9 Books About Friendship for Tweens

Children approaching their teen years lean on their peers and friends and navigate many challenges (compounded in the age of social media) around changing dynamics and socialization. Just as picture books can help younger kids grasp big topics, novels and chapter books help older readers develop a sense of healthy, supportive friendships.

The books in this list feature tales of unlikely friendships and kids building chosen families, strengthening bonds through friendship, overcoming adversity, and overcoming communication challenges together. Overall, books about friendship for middle-grade readers also provide an opportunity for children in this age group to learn about Jewish values and milestones such as b’nai mitzvah; kavod or respect; and tikkun olam, repairing the world.

12 Before 13
by Lisa Greenwald

Recommended for ages 11 and up

Ari’s summer at Camp Silver was super awesome! But now she’s home, and everything’s changed. Her BFF Kaylan is hanging out with the Lunch Table Girls, and all her bat mitzvah plans are going up in smoke. She’s always been the calm one, but maybe now is the time to start freaking out...

Double Trouble
by Joanne Levy

Recommended for ages 9 and up

Twelve-year-old Tori lives with her father and grandmother. Her best friend has moved away, making this the most boring summer ever. One day, on her way home from a bar mitzvah, Tori meets Jazzy, her neighbors’ granddaughter, who is visiting for two weeks. Jazzy admires Tori’s sense of style, not knowing that Tori can’t stand dressing up. A few hours later, Jazzy finds Tori working in her garden, wearing dirty overalls and handling worm casings (aka poop). Jazzy doesn’t seem to recognize Tori, so Tori tells her that the girl she met earlier in the dress was her twin sister, Vicky. Over the next two weeks, Tori tries to keep up the charade of being her own twin in order to sustain her friendship with Jazzy.

The Language of Spells
by Garret Weyr

Recommended for ages 10 to 12

Eleven-year-old Maggie lives in a hotel with her poet father. Grisha is a dragon who is released from a spell, only to find that all the other dragons have disappeared. Grisha and Maggie each become the other’s first true friend, as well as inseparable companions. When they learn that a large group of dragons is trapped under a spell that has made them sleep for many years, Maggie and Grisha embark on a dangerous mission to free the prisoners. But freeing the dragons comes at an enormous cost to the two friends. This is a beautiful, charming, and poignant book, full of Jewish values and implicit Jewish content.

The Magical Imperfect
by Chris Baron

Recommended for ages 10 to 12

Etan hasn’t spoken since his mom left. Malia stopped going to school when kids started calling her The Creature. Could a mysterious jar of clay be the solution to their problems?

Not Your All-American Girl
by Wendy Wan-Long Shang and Madelyn Rosenberg

Recommended for ages 10 and up

Lauren is a talented singer who dreams of being on Star Search. She does a great audition for the school musical, All-American Town, and everyone thinks she should get the lead. But the teacher says Chinese-Jewish Lauren doesn’t look “American” enough for the role and gives it to Lauren’s best friend, Tara, relegating Lauren to the ensemble. Tension grows between the friends, and Lauren finds it difficult to continue in the play, but she finds solace in the music of Patsy Cline, plus a new button-making business. Eventually, the girls work together to make things right both on and off the stage.

Paper Chains
by Elaine Vickers

Recommended for ages 10 to 12

Ana feels like she’s the only grown-up at home. Katie wonders when her parents will stop treating her like a little kid. Then a misunderstanding threatens Ana and Katie’s friendship. Who can they count on if not each other?

A Place at the Table
by Laura Shovan and Saadia Faruqi

Recommended for ages 10 to 12

Elizabeth and Sara are both in 6th grade, and they’re both worried about their mothers — but the similarities end there. Can the two girls overcome their differences and agree on an award-winning recipe for their school’s International Food Festival?

Shield of the Maccabees
by Eric A. Kimmel & Dov Smiley

Recommended for ages 9 and up

Jonathan, who is Jewish, and Jason, who is Greek, are from the Judean town of Sebaste. When Jonathan saves Jason from some bullies in the Jewish quarter, they develop a beautiful friendship, studying philosophy at Jason’s Greek school and celebrating Shabbat with Jonathan’s family. Then King Antiochus issues terrible decrees against the Jewish community, sparking riots and the Maccabee revolt.

Turtle Boy
by M. Evan Wolkenstein

Recommended for age 11

Will loves turtles but hates it when kids call him Turtle Boy. He also hates hospitals. So why does Will’s mom think visiting a kid in the hospital will help bring him out of his shell — and what if he’d rather stay in it?