- The Road to Ratenburg – Joy Cowley (NZ)
Reminded me of Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Richard C O’Brien. It’s about a family of rats and their journey to Ratenburg, an escape from the city to who knows were. The characters are fun. There are morals weaved subtly through the story, through the voice of the story Spinnaker Rat. Joy Cowley is a New Zealand writer. 5 stars.
- Hetty Feather – by Jacqueline Wilson (UK)
Possibly suited to slightly older than 10 years, as the story doesn’t shy away from ‘grit’. Although this is what I marvel about Jacqueline Wilson, she tells gutsy stories of strong females overcoming difficulties. We’ve read a couple of books in the Tracy Beaker series, which explores ‘the issues of fostering, adoption and being in care’ (https://toppsta.com/books/series/7733/tracy-beaker). The stand out feature is reading this tale set in London during the 1800s. 5 stars.
- The Secret Garden – Frances Hodson Burnett (UK)
I think reading The Secret Garden (or listening to the BBC audiobook version) is a beautiful companion to the Hetty Feather series. I’ve enjoyed getting out the map and looking at England, then talking about immigration and how/when people were travelling to New Zealand. I can’t wait to find a book written for a 10 year old about life in New Zealand in the late 1800s, early 1900s. Anyone? Anyone? It’s fun to do your worst accents too for The Hetty Feather series and The Secret Garden, when reading aloud. The highlight of The Secret Garden is the references to nature, and encouraging the connection between human to the land, and all she offers. Nice to read a classic. 5 stars. NB: There’s a Secret Garden Cookbook by Amy Cotler. This would make a wonderful way to cement some of the ideas from this Classic.
- The Billionaire Boy, Grandpa’s Great Escape, The Midnight Gang – David Walliams (UK)
I will admit to not being the greatest Walliams fan. Someone once explained to me Walliams writes for children not adults, and that made me ‘like’ the books more. I find some of the titles bad taste e.g. ‘The World’s Worst Teachers’ and I literally gave up reading ‘The World’s Worst Children’ because it both grossed me out and horrified me all at the same time. When I was studying children’s writing at Uni, the tutor encouraged us to not only think of writing for the child, but also the adult (as most times one will be reading to the other). Perhaps Walliams is braver than most. My soon to be 10 year old loves his books. They do have interesting twists, some reference to morals and lessons in unexpected ways, and often the titles are misleading and the stories aren’t as defamatory as one conservative parent may expect. Favourite of these three: ‘The Billionaire Boy,’ which explores bullying. Walliams often empowers the ‘underdog’. 4 stars.
- The Treehouse Series – Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton (UK)
Stand out feature of these books are there imaginative illustrations and delightful oftentimes maniacal storylines. The humour and sense of fun is another favourite aspect of these series. I don’t read these tales for the plot lines, I read them for the characters and the ridiculous-ness. The kids love the drawings too, A great way to encourage the reader who needs a few ‘breaks’ from reading. 4 stars.
- Nevermoor Series – Jessica Townsend (AUSTRALIA)
Written by an Australian, it’s been described as a mix between Alice in Wonderland and Harry Potter. Delightful characters. Can be scarey and addresses topics such as death. I reckon it’s for a reader years 10+. Highlight: The characters explore kaha and building resilience and personal power.
- The Beast – David Walliams (UK)
You’ll see above I haven’t been overly keen on Walliam’s books, but 10 year old daughter and I really enjoyed ‘The Beast’. As per usual the protagonist is a young person (maybe 10-12 years) Prince Albert. It’s set in London in the future. Has environmental themes. Young Prince Albert must overcome illness and fear to challenge the powers that be. Can he do it? There’s real life (jarring for a mama bear to read alongside her 10 year old, but not all parents may be so sensitive/fearful) death, torture, and overall meanness and difficulty inherent in this beautiful life.
- Wishtree – Katherine Applegate (USA)
I haven’t read this with the kids (yet), so I can’t share their thoughts – I LOVED this book. I LOVE trees, and nature, so when I saw it on the shelf at the Library it held it to my heart. Katherine Applegate has won the Newbery Medal with The One and the Only Ivan. This tale weaves folklore, xenophobia, friendship, family traditions and instilling change. It’s told from the perspective of a 200+ red oak tree, called Red.
- Weirdo Series, Wolf Girl Series, Sky Dragon Series – Books by Anh Do (AUSTRALIA)
My daughter (9 years) and my son (8 years) love books by Anh Do.
There’s Weirdo (seems to be for the younger of the age group above), Wolf Girl, Sky Dragon, Mythics —they’re all very well loved. Weirdo is funny and stars a young boy. Wolf Girl is set in a dystopian world where the young female protagonist is trying to find her missing parents. Sky Dragaon features a female lead character also.
- Tom Gates series – Liz Pichon (UK)
A funny, endearing series featuring a young Tom Gates who has a band called Dogzombies, a teen sister Delia, and a mum and dad. The style reminds me a little of Lauren Child’s Charlie and Lola, and the crazy family dynamic, alongside the innocent / adorable voice of the narrator. Liz Pichon’s page says this: “The first book in the series THE BRILLIANT WORLD OF TOM GATES won the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, The Red House Book Award Best Book for Young Readers and the Waterstone¹s Best Fiction for 5-12 year olds Prize. “
On the topic of ‘age appropriateness’ …
Remember many books, films, TV programmes can be searched for on Commonsense Media. It’s a great site to share with grandparents, and caregivers such as childminders (babysitters) as some people’s awareness is less than others.
Commonsense Media provides their own recommended age, and also that of parents, and kids. It provides a short precis, and a rating of
Positive role models and representations
Drinking, Drugs and Smoking
along with reviews.
Our family uses it all the time.