Saturday, February 9, 2013

GREAT READS for Tweens and Teens: For the Love of a Good Book

Online, one of the most common questions I hear is  
"What can my kids read?!"

It's that wonderful moment when you realize your kids are finally interested in books...!

Over the years I have lead many book groups with teens and tweens and I have seen kids go crazy over books that really challenge them, inform them, entertain them.  I have seen kids get so "into" a book that they bring snacks, projects, hand-written comics, fan fic, costumes, and so many other things that they have done independently for their love of a good book.

I have gathered here a list of books that I can almost guarantee will be one of those books for your tween!  I would estimate the "level" of these books to be about ages 9-13.  But you know your child!  Some younger children will LOVE them and some older ones will dig them as well.  So, now and always, use these recommended ages with a grain of salt!  Because I love them too!  Some of the books are doorway books (as I call them) because they open up the door to a series of books or to an entirely new genre'.

If you are leading a co op reading group, I highly recommend this list!


# - These books will accidently teach you something
* - These books are a part of a series
+ - These books are for slightly advanced readers due to length or content
- These books are for slightly younger readers 

If we HAVE to choose our absolute favorites from this excellent list


  • The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke - Cornelia Funke will surprise you with her pen.  This one is about two boys who run away and who find a secret group of kids in Venice Italy who are being loved and supported by their mysterious older boy, the one they call "The Thief Lord"
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart - I remember being blown away by this one!  Groups of children are selected by way of a test to go to a special school for the super-intelligent.  They learn many lessons there!  This is a part of a series.     *
  • Island of the Aunts by Eva Ibbotson - Eva Ibbotson has written many books that may entertain your child, if they dare!  This one has a bit of freak, a bit of magic, and lots of fun.  Be prepared for some amazing creatures and lots of secrets.  I have Michael Boehm to thank for this one!
  • The Name of this Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch - You will be grabbed by the mysteries of this story from page one.  I guarantee it!  This is the beginning of a series.  I have Evee Hockett to thank for this one!    *
  • Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass - Jeremy and his best friend go on the adventure of their lives and learn so much about what is important in life...but in a fun way!  This journey is one you will never forget!    #
  • Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett - This is one of those books that will accidently teach you something about Vermeer...and even more about accepting challenges!    =
  • 39 Clues by various authors - this series of books begins with a sister and brother from a super-wealthy family learning that their family holds many secrets!  You will love this series!  We waited with baited breath for each new book.    #  *
  • The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin - Another fun book about secrets and the solving of mysteries.  Not to mention codes!     *
  • Redwall by Brian Jacques - This book introduces you to a group of animal characters who take on the biggest challenge of their lives!  Don't be fooled by the animal characters!  Set in medieval times, Matthias manages the castle to take on the most despicable villain!  This is the first of a set of adventures.  I will never forget Asmodeas, Cluny, Constance, Silent Sam, or Methuselah!  Check out the Redwall Cookbook.    *
  • Despereaux by Kate DeCamillio - Take one sweet mouse and add lots of adventure.  See what can happen to a heroic character who falls in love with a princess who is in trouble.    =
  • Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan - I don't know how to describe how much we loved these books!  Greek mythology in modern day.  Adventure after adventure with lots of great humor.  Read the books instead of watch the movie!     *
  • Fablehaven by Cornelia Funke - What happens when two kids discover that their family is in charge of all of the characters from fables.  I will absolutely never forget the chicken!    *  + 
  • The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull - You will always remember the day you picked up this book.  How does magical candy and adventure sound to you?  Brandon Mull will be one of those authors you return to again and again. 
  • Schooled by Gordon Korman - Here is a homeschooled kid making a huge splash in school when circumstances require him to attend.  Makes me proud to be a "hippy dippy" homeschool mom.  And don't worry, the stereotypes may bother you at first, but it's all worth the journey.  #
  • Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko - How can this possibly be a good book?  Making a deal with Al Capone?  My kids couldn't wait for the second book!    #  *
  • The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Jolen - You know Jane Yolen, books with a message  Well, this one is about a young Jewish girl who doesn't quite appreciate her first.   #
  • The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt - This book is about one of those kids who never gets the breaks, but somehow becomes a bit of a hero.  You will laugh out loud.   #
  • The Dragon's Eye:  Erec Rex by Kasa Kingsley - Don't be surprised when your kids get online and start looking for more information on this author.  With such a remarkably clever story and the horrible Biskania, you will want to read all three books.  Erec discovers amazing secrets about his family and their secret land...and becomes something of a hero.  You won't want to miss it.     *  +
  • Code Talker:  A novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac - How to pass codes during WWII when the enemy can decode absolutely everything?  Learn about the amazing contribution of the Navajos during WWII.  This is an amazing story that will engage your child.  Lots of Navajo language and vocabulary at the end of the book.  Also, check out the website.   #  +
  • The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies - What happens with competitive siblings try to earn more and more money from their lemonade stand and things get a bit out of hand?   #
  • Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda - We all remember this series so fondly.  All of us were very moved by Rowan's adventures and courage.  See how this gentle young boy takes on one challenge after another...  This fantasy story is written by an Australian author.    *   =
  • Hatchet by Gary Paulsen - An absolutely stunning story about a boy and how he changes after being stranded after an airplane crash in the Canadian wild.    #
  • The White Giraffe by Lauren St. John - After the death of her parents, Martine goes to live with her grandmother in Africa and begins pursuing a mythical white giraffe.    #   *   =
  • Isabel of the Whales by Hester Velmans - You will thank me for this book.  When Isabel discovers she is a special one, she becomes a whale for a full year, and learns more about whales and humans than she expected.    #
  • Pendragon by D.J. MacHale - Bobby Pendragon discovers that he is capable of dimension travel, from one dimension to another.  He figures out how to save each world before moving on.  An adventure series like no other.  This series has many mysteries and lessons to learn!     *   +
  • H.I.V.E.:  Higher Institute for Villainous Education by Mark Walden - Otto is thrilled to be a part of this secret school, but has a bit of trouble when he decides to leave the organization.  Otto's brilliance and ingenuity make this story of beating the villain particularly fun.    *
  • The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau - When the power of the underground city of Ember begins to falter, two teens look for a way out.   Avoid the movie.  Also check out the graphic novel!    *   +
  • Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George -To her small Eskimo village, she is known as Miyax; to her friend in San Francisco, she is Julie. When her life in the village becomes dangerous, Miyax runs away, only to find herself lost in the Alaskan wilderness. Without food and time running out, Miyax tries to survive by copying the ways of a pack of wolves.    #
  • The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood - Widge's Elizabethian mysterious kidnapper forces him to steal Shakespeare's play "Hamlet" by infiltrating the Globe Theater.  Widge's ethical dilemmas and physical challenges are fun, adventurous, and exciting.    #
  • The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi - What's a "great reads" list without Avi?  In this unique adventure, Charlotte is placed upon a ship heading for America when things go terribly wrong.  Her ladylike upbringing does not give her any advantage over the situation so she finds herself making choices she would never have considered before!  This books is not just for girls!
  • The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare - Vengeful eighteen-year-old Daniel seeks revenge for the death of his family members in Ancient Israel at the hands of the Romans.  In time he sees that his anger is not leading to any sort of satisfying end.  He learns, from a traveling prophet, about loving thy neighbor.    #
  • Crispin:  The Cross of Lead by Avi - Timid boy, Crispin, gets into many scrapes in his powerlessness.  But as mysteries begin to reveal themselves, Crispin discovers there is more to his life than he ever imagined.  Set in 1300s England.   #
  • Boy of the Painted Cave by Justin Denzel - A beautifully written story about an artistic prehistoric boy named Tao.  Set in France over 16,000 years ago, Tao's desire to become a cave painter leads him on adventures that he doesn't always understand.  I have Soren Peterson to thank for this one.    #   =
  • My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George - About a boy who chooses to live deliberately on the mountain.  His parents support his decision to live in a tree.  His life lessons are wonderful and his wit and wisdom are timeless.    #
  • Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card - In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race's next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin is drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training. Elder's skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity.  His internal battles are just as challenging...     *   +

I also have a list of some more books that I would love to read from this reading level, but , alas, it is time for me to moving on...


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  1. Thank you! I'm always looking for good books for my 10 year old son - I'll be putting a bunch of these on hold at the library. Wonder is a *fantastic* book about a kid with facial deformities attending school for the first time around age 10. It's told from many points of view which is really interesting - his, his sister's, several classmates, back to him, etc. Really a great book!

  2. Thanks for sharing. My son (nearly 10) is a voracious reader, but loathe to try new books, so I'm always on the lookout for something he'd be willing to read that will stretch him more than Stink or other books he can read in an hour. I printed out your list and convinced him to pick one - we'll see if we can't find a new series to read!

    1. I'm so curious to know which titles he chooses!!!

  3. Thanks Karen - I needed this right now!


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