A lot of the books I've reviewed lately I've recommended for age 12 and over. This is a special book recommendation list for the under age 12 crowd, but if you are over 12, you should still read these books. I read and re-read many of these books at over age 12. So, this list has emerged.
1. Betsy-Tacy Series by Maude Hart Lovelace (especially the first four books in the series). You can see a list of the books at http://www.betsy-tacysociety.org/betsy-tacybooks. These books are awesome, because the reading level and vocabulary increases as Betsy and her friends age throughout the books. In first book, Betsy-Tacy, the girls are age 5. In the last book, Betsy's Wedding, she ages from 22 to 25. These books have been reprinted over the years, but are recently out of print again. You should be able to find copies at the library.
2. The Marjorie series by Carolyn Wells. In writing this, I found that the books are back in print! The copyright has expired and they are public domain. You can find them on Amazon for download to your e-reading device. You can get all six books in the series for 99 cents right now on Amazon. You can get Marjorie's Busy Days for FREE as a stand alone, and re-printed as a paper back (quality unknown), but only $6.99. You can find original books for various prices. Margorie's Busy Days is the book that introduced me to the series. I LOVED it! The setting is the turn of the century (1900, not 2000!). The language is rich, and also cutesy at times (Marjorie has a baby sister and she talks like a baby). The sociology of the time is very interesting, for the age of the characters, they act VERY different than what we expect today. The book is refreshing.
3. Nancy Drew: The Secret of the Old Clock and the other classic Nancy Drew books by Carolyn Keene. Carolyn Keene is a pen name for various authors. you can find who the actual authors were for each book at this website. Knowing who the actual author was is a valuable tool when you find you really like the writing style in one of the books, because although they are supposed to by written the same style, there is a noted difference between the authors. Nancy is an awesome, strong, yet feminine character. She has the values of her time, there is occasional reference to prayer and going to church. She and her "favorite date", Ned Nickerson, have a very clean, G-rated, relationship. She is great in our world today, where we are told the only way you can be strong is being masculine (even if you are a girl), and that is just not true! The first book was published in 1930, and the young woman detective continues to be reprinted year after year.
4. Trixie Belden and The Secret of the Mansion by Julie Campbell, and is the beginning of a series. Trixie Belden was the first character that I aspired to be like. She is so feisty and adventurous. The first six books were written by Julie Campbell and they are the best of the series, in my opinion. Further books were written under the pseudonym Kathryn Kenny, which was not just one author, but several. Some of the later books are pretty good, but many feel like they are formula written, and the main characters don't even feel like the original characters. Trixie is the the younger, farm girl, less cautious version of Nancy Drew. The first book was released in 1948, but reprinted in the early 2000's, and you may still find them at your local library.
5. The Boxcar Children Series by Gertrude Chandler Warner. Gertrude Chandler Warner wrote the first 19 books in the series. There are now 139 books in the series. I would recommend the first 19. These books may look a little juvenile, but the language is rich as the first book was published in 1924. They are a continually reprinted book series. The family relationship between the four Alder children is very tight. The mysteries very interesting, and sometimes I don't even figure them out, which is saying something, because I read lots of mysteries.
6. Addie McCormick series by Leanne Lucas. The first book is The Stranger in the Attic. I found them reprinted at Christianbook.com (they were out of print for a while). They are not preachy at all. The main character's Dad was a pastor, and Addie does pray. This is another mystery series. The Stranger in the Attic is not as creepy as the title sounds (at least not as creepy as it sounded to 11 year me, when I first read this book). I have read all of the books in this series that I know of. I was given the first book by my pen pal and found the remaining books at my local library.
7. Sophie series by Nancy Rue, the first book is called Sophie's World. You can probably find these at your local library. They have been reprinted with new covers and some new titles, so beware you don't accidentally get two of the same book. I related so much to Sophie as a 7 year old when I began this series. Sophie is started 6th grade. She is a dreamer, aspiring film director, actress, writer, and a good friend. This book series is not fluff stuff, Sophie goes to a counselor, there is bullying, cancer, and many other life issues. This is a written by a Christian author, and she handles all these topics very well and age appropriate.
8. In Front of God and Everybody: The Confessions of April Grace by K.D. McCrite. This is the first book in the series. Right now, there are just three books in the series. April Grace is a country girl in the Ozarks of Arkansas in 1980's. This was the first "Christian" book that I thought: "Wow! Christian books can be funny and exciting and inspiring! They don't have to be boring, boring, boring, run of the mill, cliche!". April Grace is also a detective, but the story is not heavy on the mystery. If you don't care for mystery, no big deal. If you like mystery: BONUS, and you'll probably like this book 110%.
9. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. This book is a Cinderella retelling, but it's so different. I wrote a book versus movie review on this, which you can read on this blog.
10. Andi Unexpected by Amanda Flower. Great mystery (series, but I have only read the first one), good for all ages, especially for younger kids, because you can relate to the main character who is 12 years old (the character feels younger than 12 to me). You can read my review here.
11. Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm. The setting for this book is the Great Depression, but the story is not depressing. The story is interesting, and the names of the characters, too. There is buried treasure, what more do you need? Read, read, read. You can read my review first.
12. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and all of the Little House Books. If you are not familiar with these books, they are so much better than the television series, and much more family friendly. There is death, sickness, scary weather, wild animals in some of the books, but still more family friendly than the tv show. The series is based on Laura's life growing up beginning in 1871.
13. The Borrowers by Mary Norton. There are five books in the series, but I have only read the first four. If you are familiar with The Littles, the Borrowers and like the Littles, only British and without tails. The family dynamic is different, too. The idea of little people, living in your walls, is the same. I found the first book years ago at the library and love, love, loved them.
14. Firestorm! by Joan Hiatt Harlow. This is a historical fiction books set during the time of the Chicago Fire in 1871. That may sound scary, but the story is not. You can read my full review of this book here on my blog.
15. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren. The second book in the series is Pippi on Board. The third book in the series, which I liked even better than the first, is Pippi in the South Seas. These are short books, translated from a Swedish author. They are fun, fast, must reads.
16. Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg by Gail Carson Levine. This is part of the old Never Land Fairy Series. This is the first one in the trilogy. I didn't care for the second one; the plot was all over the place like Alice in Wonderland, but it wasn't supposed to be a dream. I haven't read the third one. I thoroughly enjoyed the first book (I've read it multiple times).
17. Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. This book is much better than the movie. I had some problems with the movie, but the book did not have those problems. The book is very heart-warming. The story of a single-dad pastor and his daughter, and their new dog Winn-Dixie. It sort-of makes me think of Little Orphan Annie, but in the South, in a different time period, and she's not exactly an orphan. Read the book, tell me what you think.
18. Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix, and the rest of this series. What if you were taken from the past, because you were going to die there and adopted by people in the future, but you don't know you were taken from the past? That is the premise behind this series. If you like time travel and/or great figures in history, you must check out this series.
19. The Doll People by Ann M. Martin. This is a series of four, but I have only read one through three. What if dolls were alive, but not in a creepy way? And the humans never found out, ever. If a doll got caught moving by a human, it was stuck in "doll state" for a long time. These books are really cute and adorable and fun and adventurous and light-hearted. And even if you don't think this synopsis is very interesting, you should still read The Doll People. They are illustrated by Brian Selznick, and he's a really good illustrator.
20. Redwall by Brian Jacques, and the rest of the series (22 books in all). Some people may look at these books and think they are "boy books," and there is violence in these books, death, etc., but the main characters are animals that talk. The battle scenes are not super scary, or too descriptive, but maybe not for all under age 12. One of favorites, is especially girly, Mariel of Redwall, book #4. I don't find it necessary to read these in order. My favorite, so far, (I haven't finished this series) is The Outcast of Redwall.
21. Nim's Island by Wendy Orr. This book is way better than the movie! And I just found out that there is a whole Nim's Series. The book is about a girl and her Dad who live on an island, and they have internet. I don't know how they have internet, but they do have a satellite, so that makes sense. I just had to think about that. This is Indiana Jones Adventure-esque. The back of the book says she is a modern day Robinson Crusoe. I haven't read that book, so I can't attest to that. My brother still hasn't finished that book, so I can't ask him either. If the back of the book says it, there's at least a 46% chance that it's true.
22. The Red Rock Mysteries by Jerry B. Jenkins. The first book is titled Haunted Waters, but I started with book #2, Stolen Secrets. The titles sound pretty scary, but the mysteries are not too scary. I haven't finished this series, but have enjoyed every book I've read.
23. Have Courage, Be Kind: The Tale of Cinderella by Brittany Candau. This is the book version of the new live action Cinderella movie from Disney. The story is not just a copy of the movie, but expands on the whole story, especially her childhood and the ball. The book actually changes some of the things that happened in the movie. Highly recommend!
24. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The book and movie adaption (the one I saw, anyway) are both great. The book is about a girl whose parent's die. She gets sent off to live at her uncle's house, where she discovers a secret garden and a couple of mysteries.
25. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. This book may not be for all under the age of 12, because it is set during the Civil War, there is the death of one of the main characters, a little romance. I read this under age 12, but I was a Civil War reinactor. There are continuing books in this series, Little Men and Jo's Boys.
26. The House on the Gulf by Margaret Peterson Haddix. This is a mystery set in Florida. This is not a book for everyone under 12, because the mystery is a little scary, but really not any scarier than some of the Nancy Drew books I've read. It's about a single mom and her two kids who move to Florida, so that the mom can go back to school.
27. Interrupted by Rachel Coker. This book is set during World War II, the main character's mother dies at the beginning of the book, and there is a very G-rated romance (not even a single kiss). Due to the war and people's opinions in the book on the war, this may not be something all under 12 year olds would be ready for, or interested in, but is 100% appropriate for all ages. You can read my full review here; I recommended this book for "ages 9 until you're dead" in my review last year.
28. Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne. This is a classic book. You will probably impress others by reading this book. The story is about a guy who makes a bet about traveling around the world in eighty days, and the adventures that ensue on the trip around the world. I tried reading reading Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, but that Jules Verne book was much harder to get into. I recommend starting out with Around the World in Eighty Days.
29. The Giver by Lois Lowry. This is one of the well known dystopian books in popular literature (NOT the first, the genre has been around for more than a hundred years). Once again, the book is way better then the movie. The movie adds all sorts of crazy-sauce stuff that never happened, ages the characters up, and changes everyone's jobs (except for the main character). The book is about Jonas, who becomes the apprentice Keeper of Memories. He gets memories about war, depending on personality, and exposure to world events, this could be no big deal, or upsetting. There is a little crush in the book, but the story is WAY cleaner than the movie. This a series, but I read the second book, and didn't like it as well as the first book. I will continue the series, because it is an interesting story, but I'm in no rush. This is a four book series.
30. Just Ella, Palace of Mirrors, and Palace of Lies by Margaret Peterson Haddix. Just Ella is a realistic Cinderella re-telling and is very different from the norm. Palace of Mirrors is it's companion novel sequel which focuses on a different girl in the kingdom that the kingdom in Just Ella was at war with. Palace of Lies is about another girl in the same kingdom as the second girl. The second two books are not based on any fairy tales that I am aware of, but they are princess-y and realistic. Ella's character continues through all three books, but she is only the main character in Just Ella.
31. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. If you have seen the movie, or heard about this book, it's a lot different than the title makes it sound. Sara Crewe is the daughter of a wealthy ship's Captain. She is put in boarding school in England while her Father goes on a voyage. Although she has had everything she could want, she is generous and caring. That doesn't keep others from being jealous of her and mean to her. Her Father goes missing and then she finds out who her true friends are, and learns real hardship. Sounds depressing, but there is a happy endin.
32. Princess: Molly's Heart, Princess: A Room in the Attic, Princess: Home at Last, by Gabrielle Charbonnet, a trilogy modern retelling of A Little Princess.
33. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. You can start with the first book in publication date order: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, or the first book in chronological order: The Magician's Nephew. Then read all seven books in the series. They are fantastical and have good lessons, but not overkill, like the books are not beating you in the head with good lessons and morals and values. Some people say these books are a Biblical Allegory, and I can see where they get that idea, but C.S. Lewis did not intend them to be. He made them up to entertain children staying with him in the country during WWII. (These books are better than the movies, too).
34. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Yet another book that is better than the movie. This is told in a combination of mostly pictures and some words. Set in a Paris railway station in the early 1900's, based in part on the true story of French pioneer filmmaker Georges Melies. This is a huge book, but super easy to get through with all the pictures. It's not just a kid's picture book, it's a very full story, recommended to me by a high school teacher/former librarian/now college professor.
35. The Young Underground Series by Robert Elmer. The first book in the series is called The Young Underground. There are eight books in the series. Each book is based on a real historical event or character, and they are set in Denmark during World War II. Robert Elmer has a lot of great historically based books. You can find more about his books on his website. Some of his other series are a little scarier than this one. Hard to imagine, but post World War II Israel (Promise of Zion series) is scarier than WWII Denmark. Also, post WWII Germany (The Wall series, called Life Behind the Wall as a trilogy bind up) is scarier than the Young Underground. I have read all three of those series by Robert Elmer, and loved them all!