Books for your 8-12 year olds

Last week’s post on children’s books spurred some great discussion on Facebook about my recommendations for children’s books. As much as I love-hate all the memes going around, whether they’re asking me to list my top ten books (only 10?!) or challenging me to surpass the BBC’s assumptions about how many books I’ve read from the canon (trust me, it’s more than 6), anything asking me to provide a finite list proves a great challenge.

That’s because I’m obsessive when it comes to reading. Take a look at my Goodreads account and you’ll see that I’m genre-promiscuous. I’ve read the complete works of Shakespeare, but I also (re)read Twilight and *gasp* thought it was a great story. I read fiction for very young children like Neil Gaiman’s sweet Remember the Milk and at the same time, I really enjoy a meaty piece of literary or historical fiction like Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch or Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall.

Right now, though, I’m writing middle grade fiction (for readers aged 8-12), so I’ll start there. First, my sacred list of classics for this age group. There are many classics not on this list, but these particular ones are my favorites from when I was a child:

  • The Chronicles of Narnia
  • The Chronicles of Prydain (most people know The Black Cauldron from this series)
  • The Hobbit
  • My Side of the Mountain
  • Indian in the Cupboard
  • The Black Stallion series
  • Black Beauty
  • White Fang/Call of the Wild
  • Watership Down
  • The Time Quintet (Wrinkle in Time)
  • From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiller
  • Everything by Roald Dahl, Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary

My discerning readers instantly recognized that I favor fantasy in this list. It’s not just because my son and I both love anything with magic in it. It’s because this is the age when a child really will try to get to Narnia through the coat closet or will put their minifigures in the cupboard over and over again willing them to come to life. It’s REAL to them and all too soon it won’t be anymore. Cherish this age. And relive it with them.

That said, I steer the kids clear of some of the really popular, yet formulaic, children’s series that are out there right now. In part because I hate reading them out loud and in part because there are so many other more original titles out there. If you’re sick of Diary of a Wimpy Kid or the Daisy Meadows Princess Fairy books, check out the list of Newbery Medal winners. You’ll likely find something you wouldn’t mind reading with your children.

Now for some more recent books destined for the classics list:

  • Harry Potter (can hardly blog about this age group without mentioning it, now can I?)
  • Tales of Despereaux, Because of Winn-Dixie, and anything else by the fabulous Kate diCamillo
  • Michael Morpurgo’s retellings of Beowulf and King Arthur
  • The Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix
  • Standard Hero Behavior, Sidekicked and the soon-to-be-released Minion, fabulous super-hero books by John David Anderson (shameless plug for an old friend, but these books really are top-notch!)
  • Magic Thief and Moonkind series by Sarah Prineas
  • Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles (even better than Percy Jackson!)

But don’t just take my word for it. Goodreads, The New York Times, and Kirkus Reviews all keep regularly-updated lists of the top-selling books for children.

So now you tell me, what favorites did I forget? I’m always on the lookout for new books for Gabriel (and for me!).

3 thoughts on “Books for your 8-12 year olds

  1. I can’t believe I left Hatchet off the list! Gabriel loved it so much that he made me read it. Definitely a classic! Will check out Winter Dance too. I haven’t been able to entice G to read Twain yet, but I’m not giving up yet (he’s only 9!). He found the dialect really difficult, even with me reading Tom Sawyer to him.

    Thanks for the link, Kayris. Another great list of books including a few new ones I’d like to add to my To Read list!

  2. Geoff says:

    A great list and I agree, but some for additional titles for your consideration.

    Some great reads for the 10-12 year olds, generally boys, and a little more obscure. However, the books are by Gary Paulson:

    Hatchet Series… It is not a horror, but more a story about a boys adventure in the wild with a hatchet/axe. A great fast paced read, and set in the North American Wilderness.

    Winter Dance. The Fine Madness of Alaskan Sled Dog Racing… Don’t let the title put you off, but in this autobiographical story, if your son likes animals and especially dogs, it is a fantastic read, and a little more obscure.

    Also there are the good stories by Mark Twain: Huckleberry Finn and Tow Sawyer, enjoyable reading for everyone, a real boys adventure.

    Also if you like the fantasy genre; Terry Brooks ‘Landover Series’ is great for young readers, probably in the 11-12 bracket, and if they enjoy that reading, opens up the Shannara series as an option as they get older.

    Just some thoughts.

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