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Books for Older Children

Wow, the last couple of months has seen a slew of imaginative storytelling. Here is our pick of the crop. Click on the title or the image for a link to buy the book from bookshop.org and support local bookshops.


Another Twist in the Tale by Catherine Bruton

Nosy Crow, £7.99

We thought Catherine Bruton’s No Ballet Shoes in Syria was one of the best books we’d read in a long time but she has trumped it with her latest, a re-imagining of Oliver Twist. Oliver was separated from his twin sister at birth. This is her story. Dickensian London shimmers with atmosphere and gives us a chance to be re-introduced to old friends Dodger, Fagin and Oliver himself. Bruton is a big Dickens fan and distinguished teacher and her knowledge of the subject is a delight, told with pitch perfect tone and detail. Ages 10+.



The Night Bus Hero by Onjali Rauf

£6.99 Orion

Hector is a school bully who gets what he wants by intimidating other kids and ‘snatching’. He is bright and artistic but he refuses to try and his teachers have given up on him. Things get out of hand when a show off gesture goes wrong. Onjali Rauf’s writing is a complete joy. Pitch perfect dialogue brings cocky, confused Hector brilliantly to life as his relationship with a school goodie goody and a local homeless man develops. A page turner full of heart and authenticity. Ages 8+.



The Monsters of Rookhaven by Padraig Kenny, illustrated by Padraig Kenny

£12.99 Macmillan

Giant bone-eating flowers, girls that slide into mirrors, shape shifting monsters. Orphaned in WWII, Tom and Jem inadvertently stumble into the magical world of Rookhaven through a tear in the divide between it and our world. Mirabelle is a monster in human form but our notions of what it means to be a ‘monster’ and the difference between appearance and reality, falsehood and truth are all explored in this beautifully written story about the power of friendship. Ages 9+.


October, October by Katya Balen, illustrated by Angela Harding

Bloomsbury, £12.99

I started reading this book and couldn’t put it down. Nor could our 11-year-old reviewer. Written in beautiful prose, it is a heartbreakingly tender story of growing up, childhood, finding your own space, learning to forgive and ultimately celebrating what it is in the human spirit that gives hope to us all. From deep in the woods, the story takes us to the built-up heart of London and the shores of the Thames. Angela Harding's exquisite illustrations make it a hardback to treasure. Echoes of Danny the Champion of the World and Skellig. Ages 9+.

The Acrobats of Agra by Robin Scott-Elliott

Everything With Words, £8.99

We loved Robin Scott-Elliot’s children’s debut last year, The Tzar’s Curious Runaways. For his second, he has moved to nineteenth century India. Fiesty heroine Bea has been orphaned and comes to Agra from the west coast of Scotland to live with her aunt. The Indian Rebellion of 1857 throws colonial rule on its head and Bea finds herself deep in the Indian jungle with a French acrobat, a young Indian boy and…. a tiger. Their adventures have an enjoyably old-fashioned feel to them.


Brand New Boy by David Almond, illustrated by Marta Altes

Walker, £10.99

There is something distinctly odd about George, the new kid at Daniel’s resolutely ordinary school. A deceptively simple story about friendship, love and the things that are important in life. Like a day spent at Cogan’s Wood with your mates. Ages 8+.




The Silent Stars Go By by Sally Nichols

Anderson Press, £10.99

Christmas 1919 and the family are back together again after the horror of war, but much has changed. A proper old-fashioned tale of love in the midst of war, the terrible restrictions that society put on women at the turn of the century and how, as in all good things, it will turn out alright in the end. You won’t be able to put it down. Feels like an old classic wrapped up in bright and fresh new writing. A joy to read. Ages 10+.



Serpentine by Philip Pullman

Penguin, £7.99

Obviously anything featurig Lyra and Pantalaimon is a must for a Pullman fan. Lyra and Pan return to the north to find an old friend. This was written as a short story and is a gentle reflection on how much can we really know about ourselves. There are lots of grown-up themes in this and better for older readers, but the chat between Pan and Lyra is a delight and worth reading for that alone. The language is lovely to listen to, and fine not to entirely understand. An interesting side-step between His Dark Materials and The Book of Dust.


The Book of Hopes, edited by Katherine Rundell

£12.99 Bloomsbury

Originally published online in deepest darkest Lockdown, this certainly lived up to its title. A glorious collection of stories written by some of our favourite authors and illustrations as a way to get us all through it. A one of a kind collaboration including contributions from Lauren Child, Anthony Horowitz, Jacqueline Wilson, Onjali Rauf and Michael Morpurgo. Huge bravo and thanks to Katherine Rundell for making it happen. ‘Real true hope isn’t the promise that everything will be alright, but it’s the belief that the world has so many strangenesses and possibilities that giving up would be a mistake.’ Should be on every family's Christmas list.


Emily and Claire

30 November 2020