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Branching Out: Books for Fans of The Final Year

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best books for fans of the final yearIf you like The Final Year, try these…

 

The Final Year is an extraordinary verse novel about the last year of primary school, told through poetry. The verse captures the character of Year 6 pupil Nate as he navigates issues of school, family illness, emotions, change and friendships. Year 6 is a difficult year for many children and whilst they are unlikely to have it quite as difficult as Nate, the book still captures some of that flavour, including the run-up to SATs, friendship issues and anxiety during a time when a sense of big changes is in the air.

Through powerful verses, ex-primary school teacher Matt Goodfellow pays testament to the impact of a great teacher in supporting pupils through this time as well as the power of words and writing to help manage big emotions.

The book has seen phenomenal popularity among teachers in Upper Key Stage 2, and has brought verse novels for primary into the spotlight as well as winning our Books of the Year ‘Best Classroom Read-Aloud’ category for Upper KS2.

We’ve put together a list of ten similar books for fans of The Final Year. Readers who love the verse novel format will feel at home with The Way of Dog or In the Key of Code. For those looking for more school-based stories in a similar style, try Little Light or Malorie Blackman’s Cloud Busting. Some readers will be keen to find more verse novels that capture emotional situations through narrative poetry and we recommend The Stories Grandma Forgot or Sharon Creech’s much-loved verse novel Love That Dog. If you want to try something a little more whimsical with darker humour, try Revolting Rhymes or Zombierella.

For readers who were intrigued by the references to David Almond’s classic Year 6 novel, why not pick up a copy of Skellig too?

Browse the full list below of books for children looking for more books like The Final Year…

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Books for Fans of The Final Year

Sharon Creech
Poetry
A story told entirely through narrative verse. Slowly Jack learns the pleasures of writing poetry as Miss Stretchberry encourages him to tell his own story through verse. What emerges is a moving and memorable verse novel about a boy and his dog and his growing passion for poetry.
Coral Rumble
Poetry

This beautiful verse novel follows a girl in the transition period from primary to secondary school. The individual poems that make up the story play wonderfully with shape, rhythm and language and deliver a range of styles mirroring the complex emotional themes.

The book includes topics of domestic violence, bullying and homelessness discussed from a child’s perspective. These are handled sensitively and there is an overall sense of positivity and optimism.

It’s a powerful, empathetic book particularly suited to year 6.

Malorie Blackman
Chapter book

Written in different forms of poetry and told as a flashback, this is a heart-wrenching story that offers many possibilities for engagement and discussion. Dealing with themes of bullying, courage, unlikely friendships, loyalty and betrayal, this book explores a child’s ability to perceive everyday experiences in a multi-sensory way.

Davey is new at school and attracts the attention of the school bully, Sam, who makes fun of the holes in his jumper and his unusual ideas. But then Davey heroically saves Sam’s life and the pair become friends. Davey shares a secret with Sam, but when Sam betrays that secret it puts Davey in a life-threatening situation which changes everything.

Joseph Coelho
 & Freya Hartas
Chapter book Poetry

We love a fairy tale with a twist and so eagerly welcomed the arrival of this new illustrated middle-grade series from Joseph Coelho and Freya Hartas, with this first instalment placing a deviously dark twist on the Cinderella story.

In this version, Cinderella (so called because she wears a locket containing her deceased mother’s ashes), lives with a ‘fake’ family made up of an evil stepmother and three beautiful and fake sisters. After losing both parents and her beloved horse Lumpkin, Cinderella feels very much alone in the world. The town receives a visit from a royal prince with unusually gothic tastes, who brings with him three days of parties and the promise of betrothal to a potential suitor from the town. When Cinderella suffers a slip on the stairs, life as she knows it comes to an end and she returns in a haze of gory glory as Zombierella before proceeding to win the prince’s heart for herself.

Coelho’s treatment of the story is as delightfully amusing as it is deliciously dark. After years of Disneyfication and a ‘softening up’ of this well-known tale for a generation who often find their stories served up with a little more happily-ever-after and a little less goriness, this version takes a direct step in the colder and creepier direction that you might expect from Roald Dahl’s fairy tales or the original Grimm stories. There’s plenty to shock – from the cold and detached reporting of Cinderella’s sudden death to the spooky insertion of pulled-out brains, loosened guts and severed limbs into a star-crossed rags-to-riches love story. There’s an enjoyable streak of dark humour and plenty of wit in both the author’s free verse and Freya Hartas’ stylishly expressive black and white illustrations. The story is framed by the voice of a librarian (fans of Coelho might expect nothing less) and leaves with the promise of more from the ‘Fairy Tales Gone Bad’ series – which I’m really looking forward to seeing unfold.

Zana Fraillon
Chapter book
Be strong. Be fierce. Life is more than a concrete floor.Scruffity is born into a harsh, grey world. What he yearns for most is Family. But no one wants him. Just as his chances of adoption grow thin, Scruffity is set free by a boy as unwanted as he is.He learns how to run, to dig, to howl and, biggest of all, to love. But then tragedy strikes ...How does a dog find his way home when he never had one to begin with?A heartfelt, wondefully written and totally compelling story of love and belonging.Told through the eyes of a young pup, Scruffity, who will tug at your heartstrings.Themes of friendship, loss and hope are woven through a gripping narrative.Stunning illustrations by Sean Buckingham.

David Almond
 & Tom de Freston
Chapter book

This best-selling story from acclaimed writer David Almond is a classic choice in Upper KS2/Lower KS3 classrooms and the 25th Anniversary Edition comes with line illustrations and a golden cover.

When Michael moves to his new house, his world begins to unravel. His little sister is born prematurely and is struggling to thrive, his new home and garden are in much need of repair, and his parents have no time, patience or energy for him. His friends now live miles from him and when he does see them, he feels distant and unable to be the friend he once was. Then two chance encounters bring a fresh perspective and focus to his life; Mina, an inquisitive and sometimes outspoken neighbour… and the ‘person’ in the garage.

David Almond’s million-copy bestseller is beautifully brought to life with the soulful addition of Tom De Freston’s artful illustrations. Dark and abstract, they provide a glimpse into the mind’s eye without overtelling the story, enhancing what is already a heart-wrenching, thought-provoking tale and another fabulous source for prediction and discussion.

The story could be challenging for some children and contains mature themes but, if sensitively approached, is a uniquely memorable narrative that engages the imagination in Year 6, and could be a rich launch pad for some incredible fiction writing.

Roald Dahl
 & Quentin Blake
Short story collection
I bet you think you know this story. You don't. The real one's much more gory.From Jack in the Beanstalk, Goldilocks and the Three Bears to Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs, wicked beasts, brazen crooks and a ghastly giant star in these hilarious nursery rhymes with BITE!The text in this edition of Revolting Rhymes was updated in 2022 for young independent readers.
Nadine Aisha Jassat
Chapter book

This is book is a delight; it tells a truthful but heartwarming tale of Nyla, her newfound friend and her grandma who is slipping further away as Alzheimer’s takes control.

Nyla has lived with the information that her Dad died when she was only four, but recent events cause her to question whether there is a chance that Dad is still alive. Nyla sets out on a mission to uncover the truth and, in doing so, makes a new friend in the form of Raymond, a boy who she discovers sitting in her local library and a boy who will help her to bring pieces of a puzzle together again.

Written in the form of a poem, this is a story which zips along and is hard to put down. It is honest and accurate in the way in which it portrays the effects of Alzheimer’s – Grandma ‘time travels’ as she clings to the past but forgets the present. The relationship that Nyla has with her Grandma is really moving; Nyla takes on the role of carer as her Mum is working hard to make ends meet. Nyla knows how best to soothe when Grandma is confused and agitated, she laughs and dances with Grandma when she is happy but Nyla is unable to do the one thing that matters most to her – she can’t unlock Grandma’s memories to allow her to know the truth about her father.

When Grandma starts to see Dad in unusual places, Nyla turns detective and starts digging for clues to find the truth. As the story unfolds, she has to deal with bullies, racism and conflicting loyalties. It is a story that is honest and real; it tackles issues that children will know and understand and it does so with sensitivity, honesty and sometimes humour. Readers will find it hard to put down as they bond with Nyla and will join her in her desire to find a happy ending. I found this story to be really compelling and finished it in two days – not because of its form but because I really cared about Nyla and her quest.

For anyone who has life has been touched by Alzheimer’s, there is plenty to bring comfort and much to relate to. Nyla does find her happy ending but maybe not in the way the reader would expect.

Aimee Lucido
Chapter book

Suitable for Upper KS2/Lower KS3, this is a verse novel about an American girl called Emmy who tries to figure out the ups and downs of life while balancing her two separate passions; coding and music. As the book progresses, Emmy’s two worlds begin to interweave, showing how notes, beats and rhythms overlap with code, language and algorithms.

Cathy Faulkner
Chapter book

Devon, 1941. Like her brother, Ralph, Bonnie wants to help in the war effort rather than tend the home vegetable patch. So when the mysterious Mr Fisher is billeted at their family home, Bonnie’s mission to uncover his secrets begins. Why is he here? Is he a shirker? Or worse … a German spy?

In this engaging and emotional verse novel the words dance on the page to tell the story through poetry. Digging for Victory is captivating, powerful and entertaining. The words form interesting shapes to mirror certain themes in the story, which creates the interest needed for a reluctant reader and creates a playful vibe. The story can be accessed on different levels, which opens to young readers the possibility that the meaning of a book will vary depending on who is reading it and that on re-reading it you will see new things in a book. For this reason, I think it would be a useful text for teachers in primary school. While the story is about a girl in the Second World War, some will see it as a detective story and others will latch onto the important themes running through the book. Cathy Faulkner weaves themes through the story so that your young reader will emerge with more insight into life – it tackles self-esteem, intrinsic versus extrinsic influences on identity, fitting in, bullying, rejecting stereotypes, grief and family. While being a positive and hopeful book, it is also very moving. The obvious link is to a World War II topic, but it could be used in various ways across the curriculum.

The verse format clearly tells the story through poetry and makes the book stand out from the crowd of WW2 stories. It is the perfect way to tell this emotional story while encouraging the reader to care about the characters.


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