I Need Some Help


Oh, hey- I’m still alive.

I need a big favor. I have a couple friends who now have daughters ages 9-12, and I am trying to help their parents (my friends) find age appropriate books for them all. When I was a kid, my mother, an English Prof (so you know she cringes when she sees my typos and comma splices and run-on sentences that are basically a staple of this website), on top of teaching grammar and composition courses, also taught sports lit and adolescent literature. As the oldest kid, I was the clear beneficiary, because I read the entire Madeleine L’Engle collection by 10ish, the Chronicles of Narnia series by age 11, had the Hobbit under my belt by age 12, and by age 14 was working on the Thomas Covenant series by Stephen R. Donaldson. Age 14 was also when I found Richard Brautigan and Bloom County and all the other things I treasure to this day still.

But in the interim, between those years, I also read every book mom brought home or I picked up from the public library van that came through town every now and then. I am probably the only male at that time to ever read every single Judy Blume novel, and when I was 12 I was convinced that My Darling, My Hamburger was the filthiest thing I had ever seen in print. But I read them all. The Pigman, the Chocolate Wars, all the SE Hinton novels, Bang the Drum Slowly, etc. I read so many books my mom gave me that it changed me for life.

So here is what I am asking from you- help me change these young women’s lives. Help me compile a list of books for them to read. Of course, things have changed in the past twenty years since I was reading the adolescent lit books, so updates would be welcome. But I would love it if you all could add your suggestions so I can buy these young women some books that will change them forever.

Thanks in advance. Also too, Brian’s Song will make me cry every time. And yes, I had the best mother ever. She gave me all these books, played classical music and operas so I grew to love them (die Zauberflote is still my favorite with Rigoletto and Carmen a close second, and yes, Pavarotti was the king of the high C’s), she made me listen to Buddy Holly and the Mama’s and the Papa’s, and yes, at least once every two months, we listened to an LP of the announcers announcing the greatest game ever played, the Colts vs. the Giants.

I grew up right.

319 replies
  1. 1
    Katie5 says:

    Hate to say it but girls love the Hunger Games books. Strong female character, not defined through most of the books by her love interests but by her ferocity.

  2. 2
    Kincade Webb says:

    Any and all books by Katherine Paterson are wonderful.

  3. 3
    Redshirt says:

    “Are you there God, it’s me, Margaret”.

    Changed my life.

  4. 4
    maurinsky says:

    To Kill A Mockingbird is a great book to read in that age range. I was about 12 when I read The World According to Garp, but I wouldn’t recommend giving that to most 12 year old girls (I borrowed it from the library). I was 12 in middle school, that’s when I read everything by Edgar Allen Poe and Stephen King, O.Henry (which are enjoyable when you’re 12 although they don’t really age well).

    I’ll have to ask my daughters what they liked in that age range. I think our girls were both in that age range when my ex read them The Lord of the Rings.

  5. 5
    esc says:

    Judy Blume’s Fudge books for the nine year old, if you were too old to have read them at the time. Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. Anne of Green Gables was high on my list at that age. Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching books.

  6. 6
    Tbone says:


  7. 7
    rikyrah says:

    gonna show my age, but go old school on them…

    Judy Blume

    Blume’s theme’s are timeless.

    I’d also suggest Ellen Emerson White’s series about a young girl whose mother is elected President of the United States and what she goes through – this is for the older girls.

    the series is

    The President’s Daughter
    White House Autumn
    Long Live the Queen
    Long May She Reign

    Belle by Beverly Jenkins-

  8. 8
    PsiFighter37 says:

    I’ve heard that young ladies do like the Twilight books.

    On a more serious note – what about stuff like Nancy Drew, Boxcar Chlidren – things like that? I would say that’s probably toward the younger end of the range, but they’re good for developing general interest in reading. For something a little deeper that kids can handle, I’d suggest ‘The Giver’.

  9. 9
    Grins says:

    The Golden Compass (actually the “His Dark Materials” trilogy), by Phillip Pullman

  10. 10
    Steeplejack says:


    I say let ’em read those books. My father used to say that as long as we kids were reading our taste would inevitably improve. He wanted us to read and denied us nothing. He did suffer through a lot of my reading him “hilarious” snippets from Mad magazine.

  11. 11
    w3ski says:

    At preteen my Father gave me the “Tao” to read. As a 60 year old now, I would do the same for any youth.

  12. 12
    gnomedad says:

    The Adoration of Jenna Fox: near-future SF and bio-ethics.

  13. 13
    Grins says:

    and what about some Heinlein?

  14. 14
    Suffern ACE says:

    D. Manus Pinkwater novels are aimed toward the humor level of 10-12 year olds. Yobgorble and Lizard Music and the Hoboken Chicken Emergency were books I liked a lot.

  15. 15
    Helen says:

    “Wonder” by RJ Palacio. Unbelievable. Read it yourself; I did. And then I gave it to my 10 year old friend Megan who passed it on to her 8 year old sister Devon, and on and on it went between all their friends.

  16. 16
    Aimai says:

    A little princess
    The secret garden
    Moomintroll ( series written by Tove Jannson)
    Gregor the overlander (series written by the hunger games woman)
    Taash and the jesters
    The mermaids daughter ( greatest woman power book ever written)
    Tinker. and Wolf who rules by wen spencer
    Understood Betsy
    Little house on the prairie (original series)

  17. 17

    My niece was obsessed with The Warrior series at that age. Dozens of books about a minutely detailed world in which various tribes of intelligent cats struggle to coexist.

    She might be right at Harry Potter age, too.

  18. 18
    Redshirt says:

    @Grins: 9 year old girls are the prime Heinlein demo. They eat that “TNSTAAFL” shit right up.

  19. 19


    I was about 12 when I read The World According to Garp, but I wouldn’t recommend giving that to most 12 year old girls

    I was just thinking about A Prayer for Owen Meany. Read that at around 12 or so.

  20. 20
    Ed in NJ says:

    I have a 10 year old daughter.

    Off the top of my head, she’s read all Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, the Harry Potter books, all the Lemony Snickets (A Series of Unfortunate Events), the My Dumb Diary Series, the Ruby Redfort books.

    Editing to add that most of the books mentioned here are a difficult sell to today’s 10 year old girl. I’m just happy she reads anything, with all the Disney, cooking, fashion, reality shows she’s into, along with the Ipod, Xbox, etc. But she’s a straight A student. plays several sports, plays the violin, and takes dance classes, too, so I can’t really complain.

  21. 21
    rikyrah says:

    LMAO at the other Judy Blume Fans

    Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret
    Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great
    Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing
    Then Again, Maybe I Won’t
    Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself
    It’s Not the End of the World
    Forever (I think this is too much for the 12 year old..I don’t think I read it until 8th or 9th grade)

  22. 22
    esc says:

    Oh, and The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.

    I also loved the original Little House series, but it would definitely merit a discussion about racism as I recall.

  23. 23
    SixPlusOne says:

    Witch of Blackbird Pond
    Perilous Gard
    His Dark Materials
    Little princess
    Secret Garden
    Artemis Fowl

  24. 24
    Katie5 says:

    @Steeplejack: I agree. Read anything and everything, although I might draw the line at the Twilight series, with its heroine completely dependent on the desires of men. Girls need strong characters not girls who reinforce what the rest of media is telling them.

    I’d also recommend the books of Dianne Wynne Jones, for example Howl’s Moving Castle.

  25. 25
    Rachel in Portland says:

    The Gregor the Overlander series by Suzanne Collins (in addition to the Hunger Games)

    Megan Whalen Turner’s series The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, & A Conspiracy of Kings.

    Zilpha Keatley Snyder books-all of them.

  26. 26
    Gin & Tonic says:

    Pre-dates even your youth, but The Phantom Tollbooth changed my life around 11-12.

  27. 27
    rikyrah says:


    Are you there God, it’s me, Margaret”.

    Changed my life.

    I was 11, and it just spoke to me like nothing else.

  28. 28
    Porco rosso says:

    What about some nice Terry Pratchett?

    Garth Nix and the Abhorsen Trilogy?

    Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus books?

    The Foundling series by D.M. Cornish?

    What about a bunch o Miyazake Movies? Like Kiki’s Delivery Service and Spirited Away?

  29. 29
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    Being around girls and boys of said ages, I would recommend:

    Harry Potter
    Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events
    Hunger Games
    Percy Jackson
    Golden Compass and the rest of the His Dark Materials series (not for the younger one though)
    Heck – It’s a kids version of the the Inferno. they are currently on the 6th circle, Precocia.

  30. 30
    Aimai says:

    Forgot to say they might like everything by Tamora pierce. My now 14 and 16 year olds devoured those books and there are about thirty of them.

    A series of unfortunate events is good , too.

    Hermocqux tantamock ? Time waits for no mouse. That’s like a noir novel with mice.

    The rescuers by Marjorie sharp and the whole miss Bianca series.

    Whales on stilts–fabulous taped version needs to be listened to every summer. It’s a witty parody of all the juvenile novels from the hardy boys to nancy drew.

  31. 31
    John Cole says:

    @Gin & Tonic: I read that as a kid.

  32. 32
    rikyrah says:

    Give some CS Lewis

  33. 33
    Howard Beale IV says:

    The “Inuyahsa” manga series.

    Seriously. Kagome and Sango take no flack from their men.

  34. 34
    Aimai says:

    @Gin & Tonic: oh yes !! Great book!!

  35. 35
    Mike in NC says:

    Anything by Ayn Rand.

  36. 36
    gnomedad says:

    For nerds and other enjoyers of intellectual and linguistic play:
    The “Hitchhiker’s Guide” books
    The Cyberiad

  37. 37
    Katie5 says:

    @Redshirt: Heinlein wrote great juvenile sf. But he is really problematic for girl readers. Podkayne of Mars, which has the strongest female heroine, surrenders everything to her womanly instincts at the end.

  38. 38
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @John Cole: Everybody should.

  39. 39
    PsiFighter37 says:

    Based on the suggestions, I’m definitely far too removed from my youth (or others of that age) to be of any use. I do wonder how much kids these days read, what with the iPad and other ADHD-inducing electronics lying around nowadays. I can’t fathom how kids can pay attention to anything with all the distractions.

  40. 40
    PsiFighter37 says:

    @Mike in NC: Think John is looking for young adult books, not dead trees that induce naptime for young’uns.

  41. 41
    ruviana says:

    I am so old that a lot of the books referenced here came out when I was a young adult. I’d still endorse the Little House books with appropriate discussion about race and gender(they were written long ago) but I read the Edward Eager books when I was 9-11, wonderful books about magic but with funny twists; A Wrinkle in Time, probably still good, especially for girls, something after my time might be the Harriet the Spy books. They sound okay to me but I was really really old when they came out. Girls will tend to read about male characters–I certainly did–while it’s assumed boys won’t read about girls, so I suspect anything with interesting female characters is a go. As someone who read “Freddy the Pig” books and tons of Nancy Drew I won’t dis anyone who wants to read The Hunger Games series.

  42. 42
    Ed in NJ says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent):

    Forgot about the Percy Jackson books. My daughter liked them, as well as the followup Heroes of Olympus series. I was surprised she didn’t like the 39 Clues series, but that was too interactive for her, I guess.

  43. 43
    Emma says:

    The Mists of Avalon, The Little House Books, Mockingbird, Maya Angelou, Jane Austen, Jane Eyre, Roald Dahl for younger readers.

  44. 44
    Hann1bal says:

    I remember really enjoying the works of Cornelia Funke, a German author, when I was younger. She’s probably best known for the Inkheart series, about a father and a daughter who can read things into and out of books. She also wrote The Thief Lord, which is a wonderful book set in Venice, and Dragon Rider, which was a whole lot of fun. I know she’s come out with some more recent stuff, but those are the books of hers that I’ve read myself.

    Aside from that, if they don’t mind horses talking about feelings, they could do worse in the fantasy department than the Heralds of Valdemar series by Mercedes Lackey.

    (But at all costs, do not read Brave New World when you’re in middle school. I read my parents’ old paperback copy when I was 12 or 13, and it fucking scarred me for life.)

    Also, too: I almost hit submit before I remembered some of the great YA books that have come out recently. YA fantasy/SF is in a renaissance period right now, and some of them are pretty damn good. I’ll just go with two: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman for your fantasy types, particularly if they like dragons, and vN by Madeline Ashby, for your SF types, particularly if they like robots.

    Okay. I’ll shut up now.

  45. 45
    kcr says:


    I second Wonder. My 9 year old has read it three times and my mildly autistic 12 year old loves it.

  46. 46
    Shygetz says:

    Harry Potter, definitely. Also, my 9-year old daughter absolutely devoured the American Girl books. Historical fiction told from the POV of a girl her age. She just loved them.

  47. 47
    Ed in NJ says:


    By reading on Kindles, Nooks, and Ipads. My daughter actually reads on her Ipod before bed.

  48. 48
    jay Noble says:

    The Outsiders, Romeo and Juliet, Nancy Drew, Flowers for Algernon, A Separate Peace, Little Women, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Gulliver’s Travels

    Lemony Snicket, Edgar Allan Poe, Twain short stories, Jules Verne

    This may repeat a bit and some may be a little too advanced for this age group, but this is a list I compiled of lit that college professors seem to assume you have read before you step foot on campus
    The Bible
    1,001 Arabian Nights
    A Midsummer Night’s Dream
    Romeo & Juliet
    King Lear
    The Merchant of Venice
    Charles Dickens
    A Tale of Two Cities
    Oliver Twist
    A Christmas Carol
    David Copperfield
    Canterbury Tales
    Edgar Allen Poe
    The Raven
    Murders in the Rue Morgue
    The Tell Tale Heart
    The Cask of Amontillado
    Mark Twain
    Tom Sawyer
    Huckleberry Finn
    Ernest Hemingway
    The Old Man and the Sea
    For Whom the Bell Tolls
    A Farewell To Arms
    Jules Verne
    20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
    Around the World in 80 Days
    Journey to the Center of the Earth
    The Odyssey
    The Iliad
    John Steinbeck
    The Grapes of Wrath
    Of Mice and Men
    East of Eden
    Daniel Dafoe
    Robinson Crusoe
    Robert Louis Stevenson
    Treasure Island
    Jonathan Swift
    Gulliver’s Travels
    Jack London
    Call of the Wild
    White Fang
    Alexander Dumas
    The Count of Monte Cristo
    The Three Musketeers
    Herman Melville
    Moby Dick
    Nathaniel Hawthorne
    The Scarlet Letter
    Isaac Asimov
    I, Robot
    Aldus Huxley
    Brave New World
    E. B. White
    Chalotte’s Web
    Elements of Style
    Jack Keroack
    On the Road
    H.G. Wells
    War of the Worlds
    The Invisible Man
    The Time Machine
    Mary Shelley
    Bram Stoker
    Adolf Hitler
    Mein Kampf
    Karl Marx
    The Communist Manifesto
    Thomas Paine
    Common Sense
    Benjamin Franklin
    Malcom X
    John F. Kennedy
    Profiles in Courage
    Inauguration Speech
    W.E.B. Dubois
    Invisible Man
    The Brothers Grimm
    Grimms’ Fairy Tales
    Lewis Carrol
    Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
    Don Quixote
    George Orwell
    All Quiet on the Western Front
    Kurt Vonnegut
    Slaughterhouse Five
    Anne Frank
    The Diary of Anne Frank
    Walt Whitman
    Leaves of Grass
    John Salinger
    Catcher in the Rye
    The Outsiders
    A Separate Peace
    To Kill a Mockingbird
    Alexander Solzhenitzyn
    One Day in the Life of Ivan Denosovich
    Doctor Zhivago
    C. S. Lewis
    The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
    Le Morte D’Arthur
    Dr. Suess
    The Lorax
    The Cat in the Hat
    Green Eggs and Ham
    J. R. R. Tolkein
    The Hobbit
    The Lord of the Rings

    William Gaines
    Mad Magazine
    Comic Books
    Wonder Woman
    Mary Worth
    Bloom County
    Family Circle
    Lil Abner
    Beetle Bailey
    For Better For Worse
    Dennis the Menace

  49. 49
    Mnemosyne says:


    I read it at that age, too, and it freakin’ traumatized me. Particularly how the wife’s boyfriend loses his member.

    This may have already come up, but “The Witch of Blackbird Pond” is one I buy for all of the girls in my life (nieces, daughters of friends, etc.)

  50. 50
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @Ed in NJ: Riordan’s books got my middle child, age 13 now, to read. He’s gone from not wanting to pick up a book, to the mythology expert on the Academic Decathlon team and in his English class. He read the first Game of Thrones book in January and February.

  51. 51
    rikyrah says:

    The Outsiders

    oh my…

    SE Hinton

  52. 52
    normal liberal says:

    As a former preteen girl, I heartily endorse the Pratchett “youth” books (Tiffany Aching and Maurice and his Educated Rodents) plus the Discworld Witches books, and Pullman’s Dark Materials series.

    I started reading Jane Austen at ten, and had to argue with the school librarian. I should have realized we had them all at home. By high school I had swallowed up a lot of the 19th c. English lit canon.

    I was the youngest by ten years in a house packed with books, and my parents never put anything off limits. (This meant i read John Fowles’ “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” as a 12-year-old, possibly not ideal, but whatever…). Bright kids surrounded by books they can read whenever they want will find their level and their tastes.

  53. 53
    TooManyJens says:

    I haven’t seen the Prydain books by Lloyd Alexander mentioned yet. I ate those up at that age. And the Dark is Rising series.

  54. 54
    cbear says:

    I wouldn’t know how to even start offering “age-appropriate” anything to anybody, much less young girls—but if any of you godless librul hippies still have a television, do yourself a huge favor and watch the premiere of “Rectify” on Sundance Channel tonight.

    I honestly think this may be one of the best shows I have ever seen on television—brilliantly written, acted and directed, and beautifully filmed.

  55. 55
    Librarian says:

    In addition to all the fiction that has been suggested, might I suggest that we also add some nonfiction? Maybe I was a weird kid, but as a kid I read almost all nonfiction, primarily history. I was just not interested in fiction and I never got into the habit of reading it. Maybe if we encouraged kids to read more nonfiction, the people of this country wouldn’t be so ignorant of history and geography.

  56. 56
    scav says:

    Phantom Tollbooth.

    I remember liking the Twenty-One Balloons and Earth-sea Trilogy, Wrinkle in Time . .

    And maybe less concern about overly age appropriate? There wasn’t a section on the Bookmobile I hadn’t plundered at that age (I was heavy into mysteries though, a reasonably safe genre) and the librarian just kept me fed and insisted I go through multiple iterations of those summer reading programs with rubber stamps. It’s certainly when I hit my first Sherlock Phase, Hat and all. Not much to worry about in Wodehouse either and they’re magnificently silly and clever.

  57. 57
    beltane says:

    Aside from many of the books already mentioned, I liked “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” very much.

  58. 58
    Lolis says:

    Apparently, Bitch Magazine has an article about feminist YA novels. I can’t read it at work cause our computers run on software from ten years ago, but it sounds cool. I love the classics but think reading current stuff is important. Kids like being able to relate to characters that have their same problems. My friend who was a teacher loved The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I guess they made it into a movie, too. I loved Nancy Drew as a kid but read everything I could get my hands on. The girls would probably like Where the Red Fern Grows because of the animal love.

  59. 59
    Katie5 says:

    If they like Hunger Games and if they’re still reluctant to read then they’ll love Divergent (Veronica Roth). Strong girl, outsider, lots of action in a dystopic Chicago.

    A really dark book but has all the emo qualities that girls love is the “Last Testament of Jesse Lamb” (Jane Rogers).

  60. 60
    Madeleine says:

    Anne of Green Gables–yes!
    The Wizard of Oz series.
    Little Women and others by Alcott.

    For the older girl: Agathqt Christie, Ursula LeGuin(?), Pride and Prejudice.

  61. 61
    burnspbesq says:

    “A Wrinkle in Time” hasn’t lost any of its power.

    Give them a copy of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and tell them this is the future that the Republican Party wants for them. That oughta do some radicalizing, right there.

  62. 62
    Mimi says:

    Oh, what fun! I love older children’s / young adult literature, and spent much of my childhood reading my way through the library.

    You could safely recommend all of the Tamora Pierce books: swords, horses, magic, great female leads. She has a fairly large number of books available, and they are all likely to be age appropriate. Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword is still a favorite of mine, as is The Hero and The Crown; some of the rest of her work contains some more complex themes that parents might consider too adult.

    If they like science fiction, I was reading Alan Dean Foster toward the end of that range; though I’m not positive that counts as great literature, I sure enjoyed the flying snake. And, I adored Anne McCaffery’s earlier stuff, particularly the Menolly series. Later works got tedious and derivative, as I recall.

    Random books worth consideration for your list: The Card Turner (Sacher), the Anne of Green Gables series (Montgomery), they might be a bit young for Ursula K. Leguin but her books are often (not always – there were some that were honestly quite disappointing in terms of women characters) splendid and might be worth considering for the next iteration of this list in a few years, Because of Winn Dixie (DiCamillo), Susan Cooper’s The Dark series, the Taran series by Alexander, Graceling (Cashore). So many others!

    I recall loving the Terhune books, so if they are crazy for dogs, that might be something (not great in some of the stereotypes, if I recall, but it’s been a while). And speaking of classics, can I just get it off my chest that I hated Robin Hood?

    That’s all that comes to mind, but there are fantastic lists out there. One place to check is Donalyn Miller’s blog, under recommended reading http://www.bookwhisperer.com/rec_reading.php

    This set of recommendations is kind of all over the place, because I don’t know the girls, and books are so very specific, but I hope it gives you some ideas! And also that your mom doesn’t read and correct blog comments for grammar!

  63. 63
    ruviana says:

    @jay Noble: Yup, I read a lot of this stuff. A library was my dreamland–a/c and more books than I could possibly read! Reading was the internet when I was a kid, and if you can connect with a kid they can have the reading and the internet.

    And a shout-out about The Phantom Tollbooth here too.

  64. 64
    YellowJournalism says:

    On top of so many other greats…

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

    Amazing, amazing book. My all-time favorite.

    I hate getting to these threads late and seeing all my favorites already mentioned. I will second the Anne of Green Gables series, though, and add in Magic for Marigold by the same author.

    Aw, screw it! I’ll second anything by Frances Hodgson Burnett and the Little house series. And To Kill a Mockingbird. And The Diary of Anne Frank or Hellen Keller’s autobiography. And anything Louisa May Alcott.

    Keep her away from VC Andrews. She’ll stumble onto that shit on her own. (I still love Flowers in the Attic, though, for its pure outrageousness. Would love to find a copy of the Wes Craven screenplay for the film adaptation.)

  65. 65
    Shawn says:

    I’d second, or third, Series of Unfortunate Events. Plus Harriet the Spy.

  66. 66
    Anoniminous says:

    Here you go.

    Some on the list are written for a younger reader, e.g., Cat in the Hat, but its a good list to pick from.

    When I was growing up my parents bought a hardback collection of classic books: Hans Brinker, Wind in the Willows, At the Back of the North Wind, Heidi, etc. We darn near read those things to a frazzle. I can still visualize the set – there was about 30 (?) of them – all lined up in a row but darned if I can recall the publisher.

    BTW: Reading Shakespeare’s plays aloud is a fun family evening. (At least we thought so.)

  67. 67
    scav says:

    @Shawn: Harriet the Spy is twinned for me with From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

  68. 68
    Katie5 says:

    @scav: And Dragonriders of Pern!

  69. 69
    Howard Beale IV says:

    @jay Noble:

    You blasphemer: how DARE you leave out ‘Calvin and Hobbes?’

  70. 70
    dance around in your bones says:

    My recs might be old style, but I loved the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books and Pippi Longstocking. The Yearling and To Kill a Mockingbird affected me profoundly. The Call of The Wild and yes, The Golden Compass. Little Women still holds up well, as well as the Narnia books (no, I didn’t even get the Xian refs in them – just a ripping good yarn).

    I still have very fond memories of My Bookhouse books and Andrew Lang’s ‘The Fairy Books’ in various colors. And of course ‘Little Nemo in Slumberland’ is outstanding. Oh gawd, I could go on and on.

    Fostering a desire for reading is one of the best things you can do for your own or any other child.

  71. 71
    normal liberal says:

    Edit fail. Add Joan Aiken, for The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and sequels.

    And The 21 Balloons is wonderful.

  72. 72
    YellowJournalism says:

    @PsiFighter37: Or really scratchy toilet paper.

  73. 73
    Red Right Hand says:

    For lighter fantasy reading, try Watership Down; perfect for all ages and a great read for spring. Second the suggestion of To Kill a Mockingbird. And though boys may like it more, Lord of the Flies may make a more serious adventure-type story for younger readers. I was about 10-11 yo when I read the latter two novels.

  74. 74
    YellowJournalism says:

    Did I forget to add Charlotte’s Web? Or Pollyanna?

  75. 75
    Belafon (Formerly anonevent) says:

    For what it’s worth, I consider age-appropriate to mean they want to read it but it should take a few days to read. My youngest, eight, was reading 2.5 Magic Tree House books a day, so I moved him onto Lemony Snicket.

  76. 76
    Davis X. Machina says:

    The original, non-cleaned-up Dr. Doolittle books.
    Arthur Crowe Ransom’s Swallows and Amazons series.
    Edith Unnerstad’s Pip-Larssons books
    And a second for Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain books.

  77. 77
    Howard Beale IV says:

    Try this: Go onto flEbay and see if you can find a complete set of Black’s Reader Services’ collections of the works of just about everybody who was anybody? Granted, my copies go back to a copyright date of 1932, but what the hell…

  78. 78
    ruviana says:

    @dance around in your bones: Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle! I was going to mention those but thought they might be too young. I LOVED Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle! I might want to spend time reading all my childhood favorites.

  79. 79
    Lyrebird says:

    @normal liberal: Ditto to those, and anything by Patricia Wrede (Enchanted Forest chronicles, which *is* lighthearted fantasy, unlike Watership Down, which is incredible but lighthearted? more like apocalyptic???)

  80. 80
    Alison says:

    Most of what I’d suggest have already been mentioned, but I’d add Laurie Halse Anderson’s books – they might be a bit old for the younger girl, but good for the older one for sure.

  81. 81
    Lyrebird says:

    @TooManyJens: ..and especially for girls, Alexander’s later adventure series is AWESOME and probably has wider appeal: the El Dorado adventure is I think the first one. Superb historical background in that and in the Jedera Adventure, but still fun and lighthearted.

  82. 82
    YellowJournalism says:

    @ruviana: I missed out on buying a treasury of Mrs Piggle-Wiggle at a bookstore that was closing. They sold out before I could come back and buy it.

    The Little Prince is a good one, too.

  83. 83
    jay Noble says:

    @Howard Beale IV: Alas, I plea a brain fart. I have a Calvin Hobbes on the shelf in the other room

  84. 84
    Phoenix rising says:

    I still read to my kid. Currently we’re halfway through ‘Mockingbird’, wouldn’t rec as a read to self at this age. Have read others in this category (catcher in the rye, the bean trees) that are assigned in HS English, in 4th-7th grades.

    Series books:
    The Penderwicks.
    Prydain, Lloyd Alexander
    Percy Jackson
    The American Girl series

    One-offs: (also rec’d for adults who need a dose of girls who change everything in the(ir) worlds):
    The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
    Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

  85. 85
    femlaw says:

    @TooManyJens: I loved the Chronicles of Prydain as a kid and just introduced my nine year old girl to them. The hero is a doofus the princess has attitude and yet they are still as epic as any of them. My son adores the Artemis Fowl series (fairies who can give James Bond a run for his money). As a preteen girl I was horse crazy so all the Black Stallion books were winners. I also got into Austen, Poe and Conan Doyle from the classics.

  86. 86
    normal liberal says:

    I didn’t know Wrede, and Wikipedia advises that I was in my thirties when she started publishing.

    Personally I hated Watership Down. After Tolkein it seemed kinda lame.

  87. 87
    trollhattan says:

    Jeez, I have an 11 YO grrl and can’t think of anything to add here, but will have to bookmark this thread for summer. Evidently I’ve been slackerDad. (Nevertheless, she reads voraciously.)

  88. 88
    Patrick Thompson says:

    My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George
    Dandelion Wine or pretty much anything else by Ray Bradbury
    Watership Down, Richard Adams

  89. 89
    Anoniminous says:


    Aha! Found it. It was the Illustrated Junior Library by Grosset and Dunlap.

    And they’ve really gutted the list.

  90. 90
    beltane says:

    @YellowJournalism: We like the same books. I never owned any of the VC Andrews books but I read most of them, borrowed from a friend and read surreptitiously.

    Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere is excellent if your tastes run to that type of thing.

  91. 91
    dance around in your bones says:

    @ruviana: I loved Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle because she always showed up those selfish, bullying, bad-behaving kids in the most interesting ways.

    And they learned their lesson!

  92. 92
    Howard Beale IV says:

    @jay Noble: You are forgiven. When I moved, I gave away my entire Bloom County stash-turned out I was more of a packrat than I thought. Now I try to get everything digitial and I won a bid during our United Way raffle of a HP Document scanning station that can do 40 pages a second and spit out a fully text-searchable PDF; I’ve just been too squeamish to want to rip/destroy books apart just to digitize them. I’ve seen some cheap efforts in creating replication stands using digital cameras, but to me nothing beats sheet-feed. Binder-based docs I have no problems with. paperbacks and hard-covers, OTOH…..

  93. 93
    MikeJ says:

    I started to read the Divine Comedy in Latin at that age, but I was a slacker and only did Inferno.

    I’d go with The Iliad.

  94. 94
    Karen in GA (who really needs a better name) says:

    Another vote for the Tiffany Aching books.

  95. 95
    PsiFighter37 says:

    @burnspbesq: I remember ‘A Wrinkle in Time’. Loved reading light sci-fi-ish books that were centered around young adults back in the day, and you didn’t worry about thinking about the realities of how the sci-fi would realistically work.

  96. 96
    YellowJournalism says:

    @dance around in your bones: What was your favorite “punishment?” I loved the Radish Cure, where the girl didnt take a bath and the mom planted radishes in the dirt on her body.

  97. 97
    Three-nineteen says:

    When I was a tween, I ran through the list of Newbery Award winning books. Past winners have been Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, The Graveyard Book, Bridge to Terabithia, and A Wrinkle in Time.


  98. 98
    Howard Beale IV says:

    @jay Noble: Karl Marx is more than just The Communist Manifesto. The Grundrisse is perhaps the best synthesis of all of his observations in one work.

  99. 99
    Mousebumples says:

    Some of my childhood favorites that are classics – and were classics even when I read them:
    + “Rifles for Watie” by Harold Keith; obviously about the Civil War, but it’s a great book and won a Newberry Award for a reason. (Generally any Newberry Award winning book is worth reading … But I love books, in general. :)
    + “The Westing Game” by Ellen Raskin (another Newberry Award book)
    + “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” by Mildred D. Taylor (yes, another Newberry book)
    + “The View From Saturday” by E. L. Konigsburg (another Newberry book)
    + Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead (yes, a vampire series, but I swear it’s better written than Twilight – it’s a 6 book series, and a “sister series” in the same universe is currently on-going)
    + Little Women (and all the related books)
    + Little House in the Big Woods (and all the related books)
    + His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman
    + Redwall series by Brian Jacques (this was recommended to me after I read the His Dark Materials trilogy, as it’s similar in some ways to the fantasy/imagination themes, if you think that would be to their tastes)
    + Lurlene McDaniel books – sad, sad books but still interesting and engaging; and maybe they influenced me to work in healthcare … ??
    + Caroline B. Cooney books (notably the Face on the Milk Carton series; Time Traveler series … her stand-alone books are more hit-and-miss in my experience)
    + Wayside School by Louis Sachar

    In general, I strongly recommend series books for kids – especially those that you’re trying to get into reading. If you can get them hooked on a given series, there’s a bunch of books that they’ll want to read. Do they enjoy, say, horseback riding? There’s a “Thoroughbred” series by Joanna Campbell that I’d recommend. Do they like to play with dolls? I loved the “American Girls” series. If they’re not that interested in reading _now_, you may have better luck getting them “hooked” by appealing to their interests … and then reeling them in with other suggestions later. :)

  100. 100
    OldBean says:


    The “Hitchhiker’s Guide” books

    Yes. Yes yes yes. Yes.

  101. 101
    Bonnie says:

    I had the great fortune to live next door to an elderly Scottish woman who would read to us. She would pick up books at the library every week, and have something new for us all the time. She also told stories so well, it was a delight to spend hours at her house. Still, she always encouraged us to keep reading on our own. I was surprised how long it took for people to suggest the true classics; e.g., Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, Dickens, Mark Twain–which I loved. I first came to love mysteries at that age; and, I am sure your friends’daughters will already know what they like. However, I always think it is good to teach them to be adventurous and try something they might at first reject. I read a lot of sci-fi at the urging of my older brother only to discover how much I hate sci-fi. But, I read a lot of it before I stopped reading it.

  102. 102
    David in NY says:

    I don’t know anything about girls, but my boys loved books by Diana Wynne Jones, and I bet girls would too. (And if anyone else mentioned them altready, I agree with them.)

    @Katie5: Oooh, yes. For girls, Howl’s Moving Castle and sequel(s?) I think, maybe. Great stuff.

    And for younger girls, “Brave Irene” by William Steig. A real girl heroine.

  103. 103
    MikeJ says:

    @OldBean: I actually just reread them. I’m glad I read them as a 12 year old, because as an adult they aren’t as good as I remember. Still clever and full of chuckles, but not as outrageous as I remember. That may be the difference between 1980 and 2013 or between me then and now.

  104. 104
    Xecky Gilchrist says:

    I’ll add to the “Phantom Tollbooth” chorus, loved that book.

    I did also read all of Heinlein’s juveniles at that age, but as Katie5 said, his view of women isn’t the healthiest.

  105. 105
    hamletta says:

    I’m 50, and don’t have kids, so I can only recall the books I loved (besides what you named): I adored “Island of the Blue Dolphin.” And now they’ve found (further) evidence of its being a true story.

    I also got a book of short stories about early 1900’s immigrant children for Christmas one year. You probably never heard of it. Which leads me to another suggestion: Cricket magazine. It used to be like Granta for the prepubescent.

    And I have to put in a caveat about “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn.” Give it to the youngest one. Poverty can still be made romantic, same as it was for Francie. It lost its charm when I read it for the third time at 14. But I still want to decorate my mom’s girly bedroom to look like a fire escape in Williamsburg.

  106. 106
    ruviana says:

    @YellowJournalism: I still think about that! It’s the one I remember best.

  107. 107
    Morzer says:

    The Earthsea Trilogy
    Alan Garner’s The Moon of Gomrath and The Weirdstone of Brisingamen
    Thomas Harlan’s Sixth Sun series (really well written and with a strong female lead).
    Jack Vance’s Lyonesse series

  108. 108
    TheMightyTrowel says:

    So many of my favourites on here!

    There’s also Jules Verne – around the world in 80 days was the first novel i read totally in French because I loved it so much I wanted to read it in the original.

    Tamora Pierce got a mention above, but I want to second it. Also Diane Duane – the Young Wizards series is just flat out brilliant with a couple of fantastic young women in it.

    I vividly remember going through my dad’s shelf of biographies at age 10/11 – the Autobiography of Malcolm X was particularly life changing. It was the first time I read something that made me step outside myself and my own world.

    Other books I loved from that age include The Trumpet of the Swan (maybe a bit young, but still amazing), Catherine Called Birdy (medieval tomboy of the manor), the 21 Balloons, the whole Wrinkle in Time series, Anne of Green Gables… oh god so many books!

  109. 109
    Redshirt says:

    “Johnny Tremaine” speaks to the heart of every 9 year old girl. A rousing tale of indentured servitude, disfigurement, and Revolution!

  110. 110
    TheMightyTrowel says:

    And lest we forget: Mary Renault. One of the first young adult authors to explicitly include queer characters in her stories. I LOVED HER BOOKS.

  111. 111
    Karen in GA (who really needs a better name) says:

    @maurinsky: Garp at 12! I thought I was the only one! And no, I agree that it’s not a good book for a 12-year-old.

    MIchael Milton in the car. I remember showing that part to other kids in my class, just to fuck with their heads. (Yeah, I hated junior high school.)

  112. 112
    Biff Longbotham says:

    I read all of these by the time I was 12 and loved them all, all for very different reasons:

    Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath
    The Peloponnesian War
    Lord of the Flies
    Brave New World
    Alice in Wonderland

  113. 113
    James Gary says:

    Disclaimer: I was never a young girl.

    But when I was 11 years old I loved: all the C.S. Lewis “Narnia” books; “Lizard Music” by D. Manus Pinkwater; the “Great Brain” series by John D. Fitzgerald; “From The Mixed-Up Files Of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler”; “The Phantom Tollbooth”; Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” trilogy; and (somewhat oddly–I guess because the local library had a great SF section) Jack Vance’s “The Dying Earth” and “The Eyes Of The Overworld.”

    (Looking at that list, the common thread is that they’re all pretty clear-eyed and unsentimental. I tried reading “The Hunger Games” a year or two ago and I got through about two pages before thinking, “this is the kind of contrived emo crap that my twelve-year-old self would’ve immediately rejected. Even if I had been a girl.”)

  114. 114
    J says:

    A few that I think they might like.

    I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
    Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Black Hearts over Battersea and the rest by Joan Aiken
    The Saturdays, Four Story Mistake, Now we are Five and anything else by Elizabeth Enright
    The Earthsea books by Ursula Le guin (though perhaps there a little young now)
    Z for Zacharian by Robert O’brien
    The Growing summer, The ‘shoes’ books and just about anything else by Noel Streatfeild
    The Railway Children, The Phoenix and the Carpet, The Enchanted Castle and just about anything else by Edith Nesbit
    Edward Eager
    Rosemary Sutcliff
    The Egypt Game by ?
    Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh (and if the can find it, Susuki Beane)
    When I was that age, girls (and boys) loved Marguerite Henry’s horse books
    Lois Lenski’s books about the depression
    Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philipa Pearce
    Rumer Godden
    Island of the blue Dolphins by Scott O’dell
    Kon Tiki Thor Heyerdahl

  115. 115
    hamletta says:

    @dance around in your bones:

    the Narnia books (no, I didn’t even get the Xian refs in them – just a ripping good yarn).

    Some idiot I ran into online a few years ago swore he started reading the Narnia books but threw them against the wall because his 9-year-old self couldn’t stand to have all that Christian shit shoved down his throat.

    What horseshit. Probably didn’t even know JRR Tolkein was a devout Catholic.

  116. 116
    Nick says:

    @Gin & Tonic: Another recommendation for Phantom Tollbooth. One of my favorites to this day – and I’m 42.

  117. 117
    TheMightyTrowel says:


  118. 118
    Felanius Kootea says:

    Chike and The River” by Chinua Achebe, the author of “Things Fall Apart.” This is his only children’s book (I believe) and one way to get them to experience a world totally different from theirs.

  119. 119
    Howard Beale IV says:

    Let me add also the works of the last Master of the Age, Idries Shah: “The Sufis”, “The Commanding Self”, “Learning How to Learn”, “Knowing How to Know”, “The Natives are Restless”, “The Pleasnatries of the Incredible Mullah Nasruddin” and “Seeker After Truth”.

    And for a complete 180-degree turn, “A Path With Heart” (Kornfield), Full Catasrophe Living (Kabat-Zinn), “Living, Loving, Learning (Buscaglia)

  120. 120
    sgrAstar says:

    1. Holes ( Louis Sachar)
    2. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
    3. A Little Princess (FH Burnett)
    4. The Count of Monte Cristo (A Dumas)
    5. A Tale of Two Cities (dickens)
    6. Dracula (Bram Stoker)
    7. The Moonstone (W Collins)
    8. Sherlock Holmes

  121. 121
    YellowJournalism says:

    Is Summer of the Monkeys on there yet?

  122. 122
    WA_Dave says:

    At 13, I enjoyed Mary Stewart’s Merlin series.

    The series is about an elite-educated bastard with prescient powers trying to maintain some kind of government in a country full of savages.

  123. 123
    sairaras says:

    Pretty much anything by Tamora Pierce. A couple of them have references to sex, so maybe watch out for that, but all have great female leads who kick @ss. I think the Circle of Magic series would be age-appropriate, though.

    Second Lloyd Alexander, Percy Jackson, anything by E L Konigsberg, Susan Cooper… Gordon Korman’s MacDonald Hall books are still hysterical. When I went on a quest to find books dealing with LGBT issues that would be appealing to straight kids, I came across James Howe’s The Misfits, which was great. Tamora Pierce’s books also occasionally have characters who are not straight but whose sexuality isn’t their defining trait, which I think is fantastic.

    As a kid, I really liked myths and legends from around the world. Over time, that has been a helpful background to have, and they’re fun to read, too.

    Patricia Wrede is fantastic. Again, strong female characters, and a lot of humor.

    I recently read a book by Shelley Adina — I think it was Lady of Devices — and it would probably be appropriate.

    Ooh! The Alice books by Phyllis Naylor were cute. And my younger brother went through a huge Redwall phase around that age.

    Okay, back to lurkdom!

  124. 124
    the Conster says:

    The Mysterious Benedict Society – just a great great read
    Arthur Clarke short stories
    Louisa May Alcott
    His Dark Materials
    Anything about Greek Mythology – there are a ton of great books.

  125. 125
    Mnemosyne says:


    It was absolutely a true story, though IIRC O’Dell made the protagonist much younger than she actually was. They still have some of the original records at the Santa Barbara Mission.

    I always assumed that Elizabeth Moon’s Remnant Population was a variation on the Juana Maria story. I need to finish reading it one of these days.

  126. 126
    Mimi says:

    Ugh, Narnia: where growing up means you can’t have adventures and then die in a train crash.

  127. 127
    J says:

    A few more

    From the mixed up files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
    The Sally Lockhart stories by Philip Pullman (even better in my view than the better known trilogy)

  128. 128
    dance around in your bones says:

    The Once and Future King by T.H. White really stimulated my imagination at an early age – seeing the world through the eyes of an ant or a bird or a badger! Magical.

    Gads, I am showing my age here but The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain really moved me as well.

    I can remember literally sobbing over Charlotte’s Web, and asking my mom “Why do spiders have to die?”

    I also remember reading Catcher In The Rye at about age 10, standing on my bed to catch the porch light since I was supposed to be in bed. I read it because it purportedly had dirty parts, but I was so moved by Holden Caulfield and his disgust for ‘phonies’…. I went on to read all of Salinger’s work, which my mom and dad happened to have lying around the house. I was lucky that they let me read anything I wanted to.

    I guess I am saying that reading above your age level is not a bad thing! Just let ’em read.

  129. 129
    Slag says:

    Haven’t read it yet, but The Mighty Miss Malone comes highly recommended by the twelve year-old girls in my circle.

  130. 130
    srv says:

    I grew up right.

    What explains the atrocious spelling of your first few blog years? You hit your head or something?

    Is there a female version of Catcher in the Rye? I suppose if I had a daughter I’d make her read it anyway so she would have an insight into her male peers.

    I do have a productive suggestion that no one else will have.

    West with the Night by Beryl Markham. She was an early aviatrix and the book is about her experiences as a bush pilot in Africa. In the 1930s. She is the adventure, aviation and literary peer to Antoine de Saint-Exupery, who you might remember for The Little Prince.

    Her book is rated by Nat’l Geo as #8 of 100 adventure books. It is no doubt the best written. Hemingway said:

    “she has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. I felt that I was simply a carpenter with words, picking up whatever was furnished on the job and nailing them together and sometimes making an okay pig pen. But [she] can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers … it really is a bloody wonderful book.”

  131. 131
    MattR says:

    Good thread. I was a voracious reader in my youth. If I wasn’t doing that night’s homework in class I was reading something under my desk. I was more subtle that a friend who got kicked out of Biology class because his reading was distracting the teacher. He didn’t get into trouble. Just had to go to the library to continue reading. He ended up being our valedictorian and was recently named one of Fortune magazine’s top 20 highest paid executives under 40. OTOH, I am nowhere near that list (and happily so). Of course now I am having a hard time remembering which books I read at what age and nothing is popping into my head that hasn’t already been mentioned above.

  132. 132
    YellowJournalism says:

    Man, I could do this all night. Throw some poetry in there: Where the Sidewalk Ends or The Giving Tree.

    I tried reading it to my boys, but they’re too young. One of them is now afraid that there’s a snail living in his nose that will bite his finger off. We’re trying Treasure Island now, and my oldest keeps singing, “Yo ho ho, and a bottle of run!” Loudly. At school.

  133. 133
    GregB says:

    My Pet Goat.

  134. 134

    @YellowJournalism: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn IS an amazing book.

    Did you see the movie? The actor who played the father was incredibly heartbreaking. (And won an Oscar.)

  135. 135
    dance around in your bones says:


    @dance around in your bones: What was your favorite “punishment?” I loved the Radish Cure, where the girl didnt take a bath and the mom planted radishes in the dirt on her body.

    That was very cool. I remember the one where she blew some magic powder into the ears of kids who pretended to misunderstand what people said? that made everything super loud and unbearable. Or the show-off powder that makes the show-off invisible.

  136. 136
    MattR says:

    @Hillary Rettig:

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn IS an amazing book.

    Is 12 too young for Ordinary People?

    @GregB: Well played.

  137. 137
    the Conster says:


    West with the Night is the most beautifully told story I’ve ever read.

  138. 138
    Katie5 says:

    @hamletta: I didn’t recognize all the Christian stuff either. But I did recognize the author abandoning Susan in the last book because she was somehow tainted. That sucked.

    Still, I’d encourage them to read the books. There are also excellent radio play/readings of the books from the BBC (do NOT be confused with the Focus on the Family versions!). On par with the Lord of the Rings radio play.

  139. 139
    SFAW says:

    John –
    Belafon hinted at it further up this string, but: have you heard of a series of books by a guy named George Martin? I think the first book is called “A Game of Thorns Thrones” or something like that. It might be a little old for the younger one, but still …

    If I recall, there’s a (relatively) young girl who ends up with a dragon? And she has an older brother with more ambition than brains, who thinks that HE is the tough one – but finds out otherwise.

  140. 140
    Francis says:

    What an awesome list of books! This is why I love lurking here.

    I’ve struggled to come up with just one book that hasn’t already been listed. The best I can do is:

    The Princess Bride, William Goldman

  141. 141
    scav says:

    Not in the life changing vein, but series I got into because I would read anything and what passed for the school library never threw anything out. Beloved chiefly because so dated. Sue Barton and then The Dave Dawson War Adventure Series.

  142. 142
    srv says:

    I have a suggestion. Why not create a Balloon-Juice Library account on Amazon with a wish list of these books and we can donate our recs?

    They could then be donated to the library, or you could start a lender club. Kids could borrow a book if they walk Lily. Late dues would be walking Rosie.

    It’s a lot of books, but over a year or two, we could probably get through it.

  143. 143
    fuckwit says:

    Hunger Games seems to be the crowd-pleaser for girls these days.

    Also, Les Miserables appears to be hip right now. Yes you can actually get a pre-teen to read it (if their reading chops are up to it). Probably too hard for the younger ones though.

    Harry Potter series also a crowd pleaser, I worked with a bunch of kids who read the whole series in 2nd grade (mostly boys, but some girls too).

    The “Unfortunate Events” series also, appeals to a certain goth-oriented type of kid; I know some who read that whole series as early as 2nd grade too.

  144. 144
    Lyrebird says:

    @normal liberal: Hm, thanks for filling me in… the younger me certainly agreed with you, or at least — I read Watership Down like twice ever, and the Fellowship of the Ring annually. The Hobbit was a bit too light for me, certainly.

    I guess (for JC’s purposes) a lot depends on the temperament of the girls involved. I didn’t know many other girls who shared my Tolkien fixation. When I re-read Susan Cooper’s Dark Is Rising sequence, it seems so dark and heavy-handed.

    BTW I highly recommend Wrede’s very recent Thirteenth Child. (I don’t have a TV but I have my forms of escape…)

  145. 145
    MikeJ says:


    They could then be donated to the library, or you could start a lender club.

    Child’s Play, the Penny Arcade charity that gives toys/video games/etc to children’s hospitals.

  146. 146
    Sandia Blanca says:

    My kids loved everything by Tamora Pierce. Another great series I don’t see mentioned is by Georgia Byng and features Molly Moon, girl magician. Also the Magic Treehouse series for the younger readers.

    I still love Pippi Longstockings and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, but I couldn’t get my reluctant reader to get into them.

  147. 147
    Katie5 says:

    If you wanted to keep this thread going even longer:

    What books, which you loved as a child, you don’t like nearly as much as an adult?

    For me, Narnia.

  148. 148
    Devore says:

    Enders Game – of course

    How about the Tripods trilogy from John Christopher? White mountains, City of Gold and Lead . . .

  149. 149
    CatHairEverywhere says:

    I am very familiar with this age group, so:

    The Incorrigable Children of Ashton Place series
    Mother-Daughter Book Club series
    Peter and the Syarcatchers series
    for the 12 year o.d- A Great and Terrible Beuty +sequels
    James Patterson’s kid novels- Middle School etc.
    Half Magic and the other Edward Eager books
    Bud, Not Buddy
    A Long Way from Chicago
    for the 12 yr. old- Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging+ sequels
    Just Ella
    for the 12 year old: Catherine & Jane, both by April Lightner
    also for 12 year old: onna Jo Napoli books, and Cattail Moon, by Jane Thesman
    Joey Pigza books
    The Graveyard Book
    The Thief Lord
    Shakespeare Stealer + sequels
    The squire’s Tale+ sequels

    lot of variety of levels and genres

  150. 150
    CatHairEverywhere says:

    Catherine, Called Birdy has very funny use of language

  151. 151
    Constance says:

    One of the best threads ever. Reminded of so many books that came my way from my mother and the libraries we hung out in. She taught me to read when I was four and we went to the library every week until I was in my teens and turned into a complete jerk.

  152. 152
    dance around in your bones says:


    The first Narnia book I read was The Magician’s Nephew and then I read all the others.

    Oh! and all the Oz books! My parents had friends who had all the original editions of the Oz books with the colorful pressed covers and those great illustrations – I was allowed to borrow one at a time and when I finished one, I could take another. I wanted to be Ozma of Oz.

  153. 153
    JR says:

    The Talisman, by Strphen King and Peter Straub
    The Eyes of the Dragon, by Stephen King
    Snow Crash, by Neil Stephenson

  154. 154
    Katie5 says:

    @Devore: LOVED the Tripods. Recently reread it, along with The Trouble with Lichen. Great books.

  155. 155
    greennotGreen says:

    Very light but fun: I Was a Sixth-grade Alien by Bruce Coville.

  156. 156
    Mike G says:

    Tintin. Along with the superb artwork, I learned intriguing things about life in different parts of the world from those graphic novels, and it sparked an interest in travel that continues today.

  157. 157
    CatHairEverywhere says:

    Freak, the Mighty
    For the 12 year old- Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series

  158. 158
    opie jeanne says:

    Terry Pratchett: Wee Free Men, and the three others of his books about Tiffany Aching.

  159. 159
    opie jeanne says:

    @esc: Beat me to it on the Tiffany Aching books.

  160. 160
    PIGL says:

    @Katie5: yup….no 21st century young woman needs to read Heinlein…much as I liked him in the 60s. No good can come of it. Dune, now, maybe.

  161. 161
    Ash Can says:

    ENTHUSIASTICALLY second Harriet The Spy! Those were the first books I ever read that really pushed me to “think outside the box.”

  162. 162
    trollhattan says:


  163. 163
    CatHairEverywhere says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent): Those Heck books look riht up my kiddo’s alley. Thanks! You might check out The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series for your readers who like the Heck books- sounds like similar humor

  164. 164
    dance around in your bones says:

    @Mike G: I found a stash of The Adventures of Tin Tin on a houseboat I lived on in Amsterdam. Fantastic.

    I’m just remembering Mistress Masham’s Repose by T.H. White that captivated me when I was a kid. Jeez, this thread is bringing up all kinds of memories.

  165. 165
    DaddyJ says:

    @Morzer: For fantasy, I heartily second your Alan Garner picks.

    I’d add Garner’s Elidor, too. Wierdstone of Brisingamen is pitched toward younger kids, Elidor is a little darker, maybe better for 12-14s.

    And then there’s Garner’s masterpiece The Owl Service, a fantastically lyrical and creepy ghost story/teen love triangle. With it’s Joycean subjectivity and weird Welsh names, that book is going to be over the head of younger teens, and in fact might be a challenge for any reader, but it’s well worth it.

  166. 166
    Mnemosyne says:

    I was going to recommend Helen Cresswell’s series about the wacky Bagthorpe family, but they appear to be out of print and it seems cruel to get a kid hooked on a series they won’t be able to finish.

    It’s worth checking your local library to see if they have them. The first one is Ordinary Jack.

  167. 167
    CatHairEverywhere says:

    @Slag: That is a sequel to Bud, Not Buddy, which is a great book. Requesting it at the library now. Thanks!

  168. 168
    Suzanne says:

    From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
    Bruno and Boots (Macdonald Hall) books by Gordon Korman
    Hoot by Carl Hiassen
    Giver series by Lois Lowry
    Rick Riordan Greek and Egyptian mythology books (my 9-year-old’s favorite)
    Number the Stars by Lowry
    Narnia, Hunger Games, His Dark Materials
    Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes novels

    I both have and was a precocious nine-year-old. We need to go to Ikea and buy a new bookshelf.

  169. 169
    SarahT says:

    Sorry if someone already posted this (I’m too tired & lazy to go through the whole thread), but EVERYONE, young & old, should read “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” by E.L.Konigsburg (R.I.P. – you will be greatly missed).

  170. 170
    Culture of Truth says:

    Das Kapital. Being and Nothingness. Also Watership Down.

  171. 171
    Culture of Truth says:

    Communist Manifesto. Beyond Good and Evil. Also Harry Potter.

  172. 172
    Kent says:

    My 10 year old daughter who devours everything in print is currently reading Wonderstruck by the author of Hugo Cabaret. Don’t see it mentioned here yet:


    She’s read all the Warrior series and did the wimpy kid series a few years ago so I think those are more in the 8 year old range. She’s gone through hundreds of books, I’ll have to ask her.

    Frankly there are a lot of oldsters on this list bringing up stuff they read in the 60s and 70s which is fine. But if you want a more modern list I’d suggest asking your kid’s school librarian. They are in tune with what kids actually read these days. I’ve bought my daughter stacks of classics from Ann of Green Gables to Watership Down. She pages through them with idle curiosity then goes back to the books that she has actually picked herself.

  173. 173
    Culture of Truth says:

    I also like Tintin and the Moomin series by Tove Jansson – but then I’m weird

  174. 174
    Jacel says:

    My favorite series in my youth was the Freddy The Pig book by Walter Brooks. It’s the great American saga of democracy in action, seriously. It’s amazing to compare these stories with Orwell’s “Animal Farm”.

    In the fantasy line, Susan Cooper’s “The Dark Is Rising” series is excellent. I haven’t seen Carol Kendall’s “The Gammage Cup” and the sequel “The Whisper Of Glocken” mentioned. I had already read “The Hobbit” by myself, and I recall liking those stories even better. Anything by Patricia McKillip is great reading.

    In the philosophical line, that age is in the wheelhouse of Alan Watts’ “THE BOOK: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are”. Good reading at any age, actually.

    Someone mentioned The Radish Cure. What book and author did that come from? That’s an image that has stuck in my mind for decades after I forgot where I read it.

  175. 175
    Culture of Truth says:

    The Little Prince. or, if they’re into horror, My Pet Goat.

  176. 176
    Hazel says:

    I remember being 10 years old and how reading Ellen Raskin (The Westing Game, Figgs & Phantoms etc) lead naturally into Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, and Rex Stout. Classic mysteries are great for all ages.

    Plus I recommend Gordon Kormon’s old stuff; I Want To Go Home, the War With Mr. Wizzle etc.

    And I have to second a lot of the above mentions of Patricia C. Wrede, L.M. Montgomery (her stuff is perfect for girls 9-12), Frances Hodgeson Burnett, and Louisa May Alcott.

  177. 177
    cckids says:


    I’ve heard that young ladies do like the Twilight books

    OK, no, just no. Twilight was junk food fiction for the cohort of girls who are now 18-22ish, do not inflict it on another generation. Let it just die a quick death.

  178. 178
    J says:

    A few more

    Alan Bradley’s Flavia De Luce books

    Joy Adamson, Born Free

  179. 179
    Culture of Truth says:

    I had Big Book of Poems when I was kid. Don’t remember the actual title. The point is, you wouldn’t think a kid would like poems, but poems can be very evocative, they teach you about language, they don’t require hours of reading, and they stick with you (if they’re good, anyway.)

  180. 180
    PIGL says:

    @Devore: John Wyndham, too. and Ursula K Leguin.

  181. 181
    Yutsano says:

    I might have missed it, but RedKitteh would be quite put out if I didn’t mention the Anne of Green Gables series.

  182. 182

    @Mike G: Agreed, the Tintin books are fantastic. Didn’t see anyone else mention them, but I also enjoyed the Encyclopedia Brown books when I was a kid.

  183. 183
    Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again) says:

    A Wrinkle In Time

  184. 184
    scav says:

    @Kent: older books are also the ones likely to be overlooked — whether or not the kid likes them depends on the kid. Sherlock, Dave Dawson, other books in the OZ series, and probably at least half of what I read wasn’t technically contemporary at the time.

    ETA, granted, my understanding of WWII is probably weird beyond measure by the addition of a valiant Yank and his English chum prop-clawing into every battle of the European and Pacific theaters. so beware.

  185. 185
    DaddyJ says:

    @Hann1bal: Schools are teaching some very dark literature these days. Characteristic of the books my daughter has been assigned in high school: Brave New World, As I Lay Dying, Slaughterhouse Five, Linden Hills (a black American Dante’s Inferno), Slouching Toward Bethlehem, Heart of Darkness, etc. etc. Not a fun or uplifting read among any of them. I don’t have a problem with dark literature, but when Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet are your lighthearted romps — I gotta wonder what effect all this morbidity is having on literate teens.

    Which is why I’m glad my daughter also reads Terry Pratchett.

  186. 186
    cckids says:

    I’m late to the thread, but as I have an 18-year old daughter & 3 9-11 year old nieces, I’ll throw in some recommendations.
    (besides dumping on Twilight)

    Second or third all the Pullman “Dark Materials” trilogy. Don’t go by the movie, the books are beautiful.

    Anything by Tamora Pierce, she has great young female leads & fun plots; really take the reader into another world. Faves here were the “Lady Knight” series, which, in spite of its eye-rolling title is great & very relatable.

    Robin McKinley’s work.

    My niece loves Wonder.

    Also: Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising sequence.

    Moon over Manifest

    When You Reach Me

    Liar and Spy

    Sigh. I love finding books for kids.

  187. 187
    Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again) says:


    Hoot by Carl Hiassen

    Hiassen wrote something that’s age-appropriate for tweens?!?! I’ve gotta check that out.

  188. 188
  189. 189
    Linnaeus says:

    Ah, Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack! Haven’t seen that book since eighth grade.

  190. 190
    Anne Laurie says:

    If the girls liked Hunger Games, Andre Norton is the non-male-libertarian version of Robert Heinlein. Her books featured female, non-white, and handicapped individuals as strong, interesting main characters in a period when only white middle-class men could be “real” SF heroes. The books after the mid-1980s tended to suffer from underediting, the author’s age, and her famous generosity towards co-authors, but the YA stuff starting in the early 1960s — the first six or eight Witch World books, the Dipple, Moon Magic, Time Trader series, stand-alones like Star Man’s Son, X Factor, Dread Companion, Breed to Come — are still “sense of wonder” at its finest. The Magic books — Steel Magic, Octagon Magic, Fur Magic, Dragon Magic,Lavender-Green Magic — were explicitly written for kids at the lower end of your age group, but most of them are slim enough and powerful enough to keep an inexperienced middle-schooler interested rather than overwhlemed.

    And it looks like a bunch of the “classics” are available, very cheaply, in Kindle bundles.

  191. 191
    Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again) says:

    @The prophet Nostradumbass:

    That’s just weird, imo. Next up: Elmore Leonard’s ABC’s: V Is for Vig”.

  192. 192
    Suzanne says:

    @Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again): Yes! And it’s got a great environmental message for kids. My kiddo just did one of her book reports on it.

    She also likes the Secret series by Pseudonymous Bosch (haha), Wildwood by Colin Meloy (yes, of the Decemberists), and is currently getting into Jules Verne’s books. My kid has reading skills that exceed her ability to not get scared/sad, so she needed to put down the Harry Potters after “Goblet of Fire”. But she got through all the Hunger Games books. Go fig. She also likes the Guardians of Gahoole books.

  193. 193
    Jacel says:

    Culture of Truth: Is this the big book of poetry you remember. This was the one that sealed the deal on poetry for me:


  194. 194

    @Suzanne: I have not read it, but it has something to with burrowing owls, yes?

  195. 195
    Suzanne says:

    @The prophet Nostradumbass: Aye. Owls are the trendy, cute animal right now, so I think that’s part of their appeal.

  196. 196

    @Suzanne: They’re a protected species here in the Bay Area; they used to live in great numbers around the edges of the Bay, but their numbers have shrunk a lot as flat land around the Bay has been developed.

  197. 197
    Kent says:

    @Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again):

    “Hoot by Carl Hiassen”

    Hiassen wrote something that’s age-appropriate for tweens?!?! I’ve gotta check that out.

    Uh yes. It’s also been turned into a kids movie. http://www.amazon.com/Hoot-Luk.....B000GB5MH4

  198. 198
    Elizabeth says:

    I apologize if someone has already mentioned this, but Tamora Pierce writes fantastic fantasy series centering on strong female characters, interesting medieval settings, a bit of magic, and great dialogue and writing. My youngest daughter and her friends adored all those books. She has several series which can be read independently, but it’s probably best to start with the Alanna the Lady Knight series. Highly recommended. The author has her own excellent site, so you can go and look around if you wish. And truth be told, I love them too,and am looking forward to some future releases. Just fun.

  199. 199
    Mnemosyne says:


    I’ve bought my daughter stacks of classics from Ann of Green Gables to Watership Down. She pages through them with idle curiosity then goes back to the books that she has actually picked herself.

    The trick is to buy them and then incorporate them into your own bookshelves for her to stumble upon rather than presenting them to her as an assignment. (Even if you don’t present them as an assignment, that’s how she’ll interpret A Spontaneous Gift From Dad.)

    I would always raid my older brother’s bookshelves when I didn’t have anything new to read, which is how I ended up reading The World According to Garp at much too young an age. Speaking of which, if you have that one on your shelf, purge it now. Judging from the evidence here, I’m not the only one who was scarred by it.

  200. 200
    Anne Laurie says:

    Also, Cole will reject this, but: If your young adult reader is rolling her eyes over Twilight, give her a copy of Northanger Abbey — with an explanation that it’s a parody.

    It was the first Jane Austen novel I read, the summer I was ten, because all my friends were devouring Harlequin romances that were stooopid. My mother the English teacher told me that the particular “fairy tale romance” theme was so old, yet so popular, that Miss Austen was making fun of it in the early 1800s. If you don’t remember it well, take another look: From the very first paragraph, it makes fun of the High Gothick Romances. Catherine Moorland, ordinary middle-class teenager of no particular gifts or ambitions, is swept away from her boring suburban home by a fairy godmother (her actual godmother, a mundane, not very bright middle-aged lady with ‘a great taste for fashion & ornament’) to the exciting Big City (Bath, resort spa for invalids & retirees) where she meets a most intriguing young man whose talents & witticisms she can barely begin to understand. There is a pair of scheming, vicious siblings (half-bright social climbers looking to make good marriages for themselves, by hook or crook) who threaten to destroy not only Catherine’s romantic hopes, but those of her beloved brother. Their endless machinations result in Catherine’s beloved being torn from her side by his dark, brooding, mysteriously terrifying father, the Admiral, who in a blind rage turns her out of Northanger Abbey to fend for herself (on a two-day journey home, and very nearly without the funds to do so) before all misunderstanding can be repaired, all the good characters rewarded & the bad ones punished according to their desserts. “… And I know not whether my narrative is most to encourage parental tyranny, or reward filial disobedience.”

  201. 201
    YellowJournalism says:

    @Hillary Rettig: I try to reread it once a year. My copy is turning to shreds. It cannot be read on a tablet.

    The movie is amazing, and pretty mug all of the performances are spot-on. The girl who played Francie also played Jane Eyre, which is another of my favorite books.

    The book has resonated with me over the years not fronts depictions of poverty, as another commenter has suggested, but for the complexity of all the different types of relationships the characters have with one another. I find the mother, Katie, to be fascinating and more sympathetic as I get older.

  202. 202
    Bucky Reynolds says:

    I would suggest any books by Pearl Buck, Helen Keller, and Jane Austen.

  203. 203
    cmm says:

    I think some of the older books that had historical settings (like, written in 1930s to 1980s but set in an earlier period) would hold up better today than books that were “contemporary” for their time. Of the books I loved and reread as a 70s/early 80s kid, I don’t know how Judy Blume does with modern kids as much as it pains me to say it. But the Little House books, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and Joan Aiken I think would be good to try. My favorite Aiken is pretty obscure in this country at least, but I loved Armitage, Armitage, Fly Away Home, about a family where extraordinaey things happen to the kids (thanks to a wish the mom made while on her honeymoon).

    Another series I loved and reaad over and over was the. Great Brain books.

    We truly are in a great time for YA lit, so it is hard to go wrong with things like Harry Potter and the Hunger Games trilogy.

    I also recommend steering clear of Heinlein for girls. I was a sci fi geek and he left me absolutely cold. Asimov too, tho I loved his nonfiction books. There are so many more recent excellent SF novels with strong female characters to dip into. One suggestion…Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi. Same world as his Old Mans War series, but told through the perspective of an adolescent girl, and intended as YA.

    Stay away from the Twilight books, they are junk and they will find them anyway.

  204. 204
    DaddyJ says:

    @Anne Laurie: OMG, I always thought Andre Norton was a male writer! Read a couple of those in grade school and they were definitely different from your standard SF.

  205. 205
    hamletta says:

    @Ash Can: I forgot Harriet the Spy! And the sequel, where only one friend speaks to her while they summer in the Hamptons, awkwardly.

    It was weird.

  206. 206
    hamletta says:

    @Ash Can: And I still love tomato sandwiches.

  207. 207
    hamletta says:

    @cmm: Dude, I read all the Great Brain books. But they got kinda weak toward the end.

  208. 208
    Anne Laurie says:

    Another golden-oldie children’s author who’s past due for a revival: Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Definitely for the younger kids, these days — it’s no longer shocking for a children’s book to suggest that not every modern American child might live in the perfect two-parent happy family, or that a tinge of the occult might lurk even in a world of picket fences and modern appliances. But simple as they are, books like The Headless Cupid or The Witches of Worm still captivate — you can see why she’s won three Newbery Awards!

  209. 209

    @hamletta: I remember reading some of them as well, and that they did get kind of lame after a while. That was like 35 years ago, though :-).

  210. 210
    mclaren says:

    S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders is great. Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth is fabulous. Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White is outstanding.

    And you just can’t beat Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.

  211. 211
    mclaren says:

    @Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again):

    Yeah, was gonna mention that one too. For some unknown reason my comment is stuck in moderation. Presumable S.E. Hinton or E. B. White are forbidden authors…

  212. 212
    zanamu says:

    Does their town have a library? Have them get a card and randomly pick a book off the shelf – there’s no telling what grabs a person. Quality is in the eye of the beholder.
    Growth is as much about knowing what doesn’t speak to you, as what does. Reading is personal. I have always found Tolkien boring, but the Canterbury Tales – every 5 years since I was 14, and its different every time. For what its worth, I was reading Hawthorne and RL Stevenson at that age, but I also liked My Side of the Mountain and The Forgotten Door, and had just discovered Shakespeare. People get too caught up I think, in the value of “who” they read. They should just read. A cereal box, a comic book, who cares? Read. That’s the important habit.

  213. 213
    MaryRC says:

    At 12 my favorite writer was S.J. Perelman so I’m not sure I’m anywhere near the mainstream but I also loved Noel Streatfield, Edith Nesbit, Nancy Mitford and Rumer Godden, even Angela Brazil — anything about British girls, who seemed exotic and glamorous to me then.

    It may sound odd to recommend an author whose work was set in the 40’s, but Jessamyn West’s “Cress Delahanty” would still appeal to a 12-year-old today.

  214. 214
    DaddyJ says:

    All the good stuff that I can think of has been mentioned. But let’s not forget the “guilty pleasures” of pulp. My daughter’s favorite books around 10 or 12 were the Animorphs series: all 54 volumes. Had to track down those volumes missing from the library’s collection at garage sales and junk stores for her. They are actually pretty decent character-based yarns if you can get past the occasionally ludicrous SF concepts and plot devices.

  215. 215
    GregB says:

    How to Not Be Loser By Uncle Ruslan.

  216. 216
    lefthanded compliment says:

    I believe you’re thinking of the Junior Deluxe Editions. Somehow, more than fifty years on, I still have Booth Tarkington’s Penrod and Sam.

  217. 217
    glaukopis says:

    Douglas Adams

  218. 218

    @MaryRC: Did you submit cartoon captions to the New Yorker too?

  219. 219
    Violet says:

    If any of the girls are animal lovers, try the James Herriott books. Start with “All Creatures Great and Small” and go from there if they like that one. A bit of history, a bit of foreign culture and some good stories.

  220. 220
    LT says:

    At 11 or 12 – Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

  221. 221
    Evelyn says:

    This will get buried, but oh well.

    The Tamora Pierce books were some of the best things that I read when I was in the 9-12 age and I think had a large effect on my confidence and ideas about what women can achieve. Specifically I recommend the Alana/Lioness and Wild Magic quartets. Strong female characters who become knights and magicians (in a very patriarchal society) and just generally do badass stuff with their wits and temerity. Also, unlike Twilight and to a lesser (but still huge) degree, The Hunger games, the women don’t obsess about men ALL of the DAMN time.

    I also really enjoyed Shogun when I was 12, but I think I was a weirdo.

  222. 222
    Matmos says:

    Everything by John Bellairs (House With a Clock in its Walls), Edward Gorey, Jean Craighead George (My Side of the Mountain; Julie of the Wolves), Edward Eager (Half Magic), Bertrand R. Brinley (Mad Scientist’s Club), Alexander H. Key (The Magic Meadow, Escape to Witch Mountain), John Dennis Fitzgerald (The Big Brain), Sylvia Engdahl (This Star Shall Abide), Helen Cresswell (Ordinary Jack, Absolute Zero), Keith Robertson (Henry Reed’s Baby-Sitting Service), Clifford B. Hicks (Superweasel), Robert Heinlein (Farmer in the Sky, Hole in the Sky, Orphans of the Sky), Wind in the Willows.

    Beyond this, absolutely everything by Terry Pratchett, starting with the Tiffany Aching books, followed by the Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, then on to the Guards cycle of the DiscWorld books, then all the other Discworld stuff. If you really want to change their lives, and they like fantasy stuff, Terry Pratchett’s your man.

  223. 223
    Matmos says:

    Oh, I forgot: Susan Cooper’s the Dark Comes Rising sequence. *Not* the movie.

  224. 224
    Phoenician in a time of Romans says:

    So here is what I am asking from you- help me change these young women’s lives

    House of Leaves.

    (You should be more specific on HOW you want them changed…)

  225. 225
    PPOG Penguin says:

    You don’t say whether the children are strong readers, and that does matter. A book that will change a strong reader’s life could frustrate a weaker reader and put them off reading for years. With that in mind…

    Second/third Tove Jansson’s “Moomintroll” series. It’s whimsical enough to be accessible and entertaining to even young children, but given depth by its troubled and haunted themes and secondary characters (which in the later books take centre stage).

    Also second/third Alan Garner. “Red Shift” will break your heart. It’s an extended riff on astronomical redshift as a metaphor for separation: in time, in distance and emotionally. Perhaps tough for many children to get the most out of, but “Elidor” and “The Owl Service” are powerful too.

    Finally a shout-out to Peter Dickinson, especially “The Changes” trilogy. On the surface, a classic chidren’s adventure story. Below it, a lot of questions about loss, loyalty, madness and humanity.

  226. 226
    Annamal says:

    At 12 I was devouring every Agatha Christie, James Herriot, Gerald Durell and P.G. Wodehouse book that I could get my hands on which made me into a very odd (and quite out of date and mildy British) child.

    However more appropriate authors would be Tamora Pierce, Diane Duane and Terry Pratchett. All of these have been mentioned before and they’re all still writing for young adults (and they all have strong female heroines with actual verifiable personalities).

    One name I haven’t seen mentioned is

    Margaret Mahy

    (who died quite recently but turned out some awesome heroines and some books that have aged terrifically well).

    The Haunting, The Changeover, 24 hours, The Catalog of the Universe, the tricksters and countless other YA and childrens books by her are well worth a read.

    The changeover is especially good if you want to innoculate them against completely worshiping the twilight books since it’s got many of the same elements but handles them in a far more thoughtful way (and was written 20 years earlier).

  227. 227
    Warren Terra says:

    Anne McCaffrey (doesn’t age well, but great at the right age)
    For the teenager, pretty much anything by CJ Cherryh: little or no sex or graphic violence, but rich characters and many of the books are about the nature of family, outsider status, etcetera, and so hit themes of interest to the teenager.

  228. 228
    JoyceH says:

    We’re talking about books for girls, and nobody suggested horsey books? All of Marguerite Henry – Misty of Chicoteague, Born To Trot, King Of The Wind, Justin Morgan Had A Horse, etc etc etc.

  229. 229
    Kris Collins says:

    I’m kind of on the old side of commenters here so I don’t know a lot about S.E. Hinton let alone Hunger Games and such but I was a pre-teen girl once and I have a daughter so here are a few of our faves:
    Narnia books, all seven, just great stories
    A Little Princess
    The Secret Garden
    Harry Potter books (read them with my daughter)
    Anything by Agatha Christie
    Rebecca and Jane Eyre (for the 12 yr old); I always thought Wuthering Heights was too sappy
    Artemis Fowl
    Anything by Roald Dahl (James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are the best. Matilda is great too)

    Of course I got in trouble when I was 12 when I did my first 7th grade book report on A Farewell to Arms because my teacher thought it was a dirty book. Luckily my mom bailed me out when she told my idiot teacher that she had given it to me to read for the assignment. Mom did take away the highlighted copy of John O’Hara’s The Carbetbaggers that had been making the rounds of my class and she found in mt room. Never occurred to me to hide it after the Hemingway incident!

  230. 230
    Cheryl from Maryland says:

    Sherlock Holmes, Stevenson, Henry Fielding, Raphael Sabatini (very old fashioned, but pirates!),Holly Black( ESP. Valiant for girls), George McDonald, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Peter Beagle’s The Last Unicorn

  231. 231
    Kris Collins says:

    @Kris Collins: P.S. Little Women is also great.
    Personally, I never liked the Oz books, thought they were really creepy. Also, the Little House books bored the crap out of me. Nancy Drew was great but I read my godmother’s first editions of them from the 30’s in all their racist, classist, but very exciting glory. Once the publishers cleaned the stories up for modern readers, they got kind of dull, but they’re ok. Does anybody remember the Cherry Ames series about a young nurse? Are they still around? My sister and I loved them.

  232. 232
    Dylan says:

    My god this list is long already.

    If you ever get this far, I’ve checked and it’s not there already, “Letters from the Inside” by John Marsden is *the* book I’d recommend for girls in this age group.

    The protagonists are two 15yr old girls.


    John Marsden is the Bryce Courtney of kids books. (By which I mean he’s the best writer than Americans have never read or heard of.)

  233. 233
    Hobbes says:

    Rather than list all the suggestions already made that I agree with I will simply add:
    Brian W. Aldiss and Mike Wilks “Pile(Petals from St. Klaed’s Computer)”

  234. 234
    Jean says:

    The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

  235. 235
    cosima says:

    Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series is fabulous. Amusing for adults, and great young female character for young readers. Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is, I think, the first of the series.

    The Otori Chronicles by Lian Hearn for the older girl, Across the Nightingale Floor is the first (published, but then a prequel of sorts was written & published since).

    The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, for the older.

    For the younger: Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch, and the new Pippi Longstocking edition with illustrations by the person who does Charlie & Lola is adorable. My little one’s teacher was reading that to the class and she loved it.

    Throw in some cool science books too. My little one is fascinated by the body books with flaps and science books for kids. Much more so than sitting down and reading a chapter book (even though she tests several years higher than her grade level on reading).

    As a female, I do wish that there had been more books to read, when I was young, that had strong female leads. Much as I loved Judy Blume, and her books (read them all), they had a lot of angst related to boys/crushes/etc. Which is okay, but reinforced its importance in my impressionable young mind. Female warriors & adventurers would have been a nice change. Nobody in my house was suggesting I read about Joan of Arc or anything like that, it was me + the school library and whatever was on their shelves. I take a much different approach with my girls!

    My oldest, now 22, didn’t become a voracious reader until I gave her the first Harry Potter book — because I’d heard that it was banned at a school in Alabama or somewhere… She loved the Tamora Price books, strong female characters in those.

    Now, our youngest, has her dad’s books (pretty much all of the Asterix? books), some of my books, her sister’s books, and her own books. And would rather play with her Ninjago & Star Wars toys or run around outside like a wild animal than read. Which is perfectly fine. She’ll be a voracious reader someday, and I will wait patiently. And I will never let her read a Harlequin romance or any crap like that — only Georgette Heyer.

    A few weeks ago I bought this book: 1001 Childrens’ Books That You Must Read Before You Grow Up. I bought it here in Scotland, so not sure if it’s available in the U.S., most likely can be purchased through Amazon. Buy it, gift it, it’s amazing, a treasure trove. And when our oldest was young I bought similar books, one of them is Great Books for Girls, by Kathleen Odean.

  236. 236
    Patricia Kayden says:

    I see loads of commenters have already suggested “Nancy Drew” books – I recommend the original series from 1966, which begins with The Secret of the Old Clock.

    Judy Blume was also my first novelist (Are you There God, It’s me Margaret).

    Also suggest Pippi Longstocking novels and Anne of Green Gables.

  237. 237
    Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism says:

    From the mixed up files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler

    Enchantress from the Stars – a society that really does believe in the Prime Directive

    Andre Norton – Yes. A thousand times yes.

    Heinlein – No. Just…no.

    A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels

    They’re about the right age for early McCaffrey. Stay far away from anything cowritten by her son.

    I was still devouring Nancy Drew and the many Oz books at that age. Some of the Oz books are public domain at this point; check Gutenberg.

    The one with the radishes. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle?

    How to Eat Fried Worms went over well in my sixth grade glass.

    And a book I’ve been looking for literally for decades and can’t recall the title or author. An alternate Earth tries to summon a great hero and gets…two American boys, one a poet, one a bully. They try to go on the quest anyway, figure out why they were selected by the spell, and re-bind Fenris.

  238. 238
    sarah wenk says:

    I saw someone mentioned The Golden Compass and its sequels – they’re great. Also, for the younger girl, the Edward Eager Magic Series – Half Magic, Magic by the Lake, etc. – are wonderful.

  239. 239
    wormtown says:

    I just skimmed the thread myself. I am an old (57) and don’t have kids – but I would push some of the older books. I remember reading Little Women, and really enjoying it, as well as some others by Alcott which lead me to read more books about the author and the community at Concord. When I was in fourth grade I vividly remember our teacher reading Johnny Tremaine to the class. We all loved it. And finally, when I was in about the 7th grade my godparents gave me a book called Up a Road Slowly that I really loved.

  240. 240
    brantl says:

    Open the older girl’s head with DUNE. The Thomas Covenant series was great, though extremely depressing.

  241. 241
    abject funk says:

    I loved Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry. A Gathering of Old Men is great. Bridge to Terabithia, Rats of Nimh, Witch of Blackbird Pond, and for doggie lovers the Kjelgaard books are fun. I also liked the Great Brain books, very focused on young boys, but fun.

  242. 242
    OldDave says:


    The Princess Bride, William Goldman


  243. 243
    John Dugan says:

    Two hundred and forty and – is it possible? – no mention of: “Betsy – Tacy”, by Maud Hart Lovelace. And not yet ruined by Hollywood!

  244. 244
    noodler says:

    Lots of classics on this list, but for new stuff, check out Annabel Pitcher

    she’s got two good ones that are compelling. ketchup clouds and my sister lives on the mantelpiece.

  245. 245
    farmette says:

    Some books I recall reading :
    Nancy Drew – many books in the series – The Secret Staircase was a good read
    Sherlock Holmes – (fun and makes you think – enjoyed Hound Of The Baskervilles)
    The Velveteen Rabbit (wonderful)
    Anne Of Green Gables
    The Secret Garden
    Nellie Bly, Cub Reporter – I think this was a Scholastic Book Assoc. book
    Jane Eyre ( a favorite)
    Wuthering Heights

  246. 246
    cosima says:

    As an addendum to my above post, I’d say that getting a book about books (the 1001 Books…Up I mentioned above, for example) allows the reader — whatever age! — to read through the synopses and choose books that pique their interest, which leads to better choices. Needless to say, I doubt that the Twilight series is recommended in any of the ones that I have.

    Plant the seeds, that’s all that you can do.

  247. 247
    maurinsky says:


    I was absolutely not scarred by Garp, I think it helped shape my current worldview in a positive way.

    Roald Dahl was a favorite of mine, I especially liked his short stories.

    Oh, and Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

  248. 248
    Fernando says:

    Teach the girls how to think using Lauren Ipsum by Carlos Bueno. It’s a computer science book without any computers in it. It teaches logical thinking, cause and effect. It’s a fun book. The author donates copies, one for one, to libraries and schools. Link: http://www.laurenipsum.org

  249. 249
    jon says:

    @Librarian: As another librarian, I second the recommendation for non-fiction. There’s an increased emphasis for that, all in accordance with this Common Core curriculum stuff the usual confederate of educational experts are pushing.

    Also, too, plus: it makes Glenn Beck weepy and scared.


    Also, read the Moomins. Snufkin rules!

  250. 250
    BigSouthern says:

    I would recommend two comic books.

    The first is “Batgirl: Year One,” the trade paperback of which is being republished in June. It’s a great comic with a main character who is proactive, tough, smart, challenges authority, and finds her role models in other women. It should be easy enough to find via Amazon or (preferably) at a local comic shop.

    The second is “Princeless,” which is another great story with a female lead. This one is about a princess who frees herself from the tower he parents locked her in and then sets about rescuing her sisters. I love it to pieces.

  251. 251
    Halcyan says:

    Stranger in a Strange Land – Heinlein
    Brave New World – Huxley

  252. 252
    Rook says:

    Old Yeller!

  253. 253
    martha says:

    So many incredible suggestions, but I want to highlight 3 of the less familiar ones that folks mentioned: The Book Thief by Markus Zuszak, I Captured the Castle by Dodie Smith, and West With The Night by Beryl Markham. All have great characters…young girls or women, history, and settings that are part of the plot (Eastern Europe, England, Africa). But this entire thread is so full of win that I’ve added some to my reread or to-read list…thanks John…

  254. 254
    Maude says:

    Cynthia Voight.

  255. 255
    Svensker says:

    Edward Eager’s Magic books are wonderful.

    Any of Elizabeth Enright’s books, but I especially love Gone Away Lake, and the Four Storey Mistake.

    The Dark is Rising series.

    Betsy Tacy and Tibb series

    Anne of Green Gables, of course.

    Little House on the Prairie, of course.

  256. 256
    Kathleen says:

    Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card

    The Giver – Lois Lowry

    Gathering Blue – Lois Lowry

    Messenger – Lois Lowry

  257. 257
    sparrow says:

    @PsiFighter37: Boxcar Children were my favorite!! Second that one. An odd one is “Singer from the Sea” by Tepper. It takes the whole female princess story and turns it totally on its head (subtle and not-so-subtle feminist ideas throughout). But also very enjoyable read.

  258. 258
    tdm says:

    I am not sure why life-changing books for girls would necessarily be different from life-changing books for boys.

    I liked the Hitchhiker’s Guide, Piers Anthony books, VC Andrews, The Catcher in the Rye….

  259. 259
    gene108 says:

    My niece, now 21, really liked the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series around that age.

    Hadn’t seen it referenced in this thread.

  260. 260
    rikyrah says:

    Love this thread..

    especially the mentions of the classics.

    Little Women.

    to this day, I simply don’t get why Jo didn’t marry Laurie…I mean, I’m older, and I understand it logically, but being 11 and reading it for the first time, still doesn’t make sense.

    And yes to Agatha Christie.

  261. 261
    bystander says:

    A CtrlF search suggests no one has recommended any of Cory Doctorow’s books. Had he written these when my nieces were young, I’d have sent them each copies of Little Brother and Homeland.

  262. 262
    Elizabelle says:

    Great thread. Appreciated all the good book choices.

    I like YA fiction myself, and missed a lot of this the first time through.

    Had never heard of E.L. (Elaine Shirle) Konigsburg who died this week in Northern Virginia.

    Our loss. She’s imaginative, humane and prolific.

    She wrote a YA character so interesting that Ingrid Bergman played her on film, and Lauren Bacall on TV.

    NY Times obit

    WaPost obit

  263. 263
    Birthmarker says:

    I am going to assume these young ladies are reluctant readers. Therefore I recommend Charlotte’s Web, Old Yeller, Island of the Blue Dolphins. These are all good books to read TO kids.

    I loved a Beverly Cleary book called Fifteen. Just a simple humorous story of a first date. Mr. and Mrs. Bo Jo Jones is an age appropriate story of an unplanned pregnancy.

    BJ’er Hungry Joe’s book Anyway* is really good and has a low reading level, though it looks like a more challenging book. Very accessible book that speaks to kids’ feelings.

    Many of the books recommended here are too hard for kids this age who are not precocious readers. As stated above, once interest is sparked the girls will find most of these on their own.

  264. 264
    virginia says:

    Phantom Tollbooth, Little House on the Prairie, Jane Eyre, The Martian Chronicles, any of the many books out there that serve as movie anthologies, biographies of ballet dancers and women scientists, etc. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, poetry — Auden (never too early to have it around even if they only pick it up later), Mary Pope Osborne’s beautiful and kid friendly “Tales from the Odyssey” (a gorgeous mini set published by Hyperion). Travel books — take your pick. Pippi Longstockings — Nancy Drew! Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb.

    The Golden Treasury of Poetry if you can still find it.

    Betsy and The Emperor by Staton Rubin.

    An Amazon gift card.

    What fun. The DK Eyewitness series is also amazing. Dozens and dozens of gorgeous specialty books.

  265. 265
    virginia says:

    One more — “The Diary of Helena Morley” — translated by Elizabeth Bishop. (Easy to find.) — A delightful book written by a little Brazilian girl of English descent, growing up in Diamantina at the turn of the century.

    The kind of vivid writing by a real little girl that transports you instantly to another world. A classic.

    First published in Brasil in 1942 — Minha Vida de Menina.

  266. 266
    Tata says:

    The non-fiction suggestion is really important, especially biographies of women who defied convention and went their own ways. Helen Keller, Hildegarde of Bingen, Rosalind Franklin, Eleanor Roosevelt, Zora Neale Hurston, Maria Tallchief, etc., etc. At these girls’ ages, the life of Annie Sullivan in The Silent Storm was a big motivator for me because she was a mess the way real people are messy.

    Also: someone above mentioned Idries Shah’s Nasrudin books. They are brilliant and funny and worthy of adult re-reading.

  267. 267
    HI says:

    Momo and The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. The movie version of The Neverending Story is a crap. But the original book is wonderful.

  268. 268
    oldster says:

    The Exiles by Hilary McKay. Three volumes in the series: The Exiles, the Exiles at Home, and the Exiles in Love.

    A family of four British girls from about 7 y.o. to middle teens. Some of the best comedy writing ever.

  269. 269
    Vlad says:

    Lots of good stuff in this thread. The best books that haven’t been mentioned yet are probably Barry Hughart’s three novels abou Master Li and Number Ten Ox. They’re out of print, but you can pick up individual editions used pretty cheaply (a paperback copy of the first, “Bridge of Birds”, will set you back about a buck).

    I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention my friend Siobhan Vivian, who writes what are in my opinion very good young adult novels. They’re marketed to girls but are also pretty enjoyable for a general audience.

  270. 270
    G Bledsoe says:

    My wife loves the books by Edith Nesbit, particularly Five Children and I, The Story of the Treasure Seekers and The Wouldbegoods. Evidently a big source of inspiration for JK Rowling. She wrote early in the 20th century but extremely accessible by all readers.

  271. 271
    Librarian says:

    There’s nothing wrong with a child reading adult nonfiction, if they can understand it. I read Albert Speer’s Inside the Third Reich when I was 12 or 13, but then I was already a history nut.@jon:

  272. 272
    Ceci says:

    Many of the authors/books I happily read and re-read have been mentioned in multiple responses. The point others have made, that reading level/enthusiasm should be considered, is an important one.

    Katherine Paterson’s books are amazing and I wanted to mention “Jacob Have I Loved” in particular as the protagonist is female and it really changed my perspective on social popularity–very helpful for a girl heading into the teen years.

    Ellen Raskin, Louise Fitzhugh, E.L. Konigsburg, Jean Craighead George, Tove Jansson, Roald Dahl, Maud Hart, Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins, and The Twenty-One Ballons – of the suggestions previously posted, those are the ones I’d check out of the library over and over again.

  273. 273
    Persia says:

    God, not Piers Anthony. His attitudes toward women are not of the good, it’s more subtle in some books than others but it’s nothing I’d want a preteen/teen girl suffering through.

    E.L. Konigsburg was indeed magic. The whole Wizard of Earthsea and Prydain series are still highly recommended. Walter Dean Meyers is also really good. I haven’t read any Cory Doctorow but I have a friend who really liked the YA book he did a bit back, and of course, free as an e-book so it can be checked out easily.

    More recent stuff you might have missed:
    Beautiful City of the Dead by Leander Watts
    The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen
    Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going
    Donorboy by Brendan Halpin

  274. 274
    jayackroyd says:

    @Rachel in Portland:

    Zilpha certainly started something…..

  275. 275
    rk says:

    Books by E. Nesbit: A trilogy starting with

    “Five Children and it” (five children find a strange creature which grants their wishes, but of course it’s a case of “be careful what you wish for”).

    “The Phoenix and the Carpet” (further adventures through time and space on a magic carpet)and,

    “The Story of the Amulet” (the children go to various time periods in history).

    “The Railway Children” – About a family forced to move after the father is arrested for spying. They move to a house near a railway station and help prove their father’s innocence.

    “Little House on the Prairie” series. wonderful books.

    “Little women”.

    Enid Blyton’s Adventure series. “Island of Adventure”, “Sea of Adventure”, “Castle of Adventure” etc.

  276. 276
    Franklin says:

    I second “When You Reach Me” by Rebecca Stead. It’s one of those books written for young adults, but is great for anyone.

  277. 277
    maye says:

    Anything/Everything by T.A. Barron

  278. 278
    donquijoterocket says:

    @Rachel in Portland:
    As long as people are recommending the Hunger Games books I’d throw in Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker as a YA novel with excellent younger protagonists plenty of action and commentary on timeless themes.I’d also think it would not be too early to start the older young woman on Margaret Atwood particularly The Handmaid’s Tale,Oryx and Crake and Year of the Flood.Perhaps also Ursula K.LeGuin’s Earthsea books.I also heartily second the recommendation for Pullman’s His Dark Material trilogy.

  279. 279
    virginia says:

    Man O’War (The Black Stallion) by Walter Harley.

    Black Beauty —

    Misty of Chincoteague

    The Short Stories of O’Henry.

    “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier for the older girl. (A great tale about not over estimating the allure and significance of physical beauty — and finding self-esteem by hook or by crook.)

    The Life of Madame Curie.

    I’ll stop now. Have to say this is a great thread and a wonderful way to get the mind on other things.

    You’ll have to archive it where we can find it again too!

    Thanks for offering such a great mental holiday to your readers. It sure as hell beats clicking on cable to see what’s up out there.

    Speaking of that, I’m sure there must be a fun bio of Teddy Roosevelt’s wonderful niece Alice out there.

    Will try to stop now. You’ve unleashed the beast!

  280. 280
    jayackroyd says:


    Susan Cooper has a new book coming out in August, Ghosthawk, which is quite good. The Dark is Rising series has been repackaged.

    I’m a big fan of a new author, Moira Young. Her first book is Blood Red Road second book, just out, is Rebel Heart. Really strong female character in a dystopia.

    (disclosure: Mrs Jay is the editor for these books–not the Dark is Rising series, obviously.)

    On Heinlein, I loved the Scribner juveniles–Podkayne of Mars; the Rolling Stones; Have Spacesuit, Will Travel

    Holmes is a great idea.

    Later on, I really loved having a subscription to F&SF.

    Nobody has mentioned The Once and Future King. Or the Oz stories. (Or I missed the mentinon.)

    Contemporary books/authors:

    Holes Louis Sachar
    The Ear, the Eye and the ArmNancy Farmer
    Pat Giff
    Chris Curtis
    Jim Murphy

  281. 281
    Helmut Monotreme says:

    Many of the good ones were taken, so here is a list of books not already mentioned:
    The book of going forth by day, The Necronomicon, Von Junzt’s Unaussprechliche Kulte, Malleus Maleficarum, De Vermis Mysteriis, The Book of Counted Sorrows, Theogeny, The King in Yellow, the Epic of Gilgamesh, Gravity’s Rainbow, My War Gone By I Miss it So, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, The Illiad, One Hundred Years of Solitude.

  282. 282
    jayackroyd says:

    And, I’m sorry, Black Beauty. I read that damn book a dozen times.

  283. 283
    state22 says:

    2 suggestions:

    1. Frank L. Baum’s Wizard of Oz series. There were 15 books overall. Ought to keep them reading for a while.

    Note: if you are buying them, they are out of copyright and so you need to be careful about not being overcharged. Many editions are text only or have off-brand illustrations. Look for editions with the original illustrations by WW Denslow and John R. Neill. Many of them are available on Kindle with the illustrations for a very inexpensive price, but I’d check out how their reading devices handle illustrations because the original ones are really good.

    2. Pretty much anything on the American Library Association for Children’s parent site http://www.ala.org/alsc/audiencemenus/parents. With the usual caveat that all books are a product of their age – for better or worse.

  284. 284

    Nancy Drew
    Enid Blyton
    Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women
    Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes
    I also am a big fan of Agatha Christie’s novels
    I read David Copperfield when I was about 12 or 13 and loved it.
    Jane Eyre.

  285. 285
    Persia says:

    @state22: L. Frank Baum on Project Gutenberg, many with images.

    EDIT: I checked, they don’t all have images.

  286. 286
    dcdl says:

    I don’t know if this thread is already dead, but here are some authors my twin nine year old’s enjoy.

    Margaret Peterson Haddix- Shadow Children Series, Missing Children Series, among other stand alone books and other short series.
    Rick Riordan- Percy Jackson, Heroes of Mount Olympus, 39 Clues Series, and others.
    Erin Hunter- Warrior (Cat Clan), Seekers (Bear Clan), Survivor (Dog Clan) Series
    Veronica Roth- Divergent Series
    James Dashner- Infinity Ring Series
    City of Orphans by AVI
    Tangerine by Edward Bloor

    Link to books girls 9-12 years might like

    Oprah Book Club 10-12 year olds


    There are a ton of authors. A good place to get ideas is Amazon.

    You probably need to find out where their interests are and their reading level. Also, some schools do a program called Accelerated Reading (AR) or something like that and the student reads a book and takes a test on it and gets points for it. Each level of book has certain points assigned to it.

  287. 287
    Shana says:

    I, and both of my daughters, loved:

    The Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace, they’re about the early 1900’s with best friends who go from age 5 to adulthood and are a wonderful series of about 10 books.

    Also – the Mary Poppins series of books, a little darker then the movie, but still a lot of fun.

    Sorry if some of these have been mentioned already, I’m late to the post.

  288. 288
    Athenae says:

    The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. Actually all of Sherlock Holmes is good, especially for the older one, but BK is one of my all-time favorites and I always give it to teenage girls because it’s about a smart teenager who kicks ass at life despite major setbacks and damage.


  289. 289
    sherparick says:

    Harold Bloom’s “Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children” is a great anthology. He wrote it in response to J.R. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, which he hated (but I liked).


    And here is a secret treasure that the animal and nature lovers on this site should love: “Birds, Beasts, and Other Relatives, by Gerald Durrell. He wrote a series of these books.

    I remember reading “Misty of Chincoteague” at about 12. Still in print and on Amazon’s top 100 list. Also, the “The Three Musketeers” by A. Dumas, senior. That might seem like a “boys” book, but I think anyone should dig it.


  290. 290
    Herbal Infusion Bagger says:

    What was said above – take them to their local library, and get them talking to the kid’s librarian, and they’ll get the kids onto what they like. My kid’s a regular at the library now, it’s next to our regular grocery store, and he always asks to go to the library when we buy groceries.

    Why give them a few books when you could give them a library?

  291. 291
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    In case in hasn’t been suggested yet Anyway* is a delightful youth (and adult) read. I blushingly admit that I’ve mislaid the author’s Balloon Juice nym. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and it is still making its way around my circle of friends, some of whom have children in the age range for which it’s written. Delightful. And I have a personalized copy. ::gloats::

  292. 292
    daize says:


    OMG! My Darling, My Hamburger. I loved that book.

    The Chosen, Chaim Potok
    Diary of Anne Frank
    Any biography of Helen Keller
    I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
    Little Princess
    Secret Garden
    Nancy Drew
    Little House

    The nieces and nephews love Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Percy Jackson, The Book Thief, Lois Lowry, Lemony Snicket.

  293. 293
    catperson says:

    I love this topic! These are all books I still own and reread on occasion.

    Anything by Ellen Raskin with The Westing Game being her best known work.

    Patricia McKillip–really anything by her but Forgotten Beasts of Eld and the RiddleMaster series are probably the most accessible for that age group.

    Daniel Pinkwater–Alan Mendelson, Boy from Mars is my favorite of his.

    Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth. They might be slightly too old for it but they’ll eventually be the right age again.

    EL Konigsburg–I was sad to see that she had passed away last week. Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler (of course). But I’m also a fan of A Proud Taste of Scarlet and Miniver

    I loved Frank Herbert’s Dune books at that age but I find them so problematic now that I can’t really recommend them.

    Leona Ellerby’s King Tut’s Gameboard. Might be too young for them but it’s a great book.

    I’m sure there’s more–I’ll have to go take a look at my bookshelves.

  294. 294
    Francis says:

    One more author:

    Mary Norton, The Borrowers series and the two-part Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

  295. 295

    @Biff Longbotham: Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath

    YES. Everybody gets all caught up in Lovecraft’s gothic horror, but this is more like a straight-up fantasy.

  296. 296
    dcdl says:

    Remember get them books they want to read, not books you would like them to read. Also, some of the books people have listed are a higher grade level than 3rd/4th grade. If your friend’s daughter is at grade level or below than some books might be frustrating to her. The length might be overwhelming. It is okay not to be advanced in reading. The most important part is to have them read! Get them to read because they enjoy it not because they have to. Their books don’t necessarily have to be ‘classics’. There are so many types of books now a days that there is literally something for everyone.

  297. 297
    Red Right Hand says:

    How about a young reader’s classic: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle?

  298. 298
    Guest says:

    Not too late, I hope. I too started reading at an early age, the weekly trip to the public library was sacrosanct in my family when I was growing up. Seeing a lot of books listed here that I loved as a young girl, and still love today. Adding my list, and seconding some previous suggestions:

    A Little Princess
    The Secret Garden
    To Kill a Mockingbird
    The Lord of the Rings trilogy – I had most of the books memorized at one point. Speaking of which:
    Farenheit 451
    The Witch of Blackbird Pond
    Johnny Tremaine
    The Light in the Forest
    A Country of Strangers
    I began my life-long SF love affair at that age, starting with absolutely everything Jules Verne and H.G. Wells ever wrote. Don’t know how well they’d hold up today but some of the classics like War of the Worlds and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea might still be enjoyable for kids.
    And although I loved Asimov at that age, the books of Ray Bradbury have held up much better for me. I recommend anything by him but especially The Illustrated Man for young readers. “The Veldt” scared the piss out of me as a kid!
    Kurt Vonnegut isn’t for everyone, but Slaughterhouse Five is a good place to start.
    All Quiet on the Western Front
    For Whom the Bell Tolls
    A Farewell To Arms
    The Count of Monte Cristo
    The Three Musketeers
    Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats
    I see several folks have mentioned the Sherlock Holmes stories, I think they might be a little advanced for a 10-year-old, but I certainly enjoyed discovering them in my mid-teens.

    I’ll add some I didn’t discover (or weren’t written) until I was an adult:
    The Crystal Cave
    The Hollow Hills
    Where the Sidewalk Ends
    The Swallows and Amazons series (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swallows_and_Amazons)
    The Hunger Games

  299. 299
    dance around in your bones says:


    Nobody has mentioned The Once and Future King. Or the Oz stories. (Or I missed the mentinon.)

    @dance around in your bones The Once and Future King. (Also, later – Mistress Masham’s Repose, by the same author T.H. White).

    @dance around in your bones: The Oz books.

    control-f is yr friend!

    This has been a great thread.

  300. 300
    CindyH says:

    @Aimai: who wrote The Mermaids Daughter?

  301. 301
    Steeplejack says:

    @Anne Laurie:

    I’m very late to return to this thread, but I’m glad you brought up Andre Norton. I loved her books when I was starting to read science fiction around age 10 or so. I think a lot of them would hold up very well.

    Ray Bradbury’s The October Country might be another good gateway to science fiction and fantasy.

    And I’m glad someone mentioned The Wind in the Willows. That is a great book that has been somewhat obscured and trivialized by the film versions of it. Be sure to get an edition with E.H. Shepard’s original illustrations.

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    Steeplejack says:


    The Mermaid’s Daughter is by Joyce Gard, but it seems to be out of print. Only used copies available at Amazon.

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    mai naem says:

    Late to the thread and am not going through the whole thread – I grew up on Enid Blyton. She’s very well known in Britain and former Brit colonies. The fairytale stuff is probably beyond their age but the Famous Five, Mallory Towers, St.Clares, Adventure Series,Secret Seven series.
    Also – All the Dickens’ stuff(Oliver Twist,Nicholas Nickleby, Great Expectations), Tale of Two Cities, Christmas Carol, Little Dorrit etc., Jane Austen’s stuff, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books, Diary of Anne Frank, John Gunther’s Death Be Not Proud, Dick Francis’ racing industry books,Roald Dahl stuff, Life of Pi, Rudyard Kipling, Jack London’s books, National Velvet, Watership Down,John Steinbeck’s Red Pony and The Pearl.

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    JimL says:

    At the cited age, Richard Dawkins, The Magic of Reality.

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    Ramalama says:

    Shameless shoutout on Professor Blue Top Secret Lab Journal. Discusses where your drinking water comes from by a woman scientist, something that is sorely needed, what with all of the ‘boys should achieve while girls can dream’ messaging that’s still the norm and not an exception.

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    Dominic, by William Steig. Also The Mouse and His Child by Russell Hoban.

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    EthylEster says:


    I grew up right.

    Except for going to Republican camp. ;=)

    Nancy Pearl has authored a bunch of books about books. Book Lust, for example. In them books are described by category. I think Book Crush is mostly about books for kids.

    See here.

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    I also recommend the Freddy the Pig books by Walter R. Brooks. I loved these books when I was a kind, and I still break them out to read now and then years later. I’m going to begin reading them to my six year old one of these days. They’re hilarious, and there’s a subtle streak of subversiveness in them, too, which I love.

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    InternetDragons says:

    I actually think these haven’t been mentioned yet, and I’d hate to see them overlooked. All are by Peter S. Beagle, and if you haven’t read them yet, you should even as an adult.

    They’re great for YA readers though:

    The Last Unicorn
    A Fine and Private Place

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    The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford. This story of two dogs and a cat on a homeward journey across northwestern Ontario always brings tears to my eyes at the end.

    The younger one isn’t too old for the whimsical and funny Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler books (The Gruffalo, The Fish Who Cried Wolf, Zog, Stick-Man, etc.) even though they’re targeted more towards early to mid single digits. I haven’t gotten tired of them, and I’m in my late 50s.

    The older one will be ready for Cannery Row by John Steinbeck in a couple of years, if she isn’t yet.

    Lots of other things come to mind, but since I came in late, everyone else has picked them off, which is fine.

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    Tehanu says:

    An older girl (13 or so) might like C.S. Lewis’s great book Till We Have Faces more than the Narnia books – it retells the story of Cupid and Psyche from the point of view of the ugly sister.

    All of Helen Cresswell’s books are terrific. As Mnemosyne suggests, start with Ordinary Jack.

    If available at the library — probably out of print, though I wouldn’t swear to it — anything by K.M. Briggs but especially Hobberdy Dick.

    has anybody mentioned The Midnight Folk by John Masefield?

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    Beezus says:

    Summer of the Monkeys – Wilson Rawls
    King Dork – Frank Portman
    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith
    Go Ask Alice – Anonymous
    A Day No Pigs Would Die – Richard Peck
    A Separate Peace – John Knowles
    The Family Nobody Wanted – Helen Doss
    I Am the Cheese – Robert Corimer
    Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes
    The Cat Ate My Gymsuit – Paula Danzinger
    Gift of Magic – Lois Duncan
    The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky
    The Princess Bride – William Goldman
    Tuck Everlasting – Natalie Babbitt
    Neverending Story – Michael Ende
    Killer Angels – Michael Shaara
    When You Reach Me – Rebecca Stead
    Trumpet of the Swan – E.B. White
    Harriet the Spy – Louise Fitzhugh
    Where the Lillies Bloom – Vera Cleaver
    The Giver – Lois Lowry
    Holes – Louis Sachar
    The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
    My Side of the Mountain – Jean Craighead George
    Ellen Foster – Kaye Gibbons
    Remembering the Good Times – Richard Peck
    Summer of My German Soldier – Bette Greene
    Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee – Dee Brown

    Best site to buy books ( as you can choose USED and from their entire inventory, no sales tax, free shipping… independent…) powells.com

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    Original Lee says:

    Have not read the whole thread – so many of my favorites have been listed already!

    However, I would like to give a plug for a couple of authors that might not have been mentioned yet.

    Rex Stout: Seriously. The greatest thing about these books is that Stout didn’t really age the characters, yet set the stories contemporaneously. So you can see how people treated each other and stuff like that changed over time if you want to read critically, or you can just enjoy a really good story. And have a good talk about how women are treated back then versus now, too.

    Elizabeth Wein: She’s written a couple of good YA fantasy novels, but her latest, Code Name Verity, has been on the NY Times bestseller list and is amazing on so many different levels.

    Diane Duane: She’s got a degree in astrophysics, IIRC, and writes really solid fiction with strong, believable female and male characters.

    Patricia Wrede: Feminist fairy tales that emphasize common sense and logical thinking – what’s not to like?

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    Birthmarker says:

    Judy Blume is a good fit for girls of these ages. My favorite Judy Blume book is Tiger Eyes.

    A good book that is sadly out of print is The Solitary by Lynn Hall. Really highlights self reliance.

    I wonder how many of us would recommend The World According to Garp to a 12 year old if the male nurse hopped on the comatose female b/c he wanted a child…

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    Kate says:

    Most of my suggestions have already been made but I haven’t seen “We have always lived in the castle” by Shirley Jackson. It is dark and creepy and I loved it as a 12 y.o.

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    Original Lee says:

    Also, before I forget, In Great Waters by Kit Whitfield is an interesting alt-history book.

    The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis is also very good.

    Cheaper by the Dozen.

    I was kind of a quirky reader in middle school. I read lots of murder mysteries (Agatha Christie, Naomi Marsh, Dell Shannon, Rex Stout), but I also read a lot of the classics (The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo, Sherlock Holmes, Dante, Canterbury Tales) and a lot of mythology (Bulfinch’s Mythology, Iliad, Odyssey, Aeneid) and a lot of biographies and autobiographies. And horse books! Actually, now that I think about it, the only thing I didn’t read was a lot of horror, after I had nightmares from reading too much Poe at once, or bodice-ripping romance (silly me, I thought The Witch of Blackbird Pond was typical).

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    DaddyJ says:

    So there you go, John. That should be enough to get started with, right?

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    jayackroyd says:

    @dance around in your bones: Great minds! Thanks.

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    Danielle says:

    Thanks everyone! This is a fabulous start. I say start because even with this great list I am sure there are still many others worth their print!

    Thanks John for pitching this request for help, too!
    Danielle and her daughter

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