One of the jobs I do involves me reading children’s books (I know, right, what an amazing job?). And I’ve discovered some really flipping awesome books in that time – we all know how good Harry Potter and the Jacqueline Wilson books are, but there are lots more amazing books out there. In fact, they’re so good, I’ve decided to review a few of them right here – as ever, I’m focusing on the big kids.
How to Speak Spook (and Stay Alive) by Ally Kennen
Ally Kennen has written some incredibly hard-hitting books for teenagers, but this one is aimed at a slightly younger audience – around year 5 or 6. The writing is still fantastic, but the subject matter is funny rather than dark (unless you have kids who spook very easily!).
Donald doesn’t do well at school – he is neither clever nor popular. His mum and dad are separated and he lives with his mum, who is a medium. His only friends are Merry, the girl next door, and Danny Olini, the class clown. But Donald is special. He can see ghosts. His gift is very powerful and, when a terrifying force hits Dorset, will he be able to stop it?
I’m not generally a fan of far-fetched books, but the character of Donald is so down-to-earth and real, that this is a very believable and entertaining story.
The Shadow in the North by Philip Pullman
OK, so Philip Pullman IS a very famous and popular author, but this isn’t part of the His Dark Materials trilogy.
In the nineteenth century, 22 year old Sally Lockhart is a thoroughly modern woman, who runs her own financial consultancy as well as having a stake in a photography business. When a retired teacher calls on her, after losing her investments, Sally promises to get the money back.
Along with her colleagues, Frederick and Jim, she uncovers a complex plot, involving murder, spiritualism and one of the richest men in the country.
It is a real page-turner, which paints a really vivid picture for the reader.
It would be a great read for kids in years 7 to 9.
If You Were Me by Sam Hepburn
This is a truly special book for young adults, which would appeal to adults too, and has only recently been published. With a refugee as the central character, it feels like a really relevant story right now.
After her father was killed by the Taliban, and with her brother in grave danger, 14 year old Aliya and her family flee Afghanistan and head for London. At first, their lives seem settled, but then her brother starts acting strangely. Before they know it, they are in danger again and Aliya doesn’t know why.
Aliya’s path crosses with Dan, a young plumber, who has his own reasons for getting to the bottom of the mystery. Together, they set out to unravel a plot involving corruption at the highest level. But will they solve the mystery before it’s too late?
All of these books come highly recommended by me. I have read a lot of kids’ books over the years (and a lot of adults’ books too!) and they are some of the best I’ve read.