Staff Picks: Ages 9-12

Agest 9-12 collage of book covers from the list

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 your librarians 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 5 fingers before the end of the page, you should find another book. If you hold up 4 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
90 Miles to Havana

Enrique Flores-Galbis
(Juvenile Fiction - J Floresg)

*This item also available on Hoopla (audiobook). When unrest hits the streets of Havana, Cuba, Julian's parents must make the heartbreaking decision to send him and his two brothers away to Miami via the Pedro Pan operation. But when the boys get to Miami, they are thrust into a world where bullies seem to run rampant and it's not always clear how best to protect themselves. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Archer's Quest

Linda Sue Park
(Juvenile Fiction - J Park)

*This item also available on HooplaTwelve-year-old Kevin Kim helps Chu-mong, a legendary king of ancient Korea, return to his own time. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Best Man

Richard Peck
(Juvenile Fiction - J Peck)

*This item also available on Libby and Cloud LibraryArcher has four important role models in his life--his dad, his grandfather, his uncle Paul, and his favorite teacher, Mr. McLeod. When Uncle Paul and Mr. McLeod get married, Archer's sixth-grade year becomes one he'll never forget. Recommended for ages 9-12.


Kwame Alexander
(Juvenile Fiction - J Alexand)

Twelve-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. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Brothers at Bat: the True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team

Audrey Vernick
(Juvenile Nonfiction - J 796.3579 Ver)

*This item also available on HooplaDocuments the story of the Baseball Hall of Fame honorees, tracing how the Acerra family of New Jersey formed their own semi-pro baseball team in the 1930s and became the longest-running all-brother team in history. Recommended for ages 9-12.

El Deafo

Cece Bell
(Juvenile Graphic Novels - J 362.42 Bel)

*This item also available on Libby, Cloud Library, and HooplaGoing to school and making new friends can be tough. But going to school and making new friends while wearing a bulky hearing aid strapped to your chest? That requires superpowers! Recommended for ages 9-12.

The First Rule of Punk

Celia C. Perez
(Juvenile Fiction - J Perez)

*This item also available on Libby and Cloud LibraryTwelve-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. Recommended for ages 9-12.


Andrew Clements
(Juvenile Fiction - J Cle)

*This item also available on LibbyWhen he decides to turn his fifth grade teacher's love of the dictionary around on her, clever Nick Allen invents a new word and begins a chain of events that quickly moves beyond his control. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Grand Canyon

Jason Chin
(Juvenile Nonfiction - J 557.9132 Chi)

*This item also available on Hoopla (audiobook). A sumptuously illustrated exploration of the Grand Canyon past and present describes how it formed and how it is home to an astonishing variety of plants and animals that have lived and evolved there for millennia. Recommended for ages 9-12.

The Graveyard Book

Neil Gaiman
(Juvenile Fiction - J Gaiman)

After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own. Recommended for ages 9-12.


Gary Paulsen
(Juvenile Fiction - J Paulsen)

After a plane crash, Brian spends 54 days in the wilderness learning to survive with only a hatchet given him by his mother. Read more in The River, Brian's Winter, Brian's Return, and Brian's Hunt. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World

Ashley Herring Blake
(Juvenile Fiction - J Blake)

*This item also available on LibbyTwelve-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. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Moon Over Manifest

Clare Vanderpool
(Juvenile Fiction - J Vanderp)

*This item also available on Libby and Cloud LibraryTwelve-year-old Abilene Tucker is the daughter of a drifter who, in the summer of 1936, sends her to stay with an old friend in Manifest, Kansas, where he grew up, and where she hopes to find out some things about his past. Recommended for ages 9-12.

One Crazy Summer

Rita Williams-Garcia
(Juvenile Fiction - J Williams)

*This item also available on Libby, Cloud Library, and Hoopla. In the summer of 1968, eleven-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters travel from New York to California to spend a month with the mother they barely know. They arrive to a cold welcome, discovering that their mother, a dedicated poet and printer, is resentful of the intrusion of their visit and wants them to attend a nearby Black Panther summer camp. Recommended for ages 9–12.


(Juvenile Fiction - J Av)

*This item also available on Libby and Hoopla. Poppy the deer mouse urges her family to move next to a field of corn big enough to feed them all forever, but Mr. Ocax, a terrifying owl, has other ideas. Recommended for ages 9–12.

Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis

Jabari Asim
(Juvenile Nonfiction - J 921 Lewis Asi)

Critically acclaimed author Jabari Asim and Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator E. B. Lewis give readers a fascinating glimpse into the boyhood of civil rights leader John Lewis. Recommended for ages 9–12.

The Serpent's Secret

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

*This item also available on Libby, Cloud Library, and Hoopla (audiobook). Up until her twelfth 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--and somehow Kiranmala needs to sort it all out, find her parents, and basically save the world. Recommended for ages 9-12.

The Stars Beneath Our Feet

David Barclay Moore
(Juvenile Fiction - J Moore)

Unable to celebrate the holidays in the wake of his older brother's death in a gang-related shooting, 12-year-old Lolly struggles to avoid being forced into a gang himself while constructing a fantastically creative LEGO city at the Harlem community center. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Thora: A Half-Mermaid Tale

Gillian Johnson
(Juvenile Fiction - J Johnson)

Ten-year-old Thora, daughter of a mermaid mother and a human father, has many adventures at sea until she must return to the English seaside town of Grimli and save her mother who has been captured by the greedy real estate developer, Frooty de Mare. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Grace Lin
(Juvenile Fiction - J Lin)

*This item also available on Libby and Cloud LibraryMinli, an adventurous girl from a poor village, buys a magical goldfish, and then joins a dragon who cannot fly on a quest to find the Old Man of the Moon in hopes of bringing life to Fruitless Mountain and freshness to Jade River. Recommended for ages 9-12.