Welcome to Part III of our 2023 Bookish Gift Guide! This one is for my favorite group: the middle grade book readers! And as a result, you’ll notice it’s our largest selection of books and bookish items. We’ve included a wide range of choices to appeal to readers between the ages of 9-11 and even some 12 year olds! If you’re looking for gifts for tweens/preteens who love to read, you’re in the right place. Don’t forget to check out our recommendations for younger kiddos (toddlers/babies and kids ages 6-8) if you need recs!
The Best Bookish Gifts for Kids Ages 9-11
Here are my favorite gifts for kids ages 9-11, including bridge novels for graphics fans, compulsively readable non-fiction, funny realistic fiction and more:
Funny and Lighthearted Realistic Fiction
Real life may be tough, but realistic fiction doesn’t have to be scary. The books in this section are great for sensitive readers or those who like realism with a side of funny.
Ready, Set, Dough!
Published: October 17, 2023
Ambitious sixth grader Zoe Sparks loves to write and enjoys brainstorming ideas for her journalism class. There’s only one problem: Her at-home computer is so unreliable that it just stops working one day. Fortunately, her school is organizing a cookie dough fundraiser, and guess what the top seller prize is? A WordPro laptop — and orange (her favorite color) at that! Zoe is determined to outsell everyone, especially her nemesis Amaya. But soon, her ambition begins to impact her balance and her friendship with her BFF Felix. I adored the voice in this one and finished it in one day. Good for ages 9+ and also UNDER 200 pages!
The Wild Journey of Juniper Berry
Published: August 15, 2023
Juniper and her family live off the grid, and she loves it. Her mom has warned her that life in “society” is stressful, but Juniper’s older sister still wants to try living there. Unfortunately, regardless of the family’s desires, they all have to move to the nearest town when their youngest family member becomes seriously ill. Juniper’s dad even has to work to pay the hospital bills while the girls live with their uncle and his daughters, with surprising outcomes for Juniper and her family. Following a memorable protagonist through major life changes, this book explores the idea that perhaps the world doesn’t have to be scary if we all approach it with curiosity. For ages 9+
Make a Move, Sunny Park!
Published: August 15, 2023
Sunny Park is a socially anxious girl obsessed with her favorite K-pop band, Supreme Beat. She has one friend, Bailey, who tries to be there as much as possible (to a fault) for her—even when it means quitting ballet, which she loved. But when Bailey drags her to audition for her school’s dance team, Sunny gets in, and Bailey doesn’t. To Bailey’s dismay, Sunny’s mom insists that Sunny continues on the team. As Sunny makes new friends, she realizes that maybe Bailey isn’t great. This was a fun, relatable (sometimes frustrating) story about standing up for oneself, dancing, fandom, and finding true friends. Great for ages 10+
Good Family Readalouds
What’s better than a book for one kid? A book the whole family can enjoy. Try one of these crowd-pleasers for your family read-alouds.
Published: June 12, 2014
Fifth grader Albie isn’t good at spelling, he isn’t good at math, and he isn’t particularly good at sports. Instead, he’s almost smart enough to calculate the correct change, he’s almost one of the cool kids, and he’s almost good enough for his dad to notice him. Then Albie gets a new babysitter, one who seems to think he might be more than just an almost–but can she convince Albie? With an emphasis on kindness, friendship, and individuality, this book makes a wonderful family read-aloud.
The Wild Robot
Published: April 5, 2016
The perfect marriage of robot technology and nature – this adorable yet exciting chapter book follows the story of Roz the robot, who opens her eyes for the first time and discovers that she is alone on a remote island. Follow her journey as she makes friends with the animals and figures out how to survive. The latest book in the series was released this year, and the series is soon to be adapted into a movie.
Lolo Weaver Swims Upstream
Published: April 25, 2023
Willow (Lolo) Weaver’s summer is not going well. Her grandfather has recently died, her grandma isn’t herself, and she’s given away her grandfather’s foster dog, Hank. Lolo’s mother is heavily pregnant, and Lolo is in summer school because she didn’t do too well in her last exams. On top of that, their lake town isn’t a lake town anymore because the lake’s been drained and smells awful. Lolo wants to help her grandmother feel better, and she’s convinced that getting back her grandfather’s dog will do the trick. The only problem is that the dog now belongs to someone else. So Lolo gets on Pop’s boat to steal Hank back—only to run into her summer school classmate, Noah (the new dog owner). This young middle grade book is short, written for read-alouds, and features a remarkable synergy of humor, adventure, and heart. Good for ages 8+
Graphic Novel Bridge Books and Illustrated Middle-Grade Books
The books in this section are just right for those kids who love graphic novels like Dog Man, but are ready to try something a bit less graphic, but still heavily illustrated.
The Stupendous Switcheroo
Published: September 12, 2023
What if you woke up to new powers every day? Such is the fate of our protagonist in this graphic novel-prose hybrid. Daily, he develops and loses everything from potent superpowers like telekinesis and super speed to cute but not-so-useful ones like bubbles and speaking cat. The city’s superhero even recruits him to help fight the villains popping up everywhere. The one thing he can’t figure out is where his scientist mom is. As each day passes, readers follow Switcheroo one step closer to the mystery of his mom’s whereabouts and why so many villains are around suddenly. With a combination of text, illustrations, and graphic panels, this is a zippy new superhero series with plenty of charm and a touch of mystery, great for readers ages 8+.
Hannah Sharpe, Cartoon Detective
Published: September 19, 2023
Young cartoonist Hannah Sharpe has many strengths: she’s curious, creative, has an amazing memory, and most important—she notices things. When Doug Williams moves into her family’s Airbnb, Hannah can’t shake the feeling that he’s got something to hide. But his girlfriend, Remy Furtado, couldn’t be nicer or more helpful. As Hannah investigates, often with her sketchbook in hand, she makes a series of unsettling discoveries involving stolen packages, changed keypad codes, and hidden stacks of cash. Can Hannah crack the case and unfold the mystery on her own? This one has full-color illustrations on every page and stars a young protagonist with autism.
Published: September 19, 2023
Chance is a three-legged dog at the Dogtown shelter, where able-bodied and robot dogs compete for attention. Thankfully, management has adopted her as the house dog. Things start to change when a new robot dog, Metal Head, comes to the pound. First off, he’s determined to run away (return home). So he hatches a plan with Chance and her mouse best friend to help an older dog get adopted in exchange for helping him escape. But things do not go to plan, and Chance, her mouse friend, and Metal Head spend a night on the streets on an emotional adventure. As someone who isn’t into animal books, I’m shocked by how much I liked this one. It’s charming, beautifully plotted, and full of suspense, heartwarming characters, and plenty of heart. It also has sweet illustrations and concise chapters. The audiobook is fantastic, with a jingle to introduce each chapter.
Hand these to all the kids who love nonfiction that reads like intriguing fiction.
Tales of World War II
Published: October 3, 2023
If you have a young reader who loves all things war, this beautiful, browsable non-fiction book will captivate them. We all know about the major players of the historical Second World War, but what about the regular everyday people? Kids will learn from many short stories about several standouts, including the bear that worked with an army, a jazz musician who was also a spy, and the dog used to find survivors during the London Blitz.
Above the Trenches (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #12)
Published: November 14, 2023
Fans of Nathan Hale’s bestselling series will be waiting with breathless anticipation for his next installment. This time, it’s set in World War 1 and features the American volunteer squadron of pilots who fought as part of the French military. Known as the Lafayette Escadrille (after the French Marquis who helped fight for the American Revolution), this riveting book delves into the history behind each of these pilots, how and why they joined the fight, and how they lived and died. Readers of Nathan Hale’s prior books will enjoy Hale’s trademark combination of humor, important historical descriptions, and vivid drawings.
A First Time for Everything
Published February 28, 2023
Hand this book IMMEDIATELY to any middle schooler. This graphic memoir by renowned and prolific children’s author/illustrator Dan Santat, is on most librarians’ auto-buy lists! With Santat’s trademark insight and humor, this coming-of-age story of Santat’s middle school years, as an awkward kid who goes on a life-changing trip to Europe, will be a hit, especially with fans of Raina Telgemeier and Victoria Jamieson.
The Indestructible Tom Crean: Heroic Explorer of the Antarctic
Published: January 24, 2023
Tom Crean was an Irish-born sailor who was one of the earliest explorers to Antarctica, eventually making three separate voyages to the continent. Each journey was filled with danger, and the author doesn’t shy away from acknowledging the horrors of these early expeditions: frostbite, hypothermia, malnutrition, starvation, the losses of both humans and animals—and the despair Crean felt at these losses. However, the author tells Crean’s story in an age-appropriate way, and the picture book format brings young readers closer to the story. Kids who enjoy stories of true heroes will be awed by Crean’s “indestructible” spirit.
Science Comics: Electricity: Energy in Action
Published: May 23, 2023
The entire Science Comics series is gorgeously illustrated, both inside and out–young readers quickly grab these off the library shelves at my children’s school. Science Comics uses a narrative-based approach to engage readers while providing a complete introduction to a science topic. In this edition, Menlo the “mech” is responsible for protecting the city from monsters. But when an unlucky lightning strike shuts the machine down, it’s up to a resourceful young girl and her engineer uncle to save the day.
These coffee table/novelty non-fiction picks are irresistible (even for kids who aren’t big readers). They’re practical and feature stunning illustrations on every page!
The Handbook of Forgotten Skills: Timeless Fun for a New Generation
Published: August 1, 2023
Did the adults in your life teach you how to change a bicycle tire? Or to use a compass? How about gift wrapping? Or writing a thank you note? There’s so much that kids today don’t know how to do—so many useful life skills (and some that are just fun, like coin tricks 🤭). I love the pictures and easy-to-follow directions in this book! My husband already learned how to do one coin trick and is going to have so much fun showing off with the littles we know
How It Happened! Pizza
Published: November 7, 2023
As a fan of a good pizza, this non-fiction book grabbed me from the cover. I was delighted to learn facts about pizza I didn’t even know I was curious about—like where its major components originated and the differences between pizza sold by franchises worldwide. Did you know tomatoes were first grown in South America and not Italy? This charming release has easy-to-read text, real pictures, illustrations, and fact pages that grab young readers’ attention. I’d recommend it for ages 9+
The Good Luck Book
Published: November 21, 2023
Ever wondered why people say black cats are bad luck? Or why four leaf clovers are lucky? This book dissects the history of worldwide traditions, superstitions, and folklore, exploring which have scientific backing and which are just superstitions. This novelty book covers almost everything with full-color illustrations and sections about animals, the natural world, the body, and other random stuff. If you have readers curious about luck and superstitions, this is an excellent choice for them.
Transported: 50 Vehicles That Changed the World
Published: October 3, 2023
A fascinating book about the vehicles that have shaped our world, written by narrowboat captain and children’s author Matt Ralphs, with stunning color illustrations on every page by Rui Ricardo. From ancient chariots and Viking longships to racing cars, rockets, and solar-powered airplanes, our world has been changed by the pioneering development of many incredible vehicles. This book is absolutely breathtaking and the perfect coffee table book for engineering-curious readers (or anyone) to flip through when they feel the need.
On This Day: A History of the World in 366 Days
Published December 7, 2021
A hefty yet accessible coffee table or classroom book with a little something for everyone. Families could use it to flip to one page each day (or readers might flip immediately to their own birthdays) and enjoy reading snippets of historical information from the day President Obama was sworn in, to the day the Burj Khalifa opened. Ranging from ancient history to modern-day, nonfiction enthusiasts will love learning about trivia that they could repeat or research.
Who Would Win: Extreme Animal Rumble
Published: September 7, 2021
Told in an exciting, March Madness style, elimination-round matchup, this entertaining book will entice reluctant readers to vote on who they think will win in each round. Each “rumble” also features animals from different habitats and categories, such as ocean, jungle, dinosaurs or just sharks. Because of course, sharks need their very own arena in any kind of rumble!
The New Children’s Encyclopedia
Published: November 8, 2022
This comprehensive children’s encyclopedia holds thousands of pictures, facts, and statistics about the world, presented in an easily digestible format for kids ages 9-11. With over 9,000 indexed entries, the encyclopedia covers a wide range of subjects: space, earth, environment and ecology, living world, science, culture, continents, history and politics, and the human body! However, the book is well-organized with color-coded sections and specific categories within each topic. This encyclopedia is perfect for kids who love facts, enjoy exploring different topics, or want to learn more about the world around them.
Weird But True World 2024
Published: August 29, 2023
Weird But True World: 2024 is part of a best-selling series from National Geographic Kids that shares hilarious, quirky, and totally fascinating facts about almost every topic. At almost 300 pages, this newest volume compiles the “world’s weirdest” from every continent, under the oceans, and up into space. Kids will especially love the book’s stunning photography and personality quizzes, such as “Which Unique European Animal Are You?” This book is an ideal gift for any curious kid who loves exploring the strange, wild, and wacky side of life.
Books for Reluctant Readers
Some kids need extra motivation to fall into reading. If that’s the story with yours, these two graphic novels may be just what you need.
Published: March 8, 2022
Gabby Jordan, Priya Gupta, and Mindy Park share one big thing: they love animals, but neither can have pets for one reason or another. So they decide to start a dog walking business. Unfortunately, running a business and nurturing a three-way friendship isn’t as easy as they anticipated, and soon, they begin to bicker more than usual. I truly loved this graphic novel. It feels true to kids (it feels like something I would’ve LOVED as a child who adored The Babysitters’ Club), and I enjoyed seeing the ethnic diversity and the parental involvement in this story. Great for ages 9+
Published: September 19, 2023
Rosie’s dad wants her to play racquetball even though she says she wants no part and has no interest. He used to love it when he was a kid and he pushes Rosie to improve by constantly critiquing her game. But Rosie has a bad attitude about the sport because of the pressure he puts on her. Blair is a new student with a warm family who are all into racquetball and Rosie wants her to compete in her behalf. But as Rosie hangs out with Blair’s family away from her father’s harsh supervision, she realizes what it means to play for fun. This book has a unique illustration style that I like. I also loved the plot—I wasn’t sure how it would end but there was such a lovely focus on friendship, learning to enjoy things without the pressure of being the best, and having healthy competition. I particularly loved the inclusion of a deaf side character with whom Rosie communicates in sign language. One of Rosie’s classmates is also a child of deaf parents. And of course, there’s all the delightful sports action. Great for ages 10+
Age-Appropriate Books for Avid Readers
Got a 9-11 year old who’s ready for meatier but age-appropriate books? These stories are chunkier with more complex plots but free of inappropriate themes.
The Dubious Pranks of Shaindy Goodman
Published: November 14, 2023
Orthodox Jew Shaindy lives in a tight-knit Jewish community but feels invisible and socially inept. No one at school particularly dislikes her, but no one tries to befriend or return her friendliness. She envies her next-door neighbor, Gayil who is beloved and excels academically, but she also wants to befriend and be Gayil. So when Gayil invites her to set up pranks on several students and teachers at their school, Shaindy is happy to be in the inner circle. Unfortunately, the mischief quickly turns into something malicious as Shaindy realizes that Gayil’s pranks are designed to hurt her targets, and Shaindy is on the list of targets. This is an intricately plotted, strongly character-driven story about the inner lives of tween girls and the human emotions of envy. Although sometimes bogged down by detailed portrayals of Jewish tradition, this book is exceptionally engaging and unique.
Published: October 24, 2023
I LOVED this book and found it impressive, especially for a debut novel. Wyman’s writing feels so genuine, probably because it’s based on her experience with jaw malocclusion in childhood. I read all 300+ pages in one sitting and was breathless at the end. Max is getting bullied by kids at school for her jaw problems, and her kid sister is one of the bullies. Her parents’ relationship is strained. Her dad works nights and is an alcoholic, and her mom is a chain smoker. Yet, they do their best for the kids, and it’s the kids’ normal. Eventually, Max finds her voice and stands up to her bullies in the best way.
Published: October 31, 2023
Dani and Eric have been best friends since Dani moved next door in second grade. They bond over donuts, comic books, and camping on the Cape. But one summer, Eric saves Dani from a fire in his family’s camper. Unfortunately, the accident prevents Dani from doing what she loves the most: playing baseball. It also drives a wedge between the friends as they discover the real reason behind the fire. Can Dani forgive her best friend? Told from two engaging perspectives, this evenly-paced story never lags and feels relatable enough to keep young readers flipping the pages.
Books with Strong Male Characters
Books with male protagonists are hard to find in the middle grade industry–especially those that aren’t over-the-top silly. We’ve curated three favorites worth checking out.
Race for the Ruby Turtle
Published: October 3, 2023
Jake is spending time with his great-aunt Hettle in a rainy Oregon town while his parents are off on a retreat. Soon after he arrives, he finds himself caught up in the mystery of a famed ruby-backed turtle first and only written about by Hettle’s great-grandfather. Thanks to a viral article by a nosy reptile fan, several dangerous people — including a tall pair of Scandinavian twins, a maybe-hitman, and that presumptuous reptile fan — are in town for the festival (but mostly to look for the turtle). It’s up to Jake and his friend Mia to help Hettle keep the turtle safe. This is a fast-paced, engaging adventure, and I couldn’t stop turning the pages — I kept thinking of what would happen next. It also features a protagonist with ADHD and has a strong environmentalist theme that will educate kids about looking out for the planet. Great for kids ages 9+ (primarily because of the length and the shady characters).
The Rhythm of Time
Published: April 18, 2023
This was featured in this year’s Summer Reading Guide. When Rahim’s friend Kasia gifts him her newest invention, he has no idea it’s a time travel device. Rahim ends up in 1997 meeting his father as a tween before he became the strict dad he is. Can Kasia get him back in time for dinner–and before his actions change the future? Hand this funny, suspense-filled sci-fi release to fans of time travel stories.
The Jules Verne Prophecy
Published: June 27, 2023
Owen is in Paris with his mom for the summer studying the popular French writer Jules Verne when he becomes the center of several weird coincidences, ending with a never-before-seen Jules Verne book ending up in his possession. Suddenly, he and his new friends are tailed by dangerous people who want the book back. This is a high-energy mystery with plenty of chases around Paris, perfect for fans of Paris. The audiobook is excellent, with captivating sound effects.
We’ve already shared several graphic novels on this list so far, but if you want more, here are some of my favorites this year!
Published: October 10, 2023
Charlie is the new kid for the umpteenth time, but this time things will be different. Her dad is no longer in the military, and this is a more permanent home, so she feels more pressure to find and impress some new friends. When she meets a cool group of Black girls with varying interests, she decides to hide her “babyish” style and hobbies to befriend them. But she soon learns that with true friends, you can be your whole self. This is a delightful first book in a new graphic novel series about Black hair, girlfriends, fashion, and adjusting to change. Great for ages 8+
Published: November 21, 2023
This stunning graphic novel follows Cinzia, Avvisi writer’s apprentice living in sunny Sianerra. Cinzia and her Mestra write news stories/pamphlets to the city, but not everyone likes it when they tell the truth. After an edition exposing the ruling family for extortion, Cinzia and her Mestra are arrested at night, and she has to join forces with the princess to fight back against censorship. Besides the wonderfully imaginative and powerful storyline, I loved the visuals and the diverse representation in this graphic novel. The main character has a bad leg and gets around with a walking stick, which is something rarely depicted in graphic novels (and it’s barely even discussed—it just is!). Although this book feels closer to fantasy (but without magical elements), it’s set in a Renaissance-style Italian village, so it could work for lovers of realistic fiction too. Good for ages 9+
Published: November 7, 2023
Sixth grader Lucy enjoys fantasy novels and is a new middle schooler, while her older sister GiGi is the queen bee of eighth grade, and their relationship has fallen apart even worse since their dad died. This is a fantastic graphic novel about sibling rivalry, fencing, and family. Good for ages 10+
How about some bookish paraphernalia? Journals, stickers, e-readers, and more!
My Reading Adventures
If your child is looking for a meditative, offline way to document their reading life, a reading journal is the way to go and this is my favorite for kids.
This is truly a puzzle for the whole family. As you piece together this 50 Must-Read Books Bucket List 1000 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle from Ridley’s Games, you’ll uncover classic and modern titles to add to your own bucket list. Featuring beautiful illustrations of 50 novels in a cozy library setting, once you complete the puzzle, decide which story you’ll dive into next: from The Handmaid’s Tale to Beloved, or The Hobbit to Catch 22. Once you finish using the poster guide as a reference, why not hang it up on your wall and use it to mark off which books you’ve read and would like to read next? Packaged in a bucket-style tub, it’s the perfect gift for the bibliophile and book lover in your life.
Kindle Paperwhite Case with Stand
This leather case is designed exclusively for 6.8” Amazon All-New Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition E-Reader. It is slim and lightweight. Its stand design makes it a convenient accessory for reading. Most customers attest to its high quality and overall attractive look. It’s the way to go if you’re looking for a sleek, durable, and sturdy case for your Kindle.
Elevate your little bookworm’s reading life by getting them a Kindle e-reader. This Amazon Kindle has a 6.8” display with thinner borders, adjustable warm light, up to 10 weeks of battery life, and 20% faster page turns. It offers a fun way to read and relax.
A book light is a must-have reading accessory if you’re a night owl. This reading light is lightweight, portable, and has adjustable color temperature modes that are friendly for both kids and adults. I have one and I can confirm that the battery life lasts forever! It provides up to 80 hours of reading.
We absolutely love this boho-style kid’s nursery/bedroom book ledge. It measures 3.6″D x 17″W x 1.6″H. Its durable, sturdy, and versatile design makes it a suitable piece for your kiddo’s books, collectibles, toys, and plants. Plus, it’s easy to clean and install!
Bookmarks are a great way to liven your child’s reading session. For nature lovers, the 3D shark bookmark may be a great way to stimulate their interest in reading, improve their reading span, and mark their pages while reading. It is lightweight, sizable, and made using durable material. This cartoon bookmark also comes in a dinosaur design.
What better way to inject some fun into reading than using some funny bookmarks? Like the shark bookmark, this cute set will not only help your little reader keep track of their reading but also make their reading session a happy one. It will be a hit, for sure!
Bookish Pin Set
This set includes: Book Sloth, Otter Read, and Tiger Tales. They are a great way to express a bibliophile’s love for books and add a fun element as well. You can pin these on your purse, backpack, jacket, shirt…everywhere! Their butterfly clasps hold them in place, so you don’t have to worry about them falling off.
Owl Crate Junior Subscription
Book subscriptions are a great way to sharpen a child’s cognitive development and provide them with a diverse range of books that appeal to their interests. The Owl Crate Junior Subscription is one of our favorite book subscriptions. It offers age-appropriate reading resources for every reader and a 10% discount for new subscribers.
There they are 30+ bookish gift options for the 9-11 year olds in your life! Which of these sound great to you? What would you add?
More Gift Guides
- Gifts for babies and toddlers ages 0-5
- Bookish gifts for kids ages 6-8
- The best gifts for kids who like to read