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A selection of books especially selected for children in Year 4 (8 - 9 year olds) of average reading ability for the 2020/21 academic year.
If your child is a competent reader or has read all these titles then try the books from the Year 5 list. Alternatively if these books are a little challenging try books from the Year 3 list. Our overall mission is to promote reading for pleasure with quality texts that are perfectly pitched for the age group and the curriculum. We have particularly avoided blockbusters, classic or set texts, known to everyone, so that we can include poetry, stunning information texts and inspirational books in which all children and young people can find themselves reflected.
Thanks to our partnership with Browns Books For Students we are able to offer all the books on this list at an exclusive price.
The fragility of life underpins this heart-warming story from the start. Louie was born prematurely “a pitiful, scrawny, struggling thing”. Newcomer Nora lost a premature baby brother and this experience has left her anxious and slow to trust. The two children bond over Winslow, a frail orphaned baby donkey, not expected to survive, whom Louie adopts despite his poor track record with saving bugs, worms or goldfish. For both, saving the adorable Winslow helps them to feel less powerless about underlying anxieties, such as Louie’s fears for his beloved brother serving in the army who now signs his infrequent letters “remember me”. Carnegie medal winning Creech packs a real emotional punch into so few words of beautifully spare prose. This short novel would be an ideal read aloud with delightfully humorous scenes as Winslow grows stronger (and louder) as well as great pathos and a dramatic and satisfying climax. It is set in an unspecified past and would be a wonderful companion read to Charlotte’s Web or Eva Ibbotson’s One Dog and His Boy and is as deserving of classic status.
May 2020 Debut of the Month | There aren’t many books that can have you laughing out loud one minute, and tearing up the next, but The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates is one. When Freddie sets off on a secret journey that will take him half-way across the country, his two best friends come too; they have their own reasons for wanting to escape home for a bit. Together the three get into and out of some extraordinary scrapes, inadvertently becoming heroes in the process, and Freddie experiences an actual miracle. Freddie, Ben and Charlie are great characters and their incredible journey – which variously involves sheep, a tandem, superhero outfits and stolen treasure - both hilarious and gripping. The ending proves that the world is a wonderful place, particularly for those who go looking for adventure. Don’t miss. One to recommend to fans of Frank Cottrell Boyce’s The Astounding Broccoli Boy, or David Solomons’ My Brother is a Superhero series.
“Numbers are great, they make sense - unlike people. You’d think this if you lived with my family.” So Anisha sets the scene for the madcap mystery that unfolds in the chaotic run-up to her Aunty Bindi’s epic wedding. Anisha loves her “sparkly” Aunty Bindi, but it’s not easy being bridesmaid to such a flamboyant figure, especially when she’s on the verge of having a “mega meltdown”! Matters take a scarier turn when Anisha finds a ransom note announcing that Tony, Bindi’s fiancé, has been kidnapped and the wedding must be called off if they want to see him again. “Why did I have to be the one who found the note?” she laments. “I DON’T LIKE DRAMA!” But, in order to prevent her already frazzled family from spiraling into further chaos, Anisha decides to find Tony herself, with the help of her best friend Milo. A hilarious race against time ensues, with clues to pursue, undercover surveillance to be done and the involvement of some decidedly curious characters (among them a weeing lobster), and the menace of Anisha’s “evil” cousins-to-be. The story shimmers with the vibrant exuberance of an Indian wedding, the special warmth of family and friends, and action-packed amusement. Special mention must go to the informative (and funny) footnotes that explain Indian food, customs and language referred to in the story, and to Emma McCann’s energetic illustrations. April 2020 Debut of the Month Books in the Anisha, Accidental Detective Series: 1. Anisha, Accidental Detective 2. School's Cancelled
Shortlisted for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2020 | Written for and about “the swift and sweet ones/who hurdled history and opened a world of possible”, for those who “survived America by any means necessary. And the ones who didn’t,” this is an inspiring ode to the author’s forebears and to the world-changing feats of unforgettable Black American figures. Author Kwame Alexander’s initial inspiration for this book came in the year his second daughter was born, the same year Barack Obama became the first African American president of the USA. As a result, Alexander wanted his daughters “to know how we got to this historic moment”, which is exactly what this stirring book does. The chained slaves who kept faith, the elite Olympians, the innovative musicians, the seminal scientists, the courageous activists - people from all walks of life are celebrated in Alexander’s poetically poised words, and gloriously illustrated by Kadir Nelson, with much for young children to ponder and ask questions about. As well as being a wonderful way for parents to explore Black American history with their little ones on a one-to-one basis, this will also work well with older children in a classroom context. Indeed, this is one of those rare and wonderful picture books that defies age boundaries - a radiant, resonant unforgettable tour de force, as befits its theme.
Clementine - though she is usually called Oiya (Oy, you) by her dreadful Aunt and Uncle – has dreams of a magic place she may have once known. Her only friend is the cat Gilbert (called Giblets by Aunt Vermillia and Uncle Rufus) as Clementine has a Cinderella-like existence working all day and then being locked away in the cellar at night. She glimpses the sky through looking up the chimney in her cellar, until one day she looks out of a window in the house and sees the magic place she has imagined… Then follows a great adventure through the Great Black City as Clementine miraculously escapes and tries to find her magic place. Clementine is a very determined little girl, many would have given up in her circumstances, but she knows she can fine her magic place. The book is a very tactile object, a lovely size for smaller hands as they get involved in this wonderful adventure. Black and white illustrations on virtually every page – Wormell is feted for his wood cuts and lino cuts – with a nod to the style of Gustav Doré, give this an authentic Dickensian feel. The generous illustrations paired with the fast-paced story make this a book children will enjoy reading for pleasure!
Well-known children’s TV presenter Konnie Huq has created this delightful novel, illustrated throughout with small sketches and some very humourous footnotes! Cookie is a bright, bold character, who doesn’t understand the word no, who leaps in with both feet – and so gets herself into trouble just a little too often. When her best friend announces her family plan to move away Cookie is bereft – not helped by the arrival of a very annoying boy – who moves in next door to Cookie. Cookie wants to represent her school on the Brainbusters TV quiz programme, but to do so she must win the Y5 science project – will she do it? The storytelling is funny and energetic – just like Cookie. There are some real laugh out loud moments, paired with explanations and methods on the science experiments described in the book – and hints on how to do them safely at home. A real pleasure to have a book encouraging scientific exploration in such a fun way – and such a strong young female character.
Winner of the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Told with crystalline clarity and verve, and fabulously enhanced by the stylish illustrations, this tells the remarkable against-the-odds tale of Katherine Johnson from her days as an exceptional African American schoolgirl whose “boundless curiosity turned her into a star student”. But despite her brightness, ten-year-old Katherine faced the terrible restraints of segregation – as an African American she wasn’t permitted to study at her local high school. As she “burned with fury”, her family determined to get Katherine the education she deserved and so they moved to a town with a high school for black students. Her path to working on Project Apollo required incredible perseverance, but thanks to that, and to her outstanding mathematical skills, the world could count on Katherine to set the moon landings back on course. Shot-through with a rousing sense of Katherine’s determination and dedication to her work, and with her shining mathematical brilliance, this beautiful book deserves to be on the shelves of every space-loving child.
Winner of the Costa Children's Book Award 2019 | Debut of the Month January 2020 | Winner of the 2017 Time/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition | Longlisted for the Branford Boase Award 2020 | Rich in drama, and suffused in the spirituality and atmosphere of the author’s native Northern Punjab, Jasbinder Bilan’s debut is a delightful, hope-bathed treat for 9+ year-olds. With money tight, Asha’s father has gone to the big city to work in a factory, having promised to send money home, and to return to their village in the Himalayan foothills for Diwali. But when the money stops arriving and her mum runs into trouble with a lender, Asha makes a big, brave decision: she will cross the world’s highest mountains to find her father. Accompanied by best friend Jeevan, and with the magical, protective presence of her nanijee – her grandmother’s spirit bird – Asha sets out on a truly transformative journey of a lifetime. Along the way, the friends encounter dangerous beasts of the animal and human kind, but they never give up hope, with Asha’s infectious sense of justice, self-belief and spirituality keeping them firmly fixed on their goal. This is perfect for fans of the Himalayas-set Running on the Roof of the World and the adventure stories of Eva Ibbotson and Katherine Rundell.
Jokes flow thick and fast from this most original and inventive Viking adventure, which launched the career of a Viking with a difference. Hiccup Horrendous Haddock grew up at a time of dragons but he was not always a hero. He had to learn to fight them. To do so he had to pass the Dragon Initiation Programme, an awesome schedule run by Gobber the Belch, idiot in charge of initiation on the Isle of Berk. Hiccup was by no means a natural high achiever when it came to dragon training but after many hilarious mishaps, he soon got the hang of it and was on the way to becoming a Hero. Books in The How To Train Your Dragon Series: 1. How To Train Your Dragon 2. How To Be A Pirate 3. How To Speak Dragonese 4. How To Cheat a Dragon's Curse 5. A Hero's Guide to Deadly Dragons 6. How To Twist a Dragon's Tale 7. How To Ride a Dragon's Storm 8. How To Break a Dragon's Heart 9. How To Steal a Dragon's Sword 10. How To Seize a Dragon's Jewel 11. How To Betray a Dragon's Hero 12. How To Fight a Dragon's Fury
Best-selling Goth Girl is back for an action-packed new adventure in this stunningly produced volume by former Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell which has the additional delight of a mini-book, Fable of a Faun, tucked into it. Lord Goth is turning Ghastly-Gorm Hall into the venue for Gothstock, a sensational music festival that will match his home. Naturally, Ada Goth is thrilled at the thought but will it all go to plan? In both words and pictures Chris Riddell creates an amazing cast of characters and the most original escapades in which they are all entangled.
A most welcome reissue of a superb piece of accessible historical writing told from a most unusual viewpoint. Ultimately uplifting, this is an unflinching look at issues of social justice at the time of the Peasants Revolt. Marcus Sedgwick, who won the Branford Boase Award in 2001, says: “Fire, Bed and Bone is one of those very short books that is nevertheless powerful and moving; one of those books which oozes confidence from the first line to the last. With it, Henrietta won the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, and twenty-two years later I think it would still win. It's far from being the first novel narrated by an animal, in this case a hunting hound witnessing the events of the Peasant's Revolt of 1381, but remains a masterclass in how to pull off that feat successfully. Its prose is robust and rhythmic; flawless in its execution, showing just what complex themes and stories one can address in a 'book for children’.”
Acclaimed author Philip Pullman turns his hand to a stunning and original story for younger readers. Who is Roger? He says he was a rat - and some of the time he behaves like a rat. But, he is also a small boy. Or, he could be the Monster of the sewers…Everyone has a view – including The Daily Scourge – who tells their own version in screaming newspaper headlines. There is just one person who really knows who Roger is. And she’s the princess…Cleverly, Pullman weaves together strands of story from different sources creating a fast-paced and multi-layered adventure.
Longlisted for the UKLA 2018 Book Award | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2018 | Award-winning David Almond’s new story for younger reader is a delightfully lightly told, warm-hearted story perfect for all those who are willing believe in a little bit of something special. When a little angel turns up in Bert’s pocket as he drives the bus all kinds of remarkable things begin to happen. Bert takes Angelino home to Betty and he brings great happiness into their lives. When Betty takes Angelino to school he delights the children too. Only the acting Head Teacher Mrs Mole, her horrible side-kick Professor Smellie and the imposter of a school inspector are untouched by his magical qualities. But who is Angelino? David Almond inspires readers’ imagination and raises questions about definitions of good and bad. It is a Wonderful book.
Shortlisted for the UKLA 2018 Book Award | Interest Age 8-12 | Full of magic, myth and a wonderful sense of family, and illustrated throughout with Jackie Morris’s beautiful, atmospheric paintings, this is perfect winter reading. Sol lives in Seattle with his dad but doesn’t feel he belongs, and when an Arctic Fox appears at the docks, he identifies with the small white creature, so alien, so wild. The arrival of the fox brings a change in Sol’s life, a return to the wild landscapes of Alaska and a place he can finally feel at home. Jackie Morris recognises perfectly the deep-seated importance to every one of us of wild creatures and wild landscapes, and this is a book to treasure.
Greta Zargo is an unusual 11-year-old. An orphan she’s lived on her own since the age of 8 thanks to an unfortunate but legally-binding error on her parents’ otherwise carefully thought-out will. A junior reporter on the local paper, Greta is determined her summer scoop will be solving the mystery surrounding a series of cake thefts. Meanwhile, in outer space a huge space-going robot is heading towards Earth to take over our planet. The two stories zing along in parallel before coming together beautifully at the book’s climax, and thanks to another typo on a key document. The comical characters and situations will thoroughly entertain young readers while the author’s delight in words ad language adds another dimension. Readers who enjoy Greta’s adventure should look out for books by Andy Stanton and Philip Ardagh, who employ similarly knowing narrative voices, and will also enjoy Norton Juster’s classic The Phantom Tollbooth.
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | Longlisted for the UKLA 2018 Book Award | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month May 2017 Gill Lewis’s A Story Like the Wind, a powerful and lyrical story about contemporary refugees, is fuelled by an ancient tale which tells how throughout history music has crossed barriers and bound people together encouraging them to stand up to oppression and injustice. Rami has nothing but his violin as he sets off on a terrifying journey to try to find safety. Starving and thirsty he takes nothing from his fellow travellers as he has nothing to share. Why did you not sell your violin, they ask? With his violin as an accompaniment Rami swiftly demonstrates why; his inspiring story of freedom from long, long ago unites his fellow refugees and stirs them all to believe in their journey and their hope of a better life.
Winner of the UKLA 2018 Book Award 7-11 | This is no ordinary animal book, you won’t find the usual suspects in its page, no tigers, pandas, bears here. Instead be prepared to be amazed by animals you’ve never heard of, from the Cuban solenodon (one of the few mammals with a poisonous bite) to the stinky but useful zorilla, aka Africa’s pongiest predator. Martin ‘Horrible Histories illustrator’ Brown celebrates a host of animals that deserve to be better know, in a book that offers a refreshingly different approach to natural history. Each page is packed with fascinating information, cleverly laid out with frequent jokes and cartoon asides adding to the fun. At the same time, there’s a serious message about the threat to these creatures from humans, and habitat loss.
Winner of the Best Story Blue Peter Book Award 2017. | A more challenging read, but one which grips the reader in the exciting quest of the eponymous Podkin to save his family from the evil Gorm. A most wonderfully realised society and mythology adds real depth to this series.
Shortlisted for the English Picture Book Award 2016 | Mick Manning and Brita Granström have developed a picture book approach to non-fiction that brings their subjects to vivid life. Beautifully illustrated throughout in coloured pencil and watercolour and with pen and ink for the hand lettering, this is beautiful to look at and packed with information. There is lots on Shakespeare’s childhood – stories of the famous as children always catch the imagination of young readers – and the book provides a very clear impression of Tudor life. It explains the ‘lost years’, when no-one really knows what Shakespeare was up to, and cleverly puts the plays in the context of Shakespeare’s life and times. There are retellings in a sort of comic-strip of some of the most important plays – Hamlet, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet – while comic-strip style speech bubbles throughout let readers hear Shakespeare’s words and world. Children can read this book in so many different ways, and Simon Callow, quoted on the cover, is right when he says this is a perfect introduction to the real Shakespeare.
Shortlisted for the Little Rebel Children's Book Award 2013. In an entertaining adventure that is also full of charm and whimsy, best-selling author John Boyne champions the right of children to be different. Barnaby Brocket’s parents want only thing – to lead an utterly normal life. But when Barnaby, their third child is born, they know at once that he is very far from normal. The problem is, Barnaby cannot stay on the ground; he floats ever upwards unless weighted down or restrained. Embarrassed by their problem son and the attention he may attract, Barnaby’s parents let him go…Now a free spirit and travelling in many different ways, Barnaby’s adventures take him across the world where he meets all kinds of people who, just because they are not exactly what their parents want them to be, have been similarly disowned by their parents. ~ Julia Eccleshare
Winner of 2015 CLPE Poetry Award - the only award in the UK for published children's poetry | An exciting debut poetry collection from an exciting new voice. The collection includes a wide range of poems, from funny and fantastical to spooky and spellbinding. Find out the mysterious rules of Werewolf Club, how to look like a rainbow, what happens when puppies fall in love - and how to fold up your gran! To see Joseph Coelho perform some of the poems go to his website.
Winner of the Branford Boase Award 2013, the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2013 & the Costa Children's Book Awards 2012 | An amazing adventure follows when a boy takes what he thinks will be a short ride in a boat with a boy. But the ride is not a short one… Soon, the boat is in the middle of an empty sea and the bear is struggling with a map and searching the horizon with a telescope. Luckily the boy has brought some food with him as together, the boy and the bear deal with impenetrable mist, a terrifying sea monster and even the remains of a disgusting sandwich in this humorous and gentle journey of survival and self-discovery.
Shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize 2012. | Fans of Mortal Engines will devour Philip Reeves’s richly detailed goblin extravaganza. The dank and dark towers and stairways of Clovenstone Keep are packed full of dirty, smelly, squabbling goblins. As a breed, they all love fighting; none more so than King Knobbler, their ferocious leader who takes a secret delight in soft pink pants. But one day Skarper hatches out of an eggstone. Skarper is different and his differences are bound to lead him into trouble. Sent to the Bumwipe Heaps to keep him out of mischief, Skarper looks beyond the decaying residue and begins to makes sense of the ‘lettuce’ and the ‘worms’. Learning to read is a dangerous business and soon Scarper finds himself bratapulted off the battlements and falling headlong into an incredible adventure. It’s worth keeping track of the cloud maidens, trolls, softlings and the rest as they all hurtle through the headlong action as this glorious adventure is full of hidden jokes and meanings.
Bill Simpson wakes up to find he's a girl, and worse, his mother makes him wear a frilly pink dress to school. How on earth is he going to survive a whole day like this? Everything just seems to be different for girls. Stylishly written and thought-provoking it’s a book that’s not to be missed by both girls and boys aged around 7+. Anne Fine has a rare genius for building a funny, enriching and moving story around the nuts and bolts of school life. Many of Anne Fine’s books are ideal for reluctant readers as they tend to be quite short and also because of the great warmth and humour in her writing. These include The Angel of Nitshill Road, Ivan the Terrible, How to write really Badly, Saving Miss Mirabelle, The Chicken Gave it to me and Anneli the Art Hater. Anne also writes for older readers, the most know of which is probably Madame Doubtfire. Click here to view all titles by Anne Fine.
A favourite of August 2011 Guest Editor Julie Hearn. To writing a moving and funny book, especially for children, about as serious a subject as cancer is a remarkable achievement. Two Weeks with the Queen is a remarkable example of such a thing. Sent away from his home in Australia to stay with his aunt ands uncle in London while his parents nurse his brother Luke through the final stages of cancer, Colin sets out on a mission. If only he can reach the Queen, he reasons, she’ll be able to put him in touch with the best cancer doctor in the world and Luke will be made well. But nothing is so straightforward. Instead, Colin meets some remarkable people and, through them, he is able to share some of the universal grief of loosing a person you love. Profoundly moving, deeply serious but also wickedly funny. Click here to see other Morris Gleitzman titles.