12 terrific books for tween girls.

12 terrific books for tween girls.

Do you have a tween in your life who loves to read? That’s fantastic! But it also means you’ve probably discovered, as I have, that having a kid who loves to read carries its own burden: it is tough to keep a book-loving kid surrounded with high-quality, age-appropriate books.

These 12 titles have been total winners for my daughters, ages 8 and 11. Please do the world a favor and share your own recommendations for great tween titles in comments. Bonus points for terrific prose, gutsy female protagonists, and books you’re tempted to steal from their bookshelves after the kids go to bed.

Happy reading!

Series: 12 terrific books for tween girls
Tuesdays at the Castle

Tuesdays at the Castle

My 11-year-old doesn't typically choose fantasy novels, but she just devoured this series (which is four books right now). This middle grade novel has a bit of Hogwarts magic to it: every Tuesday, Castle Glower rearranges itself, growing a new room or adding a new hallway. The royal family is accustomed to its eccentricities. When disaster strikes, Princess Celie and her siblings team up to save the day. Their pranks will make you giggle even as the story deals with serious themes like grief and fear. More info →
The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan

This moving middle grade Newbery winner is based on the true story who spent nearly 30 years living in captivity in a mall in Washington state. In Applegate's novel, Ivan the gorilla lives at the Exit 8 Bigtop Mall and Video Arcade with his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But then Ruby, a new baby elephant, comes to join them at the mall after being forcibly removed from her family, and Ivan is forced to confront what it really means to be captive, and how he can save Ruby. Get your Kleenex ready. More info →
The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy

Author:
This is a contemporary novel (published 2005) but it feels like it could have been written fifty years ago, and is often recommended to fans of Louisa May Alcott, Noel Streatfeild, and Edward Eager. Four sisters spend their summer holiday at a beautiful estate called Arundel, where they have adventures of all kinds (and a few mishaps, of course). First in a quartet. More info →
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

A modern-day fairytale. September is an ordinary girl who lives in an ordinary town in Nebraska ... until one day the Green Wind shows up at her window and invites her to Fairyland. September soon finds herself on a quest to save Fairyland's inhabitant's from their evil ruler. The story's richness and complexity make this a good choice for older tweens. More info →
Harriet the Spy

Harriet the Spy

Author:
11-year-old Harriet Welsch is a spunky kid with an odd hobby: she’s a spy. She writes down her observations, thoughts, and feelings about everyone she knows in her notebook. But then Harriet loses her notebook, and things don’t go so well when her classmates read what she really thinks about them. More info →
Island of the Blue Dolphins

Island of the Blue Dolphins

Author:
I love that my girls love this book. When a young girl is marooned for eighteen years on an island off the coast of California, she not only survives, but manages to find a kind of happiness with only the animals for company. Kanana is strong and smart and resourceful as she waits for the ship that took her tribe away to return. This popular modern classic is loosely based on a true story. More info →
Heidi

Heidi

Author:
The classic story of a young orphan who lives an idyllic life with her grandfather, the goat-herd, and her young friend Peter in the French Alps, and then becomes desperately homesick when she's sent to the city to become companion to a young invalid. The prose is a little dated to my dears, but my daughters remain quick to recommend this book to friends their age. More info →
Once Upon a Toad

Once Upon a Toad

I picked this one up because my daughters loved Frederick's Mother-Daughter Book Club series, even though the plot sounded ridiculous. My girls loved it. Cat's mother is an astronaut, and when she gets sent to the International Space Station Cat is sent to live halfway across the country with her Dad and her real-life evil stepsister. That's bad enough, but then one morning at breakfast Cat opens her mouth and a toad hops out! But when her stepsister speaks, diamonds and flowers come out of her mouth. If you can suspend your disbelief, this story is good clean fun. More info →
The Lemonade War

The Lemonade War

When two siblings have a conflict they can't talk about, they take it out on each other by going to battle with their respective lemonade stands: who can earn the most money selling cold drinks this summer? This is a fast-moving story about sibling rivalry, different kinds of intelligence, and how math works in the real world. A good independent read for younger tweens, but even my six-year-old is loving this as a read-aloud. More info →
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Claudia Kincaid is bored with her suburban life, so she convinces her little brother Jamie to run away with her to nearby New York City. She’s carefully chosen a hideaway that is comfortable, beautiful, and elegant: the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Once they’re set up in the museum, Claudia finds herself transfixed by a statue—and the mystery behind it—and her fascination leads the two children on an incredible adventure. More info →
Out of the Dust

Out of the Dust

Author:
My 11-year-old told me she was glad this was required reading because she wouldn't have read it otherwise and it's one of the best books she's ever read. Told in free verse, this is the story of a young girl's life in the Dust Bowl of Oklahoma during the Great Depression. It's bleak and tragic and ends with only a glimmer of hope, but young (and old) readers will be moved as they root for fourteen-year-old Billie Jo to transcend her dire circumstances and find the beauty in her unlikely surroundings. A short, quick read. More info →
Tuck Everlasting

Tuck Everlasting

Author:
When an overprotected ten-year-old stumbles upon a boy her age drinking furtively from a spring near her home, she discovers what he's trying to keep secret: since his family began drinking the water, they haven't aged a day. There are so many middle grade stories that wrestle with death these days; in this novel, Babbit wrestles with the decidedly mixed blessing of living forever. The prose in this is really lovely (which is not a code word for boring). More info →

books for tween girls

What would YOU add to this list? Tell us your favorite books for 8-12 year-olds in comments.  

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153 comments

  1. Vicki says:

    I agree Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper is so good. It should be required reading for everyone age 10 and older. Schooled by Gordon Korman. Holes by Louis Sachar. Roland Smith’s adventure stories. Hoot by Carl Hiassen but all of his books for kids are great. So B. It by Weeks.

  2. Elvira says:

    I can’t beleive nobody mentioned Astrid Lindgren or Erich Kästner! Aren’t they popular in the USA? I LOVED their novels when I was little (Pippi Longstocking, Emil of Lönneberga, Lottie and Lisa, Anna Louise and Anton). By the way, your blog is really nice.

    Regards.

  3. Annie says:

    Great list going here. Mu girls are now grown but here were some of our favorites when they were this age:
    Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine
    True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
    The Alanna series by Tamora Pierce
    anything by Cameron Dokey (Fairytale rewrites)
    East by Edith Pattou
    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
    The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
    Tales of the Frog Princess series by E.D. Baker
    Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris
    There is also a series of fairytale re-writes by several different authors, and many of the I have even enjoyed: https://www.goodreads.com/series/112352-once-upon-a-time
    Hope this helps others!

  4. Nicole says:

    My daughter (as well as myself, when I was that age) really enjoyed the Enchanted Forest series by Patricia C. Wrede (Dealing with Dragons, etc). A princess who runs away to live with dragons and is annoyed by the knights who come and try to rescue her, evil wizards who dissolve into slimy puddles when splashed with cleaning water, what’s not to like?

  5. Janell says:

    Great reads! I am a little sad there is only one non-white female protagonist in this list though. Here are a few more recommendations:
    Where the Mountain meets the Mooon by Grace Lin
    Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan
    All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
    The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
    Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty

  6. Trish D says:

    My daughter is about to turn 12, and we’re experiencing this very issue.

    My few additions:
    *Marissa Burt: Storybound & Story’s End (A Sliver of Stardust wasn’t bad, either)
    *Kate Saunders: The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop, Bliss, Magicalamity
    *Heather Vogel Frederick: The Mother-Daughter Book Club series & now the Pumpkin Falls mysteries
    *Rob Buyea: Mr. Terupt trilogy
    *Liz Kessler: Emily Windsnap series

  7. Maya says:

    I’m a tween looking for books (I read really fast) and this list was helpful. Some series I have read and enjoyed, but are not in the list are:
    Land of Stories series by Chris Colfer -Alex and Conner have adventures inside the fairytale world which they find out is real
    Wings of Fire series by Tui T. Sutherland -Dragons are at war with each other, but 5 young dragons are prophesied to stop the fight
    The Kane Chronicles series by Rick Riordan -Carter and Sadie Kane find out Egyptian mythology is real and living around them
    Pegasus series by Kate O’Hearn -Emily and Joel befriend Pegasus from Greek mythology after Pegasus crashes onto Emily’s roof in a strom
    Pegasus series by The Serafina series by Robert Beatty -Someone has been kidnapping children and only Serafina, the state’s unofficial ratcatcher, knows who it is
    From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess series by Meg Cabot -The Princess Diaries are further explained through Princess Olivia, Princess Mia’s middle school aged half sister

  8. Holly says:

    The Alice-Miranda series by Jacqueline Harvey are great books for young tweens. Alice-Miranda goes to boarding school, but I won’t tell you any more! There are 15 books in the series so far, but a 16th will be published in September. They are my favourite books ever. There is also a Clementine Rose series for young 7-9 year olds.

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