BEST BOOKS for 7-8yr olds, 9-10yr olds and 11/12yr olds +
After the success of last year’s reading blog, we decided to put another one together before Christmas with some updated suggestions for all the family.
6-8 year old Book Recommendations
Obviously this is an age where ability ranges enormously, many children aren’t reading independently yet. I can honestly say, actively volunteering to read came closer to 8/9yrs old for my 3 boys but everyone is different. With this in mind, this section includes books which can be read out loud to this age group as well as obviously reading on their own if they can.
Sally Gardner – Invisible Boy, Strongest Girl in the World, The Boy who Could Fly
The Invisible Boy is a magical adventure about a boy whose parents win a pair of tickets to ride into space. Sam is left behind with the next door neighbour who turns out to be cruel and unsympathetic even when his parents are reported lost. In his miserable state, he stumbles across a tiny spaceship in their veg patch and together with his new alien friend, Splodge he discovers how to become invisible and how in turn to make his sad story have a happy ending.
Strongest Girl in the World is about a tiny little girl who wakes up with phenomenal strength. Her skills take her across the Atlantic where her agent move her and her family around making little Josie perform endless vacuous feats for money. It is not until she uses her strength to stop the Brooklyn Bridge from collapsing that she realizes what’s important in life. Another touching, heart-warming story.
The Boy Who Could Fly tells the story of a boy who is granted a wish by a magical fairy on his birthday and overnight goes from being unpopular to having lots of friends and of course getting into trouble with his new found skill. It doesn’t however resolve the deep longing he has to spend time with his father and help his parents in their marriage. With the help of a new friend, Thomas and the Fat Fairy help his father find what’s important. Wonderful characters and just as enjoyable for adults reading out loud.
Magic Tree House Series- Mary Pope Osbourne
Jack and Annie discover a magic treehouse in the woods where books transport them back in time to medieval castles, encounters with pirates and pyramids and adventures with dinosaurs. This is ideal for children just beginning chapter books as there is lots of action and seems to hook them in quite early on.
Roald Dahl Early Readers – The Enormous Crocodile, Giraffe Pelly & Me, The Twits, The Magic Finger. These need no introduction but just a note that these are the first ones for young readers to be introduced to before the lengthier Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The BFG, George’s Marvellous Medicine etc.
My Naughty Little Sister, Dorothy Edwards
An old favourite which is as lovely to read out loud or on an audio cd as it is for independent readers. Short stories about a mischevious little sister who eats all the trifle at Harry’s party, and isn’t sure about Father Christmas. She is stubborn and greedy and determinedly independent, wandering off on her own adventures or to go and see her friend Harry without her coat and gloves in the snow.
The Boy Who Grew Dragons- A.Shepherd
When Tomas discovers a fruit tree at the bottom of his grandfather’s garden, he takes a piece of the odd looking fruit back to his house. Imagine his delight when the piece of fruit hatches into a tiny dragon. This is the story of Tom’s unpredictable, fun-filled friendship with Flicker and the start of his connection with the dragon-fruit tree. It is the first of a three-part series and is an excellent book for reluctant readers.
The Worst Witch- Jill Murphy
Another well-loved classic about chaotic Mildred Hubble in her first year at Cackle’s Academy for witches. She muddles her spells, can’t ride her broomstick and makes an enemy of the teacher’s pet, Ethel. With her best-friend Maud, this is a brilliant introduction to life at a magical boarding school pre Harry Potter.
Harry’s Mad- Dick King Smith
Harry isn’t very happy when he inherits a parrot from Great-Uncle George but Madison is no ordinary parrot. He has a playful sense of humour and is highly intelligent. Mad and Harry become completely inseparable and have great fun playing tricks on his family. One day a burglar steals Madison in an effort to shut him up. Is he clever enough to find his way back to Harry? (As well as The Queen’s Nose, Foxbusters and The Sheep-Pig, this is one of Dick King Smith’s finest).
Pippi Longstocking- Astrid Lindgren
Another story loved by generations of children, all charmed by Pippi’s energy and zest for life. Pippi who would rather be playing with her monkey and arranging wild adventures. She has no parents to tell her what to do and thinks nothing of dancing with burglars or wrestling with tigers. With her freckles and red pigtails and her carefree adventures, she is the inner child in all of us.
Finn Family Moomintroll, Tove Jansson
It’s springtime and the Moomin family are emerging from hibernation and ready for to get out and explore. Moomintroll and his friends Snufkin and Sniff find a Hobgoblin’s hat which unbeknownst to them is magic. They take it home to their family and there begins a series of mishaps and fun-filled adventures. Innocent, magical and easy for children to engage with.
9-11yr old Book Recommendations
The Highland Falcon Thief, M.G Leonard: Hal doesn’t like trains, Lenny loves them. When priceless jewels are stolen from a royal prince and princess on board the Highland Falcon, suspicion falls on newcomer Lenny. Hal and his new friend have to put their heads together to solve the mystery before the train reaches its final destination. Lots of clues and hidden details, a good one for detective readers to try and solve at the same time.
Outlaw, Michael Morpurgo: Michael Morpurgo has re-written a classic, with great success- an overhaul bringing it up to the pace of a modern day reader. When one day Robin’s father is taken from the woods by the Sheriff of Nottingham’s men, Robin finds himself homeless and alone in an unfamiliar woodland. He is subsequently adopted by a gang of outlaws who live and hunt in the woods, feeding the poor as his father did. All the elements of the original legend are here but with some new twists and turns and lots of surprises.
Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer: Artemis fowl has a higher IQ than any other boy of his age. He is a criminal mastermind and a millionaire. He gets more than he bargains for when he attempts to kidnap, star student Holly Short on her LEPrecorn training course, realizing that Fairies aren’t always as nice as they seem! This is not the most sophisticated read but it is a magical, fast-paced, thoroughly engaging story which has been very popular amongst the boys and their friends.
The Good Thieves- Katherine Rundell
Vita and her grandfather are very close. When Vita’s grandfather begins to suffer from dementia, a crooked property-tycoon named Sorrotore tricks Vita’s grandfather into selling his castle for $200. With the police not progressing, Vita takes the law into her own hands and with her new found circus friends and a pickpocket, they storm the castle to take back what’s rightfully her grandfather’s. As with all of Rundells’ books, this is utterly gripping, strong on friendship and loyalty and touchingly doing anything you humanly can for the ones we love.
Dead Man’s Cove, Lauren St John
Detective mad Laura is sent to live with her Uncle in St Ives, Cornwall. In the town she is faced with facts that don’t add up such as the shopkeeper’s son, Tariq who is friendly one day and rude the next. Laura is determined to unravel the mysteries that surround her; why for example is everyone so terrified of Dead Man’s Cove? When Laura finds a message in a bottle, she sets off on a near fatal adventure, which tests her detective skills to their limit and puts her in very real danger. ‘Famous Five meets Nancy Drew’ is an accurate description of this brilliant series. Laura is a compelling heroine, and this story leaves you desperate to read on through her subsequent adventures. Highly recommended.
The Boy at The Back of the Class, Onjali Q.Rauf
Told from a child’s perspective, this is the story about a refugee, Ahmet who joins a third grade class after fleeing from war-torn Syria. Initially he is understandably silent; he can’t speak English, he has lost his parents and no one knows what’s happened to his sister. Thankfully he makes good friends and they in turn protect him from the school bully and even write a letter to the Queen asking her not to close the borders so that Ahmet can find his sister. It’s an important novel that deals with a difficult subject in a thoroughly engaging and moving way, highlighting the importance of kindness especially in dark times.
The Children of Castle Rock- Natasha Farrant
This has an old fashioned magic all of its own which makes this book one of those comforting reads and will undoubtedly be one of those books you reach for again and again. Alice’s mother has died and her childhood home is about to be taken from her. Alice is sent to Stormy Loch boarding school in Scotland with its odd rules and eccentric headmaster and where she misses her somewhat wayward father, Barney, desperately. Although she longs to escape, she begins to settle at Stormy Loch and make friends. When Barney goes missing, Alice and her friends embark on an epic adventure to try to reach him and get themselves embroiled in an international manhunt on the way. This has everything a perfect childhood read needs- beautiful descriptions, warm and vivid characters, carefree adventures and when you finish you want to disappear into the world Natasha Farrant created all over again.
Armistice Runner- Tom Palmer
Lily whose real passion is sport and in particular running is fighting her own battles. Her beloved Grandmother has Alzheimers and at school her friend Abbie is always beating her. One day she discovers her great great grandfather’s wartime diaries who, it turns out was also a fell-runner. In those letters, we discover not only a wonderfully rich and evocative account of wartime on the front line, but also a strong but implicit moral message about setting aside our differences and showing kindness to others. Lily draws great strength from these letters and is able to take precisely what she needs and apply it to her great passion, sport. This is an incredibly moving story and provokes a lot of discussion!
How to Train Your Dragon- Cressida Cowell
Since the arrival of the much lauded films, it would be understandable to gloss over the book version assuming that you know the storyline but in doing so you would miss out on such a brilliant book. Highly recommended for reluctant boy readers, the story of Hiccup and Toothless is far more entertaining, thrilling and rewarding than the screen version. The challenge of teaching untrainable Toothless even though Hiccup can speak Dragonese proves to be a laugh out loud, exciting tale with characters that you get to understand much more keenly and become much more entangled with. The David Tarrant Audio CD version of this is exceptional!
Stay Where You Are And Then Leave, John Boyne: Alfie Summerfield’s father has gone to war (WW1) leaving Alfie and his mother behind scraping pennies together to fend for themselves. Alfie secretly takes himself off to Kings Cross Station to earn money shining shoes and it is there, he sees his father’s name on a sheaf of papers belonging to a military doctor. Missing in action until that point, Alfie becomes determined to rescue his father. A brilliant read, beautifully written with likeable characters and very moving in parts. Thoroughly recommended (and for parents too.) 10+
12yrs + - Young Adult
Cherub, Robert Muchamore: in this 17-book series ‘Cherub’ is a secret spy agency only hiring those aged only 10 to 17. This organization is effective precisely because no one would suspect a 13-year-old boy of planting and bugging their house. This is a thrill-seeking series, full of adventure with lots of twists and turns. It is a junior equivalent of the Matthew Bourne series.
Rock War, Robert Muchamore: Jay is a gifted guitar player. Summer has a beautiful singing voice. Dylan is able to play any instrument he sets his mind to. They are all about to meet in the bad battle Rock the Lock which will send them all on into ‘Rock War’ the international rock competition. This has been criticised for being predictable my 12 year old found it a good holiday read. Ultimately, by the end of the 4th book, they become good friends but they go through a lot more in between. 12+ (guns, drugs, prison, inappropriate detail)
The Hunger Games Series, Suzanne Collins
The very concept of Dystopian fiction is enough to put off most people but there is a reason that this series is such a best seller. Set in a bleak version of the near future, twelve boys and twelve girls are selected to take part in a live broadcast of a show called The Hunger Games where only one contestant will come out alive. Katniss Everdeen steps forward to take her younger sisters place assuming she won’t live to tell the tale. The first of a brilliant trilogy (now also a prequel available) which is highly addictive and could be a perfect post-Christmas read.
OrangeBoy, Patrice Lawrence: Quiet, self-contained Marlon, 16 years old, has always gone out of his way to be good (unlike his brother who is a gang leader). However, when he succeeds in taking the beautiful Sonya on a date, the tragic events that follows makes him suddenly a wanted man. This gripping tale takes you into the world of drugs, guns and knives in order to find the last man standing. ‘Incredibly fast-paced, edge of your seat kind of a read’
Thirteen, Tom Hoyle: Thirteen boys, twelve dead, one survives for now... Adam was born at midnight on the night of a new millennium. He is being hunted by an inhumane cult led by phsycho, Coron who won’t stop until everyone born on this day must die before they reach the age of thirteen. The book is more a fast-paced, page-turner than an in depth, literary masterpiece. If you liked the Robert Muchamore series, this is along the same lines; a great premise, a good quick read.
Challenge, Tom Hoyle: Ben, hasn’t stopped grieving about his friend Will who vanished from their small village a year ago. But when the twins who are popular and cool turn up at school, Ben’s life picks up again as he starts to make friends, introducing him to a game known as The Challenge. It starts of as a silly dare game and quickly evolves into something much more sinister. Sadly, when you start The Challenge it is very hard to stop… Another gripping, quick read.
Holes, Louis sachar: Camp Green Lake used to be a flourishing oasis but now all it is, is a correctional facility for the criminal youths. The main character of Holes, Stanley Yelnats became embroiled in a ticket scam and ended up there earning himself the nickname Caveman. Every day, as punishment, he and the other juveniles must dig holes that are five foot deep and five foot wide and report anything that they find. But it is time for Stanley to dig up the truth... This book is almost being read as a Young Adult Classic, written in the 90’s, it is still one much talked about amongst this age group as a ‘must-read’.
Small steps, Louis Sachar The second installment from the author of ‘Holes’. Armpit and X-ray are living in Texas and Armpit is trying to take small steps to get his life back to normal after Camp Green Lake detention facility. To go to school, get an after-school job, and stay out of jail. He even has his first romance. With his signature wit, Louis Sachar delivers another compelling adventure with well-portrayed characters as well as highlighting issues such as race, celebrity culture and the intricacies of good relationships.
A Good Girls Guide to Murder, Holly Jackson
This was the gripping read of the summer, the one that stopped conversations because a certain nose was tucked so firmly in the pages. It does have adult content (reference to the date rape drug, murder, suicide) but it is dealt with lightly and not in huge depth. It is the pace of the investigation and the clever drip drip of clues which keeps readers on their toes. Pippa Fitz-Amobi, in her final year of college decides to reopen a missing persons case from 5 years previously as she has always believed the ‘alleged murderer’ to be innocent. Things become nailbiting when she starts to receive threatening notes and the she starts to realise she is on the right trail…. A brilliant introduction to the murder mystery genre aimed at the teen audience. Highly recommended.
We Were Liars, E.Lockhart
It’s hard to know how to describe this without giving the game away. Four friends. Happy, carefree summers on an exclusive island inhabited only by wealthy families. An accident. A tragedy. Lies. A sophisticated suspense thriller which literally leaves you hanging right until the end. Highly recommended (adults too). Sexual reference but very minor and no details.
The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
I absolutely loved this book and was excited to recommend it to my 12 year old. Once you have got over the fact that it is narrated by Death, and it does take a couple of chapters to get used to, you are soon drawn into the world of Liesel, a thirteen year old, recently orphaned and now living with foster parents, poor Germans. Liesel’s first encounter with Death is when her brother dies and she is only 9, Death hangs around to witness her stealing her first book which had fallen in the snow by her brothers grave. When Liesel’s foster family decide to hide a Jew in their basement, a beautiful friendship ensues and her love affair with literature prevails. Arguably a depressing pretext, this is actually full of humour with richly drawn characters and even the hardiest of readers will struggle not to shed a tear. Today, many books for teens focus on fast-paced action and somewhat patronizingly I sometimes feel often resort to themes of drugs, parties and crime. This is one of those books that has real depth and will undoubtedly remain a modern classic to treasure.
Refugee, by Alan Gratz
Three different refugee stories in three different countries at three different moments in history. All will face unthinkable dangers and all will be forced to dig deep to survive and find home. An essential read but a lot of facts that are difficult to read- possibly some of the details need to be discussed with an adult unless you are buying this for an older teen. ‘Forced drownings’ come up which is not an easy thing to forget. It is a brilliantly important book however and one we should all read.
10 Brilliant Adult Reads
Pachinko, Min Jin Lee
The Spy And The Traitor, Ben Macintyre
The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair, Joel Ducker (and The Baltimore Boys)
Red Notice, Bill Browder
A Little Life, Hanya Yanigihara
Hillbilly Elegy, J.D Vance
Where The Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens
The Binding, Bridget Collins
American Dirt, Jeanine Cummins
Educated, Tara Westover