Does your tween enjoy books that are a bit unexpected? Do they like eccentric characters? Do they have a weird sense of humor? Then this list of quirky books for tweens has what you need!
Our family is a bit quirky. A little weird. We have a goofy sense of humor, and we love imaginative books that maybe “think outside the box.” As a book lover and former teacher, one of my favorite parts of parenting is going to the library and helping my kids to choose books. Every book on this list is one my son or daughter has read, so let me know if you have questions! This list is appropriate for 4th-8th graders, depending on their reading level and interest. If your tween likes to think creatively and loves the weird, here are 20 quirky tween books to try:
The Mysterious Benedict Society
- The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart is about gifted kids who go on a secret mission. They are sent undercover to a strange school. The books are suspenseful with surprising twists and turns and are well enough written that adults enjoy them, too.
The Name of this Book is Secret
2. The Name of this Book is Secret is the first in The Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch. These books were described as a “supernatural whodunit” by Publishers Weekly. It’s about two kids who investigate the mysterious death of a magician. Along the way, they solve puzzles and face great danger. The later books in the series get pretty scary, so may not be the best choice for younger kids.
3. The BFG by Roald Dahl is a story about an orphan girl in London that makes friends with a Big Friendly Giant. We find out in the story that giants not only exist, but they regularly walk around the world in the dark of night and snatch people out of their beds so they can eat them! The little girl is terrified at first, of course, but comes to understand that the BFG is not like the other giants. The two of them work together, along with Queen Elizabeth II, to save the world. Our family listened to the audiobook together on a long car ride, which was lots of fun. The story has also been made into a movie, which we also enjoyed.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
4. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is another beloved classic by Roald Dahl. Most of us have seen the movies, but not everyone has read the book that started it all. This is such a fun (and quirky) story, about a boy that gets to have a behind-the-scenes tour of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Willy Wonka is a larger-than-life character that has crazy secret inventions and factory workers that are originally from “a terrible place” called Loompaland. It’s
The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop
5. The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop by Kate Saunders has magic, villains, and chocolate – what more could you need? It’s the story of 11-year-old twins Oz and Lily, who move into a house formerly owned by their eccentric great uncles, who also owned the chocolate shop downstairs. The kids are pulled into a battle, in which they are helped by some strange animals. It’s a great, funny adventure.
The Creature from My Closet
6. Wonkenstein by Obert Skye is the first in The Creature from My Closet series.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret
7. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick is a Caldecott Medal winner, which is an award for the best picture book of the year. But isn’t this list for kids who have outgrown picture books? Well…this magical book is a novel intended for 9-12-year-olds that has portions of the story told in words, like a regular novel, and portions told in pictures. It is very unusual – some might say, quirky! The story is about an orphan boy in Paris who works with clocks and steals what he needs from an eccentric old toymaker. When the toymaker catches him, his life takes some interesting turns and a mystery ensues. Below is a trailer for the book- in it the author explains how and why he wrote the book. The book was also made into a movie directed by Martin Scorcese called Hugo.
8. Wonderstruck is also by Brian Selznick. It is another novel filled with amazing artwork. This time, it tells two stories at once that are set 50 years apart – one in words, and one in pictures. It is an interesting creation of interlocking stories, one set in 1977, and the other set in 1927. It’s about two children who are trying to solve two different mysteries, and both are drawn to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. There is a trailer for this one too, it’s only 2 minutes long.
A Series of Unfortunate Events
9. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket starts with The Bad Beginning. This book series has been made into an excellent TV series by Netflix. I must confess that this is the one book series on my list that my children have not read – they are both sensitive kids and when my son was at this reading level, there was no way he could have made his way through this much peril. Now that he is older, we have been really enjoying the TV series, and I have been instructed to find the first book at the library so he can give it a try. It’s about the Baudelaire children, who are orphaned at the beginning of the book – which is the first in a long series of unfortunate events, hence the name. The story is full of eccentric characters and strange locales. It’s all quite dreary – and very fun.
What We Found in the Sofa and How it Saved the World
10. What We Found in the Sofa and How it Saved the World by Henry Clark is a quirky sci-fi novel for tweens. It’s about three kids who find a zucchini-colored crayon between the cushions of a sofa, which propels them into an adventure in which they have to save the world.
11. Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger is about Lenny, a boy whose evil-genius best friend uses a fake mustache as a disguise to rob banks and try to take over the world. Can Lenny stop him in time? It’s a funny book that is a good choice for reluctant readers.
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda
12. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda is the first book in the Origami Yoda series. It is another funny one from Tom Angleberger. It’s about a sixth-grader named Dwight who folds a Yoda out of paper – which then turns out to be wise, and gives good advice, even though Dwight is not so smart. This book is followed by more with equally silly premises and characters, including Jabba the Puppet and the Fortune Wookie. Tom Angleberger has a fun website with lots of stuff for kids to check out – especially – surprise – videos on how to make origami Star Wars characters! I’ve linked one here from his YouTube channel on making origami Chewbacca. My son was quite obsessed with this a few years ago. You would not believe the amount of origami that went on around here!
13. The Neddiad: How Neddie Took the Train, Went to Hollywood, and Saved Civilization by Daniel Pinkwater – I feel like, with that title, I should just drop the mike because I think you can tell it’s quirky without me explaining it. Especially when you see the cover has a picture of a turtle on it. Like several of the above recommendations, this is another funny and weird story about a kid who is on a quest to save the world. Many people love Daniel Pinkwater – your kids might also enjoy The Hoboken Chicken Emergency.
14. Larklight by Philip Reeve is the first in a trilogy. It is a Victorian sci-fi adventure that has houses floating through space, pirates, and kids who end up needing to save not the world but the universe! This quirky book definitely has a steampunk vibe.
Chronicles of Egg
15. Deadweather and Sunrise is the first book in the series Chronicles of Egg by Geoff Rodkey. Author Rick Riordan described it as “Lemony Snicket meets Pirates of the Caribbean with a sprinkling of Tom Sawyer for good measure.” It’s about a thirteen-year-old boy, Egg, who goes from
Sideways Stories from Wayside School
16. Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar is also the first in a series. It is about a school that was supposed to be built with 30 classrooms next to each other, but the builder accidentally built them vertically instead, with all the classes on top of each other. All sorts of silly and unusual things happen there – especially on the thirteenth floor. This book is at an easier reading level than most of the others on my list, so it would work for younger kids, or is a good choice for reluctant readers. This is one of my daughter’s favorite authors. She loves his funny, quirky style. She also loves his book Holes.
17. The Peculiar is the debut novel of a teenage author named Stefan Bachmann. It’s
William Shakespeare’s Star Wars Series
18. The Force Doth Awaken is an Elizabethan version of the Star Wars story…and it definitely fits in the quirky books for tweens category! This is actually the seventh book in
Mr. Lemoncello’s Library
19. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein is about an eccentric book lover named Mr. Lemoncello, who creates an amazing library reminiscent of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Twelve smart kids get the opportunity to spend the night in the library and are tasked with solving puzzles in order to be the first to get out of the library and win a big prize. The story is full of fun thinking problems and references to children’s literature. If you enjoy this one, there are two more books in the series.
A Wrinkle in Time
20. The series that starts with A Wrinkle in Time is a classic. Madeleine L’Engle wrote first in the quintet of books in 1962, and I remember it being one of my favorites when I was a kid. I’ve now read
The books in my list vary a lot in reading levels. Here’s a list of where each one falls in the
- Mysterious Benedict Society: 890, GRL V, Grades 3-7
- The Name of this Book is Secret: 810, GRL U, grades 3-7
- BFG: 720, GRL U, grades 3-6
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: 810, GRL R, grades 3-6
- Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop: 700, grades 4-7
- Wonkenstein: 860, GRL S, grades 4-6
- The Invention of Hugo Cabret: 920, GRL W, grades 4-7
- Wonderstruck: 830, GRL W, grades 5-9
- Series of Unfortunate Events:1010, GRL V, grades 6-8
- What We Found in the Sofa… 730, grades 3-7
- Fake Mustache: 710, GRL S, grades 4-7
- Strange Case of Origami Yoda: 760, GRL T, grades 3-5
- The Neddiad: 850, grades 3-5
- Larklight: 1080, GRL Y, grades 6-8
- Chronicles of Egg: 940, GRL X, grades 6-7
- Sideways Stories from Wayside School: 530, GRL P, grades 3-5
- The Peculiar: 760, GRL Y, grades 5-7
- William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: GRL Z+, grades 7-12
- Mr. Lemoncello’s Library: 720, GRL V, grades 3-5
- A Wrinkle in Time: 740, GRL W, grades 4-8
I’d love to hear what quirky books your family likes! Please leave your favorites that I missed in the comments below. And check out my list of 10 Exciting Books for Tweens