Holiday Book Gifts for Tweens
Ages 9 – 12
by Kari Ness Riedel
I’m a big believer in the “4 Gift Rule” for holiday giving: 1) Something they want, 2) Something they need, 3) Something to wear, and 4) Something to read. As the founder of Bookopolis.com, you can guess which one is my favorite. If you’re unsure what book to get the young reader in your life, ask them questions about what movies they like, YouTube channels they follow, things they do in their free time, or the last book they enjoyed.
Here are 22 ‘kid-approved’ picks for tween readers, including titles for those who like magical adventures, inspiring sports stories, sad but hopeful coming-of-age tales, page-turning mysteries, mind-bending riddles, and more.
The Area 51 Files
When Sky goes to live with her mysterious uncle, she doesn’t know she will meet two new best friends — an alien and a hedgehog. Hilarious antics, lovable characters, and engaging artwork make this highly illustrated novel an excellent choice for kids who love series like The Last Kids on Earth.
Who Is the Man in the Air?: Michael Jordan
Part of the WHO HQ Graphic Novels series, this book celebrates the grit, willpower, and sheer athleticism of Michael Jordan during the famous 1997 “Flu Game.” Perfect for sports fans or anyone who loves an inspiring story about overcoming adversity.
An emotion-filled coming-of-age story about the power of family told from 12-year-old Addie Ramírez’s perspective. When her stepfather offers to adopt her, she goes on a mission to uncover more about her biological family that leads to a journey of self-reflection and acceptance.
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Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone
When middle schooler Jennifer Chan goes missing, her classmate Mallory becomes obsessed with finding her. The mystery of why Mallory cares so deeply slowly unfolds in this gripping story about friendship, bullying, being yourself, and... aliens. Sad yet hopeful, this beautifully written story tackles ‘real kid issues’ like belonging and identity in a kid-appropriate way.
Would You Rather? Family Challenge! Edition
This is my favorite icebreaker and family road trip game. With over 160 prompts, this book will lead to hours of family fun, creativity, and thoughtfulness as participants answer questions like: Would you rather jump into a pool filled with paint or a huge pile of glitter? Would you rather have a one-on-one lesson with Socrates or Albert Einstein? Would you rather spend an hour floating around in space or swimming in the depths of the ocean?
Futureland: Battle for the Park
Imagine a theme park that lets you experience your wildest dreams — that’s Futureland. When a few kids go missing from the park, the founders’ son, Cam, embarks on a mission to find the kids and the truth. Part science-fiction, part mystery, this illustrated novel is a page-turning adventure perfect for fans of hero’s journey story arcs.
If your tween loves playing games like Uno or Gin Rummy, they will go bananas for Fruits! Players work to collect fruit cards and harvest bunches to earn points. But be careful. Some sneaky cards are scattered throughout the deck that might spoil your bunch — but never the fun!
Hilo Book 1: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth
Young readers adore this humor-filled adventure tale that has a heartwarming friendship story at its core. When Hilo, a superhero robot, falls from the sky, he’s befriended by two earthling kids, D.J. and Gina, and the trio must work together to save the planet. It’s perfect for fans of series like Big Nate and Dog Man.
Sweet Valley Twins: Best Friends
Jessica and Elizabeth are back! A new generation of readers can get to know the beloved Sweet Valley twins as they navigate the ups and downs of middle school and learn that it’s okay to have your own interests. Full of heart and humor, this series is excellent for fans of books like Sisters and Real Friends.
The Last Kids on Earth and the Forbidden Fortress
The eighth book in this bestselling series reunites the four “last” kids on a mission to take out the evil Thrull, who is threatening to destroy the entire dimension. This book is jam-packed with intense action, witty dialogue, and meaningful friendships.
Before the Ever After
ZJ is excited to have his dad home more now that he’s retired from the NFL. However, his dad forgets things, acts strangely, and is almost always irritated. This novel-in-verse shares the touching story of one family as it explores prominent societal themes around sports and race.
Black Boy Joy
This compilation of short stories by beloved Black male and non-binary authors celebrates the experiences of Black boys and teens through fantastical adventures, realistic dramas, humorous antics, and page-turning mysteries.
Dragons in a Bag
When 9-year-old Jaxon discovers that “Ma,” the cranky old woman who babysits him, is actually a witch, he helps her deliver three baby dragons back to their magical world. Mystery, magic, and humor collide in this excellent fantasy series that weaves in themes like segregation, appreciating our differences, and belonging in an age-appropriate way.
The Met Amazing Treasures Coloring Book
Discover all of the treasures the Metropolitan Museum of Art has to offer, all without leaving the house! In this mesmerizing coloring book, your tween can add their own style to all of the iconic works found in the Met.
Maizy Chen’s Last Chance
Maizy is not excited when her mom forces her to spend the summer in the small town of Last Chance, Minnesota, to help her grandparents run their family restaurant, The Golden Palace. But, when Maizy tries to solve a racially motivated crime, she discovers big secrets about her immediate family and her ancestors who first immigrated from China. Heart, humor, and an incredible cast of characters make this a highly engaging story that also shines a light on the dark challenges experienced by many Chinese immigrants.
The Ultimate Riddle Game for Kids
This book will keep kids of all ages laughing and problem-solving for hours. It offers a mix of “quick hitter” short riddles, math logic problems, and longer stories filled with more complex situations to solve. It is a fantastic gift to get the whole family’s creative juices flowing.
The Invisible Spy (The Forgotten Five, Book 2)
Part X-Men, part spy story, this is a fantastical adventure series by the author of the beloved Unwanteds series. Five kids with supernatural powers have grown up together on a remote island after their parents fled persecution by city dwellers who resented their powers. All the adults have disappeared or died, leaving the kids behind with a mysterious note and a secret map.
Turtle in Paradise
Set in 1935 during the Great Depression, 11-year-old Turtle gets sent to live with unknown relatives in the Florida Keys. She comes out of her proverbial shell as she discovers a new way of life. Full of adventure, humor, and a healthy serving of family drama, this award-winning book is now available as a graphic novel.
When You Reach Me
This perennial favorite for older tweens blends elements of science fiction and friendship drama with the twists and turns of a page-turning mystery. Miranda and Sal have been NYC neighbors and best friends forever. Suddenly, Sal starts doing out-of-character things (like punching another kid), and Miranda finds odd notes with mysterious messages about saving a life. The friends must work together to solve a puzzle and prevent a tragedy.
The City of Ember
Ember is a city created by the Builders to harbor and protect the human race. But their utopia starts to crumble as food becomes scarce and energy less stable. Two young citizens, Lina and Doon, discover an ancient scroll that might hold the secret to escaping and saving the people of Ember. But will anybody listen? Suspense, adventure, and epic world-building make this a favorite for fans of dystopian stories. Available as a ‘regular’ book or graphic novel.
When Roy moves to a new middle school in Coconut Grove, Florida, he must figure out how to stand up to the school bully and land developers who want to destroy the natural habitat of endangered owls. This laugh-out-loud funny story is full of action, adventure, and a profound message about environmental conservation.
Al Capone Does My Shirts
What would it be like to be a kid living on Alcatraz Island when the infamous Al Capone was imprisoned there? That’s the premise of this engaging and suspenseful historical fiction series centered on “Moose” Flanagan, who juggles making new friends, parental relationships, and an autistic sister — while living on an island with some of the worst criminals of all time.
More Giftable Reads for Book-Loving Tweens:
Pages and Co.: The Bookwanderers
Let’s Make Comics!
Kid in the Kitchen
One Life: Young Readers Edition
Marcus Makes a Movie
How to Find What You’re Not Looking For
Clarice the Brave
Becoming: Adapted for Young Readers
Kiki Kallira Breaks the Kingdom
On This Day