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Got Text Complexity?
Selected Literature for Common Core Standards
in English Language Arts (Grades 6-12)

Compiled by Megan Schliesman and Merri V. Lindgren
© 2011 Cooperative Children's Book Center; updated 2013

In the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts, Standard 10 addresses "Range, Quality & Complexity of Texts." Text complexity in the standards is determined by the following:

Qualitative evaluation of the text: Levels of meaning, structure, language conventionality and clarity, and knowledge demands

Quantitative evaluation of the text: Readability measures and other scores of text complexity

Matching reader to text and task: Reader variables (such as motivation, knowledge, and experiences) and task variables (such as purpose and the complexity generated by the task assigned and the questions posed)

This bibliography was developed to highlight some of the outstanding trade books published for older children and teens that can be used for the text complexity component of the CCS in grades 6-12.* All of the books have been selected based on their literary quality and other components of qualitative evaluation. Many of the books offer sophisticated narrative structures and other characteristics factored into quantitative evaluation. And the list as a whole offers a wide variety of books reflecting diversity of subject matter and style, allowing for a range of choices in matching reader to text and task.

The books on this list have been categorized into grade-level groupings as follows:

Grades 6-8
Grades 9-10
Grades 11-12

Within each grade level group, the books are broken down into the following genres:

Short Stories

In two cases, sophisticated wordless books have been included in the short story categories because of the opportunities these texts offer for interpreting meaning and creating/articulating narrative.

It should be noted that while the books have been placed in a specific grade range, many of the books will have appeal to, and can be used with, students in a range of grades. The age recommendation that is included in the CCBC annotation (available when you click on a title) is the CCBC’s assessment of the book’s audience based on content and potential interest of readers.

In creating this list, we focused on books published in the past six years, although occasionally reached farther back. There are 6-12 books in each category. Many of them are currently available for purchase in paperback. All of them should be available through school or public libraries in either hardcover or paperback.

If you would like additional suggestions, particularly for fiction, contact the CCBC.

*Although this list is being created to address text complexity, these high-quality titles can also be used with other components of the CCS English Language Arts standards for grades 6-12.

Related CCBC bibliography:

Made for Each Other: Paired Texts for Middle and High School

Click on underlined book titles to see the CCBC review of the book, and/or the cover image.
Complete list of CCBC bibliographies

Books for Grades 6-8: Fiction

    Abdel-Fattah, Randa. Where the Streets Had a Name. U.S. edition: Scholastic Press, 2010. 320 pages. Ages 12 and older

    Bruchac, Joseph. March Toward the Thunder. Dial, 2008. 298 pages. Ages 12 and older

    Curtis, Christopher Paul. Elijah of Buxton. Scholastic Press, 2007. 341 pages. Ages 10-14

    Dowd, Siobhan. The London Eye Mystery. U.S. edition: David Fickling Books / Random House, 2008. 322 pages. Ages 10-14

    Frost, Helen. Hidden. Frances Foster Books / Farrar Straus Giroux, 2011. 147 pages. Ages 11-14

    Lai, Thanhhà. Listen, Slowly. Harper / HarperCollins, 2015. 260 pages. Ages 10–13

    Palacio, R.J. . Wonder. Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. 315 pages. Ages 10–13

    Parker Rhodes, Jewell. Ninth Ward. Little, Brown, 2010. 224 pages. Ages 9 - 13

    Resau, Laura. Red Glass. Delacorte, 2007. 275 pages. Ages 11-15

    Stead, Rebecca. When You Reach Me. Wendy Lamb Books / Random House, 2009. 208 pages. Ages 10 - 13

    Yang, Gene Luen. Prime Baby. Illustrated by Derek Kirk Kim. Roaring Brook Press, 2010. 64 pages. Age 9 and older

Books for Grades 6-8: Short Stories/Wordless Book

    Authors, Various and Marc Aronson and Charles R. Smith Jr., editors . Pick-Up Game: A Full Day of Full Court. Photographed by Charles R. Smith Jr.. Candlewick Press, 2011. 176 pages. Ages 13 and up

    Flake, Sharon G.. Who Am I Without Him? Short Stories about Girls and the Boys in Their Lives. Jump at the Sun / Hyperion, 2004. 168 pages. Ages 11-14

    Tan, Shaun. Tales from Outer Suburbia. U.S. edition: Arthur A. Levine Books / Scholastic, 2009. 92 pages. Ages 12 and older

    Tan, Shaun. Rules of Summer. Arthur A. Levine Books / Scholastic Inc., 2014. 48 pages. Ages 9-14

Books for Grades 6-8: Poetry

    Ernest L., Thayer. Casey at the Bat. Illustrated by Joe Morse. KCP Poetry / Kids Can Press, 2006. 48 pages. Ages 9-16

    Grady, Cynthia. I Lay My Stitches Down: Poems of American Slavery. Illustrated by Michele Wood. Eerdmans, 2012. 32 pages. Age 9 and older

    Park, Linda Sue. Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sijo (Poems). Illustrated by Istvan Banyai. Clarion , 2007. 40 pages. Ages 8-11

    Schlitz, Laura Amy. Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village. Illustrated by Robert Byrd. Candlewick Press, 2007. 85 pages. Ages 8-12

    Sidman, Joyce. Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors. Illustrated by Beckie Prange. Houghton Mifflin / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010. 32 pages. Ages 9-13

    Smith, Hope Anita. The Way a Door Closes. Illustrated by Shane W. Evans. Henry Holt, 2003. 52 pages. Ages 10 - 14

    Weatherford, Carole Boston. Birmingham, 1963. Wordsong / Boyds Mills Press, 2007. 39 pages. Age 10 and older

    Weatherford, Carole Boston and Ekua Holmes . Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement. Candlewick Press, 2015. 34 pages. Age 10 and older

    Woodson, Jacqueline. Locomotion. Putnam, 2003. 128 pages. Ages 9 - 12

Books for Grades 6-8: Non-Fiction

    Allen, Tomas B.. George Washington, Spymaster : How America Outspied the British and Won the Revolutionary War . Illustrated by Cheryl Harness. National Geographic, 2004. 184 pages. Ages 8-13

    Bausum, Ann. Stubby the War Dog: The True Story of World War I’s Bravest Dog. National Geographic, 2014. 72 pages. Ages 9-14

    Bolden, Tonya. M.L.K.: Journey of a King. Harry N. Abrams, 2007. 128 pages. Ages 10-15

    Crowe, Chris. Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case. Phyllis Fogelman Books / Penguin, 2003. 128 pages. 12 and older

    Fleming, Candace. Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart. Schwartz & Wade, 2011. 118 pages. Ages 10-14

    Hoose, Phillip. Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2012. 148 pages. Age 11 and older

    Krensky, Stephen. Comic Book Century: The History of American Comic Books. (People's History) Twenty-First Century Books, 2008. 112 pages. Age 10 and older

    Levinson, Cynthia. We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March. Peachtree, 2012. 176 pages. Age 12 and older

    Sís, Peter. The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain. Frances Foster Books / Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007. 48 pages. Age 9 and older

    Stone, Tanya Lee. Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream. Candlewick Press, 2009. 133 pages. Ages 12 and older

    Turner, Pamela S.. The Frog Scientist. Photographed by Andy Comins. Houghton Mifflin / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009. 58 pages. Ages 10-15

Books for Grades 9-10: Fiction

    Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Illustrated by Ellen Fourney. Litte, Brown, 2007. 240 pages. Ages 13-16

    Coats, J. Anderson. The Wicked and the Just. Harcourt / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012. 344 pages. Age 13 and older

    Graudin, Ryan. Wolf by Wolf. Little, Brown, 2015. 379 pages. Age 13 and older

    Hautman, Pete. Rash. Simon & Schuster, 2006. 249 pages. Age 12 and older

    Howe, Katherine. Conversion. Putnam/ Penguin, 2014. 402 pages. Ages 14 and Older

    King, A. S. . Ask the Passengers. Little, Brown, 2012. 292 pages. Age 13 and older

    King, A. S. . Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future. Little, Brown, 2014. 306 pages. Age 14 and older

    Lake, Nick. In Darkness. Bloomsbury, 2012. 341 pages. Age 14 and older

    Larbalestier, Justine. Liar. U.S. edition: Bloomsbury, 2009. 376 pages. Ages 14 and older

    Magoon, Kekla. How It Went Down. Henry Holt, 2014. 326 pages. Age 14 and older

    McCaughrean, Geraldine . The White Darkness. HarperTempest / HarperCollins, 2007. 373 pages. Age 14 and older

    McNeal, Laura. Dark Water. Alfred A. Knopf, 2010. 287 pages. Age 14 and older

    Ness, Patrick. More Than This. U.S. edition: Candlewick Press, 2013. 472 pages. Age 13 and older

    Ness, Patrick. The Rest of Us Just Live Here. HarperCollins, 2015. 317 pages pages. Age 13 and older

    Reynolds, Jason and Brendan Kiely . All American Boys. Atheneum, 2015. 320 pages. Age 13 and older

    Shusterman, Neal. Bruiser. HarperCollins, 2010. 328 pages. Age 14 and older

    Smith, Andrew. 100 Sideways Miles. Simon & Schuster, 2014. 277 pages. Ages 14 and Older

    St. James, James. Freak Show. Dutton, 2007. 298 pages. Age 13 and older

    Yang, Gene Luen. American Born Chinese. First Second, 2006. 233 pages. Age 13 and older

    Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief. U.S. edition: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. 552 pages. Age 15 and older

Books for Grades 9-10: Short Stories

    . Up All Night: A Short Story Collection. Laura Geringer Books / HarperTeen / HarperCollins, 2008. 227 pages. Age 13 and older

    Buckell, editor, Tobias S. and Joe Monti, editor . Diverse Energies. Tu Books, 2012. 314 pages. Age 12 and older

    Ellis, Deborah. Lunch with Lenin and Other Stories. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2008. 169 pages. Age 13 and older

    Levithan, David. How They Met and Other Stories. Knopf, 2008. 244 pages. Age 13 and older

    Nye, Naomi Shihab. Honeybee: Poems and Short Prose. Greenwillow Books / HarperCollins, 2008. 164 pages. Age 13 and older

    Perkins, Mitali. Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices. Candlewick Press, 2013. 127 pages. Age 13 and older

    Yang, Gene Yuen. The Eternal Smile. Illustrated by Derek Kirk Kim. First Second, 2009. 170 pages. Ages 13 and older

Books for Grades 9-10: Poetry

    Engle, Margarita. The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano. Illustrated by Sean Qualls. Henry Holt, 2006. 183 pages. Age 12 and older

    Frost, Helen. Crossing Stones. Frances Foster Books / Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2009. 184 pages. Ages 13 and older

    Greenberg, Jan. Side by Side: New Poems Inspired by Art from Around the World. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2008. 88 pages. Age 12 and older

    Myers, Walter Dean. Jazz. Illustrated by Christopher Myers. Holiday House, 2006. 44 pages. Age 10 and older

    Shange, Ntozake. We Troubled the Waters. Illustrated by Rod Brown. Amistad / Collins / HarperCollins, 2009. 32 pages. Age 13 and older

    Soto, Gary. Partly Cloudy: Poems of Love and Longing. Harcourt / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009. 100 pages. Age 13 and older

Books for Grades 9-10: Non-Fiction

    Alsenas, Linas . Gay America: Struggle for Equality. Amulet, 2008. 160 pages. Age 12 and older

    Bausum, Ann. Denied, Detained, Deported: Stories from the Dark Side of American Immigration. National Geographic, 2009. 111 pages. Ages 12 and older

    Bausum, Ann. Marching to the Mountaintop: How Poverty, Labor Fights, and Civil Rights Set the Stage for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Final Hours. National Geographic, 2012. 104 pages. Age 12 and older

    Freedman, Russell. Who Was First? Discovering the Americas. Clarion, 2007. 88 pages. Ages 11-15

    Hoose, Phillip. Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice. Melanie Kroupa Books / Farrar Straus Giroux, 2009. 133 pages. Ages 13 and older

    Madden, Kerry. Up Close: Harper Lee. Viking, 2009. 223 pages. Ages 13 and older

    Marrin, Albert. Flesh & Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy. Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. 182 pages. Age 12 and older

    Martin, Russell and Lydia Nibley . The Mysteries of Beethoven's Hair. Charlesbridge, 2009. 120 pages. Ages 12 and older

    Nelson, Scott Reynolds and Marc Aronson . Ain't Nothing But a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry . National Geographic, 2008. 64 pages. Age 10 and older

    Sheinkin, Steve. Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon. Flash Point / Roaring Brook Press, 2012. 266 pages. Age 13 and older

    Sheinkin, Steve. The Port Chicago 50: Disaster Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights. Roaring Brook Press, 2014. 200 pages pages. Age 13 and older

    Stone, Tanya Lee. The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie: A Doll’s History and Her Impact on Us. Viking, 2010. 130 pages. Age 11 and older

Books for Grades 11-12: Fiction

    Anderson, M.T.. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party. Candlewick Press, 2006. 351 pages. Age 15 and older

    Hartnett, Sonya. Stripes of the Sidestep Wolf. Candlewick, 2005. 208 pages. Ages 14 and older

    Herbstein, Manu. Brave Music of a Distant Drum. Red Deer Press, 2012. 175 pages. Age 16 and older

    Lanagan, Margo. The Brides of Rollrock Island. Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. 305 pages. Age 14 and older

    McCormick, Patricia. Never Fall Down. Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins, 2012. 216 pages. Age 14 and older

    Nelson, Vaunda Micheaux. No Crystal Stair. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. Carolrhoda LAB, 2012. 188 pages. Age 12 and older

    Pérez, Ashley Hope. Out of Darkness. Carolrhoda Lab, 2015. 402 pages. Age 14 and older

    Ruby, Laura. Bone Gap. Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins, 2015. 345 pages. Age 14 and older

    Smith, Andrew. Grasshopper Jungle. Dutton, 2014. 388 pages. 14 and older

    Stork, Francisco X.. The Last Summer of the Death Warriors. Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, Inc., 2010. 344 pages. Ages 14 and older

    Tingle, Tim. House of Purple Cedar. Cinco Puntos Press, 2014 (c2013). 336 pages. Age 14 and older

    Wein, Elizabeth. Code Name Verity. Hyperion, 2012. 343 pages. Age 13 and older

    Whaley, John Corey. Where Things Come Back. Atheneum, 2011. 228 pages. Age 14 and older

    White, Tracy. How I Made It to Eighteen: A Mostly True Story. Roaring Brook Press, 2010. 151 pages. Ages 14 and older

Books for Grades 11-12: Short Stories/Wordless Book

    Lanagan, Margo. Red Spikes. U.S. edition: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007. 167 pages. Age 15 and older

    Lanagan, Margo. Black Juice. U.S. edition: Eos / HarperCollins, 2005. 208 pages. Ages 14 - 17

    Lanagan, Margo. White Time. HarperCollins, 2006. 216 pages. Age 14 and older

    Link, Kelly and Gavin J. Grant . Monstrous Affections: An Anthology of Beastly Tales. Candlewick Press, 2014. 467 pages. Ages 13 and Older

    Myers, Walter Dean. What They Found: Love on 145th Street. Wendy Lamb Books, 2007. 243 pages. Ages 13-16

    Myers, Walter Dean . 145th Street: Short Stories. Delacorte Press, 200. 151 pages. Age 13 and older

Books for Grades 11-12: Poetry

    Bush, editor, Gail and Randy Meyer, editor . Indivisible: Poems for Social Justice. Norwood House Press, 2013. 94 pages. Age 15 and older

    Hemphill, Stephanie. Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath. Alfred A. Knopf, 2007. 261 pages. Age 15 and older

    Lauer, Brett Fletcher and Lynn Melnick eds . Please Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poets for the Next Generation. Viking, 2015. 290 pages. Age 14 and older

    Nelson, Marilyn. A Wreath for Emmett Till. Illustrated by Philippe Lardy. Houghton Mifflin, 2005. 40 pages. Age 14 and older

    Newman, Lesléa. October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard. Candlewick Press, 2012. 128 pages. Age 13 and older

    Nye, Naomi Shihab, selector. Time You Let Me In: 25 Poets Under 25. Greenwillow Books / HarperCollins, 2010. 236 pages. Age 14 and older

Books for Grades 11-12: Non-Fiction

    Anderson, M. T. . Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad. Candlewick Press, 2015. 456 pages. Age 14 and older

    Angel, Ann. Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing. Amulet Books, 2010. 120 pages. Age 14 and older

    Barakat, Ibtisam. Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood. Melanie Kroupa Books / Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007. 176 pages. Age 13 and older

    Beram, Nell and Carolyn Boriss-Krimsky . Yoko Ono: Collector of Skies. Amulet / Abrams, 2013. 177 pages. Age 14 and older

    Fleming, Candace. The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia. Schwartz & Wade, 2014. 292 pages. Ages 14 and Older

    Flowers, Arthur. I See the Promised Land: A Life of Martin Luther King, Jr.. Illustrated by Manu Chitrakar. Groundwood, 2013. 154 pages. Age 15 and older

    Giblin, James Cross. The Rise and Fall of Senator Joe McCarthy. Clarion / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009. 304 pages. Ages 14 and older

    Heiligman, Deborah. Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith. Henry Holt, 2009. 268 pages. Ages 14 and older

    Kuklin, Susan. No Choirboy: Murder, Violence, and Teenagers on Death Row. Henry Holt, 2008. 212 pages. Age 14 and older

    Partridge, Elizabeth. John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth. Viking, 2005. 256 pages. Ages 13-17

This list may be reproduced and distributed by educational and/or nonprofit organizations so long as credit is given to the Cooperative Children's Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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