When it comes to reading, it can sometimes be hard to know what's appropriate or even enjoyable for your child. Unlike a movie or game, which are given clear age restrictions to help us decide, books are often too mature, too difficult, or just not a good fit for a younger reader. Never is this decision more difficult than when children are making the transition from simplistic and safe literature to more adult fare. You can probably remember that exciting period yourself, borrowing books from parents or older siblings, and either being amazed, confused, or scarred by the contents!
Seventh and Eighth Grade can prove a particularly tricky time, your child hurtling towards puberty and beginning to morph into the young adult they will become. At this crucial juncture, it's a good idea to have some great literature to help them learn about the world around them and themselves.
Below we've collected nine books that would be a worthy addition to anyone's library aged 11-13.
Something of a modern classic, Louis Sachar’s Holes won the 1998 U.S. National Book Award for Young People's Literature and the 1999 Newbery Medal. The story focuses on Stanley Yelnats IV, a 14-year-old boy who is sent to a juvenile corrections facility which is located in the middle of a desert. The inmates are told to dig one cylindrical hole each day, five feet wide and five feet deep, which the Warden believes will force them to grow and mature. While digging holes may sound like a dull plot for a book, the novel tackles themes such as racism, homelessness, illiteracy, and arranged marriage with spellbinding skill.
Another Newbery winner, American author Kelly Barnhill's high fantasy novel, is a captivating read for those with good imaginations. It has all the ingredients of a perfect fantasy world - witches, swamp monsters, and powerful magic - yet also teaches the importance of individuality, destiny, and standing up for those you love. In a genre that can often be a bit too dry, The Girl Who Drank the Moon is refreshingly comical and creates a land you want to get lost in.
Bullying, broken friendships, and social media, Posted is a teenage read for the times. A vivid exploration of middle school, Anderson's tale looks at the power of words to heal and harm and how finding your tribe can help you navigate the troubles life throws your way. When cell phones are banned at Branton Middle School, friends Frost, Deedee, Wolf, and Bench come up with an ingenious way to communicate - leaving sticky notes around the school. To unscramble the messages becomes a crucial skill. The trend soon catches on, and the four friends' lives change forever.
One for the history lovers out there, this action-packed true story puts a spotlight on one of the many adventures Theodore Roosevelt partook in. It's 1913, and Roosevelt is headed to Brazil to start a tour of South America. He soon receives an offer he couldn't pass up - the chance to lead an expedition deep into the Amazon jungle to chart an unmapped river alongside his son Kermit and celebrated Brazilian explorer Candido Mariano da Silva Rondon. Starvation, disease, and flesh-eating fish await the intrepid group as the expedition refuses to stop until they've completed their task. Thrilling, educational, and a great introduction to an American hero.
According to government studies, since 1984, the percent of 13-year-olds who are weekly readers went down from 70% to 53%, and the percent of 17-year-olds who are weekly readers went from 64% to 40%. The percent of 17-year-olds who never or hardly ever read tripled during this period, from 9% to 27%.
Source: Common Sense Media - “Children, Teens, And Reading”
A tougher read here, but one that introduces younger readers to the futility and barbarism of war. A fictionalized account of the bombing of Hiroshima, as seen through the eyes of 12-year-old protagonist Sachi. Utilizing actual accounts of Hiroshima survivors, this powerful novella not only highlights one of the darkest days of the 20th century but focuses on the power of the human spirit and the will to survive. If your child is a history buff and mature enough to tackle the subject matter, this is highly recommended.
Fantasy novels don't come any better than this; Tolkien and friend C. S. Lewis (Chronicles of Narnia) responsible for shaping the genre into what it is today. The tale of Bilbo Baggins and his adventures still captivates with Tolkien's immersive world and characters remaining truly timeless. Dealing with issues of personal growth and courage, this beloved Middle-earth story is perfect for the age range and an excellent introduction to Tolkien's world before moving onto The Lord of the Rings.
Navigating your childhood can be a nightmare, so it's great to find a book that speaks to the turmoil. Pérez' highlights the importance of finding your tribe and holding onto your individuality and dreams in the face of society's conformity. If you've got a child who feels like a bit of a misfit and loves some rock and roll, this is a must buy.
Awarded a 2018 Pura Belpré Author Honor Book.
Essentially a gothic take on Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, British author Neil Gaiman's children's horror follows the story of Nobody "Bod" Owens, who is adopted by the supernatural occupants of a graveyard after his family is slain. Filled with Gaiman's trademark wit and genuine creepiness, what The Graveyard Book really excels in is portraying the power of family and friendship, no matter where or how you find it. Winner of Hugo Award for Best Novel.
Inspired by reading The Diary of Anne Frank while at university, Red Scarf Girl is a historical memoir written by Ji-li Jiang about her experiences during the Cultural Revolution of China. A personal, painful but accessible account, the book is an excellent introduction for younger readers into the often murky and unfair world of governments and ideology. A beautiful tale of resistance, bravery, and remaining loyal to the ones you love - all lessons that are important when entering adulthood.
About the Author
Sam Walker-Smart is a British culture journalist currently based in Bristol. His work has appeared in CLASH, The Huffington Post, Vinyl Me Please, Barcelona Metropolitan, Little White Lies, and many other outlets. He enjoys weird folklore, sad songs, and good beer.