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Books aimed at Pre Teens

Ages 10 to 12


Adam's Ark

Style: Average

Attitude: Some Care Needed → Fairly Positive

Adam, unable to communicate with other humans on account of his autism, finds that he can talk to animals telepathically, and this helps him become more confident as he tries to find out why he should have been chosen to receive this particular gift.

Family strain caused by an autistic child. Hidden strengths behind apparently disadvantaged boy. Ecological slant to humans' treatment of the planet.

Animal, Thought-provoking

The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tipps

Style: Average → Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Fairly Positive

Lily and her family and friends are told that they have just a few weeks to leave their village which is to be used as a training ground for the D-Day Landings.

A quiet and readable story about the changes wartime brings. Loyalty and friendship. Breaking a serious promise.

Growing-Up, Historical, War

The "Animorphs" series

Style: Weak

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Fairly Positive

Half-a-dozen youngsters witness the crash of a flying saucer and are given the power to take on the body of any animal they can touch by the Andalite pilot before he is killed by his arch enemy Visser Three of the alien Yeerks: slugs who take over other creatures' bodies.

Conventional young teenage pap. Some redeeming features based on the friendship between the children and the occasional heroism displayed by them, their allies, or on one occasion one of their enemies. Mostly though black-or- white goody-baddy stuff with sporadic moralising.

Adventure, SciFi

Ash Road

Style: Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Fairly Positive

By accident, some boys start a devastating bush fire in Australia.

A small-town book, dealing with peoples' reactions to fire.

Adventure, Coping with

The "Babysitters Club" series

Style: Average

Attitude: Some Care Needed → Positive

There are over a hundred books in this series, all quite short, very popular with younger girls.

Generally positive feel. Young teenage friends taking responsibility in different situations. General acceptance of complicated family setups.

Family, Friendship, Girls, Growing-Up

Beyond the Deepwoods

Style: Good

Attitude: Take Care

The Edge is the land that borders on the emptiness beyond.

While most fantasy introduces the unusual, this book borders on strange. The myriad of bizarre characters would be bearable if they actually took the story somewhere, but by the end you feel like you’ve been bounced and splattered and sloshed all over the place only to reach an unsatisfactory conclusion. The only underlying (and over-emphasised) “value” is that the main character does the unthinkable… he strays from the path.

Adventure, Fantasy, Magic

The Boggart and the Monster

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

The Boggart of Loch Ness is woken up when the Boggart of Castle Keep comes by.

Friendship, Magic

The Boggart

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

A Boggart is a creature of the Wild Magic, a kind of house-elf, but which delights in mild mischief without a sense of responsibility.

Friendship, Magic

Caddy's World

Style: Average → Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Positive

Caddy grows up quickly as her family focuses on her dangerously ill baby sister while her friends start to pull apart while trying to keep together.

Amusing family story. Friendship between four girls who are growing up. Problems faced cheerfully by a family whose newborn sister might not live. Realistic sibling relationships.

Family, Girls, Growing-Up

Castaways of the Flying Dutchman

Style: Average

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Positive

The galley-boy of the Flying Dutchman is set free when the Captain's blasphemy brings down God's wrath on him: while the ship and its crew must sail the seas forever, the boy and his dog are set free to roam the Earth, unageing, to do good.

Great premise, disappointing execution; Unobjectionable

Adventure, Fantasy, Spooky

Charm School

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Bonny's family has only just moved into the area, her Dad's stuck in a lay-by somewhere and her mother has to take a bookkeeping course at the community centre so Bonny is signed up for an all-day Charm School.

Light-hearted dig at the obsessive preoccupation of young girls with their appearance

Growing-Up, Humorous

The Clockwork Three

Style: Average

Attitude: Some Care Needed → Positive

Three youngsters become involved in each others’ affairs by accident and help each other out in their overlapping problems.

Simple adventure story with slight touches of the supernatural: an apparently serious séance; a clockwork man animated by Golem clay. Supportive friendship between three youngsters. Violent behaviour from a cruel Fagin-like character and others. Positive, if generic, representation of a Christian pastor. Genuine respect and affection between an elderly master and his young apprentice. Some theft by young people.

Adventure, Friendship, Magic

Crystal Mask

Style: Weak

Attitude: Unobjectionable

Shiala, Renn and Kherron with an escort of orderlies from the Echorium try to track down the wearer of a mask of Khiz crystal, a channel for the evil power of Lord Frahzin.

Fantasy

Dark Quetzal

Style: Weak

Attitude: Take Care

Old Singer Rialle is missing, and when Kyarra and her mother are taken, too, Second Singer Renn and Singer Kherron follow, believing that their old enemy Frahzin is behind the kidnapping.

Fantasy

Dear Del

Style: Average

Attitude: Positive

Fran is looking forward to a girl of her own age coming to stay, until Del arrives and turns out to be a citywise girl of mildly outrageous appearance who's not averse to scrawling graffiti and to taking things she wants without paying for them.

Contrast between semi-rural quiet family life and an embittered city teenager, who dresses and acts slightly outrageously. Positive attitude towards an autistic teenager.

Coping with, Growing-Up

The Devil's Children

Style: Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Positive

Nicky Gore is left alone in London after a strange compulsion takes hold of the population of Britain to revolt against mechanism and technology.

Using a slightly fantastic near-future to highlight the differences and similarities between different races, and our dependence on technology. Dignity and strong family bonds of the Sikhs; Quiet friendship of Gopal & Ajeet with Nicky; Positive place for older relatives within the community

Coping with, Fantasy

The Divide

Style: Average

Attitude: Positive

Accidentally crossing The Divide, Felix finds himself in a world where humans and science are myth and mythical creatures and magic are real, although with different names.

Coping with, Fantasy

Dogsbody

Style: Average → Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Positive

Sirius, the personification of the Dogstar, is exiled to Earth and given the lifespan of a dog to discover the whereabouts of the Zoi, a celestial tool of immense power which was allegedly used by him to destroy another Luminary.

Entertaining story mixing fantasy and reality. Intelligent celestial beings. Arawn and his hounds from Welsh mythology. An Irish girl who draws strength from her dog when her father is imprisoned for terrorism. Family tragedy. Non-judgemental references to the troubles in Northern Ireland.

Animal, Coping with, Fantasy

Double Image

Style: Average

Attitude: Positive

David is resentful at having to spend a week with his grandad after his grandma has died, but discovers a story which his grandfather has kept hidden for many years.

Growing appreciation for the life led by ones grandparents, and the secret burden they've had to bear.

Family, Historical

Drift

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Rafe, a westener, and Taweena, a native American Indian, visit the cave of a bear and are carried off on an ice floe.

The whole book is geared to showing how unaware the white people are and how deficient their philosophy is, compared to the nature-wise Indians.

Adventure, Coping with

The Exiles

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Mr & Mrs Conroy send their daughters to stay with their grandmother while they spend a modest windfall on having their house extended.

Unstated family warmth. Sense of honour and courtesy the girls show in public.

Family, Humorous

Far Out!

Style: Average

Attitude: Positive

Ruby and Slate separately see an unusual card on the noticeboard advertising an Audition for Life.

Fantasy, Growing-Up

Floodland

Style: Average

Attitude: Take Care

Zoe lives in an England that has been covered by water as a result of global warming, the city of Norwich is a small island, cut off from the part of the mainland which still remains above the water level.

Adventure, SciFi

Foster Family series

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

The parents of a girl take on a series of short- and long-term foster children.

A matter-of-fact series dealing with the various problems of fostering children

Family, Girls

Framed

Style: Average → Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Positive

Dylan unwittingly becomes an art consultant to the National Gallery in exile when one painting a week is to be selected for display in London.

A quirky story using the difficulties faced by a small town and by one family in particular to highlight the effect art has on people. Family difficulties because of money problems. The efforts to make an unattractive town appealing.

Coping with, Family, Humorous

Frozen in Time

Style: Weak → Average

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Edifying

Ben & Rachel inadvertently wake their Great Aunt and Uncle Polly & Freddy, cryogenically frozen since the 1950s and still 12 years old.

Lightweight plot from an interesting premise. Nice juxtaposition of old and new attitudes to people and society. Bravery, courage and affection in difficult circumstances. Moderate violence in justifiable self-defence.

Adventure, SciFi, Thought-provoking, Time-Travel

The Grey King

Style: Outstanding

Attitude: Unobjectionable

Will Stanton has a bout of hepatitis and is sent to Wales to recuperate.

Atmospheric story, merging everyday and magical worlds; everyday friendships amidst mysterious events

Arthurian, Magic

A Handful of Magic

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

In a parallel Victorian London, Kit Stixby is the magic-wielding son of the official Witch Doctor to Queen Victoria, while Kit is the best friend of the Queen's son Henry.

Imaginative and engaging children's adventure set in an alternative Victorian London. Mild magical aspects.

Adventure, Fantasy, Magic

The Haunting

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

8-year-old Barney Palmer is aware that he is being haunted by a small boy, whom he suspects to be the ghost of his great-uncle Cole, supposedly dead these 50 years, and special friend of his great-uncle Barnaby who has just died.

Family, Magic

Hiding Out

Style: Good

Attitude: Edifying

The Castles & the Fletchers are driving back thro' France to Calais and stop for a picnic.

Adventure

The House on Falling-Star Hill

Style: Average

Attitude: Positive

Tim follows Sarre into the world of Tallis where huge birds and animals are the means of transport, and where an evil Duke is trying to take over the kingdom.

Entertaining fantasy adventure, although a little lightweight. Noble ideals promoted. Some mildly gruesome or unsettling episodes.

Fantasy, Growing-Up

Jack Black and the Ship of Thieves

Style: Average → Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Positive

Jack Black discovers a plot to wreck his father's airship but is swept overboard before he can warn anyone.

An unashamed Boy's Own Yarn. An enthusastic youngster turns hero when he discovers a plot to sabotage his father's airship and is must convince the unwilling captain and motley crew of a boat to help. There's a smarmy baddie, a dashing aviatrix, a capable female octogenarian castaway and a young boy dashing to his father's rescue.

Adventure, Boys

Johnnie's Blitz

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Johnnie is staying with his grandparents in the East End as his father is at war and is on the run from the authorities after being accused of a theft he did not commit.

Historical, War

The Lady and the Squire

Style: Average

Attitude: Take Care

Tom, translating documents for the English, is taken prisoner by a servant of the Bishop of Reims but escapes with Emily, the Bishop's niece, while Ann, disguised again as Alan, has left the Duke to rejoin the English army proper.

Adventure, Historical

Leaving Emma

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Emma's best and only real friend Tem is moving away at the same time as Emma's dad is spending several months abroad for his job, leaving Emma disconsolate and unsure how she's going to get on.

Growing-Up

A Likely Lad

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Willy Overs is a 12-year-old Manchester boy early this century, whose aspirations to shine academically look like being thwarted by his Father's well- intentioned desire for his son's early employment.

A well-drawn picture of Manchester life at the turn of the century: the contrast between the hard-working Ardwick Overs and their Trafford cousins, the Sowters is amusingly depicted, with the rather scatty figure of Great Aunt Meg in the middle. At all times it is clear which way lies virtue and although Willy's father is to a certain extent the villain of the piece it is clear that his actions are wholly justified according to his way of thinking.

Historical

A Little Lower Than the Angels

Style: Good

Attitude: Edifying

Gabriel is an 11-year-old, apprenticed to a greedy stonemason, some time during the years of the Black Death.

Portrays some of the naivety and credulity of the time, while not being an exercise in church-bashing. Gabriel's innocence protects him from being drawn into the evils carried out by Garvey and Mason Colley who later teams up with him. The ending, where Gabriel approaches a nearby monastery for help in writing down the words of the plays which might otherwise be lost, is especially nice.

Historical

Minnow on the Say

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Roger makes friends with Adam Codling, who lives in the Codlings' family house, once grand but now neglected, with his aunt Dinah and his grandfather.

Classic, Friendship

My Friend Walter

Style: Average

Attitude: Positive

Bess Throckmorton attends a family reunion and meets the ghost of her ancestor Sir Walter Raleigh of cloak-over-puddle and tobacco fame.

Spooky

Paper Faces

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

8-year-old Dot lives with her mother Gloria in a East End boarding house just after the end of the war.

War

The Paranormal Puppet Show

Style: Average

Attitude: Unobjectionable

In the 1930s, Arthur Drake and his friends become involved with Professor Bessemer's sinister waxworks when he takes over the warehouse they use as a base.

Adventure, Fantasy, Time-Travel

The Penderwicks

Style: Average

Attitude: Positive

The four Penderwick sisters befriend Jeffrey when staying in a cottage in the grounds of his mother's house.

Endearing holiday story of four sisters and a boy. Jeffrey's mother, alone since his father left, is about to remarry. Mr Penderwick treats his daughters gently, admonishing them sometimes in Latin.

Friendship, Girls, Growing-Up, Romantic

Red Leech

Style: Average

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Fairly Positive

When Amyus and Mycroft become aware of the escape of John Wilkes Booth, whose assassination of President Lincoln has made him a rallying-point for a possible Confederate army, Sherlock takes matters into his own hands and tracks down where Booth is staying in Surrey and follows his accomplices when they take Matty hostage.

Disappointing if unproblematic historical adventure story. Some interesting ethical discussions based around Plato's Republic, but mostly a run-of-the-mill tale including a disfigured antagonist with a poolful of lethal reptiles. Some scary moments at the hands of the villains.

Detective, Historical

Room for a Stranger

Style: Average → Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable

The relationship betwen a WWII evacuee Roda, and Doreen the daughter of the receiving family.

Shadow Beast

Style: Average

Attitude: Unobjectionable

Meg, Jonny, Filch and Art try to connect Mr Frederick's lost cat, a sudden plague of rats, and mysterious activity down in the sewer.

Adventure, SciFi

Shadowmancer

Style: Average

Attitude: Take Care

Parson Demurral is using the power of the Keruvim to bring him the power he wants; Raphah, helped by Thomas and Kate, has to recover the Keruvim and stop Demurral before he ends the Time of Captivity and lets loose the fallen Seruvim.

Adventure, Fantasy, Historical, Magic

The Shakespeare Stealer

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Widge is a poor orphan who has the rare ability to write a unique coded shorthand.

A fast-moving historical novel that introduces you to life in 16th century London among the actors of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. It depicts friendship, loyalty and honesty in a positive way.

Adventure, Historical

The Shapeshifter Series

Style: Average

Attitude: Take Care → Positive

In [Finding the Fox], Dax Jones discovers that he can turn into a fox and learns that he is one of the Children of Limitless Ability (COLA), to be educated in a secret government school on the Cornish coast.

Children with extraordinary powers: telekenesis, shapeshifting, healing, telepathy, illusion, dowsing and pyrokenesis. Common and sometimes comical acceptance of dialogue with the dead. All the children are motherless for plot reasons. Friendship and support among the children and between them and their teachers. Occasional plot-related brutal or vindictive behaviour including an attempt to auction the gifted children into slavery.

Adventure, SciFi, Thought-provoking

Slaves of the Mastery

Style: Average

Attitude: Unobjectionable

The story is set five years after its predecessor and the city of Aramanth has completely changed.

Adventure, Fantasy

Song Quest

Style: Average

Attitude: Unobjectionable

Because she can talk to the Merlee sea creatures who have the power to grant safe access to ships, Rialle is taken by the Second Singer Toharo when he travels on a diplomatic mission to the mainland Karchlord, a mission which also includes looking out for a rebellious and runaway novice.

Fantasy

Spellfall

Style: Weak

Attitude: Unobjectionable

Natalie, kidnapped by Hawk, a low-class wizard who wants her to be the thirteenth member of his spellclave, escapes with his son Merlin, and finds her way to Earthaven.

Slight family difficulties; Strong friendships; Weak style

Magic

The Thief Lord

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Prosper and Bo run away from their uncle and aunt and are caught up in a group of Venice street kids who get money by selling stolen property brought to them by The Thief Lord.

Openness of the Venice children in taking in two runaways. Apparent living off stolen goods. Church/confessional used merely as the rendezvous point for a meeting to arrange a robbery.

Adventure, Fantasy

The Thieves of Ostia

Style: Average

Attitude: Positive

Several of the watchdogs in Flavia's street are decapitated, and Flavia and her friends suspect a man whose daughter died after being bitten by a rabid dog.

Adventure, Historical

Tom's Midnight Garden

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Tom Long is in quarantine for measles, which his brother Peter has caught.

Classic, Magic

Treasures for Cousin Crystal

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Three children of (roughly) 1, 8 and 10 are put with a childminder when their parents are both forced to work away for a while.

Family, Humorous

Tree by Leaf

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Clothilde, a 12-year-old in 1921, lives with her family on the coast of America.

Family, Growing-Up

The Tripods

Style: Weak

Attitude: Positive

A race of aliens who move around in huge three-legged machines have enslaved the Earth.

SciFi

A Twist in Time

Style: Good

Attitude: Edifying

Cosy (short for Cosima) finds herself getting used to a foster family just as she is starting at the school to which she's earned a scholarship.

Even if one were to extract the subplot of the ghost girl -- which is reminiscent of Charlotte Sometimes -- the story has a gently courageous feel: Cosy struggles hard because her Father's dead and she and her ill mother have kept each other going for years. At one point she gives in -- all her mother's efforts have only landed her in hospital -- but one of her foster sisters cajoles her roughly out of her mood and she goes on to make a good friend and do well at school.

Family, Girls

The Wall and the Wing

Style: Average

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Fairly Positive

Gurl discovers that she can become invisible at will, then runs away from her orphanage after being forced to steal and defraud to support the Matron's extravagant lifestyle.

Offbeat children's adventure, combining modern day America with a faintly surreal and macabre cast of caricature villains, urban misfits and mysteriously powerful characters. Loyalty and friendship between youngsters. One mysterious character whose role resembles a guardian angel. Soul-searching after the youngsters steal and defraud in difficult circumstances.

Adventure, Fantasy, Friendship

The Wind Singer

Style: Average

Attitude: Unobjectionable

Three teenagers, Kestrel and Bowman Hath, who are twins and their grubby, seemingly retarded friend, Mumpo, follow a quest to recover the voice of the WindSinger sculpture, protector of their city.

Fantasy