Recommended books for 13 year olds
Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes (Fiction) by Jonathan Auxier
A tale of a remarkable thief, blind and trained to steal. He has a life-changing moment when he robs a mysterious man of three magical eyes that lead him to an intriguing island where he must decide on his fate: become a hero or continue his life of crime.
Clever writing that stretches your imagination; it’s the perfect read for a grand-old, virtual adventure.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
A beautiful, heart-breaking story about a cold-hearted china toy rabbit who ensues on a journey of emotional self-discovery. Submerged in the depths of the ocean to being trapped in a fisherman’s net to being dumped in trash, the toy rabbit endures suffering and pain, eventually opening his heart to love.
If the story doesn’t touch your heart, then the writing certainly will. A beautiful, raw and delightful tale.
The Fledgling (Fiction) by Jane Langton
Eight-year-old Georgie Hall wants to learn how to fly. She’s pleasantly surprised when a goose befriends her and teaches her how to fly high in the sky. Everyone around her thinks she’s mad and that flying is not necessarily a good thing.
A wonderful story reminding us of the importance of nature, written with humour, warmth and charm.
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
A 10 –year project and a Newbery award-winner as well as a major motion picture this is a charming fairy table about Ella, who is cursed with the “gift” of obedience.
She must obey each and every order – whether it’s to hop on one foot or chop off her own head! Soon though Ella’s rebellious streak strikes.
Amidst a fabulous cast of fairy tale characters - princes, wicked stepsisters, giants, and fairies, Ella embarks on a journey to dissolve the deadly curse.
The Book Thief (Fiction) by Markus Zusak
Set in Nazi Germany, a little girl by the name of Liesel is left by her birth mother with foster parents Hans and Rosa Hubermann. Liesel never knew her father and her younger brother died in a train accident. Pretty much an orphan she finds great solace in books and secretly and methodically steals books. Her foster father Hans teaches her how to read and write. The family also take in a little Jewish boy, the son of a family friend, who lives in their basement and develops a close, beautiful relationship with Liesel. A wonderful story on the power of non-blood relationships.
Number the Stars (Fiction) by Lois Lowry
A fictional version of a true story set in the backdrop of Nazi-held Denmark, where in 1943 Jews were to be detained and sent to death camps. In a matter of hours, the Danish resistance organised the transfer of 7,000 Jews to Sweden.
Lois Lowry narrates the story of 10-year-old Annemarie Johannesen whose best friend Ellen’s life is turned upside down when her family has to leave Denmark. Ellen goes on to live with Annemarie’s family pretending to be one of them. Annemarie goes on a dangerous mission to save Ellen’s life.
A courageous tale of hope, love and family, illustrating the strength of the human spirit.
To Kill A Mockingbird (Fiction) by Harper Lee
A classic of modern American literature, it touches on the very serious issue of race, class, gender, what real courage is, and the importance of being a good, moral person. It’s particularly recommended for its teachings on integrity.
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (Fiction) by John Boyne
Another Holocaust novel, this book tells the story of two boys whose lives could not be more different – one who faces the wrath of the Nazis and the other, his friend, watches as a bystander, unaware of what is happening but certain that something is not right.
Powerfully narrated, this book is a unique addition to the Holocaust story.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Fiction) by Betty Smith
Brace yourself for an emotional reading journey as this (short) book narrates the haunting sorrows of growing up poor in Brooklyn 60 years ago. Francie, a young girl born to poor parents endures many hardships of poverty only recognising these as she gets older.
She spends most of her childhood oblivious of this fact, gaining joy in the little pleasures of life like buying candy and playing with her little brother. As she gets older, she finds solace in books realising that complexities of life.
Francie’s mother, a janitor in the building where they live, is determined for her and her brother to have a better education than she did, requiring them to read a page of the bible and Shakespeare every night as well as negotiating piano lessons with resident teachers in the building. Francie lifts herself from her dire circumstances through self-education, visiting the library every day.
The title of the book is a metaphor for Francie as she grows up to slowly but surely lift herself out of poverty and flourish like a tree in Brooklyn. This book will resonate with almost everyone as we navigate the ups and downs of life regardless of our station in life.
Harry Potter Read-Alikes and Other Magical Adventures
The Book of Three (Fiction) by Lloyd Alexander
Another Newbery award-winner, initially published in 1964, The Book of Three narrates the adventures of Taran, an ‘Assistant Pig-Keeper’ hoping to become a hero. An epic struggle between good and evil, Taran hasa whole host of colourful characters to assist him on his journey including a princess and a Bard.
Extremely imaginative, it’s won the Newbery Medal for "the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children." It has also become the standard of excellence in fantasy literature for children.
The Golden Compass (Fiction) by Philip Pullman
An award-winning masterpiece of suspense and great storytelling, this fantasy tale about a child on a quest to save another will give the Narnia and Lord of the Rings series a run for their money. Beautiful characters and imagery, this book will truly whet your appetite for the second and third in His Dark Materials trilogy and is guaranteed to cure boredom and loneliness.
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin
One of my favourite authors, Ursula Le Guin has been commended as one of the finest fantasy authors out there. This book specifically has been noted as one of the most influential fantasy books for children.
About a young mage called Ged who lives in the archipelago of Earthsea, he becomes a wizard and lands on the wrong side of a spell, which goes wrong, giving birth to a creature that truly tests his abilities.
Ged has the supernatural power to outwit dragons, change weather and turn into a hawk, yet he cannot fight off this creature who continues to take on his appearance and tries to kill him. Will he defeat the creature in the end? The Queen of Wizardry, Ursula Le Guin was writing about wizard schools way before Harry Potter was published.
A coming-of-age story, about dealing with power and death, it’s beautifully written and is the ultimate fantasy novel.
A big hello and thank you for reading! Passionate about literature, psychology, and life I launched Book Therapy as an alternative form of therapy using the power of literature. I train mental health professionals, librarians, teachers as well as readers on using bibliotherapy in their own work through our online Bibliotherapy, Literature and Mental Health course. We also curate reading lists/personalised book prescriptions for clients based on their individual needs. This is our signature personalised reading service.
You can also check out Book Therapy’s other free reading lists and A- Z of book prescriptions (covering both fiction and non-fiction). These suggest books based on your existing life situation (e.g. anxiety, job change, relationship heartache) as well as interests (e.g memoir, historical fiction, non-fiction, crime etc). There’s also a Children’s A — Z of Book Prescriptions. Feel free to check out the blog for more literary gems. There’s also a post on my personal story of how I entered the world of bibliotherapy and book curation.
In this role, I have had the opportunity to publish a book called The Happiness Mindset, and write various literary essays and pieces for newspapers and magazines. I have undertaken bibliotherapy workshops for The United Nations, various libraries in New York and corporate organisations in the UK and US. My book recommendations have featured in the Guardian, Marie Claire, NBC News, Asian Voice, New York Observer, Sydney Telegraph and various other publications. If you are a parent you might enjoy a podcast I’ve recorded with speech and language therapist Sunita Shah on Raising A Reader & Storyteller. And if you’d like to connect, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.booktherapy.io.
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