Top 100 Books for Tweens: ParentDish Picks

Filed under: Books for Kids, Gear Guides: Tweens

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Lois Lowry's "The Giver" won the Newbery Medal in 1994. Credit: Amazon


As much as counting and alphabet books stand out as the choices for young readers, tales of adventurous heroes and heroines pack the reading lists for kids in their tween years. More subjects are handled for the reader who is not yet a teen, although some deal with serious subjects, many such selections are reserved for their older peers.

  1. 1."The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain (1884): Huck Finn and an escaped slave make their way down the Mississippi, experiencing all sorts of dangers and adventures.

  2. 2."The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" by Mark Twain (1876): The adventures of a 12-year-old mischievous boy who lives along the Mississippi River.

  3. 3."American Sports Poems" compiled by R.R. Knudson and May Swenson (1988): Arranged by sport, this books is an eclectic collection of writers.

  4. 4."And Then There Was One: The Mysteries of Extinction" by Margery Facklam (1990): A Sierra Club book ponders the extinction of species, including the dodo and dinosaurs.

  5. 5."Anne of Green Gables" by L.M. Montgomery (1908): The Cuthbert siblings decide to adopt a boy to help around Green Gables in Prince Edward Island, so when Anne turns up, she's not exactly welcomed.

  6. 6."Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret" by Judy Blume (1970): A rite of passage to read, as it is to ponder all that Blume's character Margaret Simon does as she struggles with the approach of puberty.

  7. 7."Around the World in Eighty Days" by Jules Verne (1873): Phileas Fogg attempts win a bet by traveling around the globe in a challenging amount of time.

  8. 8."The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1)" by Lemony Snicket (1999): The lives of the the three orphaned Baudelaire children go from bad to worse in the opening book in this somewhat wacky series.

  9. 9."Behind the Attic Wall" by Sylvia Cassedy (1983): Maggie, a 12-year-old, is sent to live with an uncle and two great aunts in a spooky tale.

  10. 10."The BFG" by Roald Dahl (1982): The Big Friendly Giant takes an 8-year-old orphan to Giantland and then protects her against other giants who wish to eat her.

  11. 11."Black Beauty" by Anna Sewell (1877): The standard-bearer for horse stories, which follows the adventures of a black horse.

  12. 12."Black Whiteness: Admiral Byrd Alone in the Antarctic" by Robert Burleigh and Walter Lyon Krudop (1998): In 1934, one-man made a successful 6-month excursion to the Antarctic.

  13. 13."The Borrowers" by Mary Norton, illustrations by Beth Krush and Joe Krush (1953) Little people who live their lives tucked into the homes of big people.

  14. 14."The Bronze Cauldron: Myths and Legends of the World" by Geraldine McCaughrean, illustrated by Bee Willey (1998): An around-the-world look that includes more than two dozen tales, such as Faust and Cupid.

  15. 15."The Burning Questions of Bingo Brown" by Betsy Byars (1988): A sixth grader journals as he prepares to handle the upcoming time of transition.

  16. 16."Caddie Woodlawn" by Carol Ryrie Brink (1935): A story about living in Wisconsin during the 1860s.

  17. 17."Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction" by David Macaulay (1977): Although the French town in which the cathedral is built may be fictional, the descriptions of building the cathedral are nonfiction.

  18. 18."Catherine, Called Birdy" by Karen Cushman (1994): A 14-year-old in the Middle Ages keeps a journal and depicts all the ways she avoids suitors selected by her father.

  19. 19."The Chronicles of Narnia" by C.S. Lewis (1950): In seven books, readers follow the adventures of anyone entering the world of Narnia from the Wardrobe.

  20. 20."City: A Story of Roman Planning and Construction" by David Macaulay (1974): For those who like to know the hows and whys, this book sets for the reasoning behind city planning.

  21. 21."The City of Ember" by Jeanne DuPrau (2003): Living in a post-apocalyptic city underground, Lina and Doon manage to find something that should help them escape. More books follow this first in the Books of Ember.

  22. 22."The Dark Is Rising" by Susan Cooper (1973): The second in a series of fantasy novels where Will Stanton battles against evil.

  23. 23."Dear Benjamin Banneker" by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney (1994): This book portrays the life of an 18th-century black scientist.

  24. 24."The Devil in Vienna" by Doris Orgel (1978): In 1938, Inge and Lieselotte try to continue their friendship although one is Jewish and the other is in the Nazi Youth.

  25. 25."The Devil's Storybook" by Natalie Babbitt (1984): Stories of how the devil tricks people into joining his "side."

  26. 26."The Doll's House" by Rumer Godden, illustrated by Tasha Tudor (1948): The lives of the dolls Tottie and Marchpane after their dollhouse is restored.

  27. 27."The Fledgling" by Jane Langton (1980): Georgie dreams about flying. When she meets a goose, this fantasy takes flight.

  28. 28."The Gathering Room" by Colby F. Rodowsky (1981): An aunt encourages her family to move from their home in a graveyard.

  29. 29."The Gettysburg Address" by Abraham Lincoln and Michael McCurdy (1995): This illustrated version of the battlefield speech creates an accessible entry for American history discussions.

  30. 30."A Girl Called Al" by Constance C. Greene illustrated by Byron Barton (1969): A nonconformist, Alexandra gives preteens a lot to identify with and think about.

  31. 31."A Girl from Yamhill: A Memoir" by Beverly Cleary (1988): The remembrances of one of America's best-loved authors, who grew up in Oregon.

  32. 32."The Giver" by Lois Lowry (1993): A preteen is chosen to be the conscience for his community and he wrestles with the dichotomy it presents.

  33. 33."The Goats" by Brock Cole (1988): Taunted, a boy and a girl are left on Goat Island during summer camp. Learning from the challenges they face, the two start to recognize their own strengths.

  34. 34."The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials, Book One" by Philip Pullman (1996): In the first of the "His Dark Materials" trilogy , Lyra is off on a mission to save the world.

  35. 35."The Golden Key" by George MacDonald (1967): Two children are on a quest to fit the rainbow's key into its hole.

  36. 36."The Golem: A Version" by Barbara Rogasky, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman (1996): One of the many versions of the folktale of the golem, which was brought to life to protect the Jewish people from their enemies.

  37. 37."Habibi" by Naomi Shihab Nye (1997): Before relocating to Jerusalem, 14-year-old Liyana's Arab-American family had lived in St. Louis. The story follows the adjustments the young girl must make.

  38. 38."Homecoming" by Cynthia Voigt (1981): Abandoned by their mother in the middle of Connecticut, four children journey to find a place to call home.

  39. 39."Homes in the Wilderness: A Pilgrim's Journal of the Plymouth Plantation in 1620" by William Bradford and Others of the Mayflower Company, edited by William Bradford and Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Mary Wilson Stewart (1988): Contemporary accounts of the Pilgrims' landing at Plymouth Rock.

  40. 40."Homesick: My Own Story" by Jean Fritz, illustrated by Margot Tomes (1982): A memoir of a woman who grew up in China during the 1920s.

  41. 41."Hoops" by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Stephen T. Johnson (1997): Basketball and poetry celebrated together and accompanied by active illustrations.

  42. 42."A House Called Awful End: Book One of the Eddie Dickens Trilogy" by Philip Ardagh, illustrated by David Roberts (2002): A silly and absurd book about a boy who goes on a quest in England.

  43. 43."The House of Dies Drear" by Virginia Hamilton (1968): The Small family purchases a house in Ohio where Dies Drear and two slaves had been killed during the Civil War.

  44. 44."I Once Was a Monkey: Stories Buddha Told" by Jeanne M. Lee (1999): A half dozen birth stories are recounted in this book which also imparts Buddhist wisdom along with the engaging tales.

  45. 45."I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade" by Diane Wilson (1998): The story, set in Mongolia in the 14th century, tells of a girl equestrian who needs to disguise herself as a boy when her horse is taken."

  46. 46."I, Juan de Pareja" by Elizabeth Borton De Trevino (1965): A novel based on the life of a slave of Spanish artist Velazquez.

  47. 47."Ice Story: Shackleton's Lost Expedition" by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel (1999): The doomed 1914 Antarctica expedition of Sir Ernest Shackleton is recounted, along with the fate of the Endurance.

  48. 48."The Incredible Journey" by Sheila Burnford (1961): A man travels to his new home 250 miles away and is followed by his loyal pets.

  49. 49."Inkheart" by Cornelia Funke (2003): Written in German, this is first of the Inkworld trilogy which follows Meggie Folchart who has discovered her father has the ability to bring characters from books to life.

  50. 50."It Came from Ohio!: My Life as a Writer" by R.L. Stine as told to Joe Arthur (1998): The author of the successful Goosebumps series tells his life story.

  51. 51."It's Perfectly Normal: A Book about Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health" by Robie H. Harris, illustrated by Michael Emberley (1995): A resource for the whole family with cartoon-like illustrations, which makes it accessible to children of a wide age range.

  52. 52."Joan of Arc" by Diane Stanley (1998): Stanley uses eyewitness accounts to create this portrait of Joan of Arc.

  53. 53."Julie of the Wolves" by Jean Craighead George, illustrated by John Schoenherr (1972): A lost Eskimo girl finds protection in a pack of wolves.

  54. 54."Just So Stories" by Rudyard Kipling (1902): Animal stories to delight readers of all ages, especially wonderful when read aloud.

  55. 55."Kennedy Assassinated! The World Mourns: A Reporter's Story" by Wilborn Hampton (1997): A young reporter working for UPI at the time of President Kennedy's assassination, the author recounts the events of the day.

  56. 56."King of Shadows" by Susan Cooper (1999): The time-traveling tale of a boy who visits Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in 1599.

  57. 57."The Land I Lost: Adventures of a Boy in Vietnam" by Quang Nhuong Huynh, illustrated by Vo-dinh Mai (1982): Rembrances from a boyhood in a small village in Vietnam.

  58. 58."The Landry News" by Andrew Clements, illustrated by Brian Selznick and Salvatore Murdocca (1999): When Mr. Larson stops teaching his fifth graders, Cara Landry starts a newspaper which editorializes about the teacher.

  59. 59."The Lemming Condition" by Alan Arkin, illustrated by Joan Sandin (1976): A lemming named Bubber is not a conformist, which presents some interesting questions to ponder.

  60. 60."The Little Ships: The Heroic Rescue at Dunkirk in World War II" by Louise Borden, illustrated by Michael Foreman (1997): The evacuation of Dunkirk told through the eyes of a child.

  61. 61."Loser" by Jerry Spinelli (2002): Donald Zinkoff's inadequacies were largely ignored by his classmates until fourth grade, when he officially becomes a "loser."

  62. 62."Love that Dog" by Sharon Creech (2002): A free-verse novel written in the voice of a young boy who thinks poetry is for girls, but learns otherwise as he studies it in school.

  63. 63."Mermaid Tales from Around the World" by Mary Pope Osborne, illustrated by Troy Howell (1993): This isn't your usual group of 12 mermaid tales accompanied by researched illustrations, as well.

  64. 64."The Misfits" by James Howe (2001): Through running for student council, a group of misfits decide to "get back" at those who have tormented them.

  65. 65."The Moon and I" by Betsy Byars (1992): As the author describes a run-in with a snake, she portrays her childhood and how she writes.

  66. 66."Nothing's Fair in Fifth Grade" by Barthe DeClements (1981): Elsie, the overweight new student, and Jenny navigate the ups and downs of fifth grade where nothing seems fair.

  67. 67."Oliver Twist" by Charles Dickens (1838): An orphan boy who escapes the workhouse finds himself facing a life of crime, until he is rescued.

  68. 68."Out of the Dust" by Karen Hesse (1997): The book, exploring the Oklahoma Dust Bowls during the Depression, is written as a series of free-verse poems.

  69. 69."The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales" by Virginia Hamilton, illustrated by Leo Dillon and Diane Dillon (1985): An award-winning book with two dozen stories explore various themes of slave folklore.

  70. 70."The Phantom Toolbooth" by Norton Juster, illustrated by Jules Feiffer (1961): A classic that depicts Milo driving through a tollbooth he thinks is normal, but then finds himself in other surroundings.

  71. 71."Pictures of Hollis Woods" by Patricia Reilly Giff (2002): An orphaned girl ends up at the foster home of a retired art teacher, who subsequently Hollis needs to take care of.

  72. 72."Pollyanna" by Eleanor H. Porter (1913): A happy girl, orphan Pollyanna's cheer is the basis for her creation of the Glad Game.

  73. 73."The Pushcart War" by Jean Merill, illustrated by Ronni Solbert (1964): Peddlers and truckers are at war on the streets of New York City.

  74. 74."The Railway Children" by E. Nesbit (1906): A family deals with the repurcussions of a father released from prison after being falsely accused of a crime.

  75. 75."Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry" by Mildred Taylor (1976): A black family's struggles during the Depression, based on the author's family stories.

  76. 76."Sahara Special" by Esme Raji Codell (2003): Instead of completing homework, Sahara Jones spends her time writing to her father, who has left her family. This gets her in trouble!

  77. 77."The Seeing Stone" by Kevin Crossley-Holland (2000): The King Arthur legend told from his days as a teenager. This is the first volume in a trilogy, which follows him through his life.

  78. 78."Smoke and Ashes: The Story of the Holocaust" by Barbara Rogasky (1988): A steady and educational look at the Holocaust, which is strengthened by its photographs.

  79. 79."Soldier's Heart: Being the Story of the Enlistment and Due Service of the Boy Charley Goddard in the First Minnesota Volunteers" by Gary Paulsen (1998): Charley Goddard joins the Union Army during the Civil War. This novella is based on an actual soldier who joined at the age of 15.

  80. 80."The Story of King Arthur and His Knights" by Howard Pyle (1903): The legendary stories of King Arthur beginning in the days of the Sword in the Stone.

  81. 81."The Children of Green Knowe" by L.M. Boston, illustrated by Peter Boston (1954): Living in his ancestral home, Toseland discovers some spirits inhabiting the house. This is the first of a series.

  82. 82."Swallows and Amazons" by Arthur Ransome (1931): Youthful sailing adventures of the Blackett and Walker children around an island in England.

  83. 83."The Tale of Despereaux" by Kate Dicamillo, illustrated by Timothy B. Ering (2003): Four stories interwoven to tell the story of the mouse Despereaux and Princess Pea.

  84. 84."Tituba of Salem Village" by Ann Petry (1964): A slave, accused of being a witch, and her husband sold into a Salem home live through the witchcraft trials.

  85. 85."To Be a Slave" by Julius Lester, illustrated by Tom Feelings (1968): A compilation of original material about slavery, Lester adds educational commentary.

  86. 86."Treasure Island" by Robert Louis Stevenson, illustrated by N. C. Wyeth (1911): Pirates abound in this adventure tale featuring Long John Silver.

  87. 87."The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle" by Avi (1990): In 1832, Charlotte is setting sail to meet her family when pirates enter the scene.

  88. 88."The Trumpeter of Krakow" by Eric P. Kelly, illustrated by Janina Domanska (1928): With a backdrop of 15th century Poland, this is a tale of a boy and a jewel.

  89. 89."Tuck Everlasting" by Natalie Babbitt (1975): Winnie, who is 10 years old, discovers the secret of a family who lives forever.

  90. 90."Victor: A Novel Based on the Life of the Savage of Aveyron" by Mordicai Gerstein (1998): Based on an event in 1800 when a boy was discovered in the woods of Aveyron and taken to Paris for "civilizing."

  91. 91."Walk Two Moons" by Sharon Creech (1994): Sal heads west with her grandparents in search of her mother.

  92. 92."The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963" by Christopher Paul Curtis (1995): A fictional account of the Watson family, which melds with the actual bombing at the Birmingham church in 1963.

  93. 93."The New Way Things Work" by David Macaulay (1998): Revised from the 1988 edition, Macaulay guides readers through various scientific innovations.

  94. 94."What Jamie Saw" by Carolyn Coman (1995): A boy witnesses domestic violence against a young sibling, which shifts his existence as his family works to restart their lives.

  95. 95."Where the Red Fern Grows" by Wilson Rawls (1961): Set in the Depression, a coming-of-age story about a boy in the Ozarks earns the money to buy a pair of coonhounds.

  96. 96."Where the Sidewalk Ends: Poems and Drawings" by Shel Silverstein (1974): Silverstein delivers another humorous book of poems and clever drawings.

  97. 97."The Whipping Boy" by Sid Fleischman, illustrated by Peter Sis (1986): Jemmy and Prince Brat are the characters in this book along the vein of the switched-identity device of the Prince and the Pauper.

  98. 98."Witness" by Karen Hesse (2001): A Klan appears in a town and Hesse bases this novel on the voices of 11 members of the community.

  99. 99."A Wizard of Earthsea" by Ursula K. Le Guin, illustrated by Ruth Robbins (1968):The beginning book in the Earthsea saga, Le Guin pulls her readers into a fantasy world, which has been compared to those of C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkein.

  100. 100."The Wolves of Willoughby Chase" by Joan Aiken (1987): Cousins try to escape an evil governess who is set on taking over Willoughby Chase.

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