50 Books All Kids Should Read Before They're 12


 

From picture books to graphic novels, fantasy to family fun, these must-read books have the power to hook both boys and girls. Some are cultural touchstones that belong in every kid's library. Others open kids' minds to cultures beyond their own. And some are modern releases that have the timeless quality of classics -- the kinds that get handed down to siblings and passed around classrooms. Whether you have a reluctant reader or budding bookworm, check out these surefire, kid-tested titles. (We've included a few rated best for 12 and up for the precocious readers out there!)

Want more? Check out the Essential Books Guide to build your kid's personal library.

Browse 50 Books All Kids Should Read Before They're 12

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus Book Poster Image
Silliness that appeals to preschoolers.
By Mo Willems
(2004)
(2004)
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Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site Book Poster Image
Charming bedtime book is magic for truck lovers.
By Sherri Duskey Rinker
(2012)
(2011)
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Goodnight Moon Book Poster Image
Ultimate going-to-bed book has stood the test of time.
By Margaret Wise Brown
(2004)
(1947)
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The Very Hungry Caterpillar Book Poster Image
Carle brings humor to caterpillar's development.
By Eric Carle
(2003)
(1970)
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Where the Wild Things Are Book Poster Image
Classic all-ages masterpiece has a wild imagination.
By Maurice Sendak
(2001)
(1969)
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Harold and the Purple Crayon Book Poster Image
Imagination reigns in timeless classic about drawing boy.
By Crockett Johnson
(2012)
(1955)
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The Tale of Peter Rabbit Book Poster Image
Beatrix Potter's first and one of her best.
By Beatrix Potter
(2003)
(1902)
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The Cat in the Hat Book Poster Image
A kids' classic that put Dr. Seuss on the map.
By Dr. Seuss
(2003)
(1957)
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Frog and Toad Are Friends Book Poster Image
Engaging stories spotlight charming, relatable characters.
By Arnold Lobel
(2003)
(1970)
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Madeline Book Poster Image
Rhyming classic is a sure winner with kids.
By Ludwig Bemelmans
(2003)
(1977)
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The Complete Tales & Poems of Winnie-the-Pooh Book Poster Image
Beloved, classic stories and poems in one volume.
By A. A. Milne
(2007)
(1996)
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Mercy Watson to the Rescue: Mercy Watson, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Funny, silly pig story great for early readers.
By Kate DiCamillo
(2006)
(2005)
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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Book Poster Image
Classic morality tale is wildly entertaining.
By Roald Dahl
(2005)
(1964)
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Ivy + Bean, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Friendship tale a sure hit with kids starting chapter books.
By Annie Barrows
(2007)
(2007)
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Stuart Little Book Poster Image
Excellent bridge from chapter books to novels.
By E.B. White
(2003)
(1945)
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Where the Sidewalk Ends Book Poster Image
Irresistible collection of clever, hilarious poems.
By Shel Silverstein
(2012)
(2004)
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Charlotte's Web Book Poster Image
Gentle, much-loved barnyard classic delights all ages.
By E.B. White
(2006)
(1952)
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Little House in the Big Woods Book Poster Image
Beloved classic follows a frontier family for four seasons.
By Laura Ingalls Wilder
(2007)
(1932)
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Ramona the Pest Book Poster Image
Ramona tale helps young kids build empathy.
By Beverly Cleary
(2003)
(1992)
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Coraline Book Poster Image
Strange, surreal tale sure to creep kids out.
By Neil Gaiman
(2004)
(2004)
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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Book Poster Image
Magical start of the fantastic boy-wizard series.
By J. K. Rowling
(2005)
(1998)
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The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: The Chronicles of Narnia, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Classic Narnia tale has exciting battles, Christian themes.
By C.S. Lewis
(2005)
(1950)
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The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread Book Poster Image
Brave mouse adventure a modern classic; great read-aloud.
By Kate DiCamillo
(2003)
(2004)
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Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Book Poster Image
A classic that both adults and kids love.
By Lewis Carroll
(2003)
(1865)
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Anne of Green Gables Book Poster Image
Beloved classic features lovable, imaginative heroine.
By L.M. Montgomery
(2011)
(1908)
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The Bad Beginning: A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1 Book Poster Image
A cliff-hanging orphan adventure wrapped in black humor.
By Lemony Snicket
(2004)
(1999)
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Big Nate: In a Class by Himself: Big Nate, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Milder than Wimpy Kid and a sure hit with boys.
By Lincoln Peirce
(2010)
(2010)
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Bridge to Terabithia Book Poster Image
Honest, moving story of friendship and loss.
By Katherine Paterson
(2006)
(1977)
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Bud, Not Buddy Book Poster Image
Well-crafted tale of an orphan's search for home.
By Christopher Paul Curtis
(2004)
(1999)
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Diary of a Wimpy Kid Book Poster Image
Laugh-out-loud-funny series start tucks lessons in stories.
By Jeff Kinney
(2007)
(2007)
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The Hobbit Book Poster Image
Brilliantly written, inventive pre-LOTR tale.
By J.R.R. Tolkien
(2011)
(1937)
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The Lightning Thief: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Greek myths meet fast-paced adventure in boy-demigod tale.
By Rick Riordan
(2005)
(2005)
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Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing Book Poster Image
Toddler antics bug brother, amuse readers in 1st Fudge book.
By Judy Blume
(2011)
(1972)
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A Wrinkle in Time Book Poster Image
Classic sci-fi story still inspires and gets kids thinking.
By Madeleine L'Engle
(2003)
(1962)
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Esperanza Rising Book Poster Image
Historical fiction at its best in story of '30s farmworkers.
By Pam Munoz Ryan
(2011)
(2000)
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Hold Fast Book Poster Image
Touching story of resourceful girl solving a family mystery.
By Blue Balliett
(2013)
(2013)
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I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World Book Poster Image
Inspiring memoir of teen Nobel laureate shot by Taliban.
By Malala Yousafzai, Patricia McCormick
(2014)
(2014)
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Inside Out and Back Again Book Poster Image
Inspiring, educational immigrant story told in free verse.
By Thanhha Lai
(2011)
(2011)
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My Side of the Mountain Book Poster Image
Gripping, inspiring wilderness-survival adventure.
By Jean Craighead George
(2012)
(1959)
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Revolution Is Not a Dinner Party Book Poster Image
Gripping story, great intro to China's Cultural Revolution.
By Ying Chang Compestine
(2008)
(2007)
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Walk Two Moons Book Poster Image
Dramatic, complex tale has rich characters, emotional depth.
By Sharon Creech
(2010)
(1994)
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Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl Book Poster Image
Inspiring wartime journal reveals teen's inner life.
By Anne Frank
(2011)
(1947)
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Wonder Book Poster Image
Moving tale of facially different boy with inner beauty.
By R.J. Palacio
(2012)
(2012)
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Ender's Game Book Poster Image
Boy genius trains to crush alien invasion in sci-fi classic.
By Orson Scott Card
(2005)
(2005)
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The Fellowship of the Ring Book Poster Image
Spectacular fantasy classic is where Frodo's journey begins.
By J.R.R. Tolkien
(2003)
(1954)
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The Hunger Games, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Exciting, provocative tale of lethal reality show.
By Suzanne Collins
(2008)
(2008)
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Legend, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Stylish dystopian thriller in a not-so-future Los Angeles.
By Marie Lu
(2012)
(2011)
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March: Book One Book Poster Image
Powerful graphic novel captures spirit of desegregation.
By John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell
(2013)
(2013)
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The Outsiders Book Poster Image
Story of ostracized kid a timeless fave of teens, preteens.
By S. E. Hinton
(2003)
(1967)
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To Kill a Mockingbird Book Poster Image
Stunning classic examines racism -- and justice.
By Harper Lee
(2004)
(1960)
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