berlin. The story explains how Emil embarks on a quest to retrieve the money and experiences during the investigations.
It is an action-packed book for 11- and 12-year-olds with a classic adventure story that keeps children enthralled throughout.
20. The Fairies Of Turtle Creek
Author: Jill K. Sayre
Claire is a smart eighth grader who loves science and believes that it can prove anything. But then her estranged grandmother comes to stay with her and convinces her that fairies are real. The grandma tells about their family history that sounds supernatural and unusual. Soon she encounters mysterious things that flip her scientific world making her believe the impossible.
It is an excellent fantasy book for 11- and 12-year-old girls.
21. The Smile Ambassadors
Author: Zack and Mack
The story is not about a two-headed turtle named Zack and Mack, owned by seven-year-old Constance. The turtle escapes from the owners and heads towards the local creek. Constance is in vain of losing her turtle, but the media is looped in the search for the rare turtle. Constance finds them taking part in a turtle race at Maytown Fair, and things turn surreal.
The story depicts the adventures of the rare and real turtle which makes an excellent pick for kids.
How To Choose The Right Books For 11- and 12-Year-Olds?
Consider the following points when choosing the best book for 11- and 12-year-olds. You will find a summary of each of the recommended books to help you select the right one.
- Interest : Consider your child’s interests. From historical to fantasy fiction, you can explore books across various genres to find one that will keep your child engaged.
- Length : Choose books you think your child will enjoy and are a good fit for their attention span. While some children may be comfortable reading for long hours, others may lose interest quickly. So, consider your child’s reading habits to pick the right book.
- Reading level : Ensure the book is challenging enough to help them improve their skills but not so difficult that they become frustrated and give up. A good way to gauge this is by looking at the reading level on the back of the book.
- Reviews: Check out the testimonials by other young readers and parents to understand if the book is suitable for your child. You can also ask your child’s teacher or librarian for recommendations.
H Shamsi , book reviewer and founder of Book Nerdection, says, “Eleven- and twelve-year-old boys and girls will do good with reading pictureless books and stories. Reading slightly lengthy books (not comic books) will spark their imagination and give them the reading stamina they need for their studies. Remember, it is with imagination that creativity is born.”
Why Trust MomJunction?
Wedetso Chirhah is an experienced writer and reviewer specializing in books, children’s items, and other household products. Being a book lover himself, he can identify a good book when he sees one. He has conducted rigorous assessment of book plots and reader reviews to curate this list of the best books for 11- and 12-year-olds. You will find a summary of each of the books to help you select the right one.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What books should an 11-year-old read?
Well-written books that showcase the author’s literary expertise enhance children’s vocabulary and fluency, books that offer them pleasure, facilitate their understanding of people and cultures, and introduce them to new topics and hobbies are ideal for most 11 year olds ( 1 ).
2. For how long should 11-year-olds read a day?
Depending on how hectic their schedule is, 11-year-olds should spend at least 20 minutes daily reading books apart from the curriculum ( 2 ).
3. What type of books should an 11- to 12-year-old not read?
It’s better for 11- to 12-year-olds to avoid books that are too gory, dark, depressing, and psychologically daunting.
4. What level of books should a 12-year-old be reading?
Since most children by this age begin to analyze the meaning of the narrative and persuasive texts, it’s great to give them books that can facilitate such explorations and understandings ( 3 ). The books should be able to ignite their intrinsic motivation to read by catering to their curiosity and involvement ( 1 ).
The Bottom Line
Reading is one of the best habits you can inculcate in a child, no matter how old they are. However, 11- and 12-year-olds tend to be extra curious about the world and the human condition, which is why it’s a great idea to present them with books and instill a love of learning in them. Our recommendations include the humorous Adventures of Tom Sawyer , the magical Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and the inspiring story of The War That Saved My Life. The best books for 11- and 12-year-olds cover a range of genres, so regardless of whether your little one likes magic or science fiction, the above book list has something for everyone. While choosing one, consider your child’s interests and encourage them to make reading a daily habit.
Infographic: How To Arouse Your Child’s Interest In Reading
Illustration: Momjunction Design Team
Get high-quality PDF version by clicking below.
- Reading For Pleasure: A Research Overview https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED496343.pdf
- How Much Time Should My Child Spend Reading? https://isaprofessionaldevelopment.org/documents/parent-booklet/PB-Q12.pdf
- Reading Milestones: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/milestones.html
- Best Books For 13 And 14-Year-Olds
- Best Books For 7 And 8-Year-Old Children
- Interesting Story Books For Kids
- Best Novels For Teens To Read
Wedetso Chirhah MA English
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12 Best Books for Twelve Year Olds: Awesome Novels for Your Middle Schooler
Finding great books for pre-teens is tough—but we’ve got it covered with our list of the best books for twelve year olds.
Finding the best books for twelve-year-olds isn’t easy—they’re beyond the point where children’s books are the right fit but often aren’t at the age where adult novels are interesting or appropriate. Finding the right reading list additions for young readers in middle school means you need to know your child’s interests—the reading needs of a twelve-year-old girl who is into historical fiction will vary vastly from those of a twelve-year-old boy who wants to immerse himself in the magical world of science fiction.
Our list below captures many good books for your tween that are both challenging and exciting. If you’re interested in this topic, you will love our round-up of the best J.K. Rowling books !
Here Are The Best Books for Twelve Year Olds
1. the harry potter series by j.k. rowling, 2. the girl who drank the moon by kelly barnhill, 3. all of me by chris baron, 4. little women by louisa may alcott, 5. track series by jason reynolds, 6. sal and gabi break the universe by carlos hernandez, 7. strange birds: a field guide to ruffling feathers by celia c. perez, 8. mostly the honest truth by jody j. little, 9. the lord of the rings series by j.r.r. tolkein, 10. the miscalculations of lightning girl by stacy mcanulty, 11. pax by sara pennypacker, 12. the night diary by veera hiranandani.
The world-renowned Harry Potter series follows the story of Harry, a young boy who discovers that he’s a wizard. The books tell the story of Harry and the friends he meets at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry and his friends Hermione and Ron navigate both the intricacies of having magical powers and the ups and downs of tweenage and teenage life. There are eight books in the series, each taking readers through the process of the magical trio perfecting their powers and growing up. You might also be interested in our list of books for eight year olds .
“It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.” J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
The worlds of humans and magical beings meld in The Girl Who Drank the Moon . Townspeople leave a baby to a witch that they fear each year. Unbeknownst to the townspeople, the witch takes the babies and gives them to loving families in another town. Luna is given to the witch as a baby, and the witch accidentally feeds her moonlight instead of starlight, which gives the baby magical powers. The witch, Xan, names her Luna and takes care of her in her forest home. As Luna grows older, her magic becomes dangerous, and readers will stay on the edge of their seats as they watch how Luna, Xan, and the townspeople nearby interact.
“How many feelings can one heart hold?… Infinite, Luna thought. The way the universe is infinite. It is light and dark and endless motion; it is space and time, and space within space, and time within time. And she knew: there is no limit to what the heart can carry.” Kelly Barnhill, The Girl Who Drank the Moon
- Newbery medal winners
- Language: english
- Book - the girl who drank the moon
- Hardcover Book
- Barnhill, Kelly (Author)
Ari is a young, overweight boy struggling with his body image. A cross-country move means less time with his parents as they work to promote his mother’s art career. While settling into his new home, Ari makes new friends and grows close with classmates Pick, Jorge, and Lisa. The young boy experiences bullying in his new school but feels his parents are too busy to listen to his concerns. After his mother encourages Ari to go on a diet, he begins to learn how to love himself in the body he’s already in. Check out our guide on the best books for ten year olds .
“A clear thought like starlight, the kind that only comes after something tough happens.” Chris Baron, All of Me
- Baron, Chris (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 320 Pages - 06/11/2019 (Publication Date) - Feiwel & Friends (Publisher)
Little Women is a timeless classic tale that follows the lives of Alcott and her three sisters, Amy, Beth, Meg, and Jo, as they grow from children into young women. The family is not wealthy but keeps an optimistic perspective on following their dreams. The sisters tackle issues around love, work, and domesticity. Readers will find that each of the sisters maintains their sense of individuality. The book takes place during the American Civil War and shows how the issues happening in the country at the time affected the family.
“There are many Beths in the world, shy and quiet, sitting in corners till needed, and living for others so cheerfully that no one sees the sacrifices till the little cricket on the hearth stops chirping, and the sweet, sunshiny presence vanishes, leaving silence and shadow behind.” Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
- Alcott, Louisa May (Author)
- 546 Pages - 03/02/2019 (Publication Date) - SeaWolf Press (Publisher)
The Track Series follows the stories of Ghost, Patina, Sunny, and Lu, four runners from different backgrounds on the same track team. Young readers love how relatable the characters are as they deal with issues that plague many middle schoolers. Parents love how the books touch on moral and social issues without overwhelming readers.
It’s unusual to find a series focused on sports that include both boys and girls and isn’t football or baseball focused. In addition to focusing on running, the group faces its issues. Many readers relate to the idea that everyone has more going on beneath the surface than initially meets the eye. If you like reading children’s books, you might also enjoy our list of the best books by Roald Dahl .
“Trouble is, you can’t run away from yourself.” Coach snatched the towel from his shoulder, folded into a perfect square, and set it in the space between us. “Unfortunately,” he said, “ain’t nobody that fast.” Jason Reynolds, Ghost
- Reynolds, Jason (Author)
- 832 Pages - 11/27/2018 (Publication Date) - Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books (Publisher)
In Sal and Gabi Break the Universe , Sal Vidon is a magician who meets Gabi Real, the student council president, when Sal is blamed for putting a raw chicken in Gabi’s best friend’s locker. Sal prides himself on his magic skills, and Gabi prides herself on never missing anything. Together, the two discover that Sal can reach through space and time and retrieve people from the past. When Gabi learns about Sal’s abilities, she can handle his otherworldly powers–but the two face issues that could threaten the universe.
“Fear is your body trying to tell your brain what to do. But the brain is the king of the body. It calls the shots.” Carlos Hernandez, Sal and Gabi Break the Universe
- Hernandez, Carlos (Author)
- 400 Pages - 03/05/2019 (Publication Date) - Rick Riordan Presents (Publisher)
In Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers , Lane, Cat, Aster, and Ofelia come together to form a different kind of scout troop, as they find that the current scout troop in their area isn’t a good fit for them. The girls are diverse and come together to stop another troop from participating in activities that they find morally unjust. Strange Birds tells a unique story of friendship and encourages girls to use their minds to make a difference.
Many parents like that this book stays away from romantic themes, focuses solely on friendship and intellectual pursuits and encourages young girls to look at their communities and find ways to create positive change.
“She could see that familiar look on her mom’s face. It was her I’m-just-making-conversation-but-really-hoping-you’ll-share-something-important look.” Celia C. Pérez, Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers
- Pérez, Celia C. (Author)
- 384 Pages - 09/03/2019 (Publication Date) - Kokila (Publisher)
Jane’s life isn’t easy; she’s trying to manage her own life while also living with an addicted father while dealing with the ins and outs of living in foster care. It’s not her first time being displaced due to her father’s addiction. In Mostly the Honest Truth , Jane’s matter-of-fact attitude can be surprising, and her ability to take life in stride is proof that she hasn’t had it easy.
While she knows what to expect, she’s surprised to find that she feels a sense of community, even when the person who is most important to her is far away. Readers find Jane likable and relatable and love watching how she never gives up hope, even when life throws her unexpected turns.
“Yep, twelve days in rehab for Pop. Twelve days in a temporary foster home for me. We’d already done it three times before, but this fourth time was going to be the last. I had made sure of it. That’s the honest truth.” Jody J. Little, Mostly the Honest Truth
- Little, Jody J. (Author)
- 272 Pages - 03/12/2019 (Publication Date) - HarperCollins (Publisher)
An age-old tale of good versus evil, The Lord of the Rings is a six-book series that follows a group of heroes on a quest to save their world from those who are out to destroy it. Frodo Baggins receives a magical ring from his uncle and quickly learns that the ring can control the world. The ring is known for its ability to corrupt whoever possesses it, and Frodo learns that it’s up to him and those closest to him to keep the ring safe.
“I am old, Gandalf. I don’t look it, but I am beginning to feel it in my heart of hearts. Well-preserved indeed! Why, I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread. That can’t be right. I need a change, or something.” J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
- Harper Collins Paperbacks
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (Author)
- 1150 Pages - 11/11/1995 (Publication Date) - HarperCollins Publishers Ltd (Publisher)
Whether your kid loves math or struggles with numbers, they’ll love reading The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl about how Lucy is a genius when solving math problems fast. The twelve-year-old was struck by lightning and was suddenly able to do math at a crazy speed. Lucy is brilliant and also lives with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Her math skills mean that she’s ready for college years before her peers, but her family isn’t sure she’ll be able to handle the pressures of higher education.
After twelve years of homeschooling, Lucy’s a mathematician, but her grandmother tells her she must grow up socially before handling a college class. This coming-of-age story touches on mental health, confidence, academics, social issues, family relationships, and other issues that are close to the heart of today’s pre-teens. You might be interested in exploring other children’s books, such as these best Astrid Lindgren books .
“Don’t be afraid of numbers. Use them to compute your solutions. Look at the world as it is intended.” Stacy McAnulty, The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl
- McAnulty, Stacy (Author)
- 304 Pages - 05/01/2018 (Publication Date) - Random House Books for Young Readers (Publisher)
Sara Pennypacker ‘s New York Times bestseller, Pax , is a heartwarming story that follows Peter and his pet fox, Pax. Peter and Pax were inseparable until Peter’s father enlisted in the military and made Peter return Pax to the forest. After finding himself three hundred miles from home at his grandfather’s house, Peter decides to embark on his journey–to find his beloved fox again. He isn’t the only one longing for his long-lost friend – Pax is also waiting for Peter, all while going through his adventures in the wild.
“After his own mother had died, Peter had watched his father anxiously. At first, there had just been a frightening silence. But gradually, his face had hardened into the permanent threat of a scowl, and his hands clenched in fists by his sides as if itching for something to set him off. Peter learned to avoid being that something. Learned to stay out of his way.” Sara Pennypackar, Pax
- Pennypacker, Sara (Author)
- 288 Pages - 02/02/2016 (Publication Date) - Balzer + Bray (Publisher)
The Night Diary is set in India in 1947. The country has recently been split into India and Pakistan, and there’s a vast divide between people of the Hindu and Islamic faiths. Nisha is a twelve-year-old who feels stuck–she’s half-Hindu, half-Muslim, and she can’t quite figure out where she fits in. Her father decides the family can no longer stay in Pakistan and must make the dangerous journey to a safer home.
The Night Diary shares themes of hope, family, and hardship, and readers will root for Nisha with every page turn. Looking for more? Check out our round-up of the best books for teenagers !
“It feels like we’re really in a story now. I’ve heard about stories like these, about people who flee their homes in a war with nothing but the clothes and food on their backs. Now that’s who we are, even though there’s not a war here, but it’s like a war. It seems almost like a made-up war.” Veera Hiranandani, The Night Diary
- The Night Diary Hardcover
- Hiranandani, Veera (Author)
- 272 Pages - 03/06/2018 (Publication Date) - Kokila (Publisher)
Amanda has an M.S.Ed degree from the University of Pennsylvania in School and Mental Health Counseling and is a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer. She has experience writing magazine articles, newspaper articles, SEO-friendly web copy, and blog posts.
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The New York Public Library Reveals the Best Books of 2023 for Kids, Teens, and Adults
November 21, 2023 —The New York Public Library announced today its Best Books of 2023 , a curated list of 240 recommended titles published this year for children, teens, and adults.
For nearly a century NYPL’s expert librarians have been providing New Yorkers with their year-end recommendations, celebrating books that inspire a love of reading. This year’s list was selected by eight individual committees, which reviewed nearly three thousand books for various ages and genres, including comics, romance, mystery, and poetry.
The books have been sorted into four categories:
- Best Books for Kids (100 titles)
- Mejores libros para pequeños / Best Books for Kids in Spanish (20 titles)
- Best Books for Teens (50 titles)
- Best Books for Adults (70 titles)
The recommended titles can be found at nypl.org/bestbooks and are available to check out at branches across the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island —with no late fees !—or, in many cases, through the Library’s free e-reader app, SimplyE . Recommendations can also be found year-round by visiting your local branch, contacting AskNYPL , tuning in to NYPL’s podcast, The Librarian Is In , or online at nypl.org/recommends .
The top 10 books for each category are listed below (in alphabetical order):
Top 10 Books for Children
- Ancestory: The Mystery and Majesty of Ancient Cave Art by Hannah Salyer
- Cape by Kevin Johnson, illustrated by Kitt Thomas
- Doodles from the Boogie Down by Stephanie Rodriguez
- I’m From by Gary R. Gray, Jr., illustrated by Oge Mora
- Parachute Kids by Betty C. Tang
- Ruby Lost and Found by Christina Li
- Search for a Giant Squid: Pick Your Pat h by Amy Seto Forrestor, illustrated by Andy Chou Musser
- The Skull: A Tyrolean Folktale by Jon Klassen
- The Swifts: A Dictionary of Scoundrels by Beth Lincoln, illustrated by Claire Powell
- Window Fishing by DK Dyson, illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez
Mejores libros para pequeños/Best Books for Kids in Spanish
- Benita y las criaturas nocturnas by Mariana Llanos, illustrated by Cocoretto
- Con la cabeza en alto: cómo una comunidad amazónica protegió la selva by Patricia Gualinga y Laura Resau, illustrated by Vanessa Jaramillo
- Juego de libertad: Mestre Bimba y el arte de la capoeira by Duncan Tonatiuh
- Magia by Mirelle Ortega
- ¿Me ayudas a dibujar un pato? by Jose Carlos Andrés, illustrated by Pupé
- Mil mariposas blancas by Jessica Betancourt-Perez y Karen Lynn Williams, illustrated by Gina Maldonado
- Nena, y Roberta ¿dónde está? by Marie Biskai
- Nuestro techo es azul by Sara E. Echenique, illustrated by Ashley Vargas
- El rebaño by Margarita del Mazo, illustrated by Guridi
- Wepa by J de la Vega
Top 10 Books for Teens
- America Redux: Visual Stories from Our Dynamic History by Ariel Aberg-Riger
- Chloe and the Kaishao Boys by Mae Coyiuto
- Dear Medusa by Olivia A. Cole
- The Fall of Whit Rivera by Crystal Maldonado
- Gorgeous Gruesome Faces by Linda Cheng
- In Limbo by Deb JJ Lee
- The Making of Yolanda La Bruja by Lorraine Avila
- Monstrous: A Transracial Adoption Story by Sarah Myer
- Only This Beautiful Momen t by Abdi Nazemian
- Saints of the Household by Ari Tison
Top 10 Books for Adults
- The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi by S.A. Chakraborty
- Bad Kids by Zijin Chen
- The Bee Sting by Paul Murray
- Knockout by Sarah Maclean
- Land of Milk and Honey by C Pam Zhang
- Last On His Feet: Jack Johnson and the Battle of the Century by Adrian Matejka, art by Youssef Daoudi
- The New Guy by Sarina Bowen
- Short Film Starring My Beloved's Red Bronco by K. Iver
- Shubeik Lubeik by Deena Mohamed
- When Crack Was King by Donovan X. Ramsey
"At the heart of The New York Public Library lies an invaluable asset: our dedicated team of librarians and staff, whose expertise and diverse perspectives enrich our collections and our communities. We interact with readers of all ages every single day. Each year, our most passionate book enthusiasts discuss and handpick titles that mirror the essence of our diverse neighborhoods and our patrons' varied tastes and needs. Our goal is to captivate even the most hesitant readers, to offer a starting point into new worlds and genres, and to surprise even the most avid of book lovers," said Emily Pullen, Manager of Reader Services. "Whether seeking a meaningful gift, something that will make your 6-year-old snicker, a dystopian fantasy to escape to, or simply wanting to become a more well-rounded reader, our Library's selection of Best Books caters to all preferences."
About The New York Public Library
For over 125 years, The New York Public Library has been a free provider of education and information for the people of New York and beyond. With over 90 locations—including research and branch libraries—throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, the Library offers free materials, computer access, classes, exhibitions, programming and more to everyone from toddlers to scholars. To offer this wide array of free programming, The New York Public Library relies on both public and private funding. Learn more about how to support the Library at nypl.org/support.
30 Best Middle Grade Books of 2023 (That Kids Will Love)
Posted: November 17, 2023 | Last updated: November 22, 2023
Are you ready for my favorite best middle grade books of 2023? After reading over two hundred books, I’ve chosen my top middle grade picks from this year in the genres of fantasy, historical fiction, animal adventure, realistic fiction, mystery, adventure, and paranormal for ages 9 to 12.
Using my background as a lifelong reader, an elementary teacher with an M.A. in Education, a mom of two, and a book reviewer for over 15 years, I evaluate middle grade books on the following criteria:
- Interesting story
- Good pacing (that makes me want to keep reading)
- Excellent writing
- Middle-grade age-appropriate
- New or fresh approach to a theme or topic
Comment and let me know which middle grade books you loved this year!
Best Middle Grade Books of 2023
Things in the Basement by Ben Hatke
FANTASY / GRAPHIC NOVEL
I adore this beautifully drawn and narrated adventure set in the world of…the basement! When Milo’s baby sister loses her special pink knit sock, he searches for it in the basement. The basement leads Milo to another basement, and then another basement, and to a whole labyrinth of basement worlds. He befriends a friendly skull named Chuckles, an eyeball creature named Weepie, and a ghost named Belle. Milo uses the sock’s yarn, help from his ghost friend, and his problem-solving skills to rescue his friends from the Gobbler and return home with the pink sock. This is a fantastical, magical journey of friendship , kindness , and secret worlds!
Travis Daventhorpe by Wes Molebash
Travis is a science-loving kid with an intelligent robot named Travbot who flies. After pulling a sword from a stone, Travis learns that he’s the prophesied hero who will defeat the evil Nol Invictus. Add in a black-hand birthmark, portals between the worlds, video-game-like character profiles, terrible swordsmanship, and intelligent dialogue, and you have a super-compelling, totally hilarious story.
Three Tasks for a Dragon by Eoin Colfer, illustrated by P.J. Lynch
In a short middle grade novel that feels like high fantasy, our hero, Prince Lir, is tricked by his stepmom and stepbrother, a dark sorcerer, to forfeit his kingdom and embark on a quest to rescue a girl supposedly kidnapped by a dragon. Prince Lir uses his wits to avoid death by solving the dragon’s problems, like cave mold and a broken wing…and he stays alive. When the dragon fails to kill Prince Lir, the evil stepbrother arrives to do it himself. But the girl, Cethlenn, calls the wolfhounds to herself, and they save Lir just before the stepbrother dies, cursing Lir and the dragon and freezing Cethleen. Wonderfully complex language, vivid imagery, and lovely world-building, this book transports readers into a magical world of good versus evil. Will our heroes get a happy ending?
Misfit Mansion by Kay Davault July
review written by my daughter Jemma Taylor
MISFIT MANSION is a heartwarming story about what it means to be family, even if you’re not related by blood. The “horrors” who live at the titular mansion have been told that it’s too dangerous to venture outside into the human world. But a young creature named Iris wants to give humans another chance. If you’re looking for a book about found family, learning from prejudice, and friendship, I cannot recommend MISFIT MANSION enough.
Once There Was by Kiyash Monsef
One of the best books of 2023, the layered storytelling, plot twists, and surprises made it impossible to put down. After Marjan’s father dies, she’s alone and the owner of her dad’s veterinary practice, even though she’s only a sophomore in high school. When she’s asked to help a sick gryffin, she’s shocked to discover her father’s secret job as a mythical creature vet. She tries to unravel the lies and secrets in her father’s life, including if he was murdered, but the world of magical creatures is confusing and filled with trickery. Woven within the narrative story are her father’s Iranian folktales about mythical creatures, starting with “ Once was, once wasn’t. ” I loved the surprising ending, too.
Skyriders by Polly Holyoke
Kie is a courier for the kingdom, riding on her skyrider, a small but fast winged horse. Her Uncle taught her the old ways of fighting the chimerae. Fearing a full chimarae invasion, her uncle sends Kie to the capital to convince the leaders to use the old ways of fighting. But she’s dismissed by the leaders who insist on their new ways — which will eventually get them killed. Meanwhile, Kie learns she can mindspeak to all skyrider steeds which helps when she and her friends (including the prince and princess) must save the city themselves. Readers will love this exciting story with an interesting plot and a brave but reluctant heroine. (I couldn’t put it down!)
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Realistic Middle Grade
The Probability of Everything by Sarah Everett
(For this book review, I’m not going to tell you too much about the story– because it would spoil your reading experience.) Kemi adores her close-knit family, her African American artist mom, her baby sister, a baby sibling on the way, and most of all, her beloved Nigerian dad. When an asteroid threatens everyone on Earth with imminent death, Kemi and her family leave for her cousins’ house, where she starts a time capsule. The exceptional storytelling is emotional (I cried SO MUCH) and important with themes of family, racism, and values. A must-read, must-experience-for-yourself-kind-of book.
The Fire, The Water, and Maudie McGinn by Sally J. Pla
Maudie is an autistic girl staying with her father for the summer, but a California fire forces them from their cabin. She and her dad head south to where her dad grew up. A friend sets them up in an old camper at a campground near the beach. While her dad looks for work, Maudie works up her courage to ask an older surfer woman for lessons. She spends the summer worrying about her big secret and learning to surf, hoping to win the beginning surfer competition at the end of the summer. Maudie makes a new friend who is friendly and neurodiverse like her. All of these things help her consider that she is more than what her mom and her abusive stepdad think of her. This is a moving coming of age story of a girl who learns to thrive instead of survive.
Not an Easy Win by Chrystal B. Giles
The strong first-person voice draws you into Lawrence’s life, starting right after he’s been beaten up by a group of bullies, blamed for the fighting, and kicked out of the mostly-white school. His mom doesn’t care, and his granny doesn’t believe him. In fact, his Granny tells him he can’t stick around the house. An older neighbor takes Lawrence to his work at the local rec center where Lawrence helps him, does online school, and learns how to play chess . Playing chess requires focus and control, not just in the game but with his emotions, too–even when a kid at the rec center steals his stuff. Through the wisdom of his neighbor and learning to focus on chess, Lawrence finds purpose and inner fortitude that leads to his success in life and in chess. The writing is engaging; I couldn’t put this book down.
Something Like Home by Andrea Beatriz Arango
REALISTIC / VERSE / FOSTER CARE
In this emotional novel in verse, Laura’s parents are in drug rehab, and she’s in foster care with an aunt she doesn’t know. She longs to go home to her parents. When she sees an abused puppy in a cage for free, she takes it home and names it Sparrow. She’s not permitted to visit her parents, but when she learns that the rehab clinic accepts therapy dogs, she starts training Sparrow. Her friend at school has sickle cell and is hospitalized, so she sneaks her dog to cheer him up. Then, her parents leave rehab early, and things seem worse than ever. This moving story is about family and healing and includes a nonbinary therapist and a mention of girls dating.
Hidden Truths by Elly Swartz
On a camping trip, the camper catches fire, confining Dani to a wheelchair with months of PT appointments ahead. She’s angry that she won’t get to play on the boys’ baseball team. Her best friend Eric worries that the fire is his fault if he forgot to turn off the stove. When he confesses to Dani his worries, it ruins their friendship. Dani’s new friend calls Eric a loser and bullies him on social media while Eric tries to fix things. I loved this unique plot of relatable friendship woes! This is a memorable story of friendship, growing up, and forgiveness.
Dust by Dusti Bowling
REALISTIC / FOOD ALLERGIES
Avalyn, a spelling bee fanatic, lives in dry Arizona, which is supposed to be better for her asthma–until Adam moves to town, bringing pain and throat-clogging, asthma-attack-inducing dust storms. She wonders if her superpower is sensing energy– like Adam’s negative energy. As she investigates and observes Adam, she and her friends continue to be relentlessly bullied at school. She is also struggling with the challenges that come with food and environmental allergies. This story deftly addresses abuse, bullying, asthma, and allergies. The end pages also have discussion questions which will be helpful for book clubs .
No Place Like Home by James Bird
REALISTIC / HOMELESSNESS / OJIBWE
Beautiful character development, vivid details, and a strong narrative voice draw you into this story about homelessness, Ojibwe culture, growing up, family, and the love of a dog . Based on James’ childhood, Opin is a sweet, hopeful boy who lives with his mom and his older brother in their car, traveling from city to city. He adores his mother, but he’s scared of his angry, violent older brother, who comes and goes as he pleases. When Opin finds a hurt dog, the love of a dog fills a friend void for Opin–until his brother takes the dog away. Despite the challenges of Opin’s life, beauty and joy are threaded throughout this compelling story that is one of the best of 2023.
*Sensitive readers, there are a few swear words.
Finally Seen by Kelly Yang
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS of 2023 , this middle-grade novel explores the complexities of human beings, the importance of books as mirrors and doors, the challenges of immigration, the realities of racism, and book banning. Lina’s lived with her Lao Lao for the last five years, but she moves to join her dad, mom, and little sister in LA when her beloved Lao Lao moves to a nursing home. She’s surprised that her family is struggling financially, she feels embarrassed when she speaks English (so she stops speaking,) and she feels hurt when a classmate writes mean things about her on the bathroom wall. Even still, Lina’s bright spots are a kind ESL teacher, the graphic novels she reads, and her new friends, Finn and Carla.
Saving H’Non Chang and the Elephant by Trang Nguyen and Jeet Zdung
EPISTOLARY GRAPHIC NOVEL / ANIMAL RESCUE
Written like a graphic novel combined with a scrapbook, this true story is both heartbreaking and heartwarming with a beautiful emotional arc. In first-person narration, Chang describes working at a wildlife rescue center in Vietnam and meeting an abused older elephant named H’Non. She and her boss save him from maltreatment and search for a kind trainer to work with H’Non. As you cheer Chang along, you’ll learn about Vietnam, elephants, and animal rescue work. The illustrations are detailed, gorgeous, and memorable. You won’t want to miss this exceptional middle grade graphic novel with four starred reviews. It belongs in every school library!
Farther Than the Moon by Lindsay Lackey
REALISTIC / SPACE / CEREBRAL PALSY
Houston wants to find a way for his brother Robbie to go to space even though there’s never been an astronaut with CP. Houston leaves Robbie behind for space camp where he meets his astronaut grandfather for the first time –and is rejected. After a week of fighting with his fellow crewmates, Houston gets surprising advice from the person he least expects–about taking responsibility for his actions and putting the crew first. This story will help you see someone as MORE than their disability and make you think bigger about inclusivity for all the Earth’s crew. This middle-grade gem is filled with wisdom, heartfelt writing, and relatable and interesting characters. It’s hands down one of the best middle grade books I’ve read this year with MUCH NEEDED representation.
How to Stay Invisible by Maggie C. Rudd
Raymond’s neglectful parents abandon him completely, so he takes his dog Rosie, and they camp in the woods behind his middle school. He survives on his own, foraging in dumpsters and fishing for food while attending school. When a playful coyote hurts Rosie, he meets an old man who helps them both — which is especially significant because it’s over the Christmas break when he can’t get dumpster food from school. Raymond doesn’t want to tell anyone, including the old man or his two friends at school, what he’s surviving, but the truth comes out when another boy discovers his campsite, and a snake bite almost kills him. HOW TO STAY INVISIBLE is a powerful story of grit, survival , and longing for family. I couldn’t put it down.
What Happened to Rachel Riley? by Claire Swinarski
CONTEMPORARY / SEXUAL HARASSMENT
Stunning, thought-provoking, and anger-inducing, this is a superbly written story about an ostracized middle school girl and the new student determined to figure out why…It’s about sexual harassment and negligent teachers (and administration) who seemingly don’t care or pay attention when girls are getting touched without consent. It’s about when what happens makes you feel shame and fear and the path out of that shame toward justice and empowerment. It’s about change IF we take action to shape the future, not sit and wait for people to start behaving better. A recommended read for middle school book clubs and everyone in middle school!
Match Point by Maddie Gallegos
review written by my daughter Jemma Tayor
REALISTIC ( GRAPHIC NOVEL )
Match Point by Maddie Gallegos is one of my favorite books I’ve read in the past year, with a cute style, wholesome story, and a message about the importance of communication. They also integrate ASL into the book in a really natural and interesting way for the graphic novel medium. Rosie’s dad wants her to become the racquetball champion, but she hates the sport. When she meets Blair, a cool girl her age who plays as well, she finally starts to learn how to have fun with the game again.
Rare Birds by Jeff Miller
REALISTIC / SAD
Graham’s mom moves them to Florida to wait for a heart transplant. When his mom gets approved, Graham stays with his mom’s friend and his angry son. Fortunately, at the hospital, he befriends a girl named Lou. When he finds his mom’s rare bird journal, Lou helps him search for the last bird on the list–the Snail Kite. But because there’s prize money for finding the bird, bully kids not only thwart them but endanger them–stranding Lou and Graham in a swamp with a giant alligator and no cell service. The friends’ search is filled with challenges, which they face with bravery and determination, including the truth about Lou. I loved the two-page chapter lengths and the emotional story of friendship and family that will make you cry .
Mystery Middle Grade
Night Raven: The Moonwind Mysteries written by Johan Rundberg, translated by A.A. Prime
An excellent, page-turning mystery set in 1880s Sweden about an orphan girl named Mika whose survival skills include an eye for detail, connections, and deductions! After an abandoned baby is dropped into her arms in the middle of the night, a police detective recruits her to assist him in identifying a dead body and then investigating a prison cell — all in pursuit of a copycat serial killer. But Mika realizes it’s not a copycat. In a dangerous game of cat and mouse, she and the detective need to avoid the corrupt prison officials and the serial killer. This observant heroine is my favorite kind — resourceful, aspirational, and interesting. I can’t wait for more books in the series. (Sensitive readers: Includes the word cr*p.)
Beneath the Swirling Sky (The Restorationists) written by Carolyn Leiloglou, illustrated by Vivienne To
Sent to his great-uncle’s house for the summer, Vincent learns his family’s big secret when his little sister Lili wanders INTO a painting–and doesn’t come out! His cousin Georgia leads him through paintings, corridors, and museums to find Lili while explaining their family’s talent –traveling into artwork to protect the art from nefarious travelers. They track Lili but are captured, too. Fast-paced and exciting with unique world-building, this art-filled , faith-implied, illustrated adventure will captivate readers from cover to cover.
Paranormal Middle Grade
Brick Dust and Bones by M.R. Forunet
Marius Grey is a 12-year-old Cajun Cemetery Boy and student. But he’s also working nights as a monster hunter to earn mystic coins for a really important spell that will bring his mother back to life…and time is running out. In desperation, Marius decides to hunt one of the most dangerous monsters in the swamp, a rougarou, even though his only friend, a monstrous mermaid, doesn’t want Marius to risk his life. The story is compelling and entertaining, with a heroic main character who loves his mom more than anything. You won’t be able to put this one down!
Zombie Season #1 by Justin Weinberger
This zombie story zips along with intrigue, adventure, and humor. Narrated from the perspective of three kids from the same town: one who is out after the DUSK ALERT searching for her missing dad, the other who is trying to atone for her failed zombie experiment and the last one whose parents force him to flee. When their stories converge, it’s after one meets a sentient zombie and one sees a mutated gigantic zombie who seems unstoppable. The hoard is growing and attacking with planning– and it’s not looking good for humans.
Bite Risk by S.J. Wells
One of the MOST EXCITING first chapters I’ve ever read!! We’re dropped into a city where the children cage the adults and teens who turn into “Rippers,” carrying tranq guns just in case one of them escapes. Ansel “Sel” and his best friend Elena usually play cards these long babysitting nights with an old man who is one of the only adults who doesn’t turn into a Ripper. He helps them piece together the clues about a sinister plot, murder, and entrapment. I loved the non-stop action and exciting plot.
Historical Fiction Middle Grade of 2023
Nothing Else But Miracles by Kate Albus
Set in New York City, this is a marvelous historical fiction story about family, community, and survival. Dory’s pop leaves to fight in World War II, assuring Dory and her younger and older brother that the neighborhood will give them what they need. And that’s true–at first, even though they miss their pops. When their new landlord realizes they are living without an adult, he calls social services on them. Refusing to be separated from her siblings, Dory finds a perfect new home– a secret hotel accessible only by dumb waiter, right about their favorite restaurant. A masterpiece of storytelling.
Once In a Blue Moon by Sharon G. Flake
HISTORICAL FICTION / VERSE
James Henry hasn’t left the house in months. His twin sister Hattie encourages him to start small so they can be ready for the upcoming blue moon and a visit to the Lighthouse. When James Henry eventually ventures outside to go to the lighthouse, their trip is fraught with dangers, including mean neighbor kids and racist men. Surprisingly, the perils draw James Henry farther and farther out of his shell, especially when his sister needs him, and we learn what happened that traumatized him. This lovingly written verse novel set in the historical South is a masterpiece of forgiveness, healing, and family bonds. I loved everything about this middle grade novel!
Sky Full of Song by Susan Lynn Meyer
Shoshana, her mom, and her siblings flee Jewish persecution in Ukraine in 1905 for North Dakota to a mud house on the plains with her father and brother. But being Jewish isn’t always accepted, even in this new country. And Shoshana wants to fit in so much that she agrees to participate in the Christmas activities. Ultimately, Shoshana learns (with a little help from her sister Libke) to be proud of being Jewish, even when others don’t accept her. Stunning writing with a loveable main character makes this favorite middle grade book of 2023.
Animal Adventure Middle Grade
Scurry by Mac Smith
ANIMAL ADVENTURE / GRAPHIC NOVEL
I love the art in this graphic novel about a post-apocalyptic time with no humans and only animals. The house mice are scrounging to survive from what the humans left, but there isn’t enough food for their community. When our hero Wix leaves to scout more food, he discovers the rat’s betrayal, dangerous predators, including hawks and crows, and a strange beaver kingdom. It’s an epic animal adventure of danger, bravery, and exploration!
One and Only Ruby by Katherine Applegate
Even though her aunties are excited, Ruby is dreading Tuskday because she associates tusks with the pain of hunters. She tells her uncles (Bob and Ivan) about her life before, her life in Africa when she was happy and loved until hunters slaughtered her herd. After that, Ruby was rescued and cared for by a kind man, then captured again by greedy black-market animal traders and sent to the zoo in the mall, where they met. Also, Ruby shares that she misses her beloved auntie Stella. Ruby’s new aunties help her honor Stella, and it helps Ruby realize that Stella was with her all along…and that she IS ready for the Tuskday growing up ceremony. One of the best middle grade books of 2023– and a beautiful addition to the series.
Adventure Middle Grade
The Wildes: The Amazon by Roland Smith
Set in the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest, two siblings are with their conservationist scientist mom, who is reintroducing Golden lion tamarins (GLTs) into the wild. But, when their mom doesn’t return to base camp, the kids discover that she’s been kidnapped. The siblings, their bumbling tutor, and an indigenous (Kayapo) man follow the kidnappers’ trail to the mining area…and start investigating the mining camp under the pretense of tourists whose dad is sick. Great writing, excellent plotting, and a fascinating story, plus lots of information about the Amazon and endangered animals make this a standout middle grade book recommendation for 2023!
Best Picture Books of 2023
Best Nonfiction Books of 2023
The post 30 Best Middle Grade Books of 2023 (That Kids Will Love) appeared first on Imagination Soup .
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The 10 best books of 2023
‘the bee sting,’ by paul murray.
Murray’s novel, shortlisted for the Booker Prize, reads like an instant classic. In it, the gleaming facade of one Irish family — a successful car dealer, his legendarily beautiful wife and their two children — begins to fracture under the weight of long-held secrets. Murray is a fantastically witty and empathetic writer, and he dazzles by somehow bringing the great sprawling randomness of life to glamorously choreographed climaxes. He is essentially interested in the moral conflicts of our lives, and he handles his characters and their failings with heartbreaking tenderness. ( Book World review .)
‘The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store,’ by James McBride
The National Book Award-winning author of “The Good Lord Bird” sets this exuberant novel in a ramshackle Pennsylvania neighborhood before and during the Great Depression. There, Black and Jewish residents come together to hide an orphan from state officials who want to send the boy to a harrowing institution ruled by a violent fiend. Such circumstances might seem to promise a grim tale, but this is a book by James McBride. Vitality and humor thrum through his stories even in the shadows of despair. This vibrant, love-affirming novel bounds over any difference that claims to separate us. ( Book World review .)
‘Loot,’ by Tania James
A real-life object of fascination — an 18th-century automaton depicting a tiger biting into an Englishman’s neck — is the basis for this novel. The story begins in Mysore with a 17-year-old peasant who has a talent for carving mechanical toys, and spans decades as the curiosity he creates changes hands and crosses continents. James moves within the historical record while freely exploiting its considerable gaps and silences. Her prose is lush with the sights, sounds and smells of India, France and England, and always laced with Dickensian wit. ( Book World review .)
‘The MANIAC,’ by Benjamín Labatut
Like Labatut’s last book, “When We Cease to Understand the World” (2021), “The MANIAC” is captivating and unclassifiable, at once a historical novel and a philosophical foray. Its resident genius is the polymath and pioneering computer scientist John von Neumann, who displays “a sinister, machinelike intelligence.” The book’s many narrators offer a polyphonic portrait of the brilliant, frustrating von Neumann, and its extraordinary final segment brings us to the wonder and potential danger of artificial intelligence. Labatut is a writer of thrilling originality. “The MANIAC” is a work of dark, eerie and singular beauty. ( Book World review .)
‘North Woods,’ by Daniel Mason
Mason plants his novel on an expanse of land in western Massachusetts where, over centuries, various absorbing tales unfold and interweave. There’s an illicit marriage between two Puritan runaways, a shocking, brutal murder and an enslaved woman fleeing north. The silent spaces between these stories articulate what the residents can’t, as their errant lives begin locking together in a winding chain of unlikely history. Elegantly designed with photos and illustrations, this is a time-spanning, genre-blurring work of storytelling magic. Mason has a light, mischievous touch, and it’s hard to imagine there is anything he can’t do. ( Book World review .)
‘The Bathysphere Book: Effects of the Luminous Ocean Depths,’ by Brad Fox
In 1930, the naturalist William Beebe descended deep into the ocean in a 4½-foot steel sphere, describing what he saw outside the porthole through a telephone wire that rose to the surface. By turns philosophical and elegiac, Fox’s history of Beebe’s explorations is a hypnotic ode to the world beneath the waves. This is no straightforward narrative but a book built from scraps that belie its intricate engineering. It is also an exceptionally beautiful object, bursting with full-color illustrations and paintings of the creatures Beebe encountered. ( Book World review .)
‘How to Say Babylon,’ by Safiya Sinclair
Born in a seaside Jamaican village near Montego Bay, Sinclair grew up in a strict Rastafarian family on the fringe of a hedonistic tourist mecca. She wanted more than the Rasta wifedom that was mapped out for her, and in this lushly observed memoir, she chronicles how she threw off that yoke. Doing so risked the wrath of her father, a reggae musician who feared that corrupting Western influences would ruin his daughter. The book grabs the reader with the beauty of its words (Sinclair is also a published poet), but it sticks because of the thorniness and complexity of its ideas. ( Book World review .)
‘Judgment at Tokyo: World War II on Trial and the Making of Modern Asia,’ by Gary J. Bass
The post-World War II war crimes trial in Tokyo of leading Japanese military and civilian perpetrators lasted from May 1946 to November 1948 and resulted in 16 life sentences and seven hangings, including that of the wartime prime minister and minister of war, Hideki Tojo. This trial — far more complex, drawn-out and contentious than the Nuremberg proceedings — is the subject of Bass’s comprehensive, landmark and riveting book. Bass employs the complexities of the trial as a fulcrum to sketch a wide canvas, documenting not just atrocities and attempts at justice but the history of World War II in Asia. ( Book World review .)
‘King: A Life,’ by Jonathan Eig
Eig’s book is the most compelling account of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life in a generation. To write it, he conducted more than 200 interviews, including with scores of people old enough to have known or observed King, and pieced together numerous accounts gathered by other journalists and scholars, some of them never published before. The result might be described as a deeply reported psychobiography — one infused with the narrative energy of a thriller, as Eig vividly reconstructs some of the story’s most dramatic turning points. ( Book World review .)
‘The Life and Times of Hannah Crafts: The True Story of The Bondwoman’s Narrative,’ by Gregg Hecimovich
In 2001, the professor and literary scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. purchased an unheralded novel of unknown authorship at an auction. He verified that it was authentic and had probably been written by a Black person before 1860. It was published to wide acclaim and robust sales as “The Bondwoman’s Narrative.” Hecimovich’s book tells the incredible story of Hannah Crafts, the woman who wrote it, and of Hecimovich’s tireless efforts to discover her identity and reconstruct her trajectory. The result is an inspired amalgam of genres — part thriller, part mystery and part biography. ( Book World review .)
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The Best Gifts for 9-Year-Olds Who Still Love to Play
Parents and experts share the toys, books, and games that keep almost-tweens engaged.
In This Article
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Parents / Kristin Kempa
Nine-year-olds are in the gifting sweet spot as they celebrate their last year of single digits. They’re no longer little kids who need help with every game and toy, but they’re still young enough to play and open to new experiences. Finding the best gift for 9-year-olds still requires a bit of thought and planning. While some kids this age may have developed deep interests, it’s also a perfect time to explore new things and play with fun gifts.
“Toys and gifts that encourage exploration and curiosity are wonderful, so things like sports equipment, scavenger hunt kits, and games that encourage teamwork are perfect for 9-year-olds,” shares Amanda Gummer, PhD, a neuro-psychologist, author, and founder of The Good Play Guide. At this age, kids can play alone, with siblings, or with groups of friends, so sports gear, board games, and crafting kids are all gifts they can use solo or with others. Video games also fit into this category, but be mindful of other families’ rules if you’re considering buying one for someone else’s child.
To come up with a list of the best gifts for 9-year-olds to get you started, we surveyed 774 parents and caregivers on our research panel, as well as 101 parents on our own staff, to find out their kids’ favorite toys. We combined that intel with our own research and conversations with Dr. Gummer to find a variety of age-appropriate gifts the 9-year-olds in your life will love.
KiwiCo Build & Play Chess Set
Kids get two activities in one with this STEM DIY kit. Once they build their own chess board, they can enjoy playing the game. Putting together the two-story chess set helps kids explore problem-solving, logic, and mechanical motion. For those just learning how to play chess, each piece is etched with each move that the particular component can do.
Below the board, your kiddo will build geared spin-out storage that holds all the elements when not in use. Chess newbies will also appreciate the included Read, Set, Chess book with detailed gameplay instructions.
Price at time of publication: $60
Skillmatics World Map Puzzle
More than just a puzzle, this gift is a fun and engaging way to sneak in some geography lessons. Nine-year-olds will love putting together the 96-piece world map puzzle. It’s challenging enough that they can likely do it alone or with a bit of help. Once assembled, pair the puzzle with the 100 country cards that share fun facts, country capitals, and much more.
Price at time of publication: $30
Beast Lab Shark Beast Creator
Kids will have a blast becoming mad scientists as they “create” their own beasts. Using the included ingredients and step-by-step instructions, children will be wowed when their beast creator exudes mist and has flashing lights and engaging sounds that yield their beast figure. Though this is initially an unboxing experience, they can repeat the flashy reveal over and over.
The toy does require batteries, and while it’s still fun to play with once the ingredients are done, refill kits are available (for an additional cost) if you want to replicate the fun in the lab.
Price at time of publication: $70
Razor RipStik Ripster
For kids who’ve mastered their bike, the Razor Ripstik is similar to a skateboard, but it allows you to carve, shred, and move in ways a skateboard doesn’t allow. It’s a physical challenge that can even prepare riders for surfing or snowboarding while on land. A slip-resistant base and 360-degree caster wheels provide new, fun, and innovative movement.
Nintendo Super Mario Bros. Wonder
While some may consider video games to be an isolating activity for kids, a game like the new Super Mario Brothers Wonder can turn into something quite social for a 9-year-old. Though in many ways, it’s much like the side-scrolling Mario games of our youth, this edition allows for up to four players to play together on one Nintendo Switch—or if the grown-ups in the room can figure out how to configure online play, they can connect to friends from afar as well.
GlowCity LED Soccer Ball
GOAL! Active soccer fans will have so much fun with this glow-in-the-dark soccer ball, day and night. It arrives with two pre-installed batteries that light up the LED lights. Simply inflate the ball and play! The soccer ball will light up when kicked or bounced, and the lights will turn off when unused. Fun for evening play in a park, yard, beach, or anywhere else young players want to keep the game going after dark.
Price at time of publication: $40
Marbles Otrio Strategy-Based Board Game
Parents on our research panel praised this game and loved that it “makes you think outside the box, uses problem-solving skills,” and said it’s fun for both parents and children. The fast-moving game can be played with two to four people, and gameplay only takes 10 minutes.
Based on tic-tac-toe, the game challenges players to line up three pieces of the same color in similar sizes. The pieces either need to be in ascending or descending order or within the same space. This unique game is engaging, challenging, quick to learn, and easy to play.
Price at time of publication: $20
Yoto Player (3rd Generation)
With a night-light, clock, room thermometer, speaker, and engaging audio player, this gadget does it all. Its main attraction is that it provides kids with a nice break from screens and from reading on their own— without their parents’ help! Simply insert the audio cards and listen to a story. Not just for little kids, Yoto offers audio cards for many 9-year-old favorites, including the Wings of Fire series, classics like Charlotte’s Web, Roald Dahl’s collection, Kidz Bop party playlists, and so much more—audio cards are sold separately. It also works as a Bluetooth speaker if you want to stream other content and music from a computer or phone.
Price at time of publication: $120
Herschel Charlie Cardholder Wallet
Teach financial responsibility and organization by giving your 9-year-old a wallet. Available in five sizes, this small wallet has multiple card slots and a slim pocket for cash. While there’s no place for change, this pocket-sized wallet is easy to tote around. Make it an even better gift by placing a gift card to a favorite local store in one of the card slots.
Price at time of publication: $25
Mattel Games UNO Splash Card Game
Bring the fun of UNO wherever you go with this set of plastic waterproof UNO cards. The durable version includes a handy clip to hold all the cards and clip them to a beach bag or backpack. Since they’re plastic, the cards won’t get bent, ripped, or dirty. UNO is a fast-paced family game that’s easy to play with two players or a crowd of up to 10 people.
Price at time of publication: $11
Becco Belt Bags
This customizable, kid-size belt bag allows your 9-year-old to store all their items while staying chic and trendy. Stylish on its own, Becco Bags are made with unique hook and loop fabric (what we commonly call Velcro) to which kids can add patches (sold separately) to customize the bag with rainbows, letters, hearts, lightning bolts, and more.
Price at time of publication: $42
Pip Pop Post The Love Set
Newly pierced ears may be a significant milestone for some 9-year-olds. Keep their earlobes safe and stylish with these sweet earring sets. Made of hypoallergenic 18k gold and surgical steel, the earrings are crafted with a thinner, shorter post and a secure and comfortable flat screw-back.
The set includes three love-inspired pairs of earrings, but many other styles are available if hearts aren’t their thing.
Price at time of publication: $56
Elmer’s Fluffy Slime Kit
This fluffy slime kit removes the guesswork from slime creation and eliminates the need to use household items in your slime lab. The affordable set includes two bottles of slime activator, one glitter glue, and one translucent-colored glue, which is enough to make two batches of fluffy slime. Along with the washable, safe, and non-toxic ingredients, the set has a kid-friendly, visual instruction sheet, so kiddos will feel confident creating the slime alone or with minimal adult supervision.
Lego Speed Champions Mercedes
Rated for kids 9 and up, this 560-plus piece LEGO set will create two fantastic cars: one Mercedes performance car and one Mercedes race car. We love that the wheels, steering, and other parts of the car function so that kids aren’t just building something for display; they can race these cars, too. Along with the cars are two minifigures, helmets, and car tools.
Price at time of publication: $35
Gionlion 6,000-Piece Clay Beads
Get crafty with this 6,000-piece set that includes everything kids want or need to create earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and more. The collection contains clasps, jump rings, shells, hearts, emoji beads, elastic strings, scissors, flat polymer clay beads, and more.
One parent in our survey praised this gift's open-ended creativity and shared that their kiddo “loves to wear the things she makes and loves when other people wear them as well.” There are thousands of tiny pieces, so if young siblings are in the house, you may reconsider this gift.
Primary The Zip Hoodie
Available in 18 colors, this highly rated cotton spandex blend hoodie is a versatile addition to any kid’s closet. They’ll love having a comfy wardrobe staple in a favorite color (sunshine yellow, tangerine orange, grass green, and more), and you’ll love that these soft, gender-neutral, pre-shrunk sweatshirts are high-quality, long-lasting, and ultra-comfortable. Primary’s sizing runs from 2 to 14 years old, so you can also consider making this a family-matching moment.
Raddish Kids Global Eats Club Membership
Courtesy of Raddish Kids
Cooking with kids has many benefits as a STEM and cultural activity. Make that a monthly tradition with the Raddish Kids Global Eats Club. Decide between a single kit or a monthly subscription to delicious meals like Ticket to Tokyo and Made in Morocco. The kit includes three illustrated step-by-step kid-friendly recipe guides, a kid-appropriate kitchen tool, an apron and badge, a grocery list, a skills lesson, access to the app, and much more.
We love that this set is so kid-friendly, and while the ingredients aren’t actually included, it means kids can cook them on their own time without worrying about anything going bad.
Price at time of publication: Starting at $24 monthly
Diary of a Wimpy Kid Complete Collection Set
Introduce a young reader to the beloved middle-grade illustrated Jeff Kinney book series that our editors literally have to tear out of their kids’ hands sometimes. The 12-book set may just get them hooked on reading. The first book is so silly and engaging, they’ll tear through the next 11 in no time and will probably be asking for more.
Price at time of publication: $65
Mimish Sleep 'N' Pack Big Kids Sleeping Bag
As 9-year-olds become more independent, they may be leaving home more for sleepovers, camp, and weekends at Grandma’s house. This sleeping bag and backpack combo is the perfect addition to any overnight. The sleeping bag packs into the backpack, but there’s still plenty of room for overnight essentials.
Carrying the bag is easy too. Lightweight, cozy, and made with water-repellent materials, this is a fun gift for any kiddo.
Ooly Rainbow Sparkle Watercolor Gel Crayons
Celebrate creativity with these innovative sparkly watercolor crayons. The 12-pack features a vibrant array of colors. Use them on paper and draw like regular crayons. Then to add a sophisticated touch, kids can paint over, outline, or enhance the drawing with a wet paintbrush to turn them into watercolor paints.
Safe, affordable, and non-toxic, these crayons can also work on glass or a whiteboard and easily wipe off either surface.
Price at time of publication: $15
Go! Games Snoozimals Corgi Oliver
Calling all corgi fans! This adorable 20-inch plush makes a great snuggle buddy for reading, movie nights, sleeping, or when they just need a cuddle. If a corgi isn’t their favorite animal, the company makes many other soft plushie friends, including a sloth, turtle, and an axolotl.
Spin Master Games Hedbanz Lightspeed Game
A favorite guessing game gets an upgrade with this fast-moving version for two to six players. One player wears a headband with a card and has to guess what’s on it based on clues from their teammates. In this updated version, the headband lights up, and each color dictates the action: Blue is to give clues, orange asks questions, and green is to act it out. No matter what color, the goal is to guess the secret word. It requires two AAA batteries, which are not included.
Claire’s Pink Drip 48-Piece Makeup Set
Wow a young beauty lover with this robust 48-piece makeup set that includes eyeshadow, blushes, lip glosses, a built-in mirror, and makeup brushes. The whole set folds into itself for neat and compact storage. While makeup can be a fun way for elementary-aged kids to explore self-expression, it’s also important to couple it with a discussion about when and where makeup is appropriate and the fact that no one should need it to feel good about themselves.
LEGO Creator 3 in 1 Exotic Parrot to Frog to Fish
“Durable, affordable, creative, and easy to play with” are some of the adjectives our parent survey respondents used to describe this beautiful Lego parrot kit. Appropriate for kids 7 and up, this 250-plus piece set has everything kids need to make three exotic animals: a posing parrot, a swimming fish, or a leaping frog. Builders will have fun creating all three animals repeatedly or leaving one in a spot of honor in their room.
FujiFilm Instax Mini 11 With Custom Case and Film Value Pack
Pricey but fun, this set includes everything kids need to document the world around them. Kids will love the instant gratification of this film camera. Simply point and shoot, and a Polaroid-style photo will come out of the camera in just a few seconds. The camera is well-sized for younger hands and has a helpful neck strap.
The film can be expensive, which is why we love that this pack has five multipacks of film, enough for 50 photos. The set also includes the necessary batteries, a case, and a sweet mini-photo album.
Price at time of publication: $135
Sunnies Shades Kids Sunglasses
Active kids and their parents will love these polarized sunglasses that are stylish and protective. They come in eight vibrant color patterns. Durable and made to fit kids up to 12 years old, the anti-slip frames will stay on your kiddo’s face. We also love that these glasses provide 100% UVA/UVB protection, a two-year warranty, and a one-time replacement guarantee.
World of Flowers: A Coloring Book and Floral Adventure
Parents on our panel appreciate that this beautiful coloring book provides a screen-free activity when kids need to unwind. Its 80 pages all have chic line drawings of flowers just waiting to be colored. If flowers aren’t the 9-year-old’s top choice, the same artist has jungle, Christmas, ocean, and many more themed books.
Price at time of publication: $6
MEL Science Kit Physics Kits
Introduce a fun, interactive, and age-appropriate love of physics with a subscription to these hands-on educational kits. Each kit has a project to build that focuses on one scientific concept, and it comes with a paper manual and digital instructions via an app. Some kits even use virtual reality (and come with a VR headset for a phone) to enhance the lesson in a way that really excites kids.
Price at time of publication: Starting at $30 per month
Hanna Andersson Pokémon Long John Pajama Set
Cozy up with everyone's favorite Pokémon! The adorable Pikachu and red and white Poke-balls are printed on these super soft cotton pajamas. The long-sleeved shirt and pants set have flat scratch-free seams–perfect for sensory-sensitive kids. Available in sizes from 2T to 14/16, there’s a size to fit any Pokémon fan.
Price at time of publication: $48
Original Stationery Mermaid Slime Kit
Kids will go ga-ga for a super slime mermaid-themed kit with slime ingredients, 20 slime add-ins, and mermaid-shaped air-tight containers to hold their creations. Parents in our survey said their kids loved this gift and shared that it inspired creativity. It comes with ingredients and instructions to make a few types of slime, including glow-in-the-dark, crunchy, and more!
Creativity for Kids Squeegeez Magic Reveal
These kits are a highly satisfying and still easy way to play with color. Kids simply dot the paint in whatever pattern they want, then use the squeegee to swirl, zig-zag, or move the paint across the page, spreading the colors and revealing the pre-made design. Affordable and fun, these kits come in a few themes, including mermaids, outer space, dragons, butterflies, and more. Most 9-year-olds should have no trouble using this art kid on their own.
To find the best gifts for 9-year-olds, we first surveyed 774 parents from our research panel, along with 101 parents on our staff, about their kids’ favorite toys. We also considered high-quality, affordable gifts that are age-appropriate and well-reviewed on retail sites. To find the latest and best toys for 9-year-olds, our editors attended industry events and spoke to brand reps throughout the year. Finally, we consulted with a neuropsychologist for her take on milestones, guidelines, and gift recommendations for 9-year-olds.
To learn about 9-year-old social and developmental milestones, gift giving, what to look for and avoid with gifts, and whether gifts need to be educational, trendy, or aligned with gender norms, we spoke to:
- Amanda Gummer, PhD, a neuro-psychologist, author, and founder of The Good Play Guide
Factors to Consider When Shopping for 9-Year-Olds
9-year-old developmental milestones.
“At 9 years old, children are starting to reach significant social milestones and starting to develop key skills in reading and math,” Dr. Gummer says. “They are starting to show a sense of understanding and empathy, and you may notice they are forming deeper friendship groups or starting to enjoy team sports, team games, and being around their peers.” Use these milestones to help tailor your gifts. For example, books, STEM kits, and games they can play with friends will all be relevant to the milestones in their lives.
- Child’s Interests : At 9, children’s interests vary widely from sports, reading, cooking, crafting, science, or general playing. While a gift that aligns with their interests is excellent, so is something new that can expand their skills and challenge them a bit. Kids often still want to engage in family activities at this age, so “board and strategy games are a great way to bring the family together,” shares Dr. Gummer.
- Safety: Use the recommended age on any toy as a helpful guideline, and consider if younger siblings are in the house when you give something with small parts. “There is no harm in considering age-appropriate video games as children will love the escapism that playing these can provide, but make sure you set screen-time limits and encourage games they can play with friends,” suggests Dr. Gummer. If a video game is for a friend, it’s worth asking the family first.
- Educational Value: Not all gifts need to have an overt educational value. “Play is a great educator,” says Dr. Gummer. She recommends parents and caregivers “think of stealth learning—playing sports or getting hands-on with a crafting kit will all contribute to their development. ... A 9-year-old immersed in a silly game with a sibling is magic in itself and delivers loads of learning potential just through social interaction.”
- Trends and Gender Norms: “There are so many versatile toys on the market now that will appeal to a 9-year-old and enable gender-neutral gifting or the breaking of stereotypes. Things like building sets, puzzles, and arts and crafts products will appeal to all interests,” says Dr. Gummer. A mix of trendy gifts and classics is always a balance.
- Cost: The best gifts for 9-year-olds come in a huge range from under $10 to hundreds of dollars for something like a gaming console or a tablet. Choose what fits within your budget and lifestyle.
What do kids like at age 9?
“Consider things that your child likes to do and explore a range of activities enabling them to fulfill their hobbies. Explore new things and try new toys and games to let your child explore without limitation,” says Dr. Gummer. If in doubt, ask your 9-year-old. Getting what they asked for (if it’s reasonable) can be a very fulfilling experience.
How much should I spend on a gift for a 9-year-old?
Spend an amount that works with your budget. Even on this list, there is a vast range from under $10 to hundreds of dollars. Remember, the cost of an item doesn’t correlate to how much it will get used, the excitement it’ll generate, or a child’s appreciation.
Maya Polton is a former marketing manager and freelance writer who covers food, home, and parenting. She’s also the mom of a 13-year-old son, a 10-year-old son, and a 6-year-old daughter. Many of the best gifts for 9-year-olds on this list were her own kids' favorites; some are new to her.
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The best books of 2023, according to readers
We asked for your must-read books of the year, and you responded. Here are 2023’s finest, in your words – and ours.
What are the best books of 2023? Critics will tell us their views shortly, in the customary lists and roundups that come around November and December, but this year, we wanted to hear from you, the readers, first.
On social media, you told us about the novels you couldn’t put down, from “heartfelt” series finales to feel-good Japanese fiction, stone-cold classics to brand new bestsellers. Whether it came out in 2023 or not, these are the books you loved this year.
The Last Devil to Die by Richard Osman
We said: The last entry in Osman’s beloved Thursday Murder Club series is his most touching, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less wry or captivating than its predecessors.
You said: I love the characters he’s created in the Thursday Murder Club series. And this latest one definitely got me teary. Feel like I’m visiting with old friends every time I read his books. They’re more than a cosy mystery … they’re funny, heartfelt and very relatable.
What You Are Looking For Is in the Library by Michiko Aoyama
We said: A whimsical, feel-good Japanese novel about a librarian with a sixth sense for just the right book recommendation at just the right time, this is a wonderful book lover’s book.
You said: It’s such a wholesome book. It also helped me reflect on my current relationship to work and books. Loved it 🥰
Sula by Toni Morrison
We said: It wasn’t released this year, but Toni Morrison’s bona fide classic about two once-inseparable girlfriends who grow apart when one leaves their community for the big city – and whose friendship is torn apart by betrayal – is a must-read, even 50 years later.
You said: Wonderful writing and incredible storytelling.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
We said: This perspective-shattering novel, narrated by Death itself and set in Nazi Germany, follows nine-year-old book thief Liesel, whose family have been taken to a concentration camp. It might just restore your faith in humanity.
You said: I enjoyed the fresh narrative, matter of factness and how much emotion was invoked in a few simple sentences. Regularly.
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
We said: Ostensibly a story about two friends who love video games, Zevin’s breakthrough novel is a deeply moving, life-affirming meditation on love, creativity, art, romance, friendship, fame and more – which explains its extraordinary word-of-mouth success.
You said: I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did but once I got into it the book just sucked me in and kept me intrigued until the very last page
In Memoriam by Alice Winn
We said: It’s 1914. Henry and his best friend Sidney are in love, but neither can express it, so neither knows – that is, until both are enlisted to fight in the trenches, where, against the horrific spectre of death and wartime, a forbidden romance blooms.
You said: ❤️ Henry and Sidney will stay with me forever - just a heart-wrenching and breathtaking story
Bad Dreams and Other Stories by Tessa Hadley
We said: Sometimes, the most compelling stories are the ones that ring truest to real life – and English author Tessa Hadley is the master of realistic, domestic storytelling. These are some of her best short stories.
You said: A lovely collection of short stories about life and its nuances. No major drama, no love story, just life. Loved every second of it 💛✨
The Whalebone Theatre by Joanna Quinn
We said: A whale carcass, washed ashore, changes the lives of three imaginative children forced to raise themselves – but its their journey into adulthood that this whimsical, epic yarn of a book tracks so elegantly.
You said: I read some fabulous books this year but I think the one that tops them all is this.
Girl, Goddess, Queen by Bea Fitzgerald
We said: A retelling of the Persephone myth that puts the titular character firmly in the driver’s seat – and has shaken TikTok to its core. This is one of the year’s biggest books, for good reason.
You said: I'm a massive fan of the story of Persephone and love this retelling, the portrayal of relationships was one of my favourite things, and I loved the characters 🥰
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
We said: Politically sharp and beautifully written, Kingsolver’s latest novel was nominated for a handful of prizes – and took home this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, too.
You said: The story of a boy with everything against him with just his talent and character to get him through (and a bit of luck). Unforgettable characters amid a story of the opioid crisis in the US. Just brilliant.
Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros
We said: An imaginative, captivating, and irresistibly addictive book about family, love, war, school – and learning to bond with dragons, this is the first in a feverishly beloved new series from Yarros.
You said: ❤️ I am always fascinated with dragons and enemies to lovers story❤️
Yellowface by R.F. Kuang
We said: A gripping novel about representing someone else’s work as one’s own, and the lengths one woman will go to protect what she thinks she deserves.
You said: An amazing insight into writing and author lives and so eerie and thrilling!
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