In November and December of 2011, I asked blog readers for book recommendations for ten-year-old boys and girls.  Readers responded with dozens of fantastic book titles.  I put together these lists based on those recommendations, added some commentary (of course), and offer them to you in the hope that you can find something here for your own eager or reluctant tween reader.

(A note on separating some books into ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ categories: Yes, yes and yes, boys and girls can enjoy the same books.  As I’ve said before, plenty of storytelling transcends gender–you need look no further than Harry Potter to prove that point.  I’ve broken the titles below into three lists, and I’d suggest scanning all three for suggestions, regardless of whether you’re looking for books for a girl or a boy.

But we ignore reality if we pretend that boys and girls aren’t at least a little bit different, and sometimes, they seek out different reading material.  Parents of boys, how many of your tween sons want to read the American Girl books?  If they do, great.  But I’m betting most don’t.  If we want to encourage all of our kids to read, we have to accept that one of the many factors that sometimes influences our kids’ reading is gender.)

Books for Girls and Boys

These books received multiple recommendations

  • The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin
  • Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
  • The Dark is Rising (series), by Susan Cooper
  • A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events (series), by Lemony Snicket


  • The Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander (Newbery winner; fantasy plus humor)
  • Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt (not an adventure story; a quieter read)
  • The Mostly True Story of Jack, by Kelly Barnhill
  • Matilda, by Roald Dahl
  • The Witches, by Roald Dahl
  • D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, by Ingri D’Aulaire
  • Coraline, by Neil Gaiman
  • The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman
  • Edenville Owls, by Robert Parker
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu
  • The Sword and the Stone, by T.H. White

I’ll Call Them Classics

  • Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh (The sequels weren’t all written by Fitzhugh; their quality varies.)
  • Pippi Longstocking (series, though not necessarily sequential), by Astrid Lindgren

Adventure/Historical Fiction/Fantasy/Graphic Novel

  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick (tough to categorize; wonderful to read)


  • An encyclopedia set, such as one published by Dorling Kindersley (DK Publishing) (to inspire reading in new areas of interest)

Not So Much to Educate as to Amuse

  • The Encyclopedia of Immaturity (two volumes), by Klutz (give at your own risk)

Books for Boys

The Big Category: Adventure & Fantasy series

  • The Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander (Newbery winner; fantasy plus humor)
  • Westmark, by Lloyd Alexander (historical fantasy)
  • Underland Chronicles, by Suzanne Collins (author of The Hunger Games)
  • The Last Apprentice/Wardstone Chronicles, by Joseph Delaney
  • Ranger’s Apprentice, by John Flanagan (My son, “Jack,” tried to read this series, but couldn’t get through it.)
  • Warriors, by Erin Hunter (warrior cats)
  • Redwall, by Brian Jacques (the series Jack loved)
  • Guardians of Ga’Hoole, by Kathryn Lasky (evil owls; Goodreads says it’s “reminiscent of Redwall”)
  • Curse of the Jolly Stone, by Iain Lawrence
  • Inheritance, by Christopher Paolini
  • His Dark Materials, by Philip Pullman (You may be more familiar with the first title in this series, The Golden Compass.  I read this trilogy years ago and loved it.  However, I’m not sure I’d recommend it for a ten-year-old, though I wouldn’t forbid Jack from reading it if he pulled it off the shelf and asked.)
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians, by Rick Riordan
  • 39 Clues, by multiple authors


(Yes, I know that covers a lot of ground)

  • The Strange Case of Origami Yoda and Darth Paper Strikes Back, by Tom Angleberger (middle-grade humor; Jack loved them)
  • Flush, by Carl Hiaasen
  • Hoot, by Carl Hiaasen
  • Alex Rider (series), by Anthony Horowitz (spy thriller)
  • The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster
  • The View from Saturday, by E.L. Konigsburg (author of The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler)
  • Witch and Wizard, by James Patterson (dystopian)
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, by Robert C. O’Brien
  • Holes, by Louis Sachar
  • Call It Courage, by Armstrong Sperry (Newbury winner about a boy surviving on an island alone)

Authors who write kids’ fiction related to sports (Note: OF COURSE girls who are interested in sports reads should take a look at books by these authors!)

  • Matt Christopher
  • Mike Lupica
  • Rich Wallace

In Their Own Category

  • The Weenies books by David Lubar (Humor/fantasy/horror for kids.  You’ll have to check them out for yourself.)

The Classics

  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
  • The Hardy Boys (series)

The Kitchen Sink

  • Graphic novels, especially to engage reluctant readers
  • Nonfiction, especially sports biographies or history

Books for Girls


  • Anatopsis, by Chris Abouzeid
  • The Sisters Grimm (series), by Michael Buckley
  • The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DiCamillo
  • Dragon Slippers (series), by Jessica Day George
  • Island of the Aunts, by Eva Ibbotson (includes lots of humor)
  • The Secret Order of the Gumm Street Girls, by Elise Primavera (“Perfect novel for getting reluctant readers into bigger books.”  — Chris Abouzeid, author of Anatopsis)
  • Theodosia Throckmorton (series), by R.L. LaFevers (ancient Egyptian artifacts; how fun!)
  • Dragonsong (first in the Pern: Harper Hall trilogy), by Anne McCaffrey (a YA route into McCaffrey’s famous world of Pern)
  • Enola Holmes Mysteries (series), by Nancy Springer
  • Trixie Belden (series), by multiple authors (a bit dated; think Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys era)

Historical fiction

  • Catherine, Called Birdy, by Karen Cushman (medieval England)
  • A Murder for Her Majesty, by Beth Hilgartner (Elizabethan era)
  • The Diamond of Drury Lane, by Julia Golding (mystery in late 18th-century London)


  • Ivy and Bean (series), by Annie Barrows (will likely appeal to girls a bit younger than 10)
  • A Long Way from Chicago and A Year Down Yonder, by Richard Peck
  • The Kneebone Boy, by Ellen Potter (tough to categorize; elements of mystery, fantasy and adventure)

Realistic Fiction

  • Vet Volunteers (series), by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Because of Winn Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo (Newbery winner)

A Few Classics

  • The Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Anne of Green Gables (series), by L.M. Montgomery (I read these books repeatedly growing up and loved them.  Now, as an adoptive mom, I appreciate them from a different angle.  Adoptive parents may want to take note of the protagonist’s adoption story, and expect some questions or even initiate a discussion with your young reader.)
  • Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott

Their Own Category

  • The American Girl books, both fiction and non-fiction.  (I know, I know.  But I consistently hear good reviews, so I believe the books are worth checking out.)

Graphic Novels

  • Amelia Rules! (series), by Jimmy Gownley

In the “Anything They Write” Category

  • Kate DiCamillo
  • Margaret Haddix
  • Cynthia Lord
  • Cynthia Rylant (some of her books target a younger audience)