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The best books for 9 – 12-year-olds

With their exciting escapades and daring adventures, these fiction books for nine, ten, eleven and twelve-year-olds are sure to keep even the most reluctant readers captivated and inspire more independent reading.

With new schools, friendships and their growing independence to navigate, the pre-teen years can be a challenging and exciting time for kids and parents alike. If you're looking for book recommendations for the middle-grade reader in your life, check out our edit of the best books for nine, ten, eleven and twelve-year-olds. With tales of magic, mystery and adventure, there's a book on the list every kid is sure to love. 

If you're looking for more great recommendations for kids, discover our list of the best new children's books for every age, or for readers that are a little older our edit of the best YA books is full of this year's must-reads.

Adventure books for 9 – 12-year-olds

The Breakfast Club Adventures

by Marcus Rashford

Book cover for The Breakfast Club Adventures

The first novel by everyone's favourite international footballer, child food-poverty campaigner and #1 bestselling author. Written with Alex Falase-Koya, Marcus Rashford tells a story strongly influenced by his own childhood. Something odd is happening at school . . . When twelve-year-old Marcus boots his  football over the school fence, he knows it's never coming back. But the next morning Marcus gets a mysterious note inviting him to join the Breakfast Club Investigators, and fun and adventure beckons in a bid to reclaim the ball.

The Book of Legends: What if all the stories were real?

by Sir Lenny Henry

Book cover for The Book of Legends: What if all the stories were real?

From comedy legend Lenny Henry comes the story of two ordinary kids who are about to go on one extraordinary adventure! Bran and Fran love living with their mum, who is the storyteller at the Once Upon a Wow bookstore in their small Midlands town. But when mum goes missing and her stories turn out to be a portal to another world, they're going to have a huge, magical adventure on their hands. Luckily, they have Wilma, the Wizard's Wife, and Zack, the wisecracking Zebracorn, to help them on their journey . . .

How to Train Your Dad

by Gary Paulsen

Book cover for How to Train Your Dad

Carl's dad may be great fun, but for the twelve-year-old it's a bit much to see him diving into bins for food, salvaging stuff from the rubbish and wearing ancient clothes from garage sales. Now, Carl is starting to worry what his friends at school will think of his freewheeling father, and when a pal suggests he retrain his dad using a puppy-training pamphlet, Carl feels he has nothing to lose. This riotous novel about green living comes from the award-winning writer of Hatchet, and is a must-read for the times.

A Dinosaur Ate My Sister

by Pooja Puri

Book cover for A Dinosaur Ate My Sister

Illustrated by Allen Fatimaharan

A Dinosaur Ate My Sister is the first book selected in the Marcus Rashford Book Club.

Esha Verma, her snotty apprentice Broccoli and his cunning pet tortoise have a dream. They are going to win the legendary Brain Trophy – the ultimate inventing prize. This year's entry: A TIME MACHINE. But the day before the competition, Esha's IGNORAMUS big sister hijacks the time machine and gets lost in the Cretaceous age. With help from a new recruit for The Office of Time, Esha and Broccoli will have to face hungry dinosaurs, mysterious black holes and malfunctioning inventions to get them back in time . . .

Peanut Jones and the Twelve Portals

by Rob Biddulph

Book cover for Peanut Jones and the Twelve Portals

Some legends are born, some are drawn . . . This second title in the funny, exciting adventure series for boys and girls of 8 to 12 fizzes with magic, danger, friendship and art. Famous works of art are disappearing from all over the world, and Peanut Jones and her friends suspect it might have something to do with the magical world of Chroma and the wicked Mr White's plot to wipe out colour, art and creativity. It's time to head back to the Illustrated City and help the resistance fight back.

Northwind

by Gary Paulsen

Book cover for Northwind

Another compelling read from Gary Paulsen, the bestselling writer of Hatchet. Leif is an orphan who lives in a small fishing village, on a wild coast where the seas rage. When a plague approaches, he leaves in a cedar canoe, heading north along the fjords and paddling from one peril to the next. And as he journeys, Leif discovers his authentic self, connecting to the heartbeat of the sea itself. This is a wonderful historical adventure, which conjures up Norse myths and legends.


Fantasy books for 9 – 12-year-olds

Vega Jane and the End of Time

by David Baldacci

Book cover for Vega Jane and the End of Time

Bestselling storyteller David Baldacci wraps up his epic fantasy adventure series with this fourth book centring on Vega Jane. She has tried to escape and elude her enemy, but now the showdown Vega Jane has feared is finally upon her: with her ragged group of friends and fighters, she must stand up against a fully trained army. This is a fast-paced breathtaking tale, illustrated throughout in black and white.

The Cloud Horse Chronicles: Guardians of Magic

by Chris Riddell

Book cover for The Cloud Horse Chronicles: Guardians of Magic

This is the first illustrated book in Chris Riddell’s magical adventure series The Cloudhorse Chronicles. The Guardians of Magic are three children who have no idea how powerful they really are. In their world, enemies of magic are working together to destroy it. Can Zam, Phoebe and Bathsheba believe in the impossible and fight back? If they don’t, soon magic and the mysterious cloud horses will be gone forever. 

The Shadows of Rookhaven

by Pádraig Kenny

Book cover for The Shadows of Rookhaven

in the long-awaited sequel to The Monsters of Rookhaven, shadows are gathering over Rookhaven. It is the time of The Great Configuration, a once in a hundred years event. Family and monsters descend on Rookhaven from all over the country to take part. But amid the guests there is an interloper. One who is disguised and has an eye on their destruction. Meanwhile Mirabelle – part human, part monster – discovers that to those from outside Rookhaven she is not considered family at all . . .

Owl and the Lost Boy

by Amy Wilson

Book cover for Owl and the Lost Boy

Owl and the Lost Boy is the follow up to Amy Wilson's hugely popular middle-grade fantasy novel, A Girl Called Owl. A sparkling tale of friendship, this charming and magical story will be loved by children who are captivated by nature and the great outdoors. 

Dragon Mountain

by Katie Tsang and Kevin Tsang

Book cover for Dragon Mountain

Expect mythical beasts, brave adventurers and lots of peril in Dragon Mountains, the first book in Katie and Kevin Tsang's new fantasy series. Young readers will love this brilliant new fantasy story's brave characters, epic dragon battles and mountainous Chinese setting. 

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

by J.K. Rowling

Book cover for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

The book that inspired millions of children to become avid readers – as well as launching Hollywood smash-hit movies, theme parks and an annual day to celebrate its protagonist's birthday (July 31st) – needs no introduction. Perfect for more confident readers to read alone, or for you to enjoy together as a family (the audiobook, read by Stephen Fry, is fantastic too): every child aged nine to twelve should have a copy on their bookshelf. 

The Girl of Ink & Stars

by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Book cover for The Girl of Ink & Stars

Kiran Millwood Hargrave creates a mythical fantasy world filled with intriguing characters, incredible detail and tons of adventure in The Girl of Ink and Stars. This award-winning book for nine to twelve-year-olds is perfect for young readers who are intrigued by all things magical and dream of embarking on their own mythical adventures. 


Funny books for 9 – 12-year-olds

The Boy With Wings

by Sir Lenny Henry

Book cover for The Boy With Wings

Illustrated by Keenon Ferrell

Comic Lenny Henry has written a suitably laugh-out-loud adventure story for readers of 9 to 12 years, with dazzling illustrations throughout by Keenon Ferrell. Tunde has some problems with the school bully, but when he sprouts wings and realises his true mission is to save the Earth, school becomes the least of his problems. Flying high in the face of danger, Tunde is the boy with wings.

The Deadly 7

by Garth Jennings

Book cover for The Deadly 7

An illustrated chapter book by the writer and director of Sing, The Deadly 7 is the first in a series of hilarious and sometimes spooky monster adventure books. With a protagonist that readers will love in eleven-year-old Nelson, this is a series perfect for 9 – 12-year-olds who like their fiction laugh-out-loud funny. Once they've finished the first book, they can move on to the next two books in the series, The Good, the Bad and the Deadly 7 and The Curse of the Deadly 7.

Discover the best funny books for kids. 

The Orphans of St Halibut's

by Sophie Wills

Book cover for The Orphans of St Halibut's

With stolen cakes, massive explosions, and interfering Inspectors to hide from, life is certainly never boring for The Orphans of St Halibut's. This chapter book, which is the first in a new series from Sophie Willis and David Tazzyman, will have kids and adults alike laughing out loud as the crew of crafty kids try to outsmart the nosy adults and save their home.


Non-Fiction books for 9 – 12-year-olds

You Are A Champion

by Marcus Rashford with Carl Anka

Book cover for You Are A Champion

'There is no finish line when it comes to your dreams.'

You Are A Champion will empower young people to develop positive thinking, build mental resilience, learn how to navigate adversity and, ultimately, achieve their full potential.

Written with journalist Carl Anka, You Are A Champion is the empowering and life-changing first children’s book from Marcus Rashford MBE. It is full of practical advice and engaging illustrations and infographics, including input from performance psychologist Katie Warriner.

You Can Do It

by Marcus Rashford

Book cover for You Can Do It

with Carl Anka.

Just as Marcus uses the power of his voice to shine a light on the injustices that he cares passionately about, now he wants to help kids find the power in theirs. From surrounding themselves with the right team, to showing kindness to others, to celebrating and championing difference,You Can Do It shows kids that their voice really does matter and that they can do anything they put their mind to. 

Packed with more inspiring stories from Marcus's own life, brilliant advice, and top tips from social justice educator Shannon Weber, this book will show kids how to use their voice and make a difference in this world.


Mystery books for 9 – 12-year-olds

The Highland Falcon Thief

by M. G. Leonard

Book cover for The Highland Falcon Thief

and Sam Sedgman

The first book in a new mystery series for middle-grade readers, The Highland Falcon stars Harrison Beck, who, while on a seemingly dull train journey through Scotland, finds himself on the trail of a priceless missing brooch. This intriguing locked-room mystery is sure to keep young readers guessing as they try to help Harrison identify the thief and save the day. The adventure rolls on with the rest of the books high-speed series: Kidnap on the California Comet, Murder on the Safari Star and Danger at Dead Man's Pass.

Noah's Gold

by Frank Cottrell-Boyce

Book cover for Noah's Gold

Packed with mystery, adventure and laughs, Noah's Gold is the exciting new novel from the bestselling author of Millions and Runaway Robot, Frank Cottrell-Boyce. Eleven-year-old Noah sneaks along on his big sister's geography field trip, but everything quickly goes wrong, and six kids end up marooned on an uninhabited island - disaster! Until Noah discovers a treasure map and the gang goes in search of gold.

Wave Riders

by Lauren St John

Book cover for Wave Riders

Twins Jess and Jude Carter live a dream life sailing from one exotic destination to the next with their guardian, Gabriel. But after Gabe vanishes and a storm smashes up their lives, they’re left penniless and alone. When a wealthy, glamorous family offer them a home, everybody tells them they’re the luckiest children in the world. But the Blakeneys’ stately mansion is full of secrets – secrets that seem entangled with the twins’ own fate. As they race to uncover the truth, Jess and Jude must confront their deepest fears.

The Arctic Railway Assassin

by M. G. Leonard

Book cover for The Arctic Railway Assassin

The bestselling, prize-winning Adventures on Trains series embarks on a thrilling sixth adventure as Harrison Beck and Uncle Nat climb aboard the night train to Narvik, travelling to the Arctic Circle to see the northern lights for Christmas. But as their train leaves Stockholm, Hal and Uncle Nat realize they’re being followed by a sinister figure, and Hal’s powers of observation are tested when Uncle Nat’s past comes back to haunt him. Journeying into the never ending night of the arctic winter, our railway detectives must outsmart an assassin in their most chilling adventure yet, in which nothing is as it seems.


Historical Fiction books for 9 – 12-year-olds

The Umbrella Mouse

by Anna Fargher

Book cover for The Umbrella Mouse

A Second World War story with a difference: in this timeless middle-grade tale, we meet Pip Hanway, a young mouse whose world is turned upside down when a bomb destroys her home. This story of courage, resistance and friendship will teach children about the impact of war, while taking them on a journey with a lovable cast of furry characters. Pip returns for more adventures in the sequel Umbrella Mouse to the Rescue.


The Swallows' Flight

by Hilary McKay

Book cover for The Swallows' Flight

From the Costa Award-winning author Hilary McKay, The Swallows' Flight is a moving WWII story of family and friendship on opposite sides of a devastating conflict. Erik and Hans are German boys. Ruby and Kate are English girls. They grow up in worlds that would never meet, until war tumbles their lives together. This clever and compassionate story is the stunning companion novel to The Skylarks' War.


Heartwarming books for 9 – 12-year-olds

The Lotterys Plus One

by Emma Donoghue

Book cover for The Lotterys Plus One

The Lotterys Plus One is the first children's book from bestselling author Emma Donoghue. With its colourful cast of characters, this charming and funny book for nine to twelve-year-olds will show children that every family is unique and special, no matter their makeup. 

Matilda

by Roald Dahl

Book cover for Matilda

No list of the best books for children aged nine to twelve would be complete with Roald Dahl's Matilda. Children will be delighted to discover Matilda's magic powers, Miss Honey's kindness and Miss Trunchbull's wicked ways for the very first time. And parents will enjoy taking a walk down memory lane – and hoping they didn't end up like the grown-ups in the story! 

Return to Wonderland

by Various

Book cover for Return to Wonderland

Enjoy a twist on Lewis Caroll's Alice in Wonderland with this collection of contemporary short stories, each based on the classic tale. Young readers will love finding out what would have happened if Alice hadn't fallen down the rabbit hole, whether the Mad Hatter still goes for tea, and if Tweedledum and Tweedledee ever solve their argument.


Books to help 9 – 12-year-olds through difficult times

My Big Mouth

by Steven Camden

Book cover for My Big Mouth

Illustrated by Chanté Timothy

When Dad leaves, ten-year-old Jay has questions.

Where has he gone?

Why did he go?

When no one can give Jay the answers he needs, he makes up his own stories, setting off a chain reaction that sees regular old Jay go from just another face in the crowd, to the centre of attention. But being the coolest kid in school comes at a cost. And as things spiral out of control, can the most unlikely person help him learn the most important lesson of all?

Coming to England

by Floella Benjamin

Book cover for Coming to England

Illustrated by Joelle Avelino

Floella Benjamin was just a young girl when she, her sister and two brothers arrived in England in 1960 to join their parents, whom they had not seen for fifteen months. They had left their island home of Trinidad to make a new life in London – part of a whole generation of West Indians who were encouraged to move to Britain and help rebuild the country after the Second World War.

With a foreword by the author and some additional historical information, this is the incredible story of Floella's journey from Trinidad to London, as part of the Windrush generation, to the House of Lords. It is gloriously illustrated throughout by Joelle Avelino, perfect for readers aged nine years and over.