Books for Age 11 - 12 and older 
Copyright © Kendal A. Rautzhan 2013. All rights reserved.
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                                 Cognitive Diversity: Teach kids everything we can
If we only surround ourselves with things familiar, we won’t know much. If we only surround ourselves with things that make us happy, eventually that happiness will diminish because we will not know the opposite–hardship and sorrow. If we only surround ourselves with people, places and events we are comfortable with, we won’t know many people and the diversity of our life experiences will be fairly nonexistent. In a word, life will be “dull.”
To put it another way, author André Gide once wrote: “One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.”
The point? Many parents are afraid to “let go” of their kids, afraid to allow them to experience new things without the parental “safety net” for fear they may encounter disappointment, hurt, frustration, sorrow. Not all new experiences are negative, yet experiencing difficulties is part of life, teaching us how to deal with hurdles that eventually come everyone’s way.
Encourage kids to continuously try new things of every kind, to step outside the comfort zone to learn more, experience more, and ultimately grow. This includes exposure to all kinds of wonderful books, such as those mentioned below.  
Don’t limit kids to a life trapped in a glass house. Do everything in your power to provide children with the tools they will need to successfully navigate their way through life. They are counting on you.
The Boy Who Swam with Piranhas by David Almond, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, Candlewick, 244 pages

Young Stanley Potts had a bit of a rough start. His parents had passed away, but Stan had come to love his auntie Annie and his uncle Ernie, with whom he lived. One day, however, Uncle Ernie went totally bonkers, canning fish in their house. He set up a factory and had Stan helping him almost 24/7. The day Ernie went too far with it all, Stan knew what he had to do–he left.
Stan soon took a job with a traveling carnival, first as a helper to Dostoyevsky and his plastic floating “Hook-a-Duck” stall, then as the “next in line” to legendary Pancho Pirelli–the man who swam with piranhas. Stan trained hard, yet what he needed most was to believe in himself.
An incredibly creative, intelligent blending of humor, snippets of wisdom peppered throughout, and multiple layers of Stan and other characters finding their place in the world where there are “hearts . . . that are good and true,” this selection is first-rate all the way.
Every Day After by Laura Golden, Delacorte Press/Random House, 224 pages

Eleven-year-old Lizzie has a great life – loving and supportive parents who believe in Lizzie’s worth and strength, a terrific best friend, and top grades in school. When the Great Depression strikes, Lizzie’s world quickly starts to unravel – her father loses his job and abandons the family, and her mama is so depressed about her husband leaving she can’t take care of herself, nor Lizzie, the house, and paying the mortgage.
Lizzie is determined to keep everything afloat, but she finds that more difficult to do than she bargained for. With the nasty new girl, Erin, determined to see Lizzie’s mom packed away in a mental institute and Lizzie in an orphanage, and the bank determined to foreclose, Lizzie realizes she must make her bravest move of all – ask for help.
Pitch-perfect in every way, this wonderful novel will particularly appeal to girls.
House of Secrets by Chris Columbus & Ned Vizzini, illustrated by Greg Call, Balzer & Bray, 490 pages

Siblings Brendan, Eleanor and Cordelia have had their lives turned upside down when their father lost his lucrative job and the family is forced to downsize their life and relocate to an inexpensive home. The family chooses an old Victorian home that is ridiculously cheap (considering how beautiful it is). That should have been the first clue that something was amiss.
After a near-deadly encounter with a ghoulish, evil neighbor, the siblings find themselves separated from their parents and mysteriously transported to another time and place; a primeval forest ripe with bloodthirsty warriors, the terrifying Wind Witch, secret spell scrolls written in Latin, pirates, lies, treachery, and more. And at the root of it all is the Wind Witch’s insatiable desire to possess The Book of Doom and Desire, a book so powerful that, if in the wrong hands, will destroy the world.
You might think that the 490 page count is too lofty an undertaking. On the contrary. House of Secrets  is extraordinarily fast-paced, bursting with fantasy, high adventure, and countless twists and turns that will have readers/listeners hanging on every word of every page, from start to finish.
Vote by Gary Paulsen, Wendy Lamb Books, 131 pages

Fourteen-year-old Kevin Spencer finally had a date with the most beautiful, perfect girl in the world–Tina, whom he now considers his girlfriend. When the super-handsome and suave Cash Devine transfers to Kevin’s school, all of the girls (including Tina) can’t help but notice him. Now, to make matters worse for Kevin, Cash is running for class president, garnering even more attention. That’s when Kevin makes his decision to run for class president, too.
Kevin is up against stiff competition. Cash’s campaign manager is the wicked-smart and ultra-organized Katie Knowles. To arrange a successful campaign that ensures victory, Kevin has to get cracking. Initially overwhelmed, Kevin turns his hat around, surrounds himself with a quirky but loveable advisors, and mounts his strategy to win. The question, who will be the next class president?
Prepare to laugh your head off; this hilarious book by master storyteller Gary Paulsen has his winning signature all over it, guaranteeing a wildly positive response from readers.
The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr, Little Brown, 307 pages

Sixteen-year-old Lucy Beck-Moreau had had a life many would envy. She had been a heavily promoted concert pianist, playing in venues around the world and competing and winning for years. That was in the years leading up to age fourteen when certain circumstances and the pressure made her decide to quit just before a very important performance.
Her mother and grandfather were furious. Now, Lucy’s younger pianist brother, Gus, is in the limelight and is expected to follow in Lucy’s previous footpath. When Gus gets a new piano teacher, he not only is an excellent teacher for Gus but gently tries to interest Lucy into playing again, but this time just for her; the way she wants to play.
Strong believable characters, situations, and plot line are meticulously executed. A beautiful exploration of finding one’s identity and discovering joy in the everyday beauty of life, “The Lucy Variations” excels.
I Represent Sean Rosen by Jeff Baron, Greenwillow, 345 pages

Sean Rosen has a great idea and he is going to act on it. When he does, it is certain to bring him enormous success, fame, and truckloads of money. He wants a deal with a huge Hollywood Studio. At the moment he doesn’t know anyone in Hollywood, but through diligence and hard work, he feels certain that will all change.
What kind of a Hollywood Deal? He doesn’t want me to mention that here, just in case you or someone else might decide to steal his idea. You can find out, though, by reading the book (and I’d highly recommend that!).
Hilarious at every turn, this choice is a genuine page-turning winner.
Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz, Scholastic, 260 pages

Yanek stated it plainly: “If I had known what the next six years of my life were going to be like, I would have eaten more . . .played more . . . hugged my parents and told them I loved them.” At the time Yanek Gruener was a ten-year-old Jewish boy in 1930s Poland. The Nazis had closed in and cracked down on the Jews. In three short years, Yanek’s parents and everyone he loved had been deported to concentration camps and were likely dead, while Yanek evaded capture. At thirteen, he was all alone.
The Nazis finally caught Yanek. He suffered ten different concentration camps where he and the others were worked beyond a description of cruel, were starved and tortured. Surviving didn’t guarantee life; some were killed for sport. Even in his darkest hours when Yanek thought it impossible to take one more step, live one more minute, his uncle’s words sustained him: “. . . we have only one purpose now: survive. Survive at all costs, Yanek. We cannot let these monsters tear us from the pages of the world.”
Based on the true story of Ruth and Jack Gruener, this flawless, gripping novel is at once astonishing, harrowing, and ultimately a story of profound courage and hope; one that should be required reading.