Holiday Gift Guide: Books for Big Kids

by Amy Kraft on December 4, 2013

This list includes all of my favorite books I’ve read recently that I think your kids will enjoy, too. The list includes some Newbery winners, some assassins, some Star Wars, and some books written by friends of mine. And, as always, these have been added to my recommendation engine, my Media Macaroni store. Give books!


Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff

This was one of my favorite books I picked up at Comic Con this year. When the conservative, tea-loving Turkish Lieutenant crosses paths with Delilah Dirk, his life is forever changed as she sucks him like a vacuum into a world of adventure. Delilah Dirk is like a hyper-confident, sword-wielding Indiana Jones. Recommended for ages 12+.


Holes by Louis Sachar

I’ve seen Holes on numerous “best books of all time” lists, and I didn’t know why until Olive and I read it together. Holy moly this is a good book. On its surface, it’s about kids who have to digs holes in the desert as part of a juvenile detention sentence. But it’s really about intertwined histories and destinies. Everyone should read this book. Olive’s 8, but this is probably best for 10+.


The Origami Yoda series by Tom Angleberger

If you’re unfamiliar with this fantastic series, its about middle school kids who put together case files trying to determine if the Star Wars-inspired origami they make actually has the power of the Force. I just finished reading the latest book in the series, The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett, and it’s amazing how each book feels different from the others, not falling into the Diary of a Wimpy Kid trap where all of the books feel pretty similar. In the latest book, kids use their Star Wars origami to overthrow the boring curriculum that’s driven out everything they love about school. Recommended for ages 8+. [Read my review of Book 1, Book 2, and Book 3.]


Star Wars: Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown

For an entirely different take on Yoda, there’s an equally funny series starting by Jeffrey Brown. This Yoda loves soup and instructing young Jedis. Follow the adventures of Roan Novachez when, after a brutal rejection from Pilot Academy Middle School, he gets accepted into Jedi Academy. This kid is living the dream of every Star Wars-loving kid, which still going through all the angst of middle school life. Recommended for ages 8+. [Read my review.]


The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

For an entirely new perspective, read Ivan’s tale in his own words. “People call me the Freeway Gorilla. The Ape at Exit 8. The One and Only Ivan, Mighty Silverback.” In such short bits of prose, Ivan gives the account of his heart-wrenching tale of how he came to be a sideshow highway attraction, his friendships, and his hope for a better life. This book is magical, another that should be ready by everyone. Recommended for ages 8+.


All the Wrong Questions series by Lemony Snicket

I’d like to travel back in time to become an English professor just so I could teach a class devoted to Daniel Handeler aka Lemony Snicket. No one turns a phrase like he does. My copy of book 2, “When Did You See Her Last?”, is completely dog-eared, something I rarely do, to mark passages I want to go back and read again and again. In these books, young Lemony Snicket works as an apprentice in a mysterious organization, solving mysteries in the small town Stain’d-by-the-Sea. Of course, he does so by asking all the wrong questions. Recommended for ages 8+. [Read my review of Book 1.]


My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula Freedman

You needn’t be Jewish, Indian, American, or a girl to enjoy this story about a Jewish-Indian-American girl named Tara Feinstein. Tara is getting ready for her bat mitzvah, but she’s worried that her Jewish side is pushing out her Indian side. Meanwhile, she’s worried her best girl friend will be lost to Sheila Rosenberg, not one of Tara’s favorite people, and she’s wondering if her best boy friend is something closer to a boyfriend. I wouldn’t go back to my tween years if you paid me. Tara’s story is so relatable to all those tweens suffering tweendom. Recommended for ages 10+. [Read my review.]


Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective: The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit by Octavia Spencer

Don’t let the fact that this book is written by a celebrity deter you — it’s a great mystery for kids starting to show an interest in the mystery genre. Or in being a ninja. Whichever. Randi Rhodes is a displaced city kid, and daughter of a mystery writer. She reluctantly transfers her urban sleuthing skills to her new small town home, picking up two mystery-solving friends in the process. If they can solve the case of a missing time capsule, they just might save the town from going bankrupt. Recommended for ages 8+. [Read my review.]


W.A.R.P.: The Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer

The reluctant assassin in the book’s title is a boy named Riley living in Victorian London. Riley is apprentice to an illusionist-turned-assassin named Garrick, who brings Riley to the home of a man to be Riley’s first kill. The man, though, is in Victorian London thanks to the modern-day FBI’s Witness Anonymous Relocation Program, and Riley gets transported to modern day London. Unfortunately, he’s followed by Garrick to the future. Riley teams up with a young, powerful FBI agent Chevron. This action-packed adventure is from the author of the Artemis Fowl seriesRecommended for ages 12+.


Pantalones, TX: Don’t Chicken Out by Yehudi Mercado

If your childhood was happily filled with Saturday morning cartoons and episodes of Dukes of Hazzard, and you want your kids to experience some of that playful, mischievous fun, meet Chico Bustamante. Just like the Duke boys, Chico’s adventures in his small Texan town always have him cross paths with John Q. Law, in the form of Sheriff Cornwallis. Recommended for ages 8+. [Read my interview with Yehudi Mercado.]


The Olympians series by George O’Connor

Whether or not your kid is a Percy Jackson fan or just likes to learn about the Greek gods, George O’Connor comes through with amazing graphic novels featuring Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Hades, Athena, and coming soon, Aphrodite. Both the writing style and the art style of these books put the reader smack into the middle of the action. Beautiful. Recommended for ages 8+.

More 2013 gift guides:

Books for Little Kids!



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