Books for Advanced Language Play

Challenge your 11- to 13-year-old with these books that support abstract thinking and writing.

By Michelle Anthony, PhD



Books for Advanced Language Play

Extend your child’s increased cognitive abilities to think abstractly, reason, and think logically with these books. Part of the increased language skill in middle schoolers is their abilities to read, write, and understand more complex topics, with poetry being one of them. Included in this section are books to support this more abstract level of thinking and writing:

  • Beach Is To Fun: A Book of Relationships by Pat Brisson and Sachiko Yoshikawa. Great introduction to analogies. The rhythmic text challenges your child to determine relationships between words and concepts. The illustrations support children’s understanding.
  • Suddenly Alligator: Adventures in Adverbs (Language Adventures Book) by Rick Walton. Adverbs remain tricky for even strong language learners. Making learning difficult topics in playful, motivating ways is half the battle.
  • Love That Dog by Sharon Creech approaches poetry in a fresh way and will engage even reluctant boys in this positive means of creative expression. 
  • Why the Banana Split: Adventures in Idioms by Rick Walton, The World Is Your Oyster by Tamara James, The Cat's Pajamas by Wallace Edwards, and My Teacher Likes to Say by Denise Brennan-Nelson: Books that use humor to help children learn and better understand idioms. See if your child can use his increased reasoning and inference skills to tease out the meanings. 
  • Owl Moon by Jane Yolen: Full of rich language, ask your child to describe mental images the text creates for him. Have him paint a scene or write a vivid description of his image. What poetic devices does your child notice in the text?
  • All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLahlan. Have your child identify various similes as you read. Similes such as, “Crows in the dirt that swaggered like pirates,” create images in your child’s mind and allow the words to paint a picture with words. 
  • Someday by Eileen Spinelli is another sweet story to use for hyperbole, simile, or voice (the author’s perspective).
  • When the Fireflies Come by Jonathan London. Invite your child to pull out the creative language, metaphors and repetition in the text. 
Book Selection Tips
Language Arts
Age 13
Age 12
Age 11
Middle School
Parts of Speech