Children start to crave bigger and better literature, more ambitious stories, and an overall more “adult” reading experience as they mature and start entering their teenage years. Well, that’s great! There are plenty of options when it comes to books for pre-teens that let them dabble in more complex, well-developed themes and characters while leaving out the more sordid material that characterizes books for adults (although you’d wish there was a book to foster their love for cleaning, right?)
The following options are all great for pre-teens of all sorts because they offer bigger fictional worlds, more complex characters, and the interactions between them have a little more social and emotional depth. Also, the chance to introduce them to age-appropriate non-fiction is perfect, showing them a bigger part of the world that they’ve seen before. If you’re interested in exposing your kids to not only bigger, but better literature in this critical time of their lives, you have the right list. Let’s check them out!
The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge, by M.T. Anderson
This fantasy novel presents the story of an elf with a snooty personality that’s forced to serve as a peace envoy to the goblin kingdom, where he’ll face many whimsically violent obstacles and gain some very unlikely friends. The world Andersen builds around the story is both captivating and comical, and the situations, while touching on cultural misunderstanding and even war, are never beyond the comprehension of a regular 10-year-old.
Unstoppable Octobia May, by Sharon Flake
Masterfully blending the themes history, race, culture and family, this book will take readers into a mystery set in the 1950s starring the eponymous Octobia May, an inquisitive girl with a heart condition that lets her see the world in a different light than other people. Living with her free-spirited Auntie, who lets Octobia speak and be heard like an adult, our heroine will embark on a mysterious adventure surrounded by a vibrant African American community that’s equally threatened by vampires and their own racism.
The Book of Boy, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
This epic story is really a treat from start to finish for readers of all ages. The boy has a hump on his back, an enigmatic past, a penchant for talking to animals, and the scorn of the people of his village, who relegated him to the outskirts. Suddenly, the arrival of mysterious pilgrim Secondus engages Boy in a thrilling expedition across Europe to hunt for seven precious relics. Featuring a map lovingly illustrated by Ian Schoenherr, this tale deal with the religious themes and social prejudices of the time.
STEM Lab, by Jack Challoner
Let your children discover how science, technology, engineering, and math allow the world around them to function every day through all sorts of activities and experiments they can carry out right at home. The focus on STEM subjects and the simple, easy-to-follow guides will fire up the imagination of any reader and will wake up their inquisitive side more and more with each project they tackle.
DK Life Stories series, various authors
There is more to Martin Luther King Jr.’s ideals than his famous I have a dream speech, as there was more to Helen Keller than learning how to read and write as a blind and deaf person. The DK Life Stories series of biographies are written and illustrated specifically for young readers, showing them how the people who shaped our world thought, felt and acted beyond what everyone knows them for. These are engaging, true-to-life stories written and illustrated in age-appropriate ways that will let children humanize these influential historical figures through nonfiction means.