Great Novels for Ages 9 to 13

While preparing the final draft of my latest publication, “This is a great book!” (Pembroke Publishers, 2015: co-author Shelley Stagg Peterson), I challenged myself to include titles published in 2015. Below is an overview of ten recent novels particularly recommended for 9 to 13 year old readers, listed alphabetically by author.

CRENSHAW  by Katherine Applegate

Jackson has an imaginary friend, a large cat named Crenshaw. Crenshaw keeps Jackson company, and guides him to deal with the  tribulations his family faces, living in poverty. Recommended also as a read aloud.

THE NIGHT GARDNER by Jonathan Auxier

A novel that celebrates the power of storytelling. If you like novels filled with darkness and magic and atmosphere and creepy adventures and mysterious strangers and ancient curses and haunting trees, this one is for you!  Jonathan Auxier brilliantly takes readers in a remarkable journey of fantasy and horror as they share in the experience of two Irish siblings who have been abandoned by their parents (or have they?). This novel won the 2015 TD Children’s Book Award prize as book of the year.


We first met Mr. Terupt when he was a first year teacher, adored by the students in his class. He was a teacher who serves as a model for passionate, authentic teaching, recognizing the essential need to build community in his classroom.  All beginning teachers (and ‘old farts’ too) can learn from Mr. Terupt. This is the third book in the trilogy (Because of Mr. Terupt,  Mr. Terupt Falls Again) and in this novel we continue to care for Mr. Terupt as he – and his students – strive to maintain a teaching position for him when he is declared redundant!

GEORGE by Alex Gino

George is an important novel. George is a novel for current times. George is a boy. George knows she’s a girl. this novel, George is determined to get the part of the female character in the school play Charlotte’s Web. Whether a boy can play a female character frames the narrative of this story but more important it helps readers, ages ten through twelve to consider the challenges of wanting to live the life of a gender different than the one you were born with.

LOST IN THE SUN by Lisa Graff

Trent Zimmerman lives with the guilt of having accidently killed a boy with a hockey puck.  It  is his special relationship with a girl, Fallon Little, a girl with a mysterious scar across her face that helps Trent get through the awful feelings he’s been experiencing as well as cope with the challenges of middles school life.

FISH IN A TREE by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Ally can’t read (yet!) and she has gone through school hiding her inability. A special relationship with a group of friends, and a special relationship with her new grade six teacher sets Ally on a journey to success and a world of making the impossible, possible. This is an important novel about understanding and supporting  Special Needs students

THE NEST by Kenneth Oppel;  Illus. Jon Klassen

Master storyteller, Kenneth Oppel has written a story that works on many levels.  He builds sympathy with the story of a family coping with the birth of a newborn with a heart defect.  He builds imagination with the troubled dreams of the brother, Steve, who feels his family is being torn apart. He builds suspense and intrigue and horror with the plot of the wasp queen  attempting to replace the sick baby with a healthy one. The black and white illustrations by Jon Klassen add to the atmosphere and mystery of The Nest.

AUGGIE & ME: Three Wonder Stories by R.J. Palacio

Polacio’s story about young boy with an extraordinary face.  In the popular  – and essential – novel, Wonder, we meet Auggie when he goes to school for the first time and just wants to be ordinary. In this sequel , we learn more about Auggie’s world  through the voices of three characters connected to his life.


Is it possible for a group of grade to follow a ‘No Fighting’ Rule as they experience the ups and downs of middle school life? Stead won the Newbery medal for her book When You Reach Me and in her newest book, the author examines friendships amongst girls, and boys and girls helping young adolescent readers to consider their own relationships and complexities of belonging.

FUZZY MUD by Louis Sachar

The author of the very popular novel Holes has provided young readers with another engaging novel in this mystery thriller about  a boy and a girl, a bully, the U.S. Senate and a mysterious environmental disaster.