12 Best Books for Your 10, 11, & 12 Year Olds

Barbara

Where have the time gone? Your kids have been alive for a decade! Being a 10, 11, or 12 year old is tough. They’re already in their pre-teen years and they’re starting to think more independently. Your kids will want to dress themselves up and most of them would like it very much if you didn’t coddle them in public (the horror!).

The same goes for their book choices. Since your kids are already in school and they’re exposed to friends and peers, they will be developing different interests. Choosing what type of stories to read will be a part of that.

If you want to help keep their interest in reading, why not start simple? Highly adventurous and action-packed novels have great entertainment value. Fantasy and magic is also a great genre to suggest. Longer and more detailed novels can help practice their imagination and keep them engaged for longer.

To get you and your kids started, here are a few suggestions you can check out.

Top 12 books for 10, 11, & 12 year Olds

# Name Genre Ages
1 Bridge to Terabithia Fiction, Classics, Death, Friendship 10+
2 The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe Fiction, Action, Adventure, Fantasy 10+
3 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Fiction, Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Magic, Humor, Mystery 10+
4 The Name of This Book Is Secret Fiction, Mystery, Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Magic 10+
5 Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Fiction, Action, Adventure, Mystery 11+
6 War Horse Animals, Historical, Fiction 11+
7 LOST in the Pacific, 1942 Nonfiction, History, Reference, Action, Adventure 11+
8 Crossover Fiction, Sports, Health, Death 11+
9 Ghost Boys Violence, Prejudice, Multicultural 12+
10 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Fiction, Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Magic, Humor, Mystery 12+
11 The Girl Who Drank the Moon Fiction, Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Magic 12+
12 The School for Good and Evil Fiction, Fantasy, Magic, Fairy Tale, Friendship 12+

The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson and Donna Diamond

The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson and Donna Diamond

Genre: Fiction, Classics, Death, Friendship

Book Summary: Artistic, young Jess Aarons wasn’t the most popular kid in school, but he is hardworking. He meets bubbly and wealthy Leslie Burke, the new girl in town. They’re both ostracized for being slightly different and after a rocky start, they become best friends. Jess and Leslie create their own fantasy world called Terabithia on the other side of the creek.

Review: What I love about Jess and Leslie is that they’re unapologetically different. They’re bullied or ignored by most of their peers but they don’t mind it too much. After all, they have each other. Both kids also bring back a nostalgic sense of using your imagination to create a world to play in (something that kids nowadays lack more and more). But aside from that, Leslie’s untimely death brings another layer of emotion to the whole story. Your kids can slowly be eased into what it feels like to lose someone so suddenly and permanently through a beloved character’s death. It’s heartbreaking, irrevocable, but easily moved on from.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis and Pauline Baynes

The Chronicles of Narnia

Genre: Fiction, Action, Adventure, Fantasy

Book Summary: Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie were siblings evacuated from London during the Blitz. They were sent to the countryside home of the Professor. They were playing hide-and-seek one day when Lucy stumbles across an old wardrobe, which is actually a portal to a magical land called Narnia. Along with her siblings, Lucy befriends Narnians and their leader, Aslan, and becomes instrumental in the defeat of the notorious White Witch.

Review: I’ll be honest. I first watched the movie before even thinking about reading this book series. It’s a good thing I did, too! The adventures of the Pevensie siblings is a classic tale of fantasy and adventure. It blends many genres perfectly to give your kids an interesting and riveting story to read. It’s a good journey filled with themes like friendship, loyalty, bravery, and humility.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling and Mary GrandPrè

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Genre: Fiction, Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Magic, Humor, Mystery

Book Summary: It’s Harry Potter’s 12th birthday and it’s glaringly clear that somebody does not want him to come back to Hogwarts. But that doesn’t stop him! Follow Harry, Ron, and Hermione as they race against time to save the Muggleborns, catch the Heir of Slytherin, and discover just where the Chamber of Secrets lies.

Review: If you want your kids to read a typical hero’s journey, Harry Potter is a definite recommendation. The stakes are higher for Harry’s second year with all of Hogwarts in danger. Book Two of this wonderful series isn’t all that different from Book One. Its themes are great for your kids’ age since they’re getting the action and adventure that they crave. But it also makes them realize that being different shouldn’t mean being shunned away. Although no one physically hurts him, Harry was ostracized simply because he can do something that other people can’t. They get a first-hand look into what bullying can do and that they might think twice before participating in something like it.

The Name of This Book Is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch

The Name of This Book Is Secret

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Magic

Book Summary: Someone drops of a mysterious box in Cass’s grandfather’s junk shop. She takes it and discovers it’s called the Symphony of Smells. At school, she befriends Max-Earnest and together they embark on an epic adventure to finish a dead magician’s journey and to help save their schoolmate, Owen, from dangerous enemies.

Review: There’s something intrinsically intriguing with a secret, and this book’s title is such an attention grabber in itself. Add in mystery, magic, and adventure and it’s the perfect recipe for imaginative children. Cass and Max-Earnest are your typical heroes in the story and the plot isn’t the most original but it does work as a great pastime! Simple yet magical.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

Genre: Fiction, Action, Adventure, Mystery

Book Summary: Luigi Lemoncello is a master game maker and billionaire who loved libraries as a child. As such, he wanted to create something that will make children love his new library as much as they love his games. So, he designs a contest wherein children need to answer questions and riddles to get clues on how to escape his library. Follow Kyle Keeley and his friends as they go through the challenge.

Review: The adventure in this book isn’t as exciting as battling a dragon or ruling a kingdom but it’s exciting nonetheless. It shows your children that you don’t need magic to experience thrilling events. Even something as normal as a contest can be a compelling journey to take. This story is very reminiscent of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (without the magic and oompa loompas). It teaches your children values like humility and honesty. Cheating won’t help you win anything in the end.

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

Genre: Animals, Historical, Fiction

Book Summary: A horse named Joey is bought by Ted Narracott when he was supposed to buy a calf. He wasn’t a very nice owner but his son Albert loved and cared for Joey so much. Unfortunately, Joey is sold to the army by Ted, and the two are separated. Discover the many thrilling and heart stopping experiences Joey had as a war horse.

Review: If you want to ease your kids into historical fiction, War Horse is a good starting point. This heartwarming book is centered on a pet horse and his terrifying experiences during the war. Joey portrays what it’s like to be a young soldier forced to enlist and fight. What’s worse is that Joey doesn’t have a choice and just follows whichever side captures him. This also opens other themes to your kids that they might have not yet encountered so much. Death, depression, and bloody violence are harsh realities in our world that they’ll experience one day. Easing it on them through stories like War Horse will prepare them better for when that day comes.

LOST in the Pacific, 1942 by Tod Olson

LOST in the Pacific

Genre: Nonfiction, History, Reference, Action, Adventure

Book Summary: On October 1942, a B-17 bomber carrying one of America’s greatest living war heroes was forced to do an emergency landing on battle-ridden seas. Eight men. Three inflatable rafts. 68 million square miles of treacherous ocean. This is the true story of how Eddie Rickenbacker and his men battled hunger, dehydration, tiger sharks, and low morale in order to survive their impossible situation.

Review: Nonfiction is a hard genre to appreciate, even for experienced adults. Sometimes, real life just isn’t exciting enough. Or sometimes, it’s too gory and violent to appreciate. If you want to introduce Nonfiction to your kids, this novel by Tod Olson is a good book to start with. The story within rings true with facts and real-life situations but it reads like a riveting fiction. You can easily get lost in the storytelling as if it’s just another action fiction from the library.

Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Genre: Fiction, Sports, Health, Death

Book Summary: Josh and Jordan are twin brothers who love playing basketball. In fact, they’ve been basketball players since middle school, and their dad was also a former professional basketball player. They are typical brothers from a typical family who loves a typical sport. But sometimes life just hands you the least typical things there are.

Review: Crossover is a simple yet poetic narrative. It’s about a regular boy who goes through regular stuff boys his age go through. Jealousy, melancholy, joy, pride. All of these are universal feelings that every people experience. Crossover is an amazing piece of literature that showcases the average, the common, the regular and weaves it into something heartwarming and relatable. It shows your kids that sometimes normal people experience not-so-normal stuff that hurt them, but it’s okay.

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Genre: Violence, Prejudice, Multicultural, Death

Book Summary: 12-year-old Jerome Rogers was shot dead by a policeman in an impoverished neighborhood in Chicago. He was black, the officer was white. He was playing with a toy gun and the police officer saw him as a threat. Now Jerome wanders the earth as a ‘ghost boy,’ a type of spirit whose death is connected with discrimination. They cannot rest until the discriminatory violence is eradicated from the world. The only problem? Jerome can only be seen by the daughter of police officer who killed him.

Review: Highly controversial, Ghost Boys seamlessly blends fact with fiction. Some of you might feel that the topic of this story is a bit too serious for such a young audience, but I disagree. The main reason why Jewell Parker Rhodes wrote this book is to help stop situations like this from happening and change certain racist beliefs that are still prevalent today. 12-year-olds are old enough to know right from wrong, and they can think for themselves more independently. Trust them to understand how racism divides people and help them create a better world they can live in.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling and Mary GrandPrè

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Genre: Fiction, Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Magic, Humor, Mystery

Book Summary: Harry Potter is starting his third year at Hogwarts, but like always, trouble seems to follow him wherever he goes. This year, notorious mass murderer Sirius Black has done the impossible! He escaped from Azkaban and is believed to be going to Hogwarts to finish what his Master didn’t: to kill the Boy Who Lived.

Review: Another year at Hogwarts and still there are many lessons to be learned! Like the first two books, Prisoner of Azkaban still encompasses many of the beloved themes we’ve learned to love about the Harry Potter series. So what new lesson could be learned from this one? Well, that’s simple. Don’t judge a wizard without getting all the facts straight! Seeing a person and hearing what others say about them doesn’t necessarily translate to the truth. Your kids can learn that you shouldn’t put a lot of stock in rumors. Get to know the actual person first. Learn more about them before you judge.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Genre: Fiction, Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Magic

Book Summary: Every year, the people of the Protectorate sacrifice a newborn baby to appease the witch of the forest. All think that those babies die. Unbeknownst to them, it was only a scam made by the Council of Elders. A good witch by the name of Xan takes each baby and gives them off to families from nearby villages. But one year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby magical moonlight. Since it’s much too dangerous to give the baby away, Xan decides to keep the baby and name her Luna.

Review: This little tale is very simple in its plot and I just can’t help but love it. The formula follows the classics and yet the story itself is riveting. There are many complex characters to get to know and the magic around them is bewitching and engaging. Your kids will find enough action to keep them excited and a whole lot of touching moments to keep their hearts toasty warm.

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani and Iacopo Bruno

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani and Iacopo Bruno

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Magic, Fairy Tale, Friendship

Book Summary: Every four years, two children are taken from the village of Galvadon and are whisked away to the mysterious School of Good and Evil. This year, best friends but polar opposites Sophie and Agatha were chosen. Much to their horror, they are sorted into the schools they both dislike: Agatha to the School of Good even though she likes to sulk, and Sophie to the School of Evil even though she’s very bubbly.

Review: Light and relatable, this story is a nice contemporary take on fairy tales. The story itself isn’t the most original out there and the plot isn’t anything mind-blowing. But it’s riveting and there’s a very important lesson to be learned from it! There is no such thing as purely good and purely evil. You have both good and bad in yourselves. The only real test is whether or not you choose to act good or act evil. Plus, it’s okay to be friends with people who are worlds different from you. Friendship isn’t about hanging out with who you think acts the most similar with you. True friendship is accepting that both of you are different but you don’t care. Those are lessons your kids can learn from a simple fairy tale novel such as this.

Conclusion

Ideas and beliefs will also be introduced to your kids at this point since characters and plots are more complex and developed in long books so get ready for a lot of opinions. There will be times that they’ll agree with certain characters more than others. Sometimes they’ll even feel as if they’re the characters themselves. That’s good!

Relating to the story means they’re interested and that will help with a kid who doesn’t like to read. Just make it seem like reading a book is going to the movies but better… because you can make all kinds of special effects happen in your imagination!

Being a pre-teen is hard on its own because they’re in a transition stage. So give them the space they need when they’re reading but it might also be a good idea to show that you’re interested in what they’re reading. Ask questions, get to know what they think, or better yet read the story yourself!