Are you trying to find books for your elementary age or middle school age reader who reads at a high school level? It’s tricky! Because it’s important to find a book that is both challenging but also age-appropriate.
Here’s a list of books that are above a 1000 Lexile Measure and appropriate for young advanced readers. All books listed are at a reading level above Lexile 1000. (I used various websites to verify.) This number, the Lexile Measure, indicates the text complexity, more or less. Generally speaking, books that are above 1000 are around upper middle school to high school reading level.
Challenging Books for Young Advanced Readers
I’ve split up these high level books into genre classifications so that your readers can find their favorites.
- fantasy / sci-fi
- historical fiction
- memoir, biographies, and nonfiction
Fantasy and Sci-Fi
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
The classic Tolkien from which everything begins . . . it’s wordy and descriptive and wonderful. Epic fantasy stories weave together a world of magical creatures where evil is threatening the land. The writing is complex, detailed, and intense.
Outcast of Redwall by Brian Jacques
If you like epic fantasy adventures, this is the series for you.
From The Publisher: Abandoned as an infant by his father, the evil warlord Swartt Sixclaw, Veil is raised by the kindhearted Bryony. Despite concerns from everyone at Redwall, Bryony is convinced that Veil’s goodness will prevail. But when he commits a crime that is unforgivable, he is banished from the abbey forever. Then Swartt and his hordes of searats and vermin attack Redwall, and Veil has to decide: Should he join Swartt in battle against the only creature who has ever loved him? Or should he turn his back on his true father?
Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
A great girl-power novel.
From The Publisher: Although she is the daughter of Damar’s king, Aerin has never been accepted as full royalty. Both in and out of the royal court, people whisper the story of her mother, the witchwoman, who was said to have enspelled the king into marrying her to get an heir to rule Damar-then died of despair when she found she had borne a daughter instead of a son. But none of them, not even Aerin herself, can predict her future-for she is to be the true hero who will wield the power of the Blue Sword…
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
This book was my all-time favorite in high school! It’s science-fiction canon.
From The Publisher: Douglas Adams’s mega-selling pop-culture classic sends logic into orbit, plays havoc with both time and physics, offers up pithy commentary on such things as ballpoint pens, potted plants, and digital watches . . . and, most important, reveals the ultimate answer to life, the universe, and everything. Now, if you could only figure out the question. . . .
Sabriel by Garth Nix
Teens love this book, and so do I. You need to know that it’s about a necromancer so decide if her personal relationship with death and other themes may be too advanced for younger readers. It depends on the reader!
From The Publisher: Sent to a boarding school in Ancelstierre as a young child, Sabriel has had little experience with the random power of Free Magic or the Dead who refuse to stay dead in the Old Kingdom. But during her final semester, her father, the Abhorsen, goes missing, and Sabriel knows she must enter the Old Kingdom to find him. She soon finds companions in Mogget, a cat whose aloof manner barely conceals its malevolent spirit, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage long imprisoned by magic, now free in body but still trapped by painful memories.
As the three travel deep into the Old Kingdom, threats mount on all sides. And every step brings them closer to a battle that will pit them against the true forces of life and death—and bring Sabriel face-to-face with her own destiny.
Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
From The Publisher: Ged was the greatest sorcerer in Earthsea, but in his youth, he was the reckless Sparrowhawk. In his hunger for power and knowledge, he tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tumultuous tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death’s threshold to restore balance.
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
From The Publisher: Lyra is rushing to the cold, far North, where witch clans and armored bears rule. North, where the Gobblers take the children they steal–including her friend Roger. North, where her fearsome uncle Asriel is trying to build a bridge to a parallel world. Can one small girl make a difference in such great and terrible endeavors? This is Lyra: a savage, a schemer, a liar, and as fierce and true a champion as Roger or Asriel could want. But what Lyra doesn’t know is that to help one of them will be to betray the other.
Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
From The Publisher: Never before have Muggles been privy to these richly imaginative tales: “The Wizard and the Hopping Pot,” “The Fountain of Fair Fortune,” “The Warlock’s Hairy Heart,” “Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump,” and of course “The Tale of the Three Brothers.” But not only are they the equal of fairy tales we now know and love, reading them gives new insight into the world of Harry Potter.
The Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum
From The Publisher: Dorothy, her little dog Toto, the Tin Woodman, Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion will charm boys and girls of today as much as they delighted children nearly a century ago as they set out on an exciting quest for the elusive Wizard of Oz. Along the way, they’ll encounter the Wicked Witch of the West, the fantastic Winged Monkeys, the Queen of the Field Mice, the kind-hearted Munchkins, and other fanciful creatures.
Power of One by Bryce Courtenay
From The Publisher: In 1939, as Hitler casts his enormous, cruel shadow across the world, the seeds of apartheid take root in South Africa. There, a boy called Peekay is born. His childhood is marked by humiliation and abandonment, yet he vows to survive and conceives heroic dreams–which are nothing compared to what life actually has in store for him. He embarks on an epic journey through a land of tribal superstition and modern prejudice where he will learn the power of words, the power to transform lives, and the power of one.
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt
From The Publisher: It only takes a few hours for Turner Buckminster to start hating Phippsburg, Maine. No one in town will let him forget that he’s a minister’s son, even if he doesn’t act like one. But then he meets Lizzie Bright Griffin, a smart and sassy girl from a poor nearby island community founded by former slaves. Despite his father’s-and the town’s-disapproval of their friendship, Turner spends time with Lizzie, and it opens up a whole new world to him, filled with the mystery and wonder of Maine’s rocky coast. The two soon discover that the town elders, along with Turner’s father, want to force the people to leave Lizzie’s island so that Phippsburg can start a lucrative tourist trade there. Turner gets caught up in a spiral of disasters that alter his life but also lead him to new levels of acceptance and maturity. This sensitively written historical novel, based on the true story of a community’s destruction, highlights a unique friendship during a time of change.
Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
From The Publisher: Eleven-year-old Elijah lives in Buxton, Canada, a settlement of runaway slaves near the American border. Elijah’s the first child in town to be born free, and he ought to be famous just for that — not to mention for being the best at chunking rocks and catching fish. Unfortunately, all that most people see is a “fra-gile” boy who’s scared of snakes and tends to talk too much. But everything changes when a former slave steals money from Elijah’s friend, who has been saving to buy his family out of captivity in the South. Now it’s up to Elijah to track down the thief — and his dangerous journey just might make a hero out of him, if only he can find the courage to get back home.
Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman
From The Publisher: The girl known only as Brat has no family, no home, and no future until she meets Jane the Midwife and becomes her apprentice. As she helps the sharp-tempered Jane deliver babies, Brat–who renames herself Alyce–gains knowledge, confidence, and the courage to want something from life: “A full belly, a contented heart, and a place in this world.” Medieval village life makes a lively backdrop for the funny, poignant story of how Alyce gets what she wants. A concluding note discusses midwifery past and present.
Rascal by Sterling North
From The Publisher: Rascal is only a baby when young Sterling brings him home. He and the mischievous raccoon are best friends for a perfect year of adventure—until the spring day when everything suddenly changes.
The Princess Bride by Barry Denberg
From The Publisher: Rich in character and satire, the novel is set in 1941 and framed cleverly as an “abridged” retelling of a centuries-old tale set in the fabled country of Florin that’s home to “Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passions.”
War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
From The Publisher: It is 1914, and Joey, a farm horse, is sold to the army and thrust into the midst of World War I on the Western Front. When Joey is dragged away, his heart aches for Albert, the farmer’s son he is forced to leave behind.In the army the beautiful red-bay horse is trained to charge the enemy, drag heavy artillery, and carry wounded soldiers not much older than Albert off the battlefields. Amongst the clamoring of guns, and while plodding through the cold mud, Joey wonders if the war will ever end. And if it does, will he ever find Albert again?
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
From The Publisher: Here, in the early 1800s, according to history, an Indian girl spent eighteen years alone, and this beautifully written novel is her story. It is a romantic adventure filled with drama and heartache, for not only was mere subsistence on so desolate a spot a near miracle, but Karana had to contend with the ferocious pack of wild dogs that had killed her younger brother, constantly guard against the Aleutian sea otter hunters, and maintain a precarious food supply. More than this, it is an adventure of the spirit that will haunt the reader long after the book has been put down. Karana’s quiet courage, her Indian self-reliance and acceptance of fate, transform what to many would have been a devastating ordeal into an uplifting experience. From loneliness and terror come strength and serenity in this Newbery Medal-winning classic.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
From The Publisher: Berlin, 1942: When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move to a new house far, far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people in the distance. But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different from his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.
The Eagle (The Roman Britan Trilogy) by Rosemary Stucliff
From The Publisher: The Ninth Legion marched into the mists of Northern Britain―and they were never seen again. Thousands of men disappeared and their eagle standard was lost. It’s a mystery that’s never been solved, until now . . .
Marcus has to find out what happened to his father, who led the legion. So he sets out into the unknown, on a quest so dangerous that nobody expects him to return.
Mystery & Adventure
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
After his plane crashes in the woods, Brian is stranded in the Canadian wilderness with only a hatchet. His journey of survival is incredible and will captivate readers.
The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan: An Enola Holmes Mystery by Nancy Springer
Sherlock’s sister hones her detective skills in these historical mysteries.
The Egypt Game by Zilpha Neatly Snyder
From The Publisher: The first time Melanie Ross meets April Hall, she’s not sure they have anything in common. But she soon discovers that they both love anything to do with ancient Egypt. When they stumble upon a deserted storage yard, Melanie and April decide it’s the perfect spot for the Egypt Game. Before long there are six Egyptians, and they all meet to wear costumes, hold ceremonies, and work on their secret code. Everyone thinks it’s just a game until strange things start happening. Has the Egypt Game gone too far?
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
From The Publisher: Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, is a novel written by English author Mary Shelley about eccentric scientist Victor Frankenstein, who creates a grotesque creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
From The Publisher: Grown-up Meg, tomboyish Jo, timid Beth, and precocious Amy. The four March sisters couldn’t be more different. But with their father away at war, and their mother working to support the family, they have to rely on one another. Whether they’re putting on a play, forming a secret society, or celebrating Christmas, there’s one thing they can’t help wondering: Will Father return home safely?
Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss
From The Publisher: Following a wild and raging storm, the Swiss family Robinson are stranded at sea. But the thundering waves have swept them off to a tropical island, where a new life awaits them. Their ship is laden with supplies and the island is packed with treasures, so they soon adapt and discover new dangers and delights every day . . .
Dracula by Bram Stoker
From The Publisher: During a business visit to Count Dracula’s castle in Transylvania, a young English solicitor finds himself at the center of a series of horrifying incidents. Jonathan Harker is attacked by three phantom women, observes the Count’s transformation from human to bat form, and discovers puncture wounds on his own neck that seem to have been made by teeth. Harker returns home upon his escape from Dracula’s grim fortress, but a friend’s strange malady — involving sleepwalking, inexplicable blood loss, and mysterious throat wounds — initiates a frantic vampire hunt.
Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
From The Publisher: The tales in the book (and also those in The Second Jungle Book which followed in 1895, and which includes five further stories about Mowgli) are fables, using animals in an anthropomorphic manner to give moral lessons. The verses of The Law of the Jungle, for example, lay down rules for the safety of individuals, families and communities. Kipling put in them nearly everything he knew or “heard or dreamed about the Indian jungle.” Other readers have interpreted the work as allegories of the politics and society of the time. The best-known of them are the three stories revolving around the adventures of an abandoned “man cub” Mowgli who is raised by wolves in the Indian jungle. The most famous of the other stories are probably “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi”, the story of a heroic mongoose, and “Toomai of the Elephants”, the tale of a young elephant-handler.
Anne of Green Gables by L.M Montgomery
From The Publisher: When the Cuthberts send to an orphanage for a boy to help them at Green Gables, their farm in Canada, they are astonished when a talkative little girl steps off the train. Anne, red-headed, pugnacious and incurably romantic, causes chaos at Green Gables and in the village. But her wit and good nature endears her to the residents.
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
From The Publisher: Set in the eighteenth century, Treasure Island spins a heady tale of piracy, a mysterious treasure map, and a host of sinister characters charged with diabolical intentions. Seen through the eyes of Jim Hawkins, the cabin boy of the Hispaniola, the action-packed adventure tells of a perilous sea journey across the Spanish Main, a mutiny led by the infamous Long John Silver, and a lethal scramble for buried treasure on an exotic isle.
Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
From The Publisher: Venture back in time to Victorian London to join literature’s greatest detective team — the brilliant Sherlock Holmes and his devoted assistant, Dr. Watson — as they investigate a dozen of their best-known cases.
Story of King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pyle
From The Publisher: The legendary adventures of King Arthur, his Knights of the Table Round, and the court of Camelot come to life in a lively and accessible retelling by Howard Pyle.
Call of the Wild by Jack London
From The Publisher: The story is set in the Yukon during the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush—a period when strong sled dogs were in high demand. The novel’s central character is a dog named Buck, a domesticated dog living at a ranch in the Santa Clara valley of California as the story opens. Stolen from his home and sold into the brutal existence of an Alaskan sled dog, he reverts to atavistic traits. Buck is forced to adjust to, and survive, cruel treatments and fight to dominate other dogs in a harsh climate. Eventually he sheds the veneer of civilization, relying on primordial instincts and lessons he learns, to emerge as a leader in the wild.
Wind in the Willows by K. Grahame
From The Publisher: Alternately slow moving and fast paced, it focuses on four anthropomorphised animals in a pastoral version of England. The novel is notable for its mixture of mysticism, adventure, morality, and camaraderie and celebrated for its evocation of the nature of the Thames valley.
The Incredible Journey by Shelia Branford
From The Publisher: An inquisitive Labrador retriever, friendly bull terrier, and courageous Siamese cat set out through the Canadian wilderness to find their owner in this truly “incredible” adventure. Instinct tells them that the way home lies to the west and together the three house pets face hunger, the natural elements, and wild forest animals as they make their way home to the family they love.
Memoirs, Biographies, and Nonfiction
I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Young Readers Edition) by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick
Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team by Steve Sheinkin BIOGRAPHY
You don’t have to be a football fan to be mesmerized by this incredible underdog story of grit with the history of football as a backdrop. You don’t really know the history of football until you’ve read the history of Carlisle Indian School and Jim Thorpe. Did you know that a whole team played on the field all at once? Or that a president had to intervene because there were so many deaths from head injuries with no helmets? Jim Thorpe was clearly one of the greatest athletes in the world of all time, and his life wasn’t what you would ever have expected. Steve Sheinkin is one of the best writers you’ll read. The way he put together this book, which facts and how he told the story, is masterful. A must-read!
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
After Louis Zaperini’s WWII plane goes down in the open ocean — he’s starving, adrift, and prey to enemy planes. His triumphant survival is nothing short of incredible. You’ll be amazed and inspired at his incredible true story.
Hidden Figures (Young Readers’ Edition) by Margot Lee Shetterly
Bomb: The Race to Build –and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
Another knock-out nonfiction book from the talented Steve Sheinkin! I’m so impressed by how Sheinkin makes this story come ALIVE like it’s an adventure/mystery/thriller and not real life and true. Well, they do say truth is stranger than fiction. But usually, it’s written like it’s duller than dirt. This book is a great exception — mesmerizing. I wasn’t even interested in the topic until I started reading.
Untamed The Wild Life of Jane Goodall by Anita Silvey, forward by Jane Goodall
This is not your average biography for kids with small font and ugly black and white photos. No, it’s so much better! Untamed is an excellent depiction of Jane Goodall’s life with kid-friendly language using kid-appealing layouts of colorful photos. Interesting insets throughout describe tips for kids and information such as sign language. I love the Gombe Family Scrapbook at the end with some of the significant chimps in Jane’s life. I also found it really interesting to learn how this English girl read about Africa as a child and fell in love with it.
Dog Who Wouldn’t Be by Farley Mowat
From The Publisher: Mutt’s pedigree was uncertain, but his madness was indisputable. He climbed tress and ladders, rode passenger in an open car wearing goggles and displaying hunting skills that bordered on sheer genius. He was a marvelous dog, worthy of an unusual boy growing up a raw, untamed wilderness.
All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot
From The Publisher: All Things Bright and Beautiful is the beloved sequel to Herriot’s first collection, All Creatures Great and Small, and picks up as Herriot, now newly married, journeys among the remote hillside farms and valley towns of the Yorkshire Dales, caring for their inhabitants—both two- and four-legged. Throughout, Herriot’s deep compassion, humor, and love of life shine out as we laugh, cry, and delight in his portraits of his many, varied animal patients and their equally varied owners.
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