Summer reading for kids, tweens and teens
Worried about how to keep your child entertained over the summer holidays? Look no further than a good book.
While tech provides many benefits and opportunities, it’s not always the best bet on a beach or by a pool. Plus, the need for charging can be a pain on a long journey – not something you need to worry about with a novel.
With that in mind, we’ve rounded up a list of 24 great summer reads for children of every age, guaranteed to get even the most reluctant of readers hungrily turning those pages.
For animal lovers
Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy by Lynley Dodd (3+)
This brilliant – and funny – picture book tells the story of scruffy dog Hairy Maclary and pals. It was first published in 1983, but hasn’t aged a jot. So if you haven’t previously enjoyed Hairy’s shenanigans, you’re in for a treat. And if you have? Well, get ready to giggle all over again.
For socially aware little ones
Thank You, Helpers by Patrica (3+)
This book celebrates the world’s essential workers through the power of rhyme, from delivery workers to shop assistants, teachers and more.
Going beyond the amazing efforts from our healthcare systems to include the workers we see in everyday life, this charming book says thank you to those who have kept the world running during COVID-19.
Sulwe by Lupita Nyong'o (3+)
This No.1 Times Bestseller tells the story of a young girl who wishes her skin was lighter.
Written by Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o, this wonderful book explores the topical subjects of racism and self-esteem, promoting the message that beauty comes from within.
5-8 year olds
For animal lovers
Narwhal on a Sunny Night by Mary Pope Osborne (6+)
Part of the Magic Treehouse series, Narwhal on a Sunny Night follows the story of Jack and Annie, who find themselves whisked to Greenland on an epic adventure.
Unsure where they are, they soon learn that their mission is to save a narwhal; but there’s a problem – a young hunter by the name of Leif Erikson has other ideas…
A story of friendship, magic and the importance of protecting our marine life.
Books about family and friends
My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards (6+)
A nice transition to ‘chapter books’, the My Naughty Little Sister series tells heartwarming family-focused tales based around an inquisitive and mischievous three-year-old girl.
Originally published in the 1950s, the stories were inspired by the author’s own little sister and are certain to delight older (and younger) siblings today.
Too Small Tola by Atinuke (5+)
Charming, brilliant and beautifully illustrated, Too Small Tola tells the story of a little girl who lives in Lagos, Nigeria.
Though her family are all cleverer, faster and bossier than she is, Tola is determined to help them with the shopping, water collecting and delivering. A wonderful character addition to the novels by multi-award winning children’s author Atinuke.
Things Seen from Above by Shelley Pearsall (8+)
Looking to escape her school’s cliquey lunch hour, April signs up to be a “buddy bench monitor” and meets Joey Byrd – a young boy who seemingly wanders around alone, dragging his foot through the dirt.
Told via both April and Joey’s viewpoints, this delightful book celebrates children who see the world a little differently.
For young climate activists
Hope Jones Saves the World by Josh Lacey (7+)
A lighthearted yet topical read for any climate change activist, Hope Jones Saves the World follows the title character as she campaigns against plastic waste. The story is narrated through relatable blog posts, while the themes – protests outside supermarkets and attempts to get cantankerous neighbours recycling – will be familiar to budding Greta Thunbergs everywhere.
For mystery solvers
Anisha, Accidental Detective by Serena Patel (6+)
Anisha is all set to be a bridesmaid at her Aunty Bindi’s wedding – until she finds a secret ransom note that says the groom has been kidnapped.
Channelling her inner Nancy Drew, Anisha must find her uncle and stop the wedding ending in catastrophe in this awesome introduction to mystery fiction.
9-12 year olds
The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead (9+)
Can you live happily ever after even if you’ve never met your family? Bea is certain she will, because once her father marries his boyfriend, Jesse, she’s finally going to have a sister of her own. Everything will be perfect, won’t it?
A wonderful book that promotes inclusivity.
Rick by Alex Gino (10+)
Never giving his identity much of a thought, Rick lives in the shadow of his best friend Jeff – letting uncomfortable jokes about girls wash over him.
When he finds new friends at the Rainbow Spectrum Club, Rick embarks on a journey of self-acceptance as he figures out his true self. An important LGBTQIA+ read.
For universe explorers
George’s Secret Key to the Universe by Lucy and Steven Hawking (9+)
George’s life changes forever when he learns that his next door neighbour’s computer Cosmos can open a portal to any point in outer space.
The original book in the iconic Lucy and Steven Hawking-penned series, George’s Secret Key to the Universe may be over a decade old, but it hasn’t aged a bit.
See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng (9+)
See You in the Cosmos tells the heartfelt story of 11-year-old Alex, who goes on an epic space quest to find family and home.
Alex wants to show other lifeforms what life on Earth is really like as he grapples with the big questions. Where does he come from? Who’s really out there? And how can he be brave when his family is falling apart…
For mystery solvers
The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd (10+)
The fabulous London Eye Mystery tells the story of Ted, a boy with asperger's syndrome, and his sister Kat as they race against the clock to find their missing cousin Salim, who disappeared from a sealed pod on the London Eye.
An exciting and thought-provoking read for any of young Sherlocks out there who fancy spending their summer solving mysteries.
For old meets new
My Mum Tracy Beaker and We are the Beaker Girls by Jacqueline Wilson (9+)
Two decades after the much-loved original series, Tracy Beaker has been reborn.
With Tracy herself now grown up, the new novels are narrated by her daughter, Jess, and follow the pair as they navigate a tough life with lots of ups and downs – but come out on top in the end.
For the socially aware
The Boy At the Back of the Class by Onjali Q. Raúf (10+)
Winner of the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2019, The Boy at the Back of the Class beautifully illustrates a story of friendship, hope and kindness.
When a group of friends learn that the new boy in class is a refugee who has been separated from his family, they come up with a plan that sees them embark on an extraordinary adventure.
A heart-provoking book that highlights the refugee crisis from a child’s perspective.
Teens and young adults
Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith (13+)
A must for all the gamers out there, Don’t Read the Comments follows Diyva and Aaron as they try to make it in the gaming industry.
Amid financial and family pressures, the pair decide to team up – but it’s not long until they’re targeted by a group of trolls.
A great read that highlights the darker side of the gaming industry.
For young feminists
Diary of a Confused Feminist by Kate Weston (14+)
This hilarious comedy, narrated through diary extracts, brilliantly portrays the daily struggles of 15-year-old Kat as she attempts to be a ‘good’ feminist.
She soon finds that sticking on the path to ‘true’ feminism is a tricky business while navigating everyday teenage life: embarrassing incidents, dealing with crushes and Instagram hell!
A great read for any teenager who is unsure of their place in the world.
For those who want to get into classics
Jane Eyre: a retelling by Tanya Landman (14+)
An outstanding reworking of Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece, this version is easier to follow but without losing any of the original’s plot and suspense. Perfect for any teen who wants to transition to the classics.
For those who want a good thriller
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi (13+)
When Lucille meets Pet, a creature she brings to life from a painting, she questions what she has been told her whole life: that monsters no longer exist.
But Pet is hunting another monster that lurks in the shadows of Lucille’s best friend’s house, and she must decide what choices to make when the rest of her town is in denial.
The Night Country by Melissa Albert (13+)
When Alice realises she is being framed for multiple murders in the dark land she has just escaped, she sets out to track down the original killer and clear her name – before it’s too late.
This mind-bending sequel to The Hazel Wood is guaranteed to bring chills to even the hottest summer's day. Unmissable.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins (14+)
The prequel to the best-selling Hunger Games trilogy leaves Katniss Everdeen behind and instead follows the teenage Coriolanus Snow: the young man who would ultimately grow up to be President of Panem.
As the 10th Hunger Games approaches, he’s given a District 12 female tribute to mentor – sparking humiliation throughout the Snow family.
Torn between survival and empathy for his doomed tribute, he must decide his own fate, and save hers. A true thriller that’s full of breath-holding suspense.
For the socially aware
Unpregnant by Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan (16+)
When high schooler Veronica finds herself unexpectedly pregnant and unsure who to turn to, she seeks out a former friend she hasn’t spoken to in years.
Together, they embark on a road trip to find an abortion clinic, navigating pro-lifers, car theft and ex boyfriends along the way.
A dark comedy that highlights the unrest in America over abortion rights.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (14+)
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, The Hate U Give follows the life of Starr Carter, who witnesses the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend at the hands of a police officer.
Everyone wants to know what really went down that night. The answer could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.
A gripping read that illustrates the violence, racism and unrest in America.