19 Holiday Gift Ideas for
9- to 12-Year-Old Readers

by Devon A. Corneal

Illustration: Penelope Dullaghan

Tweens can be notoriously hard to buy for. Not yet full-fledged teens, but no longer little kids, they occupy an unenviable middle ground between the magic and imagination of childhood and the more complex realities of adulthood. That can make holiday gift-giving challenging. If you’ve got readers on your list, however, we can make your holiday shopping a bit easier. We’ve collected some amazing books and book-related gifts for all kinds of 9- to 12-year-olds — whether they’re into computers, or animals, or magic, or cooking. So rather than fretting over what to get your favorite middle-grade readers for the holidays, you can relax and enjoy them!

Looking for Brightly’s 2018 Gift Guide?
Check out our list of The Best Holiday Gifts for Kids Ages 7 – 12!

  • New Classics

  • Brave Red, Smart Frog: A New Book of Old Tales

    by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Rohan Daniel Eason

    Available from:

    Fairy tales because they are timeless, but Emily Jenkins has taken seven classic fairy tales and breathed new life into them in Brave Red, Smart Frog. There is an almost indescribable warmth and kindness in these new stories that makes them perfect reading for a dark winter’s night. Share them with your tweens this season and make more holiday memories.

    Also available from:
  • Snow & Rose

    by Emily Winfield Martin

    Available from:

    This reimagining of the Snow White & Rose Red fairy tale makes a great gift for your middle-grade reader. In Snow & Rose, Emily Winfield Martin puts two sisters in an enchanted forest, takes away the comfortable life they used to know, and sends them on an adventure that feels familiar, yet entirely new and fresh.

    Also available from:
  • The Wonderling

    by Mira Bartók

    Available from:

    Last year, Pax was my favorite book of the year, and this year it’s The Wonderling by Mira Bartók. The Wonderling is the story of Arthur, a part fox, part human “wonderling” whose life at the Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures is changed forever when he befriends a young bird named Trinket. With only each other’s trust, Arthur and Trinket embark on a journey they never imagined possible — finding magic and music and destiny along the way.

    Also available from:
  • The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine

    by Mark Twain and Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin Stead

    Available from:

    Take something old (in this case, a previously unpublished story by Mark Twain) and add something new (in this case, an end to the story and beautiful illustrations) and you have a wonderful picture book about a boy, his pet chicken, and the lessons he learns.

    Also available from:
  • Life As We Know It

  • Wonder Pouch

    Pair a copy of the book with this zippered Wonder pouch. It can carry anything from pencils to make-up to cell phones, and in addition to being practical, it reminds us to always choose to be kind.

  • My Brigadista Year

    by Katherine Paterson

    Available from:

    World events sometimes give rise to amazing works of historical fiction. In My Brigadista Year, bestselling author Katherine Paterson uses the upheaval of the 1960s to tell the story of 13-year-old Lora’s decision to become a teacher in Cuba. Paterson evokes a distant time that feels relevant to today’s world events in a book every bit as engaging as her classic A Bridge to Terabithia. A wonderful novel for tweens interested in history, world events, and being part of something bigger than themselves.

    Also available from:
  • Adventure & Mystery

  • The Phantom Tollbooth

    by Norton Juster, illustrated by Jules Feiffer

    Available from:

    When young Milo receives a tollbooth in the mail one day, he obviously has no choice but to drive through it and into the Lands Beyond. On his journey, Milo visits the Kingdom of Wisdom, a place of Expectations, and is tasked with rescuing two very oddly named princesses.

    Also available from:
  • The Phantom Tollbooth T-Shirt

    Keep the memories of Milo’s adventures alive with this awesome t-shirt, picturing Milo and his companion Tock (a “watchdog” — get it?!).

  • Podkin One-Ear

    by Kieran Larwood, illustrated by David Wyatt

    Podkin is the son of a warrior rabbit, destined to protect his warren from enemies. Unfortunately, he’s also very lazy, and doesn’t have much interest in leadership. Until the day his warren is attacked by an evil tribe and Podkin must leave his home to protect the warren’s most valuable treasure. Don’t be fooled because the hero is a fluffy rabbit, this book is packed with enough action to satisfy even the most skeptical tween.

  • Murder on the Orient Express Pouch

    Kids today might not know who Agatha Christie is, but this year her classic Murder on the Orient Express is coming out in the theaters and I have my fingers crossed that a few older tweens and teens will discover this master of suspense. So get the book, toss it in this bag with some contraband popcorn and hit the theaters.

  • Books Turn Muggles into Wizards Sweatshirt

    The magical world of Harry Potter is the gift that keeps on giving. This holiday season, dress your favorite muggle in style by getting them this fun sweatshirt printed with a spell guaranteed to turn ordinary readers into great wizards.

  • Science & Technology

  • Girls Who Code

    by Reshma Saujani

    Available from:

    The Girls Who Code series is a fantastic gift for any tween girl interested in coding and computer science. Designed to inspire girls to see how coding applies to almost every aspect of our lives, the series is filled with energy, great stories, imaginative artwork, and practical tips. Gift the original book, Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World, the chapter books from the extended series, or both!

    Also available from:
  • Star Wars Coding Projects

    by Jon Woodcock

    Kids who dream of galaxies far, far away can create their own Star Wars-inspired characters and games without ever leaving Earth. New coders are guided by Luke, Chewie, Rey, and more through games and projects and can share their work with friends using Scratch. (For grown-ups like me who still have trouble using their iPhones, Scratch is a cool coding language. Like French, but for computers. Don’t worry, your kid knows what it is.)

  • Explanatorium of Nature

    by DK

    Available from:

    Not into computers? Never fear! If your child is more interested in animals and plants, check out Explanatorium of Nature. It’s jam-packed with pictures and diagrams and x-rays and factoids and explanations of the world around us. The Smithsonian helped create this masterpiece of science information, so you know it will be both educational and fascinating.

    Also available from:
  • Cooking & Food

  • MasterChef Junior Cookbook

    by MasterChef Junior

    Available from:

    If your tween is a fan of the culinary arts — partaking in, watching, or a mix of the two — they’ll love the MasterChef Junior Cookbook filled with recipes, tips, and techniques inspired by the hit show. If all goes well, maybe you can sit back and enjoy the holiday this year, while your tween does most of the cooking.

    Also available from:
  • The Joy of Cooking Apron

    Get your aspiring chef, and new cookbook owner, an apron worthy of holiday feasts. This way they can whip up a slew of delicious dishes without worrying about creating a pile of laundry for you.

For more great holiday gift ideas, head on over to Out of Print!