Eleven seems to be that age in a child’s life where they are ravenous readers and run out of books to read faster even than they outgrow clothes (and that’s mind-bogglingly fast enough!).
Having kids who love to read is a good problem to have, of course, but it can be a real challenge for parents to think of what books to give them next.
We asked for recommendations from a book lovers’ club with nearly a million members – consisting of parents, teachers, librarians, and other lifelong readers, all of whom were, of course, kids themselves once upon a time – and from their suggestions we put together this list of books that kids age 11 and thereabouts can immerse themselves into.
There are the classics that almost every parent will know, such as the Chronicles of Narnia and the Lord of the Rings, and even newer “classics” like Harry Potter. There are also books that the average parent may or may not have heard of: hidden gems from years past, works with cult followings, or titles published fairly recently.
We divide the 139 recommendations into a top 5, a list of 10 honorable mentions, and an easy-to-scan list of the other 124. When we say top, we don’t necessarily mean that these are the best books among all those in the list; rather, these are the ones that may not be worldwide phenomena — and you probably don’t have a copy of — yet but show a lot of promise and are therefore worth spotlighting.
Eleven-year-old Harrison “Hal” Beck and his Uncle Nat, a travel writer, are on the last journey of the Highland Falcon, the most famous steam train in Britain, when a precious jewel goes missing. They find themselves in the middle of the investigation and try to solve the mystery before the train reaches its last destination. Other adventures on other trains – in California, South Africa, Germany, Australia, and the Arctic Circles – follow in this modern series by MG Leonard and Sam Sedgman.
Books in the series:
In the first book of the Circle of Magic series by Tamora Pierce, four young misfits – a young girl of noble descent, a trader, a former thief, and a merchant’s daughter – are brought together to learn how to use their newly discovered magical abilities. They have “ambient magic” as opposed to “academic magic”: power with plants, power of fire and heat, power of earth and weather, and power to weave magic itself. There are four books in the series, with each book highlighting one of the four main characters. Another quartet of books, The Circle Opens, takes place four years later and features the four young mages mentoring others.
Books in the series:
In this fun series by Stuart Gibbs, middle schooler Teddy Fitzroy moves into the country’s biggest zoo with his scientist parents. However, mysterious things keep happening at the zoo: the unexpected death of a hippopotamus, a missing koala, a pregnant rhinoceros seemingly being hunted for her horn, a disappearing giant panda, a lion being framed for the murder of a famous dog, a rare dinosaur skull that vanishes into thin air, endangered bison and a bear named Sasquatch, and a whale that washes up dead on the beach…then explodes. It’s up to Teddy to investigate!
Books in the series:
It’s Choosing Day in the Kingdom of Araluen and 15-year-old orphan Will and his friends face either becoming an apprentice to a craftmaster or having to work in the local farms. Will gets chosen to be the apprentice of Halt, a Ranger, one of a group of skilled trackers, archers and warriors who have mastered the art of staying unseen. Friendships are tested and danger arrives as the Rangers receive word that vicious creatures under the control of a vengeful exiled baron have entered Araluen. There are twelve books in the Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan, all featuring prevailing themes of courage, loyalty, friendship, endurance, and the eventual triumph of good over evil.
Books in the series:
Fifteen-year-old Josh is working at his summer job in a bookstore when a man named John Dee arrives and tries to steal an ancient book called The Book of Abraham the Mage, also known as the Codex. Dee engages the store owner, Nick Fleming, in a magical battle and successfully carries off the Codex, but John is able to keep hold of two of the Codex’s most important pages. Nick Fleming confesses that he is actually the famous French alchemist Nicholas Fleming, and that he and his wife Perenelle are kept alive by an elixir whose recipe can only be found in the pages of the Codex. The recipe changes every month and cannot simply be memorized. It turns out that John Dee is planning to use the Codex to restore his masters, the Dark Elders, to life. Meanwhile, Nicholas believes that Josh and his twin Sophie are the ones mentioned in a prophecy in the Codex and that the fate of the world depends on their being able to fully awaken their magical abilities. The completed six-book series by Michael Scott follows Sophie and Josh as they try to master magic, defeat John Dee, and rescue Perenelle (whom Dee has kidnapped), along the way enlisting the help of characters from history and mythology.
Books in the series:
The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids is about a group of kids at Bailey Elementary who encounter everyday characters – such as a teacher, camp counselor, custodian, and scientist – who may or may not be mythical creatures. Titles (there are over 50) include Vampires Don’t Wear Polka Dots, Mummies Don’t Coach Softball, Angels Don’t Know Karate, Mermaids Don’t Run Track, and Werewolves Don’t Go To Summer Camp. The books are written by Marcia T. Jones and Debbie Dadey.
Al Capone Does My Shirts is about a 12-year-old boy named Moose Flanagan who moves to Alcatraz Island with his family when his father accepts employment as an electrician and guard in the famous prison. When his sister needs help to get into a school for people with special needs, Moose asks for help from the legendary criminal Al Capone, who works in the prison’s laundry. His sister gets accepted and Moose finds a note in his newly laundered shirt with the underlined word, “Done.” There are four books in the series so far and author Gennifer Choldenko is reportedly working on a fifth installment.
Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston is about a 13-year-old girl who never stops believing that her missing brother Quinton is still alive. A series of events leads her to discover that she is a powerful magician and she joins a magical training camp, all in the hopes of finding her brother.
Bazil Broketail is the first book in the Dragons of the Argonath series by Christopher Rowley. It follows the adventures of Bazil, a leatherback dragon who serves in one of the legions of the Argonath empire. His companion is Relkin, a quiet orphan boy from a small village who wishes most of all to finish his service and retire to a farm. The pair eventually become one of the most feared and admired fighting teams in Argonath.
The Charlie Bone series, properly known as Children of the Red King series, starts with the book Midnight for Charlie Bone, in which 10-year-old Charlie discovers that he can hear the thoughts of people in photographs. He gets sent to Bloor’s Academy where he meets other characters “endowed” with powers such as moving objects with their mind, controlling water, bewitching clothing, talking to animals, calling up spirit ancestors, bringing stone statues to life, summoning storms, and turning into a bird.
Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke tells the story of Firedrake, a young silver dragon who lives with other dragons in a hidden valley in Scotland. When Firedrake learns that humans intend to flood their home valley, Firedrake enlists his brownie friend Sorrel and a human boy named Ben in a quest to find the Rim of Heaven, a mythical part of the Himalayas that they hope will become a safe haven for all dragons.
Fablehaven is the first in a five-book fantasy series written by Brandon Mull. When their parents go on a cruise, 13-year-old Kendra and 11-year-old Seth are sent to stay with their grandparents. After solving a complex puzzle involving six keys and a locked journal, they discover that Fablehaven is actually a secret sanctuary for all sorts of mythical creatures – creatures of both light and dark – and that their grandparents are the caretakers. Throughout the series, Seth and Kendra face challenges such as defeating a witch and demon, defending the sanctuary from an evil society, stopping a plague, and protecting the world from demons.
In The Giant Under The Snow by John Gordon, Jonquil “Jonk” Winters explores the woods and finds an old buckle. She is then attacked by a large black dog and rescued by a woman named Elizabeth Goodenough who possesses magical powers. They soon learn that the dog’s master is a stone-faced ancient warlord who needs the buckle to regain his powers. Jonk and her friends need to defeat the warlord and keep him from getting hold of the buckle.
Hoot by Carl Hiassen is about a 12-year-old boy named Roy Eberhardt who moves to Florida, attracts the attention of a bully, and makes friends with another boy who is trying to stop the construction of a pancake house in order to save the family of endangered burrowing owls living on the site. Roy gets his classmates to join his protest and together they are able to stop the construction, with the pancake house owners promising to create an owl sanctuary instead.
Redwall is a series of books by Brian Jacques that chronicle the adventures of the animals living in Redwall Abbey and the surrounding countryside of Mossflower Wood. There are a total of 22 books in the series and although there are a few recurring characters, most of the titles are standalone books and can be read in any order. The best book to begin with, though, would be the one that was published first, Redwall, for which the entire series is named. In this starting story, a young mouse named Matthias serves as a novice monk at Redwall Abbey but dreams of adventure and following the footsteps of the abbey’s founder, Martin the Warrior.
This post was previously published at BooksBudgetsAndPets.com which has now been sunsetted.