We’ve been reading lots of great books in the last year, mainly middle grade books. My older son loves humorous novels for boys, including comics, and basically falls asleep every night reading (and laughing) in his bed with a Wimpy Kid or Big Nate book in his hands, or while perusing GoComics.com. My younger son has suddenly started to love to read in the last year too (probably because everyone else in the house does), and his taste tends toward stories with animals in real life situations or facing real challenges. We decided to come up with a boys’ book list that covers some of our favorite books for boys ages 8-12, their current reading level (and honestly, some of the best books in the world are middle school books for kids).
We picked these novels based on various criteria, including having a great story for all ages, quality writing, interesting protagonists, a great lesson or moral, and being beloved by my kids. Most have age-appropriate humor as well, or age appropriate themes when the stories are more serious (I curate their reading material and remove anything with inappropriate content for an 8 or 10 year old), and all are absolutely excellent. We plan to add to this list over time, and we have read many great books that we aren’t posting (for various reasons- usually because they are just fun or fluffy so not necessarily “a book for the ages”), but these are just the best of the best in our opinion.
Best Books for Boys Age 8-12
📚 The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo is the tale about the journey of a porcelain rabbit that is non-verbal (it’s a boy), yet so much is said during its travels through the lives of many people over many years. We I left the story haunted by adsfs and wondering where he life took him after Edward Tulane’s tale ended.
📚 Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis We already enjoyed this beautiful novel via audiobook, narrated by the late James Avery. We loved it so much, it literally had us hanging on until the very end, wanting to know what happens to Bud next on his journey. The story opens up with stark reality and was a little heartbreaking, but the ending is heart warming and wonderful to read together for a read aloud with your children. I loved enjoying it together, and the boys loved the surprise ending.
📚 Poppy by Avi is a story that had a deeper meaning for me, and was applicable to life on a deeper level. There was a deeper meaning: those who mean to oppress us and terrorize us will lie to us and envelope us in a shroud of fear to control us. The story of Poppy expresses this reality in a way children can understand. This is a children’s story, and it’s the tale of mice, but an adult would appreciate it too. It’s amazing, probably one of my own personal favorite books now.
📚 The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster Funny, silly, smart… this is an amazing book that children would want to reread, an immediate favorite. While the boys read about Milo’s journey to the Lands Beyond, I realized that witty books with humor are the way to introduce them to a lifelong love of reading. They have branched out since, but if you have a reluctant reader, The Phantom Tollbooth is a great book to give your child to open up their mind to other worlds filled with fantasy, adventure, and delight.
📚 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling We are fans of the entire Harry Potter series, but this specific installation, the fourth book in the series, is a turning point. In this book, children learn about sacrifice, the existence of true evil in the world, working together with “competitors” toward a common goal that benefits all (instead of simply toward one’s own glory), working hard, and more. It would definitely be understood and enjoyed more by anyone who has been reading all the books in the Harry Potter series preceding this one, but the author does offer a bit of background for anyone who chooses to pick up this book to start.
📚 The Toothpaste Millionaire by Jean Merrill is not only a great story, it’s a money book for kids with entrepreneurial thinking, starting those young business geniuses on the road to starting their own business and understanding different aspects of finance. We love these types of books for children. This book is a perfect example of how having a great idea and just going for it (while being honest and having integrity in business) can lead to great success. It highlights the importance of a free market, providing a quality product or service, and it’s just a fun book. If you find yourself loving it as much as we do, more good books for kids who want to make money are The Lemonade War and Lawn Boy.
📚 The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White My younger son calls this book his favorite ever (after being quite resistant to reading it because I made the mistake of “assigning” it to him as one of his summer reading books). He loves animals and finds the anthropomorphisation of animals for stories as charming as I do. E.B.White creates magical worlds with animals, a safe place for children to visit and live in for a while, and this wonderful story about a mute swan that learns to play the trumpet is perfect. Parental love, overcoming hardships, and more- it’s all here.
📚 The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald We all know children are smart, and the Great Brain, about a boy genius (he really is- his intelligence and quick-thinking saves lives), inspires children to use those great minds of theirs to think outside the box and find creative solutions to real life problems. The Great Brain is chapter after chapter of stories surrounding the Fitzgerald family and their town, including subjects of childhood bullying, treatment of immigrants, embracing technology, and more. As a mom (who doesn’t get “boy culture”), it helped me loosen the reigns a bit when it comes to roughhousing and the desire of children for some independence and adventure, so I appreciated reading this for the first time recently too.
📚 The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton A book about a group of boys from the poor side of the tracks, who grow up without parents or with abusive parents, and how they stick together through the struggles of trying to survive abuse, crime, and poverty. Through The Outsiders, my eyes were opened for the first time as a child to a world where children did not have the parental support or security I took for granted, and who faced severe bullying and various dangers every time they left their home. It helped me understand why groups of friends often band together to become the family they never had, and who love each other and stick together like a family when faced with hard times and real life challenges.
📚 Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder I wanted my sons to read this novel because I wanted to segue way into the Little House books in a way that would interest them. My older son, while reading it, said, “Mama, we should add this to our favorite books list”, so I knew it was one for the ages. He rarely says this, but Farmer Boy tackles some serious, periodic issues that really show how hard struggles have been for many people historically, and we all found ourselves thinking about many of the issues long after the book was done.
All the books on this list are the books my children picked as the best books for boys ever. I read them all too, and can strongly recommend them. They are touching, beautiful, sometimes funny, sometimes serious and very moralizing, and all are amazing. They should all be in a boy’s home library, and while I don’t have daughters, I can strongly recommend them for girls too; I read The Outsiders as a 13 year old girl and was mesmerized.
Next up on our reading lists are The Green Ember, Fablehaven, The House if Dies Drear, Ungifted, Percy Jackson the Lightning Thief, and The Mysterious Benedict Society, so we may have some new additions soon. Let me know via email or social if you have other recommendations, and if you enjoyed our recommendations!