Kids can often fall into a reading slump when they hit the tween years. Often times finding the right book or series can get them back on track. Check out Brightly’s list of 14 Kid-Approved Books for Advanced Readers for some books ideas.
14 Kid-Approved Books for Advanced Fifth and Sixth Grade Readers
by Kari Ness Riedel
Does your reader love books full of complex characters and thought-provoking themes? Do they get excited when they discover a “really thick” book they haven’t read yet? Do they want to be challenged but still find themselves deeply immersed in a great story? It can be hard for 10- , 11-, and 12-year-old readers who read at a high school (or higher) level to find books that meet their reading needs but are still appropriate for their age and experience. For readers like this, I worry less about what Lexile or Guided Reading level a specific book is and look for books that will offer them a chance to go deeper in their thinking about characters and situations.
Here are 14 books that are loved by young readers on Bookopolis.com that offer unique character voices, complex plots and themes, and high page counts to engage fifth and sixth grade advanced readers.
Fantasy and Science Fiction
These are recommended for readers who enjoy complex characters, extensive world-building, and rich writing.
The Glass Sentence
Time travel, history, and magic come together in this unique fantasy that spans time and place. Sophia is a clever and observant girl from a long line of mapmakers who have been mapping the New World since the Great Disruption of 1799, when all the continents were scattered into different time periods. The story begins in 1891 and Sophia’s parents and uncle have all gone missing. She and her friend Theo embark on a mission to save her family and figure out what is really happening to their world. Sylvie, 11, raves, “I loved this book because it had adventure, action, and great storytelling. The adventure was great with exploring not only the world, but Sophia herself. I also loved the way the author created characters who I would want to be friends with.”
It’s the Renegades against the Anarchists in this superhero fantasy story that explores the gray areas in the classic themes of ‘good vs. evil’ and ‘the end justifies the means.’ Teen heroes Nova and Adrian are both fighting for justice but they each have their own agendas and secrets. Dramatic irony, fast-paced action, and creative superpowers abound in this story. There is light romance and some violence in the action scenes but nothing explicit or graphic. Jack, 12, shares, “This is a great book full of characters with extraordinary abilities that show the power of hope and courage.”
Life As We Knew It
Written as a journal, this dystopian story explores what would happen if a meteor entered our solar system and disrupted the natural world as we know it. Miranda and her family are on a journey of survival as summer quickly turns into winter and they must live on the food they have stockpiled. Adriana, 12, was hooked right away. “It pulled me in like a fish on a pole! This book makes you want to keep reading for years! I would recommend this great book to anyone that likes nerve-wracking mysteries and sad, emotion-filled stories.”
Mystery and Realistic Fiction
Recommended for readers who like complicated mysteries or emotion-filled realistic fiction stories that make them think and feel.
Twelve-year-old Milo must unravel mysteries and secrets in this classic whodunit tale that takes place in a creepy and deserted smuggler’s inn on an icy winter night. Various characters with eccentric pasts visit the inn and their wild stories are woven together in an interesting plot that will keep readers guessing until the end. Amrita, 11, says, “I recommend this perfectly crafted mystery to anyone wanting a good read.”
York: The Shadow Cipher
This epic mystery takes the reader from modern day New York City to an alternate version of NYC in the 1800s. In order to save their home in the city they love, three adventurous kids must follow the clues of the Old York Cipher to solve a citywide puzzle designed by the enigmatic architects of the 1800s. Tessa, 11, highly recommends it, “I loved this book. It is full of twists and turns.”
One Came Home
Set in Wisconsin in 1871, Georgie is best known for her perfect aim with a rifle and always speaking the truth. When the town sheriff tells her that her older sister, Agatha, is dead, Georgie is convinced that this is not true. She sets out on a danger-filled adventure to discover the real truth about her sister. Samuel, 12, shares his love for this book, “I was at the edge of my seat throughout the whole entire book. This book is great for anyone who likes mysteries, twists, and a whole lot of adventure.”
Waiting for Normal
Addie just wants to be normal. But with a divorced mom who suffers from bipolar disorder, which leaves Addie alone for long periods of time, her life is anything but normal. She finds two new friends who help her face the challenges at home, but present more drama and challenges for Addie, too. This book is full of heartache and joy as Addie persists in her quest for normalcy despite these hardships. Kylie, 12, recommends a box of tissues as you read this book. “It is a story full of drama, realistic fiction, adventure, sadness, but it also has a special spark … that changes everything just like that. This book is guaranteed to be the best book that [you] have read in [your] life, promise.”
Counting by 7s
Twelve-year-old Willow doesn’t fit any mold. A genius who is adopted, she suddenly becomes an orphan after her adoptive parents are killed in a tragic accident. The book follows her journey to overcome her grief by connecting with strangers who become like family. Kristy says, “It’s a touching book that will reach down into your heart and make you want to cry. This book has changed my life and how I think.”
Recommended for advanced readers who are interested in learning more about tragedies and hardships in history through the lens of characters who embody hope and perseverance.
The real-life tragedies faced by families when the yellow fever epidemic hit Philadelphia in 1793 and killed thousands of people are shared through the experiences of 14-year-old Mattie Cook. She works in her family’s coffee shop and has big dreams of growing the business in this bustling city. But when the widespread disease impacts her friends and family, she must change her priorities. Riley, 11, gives it five out of five stars, “I think it is an AMAZING book. It’s a hard book but yet so detailed it makes it easy to read.”
The Book Thief
Told uniquely with Death as the character narrating the events, this story follows the journey of a young Jewish girl, Liesel, who is being fostered by a poor German family during the horrific events of World War II. She steals books that were being burned by Nazi supporters and they become a source of hope that feeds her soul amidst the daily hardships she faces. She shares these books with others she meets as she tries to avoid the narrator. Claire, 12, wrote, “I love this book so much. I was on my toes the whole way through it! I recommend this book to people who like action, violence, and a little sadness.”
A Night Divided
Set during the rise of the Berlin Wall, this story chronicles the thrilling and sad experiences of 12-year-old Gerta and her family who have been separated by the wall. Gerta, her mom, and her brother, Fritz, are in East Berlin while her father and other brother are stuck in West Berlin. Their struggle to reunite gives a deep insight into what was happening in Germany and the impact of the Cold War on families. Delaney, 12, wisely says, “It is a good book with heartbreak and courage, war and prison, but mostly adventure. If you read this book about the Berlin Wall and the families trapped inside, it will change the way you look at war.”
Recommended for advanced readers who enjoy going deep into true stories about people and places in our world.
Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller
A captivating story of a little-known figure in history — the woman who became Helen Keller’s teacher. Annie Sullivan was desperate for work when she agreed to teach a deaf, blind, and wildly angry young Helen Keller. Annie’s determination and equally ferocious approach to being a teacher made her the perfect person to help Helen Keller become the legend she is today. Michael, 12, admits, “This book, at first glance, seemed like something I wouldn’t read and as such I reluctantly started reading it. But then I couldn’t put it down as it showed just how brutal and hard it was to teach Helen Keller.”
Unbroken (The Young Adult Adaptation): An Olympian’s Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive
Louis Zamperini is a clever delinquent turned Olympic athlete who became an airman during World War II and had an epic real-life adventure when he survived his plane crashing into the Pacific Ocean. This is a beautifully told and inspiring story of courage, tenacity, and ingenuity. Charlie 12 exclaims, “This book is awesome … it told me to take chances on what looks like something difficult. I really hope you read this incredible book.”
Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team
A fascinating look into the history of football told through the experiences of superstar player, Jim Thorpe, and legendary coach, Pop Warner, who created one of the best-known teams at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. This book examines details about the genius of their strategic plays and their hard work, and it takes an important look at the persecution and exploitation of Native Americans during this time period. Beck, 10, shares, “This book was very interesting and really challenged me as a reader.”
Post and Images from Brightly
One thought on “Book Love: Books for Tweens”
I LOVED The Book Thief! It had some heavy content so I don’t think I would have appreciated it as much when I was 10-12, but I did love Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars which had a similar setting.