Isabelle's 'Alternative' 11+ Reading List

A curated list of fun and exciting books that will help boost your child’s learning and expand their vocabulary.
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1. Touching the Void by Joe Simpson

A true story chronicling two climbers’ attempt to summit the unclimbed West Face of the Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. Before they reach the summit, disaster strikes. This is an epic tale of survival and a compelling testament of friendship.

2. Football Against The Enemy by Simon Kuper

Simon Kuper travelled to 22 countries from South Africa to Italy, from Russia to the USA, to examine the way football has shaped them. During his journeys he met an extraordinary range of players, politicians and – of course – the fans themselves, all of whom revealed in their different ways the unique place football has in the life of the planet.

3. Girl CEO Priceless Advice from Trailblazing Women by Ronnie Cohen and Katherine Ellison

The 40 fascinating female biographies in this book will inspire your girls and boys to see their dreams as possibilities.

4. Refugee by Alan Gratz

This harrowing page-turner sheds light on child refugees with the story of three children and one common mission: ESCAPE. Follow Joseph, a Jewish boy in 1930s Nazi Germany; Isabel, a Cuban girl in 1994, and Mahmoud, a Syrian boy in 2015 as they face unimaginable dangers to forge a safer life for themselves.

Inspirational must-read about the power of nonviolence.

Inspired By History

 1. The Mighty Miss Malone By Christopher Paul Curtis

When her beloved father leaves to find work, Deza, Mother, and her older brother, Jimmie, go in search of him, and end up in a Hooverville outside Flint, Michigan. The twists and turns of their story reveal the devastation of the Depression and prove that Deza truly is the Mighty Miss Malone.

2. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Bored and lonely after his family moves from Berlin to a place called “Out-With” in 1942, Bruno, the son of a Nazi officer, befriends a boy in striped pajamas who lives behind a wire fence.

3. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Woodson describes her memories of growing up in South Carolina, and later in Brooklyn, against the backdrop of the civil rights movement. The narrative is funny and poignant as Woodson figures out what makes her special and discovers her love words.

4. Cane Warriors by Alex Wheatle

Written with a luminous, crackling style, Cane Warriors is an unforgettable account of Jamaican and British history that must be known, with an unforgettable narrator at its heart. In the words of fourteen-year-old Moa, “the hope of our dreamland churned in my belly,” a powerful statement that pulses through this extraordinary story of Tacky’s War.

5. Tulku by Peter Dickinson

Theodore, 13, has lived in China all his life and never felt terror. One night, his father’s missionary settlement is attacked. Theodore hides out in the forest with two companions before heading to an extraordinary hidden monastery, but will rescue come at a price?

Coming of Age

 1. Counting by 7s By Holly Goldberg Sloan

Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life . . . until now.

2. As Brave As You By Jason Reynolds

In this “pitch-perfect contemporary novel” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review), Coretta Scott King – John Steptoe Award-winning author Jason Reynolds explores multigenerational ideas about family love and bravery in the story of two brothers, their blind grandfather, and a dangerous rite of passage.

3. Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

A twelve-year-old boy named Moose moves to Alcatraz Island in 1935 when guards’ families were housed there, and has to contend with his extraordinary new environment in addition to life with his autistic sister.

4. Flying Lessons & Other Stories Edited by Ellen Oh

Great stories take flight in this adventurous middle-grade anthology crafted by ten of the most recognizable and diverse authors writing today. Newbery Medalist Kwame Alexander delivers a story in-verse about a boy who just.

An 11-year-old New York City girl, Claudia, decided to run away with her younger brother, Jaime. They head for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, picking up a bargain statue on the way. Is it an undiscovered Michelangelo? They’ll soon find out.


 1. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin

The first in a classic series of fantasy novels, A Wizard of Earthsea follows Ged’s development from goat herder to magician and from boy to young man. Much of Ged’s journey at first is to come to terms with the shadow his magical power has created and vanquish it, a reminder that magic is not external to him, but more about powerful internal change.

2. The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands

Christoper, an orphaned apprentice in 17th century London must solve a complex puzzle surrounding the murders of apothecaries. Despite the seriousness of the plot, the well-drawn characters provide some humor.