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 of a gorilla 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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155 comments

  1. Kat says:

    When I was around that age, I devoured books focused on animals. Series like Pony Pals, Dolphin Diaries, and Animal Ark would keep me busy for hours. Also Warriors by Erin Hunter.

    • Jane says:

      Same! I love Pony Pals, and the Saddle Club, as well as the Baby Sitter’s Club, and Sweet Valley High (Wouldn’t suggest Sweet Valley to preteens – It’s weirdly adult in many ways).

  2. Jaime says:

    My 8-year-old just read Pippi Longstocking for the first time and loved it. She also started The Boxcar Children series and is hooked.

  3. Heather says:

    I have a feeling I’ll need this list in a few years!! I recently read Number the Stars by Lois Lowry and enjoyed it (appropriate for around that age group) with some difficult content. Thanks for this list!

  4. Helen says:

    What a great list, thank you. My 8 yr old is an avid reader and there are some new titles on your list that I’m sure she’ll enjoy. She is really loving the Warrior Cat books at the moment.

  5. Amy G says:

    One of my favorite books that happens to fit this age group is Bloomability by Sharon Creech. It’s sooo good! I don’t know why it doesn’t get the recognition that some of her other titles, like Walk Two Moons, gets. Her book The Wanderer is also very good.

    • Asha says:

      Bloomability! I went through a Sharon Creech phase at this age and read all her books, and this was my fave. I haven’t thought of it in years! Thanks for reminding me.

  6. I read so many good books during those ages! One was Heidi. Others that come to mind Little Women, Little Men, Jo’s Boys, Old Fashion Girl, Eight Cousins, Rose in Bloom, Girl of the Limberlost, Freckles, Father’s Daughter, and Nancy Drew.

    Some that I have read since becoming older, but I think would be good for that age would be Anne of Green Gables series, The Jungle Book, anything by Jane Austen, Kingdom Keepers series (perfect for anyone who loves Disney), and the Nick McIver series.

  7. Dawn Reiss says:

    My daughter (10) is reading Rump by Leisl Shurtliff for the second time. It’s a twist on Rumplestiltskin. The author also has books in this series called Jack and Red.

  8. Beth says:

    I’ve got two sons in this age group, so I’ll have to try some of these!

    Books I’ve read and loved that would fit this category: Esperanza Rising by Psm Muñoz Ryan, Inside Out and Back Again by Thanha Lai, The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Stewart.

    We listened to the Origami Yoda series on a road trip and the whole family loved it! One of those series that the kids find pure re-readable fun (that was Baby-sitters Club when I was a kid) but as I parent I appreciate how the kids are kind and loyal to each other in spite of differences. Not high literature but my kids love them! (There are plenty of girl characters who have a voice, too, so it’s not just for boys!)

  9. Deb Watley says:

    May B by Caroline Starr Rose. The Roman Mysteries by Caroline Lawrence (this series is like Nancy Drew in 79 AD, but also deals with serious things, like slavery, death, evil, etc). Dash by Kirby Larson.

  10. Great list, some of our faves! I was intrigued to find that Island of the Blue Dolphins was loosely based on a true story. And Out of the Dust is our next read-aloud. Mixed-Up Files, also one of our very favorite read-alouds.

  11. I am a middle school teacher, so I absolutely love literature for this age group! I would recommend The Princess Academy and Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. They are both first books in series as well, so there is plenty of reading there! Also, The Mysterious Benedict Society, The Secret Garden, Wonder, Popular, Inside Out, and The Hero and the Crown.

  12. Olivia says:

    My 12 year old loves the Willow Falls Series by Wendy Mass. We’ve also read several on this list but can’t wait to try Tuesdays at the Castle. Thanks for the list!

  13. Shannon Navin says:

    Why only tween girls, Anne? I have an 8 yo son who is a super strong reader and he loves some of these books!

    • Meghan says:

      I agree! But I think Anne is thinking about her daughters 🙂
      My 5yo son loved several of these as audiobooks — it won’t be long before he’s reading them himself (he’s into Hank the Cowdog right now).

      Has your 8yo read anything by Gary Schmidt? Heartbreaking, beautiful and wonderful.

    • Corby says:

      For the boys….. Super Chicken Nugget Boy (author’s last name is Lewis); Nerds series (author’s last name is Buckley); Theodore Boone series (John Grisham); Peter and the Starcatchers; Hardy Boys (of course); Chronicles of Narnia; James Patterson’s Middle School Series; Hatchet; Johnny Tremain;

    • Anna says:

      My boys (and my daughter) have loved the following:
      Chronicles of Narnia
      Lightening Thief (and anything by Rick Riordian)
      Boxcar children was another favorite. I’m not sure the reading level, but my daughter tore through that series at 8.
      100 Cupboards by ND Wilson
      The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson (this is stretching it for my 10 yr old. We did audio books
      Cloak Society by Jeramy Kraatz
      My 10 year old boy is currently loving:
      Chronicles of Kazam by Jasper Fforde
      and Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chis Grabenstein

  14. Bets says:

    Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, the Marguerite Henry horse books (Misty of Chincoteague, Stormy, etc), Inkheart series, Ella Enchanted (way better than the movie), Trixie Belden series (a younger Nancy Drew), The Cay, Hatchet (both boy survival stories, but great), Flipped…

    • Kelsey says:

      Yes! I agree with your titles! Anything really by Gail Carson Levine is wonderful, as well as Spinelli, Marguerite Henry, and Paulsen! I’ve heard wonderful thing about Dave Barry’s “Starcatchers” series. I am a children’s librarian and my 3-6 graders LOVED Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis, and The view From Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg. Love this age group, and happy to get even more recommendation!

    • Sarah says:

      I was scrolling through to see if anyone would recommend Marguerite Henry. Her books were hands down my favorite books as a 4th grader.

  15. Kate says:

    My 10 year old daughter loves the Main Street Series by Ann M. Martin, Wonder, A Fish in a Tree and A Mango Shaped Space. It has been really interesting to watch her love of reading grow as she becomes able to tackle more complex human dynamics as themes in books.

  16. Erin in CA says:

    The War that Saved My Life! Published in 2015, it’s historical fiction set in Britain during WWII with brother and sister protagonists (although the girl is really the main character). Both my 11 year-old-boy and 9 year-old-girl LOVED this book. As did I.

  17. Trish D says:

    Great list! My daughter (also 11) loved the Emily Windsnap series by Liz Kessler. Mermaids!! 🙂 Storybound & Story’s End (Marissa Burt) are also wonderful.

  18. Mary Kate says:

    Tuck Everlasting remains one of my favorite books of all time, it definitely holds up on a reread as an adult!

    I second Madeline L’Engle, though some of her books I’d recommend saving for when they’re a little older. Also C.S. Lewis. And The Giver!

  19. Meghan says:

    Love this list! And a big sigh for Noel Streatfeild — I love the Shoe books. This is my favorite reading age 🙂

    We’ve listened to several of these books, and my kindergartener (and my husband) absolutely adored Island of the Blue Dolphins. When I was young, Scott O’Dell’s book Black Star, Bright Dawn was one of my favorites, too.

    The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper is a wonderful high fantasy/Arthurian series. Dealing With Dragons by Patricia Wrede is a very funny, very feminist princess book. Katherine Paterson’s books, the Bunnicula series by James Howe, anything by Roald Dahl, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, the Emily books by L.M. Montgomery, Ray Bradbury short stories, Jane Eyre, The Borrowers, Catherine Called Birdy by Karen Cushman, The Marriage of Megotta by Edith Pargeter (it’s out of print, but worth finding — Pargeter is Ellis Peters, who wrote the wonderful Brother Cadfael mysteries), White Fang, The Face on the Milk Carton … I could go on and on! (Also, wow, that’s a really eclectic list.)

    • Meghan says:

      Oh, and maybe for the upper end of the age range, the Abhorsen series by Garth Nix. Sabriel is the first one. It’s YA, not middle grade, though. His Keys to the Kingdom middle grade series is a fun one. It has a boy protagonist and a girl sidekick, though.

  20. Mia says:

    My favorites at that age were The Golden Venture by Jane Flory and Turn Homeward, Hanilee by Patricia Beatty. Full of adventure and history!

  21. Brenda says:

    My girls and I LOVED “Wonder” by RJ Palacio and “Out of My Mind” by Sharon Draper. These are very engaging books and very thought provoking.

  22. Sally McClaine says:

    I would love to add some books to this list, I think book reports helped kids know how to “advertise” books to each other and it doesn’t happen too much anymore. We read all of these and loved them. I also think anyone loving series boys or girls could enjoy the Sisters Grimm series, I think 9 books? Also the girl who could fly is every one of my kids’ boys and girls all time favorite. Goose girl is another great one. I keep a notebook and add titles to it for summer, so we are never at a loss!!

  23. Dawn says:

    I have a 10yo boy and 13yo girl, so officially she’s a teenager but she doesn’t like a lot of YA genre because boys are still gross (OK with me!). Here’s some titles they have both liked over their preteen years:
    -The School for Good and Evil series by S. Chainani and I. Bruno
    -Guys Read series by Jon Scieszka
    -Eragon series by Christopher Paolini
    -Land of Stories series by Chris Colfer
    -School of Fear by Gitty Daneshvari
    -Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls, one of my own childhood favs, and a new hardcover release is coming out May 3
    -The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, who achieves an appropriately tense story for younger readers. I was originally apprehensive about this title for my kids because I can’t read scary stories for adults, and hello, Neil Gaiman. I ended up feeling comfortable reading this aloud with the 4yo in the room.
    -Percy Jackson series or anything else by Rick Riordan
    -The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, and Flora & Ulysses, both by Kate diCamillo
    -Half Upon a Time series, and Story Thieves, both by James Riley
    -Tumtum and Nutmeg by Emily Bearn (OK, my girl liked this when she was about 8 and the cover was too prissy for my boy to pick up, but she has kept this book for years, and has recommended it to several of her middle-school friends).

    Happy Reading!

    • Dana says:

      I read those myself. Page turners for sure! Boys would definitely love those as well. I assisted at a creativity conference for children at my church last summer. Andrew Peterson was one of the presenters. He was mobbed by fans of his series all enthusiastically talking about the books. His stack of books in the bookstore flew off the shelves. He led a session on creating a fantasy world and making maps. Very engaging and funny speaker.

  24. Dana says:

    A great list, Anne! When I taught 2nd grade many of those books were favorite read-alouds: The One and Only Ivan being a particular favorite and The Tuesdays at The Castle series which was only 2 books long at the time. Boys loved both of those books as well. Other books I recommend are:

    The Miraculous Journey of Edward Trulane
    Anne of Green Gables ( timeless)
    Wonder ( a great book for boys, girls and their parents)
    The Glass Sentence – the first in a fantasy series about a world where sections of the globe exist in different time periods. A girl is in search of her missing uncle and teams up with a boy from a different time period. Inventive concept and a fun read.
    The second one in the series has been published but I have not read it yet.
    The Borrowers series
    The Secret Garden and A Little Princess
    Tales from Shakespeare
    The Wildwood series
    I also recommend the Childhood of Famous Americans series. They are historical fiction and a great way to introduce children to biography. I devoured those when I was a child. They have been re-worked and new titles added. My students who were advanced readers loved those.
    The Phantom Tollbooth

    • B J says:

      I had to go look up the Childhood of Famous Americans Series on Amazon. Thank you for bringing back a great memory. I was in grade school in the 1960s and remember plowing through a whole shelf of books at my school library, books about Dolly Madison, Lincoln, Washington, Mary Todd Lincoln, Martha Washington, Betsy Ross. I remembered that they were hardbacks with pictures on the covers, some of them quite nice. I just couldn’t remember what the series was called. This is definitely it, looking through Amazon, the pictures of the covers from the 50s-60s look just like I remember them. They have added so many new ones since then. Loved them!

  25. Danielle says:

    Could you do a list of books for boys who like to read that are about 12-ish??? I’m running out of options for my guy….. he plows right through books!

    Thanks!

    I really enjoy your blog!

  26. M.E. Bond says:

    I love the mix of old and new in your list. The Mixed-Up Files is wonderful! My girls are 3 and almost 2, but I remember many of my favourites from ages 8-12: Number the Stars, A Little Princess, Ella Enchanted, The Story Girl (and everything else by L.M. Montgomery), Rascal, Gone-Away Lake. I just ordered Out of the Dust from the library, based on your recommendation. Thanks!

  27. Rachel says:

    I have a ten year old son and I think he’d be interested in some of these! I love your fun synopsis of each book.

    The Mysterious Benedict Society is really fun for boys & girls. My son loved The Ranger’s Apprentice series. Both of these I couldn’t put down myself.

    Thank you so much for these suggestions! With summer coming I’ve been thinking I need a good list of books for my son.

  28. Anna says:

    My daughter is now 12, so at the tail end of the age group. She loves series, partly because of the predicability (you know the characters, know you will like the books.) Some books she has read are
    Boxcar Children series
    Nancy Drew (old and new) series
    Hardy boys series
    Little House on the Prairie series
    Anne of Green Gables series
    Chronicles of Narnia (family favorites on constant repeat)
    author Rick Riordan (anything)
    Wing feather series (Andrew Peterson)
    author Shannon Hale (many books)
    author Louisa May Alcott
    McGunnegal Chronicles by Ben Anderson (little known, but excellent story)
    Witch of Blackbird Pond

    She’s a prolific reader, and she can read on an adult level. It’s hard to find books long and complex enough that aren’t just about boyfriends/dating or inappropriate themes. My boys (currently 10 & 16) have enjoyed many of these books as well.

  29. Stephanie says:

    I know I’ve commented on this before here, but… I just love Gone-Away Lake (and its sequel, Return to Gone-Away) and the Melendy Quartet (series of four beginning with The Saturdays) by Elizabeth Enright for this age. (Side note: the Melendys are the original Penderwicks, with less interpersonal tension and more complex writing.)

    In any case, Enright has a way of making the everyday adventures entertaining, and each book has a girl (and a boy) in this pre-teen/early teen age group to grab their attention. These two series are treasured in our family!

  30. Chelsey says:

    Because of Winn Dixie was one of my favorite books in 5th grade. I also loved the Series of Unfortunate Events books. Despite their slightly creepy content, they’re hilarious, smart, and no scarier than Harry Potter (in my opinion). I devoured Nancy Drew and the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, too!

  31. Thank you for this summer reading list! My girls (nearly 7 & 11) LOVE the Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis and the Anne of Green Gables series. My oldest also really likes The Little Princess, Ella Enchanted, The Map to Everywhere, The 2 Princesses of Bamarre, and the Nancy Drew series.

  32. Julia says:

    Hi Anne,
    Thanks so much for this list. I would LOVE some recommendation for teenage girls. Mine is 14 but reads like a book-loving adult. The problem? So many young adult books have more romance in the story than I’d prefer. She’s read a ton…probably all the go-to books that make it on recommended lists. Any suggestions for books that are not as well-known? Thanks!

      • Jennifer says:

        Thank you so much for these suggestions! I have a 12 year old and I always have a hard time finding books that will interest her that aren’t inappropriate!

      • Julia says:

        Hi Jeannie!
        My daughter read both of your suggestions and just posted a review of The Choosing on her own blog.
        appletreesandpumpkinseeds.com

        Thanks for the suggestions! Have any more?

  33. Jeannie Reid says:

    I am absolutely in love with a new book: WHEN MISCHIEF CAME TO TOWN by Katrina Nannestad. It’s a bit like Anne of Green Gables, but set in Denmark! My 8 year old daughter and I love reading before bed every night.

  34. Thank you so much for this list and all additions in the comment section. My 13 daughter has read most of the books suggested but there are a few nuggets that will be very useful. I recently let her read The Hunger Games books and the Divergent series and really want her reading more books with less kissing and touching stuff in it. I think she’s too young for that. She’s not comfortable reading all that stuff. But I can’t seem to find books without all the sexual content that are still full of adventure and exciting, daring situations. 🙂 Any suggestions?

    • Arianna Soucy says:

      I am an eleven year old advanced reader and the two I recommend are the Land of Stories series and the Percy Jackson series. Although, one of my all time favorites is The School for Good and Evil series. There is some kissing in there but nothing advanced.

  35. Jen C. says:

    My 12-year-old daughter is a voracious reader (reading at an adult level) and I asked her what books she would recommend in addition to this list and many of the classics already mentioned. I cannot possibly keep up with her, so I haven’t personally read many of these, but here’s what she had to say (most would be enjoyed by boys as well):
    -Any Rick Riordan (although Magnus Chase didn’t win her over as much as the others)
    -Circus Mirandus
    -The Wings of Fire series (she is obsessed with this one and has gotten her 8-year-old brother hooked as well)
    -Harry Potter series
    -The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
    -Wonder
    -Mockingbird (maybe for the older kids as it deals with a girl whose brother was killed in a school shooting)
    -Out of My Mind
    -The Giver
    -A Whole Nother Story (as well as the other books in the series-she describes it as a “less dark Lemony Snicket”)
    -The Wingfeather Saga series by Andrew Peterson
    -Dragon Slippers
    -The Unwanteds
    -The Familiars
    -Lunar Chronicles series (for older kids)
    -for Christian families-The Amazing Tales of Max & Liz/Epic Order of the Seven series by Jenny Cote
    -And I will add this one – when she was younger, she really enjoyed a lot of the American Girl books, particularly the historical ones
    I’m sure she could think of LOTS of other books she’s enjoyed, but we’ll start with these! 🙂

      • Jen C. says:

        Yes-reading about dragons, writing about dragons, drawing pictures of dragons! 🙂 I guess I should’ve mentioned the How To Train Your Dragon series, too (although she didn’t love Eragon). I’m not familiar with the Dragonology books; I’ll have to tell her about them. Thanks for the tip!

    • HilaryW says:

      I can’t believe I read through all these comments to see if anyone else recommend the American girl books, I loved the Samantha books and some others, and so does my son because he’s a young history buff.

  36. Ann M. says:

    I’ve given One and Only Ivan to several kids in my family and they LOVE it. So much so, that they have read it repeatedly and make a point of telling me how much they love it.

  37. Susan says:

    When I was 12 “The Chestry Oak” by Kate Seredy was the first book to make me cry. I loved it then and I still do. Sadly, it’s now out of print, but some of Seredy’s other books, including “The Good Master” and “The Singing Tree” are still available. I highly recommend them.

  38. Heidi says:

    Terry Pratchett wrote a wonderful series I’ve been re-reading and my nine-year-old daughter is reading for the first time. The first in the series is The Wee Free Men. The protagonist is Tiffany Aching, who must save her baby brother and the son of the local baron from the fairy queen. It’s about having a place you love, knowing who you are, and learning how to feel along the edges of things for the truth. And it’s hilarious. Possibly my favorite book ever – and there are many, many books in the running for that.

  39. M.T. says:

    Thanks for this list!
    Listening for Lions, by Gloria Whelan is my recommendation. Strong, honest and resourceful young heroine who suffers great loss and hardship in Africa and has to come back to England…. A story that captivated me and my 10yo daughter.

  40. Katherine says:

    The Seventh Princess by Nick Sullivan. I loved this book around that age! Jennifer is on her way to school, when all of a sudden she finds herself in a carriage instead of on the bus. She discovers that she is next in a line of seven princesses to be turned into harpies by an evil witch, unless she can figure out a way to save them all. It’s a fairly short book too, and a strong female main character.

  41. HilleryE says:

    I have to make a pitch for The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. The rich language makes this a wonderful book to read aloud. The Peter and the Starcatchers series by Dave Barry is also a wonderful read aloud (and the audio books are fantastic – read by Jim Dale who did Harry Potter series as well).

  42. Carla says:

    So many books, so little time! I appreciate all these suggestions. I have an 11 yr old son who doesn’t like to read very much, but who does love to be read to. Some of the ones he has loved that are not on this list are the Hobbit by JRR Tolkien, The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman, and Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli.

  43. SoCalLynn says:

    My favorite book at this age was The Secret Garden. I probably read it 8 or 10 times growing up, and I am one who rarely re-reads a book as there are too many others to get to. My daughter loved The Wind in the Willows, Rascal, Hitty-Her First Hundred Years, the Mysterious Benedict Society and the series by the author Pseudonymous Bosch (his pen name.) We even saw him at Vroman’s in Pasadena and he was hilarious.

  44. Aimee says:

    I teach 5th grade. My students are currently loving “One Crazy Summer” by Rita Williams Garcia. It took them a while to get into the story, but now they can’t put it down. Another group zoomed through “Bud, Not Buddy” by Christopher Paul Curtis, which is popular every year. I’m also reading “The Key to Extraordinary” as our classroom read aloud. The students really love it. Other favorites that I’ve read with students include “Ruby Holler” by Sharon Creech, “The BFG” by Roald Dahl, “Maniac Magee” by Jerry Spinelli, “The Westing Game” by Ellen Raskin, and any graphic novels, like “Smile” and, my personal favorite, “Roller Girl.”

  45. Sarah says:

    Every year from 5th through 8th grade I read Watership Down. Brian Jaques, Marguerite Henry, Madeline L’Engle were all favorites of mine.

  46. Beth says:

    Mrs. Mike by Benedict & Nancy Freedman– “the heartwarming classic story of the Boston girl who married a rugged Canadian Mountie”. My kids loved it as much as I did, even our boys.

  47. Ah, Island of the Blue Dolphins really takes me back. So many great suggestions on this list and in the comments! At that age, I remember reading (and rereading) some of my parents’ old books. Two that stick out are

    – The Courage of Bethea by Elizabeth Howard

    – Calico Captive by Elizabeth George Speare

    I should go back and read them now to see how they stand up, but I really loved these. Strong female characters. Interesting historical fiction.

  48. Julie says:

    We just finished ” A Night Divided” by Jennifer Nielsen as our latest read aloud. Both my 11 year old daughter and 7 year old son LOVED it. In fact, we haven’t picked our next read aloud because I’m not sure how to follow up such a great book! Takes place in Berlin when the Berlin Wall first went up – half the family gets stuck in east Berlin, half in west. The main character, Gerta, is a brave, strong roll model. She and her big brother take lots of risks and try to tunnel over to West Berlin. Historical fiction at its best. Tons of opportunity for character discussion. Can’t recommend enough!

  49. Lucinda says:

    I just finished Behind the Canvas by Alexander Vance . . . in which Claudia, a sixth grader and art enthusiast, sets out to rescue a young boy named Pim who is trapped in the magical world inside/behind the canvasses of great art works. I enjoyed it very much, especially the 30 footnotes from “Dr. Buckhardt’s Art History for the Enthusiast and the Ignorant” . . . hilarious! I only wish they had been able to include photos of the actual paintings, but the publishers website does have a slideshow of some of them.

  50. So many great books on this list and in the comments! My childhood favorites definitely included Anne of Green Gables, the Boxcar Children, Little House on the Prairie, Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. I’d also echo The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Wee Free Men (so funny!) and the Melendy books.

    I really enjoyed Sheila Turnage’s books (Three Times Lucky and a couple of sequels) – mystery and small-town Southern life. Also loved A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly, and Inkheart and sequels by Cornelia Funke.

  51. Kelli says:

    I don’t have children but I used to be a classroom teacher and I really miss being up on children’s literature. I just love it! After you recommended it last year, I read Greenglass House and loved it so much! I looked around for something like and that led me to Tuesdays at the Castle, which I liked, but I’d like to find more like Greenglass House.

  52. Jennifer says:

    Wow – so many great suggestions! My 8 year old loves reading as much as me and I’m excited to get her started on this list. She’s really gotten into Judy Blume lately, and is currently loving Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great. She thought it was so weird that I read that same book when I was her age 🙂

  53. Erin says:

    – The Secret Garden & A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
    – The Wee Free Men series by Terry Pratchett
    – The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper
    – The Circle of Magic series by Tamora Pierce
    – The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
    – Fourtunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman

    I was also an avid reader of Nancy Drew, Encyclopedia Brown, and The Boxcar Children.

  54. Sarah Calvert says:

    My hands-down favorite when I was young was “Adopted Jane”. I also loved the books by Lois Lenski especially “Judy’s Journey” and “Strawberry Girl”. These might be hard to find now.

  55. Campbell says:

    Icefall by Matthew Kirby. I did steal it from my daughter, then convinced my husband to read it; my son loved it too. We enjoyed our library copy, the audio book, the kindle version–any way we could get it. This tale of a Scandinavian girl finding her place in the world unfolds surrounded by the tension of her father’s current war and machinations by unknown foes. Some adventure, some mystery, some storytelling…worth a read!

  56. I would add
    The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, The Phantom Tollbooth, The Secret Garden, The Little Princess, Black Beauty, Mrs. Piggies Wiggle, The Hatchet, The Giver, and Narnia series. This was the age I devoured books too. I read a lot of junk because I would literally read anything.

  57. Kathryn says:

    For some great reads, check out Battle of the Books websites. There is a national site and also some specific local ones. School or libraries usually have a team and some localities have their own book list. I know Chicago has their own list because CPS wanted a list of great books that represented their very diverse student body. Over the past two years of participating, my 11-year old read many books that she never would have picked up. Some of those books have become her favorites. They generally select between 20-30 books per year and then the kids compete in battles. It’s been around forever, I did it when I was young and I still remember several of the books that I read. The format has changed a bit, but it’s still fun. Even if your school doesn’t participate, check out the booklists!

  58. Terri says:

    Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
    Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken. It was my favorite as a child then introduced my daughter read and it became one of her favorites. I hope to introduce my granddaughter to the book soon.
    Mara,Daughter of the Nile By Eloise Jarvis McGraw. My best friend in middle school loved this book and actually wrote a sequel to it. We were a couple of budding writers back then. She became a nun and I am a writer who isn’t seeking to be published.
    The Family Nobody Wanted by Helen Doss.
    Karen by Marie Killilea.is what made me want to become a special ed teacher.
    The last 2 were written in the late 40s. I doubt they are in print. Hopefully you can find them at your library or a used bookstore online.

  59. Christina says:

    Probably too much for some, but I let my nine-year-old read the Hunger Games series. A young woman who hunts with a bow and arrow and takes down a corrupt government? Yes, please. I loved the series myself, and I know that she just doesn’t pick up on some of the more subtle adult stuff.

  60. Thanks for this! I had a mom-fail this month. I had let my 11 yo read Hunger Games (because she wanted to watch the movie and I said she had to read the book first not thinking she really would bc she doesn’t like that kind of fiction or so I thought, and low and behold she read the whole series!) and then I told her she could read Divergent because I had it sitting around not having read it yet myself. Um, always read dystopian angsty fiction first before your kids. So now I’m looking for what should be her next read and trying to steer her back toward more age appropriate books, but she’s not having Harry Potter or any of my classic suggestions, so I’ll try yours 🙂 I’d add Savvy to this list–have you read it?

  61. Debbie Harlow says:

    A Snicker of Magic is wonderful.
    Gregor the Overlander series (Suzanne Collins before she wrote Hunger Games)-you may second think your feelings about cock roaches (or not)
    The Ascendance Trilogy
    Gilda Joyce: Psychic Investigator series
    City of Ember
    Westing Game
    Everything on a Waffle
    The Man Who Loved Clowns (I cried like a baby in the waiting room of a Dr. office and had to step outside)
    The Indian in the Cupboard series
    All of these are books I read as an adult. Some with my children when they were the age these were written for but many of them after my children were grown. I work in a middle school library and love finding “new” favorites.

  62. Leslie Lee says:

    Confessions of an Imaginary Friend is the sweetest middle-reader book I’ve read in ages. It was seriously magical and beyond endearing. I cannot wait to see the upcoming film. El Deafo was a really lovely graphic novel as well. Another recent favorite was Another Day as Emily by Eileen Spinelli (which has a literary angle y’all might enjoy!), and really everything else I’ve read by her. But, those all may be too young for your girls? ***On a related note, (if you haven’t already) could you pretty please write an explainer piece sometime on terms like “middle reader,” “young adult,” etc. and how to discern/judge/figure out which books are appropriate for which kids/ages, and/or how your family does that? That would be incredibly helpful!***

  63. Cindy says:

    Books I remember from my pre-teen years: Caddie Woodlawn, The Girl with the Silver Eyes, Magic Elizabeth, Trixie Belden, Anne of Gables series (plus Emily, Avonlea, etc books), Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Little House on the Prairie series, Judy Blume’s Are you there God? It’s me Margaret, Deenie and other books, Little Women, Little Men, Jo’s Boys, The Indian in the Cupboard trilogy, A Wrinkle in Time (and Swiftly Tilting Planet and The Wind in the Door), The Secret Garden, The Borrowers, Tuck Everlasting, Ghosts Have I Been, Chronicals of Narnia, Where the Lilies Bloom, In the Keep of Time, Touch Not The Cat.
    I also read things outside of my age group: Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, Janette Oke’s books, anything I could find in my mom’s bookshelves….

  64. Nicky Jones says:

    The Golden Goblet – Eloise Jarvis McGraw – Newbery Honour winner
    A Wrinkle in Time – Madeline L’engle
    A Wizard of Earthsea (first of three books- all great) – Ursula K LeGuin

    ALL personal favourites from my tween years and introducing these to my 10 year old son and 8 year old daughter at the moment.

  65. Jennifer says:

    Island of the Blue Dolphins was one of my absolute favorites when I was in elementary school. As an adult I just read Wonder and highly recommend it for any age, but especially those younger. The Sisters Grimm is a fabulous series full of fairytale and mischief! I adored Little House on the Prairie as a girl as well. I can’t wait for my niece to be a few years older (she is 5 now) to share these favorites, we enjoy reading her books together now and I hope to instill the love of books in her as she grows!

  66. Arianna Soucy says:

    I am in 5 grade and devoured the books I am about to say from 3rd grade to 5th. The School for Good and Evil series by Soman Chainani, The Land of Stories Series by Chris Colfer, Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, The BFG by Roald Dahl, Dork Diaries by Rachel Renee Russsel, and Disney’s ‘The Never Girls’ series by Kiki Thorpe.

  67. Kelly says:

    When I was that aged, my favorite book was “The Velvet Rrom” by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. I also loved Willa Carther’s “My Antonia”

  68. DeeAnn says:

    I would definitely add “The Witch of Blackbird Pond.” It’s an oldie, but a goodie. I read it over 40 years ago and I still think of it all the time.

  69. Kristina Mullen says:

    I’m an assistant teacher in 6th grade, so I’m familiar with many of these books. My favorite, that we do every January is “Out of the Dust.” Billie Jean is so relatable for girls (and boys) that age, feeling out of place is just as common now as it was in the dirty 30’s. Other books we read in 6th grade are “Gifted”, “Summer of the Monkeys”, “Hatchet”, “The Watsons go to Birmingham”, “The Cay”, and “The Giver”.

  70. Chelsey says:

    I am a teacher turned homeschooler who loves reading books meant for middle schoolers. My son is 10 and my daughter is 12. I would recommend:

    “The Lions of Little Rock” by Kristin Levine
    “Rules” by Cynthia Lord
    “The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had” by Kristin Levine
    “The End of the Line” by Sharon E. McKay
    “Ramona” books and “Henry Huggins” books by Beverly Cleary.

    I’ll have to check out these recommendations! Thanks!!!

  71. Deborah says:

    At that age my daughter and I both loved Betty MacDonald’s “Nancy and Plum,” originally published in 1952 and re-released in 2011. And at that age myself I just couldn’t get enough of Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy books about the teen years, including “Heaven to Betsy,” “Betsy in Spite of Herself,” “Betsy was a Junior,” and “Betsy and Joe.” I also loved the “All-of-a-kind Family” books.

  72. Lauren says:

    I am 10 years old and some of my favorite books/series are The Mysterious Benedict Society, Harry Potter, The Inheritance Circle, and The Waterfire Saga.

  73. Jenn says:

    What a great list and so many great comments as well. My daughter turned 10 and was given lots of gift cards to the local bookstore. She bought a number of books listed above as well as one that I didn’t see anyone else mention. She bought “Keeper of the Lost Cities” by Shannon Messenger. She finished the first one and we went to the library for the other three that are available now. These are big books (first one is 488p, and they get longer) but her attention was caught from the very beginning. After she was well into book 2 “Exile” she insisted that I read them too. I really enjoyed them too!
    I’d also recommend the “Knife” series by R.J. Anderson and her “Pocketful of Murder” book.

  74. Leira says:

    I loved the American Girl books, especially the Wild at Heart Vet Volunteers series (I still have them on my shelf, and I’m less than a year from graduating vet school!).

    My little brother and mom recently read Story Thieves by James Riley and loved it. I haven’t gotten to it myself yet.

    • Leira says:

      Oh, also The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. I read it because J.K. Rowling said it had influenced her.

  75. Jennifer H says:

    With your love of books, you definitely need to check out Chris Grabenstein. The first one we read is Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library and is so fun, plus it leaves you with a great new “to read” list.

  76. 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.

  77. 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.

  78. 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!

  79. 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?

  80. 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

  81. 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

  82. 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

  83. 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.

  84. knowyourkids says:

    Goodbye Mr Tom is an old favourite and it’s updated plot in The war that saved my life blew me away – both have to be on my list of must reads for this age group. My daughter really enjoyed the Scarlet and Ivy series, however, her favourite book ever so far is A place called Perfect by Helena Duggan. I didn’t see her for a few days!

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