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9 Reasons You Should Keep Reading More Books in 2022
You haven’t been alone: we have been reading more during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Print book sales rose 8.2% in the US in 2020, according to BookScan. It was the best year in a decade for hard copy book sales . But the trend didn’t stop there. Last year 825.7 million print books were sold by US publishers, 8.9% up over 2020 .
And that’s without counting ebooks and audiobooks. According to a 2021 Pew Research study , print books are still the most popular format with 65% of those surveyed saying that they had read a print book in the past year. But the number of Americans who report reading ebooks has still gone from 25% to 30% since 2019.
“75% of U.S. adults say they have read a book in the past 12 months in any format, whether completely or part way through, a figure that has remained largely unchanged since 2011,” the study adds. So the pandemic didn’t necessarily convert many to the joys of a good book, but readers have been reading more.
Take a look at Goodreads. The social network for book worms has seen a steep increase in the number of readers participating in its reading challenge. The yearly competition, which logs how many books a user reads over the span of 12 months, had 4,384,114 participants in 2019 . In 2020, there were 5,301,886 Goodreads users participating — almost one million more readers decided to take the challenge than in the previous year.
With the pandemic being a contributing factor when it comes to the increase in reading habits — it doesn’t get much more socially distanced than reading, after all — let’s make a point to keep reading in 2022, even though things may finally start going back to normal.
Here’s why you should keep reading this year, even if we hope there’ll be a thousand other things — concerts, theater plays, dinners with friends, trips — to do.
- We’ve already made a habit of reading more , be it on a Saturday afternoon by the fire — or while sunbathing in the park — or before bed at night. Let’s just keep the routine going.
- It doesn’t get more hygge than reading under a blanket or under a tree. And reading can still bring you all the cozy comfort you’ve been craving for these past two years.
- Reading is still the easiest, most convenient and cheapest way to get transported somewhere far off and stimulating. No need to suffer through long-haul flights, deal with jet lag or get lost in translation. Just choose the right book and travel vicariously through its characters. We have a few good recommendations .
- The possibilities are endless . You can learn about Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy , revisit a few classic science fiction books , immerse yourself in a dystopian novel to quench your thirst for more stories like Station Eleven , seek out the words of Indigenous writers or simply evade reality with some swoon-worthy romantic titles .
- You can educate yourself and broaden your views even with the light and fluffy page-turnery that is mass-market fiction. There’s a reason it’s popular; it’ll still keep you very much entertained.
- It’s very easy to try new things . By that I not only mean genre but format too. Never dipped a toe into graphic novels but always felt curious about them? Simply add one or two to your reading list.
- You don’t even have to read anymore. Just opt for the audiobook instead and listen to it while you drive, go for a stroll, do the dishes or try to fall asleep. Books can be the new podcasts.
- It’ll help you unwind at the end of the day . And you know that — even without a pandemic — life can still be challenging and exhausting.
- You can easily read two or three things at the same time and decide to ditch a book, leaving it unfinished, at any point. And what’s better — no one even has to know.
The pandemic may be about to end — or at least downgraded to endemic — but recently formed reading habits don’t have to end with it. Just keep up the good reading in 2022.
MORE FROM ASK.COM
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.
12 great books for 11-year-olds
12 great contemporary books for 11 year olds.
Author: Sharna Jackson Publisher: Knights Of Interest age: 9-11 Reading age: 9+
High-Rise Mystery is the perfect ‘whodunnit’. As the two girls sift through red herrings and reveal a series of tower block secrets, short snappy sentences and sparkling dialogue will keep readers turning the pages. A mystery as hot as the summer heatwave in which it’s set!
Author: Kwame Alexander Publisher: Andersen Press Interest age: 10-14 Reading age: 9+
Dynamically-illustrated graphic novel version of a bestselling, award-winning story of twin basketball players and their coming-of-age.
Author: Victoria Jamieson Publisher: Puffin Interest age: 10-14 Reading age: 9+
It’s really exciting to be starting at Roller Derby summer camp, but less so when Astrid finds herself doing it alone. A fantastic full-colour graphic novel about friendship and awesome, strong girls, this a genuine joy to read.
The Wolf Wilder
Author: Katherine Rundell Publisher: Bloomsbury
When the murderous hostility of the Russian Army threatens her very existence, Feo is left with no option but to go on the run. What follows is a story of revolution and adventure, about standing up for the things you love and fighting back. And, of course, wolves.
Author: Andy Briggs Publisher: Scholastic Interest age: 9-12 Reading age: 9+
Carson and his friends are into drone racing but the older kids always outclass them with more expensive tech. When they come across a faster drone, they think they're in luck – but then they discover the military want it back. Brilliantly filmic and unputdownable.
S.C.R.E.A.M: Carnival of Monsters
Author: Andrew Beasley Publisher: Usborne Interest age: 10-12 Reading age: 10-12
Spooky supernatural activity is mixed here with plenty of humour to create the right balance of action, fun and thrills. Sharp-witted Charley makes a spectacular wheelchair-using protagonist, alongside streetwise partner Billy.
The Nowhere Emporium
Author: Ross Mackenzie Publisher: Floris Books Interest age: 8+ Reading age: 7+
Daniel's life changes forever when he stumbles upon The Nowhere Emporium in Glasgow. A dazzling and quirky tale, full of imagination and wonder - perfect for fans of JK Rowling, Philip Pullman and Neil Gaiman.
Author: S F Said Illustrator: Dave McKean Publisher: Corgi Interest age: 10+ Reading age: 10+
Lucky is on the run and joins up with a group of aliens - refugees from the ongoing war between aliens and humans - who agree to help Lucky find his father. A thrilling space adventure, full of suspense, action, emotion and more.
Author: R J Palacio Publisher: Penguin Random House Children's Interest age: 9+ Reading age: 9+
August ('Auggie') Pullman can't help but stand out - he was born with a severe facial deformity. Written in the first person, Wonder follows Auggie as he experiences more than the usual ups-and-downs of friendships, family and school.
An Eagle in the Snow
Author: Michael Morpurgo Illustrator: Michael Foreman Publisher: HarperCollins Interest age: 9-13 Reading age: 9+
Stuck on a train, a boy listens to a stranger’s story about one moment that could have stopped World War II. A thought-provoking story that young history enthusiasts will especially welcome.
Author: Jason Reynolds Illustrator: Selom Sunu Publisher: Knights Of Interest age: 12-16 Reading age: 12+
Three years ago Ghost’s dad chased him and his mum down the road with a gun. His dad got ten years in prison, and Ghost learned how to run. Ghost has never thought of athletics as a sporting option – basketball is his thing. But now, after challenging a sprinter to a race at the local track, he’s won himself a place on an elite running team.
Where the River Runs Gold
Author: Sita Brahmachari Publisher: Hachette Interest age: 10-13 Reading age: 9+
Shifa and her brother Themba live in a world destroyed by climate change, but when they're sent away to work, they're horrified to discover a cruel and corrupt system. Will they be able to escape and make the world a better place?
Beyond the Bookends
A Book Blog for Women and Moms who Love to Read
The Best Books for an 11-Year-Old
Looking for the best books for an 11-year-old? We’ve got the perfect list for you!
Having raised 4 kids through this particular age, we are well-equipped to give suggestions for children with all kinds of book preferences. We’ve got suggestions for Percy Jackson fantasy fans and non-fiction picks for history-loving readers.
Below, you’ll find lots of great stories divided by category. Many of the books for an 11-year-old have links to book lists with even more recommendations, so be sure to poke around.
Table of Contents
Looking for more options? We’ve got tons of genre-specific book lists for 11-year-olds !
*the books for 11 year old post contains affiliate links. Purchases made through links result in a small commission to us at no cost to you. Some books have been gifted. All opinions are our own.
Best Fantasy Books for an 11-Year-Old
Greenglass House by Kate Milford
This middle-grade mystery reminded me of Harry Potter in some ways. A child is trying to uncover the secrets of Greenglass House, a hotel for smugglers and spies before the adults do.
We read this as a family read-aloud and it was wonderful. It’s one of the books for an 11-year-old that younger readers might struggle with.
Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger
Move over Harry Potter , there is a new middle grade fantasy series poised to take your throne! Meet Sophie Foster, a newly found elf living in the human world.
In book one of this ever-growing series, she’s taken back to the Lost Cities and sent to Foxfire Academy to learn to harness her powers as a Telepath.
In the process, she is welcomed into a new family, makes loads of friends, and uncovers a secret organization trying to destroy the human world. Books about secret societies, magical creatures, and magic? Yes, please.
All 5 of our children loved this middle grade fantasy series, and frankly, Jackie and I did too! It’s also a great family-friendly audiobook for long car trips.
We’ve got a whole list of books like KOTLC if you have already read this series of the best fantasy books for 11-year-olds.
Winterhouse by Ben Guterson
We like to listen to books as a family when we are in the car together or doing a puzzle. The standout book for me this month was Winterhouse. It’s such a fun hotel novel!
This middle-grade mystery was as enthralling to me as it was to my boys. I loved the slight bits of magic in the story and the captivating setting of an expansive ski hotel on a snowy mountain at Christmas time. If you love a cozy mystery book for an 11 year old, pick this one up!
45+ Best Fantasy Books for Tweens and Middle Grade Readers
The best fantasy books for an 11 year old, all in one place!
Love Fantasy Books? We do too! That’s why we created a list of Books Like Harry Potter and Books Like Percy Jackson !
Mystery books for 11-year-olds.
The Van Gogh Deception by Deron R. Hicks
The first in a series of middle grade novels, this first story captured the attention of my D.C.-obsessed son. After all, it opens in the National Gallery when a boy wakes up with amnesia.
Described as Dan Brown meets Jason Bourne, it lives up to those clever titles. It’s a fast-paced art caper that will keep your tween fully engrossed. It’s the first in a must-read series of books for 11-year-olds.
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
This is a middle grade mystery book for tweens that all adults should read but you can also find it on our list of books for 11-year-olds. It’s about a group of extremely gifted children who are sent to spy on an evil organization.
This is the first middle grade book in a series that is geared toward older kids. It was funny and interesting and extremely clever.
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
This pick from our list of mystery books for tweens is another middle-grade story that adults will enjoy too. Mr. Lemoncello’s library is one of a kind. It’s full of holograms, logic puzzles, and hidden games.
To officially open the new library, a few lucky kids get to spend the night inside as they try to win Mr. Lemoncello’s game and be the first team to escape. If you are looking for great bedtime stories for kids, this series will hit the mark. This is also a great read-aloud book for you and your child to enjoy together.
For more mystery books for 11-year-olds, check out our list of Mystery Books for Tweens
Best family books for an 11-year-old.
Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt
My son adored Pay Attention, Carter Jones. He loved the premise of the butler coming over to teach Carter to play cricket. He liked how Carter learned about how to be a gentleman from the butler who is strict, but exactly what the family needs during their troubling time. He’s recommended to a few of his friends already and my mom even read it and enjoyed it! It’s a heart-filled, thought-provoking read in all the best ways. It’s one of our favorite books for 13-year-olds.
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser
This charming story is about a bi-racial family in Harlem with 5 kids who are about to lose their home because their reclusive landlord won’t renew their lease. My entire family enjoyed this delightful tale of the siblings trying to win their landlord over so they don’t have to leave home. Don’t worry. This is one of the best feel-good books on the list.
It was full of all the antics you would expect of a big family. You can find this book on our list of 40 of The Best Books for an 11-Year-Old as well as on our list of The Best Family Audiobooks For Road Trips and Home Listening .
The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
An imperfect family, the Penderwick family (consisting of the father, 4 daughters, and their dog) go spend their three-week summer vacation at a cottage they rented. Mrs. Tifton, a grumpy, snooty woman, and her son Jeffry own the cottage that is part of the Arundel estate.
The first in a series of 5 books about sisters, this wonderful book is perfect to read aloud at night or listen to on audio for a family roadtrip.
Historical Fiction Books for 11-Year-Olds
Refugee by Alan Gratz
Three tales in one, the book is told in alternating chapters by three narrators. The stories feature Josef, a Jewish refugee fleeing WWII Germany, Isabel a Cuban girl on her way to Miami in 1994, and Mahmoud a Syrian refugee seeking asylum in Germany in 2015. The chapters rotate between the three characters and their stories do connect at the end in a meaningful and moving way.
The characters are all about 13 years old but shoulder burdens that would be hard for an adult to handle. Gratz accurately portrays each child’s struggle with both grace and clarity – not shying away from difficult emotions and even death.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Don’t let the length of this book deter you. Even though it is on our list of long books , there are gorgeous illustrations on every other page and the writing is only a paragraph at a time.
This middle grade mystery is an amazing story of Hugo Cabret who is an orphan in the Paris train station where he winds the clocks so that nobody will discover his secrets. Soon he discovers a drawing and a notebook that will lead him to the biggest adventure of his life. This is one of the must-read books for 11-year-olds.
The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz
All of my kids have read this book and they all loved it- devoured it in a day. In 13th century France, three children set out on a quest with their dog. Each of the children, and the dog, have a magical gift.
Somehow this book is able to combine historical characters and mythical tales of the 13th century with morals and lessons that are completely relevant today.
Best Audiobooks for an 11-Year-Old
The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson
The Parker Inheritance was such a fun listen! It reminded me of The Westing Game , which it references frequently and was clearly a source of inspiration in the best way.
Two new friends, both overcoming personal struggles, end up on a hunt to find a hidden fortune in the town of Lambert, South Carolina. Along the way, they encounter the racist past of the city and learned how the deep-rooted racism impacted Lambert long-term.
I loved the modern twist and more thought-provoking spin on the classic book trope of The Westing Game . It’s a must-listen and one of my favorite audiobooks for tweens!
Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan
I listened to this feel-good book and it was unreal. I want my son to read this so badly but, I also want him to listen to it as well. The full-cast audiobook plays music so it is a full sensory experience.
The story is three tales woven together in one with a magical harmonica at the center. The story follows a harmonica as it lands in the hands of Freidrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California set during WWII.
Part fairy tale and part historical fiction, this is one of the novels about music that is amazing for middle grade and adults alike. We even included it on our list of Books for 11-Year-Olds. This is a magical realism book everyone should read.
The Candymakers by Wendy Maas
This story appears on our list of books about candy! I decided to read this book with my boys prior to our visit to Candytopia.
It was a lovely take on life at a candy factory and felt almost like an updated version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. 4 kids are competing to win a candy-making contest to have their creation mass-produced. This is the first in a series of middle grade novels. It’s one of the must-read books for 11-year-olds.
For more of the best books for 11-year-olds like these, check out our list of Family Friendly Audiobooks
Books for 11-year-olds set at school.
Wonder by R.J Palacio
A must-read for kids in middle school, this is an amazing book about embracing differences, kindness, and being yourself. However, this would also be a wonderful read-aloud book for a younger audience. CW: This is one of the books that will make you cry.
August Pullman is a boy with an extraordinary facial difference. He has been homeschooled his entire life and is starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep. This book for 11-year-olds is amazing and has a lesson about love and acceptance that everyone needs to read.
Ban This Book by Alan Gratz
This is technically a middle-grade fiction. The heroine of this story is a girl whose favorite book was just banned from her school library. She starts her own locker library filled with more banned books from the school’s library.
As she stands up for her right to read, she challenges adults in her community and learns about books’ power to unite everyone.
The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Raúf
This is the story of Ahmet, a Syrian refugee, who ends up in Mrs. Khan’s 4th-grade class. At first, the students are wary of the strange new boy.
Soon, they learn that Ahmet has been separated from his family when he was trying to escape the war. Soon the kids were banding together to help Ahmet reunite with his family.
My son cried while reading this book for 11-year-olds. The story touched his heart and evoked such compassion in him.
Looking for more school books for an 11-year-old? That’s why we created the School Hub with all things school.
Best spy books for an 11-year-old.
City Spies by James Ponti
MI6 has recruited a bunch of kids to be their newest spy group – the City Spies. They attend boarding school while learning various spy tactics.
Soon they get to go on a mission to Paris to put what they learned into action. Subsequent books take place in San Francisco and Beijing. At this point, this series is on our pre-order series list.
Spy School by Stuart Gibbs
The first book in Gibbs’s series is about Ben Ripley, a child CIA agent trying to defeat the evil organization Spyder. As he attends the secret junior CIA boarding school, he gets into loads of situations that put his espionage skills to good use.
In each book of the series, Ben and his fellow agents tackle a new problem. They take place at various new locations as the series progresses. This series of books for 11-year-olds is already 10 books deep!
Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation by Stuart Gibbs
Charlie Thorne is a child genius and the world’s best code breaker. So the CIA has dragged her into the hunt for Albert Einstein’s hidden code. She’s trying to get it before the Furies use it to destroy the world.
Charlie is hunting for something from Charles Darwin and Cleopatra in the subsequent sequels. Each story has her using her wits to outsmart everyone around her.
For more books for 11 year olds like these, check out our list of spy books for kids!
Wwii books for 11-year-olds.
The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
I read this book in a few hours and immediately ordered the sequel The War I Finally Won . Ada is a 10-year-old girl who lives in a one-room world gazing at the world from one window. She was born with a club foot and teaches herself to walk in secret. When the children who lived in London were evacuated to go to the country at the start of WW2, Ada escapes her abusive mother and leaves London with her little brother.
There is so much depth to this book. It is a Newbury Honor book and the Winner of the Schneider Family Book Award for middle grade. This middle grade historical fiction is a story of love and survival in the face of overwhelming obstacles.
Do not be fooled by this middle grade fiction. It is emotionally crafted and brilliantly written and is my favorite on the list of WWII books for kids .
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
This is a magical realism book that is narrated by Death. And in this haunting magical realism book, he tells the story of Liesel, a young girl in Nazi Germany in 1939. Liesel is living with her foster parents and learning to read from stolen books.
She also shares these books with the Jewish man who is hiding in her basement. This book is brilliant, powerful, poignant, and unforgettable. While technically a YA historical fiction book , this book is fiction at its finest and is a must-read from our list of WWII books for kids . This is one of my favorite thought-provoking books.
The Dollmaker of Krakow by R. M. Romero
Karolina is a living doll who finds herself lost from her own land and somehow in Poland right at the cusp of WWII. She finds herself befriending the Dollmaker and getting him to open his heart to those around him.
Soon Karolina and the Dollmaker are trying to protect their new Jewish friends from the dangers of the Nazi regime. The magical realism of the book makes the content a bit easier to read for younger kids.
For more WWII books for 11-year-olds, check out our list of WWII books for kids.
Feel good books for 11-year-olds.
Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly
This book for a 13-year-old was a Newberry Award winner for a reason. It gave the mom in me a bit of an anxiety attack when one of the characters fell down the well, but all’s well that ends well.
This tween book is a read that I’d recommend for all ages. In particular, I liked how it addressed bullying, being different, and overcoming shyness.
Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly
Wow. This was one of the audiobooks for tweens I listened to with my own kids and we all just adored it.
It’s a story about a deaf girl who is struggling to connect with her community and a whale named Blue 52 who can’t find his ocean community either. She sets out to connect with Blue 52 and along the way she finds her inner strength in a beautiful wa y.
This middle grade book for 11-year-olds is delightful for adults too!
Front Desk by Kelly Yang
This recently banned book tells the story of Mia and her family who are immigrants from China. Mia’s struggles to be successful in America are met with the divide between classes in her school, the racism she faces, and her family’s quest to make ends meet.
I loved learning from Mia and watching her problem-solve to help her family as they took over caring for the Calivista Motel. If you are looking for middle grade books that skew a little younger, check out this realistic fiction book. This is one of the books for 11-year-olds that adults will love too!
Ultimate List of Middle Grade Books for Tweens
Check out this post for a list of the best books for an 11 year old.
Animal Books for 11-Years-Olds
Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
Mother Paula/s Pancakes is the most popular pancake restaurant around and they want to open their new restaurant on the site where endangered owls live.
Can the new kid in school find a way to save the owls? This book is a Newberry Honor Winner and is perfect for animal lovers of every age. This is one of the must-read books for 11-year-olds.
Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs
The first book in the FunJungle series shows Gibbs at his best – funny and clever!
After a hippo dies at FunJungle zoo, it’s up to Teddy and his friend Summer to prove that the Hippo was actually murdered.
But investigating Hippo homicide is a dangerous affair. This funny story kept this former zoo employee quite entertained. Make sure you add this book for an 11-year-old to your summer reading list!
A Wolf Called Wander by Rosanne Parry
Rosanne does a marvelous job of telling the true story of a wolf trying to survive when he is separated from his family. Without the protection of his pack, Swift must learn how to thrive on his own.
Swift’s journey takes him across 1,000 miles of forests, highways, and rivers with danger facing him at every turn. We were riveted to this story when he listened on a recent family road trip.
Classic Books for an 11-Year-Old
Holes by Louis Sachar
A great middle grade book about camp (and yet another that was adapted into a movie!) Holes should be on every child’s list. And, if you are looking for bedtime stories for kids, this is a great read-aloud for a younger child that cannot read this themselves.
When a boy under a curse is sent to a detention camp he’s taught to behave by digging holes all day, every day. It doesn’t take long for him to realize he’s digging for a reason – but what are the camp wardens looking to find?
This is one of my favorite books for 11-year-olds and the movie adaptation is great too!
The Egypt Game by Zilpha Neatly Snyder
This middle grade fiction enchanted me as a young girl. The 6 “Egyptians” play in the back lot of an antique store, dressing up, performing rituals, and speaking with Oracles.
Then, a murder happens in the area and trouble comes to the lot. Don’t worry, there is a happy ending and also a sequel about gypsies!
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
The tween book that got me into mysteries as a child is great as an audiobook as well! When Mr. Westing dies, he leaves the residents of Sunset Towers named in his will.
But they need to solve the mystery of his death in order to win control of his company and his vast fortune. Your family will love trying to work out what happened!
This classic 70s book is still a must-read today! This is one of the must-read books for 11-year-olds.
Sports Books for an 11-Year-Old
Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang
Gene does not like sports. He doesn’t like to play or watch but, the high school where he teaches is obsessed with their basketball team, the Dragons.
This graphic novel is one part memoir as the author tells about the current students and their quest for the state championship as well one part biography as we see the history of the team- including racism and sexism in the sport.
The Wizenard Series by Kobe Bryant and Wesley King
My boys and I started this series shortly after their basketball season began and they were on a losing streak. I thought this series about a group of kids and their magical coach sounded like the perfect book to inspire them.
The Badgers are the worst team in the league until Professor Wizenard comes to be their new coach. With his magical tricks focusing on teamwork and morale, the Badgers players learn more than just playing good ball.
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Kwame Alexander has won many awards for his incredible proses. This book, the first in a series, is no exception having won both the Newberry and The Coretta-Scott King Award.
The Crossover is all about Josh Bell a basketball-loving middle-schooler who also loves to rap. He learns to grow up in this coming-of-ask story about Josh, his twin, and his family.
This is one of the many tween books for an 11-year-old being adapted soon. Look for the book adaptation starring LeBron James coming to Disney+ soon!
Coming-of-Age Books for 11-Year-Olds
A Kind of Paradise by Amy Rebecca Tan
This is a best children’s book of 2019 for a reason. I read this as a read-aloud with both of my children (boys 6-8) even though it’s technically a middle grade book.
The story revolves around Jaime, who is being punished with community service hours at the library for the summer after she did something wrong in school. Jaime is reluctant to volunteer at first but quickly grows to love the staff and regulars at the library. I adored this charming tale and so did my kids. This is one of the books for 11-year-olds that adults will love too!
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
I’m pretty sure this tween book is required reading for everyone! Jess Aarons has been practicing all summer so he can be the fastest runner in the fifth grade. And he almost is, until the new girl in school, Leslie Burke outpaces him. The two become fast friends and spend most days in the woods behind Leslie’s house, where they invent an enchanted land called Terabithia.
One morning, Leslie goes to Terabithia without Jess and a tragedy occurs. It will take the love of his family and the strength that Leslie has given him for Jess to be able to deal with his grief. This 70s book is an award winner for a reason.
The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty
My 3rd-grade math lover inhaled this tween book in 2 days. It’s all about a 12-year-old girl who was struck by lightning and became a math wiz.
She’s been homeschooled her whole life, but now her grandmother wants her to try to go to school just for one year. She has to make one friend, join one activity, and read one book that isn’t math related. Can she do it?
Graphic Novels for an 11-Year-Old
The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag
Boys grow up to be shapeshifters and girls become witches. But, what if you are a boy who loves witchery? Would you show your talents if it meant you would be exiled?
This Middle grade challenges gender stereotypes and is a perfect witch book for any middle-grade fantasy reader. Not only is the story great and the illustrations gorgeous, but the message of this book made it a must for best graphic novels of all time. This is one of the books for an 11-year-old that every child should read!
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
This graphic novel is a Newbery Medal Winner and was an easy pick for a list of the best graphic novels of all time. Astrid and Nicole have done everything together until now. Astrid wants to go to roller derby camp.
And thus begins a summer of friendship, finding yourself, perseverance, and girl power. Astrid may be strong enough to endure middle school. Snag this if you are looking for a book for 11-year-olds.
Kristy’s Great Idea by Ann M. Martin
The babysitters are back and updated for a new generation! I love that the stories in this series have been adapted into graphic novels.
The very first one, Kristy’s Great Idea, is about the formation of the Baby-Sitters Club and how the friends of the sitters developed.
These books for 11-year-olds were some of my childhood favorites. If you have middle schoolers, they should check out the Netflix book adaptation.
Non-fiction Books for 11 Year Olds
Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Woman Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
This true and amazing story of the black mathematicians and their role in the space race reads like a fiction novel.
So many people know this story because of the movie but, the book gives so many more details- as is usually the case with adaptations. This is one of the books for an 11-year-old that adults will love too!
Two Truths and a Lie: It’s Alive by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson, and illus. by Lisa K Weber
This fun book is filled with crazy stories about the living world and the plants and animals in it. Some of the stories are true and some are too crazy to be true. Can you figure out which fact is the lie?
There are tips for extra research and how to verify facts. This book for an 11-year-old is such a fun way to think critically, question, and do some scientific research.
All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat
This is one of the books for an 11-year-old that is a multi-award winner. It won the 2021 Newbery Honor Winner, the 2021 Kirkus Prize for Young People’s literature, and so many other awards. It is the true story of the Thai cave rescue of the 12 boys and their soccer coach in 2018.
The boys and the coach had gone in to explore the cave and when they went to leave, the floodwaters left them trapped inside. Complete with pictures, this story is told in a style that makes you feel like you were there.
Did you find any books for an 11-year-old to add to your home library? For more options check out our list of books for 10-year-olds or age up with our book suggestions for 12-year-old .
Lists of Books for 11-Year-Olds
For more of the best books for 11 year olds, check out this list.
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100 Best Books for 6th Graders (Age 11 – 12)
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With so many good books for 6th graders, which are the best choices for your 11 and 12-year-olds in 6th grade? I got you covered. Below you’ll find the BEST of the best middle grade books for sixth graders that are spot-on for maturity, reading level, theme, topic, and appeal.
100 Best Middle Grade Books for 6th Graders
Each book review includes a genre tag, so look for the genre terms mystery , fantasy , realistic (also called contemporary), historical fiction , funny , and science fiction to help you find a good book in a genre that your children or students want to read. Because it’s always helpful to match a child’s interests with the books that they read, I’ve included topics of note next to the genre tag (mental health, zombies, coming of age), and I’ve bolded the sentence that summarizes the book. Then, you can scan through this list for topics and genres without having to read each review. Unless you want to.
What makes a good book for a sixth grader?
Young readers at this age love books that relate to their lives, books about growing up, identity, belonging, friendships, or bullying. These tween readers want books that are mirrors to their own lives and doors and windows into the lives of others.
It may go without saying but 6th graders want engaging writing, compelling storylines, interesting characters, books in a series, graphic novels, true stories, fascinating nonfiction, and timeless classics.
Do I have to read all these books?
That’s the good news and where I can help. My goal when I was a teacher was to read all the books my students so I could perfectly match books to readers, not to mention my two children, who both went through their own reading challenges and motivation issues. Now, as a book blogger, I can read all the books and save you time!
Yes, reading fast is my superpower, I developed Imagination Soup as a resource for teachers, parents, librarians, and grandparents to share all the best books for kids, including new releases, best sellers, and classics. And, to save you time so you don’t have to read all the books.
What does that mean for you? The Imagination Soup book lists can help you! You don’t have to read (preview) all the books. I’ve already read them.
SHOP THIS LIST
Middle grade books are novels that back in the old days (when I first started teaching) were called chapter books. Now chapter books refer to beginning chapter books with illustrations meant for ages 6 to 8 while the term middle grade applies to books written for children who are in upper elementary grades and middle school, grades 4 to 7. Basically, 6th graders (11-year-olds) are the perfect age reader for middle grade books because middle grade books are written for 9 to 12-year-olds.
What age is 6th grade?
If you’re wondering what age 6th grade is in the United States, it’s usually age 11 turning age 12 sometimes during the year. In my state, 6th grade is sometimes located in elementary school and sometimes in middle school.
How do you motivate middle schoolers to read?
CHOICE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING for reading books —in other words, letting kids pick their own books helps motivate more reading.
For most of us, w e also need to get screen time under control so books can have a chance.
Not to mention, sometimes we forget that kids need blocks of TIME to read . When kids have packed schedules, reading doesn’t happen. Is there time for each child to sit down and read for 10 to 30 minutes every day—and for you to read together for at least some of that time?
Another essential ingredient to motivating a 6th grader is book access. Research shows that the more books kids can get their hands on, the better the chances of reading success. If you can’t pick out books at your library, use the library website to put books on hold to pick up later. Or, use your Libby app to check out eBooks online or download Amazon Kindle ebooks.
Finally, where does your 6th grader read? Have you made a cozy space for sustained reading? And if you did, would that be motivating? (Maybe!?)
But, there’s more. Find more teacher-suggested ideas for their students, including book swaps, author visits, book clubs, and the Global Read aloud in this post “12 Ways to Motivate Middle School Students to Read.”
What if my child or student is below grade level in reading?
For easier books, try books for 5th graders or books for 4th graders .
What if my child or student is an advanced 6th grade reader?
If you want harder (to comprehend / more mature topics) books, visit my books for 7th graders list.
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Read alouds, book series, & nonfiction books for 6th graders.
- Book Series
- Nonfiction Books
- Read Aloud Books
Good Books for Kids in 6th Grade
Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation by Stuart Gibb ADVENTURE The CIA asks a super genius 12-year-old girl named Charlie to help find the missing and dangerous “Pandora” theory of Einstein’s. You will fall in love with Charlie—she’s a creative thinker and a survivor who, despite all her knowledge still can act like a child yet also outwit bad guys in amazing ways. Terrorists, Moussed, cross-world travel, and mathematical clues combine with excellent writing to make the perfect action-adventure spy story starring a female protagonist you’ll love!
City Spies by James Ponti ADVENTURE When Sara, a foster kid and hacker, gets in trouble again, her new so-called lawyer recruits her to be an MI6 spy. Sara joins a team of other kids, trains quickly, and is immediately sent undercover to break open a big case in Paris. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I predict you’ll love every second of this action-packed story! It’s filled with great characters and an interesting twisty plot.
Greetings From Witness Protection by Jake Burt ADVENTURE A winsome story of adventure and finding where you belong. Nicki leaves the group home to live with a family in the witness protection program. She likes her newest foster family and takes her role seriously. She must stay vigilant against potential threats, not stand out, and try to keep her kleptomania under control. As she grows closer to her new family, both their past and hers catch up to them.
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein ADVENTURE (series) Kyle and a few classmates win a sleepover at the new town newly created library by game-creator Mr. Lemoncello. The silly Mr. Lemoncello devises a fun way to get OUT of the library — you can only get out if you solve the puzzles around the entire library. Will the kids work together or will it be every child for himself? BOX SET
Theodore Boone The Scandal by John Grisham ADVENTURE (series) Theodore, a helpful kid known for his burgeoning lawyering skills, learns his friend wrote an anonymous letter to turn in the cheating teachers. Both he and his friend are conflicted, especially when the teachers lose their jobs and are prosecuted.
The Canyon’s Edge by Dusti Bowling ADVENTURE Written in verse, this is a heart-wrenching, heart-stopping, suspenseful adventure about Nora and her dad’s climb into a Sonoran Desert canyon for the first time in the year since Nora’s mom died. Just as Nora tells her father she hates him, a flash flood careens through the canyon, carrying her father and their supplies away. Alone and terrified, Nora forces herself to find shelter and keep searching for her father, even with the venom from a scorpion bite slowing her down.
The Outcasts: Brotherband Chronicles by John Flanagan ADVENTURE / FANTASY 6th graders love this well-written book series of a young, fatherless boy named Hal whose mom was an Araluen slave. To survive the town’s prejudice against him, he is helped by another outcast, his dead father’s former shipmate, a one-armed recovering drunk . When it’s time for his Brotherband training, he becomes the leader of a rag-tag group of boys. They’ll compete against better, stronger teams who don’t always play fair. The stakes are high and Hal must win even with his group of misfits.
The Fog Diver by Joel Ross DYSTOPIAN (series) The world is covered by a deadly “fog” that kills humans so the humans live only on the highest mountain peaks. Our heroes, a band of scavenging orphans, are trying to find something in the world below that they can sell in order to travel to another city where they can treat the cloud sickness of their beloved mother figure. Tweens reading this book will love the suspense, the fascinating world, the characters, and the happily ever after.
96 Miles by J.L. Esplin DYSTOPIAN An apocalyptic event has happened, there’s no electricity, the brothers are alone, and all their dad and their survival supplies were 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 fighting nonstop with John. If your middle school kids like survival stories, sibling stories, and adventure, this is a great choice.
The Monster Missions by Laura Martin DYSTOPIAN If your tweens like adventure, fast-paced action, cool world-building, and heroic kids, then give them this book next! In a post-apocalyptic world covered by water, Berkly rescues her ship from a sea monster and is taken to a mysterious submarine to hunt monsters. When their sub is hijacked by pirates, she uses the sea creatures in the aquarium tanks to stop them.
Tunne ls series by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams DYSTOPIAN ADVENTURE (series) In pursuit of his missing father, Will finds a crazy, cult-like subterranean group (“The Colony”) controlled by frightening leaders who will stop at nothing to maintain control and order in their colony below the surface of the earth.
The Last Dogs: The Vanishing by Christopher Holt DYSTOPIAN This middle grade book series for 6th graders is a fast-paced, unique dystopian adventure. All the humans are gone. Max, a yellow Lab, knows that he must find and save his human family. From the moment he escapes the kennel at the vet’s, Max and his friends, Rocky and Gizmo, face huge obstacles in his quest to find his humans — starving wolves, no food, a gang of subway rats, a house of cats, and the controlling Corporation, a “perfect” society for dogs where everyone works and no one can leave.
Edge of Extinction The Ark Plan by Laura Martin ADVENTURE / DYSTOPIAN (series) It’s a dangerous world where cloned dinosaurs have taken over above ground. Sky and her fellow humans live belowground with Noah, their supreme ruler. Sky leaves the underground city to find her missing dad. Barely outside a day, she and her friend Shawn meet a human boy who lives in treetop enclaves. But Noah’s soldiers attack, and Sky realizes that everything she believed about Noah is wrong. Mesmerizing and exciting!
Fantasy, Mythological, and Magical Realism
Legend of the Dream Giants by Dustin Hansen FANTASY A beautifully-crafted story about a young, naive giant named Berg who doesn’t want to be like the monstrous Ünhold giant. But Berg is manipulated and becomes a prisoner. His friend Anya tries to help Berg see what’s really happening, but Berg believes the human’s lies until tragedy strikes. This is a story about trust, hope, belonging, friendship, and truth.
Hither and Nigh by Ellen Potter FANTASY Guaranteed to enthrall with masterful storytelling and wildly inventive world-building, Hither and Nigh draws you into a magical, multi-layered story of adventure and heart. When Nell is forced to join the Last Chance Club or be expelled from school, she’s surprised when the students get lessons in magic! This begins Nell’s search for her missing brother. Her search leads to the magical world of Nither and poachers who kidnap non-magical children with big imaginations.
Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston FANTASY Fantastic fantasy world-building, excellent writing, a strong female heroine of color, and a surprise plot twist ending are just a few of the reasons you’ll love this middle grade book. On top of that, you’ll find an exciting action-packed, suspenseful story about Amari whose brother vanishes mysteriously. He sends her a message that she’s a magician and should attend a special school. There, she discovers she’s a magician with outlawed dark magic, but she’s determined to stay in the school and find her brother.
The Ruins of Gorlan: Ranger’s Apprentice by John A. Flanagan FANTASY (series) 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), he begins 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 has it all! It’s a must-read, especially for boys.
Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede FANTASY (series) We loved this so much that we read it twice for a bedtime story ! You’ll love the strong female main character, a princess named Cimorene who doesn’t want to live the typical princess life. She leaves her home to apprentice herself to a dragon. Just for fun. No prince rescuing involved, thank you very much. Then she must help save her dragon from a group of evil wizards. We LOVE and highly recommend this dragon series. BOX SET
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill FANTASY Wonderfully crafted and imagined, this 2017 Newbery winner is a fairy tale of sorts about a good witch who rescues one of the town’s many abandoned (sacrificed) babies instead of giving her to another town to adopt and love. She’s a special baby named Luna who accidentally becomes infused with moon magic. It’s also the story of the baby’s magical, bereaved mother, a wicked witch who feeds off sorrow, a woodcarver who wants justice, and most of all, an amazing girl named Luna.
Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman FANTASY If your child hasn’t learned about Norse mythology , this will be a great (short) intro! To end the long winter, Odd must journey to find Asgard, a city under siege from the Frost Giants. A wonderful, nail-biting adventure and a great book to read for 6th graders.
Five Kingdoms: Sky Raiders by Brandon Mull FANTASY / ADVENTURE (series) Cole, a regular kid, is trick-or-treating with his friends when they all get kidnapped. Cole manages to hide but follows the kidnappers — to another world – a world of five kingdoms, slavery, and magic. Cole is found and sold to slavers on the Outskirts. He’ll battle mysterious beings living on cloud castles, discover an exiled princess, escape from slavery, and have unimaginable adventures.
Skyborn Sparrow Rising by Jessica Khoury FANTASY (series) Ellie is an orphan Sparrow girl in a world of avian-human caste system who flees the orphanage so she can compete for a coveted spot in the knight training school. She travels with a group of thieves and their friendship and adventures open her eyes to who is actually honorable and heroic. She also discovers that the stolen gargol eye has powerful healing properties. This fantasy adventure checks all the boxes with a courageous main character and complicated companions, an interesting world, and lots of surprises.
The Iron Trial (Magisterium) by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare FANTASY Even though Callum tries to fail the entrance trials, he is admitted to the school his dad says is evil. But the Magisterium school is not as bad as he expects. Call learns about his elemental powers, he forges bonds of friendship with his teammates and rescues a wolf puppy who is infused with the evil magic of Chaos. I couldn’t put this book down — especially after the surprise twist about who Callum really is!! One of the best books for 6th graders.
Lockwood & Co The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud GHOST ADVENTURE (series) Set in Victorian London, we learn that dangerous ghosts and spirits are everywhere, but only kids can see them . Teens Lucy, Anthony, and George badly need money for their ghost agency, so they take an inadvisable, perilous job that may just be their last. Sixth graders (and I) love this series with its addicting, edge-of-your-seat writing.
Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger FANTASY (series) I stayed up all night to finish this book –it was fantastic! Twelve-year-old Sophie has never quite fit into her life. And Sophie has a secret; she’s a Telepath and not human . She must leave the human world for the Elvin world where she’ll face danger from both worlds. Her only hope is to regain the memories about her past.
A Tale of Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz FANTASY (series) Bloody and macabre, Hansel and Gretel abandon their terrible parents in order to find better ones –ones that won’t try to kill them. The narrator warns us of the bloody things to come. While he’s sometimes distracting, for the most part, his snarky voice kept me from getting too freaked out by the gruesome parts. Once in the wild forest, Hansel transforms into a ravenous, hunter-beast, and Gretel continues on her own.
Skandar and the Unicorn Thief by A.F. Steadman FANTASY In Skandar’s world with bloodthirsty unicorns and unicorn riders, he’s denied as a unicorn rider until a mysterious woman sneaks him in. He learns he and his unicorn have the forbidden 5th spirit element like the evil Weaver whose been wreaking destruction and stealing unicorns. His new friends help him hide the magic and control his unicorn who hates pretending to be a water elemental. But he and his unicorn’s elemental magic may be the only ones who can stop the Weaver.
Children of the Fox by Kevin Sands MIDDLE GRADE FANTASY 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.
Last Mapmaker by Christina Soontornvat FANTASY In a Thai-inspired world where caste determines your future, Sai’s new job as a mapmaker’s assistant is far beyond her station, which is why she can’t wait to join the Mapmaker on a sailing quest to find a new continent and maybe, find herself a new home. During the trip, the Mapmaker reveals his past hubris of mapping and claiming already-inhabited lands, which their war-hungry country would then use and destroy. Add in a stowaway, a mutiny, a shipwreck, and a gigantic creature, this is a compelling middle grade book about colonialism, discovery, and humanity.
Lightcasters by Janelle McCurdy FANTASY After the Reaper King’s soldiers attack her forever dark city and capture her parents, Mia, her brother Lucas, plus two other friends flee the nefarious soldiers toward her grandparent’s in the capital city. To make it through the dangerous Nightmare Plains, Mia reluctantly bonds with not one but two wild umbras, creatures made of shadows and starlight, and learns she’s one of the mythical Lightkeepers, foretold to defeat the Reaper King. Unique, super cool world-building, fantastic storytelling, and perfect pacing, this is one book you won’t be able to put down!
Podkin One-Ear The Legend Begins by Kieran Larwood (series) FANTASY (series) A young rabbit who reluctantly grows into his destiny. One cold winter night, the night before Bramblemas, a traveling bard seeks shelter in Thornwood Warren. He’s offered shelter and food in exchange for his stories; stories about the heroic Podkin One-Ear. Alternating between the bard’s present-moment experience and the story of Podkin, we learn that young Podkin was a lazy, spoiled prince. When the cruel Gorm who are metal dark magic rabbits arrive at his family’s burrow to kill everyone inside, Podkin escapes with his much braver sister and little brother. No longer able to be spoiled and lazy, Podkin tries his best to be brave and pull his weight, often failing miserably but occasionally succeeding, too.
Rump by Liesl Shurtliff FRACTURED FAIRY TALE (series) In this powerful story from Rumplestiltskin’s perspective, you’ll read how Rump discovers who he is and grows into his potential. It takes some work but Rump learns he’s trapped in his mom’s magical “rumple” which requires him to make straw into gold for any trade that another person offers. This is what the miller takes advantage of, leaving Rump without options or any control. With the help of his troll friends, his friend Red, and his aunts, Rump finds a way to stop the magical curse and give the queen back her child.
Kelcie Murphy and the Academy for the Unbreakable Arts by Erika Lewis FANTASY Fast-paced with Celtic mythology, read about a foster child attending a magical school and searching for answers about her mysterious heritage. Kelcie is a foster kid raised in the human world. At the Academy, she discovers that she’s a mistrusted elemental called a Saiga, a mistrusted elemental, and finds friends who help her learn about her unique powers. They’ll also fight the monsters who continue to attack Kelcie.
Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone FANTASY A magical fairy tale and a powerful hero’s journey set in a snowy world, this story begins with a memoryless girl named Eska who is a prisoner of the Ice Queen. The Queen uses dark magic to steal people’s voices so she can gain immortality, and she wants Eska’s voice most of all. When Flint breaks into the Palace to rescue his mother, he discovers and rescues Eska instead. Together, they search for answers to stop the Queen and to find out who Eska is. An absolutely amazing mythical adventure!
Children of the Black Glass by Anthony Peckham FANTASY BOOK If you like exciting adventures with surprising twists and cool world-building, read this middle grade fantasy book next! Abandoned by their mom, Tell and Wren live with their dad on the mountain but their dad gets blinded in an accident. The mountain rule is that if you can’t work, you can’t drain the resources and must be killed. So the children go down the mountain to trade their dad’s black glass and find a cure. They’ve never been to the big city since it is forbidden for children. In the city, they immediately lose everything and discover an unfamiliar world with different rules, lies, treachery, and feuding families and sorcerers. Wren and Tell make tentative friendships but must use their cleverness and new and old knowledge to survive the secrets revealed and the chaos of war.
The Serpent’s Secret ( Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1) by Sayantani Dasgupta INDIAN MYTHOLOGY (series) This story pulls you in from the first page. Kiranmala discovers on her 12th birthday that she’s a princess from another realm and her parents are trapped in a black hole type place. But there’s a lot more she’ll learn — like who her real parents are (yikes!) and that demons can be your friends. The prince’s demon grandma, Ai-Ma, is my FAVORITE character. She says things like “ Be good, sweet beetle-dung toadstools. ” Okay, Kiranmala’s parents are super awesome, too. You’ll love every second of this entertaining, Indian mythology adventure.
The Marvellers by Dhonielle Clayton and Khadijah Khatib FANTASY If you like fantasy books , you’ll love this story about a girl named Ella whose conjuror magic is finally allowed at the prestigious Arcanum Training Institute. But the prejudice in the world against her magic continues at the school. Despite the many enemies at her school, she persists and makes two friends who help her when she’s falsely accused of a crime and when her favorite professor vanishes. At the same time, the dangerous Ace of Anarchy escapes prison and seems to be searching for her long-lost daughter who might be Ella’s best friend. Interesting and exciting.
Valentina Salazar is Not a Monster Hunter by Zoraida Córdova FANTASY A marvelous middle-grade novel with the perfect blend of action and adventure mixed with family tragedy, betrayal, magical creatures, and an amazing kid who saves the day! Val gets her two siblings to help her on one last mission to save the magical creature egg that a boy is live streaming so that no one gets hurt or learns about magical creatures. Her family used to be Monster Protectors until one killed her dad. Her nefarious Uncle and his Monster Hunters have lured one of her siblings to his hunter side, and they are chasing Val and her other siblings to get the egg first.
Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee FANTASY Stuck in a museum with her sister and father who is working on a sword exhibit, Ophelia’s curiosity leads her to a locked room where she finds a boy who has been trapped for thousands of years. But Ophelia doesn’t believe in that kind of thing. Except for she kind of does — because her mother used to tell her about witches and magic. This is a breathtaking journey of loss, acceptance, hope, and friendship retelling of The Snow Queen.
Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi FANTASY (series) Magic and color are closely linked in her world. Only Alice has no color in her skin or hair. And her father has been missing for years making her even sadder. She travels with a boy named Oliver to a different magical land in order to find and rescue her Father. But the rules are wildly different and the inhabitants eat people for their magic. Even though Oliver and Alice start their quest at odds, the many challenges join them in a solid friendship.
Charlie Hernandez and the League of Shadows by Ryan Calejo FANTASY Get ready for an exciting adventure filled with Latin American and Spanish mythology! This story is the perfect balance of action, dialogue, & description interspersed with Spanish words and phrases. Charlie Hernández’s house burns down, his parents go missing, and he is sent to a foster home. But it’s when he grows HORNS, the WINGS, and meets the MYTHS in real life — like calacas, mukis, and El Justo Juez — that he’s really freaked out. Fortunately, a persistent classmate Violet Rey (also his crush) helps Charlie follow the clues to find out what happened to his parents — and discover what it has to do with La Mano Peluda and the prophesied Morphling who is meant to save the world.
Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer FANTASY (series) A bard, a boy, a band of Viking berserkers, trolls, dragons, and a quest — what more could you want in a series? This is one of those can’t put it down books that will keep you up all night reading and I loved it. (Actually, I love all Farmer’s books.) Your kids will enjoy reading a new adventure in Norse and Old English mythology .
Nightbird by Alice Hoffman FANTASY Wow. Nightbird’s magic isn’t only in the story but in the woven images of enchanting characters and plot. This book will stay with you long after the last page. Twelve-year-old Twig lives on the edges, trying to stay unnoticed in order to protect her secret brother — a handsome, smart boy who lives in the attic of her home. He bears the family curse — he has wings. But when he won’t stay hidden anymore–and reveals himself to their beautiful neighbor girl. Twig hurries to stop the curse and prevent the town from hunting her brother as a monster. It’s a wonderfully bewitching story I couldn’t put down!
The Language of Spells by Garret Weyr, illustrated by Katie Harnett FANTASY Beautiful storytelling! Grisha is a dragon who spends a few hundred years enchanted as a teapot. Once he’s a dragon again, he meets a lonely girl whose first and only friend is him. Grisha slowly begins to remember that an evil wizard has imprisoned other dragons. He and Maggie decide to find the missing dragons and free them — no matter the cost. And there will be a cost. The ending is HEARTBREAKING but so, so good.
Haru Zombie Dog Hero by Ellen Oh PARANORMAL Edge-of-your-seat writing and action, the bond between a dog and boy (and family) grounds this paranormal adventure in love even though it’s also about evil scientists and zombies! Luke loves his dog, Haru, more than anything. So he’s devastated when their family’s mean landlord gets Haru taken away by the pound. But instead of going to the pound, Haru is sent to a sinister laboratory where scientists experiment on dogs. (This part is hard to read for us animal lovers — but hang in there, Haru will be okay.) Instead of dying like the other dogs, Haru wakes up changed. Violent. A stray cat named Penelope reminds Haru of his people, which helps his impulses. Then, the other more violent zombie dogs escape the lab — and Haru knows he must protect his people no matter what!
The Adventurers Guild by Zach Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos FANTASY Get ready for your new favorite middle grade fantasy adventure series. Zed and Brock don’t want to be chosen for the Adventurers Guild. Nobody does. Unlike the mages or merchants guild, the adventurers must leave the safety of their walled city to fight the monsters who live on the outside. Unfortunately, Zed and Brock are picked as Adventurers. And before they can finish training, Zed, Brock, and others are sent outside the city on a fact-finding mission that uncovers treachery, fiendish beasts, and Zed’s untapped magic. Imaginative world-building, intriguing plot twists, and complex characters kept me enthralled from page one!
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 father recently died. She’s alone and the owner of her dad’s veterinary practice, 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 .
Shinji Takahashi and the Mark of the Coatl by Julie Kagawa FANTASY Traveling with his aunt around the world, Shinji is kidnapped off his aunt’s boat by the Hightower Corporation who wants a statue he just bought in. a market. A girl who works at the Corporation helps Shinji escape and they turn to the rag-tag Society for Explorers and Adventurers for help. Adventure from the first page, plenty of science and magic, an evil mega-corporation, an ancient curse, a spy, and an angry spider monster — this is a mesmerizing, exciting adventure.
Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse FANTASY / MYTHOLOGY The compelling, well-written story jumps into the action immediately when Nizhoni, from the Diné (Navajo) people, sees a monster (disguised as a human) at her basketball game. Making matters worse, it’s her dad’s new boss who kidnaps her dad and wants her little brother, too. She escapes with her brother and best friend to ask the Spider Woman for help, learning that she and her brothers are the descendants of the Hero Twins. Her journey challenges her with heroic trials to meet the Sun who will give her weapons to fight the monsters and culminating in a fierce battle between the good guys and the monsters.
The Vanquishers by Kalynn Bayron PARANORMAL An exciting paranormal vampire-slaying middle grade adventure! Boog and her friends’ parents are still obsessed with vampire fighting — even though the vampires were all wiped out years ago. Or were they? When Boog’s friend Aaron reappears as a VAMPIRE, Boog and her friends search for the vampire maker to turn their friend back to human. The kids get caught sneaking around and discover their parents have BIG SECRETS about the Vanquishers vampire hunters. Can they work together to find the vampire that changed Aaron–and kill it?
Brick Dust and Bones by M.R. Forunet GHOST STORY 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!
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 is a recently captured spy, a Canadian paratrooper who lands in the wrong spot, and an American black medic. It’s violent, with terrible losses, racism, and injuries, but the fighters persist despite everything to accomplish their goal — to take back the area for the Allies.
Voyage of the Sparrowhawk by Natasha Farrant HISTORICAL FICTION If you want a new favorite warm-hearted adventure with brave kids, dogs, and a happy ending, you don’t want to miss this captivating and beautiful story. The war has made Ben an orphan –again. All that he has left are his dog and his dad’s boat, the Sparrowhawk. When a policeman gets suspicious of Ben’s living situation and his new friend, Lotti’s abusive guardians try to kill her rescue dog, the two friends set off on the boat for France to find Ben’s missing older brother. The boat isn’t meant for a channel crossing but the two kids are determined to make it work…but it won’t be easy. Nor will it be easy to find Ben’s missing brother in a country decimated by war.
A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus HISTORICAL FICTION An absolutely wonderful, heartwarming historical fiction story with close-knit siblings who stick together and eventually find their forever home. Evacuated from London during WWII these siblings need to find a new home. Unfortunately, their placements are horrid. It’s only the library and the kind librarian who help them survive the bullying and hunger. Unfortunately, the librarian is deemed “unsuitable” to be their foster mother since her missing husband is German. When things go from bad to worse in their latest home, can the children fight for a home with the librarian no matter what the town thinks?
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley HISTORICAL FICTION A Newbery Honor winner!!! Ada and her brother escape their mother’s abuse when the London children are evacuated during WWII and go to live with a grieving woman in a small country town. It’s difficult for both the woman and children to trust each other but slowly the trust grows. As it does, all three regain something lost — hope and love. I can’t recommend this book enough, it will touch your heart at such a deep level. One of the best books for 6th graders.
Finding Junie Kim by Ellen Oh REALISTIC & HISTORICAL / KOREAN WAR In the present day, Junie faces bullying, microaggressions, and friendship troubles leading to suicidal thoughts, medication, and therapy. At the same time, Junie interviews her grandparents, immigrants from South Korea, about their war-filled childhood hardships. Her grandpa’s story helps Junie find her own strength. Moving, important, and beautiful. *SENSITIVE READERS: This book includes suicidal thoughts, the violence of war, and a couple of bad words.
Lifeboat 12 by Susan Hood HISTORICAL FICTION Thinking Hitler will invade England next, Ken’s family sends him to safety in Canada. But, Ken’s ship is torpedoed and sunk only days into the journey. Written in verse, this is a moving account of bravery as Ken, several other kids, a priest, the ship’s only woman, and members of the crew spend weeks adrift at sea in an ill-stocked lifeboat. You’ll read about their swollen feet, dehydration, and starvation as well as the stories and songs that helped keep the kids distracted and somewhat hopeful. Ultimately, you’ll be left with a sense of amazement at the resiliency of the human spirit.
Loyalty by Avi HISTORICAL FICTION – REVOLUTIONARY WAR Noah’s loyalist dad dies after being tarred and feathered so his mom takes them to an uncle’s house in Boston. He becomes a spy at a tavern run by a free Black man named Jolla who opens Noah’s eyes to the hypocrisy of the Sons of Liberty, who want freedom for themselves but not for slaves. Noah realizes he needs to think for himself about to whom he is loyal — but it’s not an easy choice. Avi does an incredible job showing Noah’s inner turmoil and sharing the historical setting and events, this would be a great book club book for sixth graders!
Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel Jose Older HISTORICAL FICTION (+ FANTASY) (series) Take a thrilling ride through Civil War history — with DINOSAURS ! In this exciting adventure with diversity, slavers kidnap most of the orphans in NYC’s Colored Orphan Asylum but the small group of kids escapes to join with the Vigilance Committee to fight back and rescue their kidnapped friends. An action-packed plot with both reimagined & actual history that is so good, your 6th grader will love.
When the World Was Ours by Liz Kessler HISTORICAL FICTION / WWII Three friends in Vienna, Leo, Max, and Elsa, become separated by war, location, and ideology. Leo and Elsa are Jewish so their path includes ghetto housing, escape, and prison camp. But, Max is not Jewish and to gain the approval of his brutal Nazi father, he pursues Nazi beliefs, despite the nagging voice that reminds him that his friends weren’t “dogs” or less than human. The story’s conclusion weaves together their stories in a heartbreaking, beautiful ending that will leave you with a lot to discuss humanity, morality, hope, and love.
The Watcher by Joan Hiatt Harlow HISTORICAL FICTION American-raised Wendy’s Nazi-spy mom takes her to live in Germany during World War II. Wendy doesn’t even speak the language and feels overwhelmed by her mother’s zeal for Hitler. But when Wendy starts working at Lebensborn , the place where only Aryan children live — many who were forcibly removed from their parents — she learns from her new friend, a Jehovah’s Witness, that maybe this philosophy isn’t right and that you should stand up for what’s right.
Refugee by Alan Gratz HISTORICAL Follow three distinct, alternating stories about being displaced from your country, on the run, and in danger. First is a young Jewish boy who escapes from Nazi Germany on a ship to Cuba, only to be turned away from the Cuban port and sent back to Europe. Next is a Cuban girl in the 1990s who, with her family and neighbors, flees in a homemade raft to the United States at great peril. Finally is a Syrian boy whose home is bombed in a country at war. He and his family travel a great distance to find a country that will allow them shelter. Gatz skillfully connects all three stories with a satisfying, realistic conclusion.
Brothers Keeper by Julie Lee HISTORICAL FICTION Based on her grandmother’s escape from North Korea, this historical fiction story is a powerful read that captures the fearful culture of North Korea, the marginalization of females, and the bond between siblings. As war erupts between North and South Korea, Sora and her family decide to flee from North Korea while they still have a chance. As they continue south, they experience death, kidnapping, starvation, killings, and winter’s brutal cold with the Red Army marching right behind them. Amazingly, the two siblings make it south, where they’re reunited with their family.
Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park HISTORICAL FICTION Park writes a wonderfully touching multilayered story about a young half-Asian girl’s life during western expansion , frontier times. After Hana’s mother dies, her father moves the two of them to a small midwestern town. Park sets the scene with care and you’ll see a realistic portrayal of life in the 1880s from the point of view from someone who is experiencing racism. Despite many unfair things, Hana stays resilient and determined to graduate from school and help her father in his shop.
The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani HISTORICAL FICTION Written in a diary as letters to her Mama, Nisha shares how her life is turned upside down when the British rule of India ends in 1947, splitting the country into two — the Muslim north where she lives becomes Pakistan and the Hindu south remains India. Even though Nisha’s mom was Muslim, Nisha, her brother, her doctor Papa and her grandmother are forced to leave their home in the north because they are Hindu. There’s violence everywhere; nowhere is safe, not even the trains. It’s a harrowing journey and confusing time. One of the best books for 6th graders to teach about this historical time.
Words on Fire by Jennifer A. Nielsen HISTORICAL FICTION Nielsen deftly captures the history of Lithuania’s book smugglers as well as the fundamental truth that books give readers freedom from oppression; books keep alive a language, culture, and identity, no matter how hard someone tries to erase it. Audra doesn’t know her parents are book smugglers until they are arrested by the Cossacks. She flees to their contact’s house, not wanting anything to do with smuggling books. Part of her reluctance is because she herself can’t read or write but she slowly learns and develops a passion for stories. Not only that, she became a clever smuggler.
Sweep by Jonathan Auxier HISTORICAL FICTION Set in Victorian London, this is a beautiful, bittersweet story about a young girl and her protector golem . To survive, Nan works for a cruel chimney sweep who uses children to make himself richer. When another sweep tries to burn Nan alive, a charcoal golem, formerly a piece of charcoal left to her by Sweep, emerges to save her. She and her growing protector golem, Char, 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.
Once In a Blue Moon by Sharon G. Flake HISTORICAL FICTION 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, they begin their long journey to the lighthouse. But 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 it!
In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall III, illustrated by James Mark Yellowhawk REALISTIC / HISTORICAL Jimmy McClean’s grandfather takes him on a road trip where he shares the stories of Crazy Horse — his life and battles up to his death. They travel from the Dakotas (home of the Lakota) to Wyoming and other places significant to Crazy Horse’s life. I thought that following the duo traveling to the sites and then hearing the grandfather’s mesmerizing stories made this book easy to follow and very interesting. It’s a sobering, powerful story based on historical events.
Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams Garcia HISTORICAL It’s a typical southern summer in Alabama in 1969 and Delphine and her two sisters are visiting their extended family. Daily life means minding their grandmother, Big Ma, a crotchety matriarch, getting extra loving from their much sweeter great-grandma, Ma Charles, hanging out with neighbor, JimmyTrotter. This is a strong family that loves each other and God with all they’ve got.
A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen HISTORICAL FICTION Overnight, a fence with armed guards divides Berlin . Gerta is stuck on the east side with her brother and mother while their father and another brother escape to the west. Greta’s father gets her a message that sets her on a course to dig a tunnel under the wall and freedom. It’s dangerous but Greta’s determined.
Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed HISTORICAL FICTION Amal’s life is turned upside down when she offends a regional Pakistani overlord and is forced to leave her home and school to work in his home as a servant — indefinitely. She finds her inner strength and fights back, freeing herself and the other household slaves. The author deftly sets the scene of rural Pakistan. Readers will feel transported, feel the injustice, and cheer for Amal’s bravery.
A Seed in the Sun by Aida Salazar HISTORICAL FICTION A tender and poignant middle-grade novel in verse showing an important time in history, the power of collective voices against injustices, and a girl finding her strength. Lula’s family are migrant workers. When Lula’s mom gets sick from pesticides, they can only get her medical care if they join the worker strikes started by Phillipino migrant workers. Eventually, her violent dad is convinced to join the strike which transforms their family, gives the girls hope, and helps Lula’s mom get health care.
We Are Wolves by Katrina Nanestad HISTORICAL FICTION This story follows a little girl and her family in East Prussia after Hitler loses the war and the Russians take over, pillaging as they go. It’s about the grays of war, the impossible choices you must make to survive, and how love wins. When Liesl and her siblings are separated from their mother, they survive by stealing and foraging, sometimes in the woods and sometimes in a borrowed home–until the Russians find it. Their story is harrowing and thought-provoking and ultimately warm-hearted.
Traitors Among Us by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch HISTORICAL FICTION It’s a little-known history that after WWII, Russians kidnapped Ukrainian refugees for slave labor or death. In this true story, sisters Maria and Krystia are kidnapped by the Russians when another girl falsely accuses them of being Hitler Girls, girls who collaborated with the Nazis. The girls, including their accusor, are taken to a house in the Russian zone for Interrogation, where they fight to survive and with the help of others, to escape. This well-written history shows the power of human kindness.
Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras FANTASY / HISTORICAL (series) Set in medieval Scotland, this is an action-packed adventure of a strong female protagonist with close family bonds, medieval and mythical elements, and an exciting plot. When Drest’s war-band family is kidnapped by knights she sets off in pursuit, taking a wounded soldier hostage with her. Throughout their travels, the two develop a complicated friendship and Drest learns uncomfortable truths about her family.
Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna by Alda P. Dobbs HISTORICAL FICTION Based on the true history of the author’s great-grandmother, this is a beautiful and important story of hope, resiliency, and family set in historical Mexico, 1913. Petra Luna, her Abuela, her little sister, and her baby brother flee their home when Federales burn the village. Their trials culminate in a harrowing and life-threatening experience as they wait with throngs of other people trying to cross the bridge into the United States before the Federales arrive on the Mexican side.
Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte HISTORICAL FICTION (series) Set in the Martha’s Vineyard community of Chilmark with a high percentage of deaf individuals, Mary’s a smart girl who speaks sign language. But a researcher kidnaps Mary as a live specimen and imprisons and studies her. Even worse, she can’t communicate with anyone because no one else speaks sign, and Mary doesn’t have access to a pencil and paper. Eventually, she gets a chance to write a message and makes it back home with help.
Journey of the Pale Bear by Susan Fletcher HISTORICAL FICTION Arthur Welsh is a poor homeless Norwegian boy who works for passage on a ship to England as the caretaker of a captive polar bear, a gift for the King Henry of England. The conditions for the polar bear are worse than the boy’s, both being victims of their circumstances, powerless and captive. It’s a physical and emotional journey of survival and friendship. The two survive a pirate attack, escape in the wild, and a new life in England. I hated the captivity of the bear, but I loved this story and the bond of friendship between animal and man.
Running Out of Night by Sharon Lovejoy HISTORICAL FICTION I highly recommend this powerful story of two maltreated girls who hope for a better future. The narrator is a white girl in the south who is nothing more than a slave to her family, she doesn’t even have a name. She meets and joins a runaway slave who is escaping the horrific brutality of slavery and separation from her family. Together they find kindness and hope with a Quaker family.
Midnight Without a Moon by Linda Williams Jackson HISTORICAL (series) Rose Lee Carter is a girl who is raised by her grandma and father, works in the cotton fields, and is best friends with the preacher’s son. She dreams of leaving Mississippi for the north like her mom and aunt, especially after the white men who killed Emmett Till are found not guilty in a real-life historical trial.
Betty Before X by Ilyasha Shabazz and Renee Watson HISTORICAL FICTION I devoured this compelling, well-written story about a year in the teen life of Betty who later became well known for being the wife of Malcolm X. Betty’s mother seemed to despise her but Betty had good friends and younger siblings who loved her. Eventually, kind church friends took her in and adopted Betty. During this period of her life, we see the importance of church, counting her blessings, the activist housewives group she belonged to, and how family is what you make it. Reading this account made me want to know more about the rest of her life! Excellent!!!
Chains , Forge , Ashes (Seeds of America) by Laurie Halse Anderson HISTORICAL FICTION Live the Revolutionary War time period through the eyes of an African-American girl named Isabel and her friend, Cuzon. Enslaved, escaped, or enlisted, these two are determined survivors. The writing is amazing and the stories are captivating. I love and highly recommend these books; they’ll transport you back into history. Boxed Set Here .
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 make this a middle grade book that you won’t want to miss.
The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz, illustrated by Hatem Aly HISTORICAL MAGICAL REALISM This is the story of three children in medieval France and tackles big issues such as faith, God, prejudice, friendship, and family. The writing, the story, the characters, and the themes all pack a big punch adding up to a compelling novel that will make you think deeply and leave you changed. (Sensitive readers: there are a few swear words and two scenes with a lot of blood.)
Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban HISTORICAL It would be hard as an author not to vilify this country for sending thousands of Japanese Americans to prison camps. But this author doesn’t. She just skillfully shares the evocative story of 10-year-old Manami of Washington State, who is sent with her family to a dusty camp, leaving behind her beloved dog, Yujiin, and everything else they owned. Devastated, Manami stops speaking. Her story is painful, sprinkled with hope, and all too real. Please read this with your kids– it’s important.
Ahisma by Supriya Kelkar HISTORICAL FICTION Not only did I learn a lot (a lot!!) about Indian history during the time of Gandhi, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of this incredible, passion-filled story. Anjali’s parents join the freedom movement against the British government. Through her parents, Anjali begins to see her world differently including the poverty-stricken caste of many people call “the Untouchables”. Other Indian families do not like the changes her family is making. Then, Anjali’s mom is thrown in jail! I couldn’t put this book down.
Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger HUMOR / MAGICAL REALISM (series) A funny but poignant story of middle-school angst and discovery! Unpopular Dwight can make origami Star Wars characters. When his puppet of Yoda comes to life, just like Yoda, the origami Yoda is wise and helpful during the many trials of Dwight’s middle school experience.
Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts, illustrated by Laura Park FUNNY What a totally hilarious premise paired with fantastic writing! Rafe’s goal in middle school is to break every single rule. You can imagine how his plan will go, right? Filled with cartoon-like illustrations, this good book for 6th graders is going to crack you up and be a hit with 6th grade kids.
The Worst Class Trip Ever by Dave Barry HUMOR While on a class trip to Washington D.C., Wyatt and his best friend, Matt, are positive they’ve discovered a plot to blow up the White House. Wyatt’s crush, Suzanna, helps the friends make a plan, and as you can imagine, disaster and humor strike as the kids try to stop the bombing.
Anyone But Ivy Pocket by Caleb Krisp HUMOR (series) I read many parts out loud to my kids while I was reading this book because they were just so funny!! Now my kids are addicted to this series, too. Quirky but lovable Ivy’s adventures involve a sinister ghost, a mystical jewel, and a surprising destiny.
Framed! A T.O.A.S.T. Mystery by James Ponti MYSTERY Captivating from the first page, 12- year-old Florian Bates uses his brilliant, observing brain to implement T.O.A.S.T. (the Theory of All Small Things) to notice things that others have missed. Including the FBI when there’s an art heist at the museum his mother works at. The FBI hires him to help unravel a mysterious art heist which he does with the help of his best friend, Margaret. Fast-paced and interesting.
Ali Cross by James Patterson MYSTERY ADVENTURE If you want an enthralling adventure & mystery that you can’t put down, read this one next. It’s Christmas Eve and 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 .
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 fascinating, and the characters, enchanting. This is a wonderful, atmospheric read.
Tornado Brain by Cat Patrick MYSTERY / NEURODIVERSITY When 7th grade Frankie’s former best friend, Colette, vanishes, Frankie begins to look for clues on her own. As she does, we see how complicated it is to be in her brain. Loud noises, changes, touch, and so many things affect her intensely. Frankie realizes that Colette was trying to finish the list of dares that they made up when they were younger. The mystery of Colette’s whereabouts keeps every moment of the story suspenseful. It’s a brilliant, touching first-person story that gives us insights into a neurodivergent character’s brain in a suspenseful mystery story.
The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd MYSTERY This middle-grade novel is a puzzling mystery that only the boy named Ted, who seems to be on the spectrum (his brain is different but not explained), can solve. How did his cousin disappear from a closed pod on the London Eye? The enjoyable action and intrigue will keep your attention throughout — and you’ll wonder why you didn’t guess the ending before Ted.
Classy Crooks Club by Alison Cherry MYSTERY AJ’s parents are leaving on a research trip so she must stay with her very strict grandmother Jo who doesn’t approve of AJ’s soccer and skateboarding, and other non-ladylike pursuits. After hearing strange sounds, AJ discovers a room filled with exotic, talking birds and learns that her proper grandmother has “rescued” these birds from bad environments. In fact, grandma Jo and her old lady friends are a team of crooks, a heist club. And they want AJ’s help. Well-written and interesting, this is an excellent mystery and coming-of-age story.
To Catch a Cheat by Varian Johnson MYSTERY (series) Someone is trying to frame Jackson for a prank he didn’t even commit — and they’re doing a great job of it! It will take months to prove the video is falsified and by then Jackson will have missed the robot contest due to his punishment. Jackson and his friends are determined to prove their innocence but it won’t be easy. This is a great adventure filled with twists and turns.
Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter by Beth Fantasy HISTORICAL MYSTERY In Chicago, 10-year-old Isabel sells the newspaper she wants to write for during the days of speak-easies and the Mob. When one of her customers is accused of murder, Isabel decides to investigate and prove the woman’s innocence. She meets the famous woman reporter, Maude Collier, and two new friends who all are important to solving the case. This historical mystery grabbed my attention from the first page. The book’s memorable characters and interesting plot make the historical setting very memorable.
The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart MYSTERY 9-year-old Nicholas Benedict, a genius orphan with narcolepsy, lives in a poorly run orphanage where he’s maltreated and bullied. In this prequel to the series, Nicholas discovers there’s a treasure somewhere in the orphanage. While he and his friend search, he finds a way to improve life for all the kids living there. Boxed set here .
The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency The Case of the Missing Moonstone by Jordan Stratford, illustrated by Kelly Murphy MYSTERY A fantastically developed historical fiction book for 6th graders about a friendship between Ada Byron, genius daughter of Lord Byron and the world’s first computer programmer, and Mary Shelley, the world’s first science-fiction author who almost could have been friends in real life but for about a decade of years. Mary joins Ada to study with Ada’s tutor and the duo form a detective agency. In this first adventure, Mary and Ada learn about another historical figure who invented hypnotism and solve the case of a stolen heirloom.
A Perfect Mistake by Melanie Conklin MYSTERY / ADHD This is a great read for anyone who likes mystery, adventure, and well-developed, interesting characters. Max is living with the tragic aftermath of a night out that left one of his best friends in a coma. Initially, Max doesn’t want to think about what happened when he snuck out to the Res because he left before his friends did. While he’s trying to navigate school with ADHD and being exceptionally tall, Max also decides he must find out what happened to his friend. And he and a new friend named Sam discover that more than one person is lying.
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 by the cafeteria lady who thinks they’re stealing. This is a powerful story about kindness, racism, differences, and marginalized individuals including non-native-English speakers and homeless folks.
All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor REALISTIC A heartbreaking, hopeful coming-of-age story. Perry is well-loved by his mother and her friends; they all live in prison. In fact, that’s where Perry has lived since he was born eleven years ago. But in a horrible turn of events, his best friend’s stepfather, the new District Attorney, forces Perry to leave the prison. Not only that, the DA tries to stall Perry’s mother’s parole hearing. To cope, Perry istens to the inmates’ stories, hoping that they’ll be helpful in reuniting him with his mother.
Starfish by Lisa Fipps REALISTIC / BODY IMAGE & SIZE / VERSE Heartbreaking and inspiring, this poignant story 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 nickname is Splash because of her size but she loves swimming. Her biggest bully is her mother who won’t buy her new clothes because she thinks it encourages Ellie’s weight gain and pushes for gastro-bypass surgery. Fortunately, Ellie finds an understanding therapist who helps her move from powerless to powerful.
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 for other people in tough spots. This book is more than a memorable coming-of-age immigrant story, it’s also an important novel about tolerance and diversity. 6th graders will love the writing, the characters, the plot, and the messages of inclusion and determination.
From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks REALISTIC (series) On her 12th birthday, Zoe discovers a letter from her incarcerated biological father named Marcus. She secretly writes back and asks if he’s guilty. Marcus says he’s innocent and he can prove it, which sets Zoe on a quest for truth for herself, even if her mom and dad forbid it. She enlists the help of her Grandma and her best friend, Trevor. You won’t be able to put down this winsome story with a heroine 6th grade readers will love in a story that illuminates social justice with themes of family, friendship, and love.
A Duet for Home by Karina Yan Glaser REALISTIC / HOMELESSNESS A powerful, hopeful 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 Crossover by Kwame Alexander REALISTIC Because this is written in verse, this is a fast read but packs a big punch. Basketball player and twin Josh narrates his life in quarters, just like the game he plays. He writes about missing his twin when his twin, Jordan, gets a girlfriend; about getting in trouble when he hits Jordan in the face with a basketball; and about watching his father as his heart fails. This is a coming-of-age, gripping story about a boy who is just trying to figure out life like most boys at age 12.
My Not-So-Great French Escape by Cliff Burke REALISTIC Rylan hopes that traveling to work on a farm in France with his former best friend will repair their friendship. But once there, Rylan is separated from his arrogant friend which helps him be open to befriending other international kids, milking a goat named Bijou, growing a garden from scratch, and discovering the truth about his father, who’d abandoned him years before. The growth that Rylan experiences is incredible; readers will be cheering him on as he forges his path, experiencing hard-earned, painful truths about his former friend and his dad and finding wonderful new lessons about what he values.
New Kid by Jerry Craft REALISTIC / GRAPHIC NOVEL Jordan’s parents make him go to a private school across town where he’s one of the only kids of color. Besides having the tricky business of navigating friendships, he now must deal with the two separate worlds of his neighborhood and his school along with racism and balancing academics with art . This book for 6th graders feels truthful, relatable, and important.
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.
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.
Finally Seen by Kelly Yang REALISTIC This middle-grade novel explores 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, leaving her beloved Lao Lao behind in a nursing home. But, it’s not what she expected and she’s embarrassed when she struggles with English words and surprised at her family’s financial struggles. Even still, Lina’s bright spots are a kind ESL teacher, the graphic novels she reads and writes, and her new friends, Finn and Carla.
All of Me by Chris Baron REALISTIC / BODY IMAGE Ari’s lonely since his dad left, and he’s bullied for being fat and Jewish. Ari hates being fat so much that one day, he hurts himself. So, his mom helps him start a diet which works to help him lose weight –but it doesn’t fix everything. As Ari grows into himself, he is supported by a kind rabbi who accepts him unconditionally offering patience and wisdom. Soon, Ari realizes that he’s more than his weight. This is a moving and powerful story with heart and hope.
Pippa Park Raises Her Game by Erin Yun REALISTIC / KOREAN CULTURE Korean-American Pippa is a great basketball player but her guardian older sister won’t let her play unless her grades improve. Math tutoring by a cute, rich boy leads to a scholarship at a prestigious private school and Pippa uses the new school to reinvent herself, hiding her background from the popular kids (not wealthy, from a rival middle school.) Ultimately, Pippa decides not to be ashamed of her working-class family, her culture, or her friends.
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser REALISTIC Like The Penderwicks, you’ll fall in love with this quirky, wonderful family from the first page. The Vanderbeekers’ landlord wants them out by the end of December but the Vanderbeeker kids are determined to change his mind, even though he hates noise, kids, and their family. But it’s almost Christmas and their efforts are only making things worse. What will they do? Charming and heart-warming.
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper REALISTIC Hands down, this is one of the best life-changing books for 6th graders. Narrated by Melody, we learn what it’s like for her, trapped in a body with cerebral palsy that doesn’t allow her to speak or take care of herself. No one, except her parents think that she’s smart. Then one day, she gets a chance to prove that she’s smart with a talking keyboard tablet. Heartbreaking. Real. Inspiring. Beautifully written. This is one of my favorite books for 6th graders on this list.
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.
The Brave by James Bird REALISTIC When Collin, a boy who counts every letter spoken to him and says the number out loud, gets kicked out of yet 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…
Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly REALISTIC / DEAF Iris is a lonely Deaf girl who feels alone at her school and in her immediate family. She identifies with Blue 55, the loneliest whale in the world whose song is at a different hertz than other whales. Iris uses her compassionate heart, intelligence, and tinkering skills to write and record a whale song that Blue 55 will hear so he’ll know that he’s not alone. Her subsequent adventure is profoundly life-changing. This is a heartening, poignant story that gives readers insight Deaf children, the richness of Deaf culture, and the life-changing power of compassion.
Nowhere Boy by Katherine Marsh REALISTIC / REFUGEES Astunning novel about two young boys from very different backgrounds — one is a refugee from Syria while the other is an American who has just moved to Belgium . Interwoven in this timely, poignant story are the big issues of refugees, prejudice, fear, friendship, and kindness. To avoid the overcrowded refugee centers, Ahmed hides in the basement of the house where Max lives with his family. When he’s discovered by Max, the boys develop a friendship; Max keeps Ahmed hidden from everyone. The boys come up with a plan to enroll Ahmed in Max’s school. And it works. But it can’t last forever.
Fox Point’s Own Gemma Hopper by Brie Spangler REALISTIC GRAPHIC NOVEL Gemma is a tall girl who loves baseball but feels like Cinderella, working nonstop to keep her family together ever since her mom abandoned them, and her dad is always working. She resents her older brother, the Prince of Baseball, for the attention he gets for his talent and that he doesn’t help her around the house. Plus, she is having school and friendship troubles. But after a video of her pitching goes viral and a good talk with her brother, her brother helps Gemma achieve her baseball dreams, too. And in an incredible character arc, not only does Gemma comes into her own, she finally admits the truth that her mom is never coming back.
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park REALISTIC BIOGRAPHY / HISTORY Sudan’s reality, past and present, collide in this beautifully written true story. In 1985, we follow the harrowing journey of a young boy who, after his village was attacked, walks miles and miles to a refugee camp. In 2008, we learn about a girl who must walk two hours morning and night to get fresh water. Their stories are compelling; you won’t be able to put this down, nor take peace and clean water for granted again.
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.
Patina by Jason Reynolds REALISTIC Patina’s anger sometimes gets the best of her but running helps. She’s mad about her dad dying, her mom’s legs being amputated, and her new school. When her track coach makes Patty work with her teammates in a relay, she’s forced to rely on them. And that changes things. Patina is a beautiful coming-of-age story that will tug at your emotions.
Across the Desert by Dusti Bowling REALISTIC / DRUG ADDICTION Jolene is a brave girl who has been secretly dealing with her mother’s opioid addiction and makes a daring (and foolheartedly) trek to the desert to rescue her only friend. She steals her mom’s phone and credit card and takes the bus as close as she can to Addie’s location, planning to walk to find Addie. 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.
The Summer of June by Jamie Sumner ANXIETY / REALISTIC A hopeful, beautiful story about living with anxiety ; not curing it but managing it! June experiences severe anxiety which sometimes makes her pull out her hair and have panic attacks. So she starts the summer by shaving her hair off completely and spends her days at the library with her youth librarian mother. She meets a boy named Homer. They gradually become friends but she hasn’t told him the truth about her anxiety. Her mom and her therapist’s gentle care gets June the medication and guidance she needs, and she learns that many people care and accept her.
Swim Team by Johnnie Christmas REALISTIC / GRAPHIC NOVEL Bree and her dad move to Florida, where she has to take Swim 101 at school . But she ditches because she can’t swim and is afraid. luckily, her neighbor and babysitter is a former swim team captain, and she teaches Bree how to swim. When Bree accidentally makes the swim team, she learns about teamwork and friendship. This is a wonderful feel-good story about failure, perseverance, and teamwork.
Tumble by Celia C. Pérez REALISTIC This heartfelt story is about heritage, identity, and…Mexican wrestling. When Adela’s stepdad wants to adopt her, Adela secretly uncovers who her biological dad is — and finds out he’s from a famous luchador family. She contacts him with high hopes of connecting, but those hopes are slowly dashed when her bio dad, Manny, consistently drops her off with his family and leaves. Adela loves getting to know her extended family, especially her twin cousins, — but wishes Manny would want to spend time with her. Adela must figure out what it means to have Manny in her life or not.
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 is the only one who can see and talk to him. Except for the other ghost boys who he’ll find out were also killed in racially motivated violence.
All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson REALISTIC / COMING OF AGE / GRAPHIC NOVEL Growing up, Imogene (aka. Impy) always loved her family’s part in the Renaissance Faire . . . that is, until middle school. Even though she gets her dream to work in the faire as a squire, she also just wants to be like the other girls at her school, too. Her journey is painful and honest as she figures out who she wants to be. It’s narrated as a hero’s journey which, with the faire background and middle school drama, feels perfect.
The Seventh Most Important Thing: One Kid. One Crime. One Chance to Make Things Right by Shelley Pearsall REALISTIC Angry with grief, Arthur throws a brick at Junk Man’s head. The judge sentences Arthur to work for the Junk Man who asks Arthur to collect the items on the list of the Seven Most Important Things. Transformed by this experience, Arthur becomes an advocate for the Junk Man’s art. This is fictional but is inspired by the true story of American folk artist James Hampton whose work is in the Smithsonian.
The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez REALISTIC / COMING OF AGE An excellent, page-turning coming-of-age story, this is about a girl who is half-Mexican on her mom’s side and half-punk rock on her dad’s side , both of which are cultures prominently featured in the story and her life. Malú’s unhappily forced to move to Chicago with her mother, where she eventually finds her place when she starts a Latin-flavored punk band. When their group doesn’t get into the talent show, they decide to play anyway in the parking lot. And Malú discovers the first rule of punk.
The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman REALISTIC Set in India, Viji and her little sister Rukku run away from an abusive father and sick mother. They meet two friendly brothers and join them under a bridge, scrabbling to survive by collecting trash. Unfortunately, Rukku gets a terrible cough and fever, and what happens next will almost destroy Viji. Ultimately, it is the kindness of her new family that helps her see more in the future than misery. 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.
Boy, Everywhere by A.M. Dassu REALISTIC / IMMIGRATION / MIGRATION Skillful writing shows Sami’s modern-day Syrian life torn away by violence, his family’s sudden escape from the country, awful traveling conditions, detention in England, and his stay with hateful relatives. We feel his 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, we see how much we relate to Sami because he’s just a regular kid trying to be safe.
Unsettled by Reem Faruqi REALISTIC / IMMIGRATION / VERSE Nurah’s family moves from Pakistan to Georgia, U.S., and she feels distinctly unsettled at her new outsider status which includes everything from her accent to her clothing to her brown skin. She makes one friend, and that helps her feel more comfortable. Meanwhile, her brother who excels at swimming suddenly quits after bullies violently attack him. This is a beautiful coming-of-age story that tackles racism, bullying, friendship, belonging, family, culture, and self-confidence.
Thirst by Varsha Bajaj REALISTIC Set in Mumbi, this is a deftly narrated, hope-filled story of the inequities around water with themes of advocacy, education, and community. 12-year-old Minni’s community has access to water only a few hours per day with severe water shortages. When Minni is forced to leave school to work as a maid, she sees the water (and other) iniquity first-hand and discovers that the family’s dad is the water mafia boss. Her decision and action to report him makes a difference — and gives us hope that one person can make a difference.
Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams REALISTIC Don’t miss this important book for 6th graders about self-worth, beauty, and colorism. Genesis hates that her skin is so dark; she knows her grandma and father hate that about her, too. In her self-loathing, she believes that if only she were lighter-skinned, she’d be pretty and have all the things that go along with being pretty. In this coming-of-age story, Genesis finds her voice both literally and metaphorically. It will start the conversation about who defines beauty and how we can do better individually and as a society.
Dog Driven by Terry Lynn Johnson REALISTIC A story about finding your strength even if it looks like a weakness… McKenna enters a long dog sled race in order to bring awareness to her sister’s degenerative eye disease. But McKenna knows she has it, too and doesn’t tell anyone. During the race, she relies on her lead dog to be her eyes. Another racer, a boy with a blind dog, shows her that his blind dog Zesty is a powerful leader. The challenges of the race and her new friendship help McKenna realize that just like Zesty, her differences can make her better.
Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova REALISTIC / GRAPHIC NOVEL (series) My daughter found this book SO RELATABLE — just like she struggles with confidence and speaking up, so does the main character, Peppi. This well-done graphic novel tackles the issues of friendships and confidence , among other things. (So glad I’m not in middle school anymore.) We highly recommend this graphic novel.
Muffled by Jennifer Gennari REALISTIC Amelia is extremely sensitive to noise. But this year at school, she’s trying not to wear her big noise-canceling headphones. Her dad gives her purple earmuffs to wear if she needs something. She clings to them even though they don’t help with sounds. Even with her challenges, she makes a new friend who tries to understand Amelia and asks Amelia to do the same for her — because friendship goes both ways. A lovely story about growing up and learning to live with auditory sensitivities.
El Deafo by Cece Bell and David Lasky REALISTIC / GRAPHIC NOVEL In this multiple award-winning graphic novel, Cece Bell shares the story of growing up with a hearing impairment, using a very bulky hearing aid, and finding her place in the world . Funny and moving, this is a beautiful coming-of-age story of courage and determination.
The Chance to Fly by Ali Stroker and Stacy Davidowitz REALISTIC / COMING OF AGE / PHYSICAL DIFFERENCES Nat is a thirteen-year-old girl in a wheelchair who auditions for her favorite musical, Wicked, without telling her parents. The group of kids also involved in the musical are welcoming and accepting. But she needs to show the director just how much she can do — that she can dance in her own way in a chair. Then, when a fire burns the theater down, the show is canceled. So Nat rallies the cast to find a solution. The book for 6th graders concludes with a bit of romance (a kiss), friendship troubles getting resolved, and a surprising new role for Nat.
Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo REALISTIC What a luminous, sparkling gem of a book with quirky, complex characters! Granny drags Louisiana out of bed in the middle of the night, insisting that they leave their home to confront the family curse. Not only does Louisiana not want to leave her friends and home, but things get even worse when Granny abandons Louisiana at a motel along the way. Forced to fend for herself, Louisiana figures out how to survive miles from home while worrying that the family curse has destined her for an unhappy life.
Sara and the Search for Normal by Wesley King REALISTIC / MENTAL ILLNESS Sara wants to be “normal” like other kids, so she makes rules for herself. Among other diagnoses, Sara is bipolar. She hates her out-of-control brain. Meanwhile, she begins group therapy and makes a friend; a friend who is covered in hidden bruises. Eventually, Sara begins to realize she wants to change her inner dialogue and accept herself. For readers, it’s a valuable opportunity to see inside Sara’s mind and how painful it is to have an invisible disease.
Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt REALISTIC One of the BEST books ever; it’s so well-crafted with deep emotional resonance. Doug is a boy who is struggling to read with no support from his home life. Not only are his dad and older brother abusive but they all live in abject poverty. What saves Doug is his connection to a librarian who shows Doug Audubon’s bird paintings and how to draw. This eventually leads to reading and hope.
Match Point by Maddie Gallegos review written by Jemma Tayor REALISTIC ( GRAPHIC NOVEL ) 256 pages 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.
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling REALISTIC Aven Green’s parents move them to Arizona to run a theme park. Aven doesn’t have any arms. 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. She and her new friends investigate a mystery involving Aven’s past. This story is about restorative friendship, facing your fears, and discovering your true (significant) potential.
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.
Wink by Rob Harrell REALISTIC A funny, standout cancer story based on the author’s life. When Ross is diagnosed with a rare kind of tumor, he immediately starts radiation treatment. School becomes pretty challenging because his eye is goopy, he has to wear a hat, and his hair starts falling out in clumps– among other things made funny with his cartoon drawings. A goofy, kind-hearted radiation tech gets Ross interested in alternative punk music. The guitar music helps Ross express his frustrations and find his joy. NOTE: some bad language
I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day REALISTIC An important, heartfelt story about growing up, family, and finding your identity in the context of adoption, the historical maltreatment of Native Americans, and the mystery of your own heritage. When Edie unexpectedly finds a box of photos and letters from the woman she suspects was her mom’s birth mother, it prompts a journey to discover the truth of her Native heritage.
Booked by Kwame Alexander REALISTIC Alexander skillfully writes about the teenage human condition — he just gets it! 12-year-old Nick struggles with his parent’s 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.
The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty REALISTIC / MENTAL ILLNESS – OCD My daughter and I love this book! The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl is a thoughtful coming-of-age story about a girl genius with OCD whose grandma wants her to go to public middle school to make one friend, read one non-math book, and join one school activity. Surprisingly, Lucy does find friends and more than that, too. A well-written, heart-warming story!
Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullally Hunt REALISTIC / DYSLEXIA Both Ally and her older brother have hidden that they can’t read FOR YEARS. When an insightful teacher named Mr. Daniels helps Ally learn to read, it changes her life and she discovers her true value. This is a beautiful, emotional story that will help kids understand how it feels to live with dyslexia.
Captain Superlative by J. S. Puller REALISTIC Foreshadowing kept me reading with curiosity because I couldn’t imagine who this superhero girl in a book that was not a fantasy. It’s a thoughtful plot with captivating characters. T he big lesson our main character, Janey, learns is about not standing by when injustice is happening. She learns this from a girl dressed in a swimsuit, wig, mask, and high tops who arrives at her middle school and changes everything.
Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids edited by Cynthia Leitch Smith SHORT STORIES These exceptionally written, interconnected stories are about kids and their experiences with the powwow, cultural aspects of the Native communities, growing up, and belonging. They’re wonderfully written and wholly engaging. At first, each story seems distinct, but the stories intersect with graceful wonder. It’s a beautiful collection of stories that amplifies Native voices and gives non-Native folks a view of the modern-day lives of Indigenous kids and their families .
Born Behind Bars by Padma Venkatraman REALISTIC / INDIAN SOCIETY Kabir is too old to continue living in jail with his mom, who was unjustly imprisoned. He’s forced to leave the jail without his mom and quickly realizes that his so-called uncle is trying to sell him into slavery. Kabir runs away and meets a worldly-wise girl named Rani who helps him survive the streets. Together, the two travel to find Kabir’s grandparents, find kindness, and second chances.
No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen REALISTIC / POVERTY Felix doesn’t want to tell anyone that he’s been living in a van for months and months. He wants to win his favorite TV game show so they’ll finally have enough money to get an apartment. This well-written book is beautiful, important, and highly recommended.
Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan REALISTIC This book for 6th graders is beautiful, moving, and life-changing! 12-year-old Willow is a genius with limited social skills (it’s never stated but we guess she’s got Aspergers) whose adopted parents are killed in a car crash, leaving her so confused without her parents’ support and explanations about the world Willow observes. But Willow pushes on and finds a most unexpected new family in the back of a nail salon.
Dust by Dusti Bowling 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 also struggles with the challenges that come with food and environmental allergies. This story deftly addresses abuse, bullying, asthma, and allergies.
All Four Stars by Tara Dairman REALISTIC (series) My 6th grader and I loved this engaging story about food enthusiast Gladys suffering in a house of microwaving parents without a taste bud between them . Gladys not only appreciates good food, but she also loves to cook and wants to be a food critic. She already has lots of practice writing her daily notes about her parents’ horrid creations. When a mix-up in a writing contest has the editors of a paper thinking she’s an adult, can she actually write a published review without letting anyone know she’s 10 years old?
Ghost by Jason Reynolds REALISTIC (series) Ghost accidentally gets on a track team and it’s life-changing. His coach becomes a mentor and father figure who pushes Ghost to take responsibility for his mistakes (stealing sneakers) and to start dealing with the ghosts of his past. Well-written and hopeful about growing up and growing into yourself.
Blended by Sharon Draper REALISTIC Isabella spends one week with her dad and his girlfriend, the next week with her mom and her boyfriend, and she hates it. She feels like nowhere is home, she’s always visiting. And her parents, one who is white and one who is black, don’t get along. Tensions between the families get worse when both parents decide to remarry — on the same date. Add to this hurtful race issues like when she and her stepbrother are pulled over because he’s Black. This middle grade book captures Isabella’s feelings as she searches for who she is in her own story.
The Supervillain’s Guide to Being a Fat Kid by Matt Wallace COMING OF AGE / BULLYING An outstanding, surprisingly philosophical, poignant story about dealing with bullies, growing in confidence, and the complexities of human beings. Matt doesn’t think he can survive 3 more years of middle school bullying so he writes supervillain Master Plan who is also a “gentleman of size”, asking for help. Surprisingly, Master Plan emails back with helpful, sage advice but is Master Plan actually looking out for Max or for himself?
See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng REALISTIC Luminous and heartfelt, 11-year-old Alex Petroski’s 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 to Las Vegas to find information about his deceased father, and his unique, innocent perspective that tries to make sense of the world.
Land of the Cranes by Aida Salazar REALISTIC / DEPORTATION / IMMIGRATION Written in verse, this timely story of immigration and deportation follows 9-year-old Betita who lives in the United States but ends up in detention. Detention is traumatic–she draws and writes poetry to send to her Papi which she gives to a lawyer to pass along and tell her story. Then, her pregnant mom’s sickness forces her into the medical ward, leaving Betita alone in detention. Ultimately, the family agrees to voluntary departure even though it’s not safe in Mexico because at least they’ll be together and not in prison.
Get a Grip Vivy Cohen by Sarah Kapit REALISTIC / BASEBALL Vivy is a girl on the autism spectrum who loves baseball, particularly pitching knuckleballs. The book is written as letters and emails between Vivy and her favorite baseball player, VJ Capello. Vivy writes to VJ all about getting to play on a team as well as making her first friend, pitching, and getting bullied by the coach’s son. When she gets hit in the head with a ball and her mom won’t let her play anymore. How can she convince her mom to change her mind when her mom won’t listen and Vivy gets overwhelmed with communication easily?
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. But, his academic hopes are dashed when he’s told that scholarship students must work and get A+ grades without any 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. Despite his efforts, his grades aren’t enough and he gets kicked out. But, his classmates support him with a walk-out, and the headmaster gets the board to change their minds and the rules.
Swag is in the Socks by Kelly J. Baptist REALISTIC 12-year-old Xavier hates speaking because of his stutter, he’d much prefer to play video games and hang out in his room at home. But, he wants to join Septer League just like his (incarcerated) father, great uncle, and grandfather. His Great Uncle Frankie Bell sends him crazy socks and when Xavier wears them, people notice, and it gives him “swag”. The socks give Xavier an opportunity to be a leader in a way he never expected. That plus speech therapy, and we watch as he blossoms with confidence.
Black Brother Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes PREJUDICE / COMING OF AGE / FENCING Twins with very different skin colors, one whiter and one darker, are treated differently, most noticeable at their school. Donte is unfairly accused of something and when he tries to defend himself, the police are called, and he’s suspended from school. Not to mention, a popular guy at his school calls Donte “black brother” because he’s darker than his twin, Trey. Donte starts fencing to get revenge but as he trains, he finds that he’s smart, good at fencing, and courageous. If you think the world still isn’t racist and colorist, read this compelling story, and you’ll see that we still have a long way to go.
Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan REALISTIC Amina’s struggling. Her best friend, Soojin, befriends another girl as well as wants to change her name to be more American. Then Amina’s mosque is attacked, dimming her worries about middle school. In a lovely turn of events, the community, including her friend Soojin, support the mosque with a place to gather and rebuilding efforts. Through it all, Amina learns there’s space for more than one friend in her life.
Not Your All America Girl by Wendy Wan-Long Shang and Madelyn Rosenberg COMING OF AGE / RACISM / THEATER Lauren, a girl with Jewish and Chinese heritage, tries out for the school play but, despite her talent, she doesn’t get cast as the lead since she doesn’t look the part of someone all-American. Her best friend Tara, who is not as talented, gets the leading role because she fits the look of a so-called American girl. The story is filled with both micro-aggressions and overt racism. Tara finds solace in the music of Patsy Cline and finds her voice.
Treasure of the World by Tara Sullivan REALISTIC / POVERTY Ana’s a poor girl living in a small town high in the Bolivian mountains whose feeble economy revolves around mining. When her abusive dad forces Ana’s sickly younger brother to mine, Ana drops out of school and goes to the mine in his place. Then, after a mine collapse kills her dad, Ana’s life gets even more difficult. She scrambles to find work, thinking that her dreams of school and a different life are over. Until she thinks of a way to work and go to school…
Red, White, and Whole by Rajani LaRocca REALISTIC / VERSE / IDENTITY / INDIAN-AMERICAN Reha is struggling to figure out her place in her two worlds–India and America. She wants Amma to understand how she feels but when Amma gets cancer, Reba focuses on being virtuous enough so her mom will get better. But, her Amma dies. And Reha feels so much grief. Then, she gets a letter mailed by a nurse from her Amma that helps Reha move into her future and belonging to two cultures. ( It’s a heartfelt, beautiful ending and if you’re like me, you’ll probably cry!)
The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden REALISTIC / POVERTY Zoey is trying to stay hidden to survive her life with her siblings and mom and her mom’s abusive boyfriend in his trailer. She babysits her siblings while her mom works, trying not to make a mess or too much noise. A kind teacher at school encourages Zoey to join the debate club, which gives Zoey the courage and perspective to talk to her mom about everything — from her mom’s boyfriend’s belittling to her own friendship worries.
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech REALISTIC / NEWBERY AWARD This is an award winning classic of loss, death, love, and grief. As she travels with her grandparents across the United States in search of her missing mother, Salamanca Tree Hiddle makes sense of her life by telling stories . In this case, about a girl named Phoebe Winterbottom who like Salamanca has a lost mother. Sixth grade readers must piece together clues to the truth of Salamanca’s life, making this an excellent book club choice.
All the Impossible Things by Lindsay Lackey REALISTIC / FOSTER CARE Tender, eye-opening, and heartfelt — this is the story of a foster kid named Red and her journey of abandonment, growing up, empowerment, and finding a family. Red’s in the foster care system with kind-hearted people who run a petting zoo. Understandably, Red is mistrustful and prickly at first with everyone but the Grooves’ gigantic tortoise. This bond is the first step in unthawing Red’s broken heart. Soon, she becomes friends with a neighbor boy and starts developing a relationship with her foster parents even when her biological mom contacts her.
Whale of the Wild by Rosanne Parry, illustrated by Lindsay Moore ENVIRONMENT / OCEAN / ANIMALS Beautiful, this story about two orca siblings separated from their families, trying to find food and their seasonal home, is filled with adventure and danger and suspense. After her mother loses a calf, Vega leaves her pod to bury her little sister, her brother chasing after her. Then, a Tsunami hits and they both are lost from their pod. Vega, a stranger, and her little brother travel together toward recognizable landscapes and hopefully, food. As they journey, they meet other orca pods with different customs and who eat different foods, as well as other sea creatures.
Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordan SCI-FI ADVENTURE Get ready for action, intrigue, plot twists, and super-cool technology in the book for 6th graders! Ana’s freshman class at her specialized marine and naval academy are the only survivors after the academy is blown up. As the class races to escape on a ship, their chaperone reveals that Jules Verne’s novels based on Captain Nemo are mostly true and Ana’s the only surviving relative of Captain Nemo. They must thwart the first of many attacks and then evade the enemies to find Nemo’s infamous ship, the Nautilus.
The Last Gate of the Emperor by Kwame Mbalia and Prince Joel Makonnen SCI-FI (series) Yared’s Uncle Moti moves them around frequently When soldiers come after Yared, he and another game player, the Ibis, escape the troops and the giant monster in order to find out what’s really true. The two clever, quick-witted kids face incredible danger, insurmountable odds, and a galaxy-spanning war, but Yared has been trained for this and he is ready to fight. Set in a futuristic Ethiopian empire, this exciting adventure grabs your interest and keeps it through wild twists and turns that feature heroic main characters!
Sanity & Tallulah by Molly Brooks SCI-FI / GRAPHIC NOVEL (series) Sanity and Tallulah are two good friends who live on a space station. Sanity is a brilliant inventor — but her newest (illegal) creation, a three-headed kitten named Princess Destroyer of Worlds has escaped and is living up to her name. The friends discover an even bigger problem that will destroy the space station. While the station is evacuated, the friends must stop the duct weasels and the engine from overheating.
Hypnotists by Gordon Korman SCIENCE FICTION ADVENTURE (series) Mix the action-packed writing of Korman with a boy who can hypnotize others – and who is recruited to be in a “special” school to save the world. But is that really what the school does? Another hit for the talented Gordon Korman!
Hana Hsu and the Ghost Crab Nation by Sylvia Liu SCIENCE FICTION (series) In a world where corporations control everything, at age 13, kids get “meshed” into the multiweb. Hana meets a mysterious hacker who makes her see that getting meshed might not be good. When Hana’s school friends get sicker and sicker, Hana discovers that someone is using kids as human experiments. Even worse, her mom is involved in it. With the help of a wise old man, two friends, and her sister, they work together to help the sick students and stop the corporation’s nefarious plans.
The Giver by Lois Lowry SCI-FI (series) Set in a dystopian society, this Newbery medal winner grabs your attention and keeps it until the end. What is going on in this strictly controlled community? When Jonas is assigned his job as “Receiver of Memory” he learns just how much the government has suppressed from the people’s knowledge, not to mention that they’re giving pills meant to control people’s behavior and that they murder so-called defective babies and older people. When his foster baby brother is up to be killed, Jonas must decide how he will save them both. One of the best books for 6th graders.
Atlantis: The Accidental Invasion by Gregory Mone SCIENCE FICTION Lewis’s scientist dad believes that Atlantis still exists, and when Lewis sneaks off to find his dad’s lab, he ends up on a journey with his dad and his dad’s research assistant. Meanwhile, an Atlantian girl sneaks away from home and passed the guards to see if there could be life above the ocean. When their fates collide, the excitement at each other’s existence is short-lived because the Atlantian Eraser guards capture Lewis’s dad…and then Lewis and Hanna. Interesting, action-packed, and filled with cool tech!
Dead City by James Ponti PARANORMAL / SCI-FI (series) Molly’s recruited to hunt zombies in New York City, just like her mother, who is dead. Or is mom actually a zombie? And why is she trying to contact Molly? This is a terrific action-adventure-mystery book series for 6th graders with a zombie focus.
Masterminds by Gordon Korman SCI-FI (series) Eli and his friends discover that their utopian town is a large-scale, illegal science experiment to determine if kids cloned from criminal masterminds can be good when raised in the right environment. Eli and his cloned friends know they can’t stay in their town of lies anymore but how can they escape when the minute they reach the border, they experience violent pain and guards surround them? And if they do escape, what will they next?
The Ghost Network: Activate by I.I. Davidson SCI-FI (series) Jack and his friend are hackers who get taken to a top-secret tech school where dangerous secrets are hidden behind the STEM school facade. Not only are the kids in danger, but there also seems to be a computer implanted inside their brains telling them what to do! The story intrigued me from the get-go but after about the middle, the action was so fast-paced and suspenseful, this is a great book series for middle school readers.
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien SCI-FI/ ADVENTURE (series) This is a must-read, excellent Newbery-winning book about amazing lab rats with intelligence who escape from the lab and form their own community. This was always one of my students’ favorite read aloud books.
Escape from Atlantis by Kate O’Hearn SCIENCE FICTION (series) 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.
Jinxed by Amy McCulloch SCIENCE FICTION (series) Tech company MONCHA makes computerized pets called bakus that act like smartphones and computers. Lacey finds an unusual, half-destroyed cat baku and rebuilds it using a 3D printer and found parts. She starts competing with other kids at her prestigious school in the battle of the bakus. When Jinx doesn’t follow the rules, it leads to two bad things — his capture and the discovery of a sinister truth about the MONCHA company. Fantastic, fast-paced, and thought-provoking.
The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brallier, illustrated by Douglas Colgate SCI-FI / HUMOR (series) It’s the end of the world and Jack and his best friend, Quint, live in an upgraded, well-defended treehouse. Currently their plans only include rescuing June who doesn’t need rescuing and fighting zombies. Illustrations throughout make this even more appealing to read and imagine. Tons of fun! BOXED SET HERE
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle SCI-FI (series) I’ve read this book so many times, I can’t count — many times with my classes as a read aloud — and every time it’s just as fantastic. (That doesn’t always happen with books.) A Wrinkle in Time is a remarkable, well-written adventure in space that deals with the overarching theme of good vs. evil. Meg and her brother, Charles Wallace, and friend, Calvin, set off to find her scientist father who disappeared while researching tesseracts.
Beetle Boy by M.G. Leonard ADVENTURE / SCI-FI (series) Darkus Cuttle’s museum director dad mysteriously disappears from a locked room in the museum. Darkus learns that there’s something very strange going on . . . and it has to do with intelligent beetles and a cruel benefactress of the museum. This middle-grade chapter book took me by surprise, it’s filled with charm, uniqueness, and interest.
Do graphic novels count as good books for 6th graders?
Yes! Reading graphic novels requires literacy skills and strategies including sequencing, drawing inferences, and predicting. The graphic novels of today are fully developed narrative stories with a story arc and complex characters. Reading books like graphic novels counts as reading books!
What are good books for a 6th grade book club?
Go to this list of books to find recommendations for your book club. That being said, any book on this list that interests your child or student can be good to read and discuss.
What book from this list should tweens read first?
Whatever looks interesting to your reader should be the book they read. There’s something for everyone on this book list.
More Book Lists:
Easy Reader Books for 5- and 6- year olds Beginning / Easy Chapter Books for 6- and 7- Year Olds Books for 8-year olds Books for 9-year olds Books for 10-year olds Books for 11-year olds Books for 12-year olds YA Books Challenging Books for Young Advanced Readers
Also, you might want to check out the best gifts for 11 year old girls and the best gifts 11 year old boys !
Melissa Taylor, MA, is the creator of Imagination Soup. She's a mother, teacher, author, and freelance writer. She writes Imagination Soup and freelances for publications online and in print, including Brightly for Penguin Random House, USA Today Health, Colorado Parent, and Parenting.
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Hi, there’s a book I can’t remember the name of but remember small details. This boy’s parents get sick, it’s set back to older days where sickness was deadly, and he gets sent with his weird relatives. His aunt I believe has a stuffed cat who she thinks is alone and she pets it and gets worked up over it. And at the end of the book somewhere- the boy gets a whole abused orphanage to bust out with I think a food fight. The book had a Tim burton like style and had a rather long title. It was a picture chapter book.
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The books in this section have been given a primary age range of 11+. The reading world now lies wide open. Individual choices of genre become more significant as readers become more discriminating. Readers develop their critical faculties as they weave their way towards the kind of readers they are growing into. The books in this section are suitable for 11-12+ readers. The books in this section might also be given a secondary age range. Some are suitable for 9+ year olds reading above their age. Please note, content & subject matter will be suitable for a 9 year old. Where indicated, less confident teen readers will enjoy the stories. Non-Fiction in this section is often fascinating and educational to a wider age range.
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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.
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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 literacy skills.
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.
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. The 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 story puts you across the situations that Oliver goes through during his journey until a gentleman named Mr. Brownlow adopts him.
It is a 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 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 book series of Harry Potter is a series of coming-of-age books for 11- and 12-year-olds, although adults, too, enjoy reading them.
“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 story 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.
It is 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. It is an exciting book to 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.
Here starts the marvelous journey of Bernard, who is on a quest to save his father’s dying creative side of the brain from the dictatorial left side. It is a sci-fi novel that makes it an excellent pick for 12-year-olds.
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 reviews 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 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 done extensive research 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 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, there’s 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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Best books for eleven year olds
Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell
(£6.99, Faber & Faber)
This magical story begins with a shipwreck and a mysterious baby being discovered floating in a cello case in the middle of the English Channel. The baby is rescued by a scholar called Charles Maxim and named Sophie. Whilst Sophie is happy and cared for, she is convinced that her mother also survived the shipwreck. When Miss Eliot, the childcare officer, threatens to send Sophie away to an orphanage, Sophie and Charles set off on a thrilling adventure to Paris. Here Sophie meets Matteo, a boy who teaches her how to race and run across the rooftops. Will they be able to find Sophie's mother before it's too late? This is a beautifully written story about hope and pursuing your dreams. It is also thrilling and exciting, culminating in an electrifying, moving climax.
Prepare your child for Year 7
- English & Maths transition packs
- Practise journalistic writing, figurative language, persuasive text and more
- Revise key maths methods and concepts
The Nowhere Emporium by Ross Mackenzie
The shop from nowhere can appear at any time, in any city. Its labyrinth of rooms contains wonders beyond belief. But to enter you must pay a price… Daniel is an orphan who, when trying to escape a gang of bullies, accidentally stumbles into the strange, magical Nowhere Emporium in Glasgow. This wonderful shop has brickwork as black as midnight and sparkles strangely in the light. Here he finds himself caught up in a twisting, thrilling adventure with breath-taking magic and evil sorcerers. Secrets, danger and lies lurk in the shadows, threatening to destroy this magical place. This is an intriguing, riotous, wild book with glistening language that leaps off the page and vividly creates a world of magic and mayhem. Young fans of Phillip Pullman, J.K Rowling and Neil Gaiman will devour this action-packed tale.
The Story of the Blue Planet by Andri Snær Magnason
(£8.99, Pushkin Children's Books)
Far out, hidden in space, there is a blue planet. It is a beautiful and special place – and only children live there, free to do what they please. But one day Gleesome Goodday, the travelling salesman and 'DreamComeTrueMaker', arrives and promises to make the children's lives more fun. He shares with them his flying powder and even nails the sun to their sky. But his actions have terrifying consequences and two children, Brimir and Hulda, are thrust into a dangerous adventure in order to save their beloved planet. This is an ambitious, thought-provoking story which raises important issues about selfishness, greed, childhood, the power of stories and friendship.
Hamlet: A Shakespeare Story retold by Andrew Matthews
(£4.99, Orchard Books)
One stormy night, snowflakes twirl in the wind and Hamlet, son of the former King of Denmark, is visited by the ghost of his father. Hamlet believes that his father was bitten by a poisonous snake, but the tormented ghost reveals a terrible secret… his evil brother Claudius is responsible for his death. Hamlet must avenge his father's murder. To trap Claudius, who has recently married his mother, Hamlet pretends to be mad and cuts himself off from kindness and good company. Will Hamlet avenge his father and reveal his uncle as a murderer? Or will his inaction lead him into a dark, terrifying series of events with dreadful consequences for those around him? Tony Ross's black and white illustrations bring this popular tragedy to life and this is a swift, easily-accessible re-telling of one of Shakespeare's most famous plays.
The Savage by David Almond
(£6.99, Walker Books)
"You won't believe this but it's true. I wrote a story called "The Savage" about a savage kid that lived under the ruined chapel in Burgess Woods, and the kid came to life in the real world…"
So begins this moving fable about grief, grief, bullying and family. This is the story of Blue Baker and how he deals with the loss of his father and overcomes the terrifying taunts and abuse from the local bully, Hopper. Part story, part graphic novel, this is a gritty, frightening tale with a gut-wrenching conclusion, which serves as a wonderful reminder about the healing power of words. Utterly original, remarkable and touching.
The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
(£6.99, Chicken House)
Each of us carries the map of our lives on our skin, in the way we walk, even in the way we grow… Isabella dreams of the faraway lands her father, a cartographer, once mapped, but exploring the island of Joya is prohibited by the strict governor and dictator who rules the land. When her best friend disappears, her father is arrested and mysterious things start happening on the island, Isabella sets out, with nothing but an ancient map, to find answers. As she bravely navigates the island's dangerous and ominous Forgotten Territories and learns the island's terrible secrets, far beneath the parched rivers and festering forests, a fiery, primordial beast is stirring from its slumber… This is a breath-taking, enthralling story, full of escapades, thrills and magic. Isabella is a captivating heroine and the writing is simple but beautifully rich, making this the perfect story for this age group.
The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell
(£7.99, Bloomsbury Children's Books)
This frosty, exciting adventure takes place in Russia and follows Feo, a wolf wilder, who spends her day caring for and nurturing the wolves who have been abandoned by their rich owners. She lives a happy, quiet existence, deep in the forest, with her mother Marina until General Rakov, an evil and corrupt dictator, decrees that wolves are a danger to society – they are terrifying creatures that must be killed. When her mother is arrested and held captive in St Petersburg, Feo must travel across the icy plains to rescue her. Along the way, she meets Ilya, a young soldier who dreams of much more, and a gang of angry children. Can they restore peace to the land, fight the insane Rakov and save Feo's mother? This is an atmospheric, engrossing story. Much like the Feo's wonderful, captivating wolves, the moving story races along with energy and power.
Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
This modern classic follows Lyra and her animal daemon, Pantalaimon, who live a care-free, wild life among the stuffy scholars at Jordan College in Oxford. When the enigmatic Lord Asriel visits and her friend, Roger, vanishes, a chain of events is set in motion that draws Lyra into a world of armoured bears, witches and the evil Magisterium, a powerful institution which seeks to end original sin and hide the existence of parallel worlds. This stunning story is perfect for older readers – it is challenging and complex and cleverly moves between political thriller, exciting adventure and magical fantasy. Pullman expertly creates a world that is similar to our own in many respects, but different enough to capture the imagination.
Wonder by R.J Palacio
(£7.99, Corgi Children's)
You can't blend in when you were born to stand out...
This uplifting book has recently been turned into a successful Hollywood film, starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson. The story follows August Pullman (Auggie) who desperately wants to be like every other ten year old. However, Auggie has a facial deformity; even after 27 invasive surgeries, he will never look normal. When Auggie's parents decide to send him to school, he is nervous – he has only ever been home-schooled and is worried about how others will treat him. Will he be able to convince his new classmates that he is just like them and deserves to be treated as an equal? This is a heart-warming book that skilfully manages to be thoughtful, humorous, uncompromising and touching, while sensitively exploring themes of bullying, family, friendship and fitting in. Wonder builds to an inspiring finale that will delight young readers with its important message about compassion and acceptance.
More like this
24 must-read books for 9-12-year-olds
From timeless classics to graphic novels; marvellous mysteries and trips back in time, these books deserve a spot on everyone's bookshelf.
Explore our timeless classics, for every child.
V&A Children's Classics 3 for £21
What do you think of these recommendations? Is there anything you’d like to see more of on the website? Send any suggestions to: [email protected]
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