I have a tween daughter who, since the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, loves to read. A few years ago, I started a list of books I wanted to make sure she read and we’ve recently started making our way through it. 

Often, we read the books together (one copy from Amazon, the other from the public or school library) and not only has it allowed me to rediscover many of the novels I loved as a kid—it’s bringing the two of us closer as we talk about what we’re reading. 

Here are 12 books from my list: 

Bridge to Terabithia

Bridge to Terabithia Katherine Paterson

Katherine Paterson’s story of Jess Aarons and Leslie Burke is one of unlikely friendship, sprawling imagination, and deep sorrow. It’s one that will stick with you long after the surprising conclusion.

 

The Giver

The Giver Lois Lowry

Lois Lowry’s Newbery Medal-winning dystopian novel left a mark on me as a tween for both its stark style and its thought-provoking narrative. The ending is guaranteed to get you talking. 

 

Tuck Everlasting

Tuck Everlasting Natalie Babbitt

“What if you could live forever?” This Natalie Babbitt classic is next on our list to read together (and we’ll watch the movie version afterward, too). 

 

Beezus and Ramona

Beezus and Ramona Beverly Cleary

I learned the word “exasperating” from Beezus Quimby, the put-upon older sister of 4-year-old hurricane Ramona. Beverly Cleary’s classic series may be more suitable for the 8-10-year-old crowd, but even older kids will enjoy the fun stories of the Quimby family. 

The Baby-Sitters Club

The Baby-Sitters Club Ann M. Martin

This boxed set comes in a keepsake tin and features original covers and text from the beloved Ann M. Martin series—it’ll take you right back to the 90s. 

 

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas John Boyne

The story of young Bruno and his family’s involvement with Nazi concentration camps is a heavy read, but an important one. This book prompted a lot of questions from my 11-year-old about the Holocaust, Adolf Hitler, and World War II, which we were then able to walk through together. The 2008 movie version is masterfully done, too; we watched it after we’d finished the book and both will stay with us. 

 

Hatchet

Hatchet Gary Paulsen

When a single-engine plane crash strands 13-year-old Brian Robeson alone in the Canadian wilderness with only a hatchet and his own doubt, the teen must learn how to survive if he has any chance at rescue. Gary Paulsen’s novel is an unlikely coming-of-age story filled with grit and heart. 

 

Number the Stars

Number the Stars Lois Lowry

The book that ignited my love for historical fiction is this Lois Lowry tale of friendship and bravery during the Holocaust. Annemarie and Ellen humanize the heartbreak of families and friends torn from their lives in the wake of the Nazi invasion. The book is a good entry-point for Holocaust reading and will undoubtedly spark meaningful conversation between you and your child.

 

Little House on the Prairie series

Little House on the Prairie Laura Ingalls Wilder

When Pa’s eyes sparkled, my little literary heart glowed. This series is a must-read for any child growing up in my home. The lives and lessons of Ma and Pa Ingalls and their three daughters Laura, Mary, and Carrie are relevant even today, so many decades later. Read the books (they’re great to read aloud!), then watch the charming television series and you’ll find yourself wishing you, too, lived in Walnut Grove or along the banks of Plum Creek.

 

Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables L.M. Montgomery

Spunky Anne (with an “e” thank you very much) Shirley will make you laugh, make you think, and make you fall in love with a red-headed little girl. L.M. Montgomery’s masterpiece provides a strong heroine with heart any girl (or boy!) can look up to. 

 

Where the Red Fern Grows

Where the Red Fern Grows Wilson Rawls

When we read this Wilson Rawls novel in junior high, it might be the one and only time a room full of 7th-graders was simultaneously sniffling. The story captures the bond between a boy and man’s best friend(s) in a way that tugs at even the most stubborn adolescent heartstrings. 

 

Harry Potter Series

Harry Potter J.K. Rowling

No tween bookshelf would be complete without J.K. Rowling’s magical, mystical masterpiece. The Harry Potter series is one you’ll enjoy even if fantasy isn’t your genre—Rowling is that good. Snag one of the special boxed sets on Amazon (we love this one that depicts Hogwarts Castle when books 1-7 are lined up) for less than $10/book. 

 

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