The 100 Best Children’s Books of All Time for Ages 9 – 12

What are the top 100 best children’s books for kids ages 9 to 12? It’s almost impossible to narrow down the most popular, beloved middle grade books, but I’m happy to say that I’ve done it!

best children's books of all time for ages 9 to 12

These middle grade books aren’t just the favorites of children ages 9 to 12, but they also all get my stamp of approval, too. I’ve read and reviewed them all and, as such, highly endorse them using my experience as a classroom teacher, a book reviewer, and a parent of two.

Ready to dive in? You will find good books in the following genres: adventure, funny, historical fiction, animal adventures, fantasy, mystery, realistic, scary, science fiction, and nonfiction.


Wild Survival: Crocodile Rescue! by Melissa Cristina Marquez
Adrianna’s parents have an animal sanctuary and host an animal rescue show. On this trip, the family goes to the mangrove forest of Cuba to help an injured crocodile. Andriana messes up and gets grounded but besides saving a dog, she realizes something the grown-ups missed– that the rescued crocodile had a nest of eggs. She convinces her brother to help her save the eggs only they have a very close call with poachers, adding suspense and a touch of danger. 

Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret by Trudi Trueit
This is National Geographic’s first fictional book series with full-color illustrations that hits the spot with an exciting mix of science, technology, adventure, and mystery. Newly accepted into the prestigious Explorer Academy for science and exploration, Cruz realizes that someone is trying to kill him; someone who doesn’t want him to find out about his mother’s mysterious research and untimely death. There’s tons of cool tech, amazing friendships, plot twists, plus an intriguing premise — if you’re like me, you’ll love this book series.

The Unforgettable Logan Foster by Shawn Peters
Logan is a neurodivergent orphan main character who is fostered out of the orphanage by a friendly new couple, Gil and Margie. Then, Logan and his neighbor, a super cool older girl named Elena, discover that his foster parents are actually superheroes who get double-crossed and captured by an evil villain. In an exciting, fast-paced adventure, Logan and Elena use their wits and strength to save his foster parents and other supes from the villains and the traitor. This story would be great for a read aloud book or book club book.

the last kids on earth

The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brallier, illustrated by Douglas Colgate
ADDICTING!! In this story, the zombie apocalypse is kind of fun. At least, that’s how Jack approaches life and zombie fights. He and his best friend, Quint, live in an upgraded, well-defended treehouse (which is SO COOL I totally want to live there) where they plan for rescuing his crush June (even though she doesn’t need rescuing, being quite capable) and fighting zombies. Illustrations throughout make this even more appealing to read and imagine. I absolutely love this funny dystopian series.

The Last Last-Day-of-Summer by Lamar Giles, illustrated by Dapo Adeola
If you’re a fan of wild and wacky stories, this is the book for you. Cousins Otto and Sheed accidentally stop time, freezing all the people in the town. Mostly. Because a sinister Mr. Flux on a gigantic beast can move about as can all the people related to time like A.M. and P.M.and Father Time. Throw in some unexpected plot twists and excellent writing, and it adds up to a delightful adventure that just proves you should be careful what you wish for…

Elements of Genius: Nikki Tesla and the Ferret-Proof Death Ray by Jess Keating
Inventor Nikki Tesla joins a new school called the Genius Academy where she’s not the only genius and she’s supposed to start working well with others. (That will be hard!) When Nikki’s death ray is stolen from a locked safe, she and her classmates must collaborate to find it and, hopefully, save the world. They follow clues around the world, thwart plots to divide their group and capture the bad guy before he can use the death ray. Not only does this engrossing story feature smart kids who love STEM, but the action and themes of friendship and growing up resonated and entertained me.

The Van Gogh Deception by Deron Hicks
Written like an adult suspense novel, this is one of the best edge-of-your-seat mystery and adventure books for middle grade. A boy with no memory is found at the National Gallery staring at a Degas sculpture. Strangely, this boy does know a great deal about art and artists. Soon we learn he’s being hunted by a team of professional bad guys. The boy, Art, and his foster sister escape from several kidnapping attempts and begin to unravel who he is and what’s going on.

Ali Cross by James Patterson
If you want an enthralling adventure & mystery that you can’t put down, read this one next. It’s Christmas Eve. Ali’s friend Gabe is missing, his FBI agent dad is falsely accused of murdering an old man, and someone breaks into their house while they were at church and steals his dad’s service weapon. Ali knows he has to try to fix things, starting by finding his friend Gabe. Don’t miss book two, Like Father, Like Son.


City Spies by James Ponti
When Sara, a foster kid and hacker, gets in trouble again, her new so-called lawyer recruits her to be an MI6 spy. Sara joins a team of other kids, trains quickly, and is immediately sent undercover to break open a big case in Paris. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I predict you’ll love every second of this action-packed story! It’s filled with great characters and an interesting twisty plot. You won’t be able to put this series down.

Holes by Louis Sachar
Poor Stanley. He’s got the worst luck of anyone — and is now sent to a youth detention camp in the desert where he has to dig holes all day long. All because of his no-good, pig-stealing great-great-grandfather. This was one of my students’ favorite books (mine, too)! You’ll love the crazy adventures as Stanley and his new friend figure out what’s happening at this supposed detention camp and escape, with only onions to eat. And yes, even that has to do with Stanley’s pig-stealing grandfather.  You’ll love it.

Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation by Stuart Gibb
The CIA asks a super genius 12-year-old girl named Charlie to help find the missing and dangerous “Pandora” theory of Einstein’s. You will fall in love with Charlie—she’s a creative thinker and a survivor who, despite all her knowledge can act like a child yet also outwit bad guys in amazing ways. Terrorists, Moussed, cross-world travel, and mathematical clues combine with excellent writing to make the perfect action-adventure spy middle grade book.



Animal Stories

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Narrated by one gorilla named Ivan, this story will immediately touch your heart. Making it even more compelling, it’s a true story! Ivan is kept in a cage in a run-down mall for 27 years without seeing another gorilla, only the stray dog, Bob, who sleeps with him, Stella the Elephant, and Ruby, a newly purchased baby elephant. Before she dies, Stella begs Ivan to find Ruby a home with other elephants — and Ivan agrees, but it won’t be easy.

Scurry by Mac Smith
I love the art in this graphic novel about a post-apocalyptic time with no humans and only animals. The house mice are scrounging to survive from what the humans left, but there isn’t enough food for their community. When our hero Wix leaves to scout more food, he discovers the rat’s betrayal, dangerous predators, including hawks and crows, and a strange beaver kingdom. It’s an epic animal adventure of danger, bravery, and exploration!

Cress Watercress by Gregory Maguire, illustrated by David Litchfield
A beautiful story about family, community, and grief with lovable characters and lavish illustrations. After the death of her father, Cress and her family move from their cozy burrow into the Broken Arms oak tree ruled by a cranky Owl with a noisy neighbor squirrel family. There, Cress helps her mom collect moths to pay their rent, leaving her mom time to work and gather ingredients for her sickly brother’s tea. As Cress navigates her new environment, the natural world, and the stories around her, it helps her understand her inner world, especially how grief waxes and wanes like the moon’s cycles.


Whale of the Wild by Rosanne Parry, illustrated by Lindsay Moore
A beautifully written story about two orca siblings separated from their families, trying to find food and their seasonal home. After her mother loses a calf, Vega and her little brother leave their pod to bury her little sister. Then, a Tsunami hits, and they both are lost from their pod. Vega, a stranger, and her little brother travel together toward recognizable landscapes and, hopefully, food. As they journey, they meet other orca pods with different customs and who eat different foods, as well as other sea creatures. The story, an adventure with danger and suspense, shows the importance of keeping nature in balance.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien
This is a must-read, excellent Newbery-winning book about incredible, super-smart lab rats and mice who have escaped from a laboratory and form their own thriving community. Until Mrs. Frisby’s home is set for destruction. That’s when she turns to the rats for help and learns the truth about her husband. This was always one of my fifth graders favorite read aloud books, it’s amazing.

Always Clementine by Carlie Sorosiak
I highly recommended this book as a family read-aloud choice — it’s a heartfelt story of friendship, adventure, and care for animals that will appeal to many ages and interests. Our narrator, Clementine, is a genius lab rat freed by a lab tech and hidden in the mailbox of a former chess champion. Clementine narrates everything that happens in letters to her friend Rosie, a chimpanzee who is still trapped in the lab. She’s found by the chess champion’s grandson, and he and his grandfather vow to keep her safe, which is tricky because the lab is hunting her down. Clementine’s voice is compelling and believable. I loved this book and didn’t want it to end!

Ostriches: The Superpower Field Guide by Rachel Poliquin, illustrated by Nicholas John Frith
I read this book cover to cover in one sitting because it was so incredibly interesting and compelling! I mean, the ostriches have TOE CLAWS OF DEATH. For real. And their bones are just bizarre yet for a really good reason! What you think is their knee is their ankle bone. Not to mention their eyeballs are the biggest of any land animal.

100 Best Books for 6th Graders (Age 11 – 12) SONG FOR A WHALE

Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly
Iris is a lonely Deaf girl who feels alone at her school and in her immediate family. When Iris learns about Blue 55, a whale who is called the loneliest whale in the world because his song is at a different hertz than other whales, she immediately feels a connection to him. Iris uses her compassionate heart, intelligence, and tinkering skills to write and record a whale song that Blue 55 will hear so he’ll know that he’s not alone. Her subsequent adventure is profoundly life-changing. This is a heartening, poignant story that gives readers insight into Deaf children, the richness of Deaf culture, and the power of compassion.

Journey of the Pale Bear by Susan Fletcher
Arthur Welsh is a poor homeless Norwegian boy who works for passage on a ship to England as the caretaker of a captive polar bear, a gift for the King Henry of England. The conditions for the polar bear are worse than the boy’s, both being victims of their circumstances, powerless and captive. It’s a physical and emotional journey of survival and friendship. The two survive a pirate attack, escape in the wild, and a new life in England. I hated the captivity of the bear but I loved this based on a true story and the bond of friendship between animal and man.

Warriors by Erin Hunter
Both my kids (and I) loved the Warriors cat books about a unique clan civilization of wild cats. It follows the story of a former house cat who joins ThunderClan. Not everyone accepts this former domestic cat. He’ll have to prove himself in order to help his clan fight the menacing ShadowClan. These are essential books for cat lovers.

Best Children’s Books: Fantasy

Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi
FANTASY series
This popular fantasy graphic novel book series is the amazing adventure of two siblings trying to save their kidnapped mom in an underground world of elves, demons, robots, and talking animals. It’s a kid favorite with lots of books in the series to read.

The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer
FANTASY series
Fairy tales come alive when Alex and Conner (brother and sister) find themselves in the fairy tale book given to them by their grandmother (who happens to be THE fairy godmother). Their only way home is for them to find the fairy tale ingredients for a Wishing Spell that will hopefully help them return to their regular home. Finding these artifacts will be dangerous, mysterious, and life-changing. Each book in this series mesmerizes readers with adventure, plot twists, and mystery.

The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis
FANTASY series
After a food mage turns Aventurine, a dragon, into a human using a magical chocolate drink, she develops a passion for chocolate. Unrecognized by her dragon clan, Aventurine travels to the nearest city to apprentice herself to a chocolate shop. She’s a brave, adventurous girl who makes her chocolate dreams come true with help from a new friend and kind employers. Will she be as brave when her dragon family attacks the town? 

The Adventurers Guild by Zach Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos (series)
Zed and Brock don’t want to be chosen for the Adventurers Guild because the adventurers must leave the walled city to fight the monsters who live outside it. Unfortunately, Zed and Brock are picked as Adventurers. Before they can finish training, Zed, Brock, and others are sent outside the city on a fact-finding mission that uncovers treachery, fiendish beasts, and Zed’s untapped magic. Imaginative world-building, intriguing plot twists, and complex characters kept me enthralled from page one!


Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston
FANTASY series
Fantastic fantasy world-building, excellent writing, a strong female heroine of color, and a surprise plot twist ending are just a few of the reasons you’ll love this book. On top of that, you’ll find an exciting, action-packed, suspenseful story about Amari whose brother vanishes mysteriously. He sends her a message that she’s a magician and should attend a special school. There, she discovers she’s a magician with outlawed dark magic but she’s determined to stay in the school and find her brother.


The Endling: The Last by Katherine Applegate (series)
FANTASY series
The conquering human ruler, Murdano, hunts and kills all the large, dog-like Dairne. All except Byx. In hopes to find a safe place and maybe the Dairne’s mythical homeland, Byx sets off on what becomes a dangerous, exciting adventure filled with new friends like Tobble who is a wobbyk. I love every book in this BEST-ever fantasy book series set in a uniquely imagined fantasy world about friendship, differences, betrayal, and family.

Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke (series)
While Jack’s single mom works, Jack takes care of his little sister, Maddy. And like the other Jack, this Jack, at the prompting of his sister who doesn’t talk, also trades the family’s one valuable thing, his mom’s car, for seeds. It all goes downhill from there: The seeds turn into a freaky, monster-growing garden that attacks! Action, adventure, intrigue…

The Serpent’s Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1) by Sayantani Dasgupta
FANTASY series
This story pulls you in from the start when Kiranmala discovers on her 12th birthday that she’s a princess from another realm and her real parents are trapped in a black hole-type place. But there’s a lot more she’ll learn — like who her real parents are (it’s not good!) and that demons can be your friends. Kiranmala’s adoptive parents are super awesome, too. An entertaining Indian mythology adventure.


The Ruins of Gorlan: Ranger’s Apprentice by John A. Flanagan
FANTASY series
SO AMAZING! We follow a boy named Will as he’s apprenticed to become a Ranger, a job he’s unsure about. But as he develops a relationship with his master and learns what being a Ranger is all about (spying for the kingdom), Will comes to embrace his new life. When an old enemy of the kingdom sends out dangerous beasts to attack Will’s master, Will is instrumental in getting help and killing the creatures. Action, fantasy, adventure, friendship, excellent writing — this book has everything!


Snow and Rose by Emily Winfield Martin
Sisters Snow and Rose live in the woods with their mother because when their father disappeared, they lost their bigger, fancy home. When the girls explore, they befriend a young boy from a mushrooming family named Ivo as well as a large bear whom they nurse back to health during the winter. They fear that the woodsman will find and kill their beloved bear. Then they stumble upon a sinister Little Man who wants to enchant them or kill them. Surprisingly, this is one Grimm story with a happy ending!



The Beast and the Bethany by Jack Meggitt-Phillips, illustrated by Isabelle Follath
FUNNY series 
If you like illustrated funny books, don’t miss this series. A monstrous Beast gives 500-year-old Ebenezer youth cream. So when the Beast demands a child to eat, Ebenezer adopts the rudest girl at a local orphanage, Bethany, and begins to fatten her up. She is horrid until she’s not…and Ebenezer feels terrible about his evil plan. Together, find a solution to get rid of the Beast and get a happy ending! (Or do they?)

Phoebe and Her Unicorn: A Heavenly Nostrils Chronicle by Dana Simpson
FUNNY series
Sarcastic and hilarious, this is a laugh-out-loud comic book series of stories about a precocious young girl and her sarcastic unicorn “best friend.” (See also: best book series for 4th grade list.)

Crabgrass Comic Adventures by Tauhid Bondia 
You will LOVE the friendship adventures of Kevin and Miles. Their stories of everyday life are fun, hilarious, relatable, and entertaining.


The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John, illustrated by Kevin Cornell 
FUNNY series
My daughter read this best children’s book first and begged me to read it immediately. It’s SUCH a funny book for kids! It’s about the hilarious adventure of two pranksters who work together to pull off the biggest prank of all time — a prank with cows that will ensure that they get April Fool’s Day off from school. 

Anyone But Ivy Pocket by Caleb Krisp
FUNNY series
I read so many parts of this book out loud to my kids because it’s one of the funniest books I’ve read! Now my kids are addicted to this series, too. Quirky (really quirky) but lovable Ivy’s adventures involve a sinister ghost, a mystical jewel, and a surprising destiny. We read it as a bedtime read aloud book and both my kids loved it. (On my best books for 5th graders list.)


Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts, illustrated by Laura Park
FUNNY series
A totally hilarious premise and fantastic writing! Rafe’s goal in middle school is to break every single rule. You can imagine how his plan will go, right? Filled with cartoon-like illustrations, this funny story will crack you up. (See this also on the best chapter books for 6th graders list.)

Wayside School by Louis Sachar 
FUNNY series
Old school humor at its best! These side-splitting best children’s books describe a wacky school with crazy teachers and even crazier events. 

Big Nate Welcome to My World by Lincoln Peirce
FUNNY series
Nate’s real-life adventures will keep your kids laughing from the first page to the last. These are great books for reluctant readers. Boxed set here.  (See this on the best book series for 4th grade list.)

Smile by Raina Telgemeier 
FUNNY series
Raina shares her life stories with humor and amazing art in the books: Smile, Sisters, and Drama. My daughter read Sisters four times the first week she owned it; they’re excellent books and quite addictive. Boxed set here. (See this on best books for 5th graders list.)

Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
FUNNY series
A funny but poignant story of middle-school angst and discovery! Unpopular Dwight can make origami Star Wars characters. When his puppet of Yoda comes to life, just like Yoda, the origami Yoda is wise and helpful during the many trials of 6th grade.


Historical Fiction

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley 
Ada and her brother escape their mother’s abuse when the London children are evacuated during WWII and go to live with a grieving woman in a small country town. It’s difficult for both the woman and children to trust, but slowly the trust grows, and all three regain something lost — hope and love. This historical fiction middle grade book touched my heart at such a deep level!

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan series
Forced to flee a dangerous situation in Mexico, Esperanza and her mother arrive in California and start working as migrant farm workers. The back-breaking work is only part of their new, challenging life. In this beautifully written, soulful historical novel, Esperanza learns to thrive no matter what her circumstances.

read aloud books for 4th grade

Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park 
Park writes a wonderfully touching multilayered story about a young half-Asian girl’s life during western expansion, and frontier times. After Hana’s mother dies, her father moves the two of them to a small midwestern town. Park sets the scene with care, and you’ll see a realistic portrayal of life in the 1880s from the point of view from someone who is experiencing racism. Despite many unfair things, Hana stays resilient and determined to graduate from school and help her father in his shop.

Sweep by Jonathan Auxier
Set in Victorian London, this is a beautiful, bittersweet story about a plucky girl and her protector golemWhen another sweep tries to burn Nan alive, a charcoal golem appears to save her. She and her growing protector golem, Char, find a new place to live but must stay vigilant so her old master doesn’t find them. On their own, they are helped by a street boy and a kind Jewish teacher. It’s an irresistible story that will expand your heart…and your definition of what makes a monster.

Refugee by Alan Gratz 
Follow three distinct, alternating stories to experience being displaced from your country, on the run, and in danger. First is a young Jewish boy who escapes from Nazi Germany on a ship to Cuba, only to be turned away from the Cuban port and sent back to Europe. Next is a Cuban girl in the 1990s who, with her family and neighbors, flees in a homemade raft to the United States at great peril. Finally is a Syrian boy whose home is bombed in a country at war. He and his family travel a great distance to find a country that will allow them shelter. Gatz skillfully connects all three stories with a satisfying, realistic conclusion.

When the World Was Ours by Liz Kessler
Three friends from Vienna, Leo, Max, and Elsa, are separated by war, location, and ideology. Leo and Elsa are Jewish, so their path includes ghetto housing, escape for one of them, and a prison camp for the other. But Max is not Jewish, and his main goal is to get the approval of his brutal Nazi father. To do so, he gladly pursues Nazi beliefs and actions, despite the nagging voice that reminds him that his friends aren’t “dogs” or less than human. It’s a heartbreaking, beautiful story about humanity, morality, hope, and love.

Words on Fire by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Nielsen deftly captures the history of Lithuania’s book smugglers, showing how books keep alive a language, culture, and identity, no matter how hard someone tries to erase it. Audra doesn’t know her parents are book smugglers until they are arrested by the Cossacks. She flees to their contact’s house, soon learning that her parents were part of a network of Lithuanians who fought against the Russians by smuggling books. This is an inspiring story of a little country of farmers who managed to keep their culture alive even after the Russians banned their language and their books. Highly recommended!

I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day
Edie’s mom is an adopted Native American who can’t trace her heritage. When Edie unexpectedly finds a box of photos and letters, it prompts a journey to discover the truth of her heritage. And the truth is not what she expects, but it opens her eyes (and ours) to the unjust but common practices that happened throughout U.S. history of taking Native kids away from their birth parents; parents whose only crime was being Native. An important, heartfelt story about growing up, family, and finding your identity.

Lifeboat 12 by Susan Hood
Thinking Hitler will invade England next, Ken’s family sends him to safety in Canada. But Ken’s ship is torpedoed and sunk only days into the journey. Written in verse, this is a moving account of bravery as Ken, several other kids, a priest, the ship’s only woman, and members of the crew spend weeks adrift at sea in an ill-stocked lifeboat. You’ll read about their swollen feet, dehydration, and starvation, as well as the stories and songs that helped keep the kids distracted and somewhat hopeful. Ultimately, you’ll be left with a sense of amazement at the resiliency of the human spirit.

The Watson’s Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis 
The Watson family drives from Flint, Michigan to Birmingham, Alabama, to visit relatives in the 1960s where they hope to set Bryon straight. The car trip builds up to the deeply disturbing church bombing where Grandma goes to church. This is a moving story filled with hope and humor. Newbery Award Winner.



The Thrifty Guide to Ancient Rome by Jonathan Stokes, illustrated by David Sossella
If  Ancient Rome is your preferred destination, you’ll need your handy handbook close by to make sure you survive — which seems to be unlikely since, as the book says, “Rome is an absolute deathtrap.” Filled with tongue-in-cheek hilarity while also being boldly informative about the historical topic! These are my new favorite history books.

Two Truths and a Lie by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson, illustrated by Lisa K. Weber
This book is GENIUS! It’s an impressive dare for kids to read and figure out what is true and what is a lie. The conversational tone in which this book is written makes it flow smoothly. That, plus the addition of many illustrations and photographs make this one hard-to-put-down nonfiction middle grade book just right for your 10-year-old, 4th grade, readers.

Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for The World’s Most Adventurous Kid by Dylan Thuras and Rosemary Mosco, illustrated by Joy Ang
Beautifully illustrated and written, this guide is filled with interesting and unique spots all over the world. Organized by country or state in the U.S., each location includes a few paragraphs of information and an illustration plus a map showing where it is. Some are things “Hidden in Plain Sight” like the Eiffel Tower Apartment in France or the Dinosaur of Ta Prohm in Cambodia or “DIY Transportation” like the Homemade Zip Lines in Columbia. Explore weird weather, sweet and salty treats, catacombs, caves, and more — this will be one book that your adventurous kids will enjoy reading cover to cover multiple times.

A Day in the Life of a Poo, a Gnu, and You A Laugh Out Loud Guide to Life on Earth by Mike Barfield and Jess Bradley
What child doesn’t like to read comics? Learn a lot about many things in this book of comics, diagrams, and secret diaries that explain topics like body parts, animals, and plants using cartoon panels and first-person narration mixed with “bigger picture” expository information. For example, read “A day in the life of” things like the eye, heart, a bee, anglerfish, and a toadstool. Or read “The secret diary” of a tornado.

Wild Outside Around the World with Survivorman by Les Stroud illustrations by Andres P. Barr
Les Stroud recounts exciting personal adventure stories of exploration and survival in all sorts of places around the world. Fascinating stories are accompanied by photos, illustrations, maps, and informational insets. I couldn’t put this book down and HIGHLY recommend it.

Plague Busters! Medicine’s Battles with History’s Deadliest Diseases by Lindsey Fitzharris and Adrian Teal 
Well-written and fascinating, in this nonfiction book, middle grade readers will learn about the deadliest diseases throughout history, from The Black Death to Scurvy. Each disease is explored in a full chapter with stories of people affected, remedy options (which were generally quite awful!), the history of the disease, including inventions and innovations in understanding and treatment, and famous deaths from the disease. You’ll read about people like Louis Pasteur, who found a treatment for rabies (a deadly disease from which Edgar Allen Poe died), and John Snow, who figured out how cholera was spread. I loved this book and think your readers will, too. Also, who doesn’t need these facts for trivia night, anyway?

Beavers: The Superpower Field Guides by Rachel Poliquin, illustrated by Nicholas John Frith
Meet Elmer who, like other beavers, has superpowers such as #1 Chainsaw Teeth, #2 Unstoppable Fur, and #3 Ever-Toiling Tail. Each of the 10 superpower sections is fact-filled, funny, and illustrated. After you zip through this engaging nonfiction book, Elmer will be your new favorite kind of animal — and you’ll be a beaver expert, too

Survivors of the Holocaust: True Stories of Six Extraordinary Children by Kath Shackleton, illustrated by Zane Whittingham
Holocaust survivor stories like these MUST be told. Because these six children started just like any of the kids reading their stories, they were ordinary kids who experienced the hardest things a child could face…being torn from their homes, separated from family, captured as a prisoner, and/or forced to hide. Graphic storytelling with unique artwork supports the clear, compelling narratives that will stay with you. It’s pretty sad to witness the tragedies in these children’s lives. Powerful, emotional, deeply disturbing that leaves us with a sense of loss, even with these children’s survival. We need more books like this. We must never forget. Buy this book for your classrooms and libraries!

The Screaming Hairy Armadillo and 76 Other Animals with Weird, Wild Names by Matthew Murie and Steve Murrie, illustrated by Julie Benbassat
Get ready for funny names, magical names, fierce names, delicious names, and weird names of ANIMALS. Like the striped pyjama squid, which is a cool-looking stripped squid. Or the yeti crab, which is a crustacean with hairy arms. My favorite weird creature is the Tasseled Wobbegong! Permanent facts (species, habitat, and interesting details) are written in a text box with a well-written elaboration of about a page describing the animal’s looks, behavior, habitat, abilities, and more. Each animal has at least one illustration, sometimes more than one, and sometimes a photograph. Fantastic!

The Mona Lisa Vanishes: A Legendary Painter, a Shocking Heist, and the Birth of a Global Celebrity written by Nicholas Day, illustrated by Brett Helquist
You will love the incredible writing, the fun illustrations, the biographical information about the curious, brilliant, and distractable Leonardo Da Vinci, the other art heists from the poorly guarded Louvre (one involving Pablo Picasso), the burgeoning science of fingerprints to replace France’s ear-measuring methodology and the surprising, eventual discovery of the Mona Lisa. Interestingly, the Mona Lisa wasn’t a well-known painting until this art heist in 1911. And the Louvre wasn’t well-attended until after this dramatic theft. The theft was dramatic because the thief simply walked out with the stolen painting tucked under his shirt. Highly recommended!



Framed! A T.O.A.S.T. Mystery by James Ponti
MYSTERY series
Captivating from the first page, 12-year-old Florian Bates uses his brilliant, observing brain to implement T.O.A.S.T. (the Theory of All Small Things) to notice things that others have missed. Including the FBI when there’s an art heist at the museum where his mother works. The FBI hires him to help unravel a mysterious art heist which he does with the help of his best friend, Margaret. Fast-paced and interesting.

Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs
MYSTERY series
Was the FunJungle’s hippo murdered? Teddy and Summer think so. Mystery, adventure, and humor will keep your readers on the edge of their seats in this unique story with quirky characters.

Winterhouse by Ben Guterson, illustrated by Chloe Bristol
MYSTERY series
Elizabeth, an orphan, is unexpectedly sent to a large, stately hotel with a kind, grandfatherly proprietor for Christmas vacation. There, she discovers a magical book, a sinister couple, a family mystery, and a new friend who loves puzzles as much as she does. The writing is mesmerizing, the mystery is fascinating, and the characters are enchanting.

Digging Up Danger by Jaqueline West, illustrated by Hatem Aly
Read the mystery story that also teaches you specific writing techniques about writing a mystery story. The plot is about a ghost-loving girl named Eliza whose mom is a strange plant expert. They’ve moved to a mysterious plant shop where something very creepy is happening! While you read, you’re prompted to flip to the back to learn about writing a spooky setting, using figurative language, creating a culprit, creating clues, and much more.


Kazu Jones and the Denver Dognappers by Shauna M. Holyoak
Kazuko is a likable, smart, and determined main character who loves investigating mysteries despite her mother’s rules. When dogs in her neighborhood go missing, Kazu and her best friend, March plus two more kids team up to find clues and follow leads. Things get dangerous when the police don’t believe them and they discover the warehouse where the dogs are being taken. I love this fast-paced mystery!

The Case of the Left-Handed Lady: An Enola Holmes Mystery (series) by Nancy Springer
MYSTERY series
This Sherlock series follows the detective adventures of Sherlock’s sister, Enola who I don’t think is the real name of his sister. But I love how Enola is an independent, smart detective in her own right. Delightful!

Minerva Keen’s Detective Club by James Patterson and Keir Graff
Has there ever been an exciting kid-appropriate murder mystery? Not often, that’s for sure! In this murder mystery story, amateur detective Minerva finds one person after another who has been poisoned! She is intent on helping the police detective solve the case, so she, her brother Heck, and her new school friend Santos investigate every possibility. It’s fast-paced, interesting, and engaging.

The Frame-Up by Wendy McLeod MacKnight, illustrated by Ian Schoenherr
Celebrating artwork, this magical realism mystery book reveals that paintings are alive. The Beaverbrook Gallery paintings have strict rules to prevent humans from discovering this truth. But Mona Dunn doesn’t always follow the rules, and she befriends the curator’s son Sargent, who is visiting his estranged father for the summer. Meanwhile, she and the other paintings wonder if the creepy art restorer is an art forger because something is suspicious. It’s an excellent, page-turning mystery with important themes about family, forgiveness, and friendship.

The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Diana Sudyka
MYSTERY series
9-year-old Nicholas Benedict, a genius orphan with narcolepsy, lives in a poorly run orphanage where he’s maltreated and bullied. In this popular middle grade prequel to the series, Nicholas discovers there’s a treasure somewhere in the orphanage. While he and his friend search, he finds a way to improve life for all the kids living there. (There is also a show adaptation of this book.)

Jada Sly, Artist & Spy by Sherri Winston 
I liked this well-plotted mystery and think your readers will, too– the writing is great and the story is engaging. Jada has recently moved from France back to New York City after her Mama’s plane crashed 6 months before. But Jada still thinks her mom’s alive, which makes her father think that Jada is not accepting reality. What her father doesn’t know is there’s been a man following Jada and she has actually seen her mom. She thinks. What is going on?


100 Best Books for 6th Graders (Age 11 – 12) ZOE WASHINGTON

From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks
On her 12th birthday, Zoe, a girl who loves to bake, discovers a hidden letter to her from her incarcerated biological father, Marcus. She writes him back and Marcus tells Zoe that he’s innocent and he can prove it. Zoe enlists the help of her Grandma and her best friend, Trevor. You won’t be able to put down this winsome story with a heroine you can’t help but adore, a story that illuminates social justice with themes of family, friendship, and love.

100 Best Books for 6th Graders (Age 11 – 12)

Starfish by Lisa Fipps
Heartbreaking and inspiring, this poignant story in verse shows a girl who learns, after years of fat-shaming and bullying, to define herself not based on what others say but on who she really is. Ellie’s nickname is Splash because of her size, but Ellie loves swimming; it’s her safe escape where she feels the most comfortable. Her biggest bully is her mother–who won’t buy her new clothes because she thinks it encourages Ellie’s weight gain and is pushing for gastro-bypass surgery. Not even Ellie’s dad stands up to her mom’s cruel treatment of Ellie. Fortunately, Ellie finds an understanding therapist who helps her move from powerless to powerful. 

Restart by Gordon Korman
After a bad fall, Chase has no memory of who he is or was. But he soon realizes that he used to be a cruel troublemaker. Now that he has a second chance, he can decide who he’ll be with his fresh slate. Because he’s enjoying his new life in the film club and the new (“nerdy”) friends he’s made, and doesn’t really want to go back to his old self. This thought-provoking novel shows that who we are is a choice.

100 Best Books for 6th Graders (Age 11 – 12) PIPPA PARK

Pippa Park Raises Her Game by Erin Yun
Korean American basketball-loving Pippa uses a new school to reinvent herself, hiding her background from the popular kids. In a satisfying ending with valuable life lessons, Pippa decides not to be ashamed of her working-class family, her culture, or her friends. Girl readers, in particular, will be able to relate to the social hierarchy of middle school and the temptation to change yourself to suit others.

Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams
Don’t miss this important story about self-worth, beauty, and colorism. Genesis hates that her skin is so dark; she knows her grandma and father hate that about her, too. In her self-loathing, she believes that if only she were lighter-skinned, she’d be pretty and have all the things that go along with being pretty. In this coming-of-age story, Genesis finds her voice both literally and metaphorically. It will start the conversation about who defines beauty and how we can do better individually and as a society.


Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling
Aven Green makes up creative stories about why she doesn’t have any arms. Especially now in Arizona where her parents are the new managers at a rundown theme park. She befriends a boy at school who, like her, feels different and isolated from the other kids. His name is Connor and he has Tourette Syndrome. Together, he, another new friend named Zion, and Aven investigate a mysterious storage shed at the theme park, which leads them to a mystery involving Aven’s past. 

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Because this is written in verse, this is a fast read but packs a big punch. Basketball player and twin Josh narrates his life in quarters, just like the game he plays. He writes about missing his twin when his twin, Jordan, gets a girlfriend; about getting in trouble when he hits Jordan in the face with a basketball; and about watching his father as his heart fails. This is a coming-of-age, gripping story about a boy who is just trying to figure out life like most boys at age 12.

Planet Earth is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos
Nova is autistic and nonverbal, in this sad book she writes verbal letters to her runaway big sister, Bridget, telling Bridget everything since the two were separated. Nova holds fast to Bridget’s promise that she will come back to Nova for the Challenger launch. But the launch comes and goes. And Nova will have to face the truth about her older sister… And it will make you cry like a baby. Beautiful, gifted storytelling.

100 Best Books for 6th Graders (Age 11 – 12)

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser
Like The Penderwicks, you’ll fall in love with this quirky, wonderful family. The Vanderbeekers’ landlord wants them out by the end of December, but the Vanderbeeker kids are determined to change his mind, even though he hates noise, kids, and their family. But it’s almost Christmas, and their efforts are only making things worse. What will they do? Charming and heart-warming.

House Arrest by K.A. Holt
Timothy is under house arrest for the next year, living with a brother who needs constant medical care. Part of his year-long punishment is to meet with a probation officer, meet with a therapist, and write in a journal which is the book we’re reading. When his little brother gets assigned an abusive new nurse, Timothy feels like even if he gets thrown in juvie, he must do something drastic to help his brother. Written in poetic verse, this book speeds along and pulls your heart along with it.


A Tale of Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz 
SCARY series
A Tale of Dark and Grimm is a dark and macabre, imaginative story that weaves Hansel and Gretel’s story with eight more Grimm stories. In this story, Hansel and Gretel have cursed parents. The children flee their terrible parents to find better ones – ones that won’t try to kill them. The narrator, a strong, quirky voice, warns us of the bloody things to come. It’s scary with a big dose of dark humor and horror.

Lockwood and Co.: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud
Dangerous ghosts and spirits are appearing everywhere in London, but only certain kids can see and eradicate them. Teens Lucy, Anthony, and George badly need money for their ghost-hunting agency, Lockwood & Co., so they take a perilous job that, if the ghosts have their way, may just be their last. EXCELLENT writing & series.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman 
This book showcases Gaiman’s incredible storytelling ability. It’s about a girl, Coraline, who discovers an alternative reality identical to her own — same house, same mother and father — through a little door in her house. It’s a world that at first seems wonderful, yet it becomes frightening when Coraline realizes she might not get to leave. Very creepy. (With a real haunted house!)

Nightmares! by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller, illustrated by Karl Kwasny 
SCARY series
Charlie’s dad has remarried and moved Charlie and his younger brother into the stepmother’s frightening purple mansion. There, Charlie begins to have horrible nightmares that become real. The nightmare witches enter the real world to steal Charlie’s brother. Charlie follows. He and his friends must learn to face their fears to save Charlie and the world.

Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn
Well-written and scary! Molly and Michael’s new step-sister Heather befriend a sinister ghost-child named Helen, but Helen influences Heather to malevolent ends. Building in suspense little by little, readers will be freaked out by her creepy warnings that when Helen comes, they will get what they deserve…YIKES!

Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty
SCARY series
This book is super creepy! Serafina’s pa works at the large Biltmore Estate, where they also live in the basement. Serafina, used to blending into the shadows, watches the goings-on at the Estate and realizes something very sinister is happening. Children are going missing. And she thinks it has to do with the man in the black cloak wandering the hallways. She and her new friend, Braeden Vanderbilt, team up to discover what’s going on before more children disappear.

Eerie Tales from the School of Screams by Graham Annable
First of all, the artwork throughout this graphic novel is genius, with a black, gray, and red palette and expressive characters. I also loved the big type size with strong dialogue bubble lines! The students in this teacher’s classroom share eerie stories, the creepier, the better. The stories are spooky but not terrifying, and the entire book is mesmerizing from cover to cover. Loved it!

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark retold by Alvin Schwartz, illustrated by Stephen Gammell
This book was the MOST tattered book in my classroom library. Kids LOVED it. The short scary stories for kids are very readable for most children. You can skip around or read it cover to cover. If you like creepy and scary, this is a great choice.

The Griffins of Castle Cary by Heather Shumaker
Siblings Meg, Will, and Ariel visit their aunt in England and end up on a ghost-hunting adventure. Meg and Will look for information on a famous ghostly mother searching eternally for her missing child. They’ll find her, but the bigger problem is with their little sister, Ariel. Because Ariel becomes enraptured with a real ghost child who has nefarious purposes. Well-written, action-packed, and spooky!


Science Fiction & Dystopian

Trapped in a Video Game by Dustin Brady, illustrated by Brady Jessee 
Gamers and non-gamers alike who love exciting and dangerous stories won’t want to miss this excellent action-packed series. Jesse’s friend gets an early release of a video game — and it sucks both boys into the game. Inside the game, they meet a classmate who has been missing for weeks and is now a grown-up man in the game. They’re all trapped with no escape possible.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
I’ve read this sci-fi time travel book so many times, I can’t count — many times with my classes as a read aloud — and every time it’s just as fantastic. (That doesn’t always happen with books.) A Wrinkle in Time is a remarkable, well-written adventure in space that deals with the overarching theme of good vs. evil. Meg and her brother, Charles Wallace, and friend, Calvin, set off to find her scientist father who disappeared while researching tesseracts.

The Last Gate of the Emperor by Kwame Mbalia and Prince Joel Makonnen 
Yared’s Uncle Moti moves them around frequently, so when Yared gives his real name during an augmented reality game, he doesn’t think the soldiers that arrive are after him. But they are. And everything he believed about his life turns out to be a lie…including his identity. Yared partners with another game player, the Ibis, to escape the troops and the giant monster and find the truth. The two clever, quick-witted kids face incredible danger, insurmountable odds, and a galaxy-spanning war but Yared has been trained for this and he is ready to fight. Set in a futuristic Ethiopian empire, this exciting adventure grabs your interest and keeps it through wild twists and turns that feature heroic main characters!

Masterminds by Gordon Korman
My kids and I highly recommend this science fiction book series! Eli and his friends discover that his “father” is the leader of a group of scientists who are using the town and some of the kids in a secret and unapproved science experiment–cloned kids from evil masterminds. Will the kids escape, and will they be more than their DNA?

Jinxed by Amy McCulloch 
In this evolved society, the tech company MONCHA makes computerized pets called bakus that act like smartphones and computers. Lacey finds an unusual, half-destroyed cat baku and rebuilds it using a 3D printer and found parts. When her baku Jinx starts to work, he’s noticeably different than the other bakus– he can speak into her mind and think for himself! So when she starts competing with other kids at her prestigious school in the battle of the bakus, Jinx doesn’t follow the rules which lead to his capture and the discovery of a sinister truth about MONCHA. Fantastic, fast-paced, and thought-provoking.

Edge of Extinction The Ark Plan by Laura Martin 
Action and excitement from the first page! This is a fantastic story about a dangerous world where cloned dinosaurs have taken over the world. Sky and her fellow humans live below ground in safety with “Noah” as their supreme ruler. When Sky discovers that her missing (maybe traitor?) father left her a secret note with cryptic instructions on how to be found, she decides to leave the underground city in order to find him. Barely outside a day, she and her friend Shawn are rescued from hungry dinosaurs by a boy who lives in a treetop enclave. Then, the boy’s enclave is attacked by Noah’s soldiers looking for her and Sky realizes that everything she believed about Noah is wrong. But can she escape the soldiers that are following her every move?

Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordan
Get ready for action, intrigue, plot twists, and super-cool technology! Ana’s freshman class at her specialized marine and naval academy are the only survivors when the academy is blown up. As the class races to board their field trip ship, their chaperone reveals several essential secrets…Jule Verne’s novels based on Captain Nemo are mostly true, Ana’s the only surviving relative of Captain Nemo, and they will be attacked by the land school if they don’t get to safety immediately.

Area 51 Interns: Alien Summer by James S. Murray and Carsen Smith
It’s the first day of summer vacation and Viv and her friends’ parents are “taking their kids to work”–at Area 51. It starts off boring and touristy but when aliens escape from their cells, the kids see the real facility and watch as the adults get captured by aliens. Viv and her friends must find a way to get to the alien ship and save their parents and other kids. It’s an exciting, fast-paced, kids-as-heroes alien adventure with a big twist…

The Giver by Lois Lowry 
Set in a dystopian society, this Newbery medal winner grabs your attention and keeps it until the end. What is going on in this community? When Jonas is assigned his job as “Receiver of Memory” he learns just how much his hidden and controlled. Now, he’ll have to decide just what he’ll do with this horrifying information.

Sanity & Tallulah by Molly Brooks
Sanity and Tallulah are two good friends who live on a space station. Sanity is a brilliant inventor — but her newest (illegal) creation, a three-headed kitten named Princess Destroyer of Worlds has escaped and is living up to her name — destroyer. The friends look for their missing kitten but instead discover a big problem that will destroy the space station only it’s not caused by the kitten. While the station is evacuated, the friends work hard to stop the duct weasels and the engine from overheating. I love the space station setting, the super-smart problem-solving main characters, and the non-stop action.

5 Worlds: The Sand Warrior by Mark Siegel, Alexis Siegel, Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, and Boya Sun
Gorgeous artwork sets the tone for an otherworldly graphic novel story. The five worlds are falling into chaos. When one world attacks another, Oona Lee, a girl who is a sand dancer, rescues two boys and the three work together to light the unlit Beacons and save the worlds. But, they face a dark force that comes with a devastating betrayal.

100 best books for kids ages 9 to 12