Swimming Against the Storm
A fabulous book with strong message about the effects of climate change – particularly rising sea levels. An exciting adventure set in the swamplands of Louisiana, the characters are strong and both boys and girls will see themselves reflected here. There's a part of the story about growing up and not being a 'little kid' anymore and the ramifications of that with siblings and friends.
I learnt lots about the culture of this tiny community in the southern United States through this book. As with all of Jess Butterworth's books the chapters are short and punchy. Unputdownable!
Kat Wolfe Takes the Case
For animal lovers who love a good mystery/crime book, you can't go wrong with the Kat Wolfe series by Lauren St John. Kat Wolfe is the daughter of a vet who has recently relocated to Bluebell Bay in Dorset (loosely based on Lulworth Cove). Kat runs a pet-sitting business and has teamed up with her best friend, the tech whizz Harper Lamb, to form a detective agency on the side. When a rare dinosaur fossil is uncovered during a landslide, Hollywood stars and scientists flock to the area. Strange happenings and a suspicious death place Wolfe and Lamb at the heart of the mystery. Can they solve the crime?
Ghost by Jason Reynolds
Ghost is probably for the older end of this age group - 11+. It is a story about overcoming tragedy and discovering who you are. There are themes you might want to discuss with your children after reading this book including alcoholism, bullying (and how to stand up to bullies in a non-violent way) and pursuing your dreams. The main character, Castle Crenshaw, or 'Ghost' as he is otherwise known, learns he has a talent for sprinting after running away from a violent episode at home, and the story develops into how he finds the right path to follow. I see all books as non gender-specific, but all the boys I have lent this to have particularly loved this. A great protagonist.
The Boy at the Back of the class
If you haven't heard about this book yet, where have you been?! Hugely popular, this is the sort of book you will want to read and pass on. I have bought so many copies and they have all disappeared as I keep handing them over to people. It's a story told through the eyes of a nine year-old about a 'refugee kid' who arrives at school. I laughed, I cried, I got angry at society and the bullies. It's brilliantly funny and heart wrenching at the same time – an huge injection of empathy at a time when the world needs it most. Read the book and encourage your children to discuss the issues – there are facts and more info about what you can do about the refugee crisis at the back of the book explained in a simple way for them to understand.
Boy Under Water
Another heartbreaking, heartwarming story told from the viewpoint of the child, about family, friends and secrets. Cymbeline Igloo (yes that is his name) challenges another boy at school to a swimming race. The problem is...he can't swim. What happens after that leads Cymbeline to solve the mystery of why his mother has never taken him near to water. This story covers adult mental health in a child-friendly, beautiful way and will probably make you cry and laugh. My 11 year old is off to secondary school in September and his holiday homework is to choose a book to read and review and he's gone for this one, so it's in the suitcase.