As I’ve said before, you shouldn’t stop reading aloud to your kids just because they are getting older. As they move into middle school and social pressures increase, time spent with a trusted adult while listening to a great book becomes even more important. It’s my hope that this list of good books to read aloud to 11-year-olds will inspire you to sit down and have some special one-on-one time with your older child.
This list of middle grade books covers a wide variety of topics and I made these selections because I felt they would offer 11-year-olds and their parents (or other caregiver) much to talk about. If you have any great recommendations for books you’ve read aloud to 11-year-old kids, let me know in the comments.
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Books to Read Aloud to Your 11-Year-Old
The Bridge Home
by Padma Venkatraman
Viji and her sister Rukku run away from their abusive father and land on the streets of Chennai, in India. The two girls make friends with a pair of boys when they take shelter under a bridge. Together with a stray dog, the foursome survive by sorting through trash, making and selling beaded jewelry, and the kindness of a few adults. Although their life is clearly dangerous and tenuous, the four enjoy a freedom of sorts and gain confidence as they learn new skills. When Rukku falls ill, Viji seeks out help and the children find hope for a different kind of future. Venkatraman’s masterful storytelling takes readers on a journey your kids won’t soon forget.
The Next Great Paulie Fink
by Ali Benjamin
Caitlyn has just started seventh grade at a new school where the very small class can’t stop talking about a quirky, prankster former classmate, Paulie Fink. Her new classmates seem odd to Caitlyn, and don’t conform to the social rules and order she was used to in her previous middle school. When the class decides to have a contest to find the next Paulie Fink, Catilyn is to serve as the judge. Although the book offers lots of laughs, it also digs deep into peer relationships and I absolutely loved the tie-in with Greek classical studies.
The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts
It’s 1724 and Oliver’s father has disappeared off to London to find Oliver’s sister. To top it off the house is flooded and Oliver has no money. A series of events involving thieves, scoundrels, and very Dickensian characters sets Oliver on the road to London. The cliffhanger at the end of the first book will have your kids reaching desperately for the second. Both novels are fast paced, full of high suspense offer much food for thought.
Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster
by Jonathan Auxier
When I read the opening scene in which Nan crawls up a flue and gets caught in a chimney I almost had an attack of claustrophobia, the description was so detailed and engrossing! Nan Sparrow, a chimney sweep is saved by a golem made of ash. A golem is a magical figure in Jewish folklore, and Nan’s rescuer becomes her companion. This is such an interesting and superbly written book; and with the themes of child labor, anti-semitism, and class structures your kids will find much to think about.
A Wolf Called Wander
by Roseanne Parry
I loved reading this book and when I came to the endnotes I was delighted to learn that Parry based her book on a real-life wolf that scientists have been tracking! At the age of two, Wander’s (known as “Swift” in the beginning of the story) pack is attacked by a rival wolf pack and Wander is separated from the rest of his pack. Unable to learn the fate of his family, Wander sets out on a journey of survival. The wolf narrates his own tale and–wow–is it fascinating. Full of observations about other wildlife, the impact of humans, and the perils of life as one of nature’s most important predators, your kids will love this story.
by Adam P. Schmitt
Jimmy is tasked with giving a eulogy for his 13-year-old cousin. As he wades through his memories of Patrick, Jimmy has a hard time coming up with good memories of his cousin who always seemed to cause trouble wherever he went. However, as Jimmy processes his memories both he and the reader come to understand that Patrick had an undiagnosed mental illness. Although the topic is serious, I think this is an excellent book for parents to use to discuss how what we witness may not actually be the whole story. A very moving and hard-to-put-down book.
The Season of Styx Malone
by Kekla Magoon
To brothers Caleb and Bobby, Styx Malone is super cool. Styx comes into their lives one summer and they get caught up in a grand bartering scheme that leads to hijinks and reveals secret ambitions. Funny, heartwarming and rather extraordinary.
The Inquisitor’s Tale
by Adam Gidwitz
Multiple narrators describe the adventures of several children and their (potentially) holy dog. This book is an amazing mix of morality tale and puzzling mystery. Jeanne with her psychic visions, Willian, a biracial Muslim monk with superhuman skills, and Jacob, a Jewish fleeing his destroyed village who has healing powers come together for an adventure that enriches their lives, as well as the lives of the readers.
Brown Girl Dreaming
by Jacqueline Woodson
Woodson describes her memories of growing up in South Carolina, and later in Brooklyn, against the backdrop of the civil rights movement. Verse novels are wonderful to read aloud to 11-year-olds (and other ages, too) as the cadence and rhythm adds an extra layer to the listening experience. The narrative is funny and poignant as Woodson figures out what makes her special and discovers her love words. See all those medals on the cover? This book totally earned every one of them.
The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place
by Julie Berry
I loved this splendidly wicked book. I listened to the audiobook narration of this twist on the Victorian boarding school mystery novel, and it was glorious. I didn’t know what to expect and when in the first few pages, the headmistress and her brother drop dead from poison, and the girls subsequently decide to bury them instead of report it, I thought, “how macabre!” The girls, who have wonderful monikers like “Smooth Kitty”, “Disgraceful Mary Jane”, and “Stout Alice” decide to try and convince everyone that their headmistress is still alive so they can avoid being sent home. Author Berry is a smart, clever storyteller with a sharp wit.
Want more good books to read aloud to 11 year olds? Try these lists: