Toppsta - Childrens Books – Reviews

Help! My child won't stop reading

17th September 2018

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We hear a lot about reluctant readers and if you Google the term "reluctant readers" you'll find a ton of tips on how to get kids reading and book recommendations to help them get started. 

Yet in the last four years there have been three common queries that just come up again and again and again. And one of them is..."Help! My child (usually about 8 or 9), has read through the school library and I can't keep up. What can they read now, that is age-appropriate in content (ie no drugs/sex etc) but above their age in language/story complexity?"

That may sound like a parents' dream. I personally, with two children who can read well but don't necessarily LOVE reading, would love to have this issue. But I can see that this is as stressful as having a reluctant reader. They're suddenly delving into adult books or getting frustrated with what their peers may be reading and what their local library has to offer. It can quickly become an expensive problem to have.

I had one such query over the weekend and rather than just write my personal recommendations back, I decided to see which books our extremely well-read Toppsta community would suggest. These are their recommendations:

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Percy Jackson Series

(Recommended by Katie) Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief is the first bestselling book in Rick Riordan's phenomenally successful Percy Jackson series. Half boy. Half God. ALL Hero.

Rick Riordan has now sold an incredible 55 million copies of his books worldwide

'It's Buffy meets Artemis Fowl. Thumbs up' Sunday Times

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Books by Jacqueline Wilson

(Recommended by Tricia) Jacqueline Wison writes gritty but accessible books. Her writing often deals with difficult but essential topics such as divorce, bullying and mental illness and her fans say they really feel she understands the issues that effect them as children. I read Rose Rivers last year and I have to say I really enjoyed it (as did our reviewers) but apparently Hetty Feather is the place to start!

London, 1876. Hetty Feather is just a tiny baby when her mother leaves her at the Foundling Hospital. The Hospital cares for abandoned children - but Hetty must first live with a foster family until she is big enough to go to school.

Life in the countryside is sometimes hard, but with her foster brothers, Jem and Gideon, Hetty helps in the fields and plays vivid imaginary games. Together they sneak off to visit the travelling circus, and Hetty is mesmerised by the show - especially the stunning Madame Adeline and her performing horses.

But Hetty's happiness is threatened once more when she must return to the Foundling Hospital to begin her education. The new life of awful uniforms and terrible food is a struggle for her, and she desperately misses her beloved Jem. But now she has the chance to find her real mother. Could she really be the wonderful Madame Adeline? Or will Hetty find the truth is even more surprising?

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The Uncommoners Series

(Recommended by Katie) Welcome to a world where nothing is quite as it seems . . .Dive head first into the world of Lundinor in this magical adventure story for anyone with a Hogwarts-shaped hole in their life.

When their grandmother Sylvie is rushed to hospital, Ivy Sparrow and her annoying big brother Seb cannot imagine what adventure lies in store. Returning to Sylvie's house, they find it has been ransacked by unknown intruders - before a mysterious feather scratches an ominous message onto the kitchen wall. A very strange policeman turns up on the scene, determined to apprehend them . . . with a toilet brush. Ivy and Seb make their escape - only to find themselves in a completely uncommon world, where ordinary objects have amazing powers. The forces of evil are closing in fast, and Ivy and Seb must get to the bottom of a family secret . . . before it's too late.


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Books by Lemony Snicket

(Recommended by Kath) `If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book.' There are thirteen books in The Series of Unfortunate Events series and these are children's books with a dark undercurrent. Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire are most unfortunate children. Orphaned after the sudden death of their parents in a house fire, they are left in the hands of their guardian, Count Olaf, who has diabolical plans for them . . .

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Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball

(Recommended by Kath) A gorgeously gothic, wickedly funny new series from Witch Wars illustrator, Laura Ellen Anderson. 

Welcome to the world of Nocturnia, where darkness reigns supreme, glitter is terrifying, and unicorns are the stuff of nightmares! Amelia Fang would much rather hang out with her pet pumpkin Squashy and her friends Florence the yeti (DON'T CALL HER BEAST!) and Grimaldi the reaper than dance at her parents' annual Barbaric Ball.

And when the King's spoiled son Tangine captures Squashy, Amelia and her friends must escape the party to plan a daring rescue! In their race against time, they begin to realise things in Nocturnia may not be quite what they seem . . . Join Amelia on her very first adventure. She won't bite!

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Ottoline Books

(Recommended by Vanessa) Ottoline and the Yellow Cat is the first in the Ottoline series and is a quirky mystery-adventure from absolute star author/illustrator, Chris Riddell. 

Introducing Miss Ottoline Brown, an exceptionally inquisitive Mistress of Disguise, and her partner in crime, Mr. Munroe. No puzzle is ever too tricky for the two of them to solve . . .

Ottoline lives in a stylish apartment in Big City with a small hairy creature called Mr. Munroe. Together they look after the Brown family's eclectic collections - and dabble in a spot of detective work. So they are the first to the scene of the crime when a string of high-society dog-nappings and jewel thefts hits Big City. Ottoline (who luckily has a diploma from the Who-R-U Academy of Disguise) and Mr. Munroe go undercover - and expose an ingenious scam masterminded by furry feline crook, the Yellow Cat.

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How to Train Your Dragon Series

(Recommended by Tracey). In the first How to Train Your Dragon book Hiccup must lead ten novices in their initiation into the Hairy Hooligan Tribe. They have to train their dragons or be BANISHED from the tribe FOR EVER! Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third is a smallish Viking with a longish name. Hiccup's father is chief of the Hairy Hooligan tribe which means Hiccup is the Hope and the Heir to the Hairy Hooligan throne - but most of the time Hiccup feels like a very ordinary boy, finding it hard to be a Hero.

But what if Hiccup's dragon resembles an ickle brown bunny with wings? And has NO TEETH? The Seadragonus Giganticus Maximus is stirring and wants to devour every Viking on the Isle of Berk . . 

Can Hiccup save the tribe - and become a Hero?

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Beetle Boy

(Recommended by Tracey) Darkus is miserable. His dad has disappeared, and now he is living next door to the most disgusting neighbours ever. A giant beetle called Baxter comes to his rescue. But can the two solve the mystery of his dad's disappearance, especially when links emerge to cruel Lucretia Cutter and her penchant for beetle jewellery? A coffee-mug mountain, home to a million insects, could provide the answer - if Darkus and Baxter are brave enough to find it .

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The Mysterious Benedict Society

(Recommended by Nat) When a peculiar advertisement appears in the newspaper for children to take part in a secret mission, children everywhere sit a series of mysterious tests. In the end, just four children succeed: Reynie, Kate, Sticky and Constance. They have three things in common: they are all honest, all remarkably talented and all orphans. They must go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened where the only rule is that there are no rules. There they must work as a team to save not only themselves, but also the world outside the walls.

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Nevermoor: Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow Book 1

(Recommended by Sarah) Enter the Wundrous world of Morrigan Crow and Nevermoor - the most fantastical children's series of the year. 

Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she's blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks - and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday. But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor. It's then that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city's most prestigious organisation: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent that sets them apart - an extraordinary talent that Morrigan insists she does not have. To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests - or she'll have to leave the city and confront her deadly fate once and for all.

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Books by Katherine Rundell

(Recommended by Sarah) Winner of the Blue Peter Book Award and the Waterstones Children's Book Prize, and shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal. Already being proclaimed a classic in children's literature and compared to the likes of Roald Dahl and Eva Ibbotson, Katherine Rundell's Rooftoppers merges fantasy and historical fiction with sophisticated lyrical prose and vivid imagery that will delight middle grade readers, tweens, teens, and parents and teachers alike.

Join plucky heroine Sophie, her eccentric guardian Charles, and her intrepid orphan allies on the rooftops of Victorian Paris, as they encounter suspense and adventure that will keep kids of all ages on the edge of their seats right to the heartwarming end.

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Books by Eva Ibbotson

(Recommended by Sarah) It is 1910 and Maia, tragically orphaned at thirteen, has been sent from England to start a new life with distant relatives in Manaus, hundreds of miles up the Amazon. She is accompanied by an eccentric and mysterious governess who has secret reasons of her own for making the journey. Both soon discover an exotic world bursting with new experiences in Journey to the River Sea , Eva Ibbotson's highly colourful, joyous adventure.

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Artemis Fowl Books

(Recommended by Sarah) 12-year-old villain Artemis Fowl is the most ingenious criminal mastermind in history. His bold and daring plan is to hold a leprechaun to ransom. But he's taking on more than he bargained for when he kidnaps Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon (Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance Unit). 

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Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver

(Recommended by Melanie) The first, bestselling novel in the million-copy-selling CHRONICLES OF ANCIENT DARKNESS series, WOLF BROTHER is a compelling page-turner like no other written by renowned author Michelle Paver.

Thousands of years ago, the land is one dark forest. Its people are hunter-gatherers. They know every tree and herb and they know how to survive in a time of enchantment and powerful magic. Until an ambitious and malevolent force conjures a demon: a demon so evil that it can be contained only in the body of a ferocious bear that will slay everything it sees, a demon determined to destroy the world.

Only one boy can stop it - 12-year-old Torak, who has seen his father murdered by the bear. With his dying breath, Torak's father tells his son of his burden. He must lead the bear to the mountain of the World Spirit and beg that spirit's help to overcome it.

A terrifying quest in a world of wolves, tree spirits and Hidden People, a world in which trusting a friend means risking your life.

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Lionboy

(Recommended by Melanie) Charlie Ashanti, the hero of LIONBOY, speaks cat - the language of all cats wild and domestic alike. His unusual talent helps him on his quest to find his kidnapped parents who have discovered a cure for asthma. The local cats of his home town (a futuristic London) start him on his search to solve the mystery of his missing parents, which leads him across the channel on board a circus ship bound for Paris. It is on this wonderful vessel that Charlie establishes a close relationship with the homesick circus lions who become his accomplices. But Charlie is in danger, for close behind him on his trail, is a crony of the mysterious group who have kidnapped his parents. They want Charlie too.

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