tate reading

A summer reading list for tweens

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by Tsh

Tsh is the founder of this blog and lives in Bend, Oregon with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

When I first started this blog, I wrote my list of favorite picture books for young children because my oldest was three. But I blinked, and just like that, she’s now nine and a half. My, how time flies.

I love age nine, but it’s totally pulled the rug out from under me—I feel like out of nowhere, my girl is on that cusp heading in to a (very) young adulthood, while still keeping a toe or three into little kid-hood. It’s that fantastically unique phase when you want to both grow up and stay a little kid, often in the same breath. (Since we’re on the subject, Megan and I podcasted about our nine-year-old girls, and she shared a great resource in the episode—I’m digging it a ton).

But honestly, my daughter’s been a total gem in early tweendom so far, and it’s fun having a kid with whom I can now have real, solid, enjoyable conversations. I also love that there are fewer toys and more of a simple making-the-most-out-of-life approach when it comes to play.

And also? I love that there are some downright stellar books out there for this age, books that I want to read as much as her. I’m not a huge fan of forced reading, but I do enjoy rewarding a good effort. I also like expanding her horizons.

20 chapter books for tweens (around ages 9-12); perfect for a summer reading list.

Last year I gave her a list of 20 chapter books, and told her that if she read 10 of them by the end of summer, we’d do something special (we ultimately went for a pedicure and ice cream). It was a big hit, so we’re doing it again this year.

I also thought you might like to see her line-up, so here are 10 of them. This post would be a mile long if I included all 20, so I’ve also created a simple printable you can download listing all the books, if it’s easier for you to print it and carry with you to the bookstore or library. You’ll find it at the end of this post.

Summer chapter books for tweens (around age 9-12)

A note: This is for my kid who reads very well, but whose pastime of choice is climbing trees and digging in the dirt. This past year she read and enjoyed books like Harry Potter (1-5), A Wrinkle in Time, The Phantom Tollbooth, Nancy Drew, and the like. I wanted to gently push her a bit, but still allow for plenty of fun. Also, I haven’t personally read ALL of these below yet, but if I haven’t, they come recommended by sources I trust.

The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan

Description: Ivan is an easygoing gorilla who lives in the mall. He rarely misses his life in the jungle—he thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends. Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes

Description: A ten-year-old blind orphan who has been schooled in a life of thievery steals a box from a mysterious traveling haberdasher—a box that contains three pairs of magical eyes. Along with his loyal sidekick—a knight who has been turned into an unfortunate combination of horse and cat—he embarks on an unforgettable, swashbuckling adventure to discover his true destiny.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

Description: Calpurnia Virginia Tate is 11 years old in 1899 when she wonders why the yellow grasshoppers in her Texas backyard are so much bigger than the green ones. With a little help from her cantankerous grandfather, an avid naturalist, Callie explores the natural world around her, she navigates the dangers of living with six brothers, and comes up against just what it means to be a girl.

(Tate + Texas? Yes, please.)

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson

Description: Shirley Temple Wong sails from China to America with a heart full of dreams. America is indeed a land full of wonders, but Shirley doesn’t know any English, so it’s hard to make friends. Then a miracle-baseball-happens. It is 1947, and Jackie Robinson, star of the Brooklyn Dodgers, is everyone’s hero.

The Giver

The Giver

Description: Jonas’ world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community. When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.

I was blown away the first time I read this book. Would love for her to read this in time for us to see the movie together in August (anyone know if it’ll be kid-friendly?).

Summer of the Gypsy Moths

Summer of the Gypsy Moths

Description: 11-year-old Stella misses her (unreliable) mom, but she loves it at great-aunt Louise’s house on Cape Cod. The only problem? Angel, the foster kid Louise has taken in. Then Louise suddenly passes away one morning—and Stella and Angel decide not to tell anyone. Now they have to depend on each other for survival. Now they are forced to trust each other with the biggest secret ever.

May B.

May B.

Description: May is helping out on a neighbor’s Kansas prairie homestead—just until Christmas, says Pa. Then the unthinkable happens: May is abandoned. Trapped in a tiny snow-covered sod house, isolated from family and neighbors, May must prepare for the oncoming winter.

 

When You Reach Me

When You Reach Me

Description: Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, and they know who to avoid. But things start to unravel. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden is stolen. And then a mysterious note arrives, scrawled on a tiny slip of paper. The notes keep coming – whoever is leaving them knows things no one should know.

The Mysterious Benedict Society

The Mysterious Benedict Society

Description: “Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?” ad attracts dozens for mind-bending tests readers may try. Only two boys and two girls succeed for a secret mission, undercover and underground into hidden tunnels. At the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, the only rule is – there are no rules.

The Expeditioners

The Expeditioners

Description: Computers have failed, electricity is extinct, and the race to discover new lands is underway. Explorer Alexander West has just died under mysterious circumstances, but not before smuggling half of a strange map to his intrepid children. Why are so many government agents trying to steal the half-map? What powerful secrets does it hold? And where is the other half? It’s up to Alexander’s children — the Expeditioners — to get to the bottom of these questions, and fast.

Our full list also includes Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Hoot, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Ella Enchanted, Rules, Percy Jackson, The Green Book, Pie, A Tree Grows in Brookyn, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Head here to download the PDF of all 20 books on the list.

What are your summer reading plans?

Disclosure: I have included affiliate links.

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Comments

  1. My 10 year old daughter and I were just talking about this at bedtime. We were thinking of Percy Jackson for our next series – this nailed it! Lately she’s been devouring The Warriors series. She loves those and has started writing fan fiction with her friend. :)

  2. avatar
    Em Adams says:

    YES!! Thanks for this!

  3. Love this list! Has Tate read A Wrinkle in Time? It’s fun to read that before you head into When You Reach Me. You totally can read it on its own, but there are a ton of references to Wrinkle, it’s the main character’s favorite book.

  4. Ugh, I think I somehow deleted my comment? In a nutshell: thanks Tsh! -always on the hunt for high-quality books – AND can anyone comment on whether some/which of these books are inappropriate content-wise for a precocious 6 1/2 year old voracious reader? Thanks!

    • I don’t know if they’re inappropriate, in the sense of questionable material—I think they just might have more complicated relationships. You know? Several of these involve death, the beginnings of romantic attraction (though not much—I try to stay clear of that as much as possible for as long as I can), rejection, etc. I think it’s a kid-by-kid case with these books.

      This said, if anyone has any experience with these books for younger kids, please chime in! :)

      • When parents have asked me this question about younger readers, I always tell them they know their children best. While I was an advanced reader, I was also a very sensitive child, and I know my own book would have scared me a bit in its frank portrayal of frontier life.

        If you’re not sure, read alouds are always, always a beautiful way to experience the world of books in a safe, secure environment.

      • Thanks! It is tricky. She has already read Harry potter, though Dad read aloud all of them first so she was shepherded through the rough stuff. She’s actually less shaken by grim themes than her 8 year old brother, so I worry less about that (within reason) than I do romance/mature themes.

        I had read something about Calpurnia Tate that made me make a note to wait until she was 10 for that one, though of course I can’t remember why.

        Worst are the nonsense modern books about crushes and gossip etc – blech!

        Trying to focus for now on classics – Secret Garden, Little Women, A Little Princess, Wizard of Oz, etc.

    • Yes, I have a voracious 6 year old too. He is reading Wizard of Oz right now and loving it. Hope that helps.
      Tsh, thanks, love this list !

    • avatar
      Ruth MacFarlane says:

      My kids enjoyed The Magic Tree House series from Scholastic at about that age. They learned a lot of facts about history and the world from these books. They are an easy read and the content is appropriate for the age without losing the sense of adventure.

    • avatar
      Mirandam says:

      My daughter was once a six-year-old advanced and voracious reader (now she is nine, still advanced and voracious, but better able to deal with complex or intense material), so I have spent the last three years desperately trying to keep ahead of her reading habit. Unless I read only kids books, I can’t pre-read everything, so my short cut was to look for kids books written in the 1950s or earlier, where the protagonist is eleven or younger. They generally are more innocent than books written now, which often end up dealing with topics not appropriate for the small ones. She loved (and still loves) Heidi, Anne of Green Gables, Secret Garden, etc. We also did the Bobbsey Twin books and other older popular fiction (as opposed to literature). Good luck! You are in for a great ride!

    • I wouldn’t go with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for a younger reader – it’s a great book but some fairly adult themes, such as alcoholism, poverty, and some discussion of sexuality that I wouldn’t really recommend for under 10′s. I do love the book though, I’m just waiting a few years before introducing it. I can’t wait to try some of the other on the list – thanks!

  5. My summer reading plans are to keep plowing through all the Newbery Award winners starting in 1922. I love this list, Tsh! 9 – 12 is my favorite age for books, and you’ve picked some of my very favorites (Hooray May B!). I think some other solid ones would be Prydain Chronicles (Alexander), Sea of Trolls (Farmer), Tales of the Kingdom (Mains), Graveyard book (Gaiman), Princess Academy (Hale), & Incorrigible Children of Aston Place (Wood)…but it’s hard to choose there are so many great books.

    • Yes! I had a few of those on the original list. Those look great, too! And I agree—such a fun reading age.

  6. One of my learning goals for my daughter this summer was to read better quality books. I’m typically a “let them read what they want”Mom but have noticed she’s not moving on from the lighthearted content group. In fact making a reading list for her was on my Weekly To Do list so you saved me half the work. Thanks!

  7. Squee of delight! I have an 11 year old daughter that loves to read (and muck about outdoors, too). Thank you for all the time you invested in this piece. Our fav book so far at this age is Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock.

  8. Can I just say how much I LOVE this post. I’m not a mom yet, and while I know motherhood will be far from what I expect, I REALLY hope at least one of my kids is a reader. I would love to be able to share my favorite books with my kids, and read along side them. Some of my favorite tween books – Little Women, Number the Stars, etc. are books that I come back to throughout early adulthood. Have fun with Tate this summer – it sounds like she’s already discovered the secret cool kids club for the readers.

  9. We’re so excited about the Giver movie too, we read the series of books together and love them.

  10. Great list! Ivan and The Giver are two of my very faves!

  11. This is exactly what I have been looking for. Thank you! I must say, though that hearing my 9 year old is considered a tween took the wind out of my sails a bit…..where has the time gone!

    • Oh believe me, me too. When Megan first called our 9-year-old girls “tweens,” I was all, NAH… that’s still a few years away. Right? Right?

      But yeah… we’re fully here. At least in our household. ;)

  12. avatar
    Diane Slone says:

    Great list! Is tis last year’s or updated for this year? If your daughter liked “the one and only Ivan” she might also like “small as an elephant” and “wonder”. My almost 10yr old tween did.

  13. THANK YOU SO, SO, SO MUCH for this blog! I don’t think I’ve ever, ever, ever, ever commented on your blog, but your Organized Simplicity is at the tippy top of my favorite books list (and out all the time for quick reference!); and one time, you “liked” a comment I made on someone else’s FB–so we go way back in spite of my lack of interaction on here. haha. ;)

    But I’m commenting now b/c I’m SO THANKFUL for this list. My 9 year old DEVOURS books. She reads about 6 at a time and finishes each one in a day or two. I also love to read, but simply cannot keep up with all the other adult things I have goin’ on. I’m apprehensive about her picking any old book at this age b/c I know there are a LOT out there that I just wouldn’t want her to read (at all or yet). So, I cannot thank you enough for this resource. I 100% trust your judgment and I’m going to refer to this until she’s read them all.

    THANK YOU!!!

  14. I love this list! My daughter is 11 and so many of her favorites are on here … the Giver is probably her #1 (she loved the whole series) … and also Ivan, and Wonder, and Calpurnia … oh, so wonderful! I love this age of reading probably best of all. xox

  15. Oh your timing is superb! We JUST discussed this topic this morning …

  16. Great list–I want to read some of these! A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of my top 5 favorites. Our family read aloud is Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. I’d never read it as a kid, and I’m tearing up. We have two more chapters, and it is a beautiful book. My kids love it.

    My oldest is just now starting readers, and I have to say, the best I’ve seen for his level are the Mo Willems Piggie & Gerald series. They are hilarious and very sweet. I’ve seen a *LOT* of readers since working at a children’s bookstore, working at elementary schools, and selling Usborne books, and these are definitely in a league of their own. I recommend them to anyone whose child is just now starting to read independently.

    Sarah M

    • Thank you! I have a nine yr old who loves to read and loves to climb trees. While she has been obsessed with Nancy Drew, she is not being challenged. And I have no idea where to begin since there are so many books out there. I have heard about the Flavia de Luce books by Alan Bradley. They are about an 11 yr old girl who solves mysteries and has a thing for chemistry/ poisons. Not sure if it appropriate for kids. If anyone has read them please let me know.

      • I love the Flavia books, but they are geared towards adult readers. She spends a lot of time pondering her mother’s death and the relationships in her dysfunctional family.

  17. Thank you so much for this! I just asked my friends on FB to recommend some books for this age group. My 6th grader is a great reader but it’s tough to find quality books without more teenage subject matter. I’m excited to share these with her!

  18. This is a great list. I read Ivan and Calpurnia aloud to the kids, and they loved them. I especially loved Calpurnia. My daughter will turn nine in a couple of weeks, and some others she really liked this year were Out of My Mind and Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Middle grade books are so great!

  19. avatar
    Laura Leighninger says:

    The entire Mysterious Benedict Society series is fabulous! The fourth is my favorite. Thanks for this list–looks like a lot of great reading ahead!

  20. avatar
    Vanessa Johnson says:

    The Giver is still one of my absolute favorite books! Love it!!

  21. avatar
    Sarah K. says:

    Thanks for this great list! The Giver is such a fantastic book. Another one that I think should be required reading for this age group is Wonder.

  22. Great list, Tsh!

    My 13 year old daughter read The Giver in school this year and LOVED it! She later found out that the author (Veronica Roth) of one of her favorite books, Divergent, was strongly influenced by The Giver, which made her love it even more. :)

  23. Tsh! So many beauties here and to think you’ve included my girl! Thank you. I’m really honored.

  24. Tsh, this list looks great–do you have a similar one for 1-2 years younger? My boy is 8 and just not quite ready topically for a few of these books. Thanks!!
    And The Giver is a great read!!

  25. avatar
    Marla H. says:

    The Sixty-Eight Rooms series would be another great series to add to your daughter’s summer reading list. :)
    Thanks for posting this! I am totally going to have my two tween tackle this list!

  26. avatar
    Marilynn says:

    I just happened across your post from the popular page on bloglovin’ and I’m SO glad I found it! I have an 8 1/2 year old son who reads on a very advanced level, but I’m having a hard time getting his nose out of the Magic Tree House Series. Ugh! They were great starter books, but he loves Jack and Annie so much that I feel like he is missing out on other truly wonderful reading adventures. He made it to the 6/7th grade reading level this year and while I know a lot of those books are too old for him, I can’t help but wish he would read something more advanced. I think I’ll make a special deal with him about reading some of these Newberry books and treating him with a special reward at the end of the summer if he reaches his goal. Thanks for the great post and idea!!!

    P.S. The Giver is one of my ALL TIME favorite books, I’ve been known to re-read it now and then and I’m in my thirties. :-) Lucky for me my bf loves it, too, so he doesn’t think I’m crazy when he sees me reading a “kids book”.

  27. The Candymakers (Wendy Mass) is a wonderfully written story, told from four different points of view, each section giving the reader a bit deeper understanding of the adage “two sides to every story”. A great read to reinforce the concept that things are not as simple as you may think as our girls head into a land of behind-the-hand whispers.

  28. Can you recommend some books for someone who is a bit below your daughter’s level? I have an 8 year old girl, but her understanding level is a little bit below these books. We are into the American girl books right now. SO much fun!

  29. avatar
    Jennifer Smith says:

    Great list! My 10 year old son and I have read a few of these and have many of the same books on our list. Two books I would add to the list would be Wonder by RJ Palacio and Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan.

  30. Thanks, Tsh! I have been collecting summer book ideas for my almost 10-year-old girl. These look great!

  31. Thank you for this list. My 10 yr old loved Ivan, but especially loved Peter nimble and started it again immediately after finishing. Other big hits recently include don’t call me Ishmael, the ratcatcher’s daughter, everything by Michael morpurgo, the tale of despereaux and Ophelia and the marvellous boy (although this last one had slight regrets as my sensitive girl ended up have sleep trôubles with worry over the characters as we read it aloud on holiday- she needed to read ahead to get closure)

  32. Love this! I so miss the summer days when I could curl up with a book and be transported to another world. (Life with littles prevents…) Another novel in verse that I think you both would enjoy is Words With Wings by Nikki Grimes. Good stuff, Tsh!

  33. avatar
    Ariana Lal says:

    This is a great list! I’m a high school English teacher, and I can’t reiterate enough how important it is to cultivate and maintain a child’s passion for reading when they are young. I have one comment about your list however. In my opinion, Huck Finn is not a book for children. It is an important work of American Literature, and I read it with 10th graders, but parents should know that it makes copious use of the n-word and presents some very problematic issues/stereotypes related to race. The book itself is ultimately against slavery, but it is still a product of its time, and its language reflects that fact. Tom Sawyer or A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court may be better Twain choices for the younger set.

  34. I want to print this out and then go order all the books from the library. Love this. Thank you for a wonderful resource.

  35. I am a children’s librarian and this is a fabulous list!! Thank you, thank you!

    • Yes I agree, now reading her other posts! I just found this blog. So fun BTW—- Katherine Applegate (Ivan) has a great series called Animorphs. Very popular with my students.

  36. Thanks for the great list. I loved island of the blue dolphins at about that age.

  37. This is a great post, my 10 (almost 11) year old will be very grateful to you! It will be perfect. I’m going to link it my post on Summer Reading Programs http://aspiredliving.net/2014/05/20/complete-guide-to-summer-reading-programs/ . Thank you Tsh!

  38. Love this! Thanks for sharing! Would you by chance have the list you went off last year. My little is 8 so I thought it wouldbe fun to start off where you did last year. Please forgive me if I missed that in the post or comments. :-)

  39. The Tale of Desperaux is a beautiful book. When I was your daughter’s age I was reading Enid Blyton stories my mother had, The Baby Sitter’s Club books, Deltora Quest and a lot of older stories like Little Women, The Secret Garden, Anne of Green Gables, A Little Princess, Black Beauty, Peter Pan etc. These look like fun reads though! Fiction for this age group is still my favourite to read.

  40. avatar
    narniaelf says:

    I don’t know if anyone has already said this, but Narnia and Lord of the Rings are a must on any tween/ teen list! Narnia is good at almost any age, and LOTR is good for 10 and up.

  41. avatar
    Stephanie says:

    I read The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making a few years ago and really liked it. I think I would have loved it as a tween.

  42. Thank you, off to the library we go. My 11 year old son loves reading, but selecting books that keep him engaged is getting really hard. Thank you again.

  43. Would you mind sharing the list of books that you offered to Tate last summer; 2 of my girls are (I’m guessing) about where she was last year. Thanks!

  44. avatar
    Alisha B says:

    Thanks Tsh!
    This is a great list, my nine-year-old as read the entire Percy Jackson series, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the like, these are right up her alley.

  45. I’d love to know which ones of the list are on there because your child is a girl. I’d hate to get my ten year old boy a “girly” book (in his opinion, of course!). So, would you make the same list if it was for your son? Or take a few off?

  46. I see that someone finally mentioned The Chronicles of Narnia! Amazing read alouds – we went through the whole series with my children, then aged 8,6, and 4. They all listened, even through the tougher parts. (maybe that was because I did different voices for all the animals. hhaha) We were all sobbing at the end of the final book, The Last Battle. Also, read them in their originally intended order, not the way publishers are marketing them now. C.S. Lewis is rolling over in his grave! And also, don’t watch the movies first! Ok, I’ve ranted enough. Such a fun discussion! Thanks, Tsh, for the list!

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