top of page

An extremely subjective top 10 list of compelling kids books

When people do these lists they tend to spend lots of time trying to look clever because that makes them sound like an expert and that's good for them. Well, I'm not going to try and sound clever...! Because actually that is NOT going to impress the children we are trying to inspire. I remember when I was a child the magic of books and the way that I could be sucked into different lives. My big reads in those days were "Sweet Valley High," "Point Horror" and "The Babysitter's Club" series. Even (the name of it makes me cringe) "The Boyfriend Club." Let's all vomit. But the 12 year old me was hooked. Therefore, I can tell you to read all sorts of high quality, classic literature but let's be honest here; which ones are going to get your kids over that first hurdle into reading and into losing themselves in a book? Here goes:

10 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis

So I say I'm going to give you a list that is compelling rather than clever and here I am kicking off with a classic. But this is no ordinary classic and for any child with a decent reading ability, the very fact that this story allows escapism on a massive scale has got to be a hit with many, many children. I won't patronise you by telling you the story: if I need to jog your memory I will just say: wardrobe, winter, terrifying witch, castles, princes, princesses, kings and queens and a massive Godlike lion. I think there is an argument for waiting until this book can be enjoyed in its entirety but it has the added value of having a pretty decent recent film version of it to help any younger readers to visualise it.

9 A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

This is a personal favourite. I read it in one sitting and bawled through much of the latter part of it. It's about a boy who is having an utterly awful time in life; he is being bullied, his father is becoming increasingly distant due to a divorce and his mother has terminal cancer. To help him deal with his troubles, a monster turns up every night to tell him stories. It's a magical, fantastical story and if you don't shed a tear, get yourself to the doctors to check you're still breathing.

8 Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

In many ways, this book feels a little out of date now. Whereas even a few years ago the main male character and love interest (also a vampire by the way) seemed brooding and mysterious, now after the "Me Too" movement I am much more concerned that Bella has actually been stalked. The books are not particularly well-written from a literary point of view but if you want your teenage daughter reading, this will get them on board. It is angsty, emotional and lays to bare all of the feelings and turmoil of being a teenager. With added fangs.

7 The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Okay, I've read this and it was a decent read. Doesn't seem like the greatest endorsement for number 7 on top books for kids does it? I'm not recommending this because I was overly moved by it but because every female teenager that I know who has read this has absolutely raved about it. It has spoken to them somehow. The books follows two teenage characters who have cancer. They meet and fall in love. It may or may not end well. Read it and see.

6 The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Now I shouldn't have enjoyed these books as much as I did. As a proper grown-up, I should have been reading these purely in my capacity as a teacher and to "get down with the kids." I'm afraid to say that I wasn't - these books were just fantastic. Set in a future world where teenagers are made to fight to the death for their areas in a gameshow, the book follows Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Malark as they try to survive the games. I do love a futuristic book so this is a personal choice for me. However, these books and these films have been massively popular in recent years. If your child has read these, also look out for the "Mazerunner" books, "The Knife of Never Letting Go," "The Declaration" or maybe push some of the older readers towards "1984" and "Brave New World." The Hunger Games books can really open up a new exciting set of ideas and classic books to young readers.

5 The 13 Storey Treehouse series by Andy Griffiths

I've said this before, but these books are marvellous for getting younger readers into books. My 9 year old has inhaled these and many of his friends are now doing so. Many of my younger students have made or are making their may through them and even my 6 year old now has the confidence to pick up a thick book and have a go. The magic of these books is two-fold. One is that the story of two boys building their own crazily imaginative treehouse and the quirky humour with which it is told is a big winner with all of the kids I have come across. Secondly, the book is a fantastic mixture of text, pictures and comics. There are never huge chunks of text so younger readers or readers who struggle to engage with reading for whatever reason feel that they are progressing through a thick book quickly. That confidence can drive them quickly towards other thick books with less pictures and comics. Win, win for parents and kids I think!

4 Holes by Louis Sachar

This book has been a staple in British classrooms for years so you may be surprised to find that your child has already read it. If not, it's a must. The story is of a boy, Stanley Yelnats, who has been convicted of a crime he did not commit. He is sent to a juvenile offender's camp called Camp Green Lake. He thinks it will be like summer camp. It's not. He gets there to find that there is no greenery and no lake and he must dig a hole in the desert-like landscape each day. He has no idea why...

3 The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Now this book is the first of two books that manage to be both compelling and literary. It is a beautifully and cleverly written book about a boy living in Nazi Germany. The story is more about what this boy, Bruno, does not know as anything. As a reader, you are taken on a journey with him as you shout at him, scream at him to try to get him to make the better choices and to realise what is going on. I always remember one class that I taught this to, refusing to leave on the bell so that we could finish this book and then filing out in silence as they took in the enormity of it. I cannot recommend this book more.

2 The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

One of my favourite books of all time and definitely a read, like the last book, for adults and children alike. It is a more challenging read and much longer than "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" but is equally literary and worthy as well as being a page turner. The story is told from the point of view of Death (the guy with the cloak and the reaping equipment) and tells the story of a girl who has more than her fair share of links to death. It is set in Nazi Germany but is really a story for me about characters. Even long after reading the book, the characters of Rudy and Hans make my heart melt. The writer has done a mind-blowing job of creating characters that we feel that we know and love.

1 Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

I know this seems like an obvious choice but for me there is no other choice for best book to get a child reading thicker, more complex books. It is really another take on the books of my childhood: "Mallory Towers," !St Clare's," "The Worst Witch" (all compelling books worth trying with kids today) but with added complexity and intrigue. If you have only ever seen the films, then do consider reading these with your child and letting them escape to the magic of Hogwarts.

Hope this list gives some of you a few ideas! Happy reading!

33 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

One year as a full time tutor

18 months ago I set up Word Academy and a year ago today I was getting ready for my first week as a full time tutor. I had given up my full time job at a local school and the possibilities of what I c

"I'm not learning from my teacher!"

At some point in your child's schooling you are bound to come across this statement. When I was younger, it was my maths teacher: she was ol


bottom of page