Must-read books for 9-12 year olds

Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie (1911)

If you can imagine it, you’ll find it in Neverland. Some stories really allow imaginations to take flight – in Peter Pan’s case, that’s quite literally! Peter Pan and Tinkerbell lead the three Darling children over the rooftops of London and far, far away to Neverland in this incredible coming-of-age adventure. Meet pirates, fairies, mermaids and everything in-between as you journey through Neverland alongside the Darling children on an unforgettable trip.

The Unadoptables by Hana Tooke & Ayesha L. Rubio (2020)

At the Little Tulip Orphanage in Amsterdam, the Rules for Baby Abandonment must NEVER be broken. Until five babies are abandoned in a toolbox, a hamper, a coal bucket, a wheat sack and a coffin-shaped basket. For years, the children live in companionable neglect, until a sinister gentleman threatens to split them up. Will the orphans make it through life on the run? A stunning debut about the power of friendship and the true meaning of family.

Death Sets Sail by Robin Stevens (2020)

Daisy and Hazel are setting sail for Egypt. What is supposed to be a glorious holiday exploring pyramids and seeing mummies up close turns into something much more sinister when a murder occurs on their ship. Can the Detective Society solve their hardest case yet? Join the girls on their final mission – it's the perfect way to bid farewell to these two inseparable friends!

The Tyrant's Tomb (The Trials of Apollo Book 4) by Rick Riordan (2019)

Life is tough when you're a Greek God forced to live life as a teenage boy called Lester. It's even tougher when you're constantly battling monsters, rescuing oracles and deciphering prophecies. But that's just everyday life for the former God Apollo. In the fourth book of The Trials of Apollo, Lester AKA Apollo and Meg must save Camp Jupiter from Caligula, who is on his way to destroy it...

We Are the Beaker Girls by Jacqueline Wilson & Nick Sharratt (2020)

Tracy Beaker has left her ex-boyfriend Sean behind, and she and Jess are making a new life for themselves by the sea! But it doesn't take long for Jess to run into trouble – she’s being picked on by a local kid who’s got it in for her. When Jess uncovers the truth about her new enemy, it means big changes for the Beaker Girls…

A Really Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (2020)

Have you ever wondered how life began on Earth? Or how the sun was formed? Why do we get ice ages? And when did we learn about dinosaurs? Adapted from A Short History of Nearly Everything, you’ll be taken on a journey through space and time as Bill Bryson uncovers everything that has happened from the dawn of time until now. You’ll also be introduced to the brilliant and bizarre scientists who helped us discover the how and why.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (2014)

Recommended by former US president Barack Obama, Jacqueline Woodson’s powerful memoir is a must-read for every young reader. Told in emotive poetry, Woodson recounts how she spent her childhood in both New York and South Carolina following her parent’s separation. She reflects on how she discovered her gift for writing. And she tells of what it was like growing up as an African-American girl during the Civil Rights Movement and how she found her place in the world.

Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian (1981)

With the Second World War looming, young Willie Beech is evacuated to the countryside and placed in the care of elderly widower Tom Oakley. Goodnight Mister Tom is a touching and thought-provoking portrait of how two people can find solace in each other in the midst of turmoil.

Little Badman and the Time-Travelling Teacher of Doom by Humza Arshad and Henry White (2020)

Fresh from saving the world from aliens, Eggington's best ever 11-year-old rapper has to come to the rescue again. Humza Khan (AKA Little Badman) is being sent to summer school in Pakistan with his best mate Umer. Only, things aren't quite what he expected... mostly because someone is messing with TIME! Will Little Badman turn back the clocks and save humanity once more? Only time will tell...

Charlotte's Web by E. B. White (1952)

E. B. White’s time-honoured story is about friendship and survival against the odds. Wilbur the piglet is a runt, but that doesn’t deter Fern, his human friend, from caring for him. Along with an array of farm animals, including Wilbur’s spidery friend Charlotte, the farmyard friends set about helping Wilbur become a prize-winning pig in order to avoid an untimely end.

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer (2001)

Get ready to dive into the explosive misadventure that inspired the 2020 film. Artemis Fowl is not like other 12-year-olds. You see, Artemis is a criminal genius and he’s just discovered that fairies are real. Oh, but wipe images of cuddly, Peter-Pan-style, bedtime story fairies from your mind, cause this lot are anything but. They are armed. They are dangerous. And when Artemis captures Captain Holly Short for her fairy gold, he messes with the wrong elf. These fairies fight back… as Artemis is going to learn.

Northern Lights – The Graphic Novel Volume 1 adapted by Stéphane Melchior & Clément Oubrerie (2015)

The world-famous, bewitching novel by Philip Pullman is given new life in this fabulous graphic novel. Lyra Belacqua lives carefree among the scholars of Jordan College, but her life takes a troublesome turn with the arrival of her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel who draws Lyra to the heart of a terrible struggle – one born of Gobblers and stolen children, witch clans and even armoured bears. A huge, fantastical journey awaits Lyra in this famous tale retold in a bold, graphic style. The first book in a stunning three-volume adaptation of Northern Lights.

The Soul Hunters by Chris Bradford (2021)

If you’re looking for an action-packed adventure, check out the first book in bestselling author Chris Bradford’s new series. Genna is your average schoolgirl; she has a close-knit group of friends and loves history, much to her best friend Mei’s dismay. She also has vivid dreams and strong déjà vu but who hasn’t? Then Genna is randomly attacked in a London park. And a week later someone attempts to kidnap her. Both times, she is rescued by a mysterious stranger called Phoenix who reveals Genna’s soul is in grave danger from an ancient religious sect. And so Genna has no choice but to race across time with Phoenix to save herself and humanity…

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (1894)

The Jungle Book depicts the classic relationship between man and beast and has captivated readers young and old for well over a century. After being saved from the fierce clutches of the evil tiger Shere Khan, little 'man-cub' Mowgli is brought up by a pack of wolves and soon learns to make a jungle in India his home – thanks to a few tips from his animal friends Baloo the bear and Bagheera the panther. But as fun, as the jungle is, danger could be lurking just around any corner.

Amazing Muslims Who Changed the World by Burhana Islam (2020)

For thousands of years, AMAZING Muslims have been changing the world for the better, from campaigners for girls' education like Malala Yousafzai to world-class sporting heroes like Muhammed Ali to people you may not have been taught about. Did you know that Noor Inayat Khan was an Indian princess who was a spy in World War 2? Or that Ibtihaj Muhammad was the first American to compete in the Olympics wearing a hijab? Find out about all of the amazing Muslims who revolutionised the world in this stunningly illustrated book!

The Danger Gang by Tom Fletcher & Shane Devries (2020)

Franky has just moved to a new town with his parents which is great – however, it does mean that he’s had to leave his best friend Dani behind. Still, this just means that he’ll have to fill her in on everything that goes on by letter. And a lot of weird stuff has been going on. First, there was a huge storm with green lightning and earth-shaking thunder. Then Franky and some of the kids down his street have started to develop magical powers. And now danger is headed their way! It’s up to Franky and his new friends to work together and defeat the baddies.

The Hatmakers by Tamzin Merchant & Paola Escobar (2021)

In this debut from actress Tamzin Merchant, young Cordelia comes from a long line of hatmakers. But they’re no ordinary hatmakers. They’re Makers who can weave alchemy and enchantment into every hat – a rare and ancient skill that only a few still possess. Cordelia’s father Prospero often has to take his ship, The Jolly Bonnet, overseas to acquire the magical ingredients needed for hat making. But this time his ship goes missing. Cordelia is determined to find him; however, an ancient Maker rivalry and potential war are threatening to surface…

The Ship of Shadows by Maria Kuzniar (2020)

Aleja has always longed for a life of magic and adventure. And so when a ship crewed by a group of ruthless and powerful women docks up at her Spanish harbour city, Aleja jumps at the chance to join them. You'll find storms in jars, magic Kraken bells, lost cities and more in this swashbuckling story from Maria Kuzniar. We hope you're ready to sail the high seas!

Kay’s Anatomy by Adam Kay (2020)

The human body is a weird and sometimes disgusting place, but it’s also fascinating! Have you ever wondered why you get pins and needles? How much of our life do we spend on the toilet? And does peeing on a jellyfish sting really help with the pain? Former doctor Adam Kay answers all your questions and more in this horribly good guide.

The Secret Dragon by Ed Clarke (2019)

This new tale of friendship and adventure is perfect for those looking for a page-turning adventure this summer. She might only be 11, but Mari knows she wants to be a scientist; in fact, she pretty much has her whole future mapped out – or, at least, she did until now. Mari soon stumbles across a tiny dragon while fossil-hunting on the beach – but there’s got to be a scientific explanation for this discovery – right?! She tries to keep her little friend secret as she investigates but soon learns that even a tiny secret can be BIG trouble.

Shipwreck Island by Struan Murray & Manuel Sumberac (2021)

The second instalment in Struan Murray’s His Dark Materials-esque series continues to follow orphans Ellie and Seth on their journey. Having escaped The City and the wrath of the fearsome Inquisition, the pair have travelled for months across an endless ocean to find themselves on the shores of a beautiful tropical island ruled by an enigmatic queen. It seems like paradise. But all is not well – trouble brews on the island, and Ellie and Seth find themselves caught up in a dangerous power struggle.

My Brother's Name is Jessica by John Boyne (2019)

Sam’s older brother Jason has always been there for him. You see, Sam’s a bit of a loner, doesn’t have many friends, and his busy parents often don’t have time for him. In Sam’s eyes, Jason has always been the opposite; he’s popular, amazing at football, and girls want to go out with him. But, one night, Jason gathers the family to reveal something – something that could change things for all of them. His parents don’t want to hear it and Sam just doesn’t understand. Because what do you do when your brother tells you that he thinks he’s actually your sister? This important and very real read is one that should be picked up by kids, teens and adults alike. It will move and it will teach.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (1962)

You might not know this but the hit Disney film, A Wrinkle in Time (starring Oprah, Chris Pine and Reese Witherspoon) is actually based on a famous science-fiction book; one everyone should find time for. When young, insecure Meg goes looking for her lost father with her brother, she finds more than she bargained for. The pair soon find themselves on an unexpected adventure through a ‘wrinkle in time’. With cosmic evil forces threatening to swallow the universe, Meg must find her inner strength to save her family. This story is the perfect combination of adventure, fantasy and science-fiction.

Nation by Terry Pratchett (2008)

All of Terry Pratchett’s books are essential reading. But if there’s one that you simply must read, it’s Nation. Proclaimed by the late Terry Pratchett himself that ‘…Nation is the best book I have ever written’, we can’t disagree. This coming-of-age story sees Mau (an indigenous boy of the Nation) and Daphne (an English governor’s daughter) come together to form a lifelong friendship. A terrible tsunami has decimated Mau’s village and all the people in it and caused Daphne’s ship to crash into the island. Although the two can’t even communicate with each other at first, they manage to work together to build a new home. Then others start to arrive on the island, good and bad – will Mau and Daphne be able to defend their Nation?

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