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Books with a Child Protagonist

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Welcome to the Lifetime of Reading Challenge! Throughout this self-paced reading challenge, you’ll enjoy a wide range of books featuring main characters of different age ranges, starting with children in adult fiction or memoirs about childhood.

We know that every childhood experience is unique, so we’ve curated a diverse list of books with child protagonists. Each of these books with a child as the main character features a kid under 12. The list has a wide range of adult fiction recommendations, including both contemporary and historical fiction, mystery, adventure, and even a few classic works of children’s literature. Along with that variety, there will also be a mix of enjoyable light reads and deeper topics.

Slanted Blue, Teal and Pink book covers

You can read all about the Lifetime of Reading Challenge, find links to book recommendations for the other age ranges, and download your free printable book tracker here.

One of our readers, Anna, introduced us to a classification of books that are perfect for this monthly challenge prompt – Bildungsroman!

Bildungsroman is a compound German word, combining the words for education and novel into a single new word for books in which the main character is growing as a person and figuring out who they are morally and psychologically. We love coming-of-age books when the characters are discovering the world around them and their unique place in it. While the books on our list with the youngest characters don’t all fit into this category, you’ll find plenty that do!

You are welcome to choose any book that you’d like to read for the challenge. We hope that our list of novels with a child protagonist will help you get started. As always, we’ve selected a combination of new books and older books that are usually available without a wait from your local library.

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The Best Child Protagonist Novels

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Thursday 29th of December 2022

I’d like to add The Graveyard Book (infant through teens) and Anne of Green Gables (12-teens) to this list.


Wednesday 30th of November 2022

Another title: Last Bus to Wisdom (Ivan Doig) With an 11 year old protagonist. One of my favorites!


Wednesday 30th of November 2022

Great list! I would add This is How it Always Is (Laurie Frankel) with a 5 year old protagonist. A wonderful book!

Melissa George

Wednesday 30th of November 2022

That's a great one, I know we have it on another list as well - maybe books set in the 2010s!


Sunday 23rd of January 2022

I've read 11 of these already, but see at least 4 I want to me. Thanks for these lists I always love to get ideas for new titles!

Heather Simpson

Sunday 16th of January 2022

I'm just about to re-read The Cay. I actually remember my mom reading this book to me and my younger sisters when we were little. I think it's a perfect book for this month because one of the protagonists is 11 years old.