#KeepKidsReading – book recommendations

Like most avid readers, one of my favourite pastimes is browsing local bookshops, looking at what’s new, reading blurbs and admiring the artwork. Book covers have got so good in recent years, particularly in the children’s section and whilst I do love all my Penguin classics that have great works of art on the covers, the amount of original work out there is stunning and great for artists of course. I think this is particularly important for books for younger readers as it is often the thing that will make them reach for a title.

A few books have caught my eye recently and I thought I’d list a few here for anyone looking for ideas for the children in their lives.


I love the ‘Little People, Big Dreams’ series and since the titles were first (self) published in 2012 they now encompass a huge range of international figures from important people in history to pop stars, sports stars, artists, writers, scientists and explorers. The books have also won international acclaim and count Oprah Winfrey, no less, among their fans. Incredibly, they are all penned by one person, Spanish writer Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara, working with a team of illustrators from around the world. Aimed at the 4-7 age group, you will find a title to suit your little one, no matter their interest. And the website has some excellent additional resources too.

If your 8-11 year old is interested in science these two books will be of interest. The Virus explains the Coronavirus pandemic in simple, factual and non-patronising terms. Could really help any kids still anxious about the disease. Adam Kay is best known for his darkly comic insights into life in the NHS, such as the bestselling This Is Going to Hurt.

History is such an important subject for young people and will help them develop their critical appraisal skills. I think the Windrush book is a timely and beautifully put together perspective on the subject through the eyes of those who travelled. And I loved A History of the World in 25 Cities which has echoes of the ground-breaking ‘History of the World in a Hundred Objects’ (BBC/British Museum). It’s an innovative way of looking at history which many of today’s well-travelled and cosmopolitan kids will respond to.

I adore these two books! Sunflower Shoots and Muddy Boots is a practical book for active kids who love nature and growing things and even those who live in flats and might only have a balcony or window can participate. This book would suit kids of even a young age who can follow the activities with the help of an adult. Grow is a thing of beauty! For children who are a little older (8+) it is a guide to plants and gardening, with the most stunning illustrations. It would make a great gift.

A Couple of quite serious books here. Unstoppable Us: How humans took over the world is by the Israeli historian and philosopher Yuval Noah Harari. He is well-known for his best-selling books for adults , such as Sapiens and Homo Deus. I wonder if he has given up on us grown-ups and feels it’s only the kids now who can save us! You Don’t Know What War Is is a Ukrainian child’s war diary. So many kids will have Ukrainians in their schools and communities and this book may help them to understand what is a very troubling geopolitical situation.

Finally, among the non-fiction, two that really appealed to me. Selina Boyd’s Cocoa Girl Awesome Hair is a fab book specifically for young people of colour, and great fun. And The Very Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra which will appeal to aspirational parents! I loved the buttons at the back where you could hear the sounds of different instruments.


I reviewed Michelle Paver’s Dark Matter on here a year or so ago and loved it. It was the first book of hers that I’d read and I learned subsequently that she has written a lot of middle-grade fiction. Her Wolfbane series has been hugely successful and this book is the ninth and final book in the series.

Sarah Hagger-Holt’s Proud of Me deals with similar tough themes to a book I reviewed on here last week Raven Winter. Two young people share the same father – an anonymous sperm donor but have different views on what information they want about this in the future. It is a story about searching for identity.

Another series, this time a pair of young detectives living in a high rise block of flats. This is the second book by Sharna Jackson and characters Nik and Norva. I used to love junior detective books when I was a kid and I am sure this would have resonated with me as a nine or ten year old.

Reading the blurb of this reminded me of Mitch Johnson’s Kick, which I reviewed here a few years ago. Set in an Indian slum area it deals with the reality of life for children growing up in this part of the world in very different circumstances than most of us are used to. This will be a powerful read, but, like Kick hopefully a hopeful one.

I couldn’t ‘resist’ a bit of historical fiction and Tom Palmer’s Resist fits the bill. Set in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands in the second world war, it tells the story of teenage girl Edda fighting her own personal battles against her oppressors who have murdered members of her family and imprisoned her brother. Powerful stuff.

Finally, I love the sound of this book Little Sure Shot by Matt Ralphs, based on the story of Annie Oakley. Annie is a young girl living on an Ohio farm with her family who has a talent with a rifle. When the family is thrown into poverty by tragedy Annie must deploy her talents to keep the family afloat. A really novel idea for a children’s book. It is newly published and I hope it’s a success.

That wraps up my research for this #KeepKidsReading week. I hope there is something here that will appeal to your young people.

Author: Julia's books

Reader. Writer. Mother. Partner. Friend. Friendly.

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