The 11 Best Books for 11-Year-Olds
From the call of the video game to the siren song of the cell phone, there’s a lot of competition for your tween’s attention. But just like when we were kids, there’s no frigate like a book. Here are the most exciting, enriching and lasting books, both new and old, sure to appeal to your favorite, possibly electronics-addicted 11-year-old boy or girl.
1. A Wrinkle in Time by MADELEINE L’ENGLE
Give it to your favorite little nonconformist now in order to read it before the big Disney film starring Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling and Reese Witherspoon comes out in March. The story of grouchy misfit Meg, her genius little brother Charles Wallace, and their missing scientist father swoops through time and space to deliver a lesson about the importance of individuality, patience and family love.
2. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (Author) and Patricia Castelao (Illustrator)
The touching tale of a silverback gorilla kept captive in a mall who doesn’t know he’s lonely until a little girl and a baby elephant encourage him to see his life a new way. Based on the true account of a gorilla that lived out his years at the Atlanta Zoo, Ivan’s story will bring on all the feels, regardless of your age.
3. Unwind by Neal Shusterman
In a dystopian future, unwanted teens can be salvaged for body parts by parents or state agencies seeking to “unwind” them. A troublemaking boy, an orphan girl and a boy on the run from his super-religious family all meet by chance, and hair-raising survivalism ensues. A sophisticated preteen will be into this dark subject matter; you’ll be interested to hear that it’s being made into a movie by the guy who wrote Pulp Fiction.
4. Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
In this 2010 best seller, readers get to share the inner monologue of Melody, an 11-year-old with a photographic memory whose special talents include “tasting” music and “hearing” colors—only no one knows it, since she was born with cerebral palsy and can neither speak nor write. One day, she gets a computer that lets her communicate via taps on a keyboard, and she’s transitioned into a regular middle school classroom. The friendships, humiliations and triumphs this gutsy girl experiences there are riveting.
5. The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen
Most kids can relate to being bored by the old folks’ endless stories about the past, but they’ll never look at a holiday gathering the same way after reading this book. Here 13-year-old Hannah Stern is magically transported during a family seder from 1980s-era suburban New York to a Nazi death camp in 1942 Poland. Her story of survival dramatically drives home the importance of remembering the past.
6. Wonder by R. J. Palacio
This non-saccharine book, told from the alternating perspectives of a ten-year-old with jarring facial anomalies and his various family members and friends, gets our Golden Tissue Box award for most quality tear-jerker in recent history. (We dare you to make it through the trailer for the soon-to-be-released film with dry eyes.)
7. The Giver by Lois Lowry
This granddaddy of dystopian YA novels follows 12-year-old Jonas as he prepares to take his government-appointed position as “Receiver of Memories,” only to discover the sinister reason behind state-sanctioned “release dates” for the elderly and developmentally challenged children. Does Jonas save his own life and that of his charge at the end? People have been discussing the book’s open-ended conclusion since it was first published in 1994.
8. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
This science fiction book follows the adventures of teenager Wade Watts as he escapes life in the dreary, polluted America of 2045 by gaming inside the virtual reality world known as OASIS. When the 1980s-obsessed tech genius who invented OASIS dies, he leaves behind a challenge for his global players that will earn one of them billions and the keys to the virtual kingdom. But evil corporate forces and sly fellow gamers—including a gutsy girl hacker—threaten Watts at every turn. Steven Spielberg is directing the spring 2018 movie version of this runaway best seller.
9. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Dog lovers will find themselves drawn to this classic story of a California ranch dog, Buck, who is kidnapped and sold into servitude during the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush. Buck’s clashes with humans, other dogs and the wilderness itself are grippingly portrayed, as is his eventual hero status as the Ghost Dog of the North.
10. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
The story of a nine-year-old African-American girl and her family’s attempts to hold on to their land amid racist attacks in the 1930s Deep South is by turns frightening, heartbreaking and even warm and funny. Since publication in 1976, this has been the book that’s shown kids how “serious” topics can be the stuff of unputdownable reading.
11. I am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Young Readers Edition) by Malala Yousafzai
Haven’t had a chance to pick up the memoir of the Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban as she rode the bus home from school? Buy two copies and read it with your little friend, then discuss it chapter by chapter.