20 favorite chapter books for girls: ages 8-12

Oh, how I love to read, and have since I was a small child.  I was lucky to be surrounded by a lot of good books, and a mom that was willing to take me to the library.  A lot.  I’ve always been a fast reader, so those 10 books that I was allowed to check out on my junior library card only lasted a couple of  days during the summer.  I just couldn’t get enough! The tooth fairy even brought books to our house instead of money–and I LOVED it. By the time I was nine or ten I had read dozens of the classics, and some of my favorite books were Little Women, David Copperfield, Jane Eyre, and Oliver Twist. That love of getting lost in a book has remained with me to this day, and I wish I could still curl up and read all day long–even just sometimes!

There are SO SO many good books, and as a young girl, I had my favorites. I read them over and over again, and still love them to this day.   My girls are now seven years old, and also love to read, and I’m just SO excited that I get to share all my favorites with them.  I have compiled a list of twenty of my favorite chapter books for girls, and several of them are actually a part of a series. I love when I  find a really good series, because I can stretch out my love of the character even farther!  These books are geared toward girls that are 8-12–some on the lower end of that range, and some toward the upper range.  My girls (age seven) started with Betsy & Tacy–one of my absolute favorites–and lower on the age range scale. They are all wonderful for independent reading, and if your child isn’t quite ready to read these on their own, they all make excellent read-aloud books, perfect for bedtime reading, or anytime! Actually, even if they can read them on their own, it’s still fun to read aloud…together.

favorite chapter books for girls | oldsaltfarm.com

 I have so many books that I love, it was HARD to narrow it down to only 20 (way more though, if you include all of the books in the series), but these are my absolute favorites, and bring back the most memories of my childhood reading. Most of them I read as a young girl, but there are a couple on this list that I’ve added since then.

CHAPTER BOOKS FOR GIRLS!

Betsy & Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace

Betsy and Tacy are best friends growing up in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, and this series follows them as they grow up. It’s a delightful series, and you can’t help but fall in with these girls (and their friend Tib, who is introduced later)!

All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor

LOVE this series!  It tells the story of a family with stair-step girls, who live in the Lower East Side of New York City at the turn-of-the-century.  They live above their father’s store, and the stories of their life are rich with everyday adventures and their Jewish faith.

The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer

This is one of my girls’ favorite series!!  This recap is from Amazon:  “Alex and Conner Baileys world is about to change in this fast-paced adventure that uniquely combines our modern day world with the enchanting realm of classic fairy tales The Land of Stories tells the tale of twins Alex and Conner Through the mysterious powers of a cherished book of stories they leave their world behind and find themselves in a foreign land full of wonder and magic where they come face-to-face with the fairy tale characters they grew up reading about But after a series of encounters with witches wolves goblins and trolls alike getting back home is going to be harder than they thought…”

Beauty by Robin McKinley

Beauty is one of my most favorite books of all time–since I was young. I LOVE it, and have read it many times.  It’s the retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but with its own spin.  I would recommend this for girls at the older range of the 8-12 spectrum.

Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney

This is the first book in a series about the Pepper Family, who live in the Little Brown House.   There are five children who live with their widowed mother, Mamsie, and it’s their story of how they face all the challenges that come their way. It’s extremely heartwarming, and the unexpected conclusion is the perfect ending!

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Oh, well, what more can you say about Little House one the Prairie? It’s an iconic series that tells the tale of Laura Ingalls and her family and their pioneer life beginning in this book in 1871.  It’s utterly charming, and she and her family will draw you in and want to keep reading more!

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

I’ve read these books so many times I have them memorized! There are eight Anne books, starting her story of going from orphan to Anne of Green Gables.  My copies are tattered, the corners bent, and the pages yellowed, but I wouldn’t have it any other way–my girls will read these same books!

A Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett

Sara Crewe is the daughter of a wealthy and doting father, who sends her to boarding school when he has to go away.  When he dies, her life drastically changes, and she becomes a servant in that same school. She becomes best friends with the maid she shares her attic room, and uses her imagination to brighten the life she now leads.  This is such a fun book-definitely a favorite! (If you want to see the movie too, my favorite version is the one with Shirley Temple!)

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink

Caddie Woodlawn is a real adventurer–she’s friends with Indians, loves to hunt, and is very brave. The real Caddie Woodlawn is Carol Ryrie Brink’s grandmother, and it’s based on her life and memories.  If you have a daughter that loves adventure, this is for her!

Sarah, Plain & Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

This book is set in the late 19th century, and tells the story of Sarah Wheaton, who answers an ad for a wife and mother.  She leaves Maine for the prairie, and Anna and Caleb wonder if she’ll be nice…and if she sings.  It’s a fantastic book, and I love the sequels too!

Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge

  Hans Brinker and his sister really want to compete in the great December ice skating race on the canal, but they only have wooden skates, and don’t have much of a chance against the fine steel skates of the other competitors.  Their father lost his memory 10 years ago when he fell from a dyke and was injured, and mystery swirls around a watch he left with his wife for safekeeping, and the family’s lost life savings.

Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter

Orphan Pollyanna Whittier heads east to live with her Aunt Polly, a wealthy spinster.  Pollyanna is very positive and happy, and finds a way to infuse the whole town with that happiness and her “glad game”.  When tragedy befalls Pollyanna, she has the chance to really get close to her aunt and develop a relationship that will mean the world to both of them.

Cotton in my Sack by Lois Lenski

 I read this book so many times when I was growing up, and it had a huge impact on me. 10 year old Joanda and her family are sharecroppers growing cotton in Arkansas, and the whole family has to work hard in order to survive. Lois Lenski also wrote Strawberry Girl–another book in her regional stories series.

Peppermints in the Parlor by Barbara Brooks Wallace

This is a really fun mystery story, full of excitement and suspense! It centers around Emily Luccock, who comes to live at Sugar Hill Hall–a grand, old mansion–with her aunt and uncle.  But it’s different this time…she can feel it in the silence, and the dark, shadowed walls. And no one speaks.  She must uncover the truth before it’s too late!

Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene

Oh my goodness, how I love Nancy Drew!  I started collecting them, because I love them so much.  I only like the originals though–I don’t like the newer, modern Nancy Drew books, and I don’t recommend them for this age group.  Nancy Drew and her best friends Bess and George (the coolest name for a girl!) inevitably get drawn into a mystery wherever they go!

Trixie Belden series by Julie Campbell

This is another really fun mystery series starring Trixie Belden, her brothers, and her friends. They formed a group called “Bob-Whites of the Glen”, and they travel and have all kinds of adventures, where there is always a mystery to solve.

Cherry Ames series by Helen Wells

Cherry Ames is the star of this series, and I love her.  ☺ The first book is her story as a student nurse, and then the series continues throughout her nursing career. She travels…and solves mysteries too!  This is most definitely one of my favorite series…I can still picture exactly where they were on the library shelf, and I always went home with at least one of these books!

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Boxcar Children tells the story of four orphaned children, as they create a home for themselves on an abandoned boxcar. Their goal is to stay together, and along the way they find the grandfather that they had always thought deserted them.

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George (and series)

This is one of a couple books that I didn’t read as a child–but still wanted on this list! “Every Tuesday, Castle Glower takes on a life of its own–magically inventing, moving, and even completely getting rid of some of its rooms.” Sounds exciting, huh??!! Princess Celie kept track of these changes, which is especially helpful when the castle is ambushed and her parents and brother go missing.   It’s up to Celie to save the day!! There are more in the series too!

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

Princess Academy is the second on this list that I didn’t read as a child–since it’s a newer book.  Miri lives on a mountain where stone is quarried, and they live a simple life. One day it’s announced that the new princess is divined to come from her small town, and in one year, the prince will come and choose his bride.  The king’s ministers set up a school for all the girls in the village, so they can learn how to become a princess.  But bandits take over the school, and Miri finds herself rallying the girls and using a special power that only belongs to the mountain dwellers to save them all.

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

Another fabulous series by Shannon Hale, and this is the first in the series. It’s the retelling of the fairy tale with the same name, and for me personally, I think it’s for girls in the 10-12 age range.

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

This books makes me cry every time.  I love this synopsis from Amazon: “At the heart of the story is Wanda Petronski, a Polish girl in a Connecticut school who is ridiculed by her classmates for wearing the same faded blue dress every day. Wanda claims she has one hundred dresses at home, but everyone knows she doesn’t and bullies her mercilessly. The class feels terrible when Wanda is pulled out of the school, but by that time it’s too late for apologies. Maddie, one of Wanda’s classmates, ultimately decides that she is ‘never going to stand by and say nothing again’.”

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I’d love to hear what your childhood favorites were, and the new ones you’ve added since then.

Now…I’m off to read! ☺

You can check out my list of 15 awesome chapter books for boys!

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26 Comments

  1. You’ve included some of my childhood favorites! My grandparents got me into Anne of Green Gables after they visited Prince Edward Island. They bought me the 1st book there, and had it signed by a descendant of LM Montgomery. I also have good memories of The Boxcar Children. My 5th grade teacher read the series to our class at the end of each day. My girls are only 2 and 4, so I will keep this list pinned for the future!

    1. I’ve always wanted to visit Prince Edward Island, and how cool to have a book signed!!! I started reading some of these books to my girls when they were 4-5, and they loved listening to them even at that age. They make great bedtime books!!! xoxo

  2. I couldn’t stop smiling while looking at your list – you have listed some of my absolute favorite childhood books!!! I have saved my Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden collections for my daughter who is now 8. And being a Minnesota girl – Little House and the Betsy-Tacy books are very close to my heart. So many memories with all the books – the Boxcar Children series is one of her current favorites. Funny memory – when I first saw “Five Little Peppers and How They Grew” on our bookshelf as a child – I thought it was a book about gardening! It ended up being one of my favorite books! Thank you for the wonderful list! Stay warm! (It is currently about 20 below here with a 37 below windchill – no school today!)

    1. You are so welcome! Isn’t it amazing how books can bring back a childhood so quickly? And LOL about Five Little Peppers…

  3. You’ve listed so many of my favorite books from childhood – I especially loved the Boxcar Children series when I was a younger reader. Caddie Woodlawn is also a great one, I had the student in my class read it for a literature circle and even the boys enjoyed that one. Another favorite of my 5 & 6 graders was So B. It by Sarah Weeks…even my most reluctant readers couldn’t put this one down.

    1. Books are so wonderful, aren’t they! I’m sure as a teacher you love to see your students really enjoy reading, especially the reluctant ones!!!!

  4. My girls and I read all the books (except for the 1st three) of your list. Since I homeschooled them, we read all the time. We would even make up our own mysteries or have a meal like the Ingalls. Awesome list of books. Like you said, there are so many great books it is hard to narrow them down. I would also add the Beverly Cleary series.

    1. Crystal, those first 3 are so amazing–definitely worth reading! The first 3 are also part of series so you might get hooked a few more of each.

  5. I would put almost any Louisa May Alcott book within a top 10 list! Little Women, Little Men, Jo’s Boys, Jack & Jill, etc. are all delightful stories that should not be missed (and all of those have been read to both boys and girls at our house).

    1. I definitely agree, and they are all on my favorites list–but since they are at the uppermost part of this age range, I didn’t include them. They will absolutely be on my YA and adult lists though–they’re the best!

  6. Excellent list Kierste. My daughters are 8 & 10 and they are avid readers. They especially like for me to read to them before bedtime, and their absolute favorite books for me to read to them are anything by Kate Dicamillo…Because of Winn-Dixie, The Tale of Despereaux, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane…all of her stories have such heart. We find ourselves laughing one minute, then crying the next. We also love a fairly new series called The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall. These are sure to become classics. Thanks for the great post!

    1. Yes! I love those books too!!! I haven’t read The Penderwicks yet–it’s on my list, so thank you for recommending it!!

  7. The Ramona series and the American Girl books (more the originals, have not read the newer ones)…

    1. Yes! My girls love the American Girl books too–the mysteries are some of their favorites!

  8. I read some of the Molly mysteries…they are good…I need to get back into reading and less time on the computer…can’t wait to see your boy chapter book list :)

    1. Lol! That darn computer!!! :) I think my boy list will come out in the next week or so…I’m excited, because it’s even more books I love!!!!

  9. Love Anne of Green Gables and The Princess Academy! I was always more of a fantasy fan, though, so I tried to read some series about horses and stuff, but became bored. haha SO for those with children who are fantasy fans-a tamer fantasy book is The Little White Horse, which is one of my favorites for this age range and of course, The Chronicles of Narnia. I also love Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Prydain, but they have a bit darker themes.

    1. April, I’m so glad you mentioned some great ones in the fantasy genre. I know everyone has their own interests when it comes to books, and I didn’t come to appreciate fantasy until I was older. :) I do love The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter. Have you read the Fablehaven series? It’s one of my favorites, and great for this age too!

    1. That was definitely one I would have put on too—I think I should have made a list of 50 instead. :)

  10. What a great list! We loved The Hundred Dresses! One we loved and you should read is Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Such a great story and I loved it as much as my daughter did!

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