Inside: The best books for 10 year olds will keep young readers engaged, enthralled, and enchanted. Check out these fabulous novels for tweens!
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The Best Books for 10 Year Olds
When I was a child, I had my nose in a story at all times. Whether I was in the car, under the covers, or watching my sister at dance practice, I was never without a great book .
I read voraciously, as if my life depended on it. I learned — and grew — from every story I read. The Babysitters Club series taught me about friendship, responsibility, and hard work. Number the Stars taught me about unfairness and to be an upstander in the face of injustice. And as a kid whose parents had a keen appreciation for the arts, From the Mixed of Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler gave me a true appreciation for museums – and adventure, too.
I saw myself in each of these stories, and that made all the difference in the world.
But what if your tween isn’t a voracious reader? How do you get them to fall in love with stories? Developing a reading habit in kids isn’t easy, especially when it comes to boys. But if your child connects with a book, your work becomes so much easier.
The Best Books for 10 Year Olds will Engage, Enthrall and Enchant Your Tweens
If you want your kids to read, you need to give them captivating books. Graphic novels are all the rage these days and are fabulous for growing readers. Series books are huge because if your kids love the first book, they will want more! Novels in verse make for quicker but oh-so-powerful reads. And fantasy continues to delight readers of all ages.
RELATED: Looking for more tween books? We’ve got you covered!
Grab books for your kids that correspond to their interests. Read them before your children do so you can talk about them together. Even better? Read them together, chapter by chapter! Most importantly? Give your kids choice. Take them to the library or book store and give them the chance to explore. Grab them a stack of books and let them choose what interests them. And if they want to read the same book again and again – let them!
And now, without further ado, here are Happily Ever Elephants Best Books for 10 year olds!
Best Books for 10 Year Olds!
Ghost, by Jason Reynolds: Ghost wants to be the fastest runner. In fact, running is all he knows. Yet Ghost is running for the wrong reasons, like a past that brings him to his knees. Then Ghost meets Coach, who brings Ghost to the middle school track team along with Lu, Sunny and Patina. And if Ghost can stay on track, both literally and figuratively, he could be the best sprinter in his city — and maybe even qualify for the Junior Olympics. Powerful, explosive and a National Book Award Finalist, this is the first book in the Track series that kids won’t soon forget. A must read!
The War that Saved My Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley: Set in Great Britain during World War II, Ada has a clubfoot and an abusive mother who is both mortified and ashamed by the fact that her daughter is crippled. She keeps Ada locked away in their small apartment in London. When evacuations begin, and children are taken out of London and brought to the safety of the English countryside, Ada escapes her mother’s wrath with her younger brother Jamie in tow. The two are placed in Susan’s care, and though Susan claims she is “not nice,” Ada and Jamie soon learn what it means to love– and be loved in return. A huge favorite of fourth grade girls and boys in our school library! For our full review on The War that Saved My Life, click here!
Up for Air, by Laurie Morrison: Thirteen year old Annabelle finds herself struggling academically at the end of seventh grade. Yet when she dives into the water, her swimming skills earn her an A+. Due to her speed and talent, Annabelle is asked to join the high school team over the summer — and this is when her world changes tremendously. She begins to make older friends, and her newly developed body attracts the attention of one handsome high school boy. Annabelle wants to fit in, but after taking part in a prank that goes disastrously wrong, the boy drops her like a hot potato and an injury sidelines her from the pool. Who is Annabelle without swimming? How will she figure out where she belongs? For our full review of Up for Air, click here!
New Kid, by Jerry Craft: New Kid, the 2020 Newbery Award winner, is an authentic graphic novel about a tween beginning seventh grade at a prestigious academic private school. Yet Jordan Banks is one of the only kids of color in his whole grade. As Jordan tries to find a place within his new school, he finds himself straddled between two worlds — the upscale students at Riverdale Academy and his neighborhood friends in Washington Heights. More than a simple “new kid” story, New Kid tackles racism, hostility, socio-economic disparity and micro-aggressions that many children encounter on a regular basis. Absolutely, positively, fantastic.
The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise, by Dan Gemeinhart: After losing her mom and sisters in a terrible car crash, Coyote and her dad, Rodeo, have been living in an old school bus. For years they travel the country to escape their painful past. But when Coyote learns the park in her old neighborhood is set for demolition — the same park where she buried a memory box with her mom and sisters — she devises a plan to get her heartbroken dad to drive back to Washington, without him knowing the real reason why. Facing memories and emotions she shut down for so long, this is the remarkable story of a grief-stricken girl who discovers love and joy after terrible loss. This is one of my very favorite middle grade books!
Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World, by Ashley Herring Blake: Ivy Aberdeen’s home is flattened by a tornado that rages through her town. As she flees her house, all she manages to save is her pillow. Thank goodness, because this pillow contains her most precious possessions – fancy markers and her drawing journal which includes sketches of Ivy holding hands with an unidentifiable girl. After the storm, Ivy’s notebook goes missing. When her pictures mysteriously begin showing up in her own locker, together with notes encouraging Ivy to be true to who she is, Ivy hopes the letters are coming from a girl on whom she has developed a secret crush. But is owning her truth and understanding her identity as easy as Ivy wants it to be? Ivy’s words and yearnings will be windows for some and mirrors for others, but her burning desire to understand who she is at her core will be loved and cherished universally.
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, by Dusti Bowling: Aven Green is a spunky girl who loves to make up stories about how she lost her arms. But the truth is, she was simply born without them, and her adoptive parents wouldn’t let her sit by and mourn a life of things she couldn’t do. Instead, they made her work for all she wants. She opens her own backpack, plays the guitar and eats her own food — all with her feet. But life without arms is not easy, especially when you move to a new state and start a new school. When Aven meets Connor, a boy at school struggling with Tourette’s Syndrome, a new world opens up for both kids. The two learn how to help each other, and they learn a ton about themselves, too.
Right as Rain, by Lindsay Stoddard: After Rain’s brother dies, Rain and her family move from their small Vermont town to the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. But their move isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Rain’s dad retreats to his bedroom, Rain sticks out like a sore thumb in her new school, and her mom can’t stop pretending all is perfect. Rain thus turns to running, her outlet, where she meets a new friend. But can she tell Frankie the guilty secret she’s been harboring about the night of her brother’s death? Is there anything that will mend Rain’s family as the one year anniversary of his death approaches? Honest, poignant and gripping, this is a necessary addition to every bookshelf. Readers facing any kind of loss will find themselves in Rain, her family and her friends.
Circus Mirandus, by Cassie Beasley: Micah’s grandfather has forever told him tales of the enchanting Circus Mirandus. The Circus was home to an invisible tiger, a flying birdwoman, and a powerful magician known as the Man Who Bends Light. But is the circus truly real? Grandpa Ephraim eventually gives Micah the proof he needs, which leads Micah on one incredible adventure. After all, the Lightbender owes Micah’s dying Grandpa a miracle. And if Micah can find him, he might be able to save his grandfather from the brink of death. There’s just one problem… what if he does find the Lightbender, and this magical figure doesn’t want to keep his promise? A fantastical, imaginative journey, one that is as spellbinding as it is engaging.
Lily and Dunkin, by Donna Gephart: There are no words to adequately express my love for this book! This is the story of Lily, a transgender child who looks like a boy but knows she is really a girl, and Dunkin, a boy with bipolar disorder who just moved to Lily’s town. It is a story of the chance meeting between the two, their unlikely friendship, and being true to yourself despite the naysayers who taunt and fear your differences. Sensitive, authentic, and as necessary as it is exceptional, this one has a place on every tween’s bookshelf. It challenges stigma, encourages truth, and will undoubtedly cause kids to stop and think before judging another’s choices. Remarkable!
Fish in a Tree, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt: Ally is good with people — so good, in fact, that she’s got a lot of them totally fooled. Why? Because she has a hard time reading, and to combat that, she creates many disruptive distractions to hide her fatal flaw. After all she knows she’s dumb, and that can’t be helped. Leave it to a new teacher, Mr. Daniels, to discover the brightness and creativity just below Ally’s troublemaker exterior, and Ally begins to discover that her dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of, and she has a lot more to be confident about than she ever realized.
Wonder, by R.J. Palacio: “I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse. “ Talk about a book that will pull you in right from the outset. This is the the story of Auggie, a boy with severe facial anomalies. Up until fifth grade, he was schooled at home. But when he gets ready to begin fifth grade at a real school, he wants nothing more than to be treated like an ordinary kid. Will his new classmates be able to get past his jarring facial differences? This is the book that sparked the Choose Kind movement, and it is an extraordinary, poignant story that resonates deeply with both children and adults alike. Funny, tender, and oh-so-honest, this book should be required reading for every kid around the world. Absolutely phenomenal… and the best reminder that being cool is oh-so-kind.
Front Desk, by Kelly Yang: This is the story of Mia Tang who, together with her parents, leaves China and arrives in America in search of the American Dream. But their hard work and determination doesn’t mean life will be easy, and when Mia’s family finds themselves operating a motel for a cruel and exploitative owner, life is anything but what they had imagined. Mia runs the front desk at the motel, and the tougher her days are, the more she longs for a better and easier life. With the help of a new friend, the motel’s “weeklies,” her devoted parents, and a lucky pencil, Mia may be able to find that she can achieve her own American dreams with a hefty amount of perseverance and a whole lot of heart. A beautiful novel for tweens, and my school book club’s favorite book this semester! For our full review of Front Desk, click here!
To Night Owl From Dogfish, by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer: Avery Bloom and Bett Devlin live across the country from each other, and when they find out they are being sent to the same sleepaway camp one summer because their dads are dating and want them to become friends, the girls want absolutely nothing to do with each other. Until, that is, the pair become inseparable. When the duo find themselves on a summer adventure they never could have predicted even in their wildest dreams, they know they can’t live without each other. Will they truly become family? Or will their friendship outlast their fathers’ romance?
The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill: In this Newbery Award winner, a town is haunted by an annual tradition: a Day of Sacrifice, one that involves leaving the eldest baby born that year in the woods. Why? To appease a witch who threatens to destroy the village if her commands are not obeyed. Thus begins the story of one baby who is taken and “enmagicked,” the families from whom babies are taken, a witch who is anything but, a very tiny dragon, and a tale looming before a village that may or may not actually be true. In this stunning novel, Barnhill presents a spring point for conversations about truths versus lies and how adherence to certain stories can become the very foundations on which societies are built and even maintained. An absolutely spellbinding read. For our full review of The Girl Who Drank the Moon, click here!
Genesis Begins Again, by Alicia D. Williams: Genesis hates a lot of things about herself. Most especially? Her dark, dark, skin, which even her own father holds against her. But this isn’t the only thing she doesn’t like. She also hates that her family keeps getting put out of their home because dad gambles, and he loses the rent money on a regular basis. When Genesis is forced to start over again, at a new school, she not only discovers herself and a talent, but she also has the support of a trusted teacher who helps Genesis discover her own truth — and her own confidence. An amazingly powerful book!
All of Me, by Chris Baron: On the cusp of his Bar-Mitzvah, Ari is not only struggling with his weight, but also his parents’ separation right after the whole family picked up and moved across the country. Though he makes new friends, not everyone wants to be his pal and after an upsetting incident with some of the kids at school, his mom suggests he go on a diet. Ari thus embarks on a journey, and as he gets more comfortable with himself physically, he also begins to change emotionally. A unique perspective on weight loss and family told in beautiful, pitch perfect verse.
The Secret of Nightingale Wood, by Lucy Strange: Henrietta (AKA “Henry”) and her family have just begun to settle into their new home at Hope House, but shortly after they arrive her father must leave and go abroad. To make matters worse, her beloved brother, Robert, has recently died, her mother is suffering from a debilitating mental illness, and their devoted Nanny Jane is doing everything the doctors tell her to take care of Mama, even if it means keeping Mama locked in a room and giving her medicine that keeps her sedated. Henry is distraught – but when she wanders into the adjacent Nightingale Wood one evening, she may just meet something — or someone — who will help her find the courage to change the lives of those she holds closest to her heart.
The Night Diary, by Veera Hirandandani: The year is 1947. India, no longer ruled by the British, has been divided into two countries, Pakistan and India, which has created significant discord between Hindus and Muslims. This leaves twelve year old Nisha, half Indian and half Muslim, distraught. Who is she, and where does she belong? When Nisha’s Indian father decides Pakistan is no longer safe, Nisha and her family flee, becoming refugees overnight. Told entirely in letters to the Muslim mother she never knew, Nisha’s story is riveting, nuanced and oh-so-compelling, especially for children struggling to understand who they are, where they fit in the world, and how to move on when both home and heart are ripped in two. An accessible, historical masterpiece that I fell head over heels in love with from the very first page.
The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander: This is another novel my fourth and fifth graders are absolutely in love with- they simply cannot get enough of Kwame Alexander’s books. Alexander’s novels in verse have become some of the most popular books for tweens, and this one won both the Newbery Award and a Coretta Scott King Honor. Josh and Jordan, twins, are middle school basketball stars who suddenly, for the very first time, begin to drift apart — due, in part, to a girl. Told in Alexander’s exquisite, lyrical, verse, and fusing basketball, beats, brothers and family bonds, this is a book that pulses with energy and will hook any tween reader – especially those who have an affinity for sports and music.
Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster, by Jonathan Auxier: This is the story of Nan Sparrow, an orphaned chimney sweeper who spends her days performing a thankless — and wholly dangerous — job. After her “Sweep” leaves her and she nearly dies in a chimney fire, Nan fears her days are numbered. But when she awakens in an abandoned attic and discovers a golem made of soot and ash in the room with her, she begins a new life full of hope, friendship and the courage to conquer her greatest challenges. Anti Semitism, child labor, and social justice are just some of the issues explored in this fantastical story about one child’s struggle with her position in society and her relationship with an unconventional new friend. Folks, this one utterly astounded and captivated me from beginning to end.
My Jasper June, by Laurel Snyder: It’s summertime, and after a tragedy hits home, Leah just wants to spend time by herself and foregoes going to sleepaway camp. She is lost and lonely — until, that is, she meets Jasper. Jasper is unlike anyone Leah has ever met before. Her life is both mysterious and enchanting, but Leah soon discovers that Jasper may be even more alone than Leah is. With themes of homelessness and neglect, this story and its beautiful characters convey the power of friendship to heal wounds and create solutions to some of life’s greatest challenges.
Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, by John David Anderson: This is the poignant story of a teacher, her three students, and the challenges these three boys go through to give her the best last day of school ever — before Ms. Bixby must leave her class due to an illness. It is contemporary fiction at its finest, with characters that creep into your heart and seem like friends you’ve known forever. The boys’ compassion, their personal hardships and their determination is so authentic. The voices are pitch perfect, and the obstacles they encounter while trying to accomplish their mission will leave you laughing, inspired and moved. So in love with this one!
The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart: This is one of those series I just cannot keep on the shelf in my school library! After an ad runs in the newspaper calling for “gifted children looking for special opportunities,” two boys and two girls pass the mind-bending tests and succeed. Their mission? A secret challenge that only the most innovative and intelligent children can complete. Yet, they’ll have to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened to do so, where, surprisingly, there is only one rule: there are no rules. Will the four kids succeed? This is one to add to your child’s “must read” list!
Ghost Boys, by Jewell Parker Rhodes: This is an absolutely fantastic and gut wrenching novel about Jerome, a twelve year old black boy who is shot and killed by a white police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real one. As a ghost, Jerome sees the devastation and chaos his death has caused, with his family and community at the heart of it. While his family protests what they believe is an unjust killing, Jerome meets another ghost — that of Emmet Till, a boy who lived decades earlier and experienced the same destructive injustice — as well as Sarah, the police officer’s daughter, who is still alive. Together, Emmet and Sarah help Jerome process his death. Deftly weaving history with today’s pressing issues, this story is a haunting beauty, one that has a place of importance on every tween bookshelf and in every school collection. Though this is undoubtedly a tough topic, Ghost Boys is age appropriate and expertly written.
The Parker Inheritance, by Varian Johnson: I love when puzzling stories of the past become present day mysteries just begging to be brought to life and explored. That is exactly what happens here, in this fabulous, intricately plotted story about Candice and her sidekick, Brandon. After Candice discovers a letter addressed to her grandmother describing an injustice that happened long before Candice’s time, she goes on the hunt to solve a puzzle – and find a fortune. Expertly moving between past and present, the challenge leads the friends deep into the history of their South Carolina town and is marked by great discovery — not just about their home, but about themselves, too. This book has received a long list of accolades for a reason. My students absolutely love this one!
Amal Unbound, by Aisha Saeed: Amal is a bookish girl living in Pakistan with dreams of becoming a teacher. But one day at the market, Amal mouths off to the wrong man: Jawad, son of her village’s wealthy landlord. In order to pay off the debt for her insulting behavior, Amal is forced into indentured servitude with Jawad’s family, leaving her own family behind. At the landlord’s pretentious home, Amal sees firsthand the dangers of illiteracy and gender inequality, and she begins sneaking books from the library and teaching the other servants to read. When Amal is sent by the family to be a patron at the village’s new literacy center, she recognizes that her education has given her a powerful hand — the ability to take a critical stance against corruption. Simply stunning – and as proof of its excellence, it was a Global Read Aloud, utilized to connect children all across the globe. For our full review of Amal Unbound, click here!
Cardboard Kingdom, by Chad Sell: This is the story of sixteen children tackling their demons – both internal and external – by constructing fantastical creatures out of old cardboard boxes. And then? Neighborhood adventures, quests and shenanigans ensue, with the kids learning how to navigate their conflicts both on their own and as a team. This book so fabulously celebrates friendship, imagination and innovation, and if your kids love graphic novels, they will fall in love with this one!
Roll With it, by Jamie Sumner: Headstrong Ellie has no problem telling anyone how she feels, which many find surprising given that Ellie has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair. Despite her disability, Ellie has dreams of becoming a famous baker. When she and her mom move in with her grandparents to take care of Ellie’s aging grandfather, Ellie is the new kid in town — but for the first time in her life, she begins to make real friends. With newfound friends at her side, Ellie wants her move to become permanent. And the only way she can convince her mom and grandma that they need to stay may just involve baking — and one big competition.
Where the Watermelons Grow, by Cindy Baldwin: This beautiful book tells the story of Della Kelly, a tween girl whose mother suffers from schizophrenia. The book opens with Della’s mother digging seeds out of a watermelon in the middle of the night, talking to people only she can see, and Della at once knows her mother is being tugged back down a dangerous road that once landed her in the hospital for months. With her Dad distracted by trying to save the family farm and her mom spinning out of control, Della decides she is the only one that can heal her mama and save her family – and she refuses to let others in for help. Will Della be able to hold her family together as her mother’s symptoms worsen by the day? Baldwin’s treatment of mental illness feels authentic at every step, and this important book gently reminds us that sometimes, letting go and letting others in is just what we need to survive. For our full review of Where the Watermelons Grow, click here!
Finding Perfect, by Elly Swartz: Molly Nathans is a sixth grader struggling with obsessive compulsive disorder. To Molly, perfection is the number four, the tip of a newly sharpened pencil, and her perfectly aligned glass animal figurines. Not perfect? Her mother’s sudden absence to take on a new job. Molly concocts a plan to bring her mother back home, believing that if she wins her school’s slam poetry contest, her mom will never miss the celebratory banquet in Molly’s honor. But writing her poems becomes increasingly harder as Molly’s obsessive habits begin to spiral out of control, and the rest of her life suddenly does too. Will Molly’s compulsions keep her in check, or will they actually be the very things preventing her from finding her own version of perfect?