Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Books for 10 and 11 year-olds (kind of):

Book recommendations are quite a personal thing. You know a friend would love a certain book because she's totally into dystopia, but you also know it would keep another friend up all night freaking out. One friend might be fine with a few cuss words here and there, but it would totally spoil the reading experience for a different friend.

The recommendation lines are drawn even more finely when it comes to sharing books with kids. This one might be a perfect read-alone for one particular ten-year-old, but to another, it's just too much sorrow and might only work as a read-aloud with time to pause in order to discuss issues as they arise. A book may have some wonderful themes and ideas, but the occasional violent imagery upsets some parents. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to sharing books.

I was not a discerning reader when I was ten. I read anything I could lay my hands on, and I don't think it messed me up too much. But there are definitely things I probably shouldn't have read when I was quite so young -- or maybe I've just turned all mother-hen in my relative old age? Because I am much more cautious in my approach to throwing books at kids than I was in my approach to catching said books when I was a kid.

All of which is my really long-winded way of saying that a book that's great for one kid may not be so for another. It might be too mature for one and too young for another; you know how it goes. That being said, one of my favourite ways to engage with books and find great new things to read or share is in talking about them. And recently I've had a few people ask me for recommendations for grade five/six readers. Which can only mean... BOOKLIST TIME!

I have erred on the side of delicacy here, which means that these are books meant for young readers. You may be fine with your eleven-year-old reading The Fault in Our Stars (at this point, I wouldn't be), but there won't be anything that grown-up in my list. The ones I am sharing, though, are books I've engaged with predominantly as an adult reader -- which tells you they are good books (to me, at least) because their appeal and quality is enduring regardless of age. I've split the books into two segments based on the fact that one friend requested some lighter, happier reads. Again, such distinctions might be arbitrary; what one reader finds heavy, another reader might consider fluff. It's all relative, and many serious books can be written lightly and gently, so feel free to make up your own mind. Regardless, all of these books are ones I consider fairly gentle, even though many of them tackle difficult topics. Categorisations are hard!

Feel free, also, to throw your own recommendations at me. Inspired by swellvalleybloodpulse's snappy instagram book reviews (check them out; they are like delicious little bookish word-poems!), I've taken just a few words to describe each text:

Slightly lighter:
  • Collins, Suzanne -- urban fantasy, a kidnapped little sister, giant talking cockroaches, and high adventure underground in The Underland Chronicles.
  • DiCamillo, Kate -- small town USA, dogs, preteen years, unsual characters, and single parents in Because of Winn-Dixie.
  • Hirsch, Odo -- mysteries, adventure, a cast of lively characters, everyday life, and beautiful turns of phrases in the Hazel Green books, the Bartlett books, the Darius Bell books, and FrankelMouse.
  • Holm, Jennifer L -- the great depression, Florida Keys, family belonging, and ingenuity in Turtle in Paradise.
  • L'Engle, Madeleine -- family, fantasy, time travel, connection, and allegory in A Wrinkle in Time.
  • Peterson, Andrew -- family fantasy, mythical beasts, an epic journey, and lost jewels in On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness.
  • Sachar, Louis -- everyday coming-of-age with fantastical elements, tall tale, racism, bullying, buried treasure, and family in Holes.
  • Spinelli, Jerry -- being different, social acceptance, school life, creativity, and wonder in Eggs and Loser.
  • Stead, Rebecca -- moving into the teen years, middle school, family relationships, agoraphobia, spying, and a twist in the tale in Liar & Spy.

Slightly heavier:
  • Avi -- the medieval period, Catholicism, hierarchy, the Black Death, and minstrel life in Crispin: the Cross of Lead.
  • Bauer, Michael Gerard -- Brisbane setting, local community, family relationships, PTSD in The Running Man.
  • George, Elizabeth -- the Middle East during the time of Christ, parentless children, disability, faith, and conflict in The Bronze Bow.
  • Kerr, Judith -- world war II, Germany and France, nominal Judaism, belonging, coming-of-age, and family in When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit.
  • Palacio, RJ -- disability, social acceptance, friendship, family, and multiple POVs in Wonder.
  • Serraillier, Ian -- world war II, refugees, families separated, Poland during the German occupation, all in The Silver Sword.


  1. I tried to post before but I don't think it worked. Take two!!

    You have me sold on Winn Dixie!! Dogs and small towns and unusual characters. Yes please!!

    And I've heard you recommend Wrinkle in Time so it moves up the list even more.

    I love all your book things!

  2. ARGH! Wrinkle in Time! I cannot tell you how many times I've heard about that book, but haven't been able to get my hands on it. Definitely must find this seemingly phantom volume...

    Holes - awesomeness. One of the rare books that came out of a movie almost all in one piece (kinda like a washing machine, ya know...).

    The Bronze Bow, good read. Basically anything in that grade of the Sonlight curriculum flies pretty well.

    Other suggestions for that age bracket would be Peter and the Starcatchers by Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry. Brilliant read, and very funny. Makes me love the story of Peter Pan even more. The Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan. So Australian, with epic humour and great characters; they are old family friends by now. Higher end of the age bracket, I'd suggest Artemis Fowl and Alex Rider by Eoin Colfer and Anthony Horowitz. All good pre and present YA reads.

  3. Oh this is a fantastic list! I see some titles on here I have NOT read and am now thinking I need to read! I second the Ranger's Apprentice suggestion.

    One of the saddest books (at least it felt that way at the time to poor little me) I ever read as an early teen was a Jerry Spinelli book.

    The Bronze Bow is in incredibly special book to me. It was my Mom's favorite when she was younger and she passed it down to me. I think I was nine or ten the first time I read it and it was an instant favorite. I really enjoyed the author's other books, as well.

  4. Wonderful lists!

    I would add The Outlaws of Sherwood, Robin McKinley (thinking realistically about romantic tales and the hard work of social change); The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien (need I say more?); My Side of the Mountain, Jean Craighead George (a boy goes to live in the wilderness by himself, eating roots and berries and nuts and learning to survive in the wild); Kidnapped, Robert Lewis Stevenson (a tale of daring, hardship, and coming-of-age); Captain's Courageous and Kim, Rudyard Kipling (the former is about a spoiled rich boy who learns to work and be friends, the latter about a boy in India); The Giver, Lois Lowry (rich ethical considerations and musings about memory and pain).

  5. I hereby dub you my Official Book Recommender 4lyf!

  6. Great list - we are always trying to find stuff for Luke (10) that is appropriate for that age for boys without it being absolute junk. He's into Enid Blyton at the moment, but I'll have to keep some of these in mind. :D


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