Get book recommendations, tips & advice, and more tailored to your child's age.

Thank You!

The perfect book picks are on their way.

You're all set!

Tween

The Ultimate Summer Reading List for Kids Ages 9 – 12

by Jennifer Garry

Photography by Seana Williamson

Do you remember the feeling of stepping outside on the last day of school and feeling nothing but opportunity unfurl around you? No more tests. No more homework. Just an entire summer to run and play and laugh while an ice pop leaves a sticky red stream down your arm. It was glorious.

I could never wait to jump into my latest stack of books (preferably while lying in a sunny patch of grass). They let me travel to different places and become other people — the perfect escape!

The books below offer many opportunities for tweens to melt into a whole new world this summer. Whether they like aliens, dragons, history, or kids taking a stand, there is something for everyone on this list.

  • Alien Summer #1

    by James S. Murray and Carsen Smith

    Also available from:

    A summer vacation full of aliens, high-tech gadgets, and defending Area 51 is not exactly the relaxing experience Viv had in mind. Still, when aliens escape from a secret base underneath Area 51, she teams up with friends Charlotte and Ray and her crush Elijah to save the day.

    Also available from:
  • Dragons in a Bag

    by Zetta Elliott

    Also available from:

    Jaxon’s mom has to go to court to challenge their eviction and leaves him with a grumpy old lady called Ma. His day takes an unexpected turn when he finds out that: 1) Ma is a witch. 2) She just got a package of baby dragons. 3) Those dragons need to be delivered to safety in a magical realm. When everything goes sideways, Jax, his best friend Vikram, and Vik’s sister, Kavita, must set things right.

    Also available from:
  • Kingston and the Magician's Lost and Found

    by Rucker Moses and Theo Gangi

    Also available from:

    Kingston’s dad, a magician, disappeared into a mirror during a magic show four years ago. When he and his mom return to Echo City, Brooklyn, and his dad’s childhood home, Kingston begins a quest to find his father. When he finds a magic box, he accidentally opens a portal into the Realm and has to scramble to save his father and bring magic back to Echo City before it’s too late.

    Also available from:
  • Ready or Not! #1

    by Megan E. Bryant

    Also available from:

    Abby is growing up fast, and everything around her is changing. For one thing, she notices the homelessness issue in her community. Her body is changing, and deodorants and bras are strange and new. She doesn’t know if she can handle it without her best friend (who recently moved away). This young middle grade novel is excellent for “in-between” kids ready to tackle a lengthier read.

    Also available from:
  • Real Pigeons Fight Crime (Book 1)

    by Andrew McDonald, illustrated by Ben Wood

    Also available from:

    This silly series is perfect for fans of Dog Man and Bad Guys. It follows a squad of crime-fighting pigeons (each with a super special talent) as they work to solve the city’s mysteries and fight any bad guy that gets in their way. Part of a series, this book follows the pigeons as they solve three cases: Why have all the breadcrumbs disappeared? Who is kidnapping the bats? And what should they eat for dinner?

    Also available from:
  • The Lock-Eater

    by Zack Loran Clark

    Also available from:

    Melanie, a foundling with a talent for unlocking anything, gets taken from an orphanage to become a witch’s apprentice. It soon becomes apparent that the automaton that fetched her was not exactly honest, and Melanie gets thrust into a magical adventure full of secret identities, plot twists, and a dangerous wizard.

    Also available from:
  • The Smartest Kid in the Universe

    by Chris Grabenstein

    Also available from:

    When Jake eats a bowl of jellybeans, he gets much more than a sugar rush. The jellybeans belonged to a scientist and contained massive amounts of Ingestible Knowledge. Pretty soon, Jake is the smartest kid in the universe, and everyone wants his help — from his school’s Quiz Bowl team to the FBI. But can Jake save his middle school from being destroyed by a plan concocted by his shady principal and her real estate tycoon uncle?

    Also available from:
  • Dragon World

    by Tamara Macfarlane, illustrated by Alessandra Fusi

    Also available from:

    This beautifully illustrated book takes readers on a journey through the history of dragons. It explores myths and legends and includes dragon facts, maps, and cultural history. It will be an enormous hit with dragon lovers of all ages.

    Also available from:
  • Omar Rising

    by Aisha Saeed

    Also available from:

    A companion novel to Amal Unbound, this book follows Amal’s friend Omar after he receives a scholarship to an elite boarding school. Omar is excited about the opportunity, but his joy deflates when he realizes the school’s system makes it almost impossible for him to succeed. Not only does he need better grades than everyone else, but he also has fewer opportunities and must do menial chores. Disappointment turns to anger, and Omar and his new friends work together to fight a broken system.

    Also available from:
  • Wonder: Illustrated Edition

    by R.J. Palacio

    Also available from:

    The classic that led to a movie, a graphic novel, a picture book, and even the Choose Kind movement is now available in an illustrated edition. This edition includes over twenty-five pieces of original art from Tad Carpenter, the book’s original cover artist, and a new afterword. The book revolves around Auggie, a fifth-grader with a facial difference, as he starts mainstream school for the first time. Told from different points of view, it’s a story of friendship, courage, and kindness.

    Also available from:
  • Map of Flames (The Forgotten Five, Book 1)

    by Lisa McMann

    Also available from:

    Five kids with supernatural powers lived on an isolated tropical island all their lives after their parents went into hiding after completing a heist. Their parents disappear one by one, and when the remaining parent dies, his daughter finds a map and a note urging her to return to the city and find her mom. When they do, the kids enter a weird world with modern technologies they’ve never seen — a world where being supernatural is a crime.

    Also available from:
  • Marcus Makes a Movie

    by Kevin Hart with Geoff Rodkey, illustrated by David Cooper

    Also available from:

    Stand-up comedian Kevin Hart brings readers an illustrated novel about a kid who wants to turn his superhero cartoon into a movie. The problem? Marcus doesn’t know how to make a movie, and he needs a lot of help — including help from the bully who would make a perfect villain.

    Also available from:
  • The Last Kids on Earth: Quint and Dirk's Hero Quest

    by Max Brallier, illustrated by Douglas Holgate

    Also available from:

    Picking up after Brallier’s The Last Kids on Earth and the Doomsday Race (the seventh book in The Last Kids on Earth series), this book follows best friends Quint Baker and Dirk Savage on their own adventure. With new monsters and another post-apocalyptic quest, fans of the series will not want to miss this one, as important details for the next book will come to light!

    Also available from:
  • The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne

    by Jonathan Stroud

    Also available from:

    When Scarlett (an outlaw living in a future England full of monsters and gunfights) stumbles upon an accident with only one survivor, she goes against her gut and agrees to guide him to safety. But it becomes apparent that Browne has a secret or two when the duo gets chased by relentless pursuers. He just might be her most dangerous threat.

    Also available from:
  • Different Kinds of Fruit

    by Kyle Lukoff

    Also available from:

    Rising sixth-grader Annabelle expects the new school year to be the same as ever. But when a new nonbinary student named Bailey moves to town, things change. A lot. For starters, Annabelle develops her first crush. When her parents are unhappy about her new friendship after finding out Bailey’s gender, Annabelle learns her dad is trans and her community is not exactly the warm and welcoming place she thought — and she decides to fight back.

    Also available from:
  • Harriet the Spy

    by Louise Fitzhugh

    Also available from:

    Harriet the Spy is a timeless classic about a girl who writes down every bit of information she knows about everyone in her life. When she loses the notebook and everyone sees the not-so-nice things she’s written, they are understandably furious, and Harriet has to figure out a way to fix things.

    Also available from:
  • Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom

    by Sangu Mandanna

    Also available from:

    Drawing Indian mythology has always helped ease Kiki’s anxiety — until the day her characters jump out of the pages of her sketchbook, and she falls right into their world. Kiki has to figure out a way to save both the real world and the world in her notebook by defeating the evil god she created.

    Also available from:
  • Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone

    by Tae Keller

    Also available from:

    When Mallory’s new alien-obsessed neighbor Jennifer Chan goes missing, Mallory tries to find her using clues about encounters with aliens from her journals. Soon Mallory can’t help but wonder if an incident with popular girls at school (who are also Mallory’s friends) is the real reason she’s gone. This relatable book features themes like shifting friendship, bullying, and fitting in.

    Also available from:
  • The Ice Cream Machine

    by Adam Rubin

    Also available from:

    This book is a collection of six stories — all titled “The Ice Cream Machine.” The author set each story in a different world with unique protagonists and an illustration by a different artist. Weird and silly, kids will adore it!

    Also available from:
  • Honest June

    by Tina Wells, illustrated by Brittney Bond

    Also available from:

    When people-pleaser June is “blessed” with a truth-telling spell from her fairy godmother, it feels more like a curse. June has been getting by on little white lies that keep her parents and friends happy (even if it stresses her out). She starts a secret blog where she can spill the truth without hurting anyone’s feelings — but when everything goes wrong, will she be able to get rid of the spell?

    Also available from:
  • The First Rule of Punk

    by Celia C. Pérez

    Also available from:

    Malú moves to Chicago with her mom, immediately gets on the wrong side of her new school’s popular girl, and gets in trouble for violating the dress code with her punk rock look. Her mom wants her to “try for less punk rocker and more señorita,” but Malú feels like her mom doesn’t understand her. She starts a punk band with other misfits at school and has to fight against the anti-punk administration — while fighting to figure out who she is.

    Also available from:
  • Back to Life: World History as You’ve Never Seen it Before

    by DK

    Also available from:

    Each section of this book begins with an archaeological discovery. Readers will learn about the discovery itself and what it taught us about the society it came from. With engaging illustrations, a treasure trove of facts, and unbelievable discoveries, readers will connect with historical moments and places, including a Stone Age camp, a Medieval castle, and a pirate ship.

    Also available from:
  • Holes

    by Louis Sachar

    Also available from:

    This award-winning classic follows Stanley Yelnats, a boy falsely accused of stealing a famous baseball player’s shoes and sent to Camp Green Lake, an all-boys detention center. The boys spend their days digging holes — an activity the warden says “builds their character.” Stanley soon realizes there’s another reason for the holes and starts searching for answers.

    Also available from:

Looking for summer reading ideas for younger or older kids? Check out our 2022 lists for Kids Ages 3 – 5, Ages 6 – 8, and Teens.