Books for Preteens

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Do you know a book about a girl named Alana?

Apr 2008

For years I have been looking for a young adult fantasy trilogy I read when I was 11 or 12 and I just canbNov 2007t remember the title. The main character is Alana (hope IbNov 2007m spelling that right) and she has a twin brother. When their parents decide to send Alana to the castle to learn magic and be a lady-in-waiting and send her brother to learn sword fighting and the like, the twins swap places. The brother becomes a famous wizard and enters the story again later on but the books follow AlanabNov 2007s adventures. Does this ring a bell for anyone out there? I read the whole trilogy many times, once out loud with a friend over a series of sleepovers and I am just dying to gift these books to my own daughterb can see the shelf they were on at my library back in Boston where I grew up b& before the remodelingb& Thank you! anon

The author is Tamora Pierce. She has a number of series. I believe Alanna may actually be a tetralogy. Even better than Alanna (IMHO) is the Protector of the Small series, featuring Keladry of Mindelan -- who becomes a knight in her own right, not under the guise of being her brother. Great books for a tweener girl. ...

It's called Alanna: The First Adventure and it's by Tamora Pierce. I, too, was obsessed with that series when I was younger! I just went looking for it at the library today but it was already taken out . Laurel

I believe you're thinking of the Lioness Quartet (not a trilogy) by Tamora Pierce. I would also recommend the Wild Magic books, the Protector of the Small books, or the Trickster's Choice books, which are also by Tamora Pierce and also include Alanna, though not as the main character. -a 12 year old fan

the author's name is tamora pierce, the girl is alanna. the series is: The Song of the Lioness Quartet: Alanna: The First Adventure / In the Hand of the Goddess / The Woman Who Rides Like a Man / Lioness Rampant. they are available as a boxed set on amazon, but you might check the independent booksellers first or try or all the books are available as unabridged audiobooks as well. nice to listen to while falling asleep at night or on long car rides. check out robin mckinley's series (dragonsong, dragonsinger, etc) if your daughter likes the alanna books. and tamora pierce has written other series' too. moonshell

The Alana books are by Tamora Pierce, and I believe there are 4 now. They are wonderful! Ellen

Those are great books, I enjoyed them too. The series is called the Song of the Lioness and it is a quarter. The author is Tamora Pierce. The first book is called Alanna: The First Adventure.

If you like those books there are other series by the same authors centred around different character where Alanna shows up as an adult. These are Immortals, Protector of the Small, and Daughter of the Lioness. anonymous

I loved that series too! You're looking for the Alanna series by Tamora Pierce. --Another Tomboy--

Yes, I read those, too! They are wonderful books by Mercedes Lackey, but I can't recall the exact one with the character! I like the world she creates, where kids from all walks of life, are discovered to be ''special'', and are chosen by their companion, who is a ultra-smart horse. They develop a telepathic bond with this companion, and then get to leave their families to go live with other gifted children and become heralds. Mom on Hayward Fault

The series you are remembering is by Tamora Pierce. It is called ''The Song of the Lioness'' and there are three books ''Alana: The First Adventure'', ''The Woman Who Rides Like A Man'', and ''Lioness Rampant''. School Library Journal recommends the series for 5-8th graders. I was introduced to the series by a sixth grade student of mine, and thought they were good and recommened them to others. There is some sexual content. school librarian

The books you want are the Song of the Lioness trilogy by Tamora Pierce. They're about Alanna and her brother in the kingdom of Tortall. Actually, there are a LOT of Tamora Pierce books; these are the ones I started with, too. Enjoy! Kathleen

Yes! I love those books! They're by Tamora Pierce. The first one is Alanna, The First Adventure, in the Song of the Lioness series. Then there's In The Hand of the Goddess, The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, and Lioness Rampant. I didn't come to these books until I was an adult, but boy I wish I had read them as a kid. I kept thinking I had to be a boy to have adventures.... Tamora Pierce is very prolific, all her books are good, and she's super great with kids if you ever get a chance to see her live. Talia

I asked my sister as I know she and her teenage daughter loved these books. Here is her response, verbatim: ''The Alana series is great - author is Tamora Pierce, and the quartet is called the Song of the Lioness. She has written prolifically, about many created worlds - this website give a good overview:'' Happy reading kate

Thrillers for a 10 year old boy

Nov 2007

Hello, My 9 year old son took my copy of Dan Brown's ''Digital Fortress'' (the author of the Da Vinci Code) and has read it with a lot of enthusiam. I wouldn't mind, except that I'm sure the book introduces many explatives, not to mention mature scenes, that are not necessarily appropriate for a 9 year old boy. Can you please recommend any author or books that are more in keeping with the maturity of 9-10 year old? Digital Fortress has the following tags, so anything along these lines would probably catch and keep his attention.
Intelligence officers/ Fiction
Computer security/ Fiction
Cryptographers/ Fiction
Fiction / Espionage
Fiction / Thrillers
Fiction / Technological
thanks in advance!

I may be mis-remembering, but when I was young (maybe 12-13) I really enjoyed the James Bond books (tamer than the films, if memory serves), and above all, Alistair MacLean. Formulaic, it's true, but I found them gripping. -- Been there, done that

It's not exactly a thriller, but the Philip Pullman trilogy ''His Dark Materials'' is starts with ''The Golden Compass'' (which is coming out as a movie soon--but I'm sure the book is better!).

You might also check out:
''A Series of Unfortunate Events'' (Lemony Snickett)
''The Westing Game'' (Ellen Raskin)
''The Phantom Tollbooth'' (Norton Juster) Jenny

My son enjoys the Anthony Horowitz books, such as Stormbreaker, Ark Angel, and so on. Those feature the teen protagonist Alex Rider and totally fit the action/adventure/thriller bill. Horowitz has a Gate Keepers series, too, but I don't know much about those.

I've been hearing a lot of great reviews about the Young Bond series by Charlie Higson My sister read a lot of Agatha Christie at a young age. You could also try other classic detective/mystery - Sherlock Holmes (haven't there been new versions of that?), Poe. And what about the Hardy Boys - have they been updated for a hipper audience? Mom of Two

I second the Horowitz suggestion; ''Stormbreaker'' was a great read. There's also a Tom Clancy series written for tweens -- no doubt formulaic, but isn't that part of the point? I think it's called Net Force, or something like that. Also Gary Paulsen (of ''Hatchet'' fame) had a teenage crime-fighter series or two.

As always, I suggest you talk to your local children's librarian. They really do this kind of work for a living! -- Children's Librarian (on hiatus)

Book for technophile 11 year old

Dec 2005

Can anyone recommend a good book, or books, for our son. He absolutely loves computers and technology, but lives in a house where there is little of it. Maybe a book discussing very recent advances in computer-related technology, that is like a reference book (good qualtiy and comprehensive). Ludite mom wanting to encourage technophile son

I heard a review on NPR the other day of a children's book that sounds like it might interest your son. It is called: ''Transformed: How Every Day Things Are Made'' by Bill Slavin. It explains and illustrates the manufacturing process of all sorts of every day objects. The reviewer loved it, I want to buy it myself. rina

My technophile husband loves Wired magazine. It is pretty cutting-edge and has good pop culture and newsy info about tech stuff.

Motivating 10 yo to read

Oct 2005

HELP!!!! My 10 yo son does not like to read. He CAN read, he reads when he must(school, instructions etc.) but I can't get him to sit down an read a book without a fight. We've been testing him for comprehension or visual issues. He seems fine. He's a slow reader and says everything is boring. I've tried taking him to the library and getting him a variety of things that he's interested in, kid magazines, etc. He'll read comics and his electronic game manuels. He has to read a book a month for school and he still has not finished his September book.

I was a slow reader in grammar school too but once I found some books I liked I would read. My son would do electronics 24/7 if we allowed it. We limit elec. to weekends and occasional weeknights if my husband and I are both out and both boys are home alone. So...2 questions to motivate him to read, and what do you all recommend for 10 yo boys who like bionicles, Captain Underpants (yes, he has read ALL of those many times over), animals, and all the electronic games (he likes too cook also). Thanks, frustrated mom

I've been a children's librarian for ten years, and I've heard your complaint from a number of mothers: they say their son ''doesn't like to read,'' but upon further questioning it turns out their son doesn't like to read *novels* but is happy reading nonfiction that teaches them a useful skill (video games, cooking, or drawing), factual nonfiction (about science or history), or comic books (including sophisticated graphic novels). In your post, you make two conflicting statements: ''I can't get him to sit down an read a book without a fight'' and ''He'll read comics and his electronic game manuels.'' Don't worry! Adult men tend to read more nonfiction than adult women, so this is a trend that begins in childhood. Unfortunately the problem, I'm guessing, is that his teacher requires him to read a *novel* every month.

So: 1) you could ask his teacher if grade-level appropriate nonfiction can sometimes apply for his monthly reading, or 2) you can help him find novels that feel real, like nonfiction does, or have subversive humor, like Captain Underpants does. Have you spoken to your friendly neighborhood children's librarian? If I were you, I'd leave the two of them completely alone (*please* don't hover over the transaction saying, ''He hates to read.'') so she can work her magic. She can get to know him personally, interview him about his likes and dislikes, and be an unbiased advocate for reading (she doesn't give him grades or homework, after all). -- Children's Librarian

My ten year old nephew (now 20!) did not seem to enjoy reading-- said it was boring, etc. The books that finally got him turned on were the Goosebumps series (mildly ''scary'' mysteries). I started reading them to him at bedtime, then he became engaged enough to continue on his own. Another motivator was that he was allowed to stay awake, in bed, with the light on and read as long as he wanted (believe me, at ten, it doesn't go on too late!). Good luck! S.

Perhaps you can turn his love of electronic games to your benefit. It might be useful to offer him time with his electronic games based on the amount of time he spends reading. You determine the relative amounts (equal time playing for reading, more time, less time...). Maybe an extra treat when he finishes a book. While some call this bribery, others see it as teacing a child that rewards come to those who wil work for them. We had a child who was a slow reader and hated to read. Our reward method got him over the ''hump,'' and now he reads (and writes stories) all the time. - the bribing, er, rewarding, parent

I didn't make suggestions in my first post, since it's hard to say what he'll like without actually speaking to your son...but as a children's librarian I can't resist!

If he likes animals, you might try novels where a child has a realistic encounter with a wild animal (like George's ''My Side of the Mountain''). Gary Paulsen's many books are very boy-oriented, and he'll learn lots of practical stuff (surviving in the wilderness, sailing, raising sled dogs, riding the rails, etc.). There are science fiction series that feel like video games (like ''The Virtual War Chronologs'' by Skurzynski). And there are many recent fantasy series with pretty gross subversive humor (the ''Pure Dead Magic'' series is one).

I wish you luck finding more books he'll enjoy! And for your son's sake, I hope you can recognize that in his own way, he *is* reading. -- Children's Librarian (again)

I am a credentialed teacher and former K-6 tutor. I have 3 suggestions to help develop true, intrinsic motivation for reading:

1. Build on what he likes. Try asking the teacher if a certain number of comic books could count the same as a novel. If this is one of your son's only reading interests, it should be encouraged!

2. Find a reading buddy/mentor/tutor for your son. It sounds like he is resisting your input. This is very common. If he has a classmate who loves reading, take them to the library or bookstore together. Go look for books for yourself while they browse on their own. They can hunt for the ''cool'' books better if you're not lurking. If his friends aren't into reading, try to find an older kid or hire a tutor. I recommend Classroom Matters, where I used to work. If you find the right tutor match, it can do wonders in building confidence and interest in reading.

3. Let him decorate a reading corner in his room. Have him choose a chair or beanbag that will be comfortable and fun to sit in. Get a lamp he likes and put it on a short bookcase next to the chair. Add posters or wall paint to make the space different from the rest of the room.

To answer your second question, your son seems to enjoy books with a sense of humor. He would probably like Sideways Stories from Wayside School and other books by Louis Sachar. Try books by Daniel Pinkwater, Jules Feiffer, and Roald Dahl. Good luck! Caroline

If he likes comics, have you looked into what's available in graphic novels these days? Maybe it's not your idea of a great read, but there's a lot of stuff out there that's quite literate and maybe more his thing (and can be a transition into various sorts of fiction, as well). The children's librarians at your local public library can probably make some good suggestions, and if you're in or around Berkeley, Rory Root, who owns Comic Relief on University, is a great resource. Sara

I don't truly know the answer for you... I can only chime in because I had the same problem as your son. My parents were big readers (with Master's degrees in English and American literature), and my lack of enthusiasm for reading was a huge dissappointment to them. One thing that helped me was when my Dad pointed out that I didn't have to sit down and read a book from start to finish- he gave me ''permission'' to read the last chapter first, if I wanted, or to flip through reading the first line of each chapter and jump right in wherever it gets interesting; books that aren't too linear are good for this approach- like biographies. My Dad also gave me short stories, and he even read some of the required books to me---or just the first chapter or two. Has he tried books on tape?

The truth is, he may not ever be a big reader, but then some of us just aren't... (My mother took me to Berkeley Shakespeare Festival from age 10 and would whisper explanations to me... That for me was WAAAAAY better than reading Shakespeare!) Anon

Hi, Your son sounds a lot like mine. He is 12 now, a good reader, but only enjoys it when he finds just the right book (and then he can't put it down!). He, too, would do video games all day if permitted, and likes animals, and at 10, loved Bionicles and Capt. Underpants. As a family of avid readers, we just couldn't' believe we had a child who didn't love to read everything! We always figured he'd a least enjoy reading non-fiction to learn all about animals, etc. In elementary school, that just didn't happen. When he was 9 or 10, one series he did enjoy was the Bailey School Kids series. He also read some of the Bionicles chapter books. Now, a little older, he has really started to get into something called Drizzit (or something like that),by R. A. Salvatore. It's a series of novels that sounds a lot like it's based on Dungeons and Dragons. Those might be a few years away for your son, but could interest him later. I've talked to several parents who found that boys, especially, often became more willing readers in middle school, when their interests and reading level get into synch with each other.

One other thing - my son loved, and still loves, comic-strip books like Calvin & Hobbes, Foxtrot, etc. Also, occasionally, Tin Tin and Asterix books. I figure any reading is better than no reading, so didn't have a problem with that (though he couldn't use them for monthly book reports!). R.K.

I am a special education teacher at a Hayward Elementary School and one free motivator is a web site called Book Adventure. The address is : This is a free website that gives you book suggestions at the child's reading level and has on-line quizzes they can take. It keeps tracks of their scores and they can earn prizes all from the web site. You may also want to suggest it to your child's teacher/school if they aren't aware of it. Teachers can get a print out of each child's participation and scores. (I think parents can too). We give extra credit or ''eagle feathers'' (part of our school's reward system) for students who work this program. Good luck. Rebecca

One simple thing that springs to mind is that you say he likes comics-- so try some of the European or Japanese comix which have much more text (often with more difficult and varied vocabulary) and are often book length. Tintin and Asterix spring to mind right off. Also, you might try reading chapter books too him-- especially ones that are part of a series. Enid Blyton (British Author0, Andre Norton (Science Fiction), C.S. Lewis (Science Fiction/Fantasy with a Christian undercurrent). Or just go find the most rib bustingly funny books you can find and try those. Chris

We tried all those humorous books too-TinTin, Captain Underpants, Chet Gecko etc. He is a gamer and also likes to read comics, graphic novels and gaming magazines. But for school required reading: he would read the Illustrated Classics because he loved adventure and there were pictures on the pages (every other page!) to help him with putting words into context visually...Anyway those turned out to be good so we are keeping with that genre...He read Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (sci-fi) and listened to it on audio book CD at the same time. He continues to read graphic novels-you can find historical and adventure genres if you look thoroughly in those sections or hit a comic book store like Dr. Comics-Mr Games on Piedmont Ave. I notice that he likes to get books that sometimes are the basis for movies-The Time Machine, The Last of the Mohicans, Treasure Island, I Robot and so forth. We sometimes get the abridged versions of the ''classics'' so the language isn't overwhelming.Best of luck, Anon. anon

I find that for my 10-year old daughter, the best motivator for almost everything is to do an activity WITH her. She certainly spends time reading on her own, but we often find time to sit down in a cozy spot and read together, where I usually read out loud to her and sometimes she reads while I listen. I've noticed that over the last couple of years, her stamina and interest in being the reader has increased quite a bit. I really believe that this is one habit in parenting that reaps enormous benefits for parent(s) and child(ren). Your child will associate reading with being calm and loved and you get to spend that really sweet time without any of the stress and/or conflict that can come from almost everything else. Spending that kind of time together gives us an excuse to talk about subjects that matter, whether it's about issues that come up as a result of the book we're reading or something else. Barbara

I wasn't a reader either. But I am now! When I was 10 I preferred soccer and stuffed animals. My mother worried about it because everybody else in the family was bookish (and involved in education/academia/publishing). She tried to encourage me to read by giving me books as gifts - these just stared at me from the shelf and made me feel guilty. What /did/ work was to * require that I do my homework, in all subjects * encourage me in whatever I /was/ interested in reading (Tintin, Asterix) - take me to the library but don't dictate what I check out * have ''reading dinners'' where all the family members eat together at the table, but read silently while eating. That gave me the good example of my mother and sister reading, but let me choose what to read. Eventually studied literature in grad school

It's wonderful that you are examining the reasons your child isn't reading. And it is true that there are many activities that compete with reading in this day and age. But let's take another look at the situation. Start by asking yourself a few questions. How much does your child see you read? Does your child have friends who enjoy reading? Do you spend time reading and enjoying a book together. My son is an adult now, but I used to trade off reading chapters of books with him. And I was careful to support any book choices he made to read to himself. And as for that September book, was that a poor book choice? Or is your child using that to take issue with you? And are the TV and the computer off often enough to encourage serious reading. Carol

My son is very much the same way, and it is still a struggle. I have worked out a solution that works well for us (and it will only work if you have a cooperative teacher). I allowed him the oppportunity to read a Manga (Japanese comic) novel for every non-comic novel. We used books based on Magic the card game, age approppirate science fiction and R.L. Stine horror books. He is a very visual child, and comic books definitely appealed to him. I woudl suggest you look for comic novels (and enlist the help of the salespeople at a store like Comic Relief), so that you can find beautiful books that hae real story lines. Often, I found that my son was challenged just as much with the comic books as he was a ''regular'' book. If you find a series of books that he likes, then work through the entire set. anon

My son at that age would only read books that he liked and had issues with having to read ''chapter'' books or any books required for school, even though he would read encylcopedias and game manuals, which seemed pretty advanced. What I did was read out loud with him taking turns (I'd read one chapter, he'd have to read the next). Ususally we would both get very interested and find it hard to put the book away. It's a bit time consuming, but one of my cherished memories was reading CALL OF THE WILD. At the end of the book he was so moved about the dog he was tearful, saying how he wished he had a dog like that. Jeanne

Adventure books for kids 7-12

July 1999

I want to recommend two great books for older kids my husband and I read last weekend. These are a wonderful read for the 9 & up set, and are just as good for adults as for the 9 year olds. They are:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
These are about an orphaned boy who lives with his nasty aunt, uncle, and cousin. His life is miserable until one day he gets a letter from Hogwart's School of Wizardry and Witchcraft; he discovers that he is a wizard and there's a whole society of wizards and witches he has been totally unaware of. Not only that, he finds out he is famous among witches and wizards for defeating a powerful Dark Wizard when he was an infant (this is how his parents died).

He gets his school supplies (capes, wand, cauldron, an owl, etc.) and goes to school. The first book is about his first year at school and the second book covers his second year. Harry and his friends struggle through their classes (Charms, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Potions) which are held in a vast turreted castle full of ghosts, poltergeists, and enchanted objects. These books are fantastically imaginitive and among the best young adult novels I've read. They would be especially great for family reading out loud. They are available in hardbound, but and Barnes and has them for half off, about $8 each. The second book won a slew of awards, including the National Book Award.

Also, in Sept/Oct., a third book will be released, called Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkabar. It will preseumably cover his third year at school.

Even though I'm the only one in the family who has a specific interest in chilren's literature, I got my husband started on these and he couldn't put them down. Stayed up all night finishing them. Kimberly

I read Harry Potter and the Socerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling to my 7 year old daughter and 9 year old son. It was such a magical, exciting and wonderful book. We went through a sad period when we finished the book but luckily we got a copy of the sequel and it is so good the kids beg and plead for me not to stop reading, but I don't want to finish the book too fast and end such an enchanting adventure. Jane

About books ages 7-12. My son, now 10, has been a big reader all along. There are certain books he reads over and over. Among them are Lizard Music by Pinkwater, Chicken Trek, by Manes, the short story collections by Paul Jennings (They al l start with Un --Undone, Unreal, Un???etc. When he was younger he loved the Wayside School series (L. Sachar, I think) Also the TimeWarp trio series by Sziesca(sp?) He's read that new Harry Potter book about 4 times. He's always loved non-fiction. There's a series of books called the Imponderables by Feldman with titles such as How Does an Astronaut Scratch an Itch? Most of these are available at the Berkeley Public Library. Ellen

I recently asked a friend with a 10-year-old daughter the same question, and here's an excerpt her answer (with editorial comments from the mom): Over the years she has enjoyed the Betsy-Tacy books; the Beverly Cleary series; the Moomintrolls (Tove Jannson, sp?); The Hobbit; the Oz series; the Pye stories; The Witch Family (my personal favorite); Dr. Doolittle stories (a bit boring if you ask me...); and is currently VERY into the Redwall series (Brian Jacques--it's not unlike the Hobbit in that is adventurous and occasionally violent, and all the characters are animals, but in medieval settings). Oz, Doolittle, and Cleary are probably too easy for a nine or ten-year-old.

Also, my own favorites from my childhood (can't recall exactly how old I was, probably about 8) include anything by E.L. Konigsberg, especially Jennifer, Hecate, MacBeth, William McKinley and Me, Elizabeth (girl protagonists); About the B'Nai Bagels (boy protagonist), and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. For girls in particular, the All Of A Kind Family books by Sydney Taylor, which are about five sisters growing up on New York's Lower East Side in the early part of the century, are wonderful. Elisa

More books for ages 7-12. My children really enjoyed Brian Jacques's 'Redwall' books, especially 'Martin the Warrior', 'Mossflower' (with a female heroine), and 'Redwall.' Elise (at 13) is re-reading them this vacation, with great delight. They are classic tales of good vs. evil using animals as characters, with battles, intrigue, escapes, treachery, and heroic deeds. Along the way there are fantastic meals, stories-within-stories, lots of humor and - most interesting to me - a wonderful treatment of linguistics. The different animals have distinctive speech patterns. The moles have a slurred, slow speech. The pigeons use clipped short sentences. The mice use a more standard English. They are great read-aloud novels. Altoghether there are about 10 or 12 books in the series. Bonnie

My son, from the ages of 5 to present (8) loves Roal Dahl books: Matilda was his all time favorite when he was five (I read it to him). He loved Charlie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG, The Magic Finger, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Geroge's Marvelous Medicine. The last three he has read a few times himself since he learned how to read. He also now loves all the Animorph books (he loved them before they were

a TV show). Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was a big hit too. Right now he's totally into Shell Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends. I haven't gotten him the other Shell Silverstein ones because he's still enjoying that one so much. I was mortified when he took a green highlighter and started highlighting all his favorite poems, but I

had to let it go (with a little help from a friend) since he takes it around with him to show and read them to his friends or relatives.

I hope this is the correct address to answer this request, which I forwarded to my 12-yr-old daughter. Here are some really good books for girls from about 10-12

Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone By J.K. Rowling
Alanna the First Adventure By Tamora Pierce
Lioness Rampant By Tamora Pierce
The Woman Who Rides like a Man By Tamora Pierce
In the Hand of a Godess By Tamora Pierce
Wild Magic By Tamora Pierce
Wolf Speaker By Tamora Pierce
In the Realms of the Gods By Tamora Pierce
The Taranchela in My Purse By Jean Craighead George
Julie of the Woves By Jean Craighead George
Julie By Jean Craighead George
Julie's Wolf Pack By Jean Craighead George
Of Two Minds By Perry Nodelman and Carol Matas
More Minds By Perry Nodelman and Carol Matas