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Ten must-reads for 11 to 13-year-olds

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About this list

Nothing beats the joy of getting lost in a good book. So this year, the National Literacy Trust is delighted to be partnering with Good Housekeeping to help young readers discover books that they will love. Together, with our panel of judges, we’ve drawn up a list of 50 books we feel all children need in their lives.

Judging Panel

  • Jonathan Douglas CBE is chief executive of the National Literacy Trust
  • Fiona Evans is director of school programmes at the National Literacy Trust
  • Angellica Bell is a presenter and began her career on children’s channel CBBC
  • Gaby Huddart is Good Housekeeping’s editor-in-chief
  • Joanne Finney has been books editor of Good Housekeeping since 2011

Top ten reads for 11 to 13-year-olds

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Wonder by RJ Palacio

Born with a facial abnormality, August has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life but now he’s being sent to school - and he’s dreading it. A wonderful story about kindness and tenacity.

“This is such a powerful story and made me cry. The reader goes on his journey, finding out how he copes with being bullied and socially isolated at his school. We can all learn so much from this story and how we need to show tolerance towards anyone who may be different from oneself.” Angellica Bell, TV presenter and guest judge.

The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper

On Midwinter Day, 11-year-old Will makes a shocking discovery - he is the last person to be born with the power of the Old Ones and only he can vanquish the evil magic of the Dark.

“My personal favourite book of all time which deserves its cult following among adults as well as younger readers. Fantasy writing at its absolute best. Full of suspense, hidden meanings, folklore and excellent characters entwined in the struggle of Good versus Evil. One to be read every year, preferably around Christmas.” Fiona Evans, director of schools programmes at the National Literacy Trust.

Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz

Fourteen-year-old Alex is recruited into MI6 and sent to investigate Herod Sayle, a man who is offering state-of-the-art Stormbreaker computers to every school in the country - but the teenage spy soon finds himself in terrible danger.

“Finding books to engage boys in reading can be tricky, but I personally know many for whom the Alex Rider series (Stormbreaker being the first) was a total game-changer. And with a teenage hero as the central character tied up with action, adventure and spying, it’s perhaps easy to see why.” Gaby Huddart, editor-in-chief Good Housekeeping.

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit book cover

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr

Based on the author’s own childhood experiences, this tells the story of a Jewish family escaping Germany in the days before the Second World War.

“I remember my primary school teacher reading the first chapter of this to me and then buying it to finish myself. I still have my original copy. I was so moved by Anna’s story of her Jewish family fleeing Germany at the start of World War 2. It is partly autobiographical from the legendary Judith Kerr.” Fiona Evans, director of schools programmes, the National Literacy Trust.

His Dark Materials: Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman

Lyra and her animal daemon live a carefree life among the students of Jordan College, Oxford, until her uncle draws her into a quest that ends in a voyage to the Artic.

“You can really escape from it all when reading adventure books, and Pullman’s plot is brilliant. Lyra finds herself immersed in a world of intrigue and mystery where she is also determined to help save her friend Roger. This girl is so inspiring!” Angellica Bell, TV presenter and guest judge.

The Girl Who Became A Tree by Joseph Coehlo

A series of beautiful, linked poems that tell the story of Daphne who is mourning the loss of her dad.

“This stunning collection will open young readers eyes to the potential and power of poetry.” Joanne Finney, books editor of Good Housekeeping.

Journey To The River Sea by Eva Ibbotsen

There’s adventure and awe as Maia, who was tragically orphaned at 13, travels from England to Manaus in Brazil, where she has been sent to live with distant relatives.

“You can’t help but be swept away by Ibbotsen’s vivid descriptions of the Amazon, with its lush fauna and flora and mystery - a real girl’s own adventure!” Joanne Finney, books editor of Good Housekeeping.

The Skylarks’ War by Hilary McKay

A beautiful story about a brother and sister growing up against the harsh backdrop of World War One and their summer escapes to their grandparents' home in Cornwall.

“Hilary McKay is a brilliant writer. Her characters and well rounded, fascinating, and loveable and her storytelling always beautifully paced. Here she brings her extraordinary talents to tell the heart-breaking story of a family scarred by the Great War with freshness and humanity.” Jonathan Douglas, chief executive of the National Literacy Trust.

Millions by Frank Cottrell-Boyce, illustrated by Steven Lenton

Two brothers, Damian and Anthony, are unwittingly caught up in a train robbery and find themselves with a vast amount of cash to spend in a few days before Britain joins the Euro.

“This is a joyous romp of a story that has takes young readers across the gamut of emotions and makes them think about what they’d do with a huge amount of money to spend. Blow it on pizzas or go for the end of world poverty? Quite the dilemma!” Gaby Huddart, editor-in-chief Good Housekeeping.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A haunting tale about a 13-year-old boy dealing with his mother’s terminal illness and the night-time visits he gets from a scary storytelling tree monster.

“This book achieves unforgettable emotional impact. Patrick Ness’ lyrical writing draws on folk traditions to tell the story of Conor whose divorced mother is dying of cancer and his nightly dreams of an ancient tree monster who ultimately helps him face the future.” Jonathan Douglas, chief executive of the National Literacy Trust.

Buy one of the books on this list for your child

If you liked the sound of any of the books on this list you can purchase them from the link below.