By day, Victoria Dilly is our Love our Libraries programme manager – by night, she’s a children’s book blogger over at The Book Activist. She rounds up some of the best books to get children reading this May half-term and gives us a heads up on some exciting titles coming out this summer…
There’s nothing better than discovering the perfect holiday read and, as we approach half-term, children are spoilt for choice with some really great middle grade stories from new and established authors. Encourage their reading for pleasure and keep them entertained with one of these great titles – and keep an eye out for those coming soon for the summer!
Debuts include We Won an Island by Charlotte Lo (published by Nosy Crow), which features a family finding its feet after a bereavement, surviving tricky times and – yes – winning an island! With lots of laughs and even a music festival, this is a great read for summer. The Secret Starling by Judith Eagle and illustrated by Kim Geyer (published by Faber) is a timeless tale of abandoned children running wild on the moors, evil child catchers, cunning cats and mysterious ballet shoes abound in this incredible first novel. And more dancing features in the upcoming Peril en Pointe by Helen Lipscombe (published by Chicken House in July), which promises a fantastic ensemble cast and plenty of intrigue and twists, with an embattled heroine who wants to be a ballerina.
The first whodunnit in a phenomenal new mystery series, The High-Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson (published by Knights of), features a brilliant detective duo in Nik and Norva, solving a summertime murder. Fast-paced and funny this story has an exciting plot that will keep you guessing.
If you have a science geek at home or in the classroom then they will be delighted to meet Cookie, and read about her chaotic family life and madcap school science projects in Cookie and the Most Annoying Boy in the World by Konnie Huq of Blue Peter fame (published by Bonnier). This debut series is inspired by Konnie's own London Bangladeshi background, her love of science and her unashamed nerdiness!
Another debut set to be a must-read this summer is the new magical fantasy series Starfell by Dominique Valente and illustrated by Sarah Warburton (published by HarperCollins). Book 1: Willow Moss and the Lost Day includes witches, lost things, the fate of the whole magical world and a map at the front of the book – what more could you want? I love a book with a map! You’ll also be delighted with the brilliantly written The Monster who Wasn’t by T. C. Shelley (published by Bloomsbury in August) – the first in a new magical fantasy adventure series and set to make us all believe in monsters – be they good, bad or somewhere in between. I can guarantee you it will!
Continuing the fantasy theme, Wildspark by Vashti Hardy (published by Scholastic) is a perfect blend of sci-fi and fantasy, full of imagination and invention. In a world where mechanical creatures are filled with the ghosts of those who have died, a young apprentice seeks to find her brother and bring him back to life. Readers will be drawn into the world of Medlock and totally enthralled by the adventures they discover.
Fantasy and magic continues in Malamander by Thomas Taylor (published by Walker) which is full of mythical beasts, marvellous characters and enthralling adventures to be had. Strange creatures run rife in Pog by Pádraig Kenny – a quirky, moving adventure where a family are battling grief and the dark forces who threaten to overcome them. It’s up to an unusual new hero to save the day – Pog!
For something more humorous, the second in the hugely popular middle grade series, Charlie Turns Into a T-Rex by Sam Copeland and illustrated by Sarah Horne (published by Puffin in August) will have readers laughing out loud as Charlie tries to master his powers of changing into an animal. You can check out Charlie’s first adventure, Charlie Changes into a Chicken, to see what the fuss is about!
On a more dystopian note, The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble (published by Old Barn Books) will get young people thinking about the environment and the implications of ignoring issues around farming and famine. It’s a thrilling adventure with a compelling message where a brother and sister make a bid for survival amidst motorbike gangs and food deprivation, travelling across a barren landscape on a dog-sled. It’s also a must-read for anyone who loves dogs!
For more dog-themed dramas, try D-Day Dog by Tom Palmer (published by Barrington Stoke), which is well-timed for the upcoming 75th Anniversary of D-Day. Fantastic writing with a wide-ranging narrative, this story will prompt all who read it to think differently about conflict.
Another thought-provoking and timely read ahead of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in June is Lily and the Rockets by Rebecca Stevens (published by Chicken House), celebrating girls and women in football. A timeless middle-grade story of friendship and determination that young readers will love, football fan or not! Lily makes a feisty heroine and the backdrop of Word War One creates an emotive narrative.
The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell (published by Bloomsbury in June) introduces an equally feisty heroine, Vita, in this fifth novel by the award winning author. A heist as never seen before – the story of a group of children who will do anything to right a wrong.
And finally, for a truly original tale, The Unexpected Find by Toby Ibbotson, the son of bestselling author Eva Ibbotson (published by Scholastic in June), is unexpected by name and unexpected by nature – a poignant story with a host of eclectic characters. Themes of friendship and family and a wonderfully written plot create a totally engaging story that will make you smile and bring tears to your eyes. This is a good book for confident readers.