When it comes to kids and books, there are two common complaints. First is that there’s nothing good to read (reluctant readers) and second is that there’s nothing good left to read (bookworms). Either way, having a list of age-appropriate book ideas can help. This list of 25 incredible books for both boys and girls ages 8-12 (or US grades 4-6) can be used to help your kids find their next great read. These are all stand-alone (non-series) books. You can find my favorite kids’ book series here. I’ve included a short synopsis for each book and a grade range based on interest and reading level. Click each photo to find that book on Amazon (affiliate link).
The Indian in the Cupboard. Omri is disappointed when he gets a small plastic Indian for his birthday. Little does he know that when he locks the Indian in a cupboard the toy will transform into a real live warrior named Little Bear. Grades 3-5.
Mathilda. Young Mathilda is sent to boarding school where the menacing headmistress makes it her mission in life to terrorize the children. When Mathilda decides to fight back, she realizes she has extraordinary powers. Grades 3-5.
Bridge to Teribithia. Jess and Leslie are best friends who create an imaginary kingdom in the woods called Teribithia, where they are king and queen. The book explores the friendship that brings them together and the tragedy that pulls them apart. Grades 3-5.
The One and Only Ivan. Ivan is a gorilla who has spent the last 27 years of his life in a glass enclosure in a shopping mall. When he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from the wild, everything changes. Grades 3-5.
The Tale of Desperaux. Desperaux a mouse who’s in love with a princess who breaks the rules and communicates with humans. In punishment, he’s sent to live with (or be eaten by) the rats. Will Desperaux escape to claim the princess’ hand? Grades 3-5.
The Phantom Tollbooth. Milo thinks everything is a waste of time, until a phantom tollbooth appears in his room. He drives through into a strange land where just about everything is a play on words and has a wonderful adventure. Grades 3-5.
Tuck Everlasting. The Tuck family unknowingly drank from a magic spring, which froze them at their current ages and blessed (or cursed) them with everlasting life. Things get messy when their secret gets out… Grades 4-6.
Number the Stars. Set in Denmark during WWII, this book tells the story of 10 year old Annemarie and her family as they help smuggle her friend Ellen’s family out of Denmark before the Nazis round up all the Jews in the country. Grades 4-6.
Where the Red Fern Grows. When Billy gets his first pair of coonhound pops he’s determined to make them into the greatest hunting team ever. The book follows their adventured together in the Ozark mountains. When tragedy hits, Billy learns the Native American legend of the red fern. Grades 4-6.
Island of the Blue Dolphins. Based on a true story, The Island of the Blue Dolphins tells the story of a girl stranded alone on an island for 18 years. She defends herself from wild dogs, finds food and fashions clothes from what’s available on the island. A timeless adventure story. Grades 4-7.
Freak the Mighty. This is the story of the unlikely friendship of two boys: a teenage giant with a learning disability and a difficult past, and a tiny genius with a serious birth defect. Together they become an invincible duo. Grades 4-7.
Smile. In this graphic novel (memoir), Raini is a normal preteen, until she falls and knocks out her two front teeth. Then comes braces, surgery, headgear, an earthquake, boy problems, and friend problems in this funny coming of age story. Grades 4-7.
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler. When Claudia runs away, she decides she wants to go seomewhere special, and so she plans her escape to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She and her brother Jamie explore the museum, taking baths in a fountain, and uncover a mystery waiting to be solved. Grades 4-8.
Everything on a Waffle. Even though Primrose is quite certain her parents didn’t perish at sea like everyone else seems to think so, she’s still an orphan, at least for the time being. Kids will love the tales of her constant mis-adventures. Grades 4-8.
The Witch of Blackbird Pond. When lonely Kit Tyler makes friends with elderly Hannah, she doesn’t realize the townspeople suspect Hannah of being a witch. Set in the 1600s, this is a fascinating historical tale and Newberry winner. Grades 5-8.
The Westing Game. 16 people are called together for the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will, and each one of the is a possible heir to his huge fortune. This is a clever, suspenseful mystery that will have readers guessing until the very end. Grades 5-8.
Bud, Not Buddy. It’s the middle of the great depression, and Bud’s tired of being treated badly in foster care, so he runs away to find the man he’s convinced is his father. Things don’t go quite as well as he expects, but Bud’s not discouraged. Grades 5-8.
The Book of a Thousand Days. In this retelling of a brothers Grimm fairy tale, Ashti is a servant to lady Saran, both of whom are locked in a tower for seven years because Saran refuses to marry the man chosen for her by her father. Grades 5-9.
The Graveyard Book. Bod is a unique boy who lives in a unique place: he’s the only living inhabitant of a graveyard. Surrounded by the ghosts of the people buried there, Bod learns why the man who murdered his parents is out to find him and what he must do to elude him. Grades 6-8.
The Egypt Game. Six friends get together in an abandoned storage yard to play the Egypt game, which includes holding ceremonies and working on secret codes. But when things start to go wrong and a mysterious death occurs, they begin to wonder if the game has gone too far. Grades 6-8.
Hoot. Things aren’t going so well for Roy at his new school in Florida – no real friends but plenty of bullies. But things are about to get better: he meets Beatrice, a tall no-nonsense girl who might become a friend, and together they uncover a mystery involving a runaway boy and some miniature owls. Grades 6-8.
Did I miss your (or your child’s) favorite? Tell us about it in the comments!