25 Classic Books for Tween Girls
My girls are constantly looking for good books to read. Recently Emily asked me what books I loved to read when I was younger. I started listing them off and realized that there were some classics that I didn’t want my girls to miss out on reading before they reached high school.
I compiled a list of classic novels for you to share with your teen. I loved reading these and my girls have too. Some of their all-time favorite books are in this list.
Charlotte’s Web – Some Pig. Humble. Radiant. These are the words in Charlotte’s Web, high up in Zuckerman’s barn. Charlotte’s spiderweb tells of her feelings for a little pig named Wilbur, who simply wants a friend.
Little Women – The novel follows the lives of four sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March—detailing their passage from childhood to womanhood, and is loosely based on the author and her three sisters.
Anne of Green Gables – Follow the adventures of the spirited redhead Anne Shirley, who comes to stay at Green Gables and wins the hearts of everyone she meets.
The Secret Garden – This is the tale of a lonely little girl, orphaned and sent to a Yorkshire mansion at the edge of a vast lonely moor. At first, she is frightened by this gloomy place, but Mary is eventually overcome by the mystery of life itself—its birth and renewal, its love and joy.
Number the Stars – As the German troops begin their campaign to “relocate” all the Jews of Denmark, Annemarie Johansen’s family takes in Annemarie’s best friend, Ellen Rosen, and conceals her as part of the family.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – The first book in the series, Dorothy, her little dog Toto, the Tin Woodman, Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion set out on an exciting quest for the elusive Wizard of Oz. Along the way, they’ll encounter the Wicked Witch of the West, the fantastic Winged Monkeys, the Queen of the Field Mice, the kind-hearted Munchkins, and other fanciful creatures.
Matilda – Matilda is a sweet, exceptional young girl, but her parents think she’s just a nuisance. She expects school to be different but there she has to face Miss Trunchbull, a kid-hating terror of a headmistress. When Matilda is attacked by the Trunchbull she suddenly discovers she has a remarkable power with which to fight back
A Little Princess – The book follows the story of Sara Crewe, a young girl sent to a boarding school in London where she is to be lavishly cared for as instructed by her doting, wealthy father, Captain Crewe. When her father dies, and she is left an orphan and a pauper, Sara becomes a servant at the school, and befriends a maid with whom she shares an attic room. Her imagination keeps her alive in her destitute life, and the rich stories she invents become as real to the reader as they do for Sara and the maid.
Oliver Twist – The story is of the orphan Oliver Twist, who starts his life in a workhouse and is then apprenticed with an undertaker. He escapes from there and travels to London where he meets the Artful Dodger, a member of a gang of juvenile pickpockets, which is led by the elderly criminal Fagin.
The BFG – The BFG is no ordinary bone-crunching giant. He is far too nice and jumbly. It’s lucky for Sophie that he is. Had she been carried off in the middle of the night by the Bloodbottler, or any of the other giants—rather than the BFG—she would have soon become breakfast. When Sophie hears that the giants are flush-bunking off to England to swollomp a few nice little chiddlers, she decides she must stop them once and for all. And the BFG is going to help her!
The Giver – The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community.
Ella Enchanted – At her birth, Ella of Frell was given a foolish fairy’s gift—the “gift” of obedience. Ella must obey any order given to her, whether it’s hopping on one foot for a day or chopping off her own head! But strong-willed Ella does not tamely accept her fate. She goes on a quest, encountering ogres, giants, wicked stepsisters, fairy godmothers, and handsome princes, determined to break the curse—and live happily ever after.
Harriet the Spy – Harriet M. Welsch is a spy. In her notebook, she writes down everything she knows about everyone, even her classmates and her best friends. Then Harriet loses track of her notebook, and it ends up in the wrong hands. Before she can stop them, her friends have read the always truthful, sometimes awful things she’s written about each of them. Will Harriet find a way to put her life and her friendships back together?
Bridge to Terabithia – Jess and Leslie are best friends who spend most days in the woods behind Leslie’s house, where they invent an enchanted land called Terabithia. When tragedy occurs, it will take the love and strength of family for Jess to be able to deal with his grief.
Pollyanna – “Once you start looking for the happy things, you don’t think about the bad ones as much.” That’s the joyful way Pollyanna sees the world: no matter what happens, she plays her “Just Be Glad” game and finds the sunny side of any situation. But when she’s orphaned and forced to live with her rigid Aunt Polly, will high-spirited Pollyanna succeed in melting her Aunt’s cold heart?
James and the Giant Peach – After James Henry Trotter’s parents are tragically eaten by a rhinoceros, he goes to live with his two horrible aunts, Spiker and Sponge. Life there is no fun, until James accidentally drops some magic crystals by the old peach tree and strange things start to happen. The peach at the top of the tree begins to grow, and before long it’s as big as a house. Inside, James meets a bunch of oversized friends—Grasshopper, Centipede, Ladybug, and more. With a snip of the stem, the peach starts rolling away, and the great adventure begins!
Heidi – At the age of five, little orphan Heidi is sent to live with her grandfather in the Alps. Everyone in the village is afraid of him, but Heidi is fascinated by his long beard and bushy grey eyebrows. She loves her life in the mountains, playing in the sunshine and growing up amongst the goats and birds. But one terrible day, Heidi is collected by her aunt and is made to live with a new family in town. Heidi can’t bear to be away from her grandfather; can she find a way back up the mountain, where she belongs?
The Railway Children – When Father is taken away unexpectedly, Roberta, Peter, Phyllis and their mother have to leave their comfortable life in London to go and live in a small cottage in the country. The children seek solace in the nearby railway station, and make friends with Perks the Porter and the Station Master himself. Each day, Roberta, Peter and Phyllis run down the field to the railway track and wave at the passing London train, sending their love to Father. Little do they know that the kindly old gentleman passenger who waves back holds the key to their father’s disappearance.
The Chronicles of Narnia – Four adventurous siblings—Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie—step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change . . . and a great sacrifice.
The Borrowers – The Borrowers—the Clock family: Homily, Pod, and their fourteen-year-old daughter, Arrietty, to be precise—are tiny people who live underneath the kitchen floor of an old English country manor. All their minuscule home furnishings, from postage stamp paintings to champagne cork chairs, are “borrowed” from the “human beans” who tromp around loudly above them. All is well until Pod is spotted upstairs by a human boy! Can the Clocks stay nested safely in their beloved hidden home, or will they be forced to flee?
The Face on the Milk Carton – No one ever really paid close attention to the faces of the missing children on the milk cartons. But as Janie Johnson glanced at the face of the ordinary little girl with her hair in tight pigtails, wearing a dress with a narrow white collar—a three-year-old who had been kidnapped twelve years before from a shopping mall in New Jersey—she felt overcome with shock. She recognized that little girl—it was she. How could it possibly be true?
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory is opening at last! But only five lucky children will be allowed inside. And the winners are: Augustus Gloop, an enormously fat boy whose hobby is eating; Veruca Salt, a spoiled-rotten brat whose parents are wrapped around her little finger; Violet Beauregarde, a dim-witted gum-chewer with the fastest jaws around; Mike Teavee, a toy pistol-toting gangster-in-training who is obsessed with television; and Charlie Bucket, Our Hero, a boy who is honest and kind, brave and true, and good and ready for the wildest time of his life!
The Book Thief – Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car – “Crackpot” is what everybody calls the Pott family. So when they go to buy a new car and come back with a wreck, nobody is surprised. Except for the Potts themselves. First, the car has a name. And she tells them what it is. Then they find out that she can fly. And swim. . . . Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a car on a mission to stop a criminal gang in its tracks — and she is taking the Potts with her.
Where the Red Fern Grows – Billy has long dreamt of owning not one, but two, dogs. So when he’s finally able to save up enough money for two pups to call his own—Old Dan and Little Ann—he’s ecstatic. It doesn’t matter that times are tough; together they’ll roam the hills of the Ozarks. Soon Billy and his hounds become the finest hunting team in the valley. Stories of their great achievements spread throughout the region, and the combination of Old Dan’s brawn, Little Ann’s brains, and Billy’s sheer will seems unbeatable. But tragedy awaits these determined hunters—now friends—and Billy learns that hope can grow out of despair, and that the seeds of the future can come from the scars of the past.
See Kassie’s book recommendations for tweens here.
Any books that you think we should’ve added to the list?