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A selection of books especially selected for children in Year 8 (12 - 13 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 9 list. Alternatively if these books are a little challenging try books from the Year 7 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.
A Story Told in Poems | Joseph Coehlo is a poet who has been in the situation of ‘the one to watch’ because he has been producing lots of wonderful work that has made an impact from picture books to teen reads. This is his most ground-breaking and powerful exploration of poetry as a form and as a story-telling medium to date. Based on the legend of Daphne – she was a Naiad-nymph who was loved by the god Apollo who pursued her until she grew exhausted and called on Gaia for help. She was transformed into a laurel tree which Apollo then adopted as his sacred plant. This creates a clever and intriguing interweaving of the ancient legend with the reaction and feelings of a girl, also called Daphne, who is coping with the grief caused by the loss of her father. She turns to her phone for aid, and her local library as she tries to sort out the past and find a way to build connections again. The verse is heart-breaking, powerful, totally involving, and engrossing to read. The layers of meaning enlighten the story in this rich poetic exploration – a tour de force – full of energy and a rich palette of language. This is not to disregard the evocative and powerful illustrations from one of our most innovative and prize-winning illustrators to add stylish, edgy and thought-provoking illustrations. The whole package is an experience that will cause discussion and deep thought in every reader.
Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2020 | Storm, shipwreck, survival. Chris Vick's novel delves deep into the might and majesty of the unpredictable ocean, the strength of an unlikely friendship between a British boy and a Berber girl and their will to survive against all the odds.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | This novel moves from poetry to prose, and back again, as it explores a girl’s relationship with her Grandfather. Mizuki can see something is deeply troubling to her Grandfather Ichiro, but she can’t find its source, except it is somehow connected with an old book and Ichiro’s need to create origami paper cranes from it. Mizuki’s worries are expressed in verse before we jump back into prose - to the at times brutal description of the day the bomb fell on Hiroshima and Ichiro’s role in that day and beyond. The descriptions of the effects of the bomb are based on effective research and from survivor’s tales and told in such a way that the reader is entirely there in the moment and the long days after as Hiro rebuilds a life for himself. As we return to Japan in 2018 the novel reverts to poetry to the very modern tale of how Mizuki uses the internet to try to get to the bottom of the problem facing her elderly grandfather. The illustrations in the book help create the many impressions and emotions aroused by the story – they are based on Japanese brush and ink techniques and add a further layer to this already impressive book. This is a harrowing tale but the ultimate redemption in the story leaves one with a sense of hope. Highly recommended.
Winner of the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Susin Nielsen’s new novel features unforgettable central characters, and is beautifully written; her ear for dialogue – young teen to teen, young teen to parent, young teen to emergency services – pitch perfect. Despite being a story of homelessness and poverty, it will leave readers cheered and thoroughly reassured about the strength and resilience of the human spirit. Twelve-year old Felix lives with his mother Astrid, only rarely seeing his dad. Astrid has a flexible attitude to truth and Felix has developed a chart to measure the lies she tells as they navigate their lives. These range from ‘the invisible lie’, through the ‘no-one gets hurt’ to the biggest, the ‘someone might lose an eye’ lie. As they struggle to cope living in a (stolen) camper van, Astrid uses her panoply of lies to the full and Felix reluctantly goes along with it, ready to support his mother even when it’s really difficult. Nielsen gives him good friends, and a talent for memorising facts, both of which help to set up a better future for him. Both painful and funny, this is a book that will have readers alternatively shouting at its central characters, and cheering them on.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Another insightful and compassionate free verse novel from the queen of this increasingly admired form, this time exploring the transformative relationship between an abused runaway teenager and an elderly lady with dementia. Allison has grown up “stepping on eggshells” to circumvent her father’s violence. While she often wonders whether his behaviour was “all my fault”, one of his outbursts compels her to run away. With nowhere to go, she finds sanctuary in the house of an elderly woman called Marla. Marla has dementia and thinks Allison is Toffee, her best friend from childhood. After spending some time in Marla’s company, Allison decides to “stop correcting her… I like the idea of being sweet and hard, a girl with a name for people to chew on.” Moreover, in meeting Marla, Allison has found an unlikely kindred spirit: “I am not who I say I am. Marla isn’t who she thinks she is… Here, in this house, I am so much happier than I have ever been”. Returning the favour, Allison enriches Marla’s life – she listens, she indulges Marla’s desire to dance - while Marla’s carer and son show no real regard for her happiness, as if she’s beyond life, which makes Allison’s attentiveness all the more heart warming. Both vulnerable, they find strength through each other. With incredibly moving insight, Marla says of Allison’s dad, “none of it was about you. It was about him. It’s always about him. Surely you know that.” The writing is compellingly fluid, flowing freely between Allison’s precarious present and the tragic, abusive circumstances that sent her careering down this path. While fleeting, the impact of their time together is monumental, and I felt privileged to have spent time in their company.
November 2019 Book of the Month | Reading a new Frances Hardinge novel is always an adventure into a new, carefully constructed world - where things are never quite as one might imagine as you begin. Here two friends, raised together in poverty and scavenging are leader and led, counterpoint to each other, one believing in friendship above all, the other of a very much darker outlook. They live on one of a series of islands that form the Myriad, each island with its own long dead gods, each with its own strange traditions and stories. The sea surrounding the islands hides many things within it, wrecks, bones as one may expect, but also the undersea where danger lurks ready to take any who venture too far and spit them out utterly changed. In this world Hardinge has created a masterpiece of tension, fear and friendship. A slow coming to the realisation of the world that they inhabit, and a look at power and how it can be manipulated for politicians, gods and evildoers own nefarious ends. It makes your mind race with the adventure but pulls you up to consider the philosophy behind the characters motivations. A truly great read – I think I may have to read it again now!
Rose is a 17-year-old girl who – with her mother and brother, Rudder, have been expelled from a religious community. Now she plans to ‘decommission-from the sect’ and has a very adventurous, quite dangerous plan for doing so. She’s even got herself a boyfriend who will help with this plan – perhaps a bit too enthusiastically! Lawrence is a writer who just goes from strength to strength – this latest novel building upon all that have gone before, starting from the award winning ‘Orangeboy’. This explores what happens when two young people are removed from all they know (a very rule heavy religious sect) and let loose in modern society. They have to learn everything that all their peers take for granted, including how to deal with social media, school, bullying etc. The reader empathises so strongly with all the characters – and almost want to shout at the page when they can see a mistake looming as Rose and Rudder act without any guidance. This is a look at morality, an exploration of how we react to uncertainty, and a lesson in what life is like for families where one parent has to earn money all the time to just keep a roof over their heads. Readers will recognise the hard edges of this modern world but appreciate the compassion Lawrence shows for her characters.
A History of LGBTQ+ Movement | Detailed and full of information - excellent coverage of the topic. From Prejudice to Pride looks at the rise and achievements of the LGBTQ+ movement and the different communities, pioneers and stories of heartbreak and courage that have marched alongside it. Perfect for readers aged 11 and upwards, this book will inspire courage and pride in young LGBTQ+ people and help answer questions for all readers interested in gender and identity.
'In an ancient city by the sea, three sisters - a maiden, a mother, and a crone - are drawing maps by candlelight. Sombre, with piercing grey eyes, they are the three Fates, and every map is a human life . . .' Stepsister takes up where Cinderella's tale ends. We meet Isabelle, the younger of Cinderella's two stepsisters. Ella is considered beautiful; stepsister Isabelle is not. Isabelle is fearless, brave, and strong-willed. She fences better than any boy, and takes her stallion over jumps that grown men fear to attempt. It doesn't matter, though; these qualities are not valued in a girl. Others have determined what is beautiful, and Isabelle does not fit their definition. Isabelle must face down the demons that drove her cruel treatment of Ella, challenge her own fate and maybe even redefine the very notion of beauty . . . Cinderella is about a girl who was bullied; Stepsister is about the bully. We all root for the victims, we want to see them triumph. But what about the bullies? Is there hope for them? Can a mean girl change? Can she find her own happily ever after?
Winner of the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2020 | Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | February 2019 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month July 2020 | Interest Age Teen Reading Age 9 | Cleverly set within a gripping adventure, Lark is a deeply touching story of the special bond between brothers. Older brother Nicky narrates the story of the day he and his younger brother Kenny set out on a simple day out on the moors. Proposed by their father as a way of filling time while they wait nervously for their mum to return from her new life in Canada, it is meant to a fun day out tinged with a bit of nostalgia as they are retracing a walk that he used to enjoy. But the simple walk which begins in a light hearted way soon becomes a deadly dangerous adventure as the weather conditions close in, the boys get completely lost and Kenny has to show exceptional courage and intelligence to make sure he can get Kenny home safely. Anthony McGowan maintains the intensity of the story throughout while also keeping the writing simple.
Shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Award 2018 | This immersive coming-of-age epic is set in the late nineteenth century, when an age-old Filipino culture first encounters the brutal warmongering of white men. Samkad cannot wait to become a man through undergoing the ‘Cut’ rites of passage observed by his Bontok tribe (later ignorantly mispronounced by American occupiers as “Bone Talk”), though he fears losing his best friend Luki as a result, for Luki is a girl and their relationship will be forbidden, even though they share the same ambitions - to become a warrior, to fight the Mangili. Samkad’s absorbing journey to manhood is intensified when a white stranger arrives in his village claiming to be his brother, a stranger who tells tales of a people called Americans. Then, when the Americans arrive, bringing war and destruction to the Bontok’s remote mountains, nothing will be the same again. Not for Samkad, nor for his family and culture. By turns universal and unique, historically enlightening and emotionally powerful, this relatable, resonant coming-of-age adventure boasts an abundance of heart, atmosphere and action.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Winner of the CLiPPA 2019 | One of our 2018 Books of the Year | These poignant, punch-packing poems explore the varied emotional lives of secondary school pupils facing the giddy transition from being “the biggest to the smallest...in the secondary school jungle” like “gazelles in a field full of lions”. Complex tangles of feelings are laid bare with heart-rending authenticity, from the headiness of he-said-she-said gossip, to the bewildering “who the hell do you sit with?” loneliness that strikes when your best friend’s off school (Thanks a lot, Belinda). Vending Machine is an incredible piece of writing, encapsulating the anguish and anger of betrayal, of having your heart trampled on, and then the bliss of recovery when your heart feels “a little lighter”. Another personal favourite is the sublime Dear Mum, BTEC about a student “drawing different plans” after realising they are ill-suited to exams - plans they hope will make Mum proud. There are jubilant themes too, such as the breathless, time-stopping “WHAM!” of instant attraction, the jangling joy of being at the bottom of a celebratory pile-on after you’ve scored, and the magic of those inspirational, unforgettable teachers who take time to share a book they think you “should try”. A chorus of entertaining, emotionally-charged insights and observations sing and dance through these tender, playful pages, with each short verse alive with empathetic, true-to-life experiences.
UKLA Longlist Book Awards - 2019 | Ancient magic abounds, great gods and goddesses grimace, and timeless truths teem in this enthralling reimagining of Norse mythology. In his foreword, Carnegie Medal-winning author Kevin Crossley-Holland explains that “Norse myths are brilliant, fast-moving, ice-bright stories”, and the tales contained herein certainly live up to that description. Beginning with an excellent illustrated overview of the gods and goddesses, dwarfs and giants, and a diagram of the Norse world itself, each dramatic retelling is prefaced by a pithy line summarising the wisdom it bears, with such gems as “Fair words often conceal weaselly thinking”, and “Be generous, be spirited, and you’ll lead a happy life” among them. The stories themselves will enchant the mind and quicken the pulse. One-eyed Odin, trickster Loki, and many more are brought to life with shard-sharp verve. The writing is crisp and lively, and the illustrations sublime: foreboding, cleverly scaled and incisively expressive. As well as providing exhilarating entertainment when curled up in a favourite armchair, this is also ideal for reading aloud. These tales, after all, were created to be told, and this collection is destined to become a classic.
Longlisted for the UKLA 2018 Book Award | Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2017 and awarded the Amnesty CILIP Honour | Shortlisted for the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize 2016. | A heartfelt, harrowing insight into life as a Rohingya refugee in an Australian detention centre, told through the unforgettable voice of an unforgettable boy. Subhi is one of the Limbo kids in a permanent Australian detention centre, the first to be born in the camp after his Maá and big sister Queeny fled violent persecution in Burma. While he’s only experienced life within the cruel confines of the camp, Subhi’s rich imagination has conjured a magical, solace-giving world in which the Night Sea from his Maá’s tales brings him treasures from his dad. Stories are Subhi’s lifeline. He needs them “to make my memories” and imagines a blanket of stories, a “gigantic blanket big enough to warm everyone”. A new story treasure transforms Subhi’s world in the form of Jimmie, a local girl who finds her way into the camp. She too knows heartache. She’s lost her mum, who used to tell her special tales and gave her a bone sparrow necklace that “carried the souls of all her family”. When Jimmie enters Subhi’s life, he wonders if she’s his guardian angel, though he hadn't expected an angel to have more holes in her clothes than him. And, on meeting Subhi, Jimmie realises that she’s “never had a friend she wanted to share everything with before”, and so she shares her mum’s stories with him, stories he reads to her since she’s unable to read them herself. Subhi's unique voice will weave its way into your heart and under your skin. His descriptions of life in the centre are hauntingly evocative. You feel, for example, the heat of days that get his “skin creeping” and make everything “jangly and loud and scratchy”. Through Subhi, readers experience how it might feel to have no home or voice, and how friendship can lighten the darkest of circumstances. One hopes, as Subhi’s Maá says, that “someday they see we belong.” Both elegant and raw, this is an important and timely novel that bears witness to the risks people take to make their voice heard, and to the resilience of the human spirit.
One of our Books of the Year 2016 | Shortlisted for the UKLA 2017 Book Award | Longlisted for the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize 2016 | The astonishing story of a young man's quest to find justice for his father, from the Carnegie Medal-winning author of Buffalo Soldier. Holding the reader in suspense throughout it charts the growth of a frightened boy into a brave young man with the inspiration drawn from the shocking true story of Thomas Benson, an eighteenth-century Devonshire smuggler.
Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2017 | Shortlisted for the UKLA 2017 Book Award | Longlisted for the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize 2016 | Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock's extraordinary, stunning debut is both moving, and deeply authentic. These intertwining stories of love, tragedy, wild luck, and salvation on the edge of America's Last Frontier introduce a writer of rare and wonderful talent.
Shortlisted for YA Book Prize 2017 | Winner of the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize 2016 | Crongton Knights is a very funny, very moving story that shows that although life is testing, the lessons learned the hard way are the ones you'll never forget. It is from the acclaimed author of Liccle Bit.
Winner of the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2017 | Longlisted for the UKLA 2017 Book Award | It's early 1945 and a group of people trek across Germany, bound together by their desperation to reach the ship that can take them away from the war-ravaged land. This inspirational novel is based on a true story from the Second World War. On winning the CILIP Carnegie Medal Ruta Sepetys commented: “As a writer, I am drawn to underrepresented stories and history in hiding. I spend a lot of time pondering the question – why do some parts of history penetrate our collective consciousness while others remain hidden? When I began work on the novel years ago, I had no way of knowing that when it was published, we would be amidst a refugee crisis. Then and now, my thoughts return to the children.” She added: “History allows us to examine decisions. Yes, history can be full of sadness and pain but it also shines light on hope, freedom, courage and the miraculous nature of the human spirit. History divided us, but through reading we are united in study and remembrance. That is the power of books.”
The amazing story of Malala’s courage and her fight for the education of girls is well known. Here, in her own voice, she tells of her journey from her early days as a clever school girl to her exceptional life as an international speaker on the rights of girls to get an education. Growing up in a village in the Swat valley in Pakistan Malala and her friends faced persecution from Islamic fundamentalists who believed women should not be educated. In 2012, Malala and her two school friends were targeted and shot when travelling home from school one day. Fortunately, Malala and her friends survived. From that day on, Malala campaigned for the rights of all girls to get an education. Hearing her tell her story is inspirational.
Winner of Carnegie Award 2009 and the Bisto Irish Children's Book Award 2009 and shortlisted for the . New and challenging book full of mystery and shadows from recently deceased author Siobhan Dowd. Both terrifying and fascinating from the start, Bog Child is a must-read for 2009. The plot follows Fergus a boy who finds the body of a child, and it looks like she's been murdered. All of a sudden a little voice is coming to him in his dreams, and Fergus must cope with getting caught up in further troubles around his home of Northern Ireland. What the Carnegie Award judges said: 'This is a beautifully written and controlled novel, strong on dialogue but with some beautiful descriptive phrases as well. The dual narrative is deftly done and Dowd is very good on family relationships and the atmosphere of the times. The ending is satisfying, and the whole believable and unflinching.' From Siobhan Dowd: 'The protagonists in my stories aren’t human rights heroes in the conventional sense. They are ordinary people living in England and Ireland who find extraordinary ways to overcome the difficulties in their lives and for me that’s the essence of any good story: it’s where the ordinary meets the extraordinary.' From David Fickling, the author's publisher: 'In 2007 Siobhan Dowd was voted one of the twenty-five British writers for the future (only three were children’s writers). Siobhan is still very much a writer for the future. Everybody should read her.' Siobhan sadly only wrote 4 books in total before her tragic death from cancer in 2007. They are Solace of the Road, Bog Child, A Swift Pure Cry and The London Eye Mystery but her memory lives on in a Trust that has been set up in her name as well as through her writing. Every penny of royalties from Siobhan's book sales go to the trust that has been set up in her memory - www.siobhandowdtrust.org
A stunning blend of past and future technologies, Mortal Engines sets the scene for a stunning quartet of action-packed novels set in a richly inventive world in which wheeled cities hunt each other across the dried up sea bed. Big cities gobble up smaller ones and London rules above them all. Tom Natsworthy, a third class apprentice in the Guild of Historians, has the adventure of his life after he sets out to try to find out what has happened to his parents. With a cast of inventive characters including Shrike, Anna Fang and Stalker, a deadly robot killer with a human brain, and cities whose imaginary and multi-layered architecture dazzles, this is a creation on a vast and imaginary scale. Chosen by our Guest Editor June 2020, Martin Brown; The first in the series about a bleak future where monstrous mobile cities roam the wasteland. This is ripping yarn and wild imagination at it’s best.
Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2013 | Prize-winning Marcus Sedgwick's gift for powerful storytelling is at its very best in this emotionally charged, no holds barred novel. When journalist Eric Seven arrives on Blessed Island with a mission to uncover a mystery he is immediately captivated by its breathtaking beauty. And by the beauty of Merle. Why does Eric feel he's met her before? And what are the secrets the islanders are keeping from him? Eric's story leads easily into stories set at other times on this idyllic place which hides a dark and bloody heart. Unfolding the cleverly crafted and interwoven layers to their dramatic conclusion is a spell binding delight.
Shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. | What the judges said: McCaughrean’s control of language and style ensures that this novel, with its original and ambitious plot, produces a fast-moving adventure story. It’s an outstanding survival fantasy that explores the pain of adolescence. The descriptive passages of the frozen Antarctic wastes are bone chillingly real and the gradual unfolding of this pacey story builds to a satisfying climax.