There's an ever growing pile of books I want to read…
I recently received an email from my mum (Hi Mum!), asking for book recommendations for her friend’s daughters, who are 8 and 10. I actually had to take a second to let their ages sink in. I once met the eldest when she was a baby. It’s really weird that that was 10 years ago and it makes me feel old. I’m sure my mum would tell me (and probably will, once she reads this!) that I should stop being ridiculous and that I’m not old. So, I guess I will stop that train of thought right now. I haven’t met the youngest yet.
Hi guys! I’m your mum’s friend Rose’s daughter. I work in a bookshop and particularly focus on children’s books, although I will pretty much read anything. If you ask my mum, she will probably tell you that I always have!
If I were at work, I’d be asking all sorts of questions about what kinds of things you like, but in this instance, all I have to go on is that you’ve enjoyed the books of Eva Ibbotson. I’m a big fan of Eva Ibbotson because she has books across difficulty ranges, which makes her a great author to grow up with. As far as I am concerned, she’s never written a bad book. It also makes it hard to recommend based on her because it’s difficult to know whether I’m recommending based on something like Which Witch?:
or based on something like Journey to the River Sea:
These two books are pretty different but both good. Our store shelves both in the 9-12 section, but one is definitely better for younger readers than the other and the stories are very different types of adventure. She also has some books for teenagers, which I imagine that an excellent reader might enjoy at 10.
The other tricky thing about this particular recommendation is that I’m not sure whether these are books to be read independently or with help. Or how good you are at reading. Or even what sort of things you like.
So I’m doing my best with this, guys, but if you hate something that I recommend or if it’s too easy or too difficult, please don’t get mad, okay?
I’d quite like to just send you guys a lovely parcel full of exciting books but I don’t know what you have already and also I am unfortunately not rich yet. I’m recommending quite a lot of things that are a series so that if you enjoy the first one, there are more to read, which should keep you going for a little while.
Authors of Slightly Easier Books:
I’m a big, big fan of Chris Riddell’s Ottoline series of books. I think I’d like to be Ottoline when I grow up. They’re excellent stories and come in nice hardback editions with a little something extra each time. So far, there are three and they are best read in order:
I loved ‘The Owl who was Afraid of the Dark’ when I was growing up and Jill Tomlinson has written even more brilliant animal stories since. You can get these individually or in collections of three, if you aren’t put off by the size of the book with three stories in it.
My favourites are the owl, the cat and the penguin stories but they are all good.
Another author that I grew up with and loved is Jill Murphy, author of the Worst Witch series. If you haven’t read these stories about Mildred Hubble, hapless witch and worst in her class, you definitely should. There’s a whole series of these, but the one to start with is The Worst Witch:
I also think that if you haven’t read Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren, that you should put it at the top of your list. I shudder to use the word ‘classic’, which people seem to think means boring, but this story definitely is a classic. And, for the record, there is absolutely nothing boring about Pippi Longstocking: She has a monkey, she visits the circus and beats a strongman in a fight, she bests the burglars who come looking for her money and that’s just a tiny example of the things that happen in this brilliant book. There are a few different versions available but my favourite is the edition with illustrations by Lauren Child:
Authors of Slightly More Difficult Books:
I am a big fan of Liz Kessler’s Emily Windsnap series, about a girl who lives on a houseboat with her mum. She’s never been allowed in the water and when she starts swimming lessons, she discovers that she’s actually a mermaid:
Liz Kessler also wrote a book called ‘A Year Without Autumn’, about a girl who skips forward a year in time and discovers that everything has changed, which I don’t think I have to words to recommend strongly enough:
Another book I loved was The Secret Hen House Theatre by Helen Peters:
The Secret Hen House Theatre is about Hannah. Hannah and her family live on a farm and, when she learns that they are in danger of losing it, she comes up with a plan to help save it while bringing her secret dreams to life. I really, really loved this story and I hope Helen Peters writes another book soon.
Lauren St. John:
Lauren St. John has written some really brilliant books. She has two different series’ and my favourite is the Laura Marlin Mysteries, which starts with Dead Man’s Cove:
Lauren St. John has also written the African Adventure series about Martine, a magical girl who lives on a game reserve in South Africa. These are also good and the first is The White Giraffe:
If you like mysteries, I’d also recommend Emma Kennedy’s Wilma Tenderfoot series. For some unfathomable reason, these just weren’t as popular as they deserve to be so I’m not sure whether they’re still available new. If not, they might be available second-hand somewhere. I thought they were really funny and clever and there’s really nothing to improve a book like a beagle wearing a woolly hat (as can be found in one of the later stories!). The first is Wilma Tenderfoot and the Case of the Frozen Hearts:
Not a mystery (exactly) but similarly cleverly written is Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. You’ll probably either love these or hate them, but either way they are definitely worth trying if you haven’t already. The first is The Bad Beginning:
Just as an aside, the movie of A Series of Unfortunate Events is not particularly faithful to the books but you might enjoy it anyway. Some of the bigger fans of the series hated it but I thought it was actually pretty good.
Gareth P. Jones:
If you like the dark humour of A Series of Unfortunate events, I’d recommend Gareth P. Jones, especially The Thornthwaite Inheritance and Constable and Toop:
In fact, I recommend these even if you don’t enjoy the Lemony Snicket books. If you like Eva Ibottson, I would wager that you’ll like these too.
I haven’t actually read anything by Ali Sparkes but I have it on good (and enthusiastic) authority that they are good. She has a series, Shapeshifters, about a group of children with special powers and a boarding school that may not be quite what it seems. The first of these is Finding the Fox:
She also writes some stories that stand alone. According to my source, the best of these is Frozen in Time about two children who are put to sleep as part of an experiment in 1956 and are woken up accidentally in the present day. The children who find them have to help them adapt and solve the mystery of why they have been frozen for so long:
I was quite disappointed by The Snow Spider, which seemed to have quite a lot of story where nothing very much happened, but I’m a big fan of Jenny Nimmo’s Charlie Bone series. Charlie Bone is a little bit magic and that is not a safe thing to be at all. I’ve only read some of these so I’m not sure about the later books in the series but the first is Midnight for Charlie Bone, which is excellent:
Authors of Both Slightly Easier and Slightly More Difficult Books:
I’m personally not a fan of her cute animal series’ for younger readers (although that doesn’t mean that you might not be and that’s okay too!) but I love her mystery series about Maisie Hitchins, the first of which is The Case of the Stolen Sixpence:
and at the slightly more difficult end of the spectrum, she has the Rose and Lily books. I’d start with Rose – she’s my favourite:
Diana Wynne Jones
I love Diana Wynne Jones and if you like Eva Ibbotson, I’m sure that you will too. She has a slightly easier book, Earwig and the Witch, about a girl who is adopted by an evil witch and will need all of her wits (and a little magic) to escape:
Diana Wynne Jones also wrote some brilliant books for slightly older readers, like the Chrestomanci Series (start with Charmed Life) and, my favourite, Howl’s Moving Castle:
Like Eva Ibbotson, she also has books for much older readers that live in the teen section, so if you like her books, you’ve got lots to look forward to reading.
I love Angie Sage and I’m disappointed to have to tell you that her easier reading series Araminta Spook is no longer available to buy new. If you can get hold of this second hand, you really, really should. Angie Sage’s books have a brilliant sense of humour. The first in this series is My Haunted House and looks like this:
Her series for slight more advanced readers, Septimus Heap, is equally brilliant and definitely still available. If you need some incentive to read it, let me just tell you that at one point our intrepid heroes escape via a garbage chute and it does not go well for them. The first book, Magyk, currently looks like this:
Lauren Child is one of my heroes and I actually got to meet her once. She is a brilliant writer and also very nice in person. She has created two brilliant characters – Clarice Bean and Ruby Redfort. The best thing about these is that the Ruby Redfort books exist in Clarice Bean’s world and Ruby Redfort is her hero so if you love Clarice Bean, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’ll also love Ruby.
Start with Utterly Me, Clarice Bean:
and when you’ve read all three, move on to Look into My Eyes, the first Ruby Redfort story:
It’s also possible to skip straight to Ruby Redfort if Clarice Bean is too easy for you but I think the Clarice Bean stories are so good that even if they are too easy, they’re probably worth reading.
If you enjoy Ruby Redfort and you want to read something similar, try Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. I loved that book growing up and I still love it now.
I feel like you have probably read Roald Dahl, but just in case you haven’t, I thought I would mention him. My favourite is Matilda. If you haven’t read that, you are definitely missing out:
Again, I feel like this one goes without saying. Enid Blyton has a lot of different types of books at different reading levels. My favourite is the Magic Faraway Tree series, which begins with The Enchanted Wood:
A Couple of Honourable Mentions:
If you’d like something funny to read, I’d definitely recommend Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce. It’s about an unusually tall boy who is mistaken for an adult and sent on a mission into space. When things go wrong, he has no idea what to do – he’s only twelve!
If you already like Roald Dahl, you could do a lot worse than reading David Walliams’ books. I particularly liked Mr Stink.
This has been really fun! Are you looking for a new book to read? Drop me a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org with the titles of three books you’ve already enjoyed and I’ll recommend something for you in my next ‘Recommendation Time!’ post.