We recently asked you what topics you would most like us to cover in our series of Christmas gift guides and the overwhelming favourite was books for older children. My eldest just turned 11 and I know from experience how tricky it can be to find books for story-loving tweens who might be coming to the end of their middle-grade years, but aren’t quite ready for so-called young adult books.
With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of recently published titles that I think work particularly well for this age group. They straddle both middle grade and young adult categories, but in all cases I would say the content is age-appropriate for 10+ - and I’d be happy passing these on to my own 11-year-old.
Storm by Nicola Skinner
It's no wonder Frankie has always had a temper. She was born on a BEACH, in a STORM. What Frances was not prepared for was dying in a freak natural disaster that wiped out her whole town. Waking up 100 years later, Frances finds a whole load of new things to be angry about. Frankie is about to discover that there are things more important than herself – and that anger has its uses. Because when you have a storm inside you, sometimes the only thing to do is let it out…
The Soup Movement by Ben Davis
To aid his recovery from a life-threatening illness Jordan and his family move out of the city for a healthy new start. When Jordan meets a homeless man called Harry, and gives him his mum’s homemade soup, it is the start of an unlikely friendship. Soon the two of them begin giving soup to the other homeless people around town and when his sister shares their antics on Instagram the #SOUPMOVEMENT begins - they even make it on the news!
Mic Drop by Sharna Jackson
It's October half-term and pop star, TrojKat is filming a music video in the The Tri, the high-rise block home to slueths Nik and Norva. When tragedy strikes the famous singer under mysterious circumstances, Nik and Norva set out to solve the case, with their friend George, and their impressive detective skills. The sequel to High Rise Mystery, which was a huge hit with our subscribers last year.
When Life Gives You Mangoes by Kereen Getten
Nothing much happens in Sycamore, the small village where Clara lives - at least, that's how it looks. She loves eating ripe mangoes fallen from trees, running outside in the rainy season and escaping to her secret hideout with her best friend Gaynah. There's only one problem - she can't remember anything that happened last summer. And when a quirky girl called Rudy arrives from England, everything starts to change.
Across the Risen Sea by Bren MacDibble
Neoma and Jag and their small community are 'living gentle lives' on high ground surrounded by the risen sea that has caused widespread devastation. When strangers from the Valley of the Sun arrive unannounced, the friends find themselves drawn into a web of secrecy and lies that endangers their whole way of life. Soon, daring, loyal Neoma must set off on a solo mission across the risen sea, determined to rescue her best friend and find the truth that will save her village.
The Gifted, the Talented and Me by William Sutcliffe
15-year-old Sam is not a famous vlogger, he's never gone viral, and he doesn't want to be the Next Big Thing. None of which was a problem until Dad got rich and Mum made the whole family move to London. Now Sam's off to the North London Academy for the Gifted and Talented, where everyone's busy planning Hollywood domination or starting alt-metal psychedelica crossover bands. A brilliantly funny look at fitting in, falling out and staying true to your own averageness.
Kay’s Anatomy by Adam Kay
A great non-fiction choice and already a bestseller, this hilarious and informative book tells you exactly what’s going on in your body and how it all works, covering the key stage 2/3 human biology syllabus (in a slightly repulsive way!).
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
There are no more monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. With doting parents and a best friend named Redemption, Jam has grown up with this lesson all her life. But when she meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colours and claws, who emerges from one of her mother's paintings and a drop of Jam's blood, she must reconsider what she's been told Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also to uncover the truth.
Bearmouth by Liz Hyder
Life in Bearmouth is one of hard labour, the sunlit world above the mine a distant memory. Reward will come in the next life with the benevolence of the Mayker. Newt accepts everything - that is, until the mysterious Devlin arrives. Suddenly, Newt starts to look at Bearmouth with a fresh perspective, questioning the system, and setting in motion a chain of events that could destroy their entire world. Winner of the Branford Boase Award 2020.
Burn by Patrick Ness
Kazimir is a dragon with more to him than meets the eye. Sarah can't help but be curious about him, an animal who supposedly doesn't have a soul but is seemingly intent on keeping her safe from the brutal attentions of Deputy Sheriff Emmett Kelby. Kazimir knows something she doesn't. He has arrived at the farm because of a prophecy. A prophecy that involves a deadly assassin, a cult of dragon worshippers, two FBI agents - and somehow, Sarah Dewhurst herself.
Black and British by David Olusoga
This is a short, essential introduction to 1800 years of Black British history, from the Roman Africans who guarded Hadrian’s Wall right up to the present day. It’s illustrated with maps, photos and portraits and the publisher, Macmillan Children’s Books, will donate 50p from every copy sold to The Black Curriculum.
Windrush Child by Benjamin Zephaniah
Leonard is shocked when he arrives with his mother in the port of Southampton. His father is a stranger to him, it's cold and even the Jamaican food doesn't taste the same. But his parents have brought him here to try to make a better life, so Leonard does his best not to complain, to make new friends, to do well at school - even when people hurt him with their words and with their fists. How can a boy so far from home learn to enjoy his new life when so many things count against him?