25 November 2016 | Children's Fiction

Christmas shopping – books for 9-12 year-olds

I must admit, I have had difficulty writing this post – because I have packed most of our books in boxes, ready for our move back home in a few weeks.  I feel a little bereft without all our books around and readily available to read!

However, I do have a collection of fabulous books for nine-twelve year-old readers here. I really enjoy reading books for this age group because the plots are a little more sophisticated and the characters a little more developed than in books for younger readers. The variety in stories is wonderful – mysteries, school life, orphans, bullies, refugees, a search for a lost sister – if your child can add all these books to their reading record, they will be very well-read, empathetic and articulate kids!


  • Smile, written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier – this is a comic book about an American girl who falls over, loses her two front teeth, and goes through a series of dentists and braces to fix her teeth. It provides a detailed look at the challenges that kids face at school such as changing friendship groups, fitting in and first crushes. Raina has drawn on her experiences so the book is authentic and funny. This is a great book for kids who aren’t confident readers as the illustrations tell the story as much as the speech bubbles. And if you think that a comic book doesn’t have much substance, think again – this is a fabulous story which will appeal to both girls and boys. I could see this book being used as a text in classrooms.


  • Operation Bunny, written by Sally Gardner and illustrated by David Roberts – this is the first in the Wings and Co series. Probably more for nine and ten-year-olds, this story is a mystery. Set in the human world, but with fairies, witches and a talking cat, this book has all the classic fairytale elements. Emily Vole, who has magical powers but doesn’t know it, is an orphan who is neglected by her adopted parents. Luckily, there is a friendly fairy and a talking cat living next door and Emily’s friendship with them starts off a chain of events. Miss 10 has also read the second and third books in this series and loved them. This is a fun, easy read.


  • Run, Pip, run, written by J.C. Jones – this is another book which would be great in a grade four or five classroom. Pip has just turned ten – except her birthday wasn’t anything special because her adopted grandfather ended up in hospital. Pip is on her own now, and has to stay off the streets and away from the kind but determined police officer who wants to keep Pip safe. Pip has her own version of safe and decides to stick to it. Pip is a wonderful protagonist – endearing and engaging. I think boys would enjoy this story too as it’s not an overly ‘girly’ book.


  • Artie and the Grime wave, written and illustrated by Richard Roxburgh – yes, you are right – this Richard Roxburgh is the same actor and director you are thinking of. He can now add author and illustrator to his name. I’m still not sure who I bought this book for – it might be a little old for Mr 7 but I think he would enjoy it. Even if he can’t read it all by himself, we can share the reading. There are some illustrations but also full pages of text. It’s a funny, funny page-turner of a book, about Artie, a twelve-year-old boy, who stumbles across a cave full of stolen goods with his best friend Gumshoe. The pace is quick, there’s lots of action – a great book for boys, although I am sure Miss 10 will read it, too. This book would work for reluctant readers because it is hilarious, with no long descriptions or slow build-ups but would also appeal to confident readers because of the humour.


  • The bone sparrow, written by Zana Fraillon – this is a poignant, powerful story about a boy living in a refugee camp and a girl who finds a way in. I have to admit, I haven’t finished this book yet but I wanted to include it here. I’d recommend this book for well-read bookworms of eleven to thirteen years – indeed, it would still be a wonderful read for fourteen year-olds. Suitable for boys and girls. I’m enjoying the feeling of being immersed in this fictional refugee camp but it’s a sober reminder of actual camps. Subhi and Jimmie are likeable, engaging characters, and I’m keen to finish reading it.


  • Olive of Groves, written by Katrina Nannestad and illustrated by Lucia Masciullo – this book has an original and funny premise – a sensible girl ends up at a boarding school for talking animals, naughty boys and circus performers. Olive desperately wants to stay at the boarding school – her grandparents have home-schooled her and managed to save up enough money for a school so Olive doesn’t want to disappoint them. The writing is humorous in an understated way and there is a cast of unique characters like Glenda the goose who continually faints and a trio of rats, one of whom has a robust bottom! There are also another two books in this series.


  • The magician’s elephant, written by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Yoko Tanaka – this is a beautiful story about Peter, who finds out through a fortune teller that his little sister lives (he believed she had died as a baby). He follows the fortune teller’s advice to find the elephant which will lead him to his sister. This story has the feel of a nostalgic classic – beautifully written with a strong narrative voice. Perfect for both boys and girls.


  • Iris and the tiger, written by Leanne Hall – this book is a fabulous blend of the realistic and the fantasy. I was truly intrigued by the mysteriousness of the events in this story. Iris is twelve, and has been sent from Australia by her money-hungry parents to Spain to curry favour with her great-aunt Ursula. There are lots of art references, new friendships, unusual adults who may or may not be trusted and a series of secrets and mysteries to slowly uncover. An interesting, unique book.


  • Stay well soon, written by Penny Tangey – this is the story of Stevie, whose brother is in hospital for a while. There she meets Lara, who is also a patient. Stevie and Lara share a love of horses and become friends. The story is told in first person, which puts us firmly inside Stevie’s head where she worries about her family’s money problems, grade five friendships, her brother’s health, and then Lara’s health, and wishes passionately for a horse. I cried while reading this story – hospitals and kids aren’t always a happy combination.


  • Two wolves, written by Tristan Bancks – this book is for eleven-thirteen year-olds. Mr 12 read it earlier this year and Miss 10 hasn’t read it yet. It’s about thirteen-year-old Ben, whose parents have done something illegal enough to be wanted by the police. Ben, his younger sister and his parents hide out in his grandfather’s old cabin in the hills. Ben is an unlikely hero – he’s a little overweight, he’s apologetic, and he’s scared of his dad. But in reference to the title, Ben has to choose between the bad wolf inside him which represents greed, pride and jealousy and the good wolf – kindness, hope, truth. If there’s a fight between the two wolves, the one you feed is the one who wins.

I hope this list gives you some ideas for nine-twelve year-old readers. The age categories are fluid, as there are sophisticated eight-year-old readers who can handle a thick book with a complex storyline as well as thirteen-year-old readers who need something simple to comprehend.

Let me know which books sound appealing for your children or grandchildren. Please pass on this post to others who might be interested.

Next week – suggestions for twelve-fourteen year-old readers. Happy Christmas shopping!

Author interview – Victoria Carless


Terri Dixon

Great list Karen. Two of my granddaughters will be receiving the latest Olive of Groves book.


November 25, 2016 at 12:55 pm


Thank you Karen. The book ‘smile’ looks perfect for my daughter. I will now purchase that for the Christmas stocking!!

November 30, 2016 at 5:26 pm

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