What to read for 11 Plus: the best books for 10-year-olds

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March 5th, 2020Last updated: May 20th, 2022

Schools are keen to emphasize the importance of wide and ambitious reading for students sitting the 11+. If you are unsure what constitutes ambitious reading for this age group, here are some of the best books for 10-year-olds, along with suggestions for what to read next.

Reading is a pleasure and a fundamental life skill. By developing an engaging ‘reading diet’ children can hone important skills, develop their vocabulary and broaden their horizons. This is particularly important for those children who plan to sit school entrance assessments, including the 11 plus.

Please note that the age recommendations provided here are for rough guidance only and relate to advice supplied by the publisher and/or by reputable reviewers. You and your child will be best placed to judge whether the level of difficulty and the content is appropriate. For more confident readers, do check my other blog post with reading suggestions for 12-year-olds.  


‘Swallows & Amazons’ by Arthur Ransome

The first book in Arthur Ransome’s enduringly popular adventure series, ‘Swallows and Amazons’ was recently made into a film starring Andrew Scott and Kelly Macdonald (Age 9+). 

What to read next: ‘Swallowdale’ by Arthur Ransome

‘Tom’s Midnight Garden’ by Philippa Pearce

Recognised as a masterpiece of children’s literature and beloved by readers everywhere, ‘Tom’s Midnight Garden’ tells the story of a lonely boy sent to stay with his uncle and aunt when his brother gets ill (Age 9+). 

What to read next: ‘The Little White Horse’ by Elizabeth Goudge

‘The Borrowers’ by Mary Norton

Arrietty, Pod and Homily are a family of tiny people who live secretly inside the walls, borrowing items from the “human beans” of the big house. This is a magical and beloved classic of children’s literature (Age 9+). 

What to read next: ‘The Borrowers Afield’ by Mary Norton

‘Stig of the Dump’ by Clive King

Exploring an old chalk pit, Barney meets a strange boy who wears a rabbit skin and speaks only in grunts. His grandparents don’t believe him when he describes his new friend, but the two have plenty of adventures. This charming story has stood the test of time (Age 8+). 

What to read next: ‘Tom’s Midnight Garden’ by Philippa Pearce

Action & Adventure

‘Holes’ by Louis Sachar

After a miscarriage of justice, Stanley gets sent to a juvenile detention centre where he is required to dig a deep hole every day. Please note that the book does contain violence including murder (Age 10+). 

What to read next: ‘Stormbreaker’ by Anthony Horowitz (Age 11+)

‘Millions’ by Frank Cottrell Boyce

When a bag containing £229,370 falls from the sky, Damian thinks it must be a gift from God. With only 17 days left before the national currency switches to Euros and the money becomes worthless, Damian and his brother Anthony think of ways to spend the money with spiralling consequences. Please note that this novel does contain adult themes (Age 10+). 

What to read next: ‘Skellig’ by David Almond (Age 11+)


‘The Hobbit’ by J. R. R. Tolkien

Dragons, wizards, dwarves, elves, magic rings and the beginnings of an epic fantasy that has captured the world’s imagination and been turned into a series of blockbusting movies. Please note the book does contain some violent interludes (Age 10+). 

What to read next: ‘The Lord of the Rings’ by J. R. R. Tolkien

‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ by C. S. Lewis

Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy step through the wardrobe into the magical world of Narnia and one of the most beloved stories in all of children’s literature. Please be aware that there are some violent and scary episodes (Age 9+). 

What to read next: ‘Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia’ by C. S. Lewis


‘Murder Most Unladylike’ by Robin Stevens

There has been a murder at Deepdean School for Girls, but young detectives Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong will stop at nothing to solve the case. This is a delightful, witty murder mystery. Please note the book does contain adult themes (Age 10+). 

What to read next: ‘Arsenic For Tea’ by Robin Stevens

‘The Murderer’s Ape’ by Jakob Wegelius

Published in 2017 and featuring one of the most unusual and endearing protagonists from all of children’s literature, this is a charming and thrilling mystery. (Age 10+) 

What to read next: ‘Murder Most Unladylike’ by Robin Stevens


‘When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit’ by Judith Kerr

The first in a trilogy of autobiographical novels, ‘When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit’ tells the story of precocious nine-year-old Anna and her family as they flee Germany to escape the Nazis (Age 10+). 

What to read next: ‘Bombs on Aunt Dainty’ by Judith Kerr

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    Eeman said on 28th Aug 2021
    Hi, my daughter is 8years old and I want to check her reading level. She is home schooled could you suggest how I could do that.

      Owl Tutors replied on 31st Aug 2021
      Dear Eeman

      Thanks for reading. We've just sent you a message with notes on how we can help.

      Best wishes

      Owl Tutors
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