Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Eleven Book Poster Image
Poignant tale of dyslexic boy seeking clues to his past.
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 15 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive messages

There are all kinds of families. Don't give up on reading, even it's challenging for you. Boys and girls can be friends. If you fell bad after telling a lie, come clean and apologize, and you'll feel better.

Positive role models & representations

Sam's grandfather and neighbors pitch in to help parent Sam. His supportive teachers encourage him to not give up on reading. Sam's kind classmate Caroline helps him on a school project and in his quest to find his identity and learn about his family's past. Sam follows up on his desire to find out who he really is and what the 11 in his dreams means.


A few products mentioned for scene setting: Toyota, Life Savers, Rice Krispies.

Drinking, drugs & smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Eleven, by Patricia Reilly Giff, is the story of a dyslexic boy, Sam, whose mother is dead and who lives with his grandfather and an unusual extended family of neighbors. As he approaches his 11th birthday, he enlists the help of his classmate Caroline to read an old newspaper article and help him track down clues to who he really is.

User Reviews

Parent of a 10 year old Written bymollsta1234 May 14, 2010

for the family, but boring!

I do not like this book because the language was hard to comprehend at some points for me. Another reason I did not like the book is beacause its so predictabe,... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old November 29, 2010
it a good book
Kid, 11 years old January 6, 2010

I love this book!

I loved this book! Read it slowly so you can get everything.

What's the story?

Sam, who can barely read, lives with his grandfather and an unusual extended family. As he approaches his 11th birthday, he's haunted by fear of that number and strange dreams in which it's prominently featured. When he discovers an old newspaper article with his picture and the word "missing," he's worried that his life is not what he thought it was. So he enlists the help of new classmate Caroline to read the article, track down the clues, and find out who he really is.

Is it any good?

This lovely, poignant mystery will not be to every kid's taste -- there's no action and there are no villains. But veteran author Patricia Reilly Giff doesn't need them to craft an utterly engrossing, deeply moving page-turner. There are many pleasures here, from Sam's touching friendship with Caroline to his delightful alternative family -- with his parents dead, he lives with his grandfather over their woodworking shop, next to a deli and a restaurant, whose owners live over them as well. Together the boy and three single adults form an unusual but very workable family, taking care of one another and parenting Sam.

Sam's reading difficulties are also beautifully described, as are the reactions of those in his life. He doesn't live in fear of others finding out -- pretty much everyone knows. Instead, he has given up on it ever getting better and has learned to make the most of his other talents. But his extended family, friends, and teachers have not given up on him, and, while supporting his talents, they make sure he doesn't close the door on reading.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about dyslexia. Why does it make reading hard for kids? How can it make kids feel in school?

  • Why is it hard for boys and girls to be friends at this age? Why do Sam and Caroline try to hide their friendship from Sam's other friends? Why does Sam initially reach out to Caroline instead of one of his other friends?

  • Why are books about family secrets so popular?

Book details

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