Staff Picks: Ages 9–12

It's perfectly fine and normal for kids to have different reading levels and interests—and it's important for the adults in their life to grow the love of reading by honoring their reading choices. 

However, if you're looking for help in identifying a book that is a perfect fit for your child, feel free to ask an MCPL staff member or try the 5 Finger Rule: Open the book to a full page of text. Read the page to yourself. Every time you come across a word you don’t know, hold up a finger. If you hold up five fingers before the end of the page, you should find another book. If you hold up four fingers or less, the book is right for you!

Take a look at some of our favorite books that typically work for ages 9–12.

Compiled by:
Children's Services Staff
Answers in the Pages

David Levithan
(Juvenile Fiction - J Levitha)

When Donovan left his copy of The Adventurers on the kitchen counter, he didn't think his mom would read it—much less have a problem with it. It's just an adventure novel about two characters trying to stop an evil genius...right? But soon the entire town is freaking out about whether the book's main characters are gay, Donovan's mom is trying to get the book removed from the school curriculum, and Donovan is caught in the middle.

Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna

Alda P. Dobbs
(Juvenile Fiction - J Dobbs)

Based on a true story, this is the tale of one girl's perilous journey to cross the U.S. border and lead her family to safety during the Mexican Revolution.

The Best At It

Maulik Pancholy
(Juvenile Fiction - J Panchol)

The start of middle school is making Rahul feel increasingly anxious, so his grandfather Bhai, gives him some well-meaning advice: find one thing you're really good at and become the BEST at it. While he's not quite sure what that special thing is, he is convinced that once he finds it, bullies like Brent Mason will stop torturing him at school. And he won't be worried about staring too long at his classmate Justin Emery.


Kwame Alexander
(Juvenile Fiction - J Alexand)

12-year-old Nick loves soccer and hates books, but soon learns the power of words as he wrestles with problems at home, stands up to a bully, and tries to impress the girl of his dreams.


Samuel Sattin
(Juvenile Graphic Novels - J-GN Sattin Buzzing)

Isaac is a shy boy with OCD, but one day at school, he meets new friends who introduce him to role-playing games, which lead him on a journey of self-discovery and growth.

The First Rule of Punk

Celia C. Perez
(Juvenile Fiction - J Perez)

12-year-old Marâia Luisa O'Neill-Morales (who really prefers to be called Malâu) reluctantly moves with her Mexican-American mother to Chicago and starts seventh grade with a bang—violating the dress code with her punk rock aesthetic and spurning the middle school's most popular girl in favor of starting a band with a group of like-minded weirdos.

Holler of the Fireflies

David Barclay Moore
(Juvenile Fiction - J Moore)

Javari knew that West Virginia would be different from his home in Bushwick, Brooklyn. But his first day at STEM Camp in a little Appalachian town is still a shock. Javari will learn a lot about science—and also about rich people, racism, and hidden agendas. But it's a local boy named Cricket—budding activist and occasional thief—who will show him a different side of the holler and blow his mind wide open.

Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World

Ashley Herring Blake
(Juvenile Fiction - J Blake)

12-year-old Ivy Aberdeen's house is destroyed in a tornado, and in the aftermath of the storm, she begins to develop feelings for another girl at school.

The Leak: For the Love of Truth

Kate Reed Petty
(Juvenile Graphic Novels - J-GN Petty Leak)

When Ruth Keller discovers a strange black slime in the man-made lake of her suburban neighborhood, she decides to investigate. Ruth seeks the truth at all costs, even if it means taking on the rich local country club owner, who she believes is responsible for the pollution. Between the teasing of former friends, and a sudden viral spotlight, Ruth discovers how difficult it is for a journalist to take a stand for what's right in the face of critique and controversy.

The List of Things That Will Not Change

Rebecca Stead
(Juvenile Fiction - J Stead)

Despite her parents' divorce, her father coming out as gay, and his plans to marry his boyfriend, 10-year-old Bea is reassured by her parents' unconditional love, excited about getting a stepsister, and haunted by something she did last summer at her father's lake house.

The Mona Lisa Vanishes: A Legendary Painter, a Shocking Heist, and the Birth of a Global Celebrity

Nick Day
(Juvenile Nonfiction - J 364.1628 Day)

A narrative nonfiction about how the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre, how the robbery made the portrait the most famous artwork in the world, and how the painting by Leonardo da Vinci should never have existed at all.

Ruby Lost and Found

Christina Li
(Juvenile Fiction - J Li)

Thanks to her Ye-Ye's epic scavenger hunts, 13-year-old Ruby Chu knows San Francisco like the back of her hand. But after his death, she feels lost, and it seems like everyone—from her best friends to her older sister—is abandoning her. After Ruby gets in major trouble at school, her parents decide she has to spend the summer at a local senior center, with her grandmother, Nai-Nai, and Nai-Nai's friends for company. 

Salt Magic

Hope Larson
(Juvenile Graphic Novels- J-GN Larson Salt Magic)

12-year-old Vonceil Taggart, willing to risk everything to set things right, leaves her family's Oklahoma farm in 1919 seeking the salt witch who cast a spell that turned their spring to saltwater.

The Serpent's Secret

Sayantani DasGupta
(Juvenile Fiction - J Dasgupt)
Series: Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond

Up until her 12th birthday, Kiranmala considered herself an ordinary sixth-grader in Parsippany, New Jersey, but then her parents disappear and a drooling rakkhosh demon shows up in her kitchen, and soon she is swept into another dimension, full of magic, winged horses, talking birds (very annoying), and cute princes. Somehow, Kiranmala needs to sort it all out, find her parents, and basically save the world.


Lisa Fipps
(Juvenile Fiction - J Fipps)

Bullied and shamed her whole life for being fat, 12-year-old Ellie finally gains the confidence to stand up for herself with the help of some wonderful new allies.

Ten Thousand Tries

Amy Makechnie
(Juvenile Fiction - J Makechn)

12-year-old Golden Maroni starts eighth grade determined to be master of his universe, but learns he can't control everything on the soccer field—in his friendships, and especially in facing his father's incurable disease.

Those Kids From Fawn Creek

Erin Entrada Kelly
(Juvenile Fiction - J Kelly)

The 12 kids in the seventh grade at Fawn Creek K–12 have been together all their lives, so when graceful Orchid Mason arrives, with exotic clothes and glorious hair, the other seventh graders don't know what to think.

Two Degrees

Alan Gratz
(Juvenile Fiction - J Gratz)

Frank and Stanley are touring a battleship when Japanese planes zoom overhead, dropping bomb after bomb. As explosions roar and sailors scream, Frank and Stanley realize the unthinkable is happening: Japan is attacking America! The war has come to them.

We Still Belong

Christine Day
(Juvenile Fiction - J Day)

Wesley's hopeful plans for Indigenous Peoples' Day (and asking her crush to the dance) go all wrong—until she finds herself surrounded by the love of her Indigenous family and community at the intertribal powwow.

A Whale of the Wild

Rosanne Parry
(Juvenile Fiction - J Parry)

For Vega and her family, salmon is life. And Vega is learning to be a salmon finder, preparing for the day when she will be her family's matriarch. But then she and her brother Deneb are separated from their pod when a devastating earthquake and tsunami render the seascape unrecognizable. Vega must use every skill she has to lead her brother back to their family.