The Best Books for Big Kids

Fantastic reads for ages 8 and up.

By Hollis  11/18/21

I was a HUGE reader as a kid. I'd read anything I could get my hands on...including some John Grisham at about 10 years old that probably should've been placed on a higher shelf. Anyway, I learned anything that I deemed of great importance through books: Dealing with your sibling? Ramona Quimby and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. How to thrive in your part-time job? Babysitter's Club, all the way. What it's like to date in High School? Thank you, Sweet Valley High. Puberty and more? Judy Blume had my back. I needed books like a fire needs oxygen and, while I had no idea at the time what my future would hold, my love of reading clearly set me up for much of my adult life, be it career, relationships, or parenting. 

All this to say, while a special picture book can truly make a heart sing, it's at this age that the messages start making a longterm difference. You can really hone in on specific interests, dig into complicated lessons, or open a door to parts of this life that they're finally old enough to explore. We've pulled together a collection of our favorite books for this age, a combo of chapter books, STEM exploration, and stories about making your mark on the world. Dig into this list and then watch them dig in to their new favorite read.

1. Art Sparks

This colorful and modern craft book "features projects specially designed to spark creativity, invite self-expression and nurture self-confidence. From finger puppets to fabric flags to shrink art, each activity uses inexpensive materials and can be crafted in less than 90 minutes."  Creative, educational, and encourages kid-led entertainment that doesn't involve a screen. That's the kind of easy but fulfilling gift I love.

2. The Gaither Sisters Trilogy Box Set

Follow along as the Gaither sisters visit family all over the country during the tumultuous 1960s. A little bit of history, a little bit of social justice, a lot of finding one's strength and leaning on the tight bond of sisterhood. This is a great series for anyone who wants an easy, age appropriate way to discuss segregation but they stand on their own as engaging, meaningful, and highly entertaining books for all young readers.

3. The Questioneers Complete Chapter Book Set

If you've been following along, you know that my love for this series knows no end. The picture books are outstanding and the chapter book editions are fun and feisty for young readers. The plots are whimsical enough to not feel too serious for young readers but the longer length allows for even more spirited teamwork and problem solving that these books tackle so well.

4. Pirates Maginified!

This one is factual and just plain fun. An in-depth look at real life pirates disguised as a massive seek and find book complete with an enclosed magnifying glass. There's even a guide at the back teaching you how to speak like a pirate. For fans of Where's Waldo or Pirates of the Caribbean or BOTH. How niche is that?

5. Mysterious Benedict Society

This five book set is nice and dense in a great way. They're mysteries, they're brain teasers, they're high-stakes adventures. They feel epic in a Narnia way, funny in a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory way, but modern because of the complex relationships between the characters. Give it to a very bright 8 year-old for an awesome shared read aloud experience, or to a 12 year-old who loves to get lost in a series. (This book has been turned into a well-reviewed series on Disney+. Sometimes that enticement alone is reason enough to dive in.)

6. Big Ideas for Young Thinkers: 20 Questions about Life and the Universe

Philosophy for small people! This one is for the UBER curious with parents that really like to get into big conversations with their kids. Chapters are organized around questions like, "Who am I?" "What is right and wrong?" "What is justice?" and many more. It draws on influences from ancient Greeks right up to modern-day American writers and it stands to be a really special book for a really special kid.

7. Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Four-Book Set

This set is wild and wonderful in a very 21st century way. Kyle and the other contestants must escape from Lemoncello's Library by following the many literary clues (taken from actual books, we love that). The competition gets stiffer with each book (World wide competitors! Nationally televised!), think Hunger Games for 10 year-olds but completely non-violent and exciting-not-scary. They'll tear through them in no time so it's a good thing Chris Grabenstein keeps writing them.

8. Word Cloud Classics Friendship Boxed Set

This beautiful set is a perfect gift for a young lady reader who needs to be introduced to her new best friends Alice, Anne, Mary, and the March sisters. These classic stories have been bundled in a perfectly pink gift set that bring Alice in Wonderland, Anne of Green Gables, The Secret Garden, and Little Women, to a new generation of readers in utter style.

9. Word Cloud Classics Adventure Boxed Set

No, we do not believe that books have gender. Yes, we do believe that boys should read Anne of Green Gables the same as we believe that girls should read Treasure Island. BUT. If you have a reticent reader (or a passionate one, though they usually aren't as hard to convince) bundling up a batch of classics as an ADVENTURE SERIES might just get them on board. We think Peter Pan, Treasure Island, Call of the Wild, and The Jungle Book definitely give back the effort that young readers will put in.

10. The Lost Book of Adventure

This book is kind of hard to describe but totally worth the work. Real-life nature enthusiast Teddy Keen visits the Amazon and discovers a series of journals. Inside is this: "If you are reading this, it means my notebooks have been found. I am leaving them here at camp for safekeeping along with a few other belongings that I won't be taking with me. The notebooks are a lifetime's worth of knowledge, which I'm passing on to you." Seriously. So Teddy takes these journals and edits the text and illustrations into this massive picture book that is DENSELY packed with survival skills, tales of great adventures, and so much more, all by The Unknown Adventurer. It's so cool and wildly impressive.

11. Moonshot + Sky Gazing

Take an in-depth look at the historic Apollo 11 moon landing in this fascinating and educational picture book. Then take the learning outside with this visual guide to observing the night sky with the naked eye. Kids learn how to spot planets, the "why" behind phenomena like black holes, and find constellations in any season. An aspiring astronaut's dream.

Don't worry, there's more where these came from! Take a look at our full collection for big kids HERE.

Never miss a post! 

Sign up for our (friendly, never spammy) emails below.