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Year 5: 50 Recommended Reads (2021)

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best books for y5

Best Books for Y5 (Ages 9-10) for 2021

Our primary school reading experts have selected a list of 50 recommended books for children aged 9-10. Find the best books for children in Year 5 with our hand-picked selection of storytime read-alouds, gripping page-turners, thought-provoking stories from around the world, laugh-out-loud books, picturebooks, graphic novels, poetry collections and non-fiction choices. There are so many books to love on this list, but do keep an eye out for houses that walk, alien cats, buried Roman treasure hoards and a good old polar bear rescue…

Scroll down to find more purchasing options and printable resources.

Maria Kuzniar
Chapter book
The sweeping, sparkling first book in a brand new series that will delight fans of The Wild Way Home and Frostheart. Aleja is a dreamer who longs for a life of magic and adventure. So when a mysterious ship arrives in her Spanish harbour city, crewed by a band of ruthless women, Aleja knows it’s sailed right out of a legend. And it wants her. But life aboard the Ship of Shadows is more than even she bargained for. It will take all of Aleja’s strength and skill to gain the trust of her fellow pirates – and discover what they are risking everything to find…
Vashti Hardy
Chapter book

This thrilling steampunk adventure follows siblings Arthur and Maudie Brightstorm as they try to find out what happened to their explorer father. Arthur, who has a prosthetic iron right arm, is a great problem solver and book lover, while his sister is good at fixing things. When they learn about a race to South Polaris, where their father was lost, they win a place onboard the Aurora, a fantastic sky-ship. Maudie’s talent with tools see her appointed as second engineer. Arthur is hired as cook’s assistant. On board Arthur adapts to draining tasks, although his iron arm is heavy and can cause him pain, while also learning new skills – making marsh cakes and communicating with thought wolves! The adventure continues in the sequel Darkwhispers.

Hannah Gold
 & Levi Pinfold
Chapter book
There are no polar bears left on Bear Island. At least, that’s what April’s father tells her when his scientific research takes them to this remote Arctic outpost for six months. But one endless summer night, April meets one. He is starving, lonely and a long way from home. Determined to save him, April begins the most important journey of her life… This moving story will win the hearts of children the world over and show them that no one is too young or insignificant to make a difference. The Last Bear is a celebration of the love between a child and an animal, a battle cry for our world and an irresistible adventure with a heart as big as a bear’s.
Sam Copeland
 & Sarah Horne
Chapter book

A laugh-out-loud rumpus woven through a touching story of family and friendship, from the duo behind the popular Charlie Changes into a Chicken series.

If you’ve ever heard a young child asking Siri their questions or scrolled through your family’s Alexa history (from Are you alive? to What’s the best way to get rid of earwax?), you’ll quickly understand the premise for the humour in this story.

This book tells the story of Uma, whose father has barely spoken a word since her mother passed away. Uma’s only real company is next-door neighbour Alan Alan Carrington. One day, after an unlikely alpaca-related incident, Uma comes across a strange earpiece that seems to be able to give the answer to absolutely everything. Or at least, almost everything. What follows is a laugh-out-loud adventure that sees Uma digging deep into her soul to search for answers to questions about her life that she has barely dared to ask before.

Sam Copeland’s writing is characteristically brimming with humour – from bonkers situations and slapstick to puns and witty asides in the footnotes. We loved the characters – particularly the dynamics between Uma and Alan Alan, who are a super duo, and the villainess Stella Daw who is a Cruella De Vil for modern times. The story is also deeply poignant in parts as it explores the themes of family, grief and community. The plot culminates in a riddle to solve deep within a village crypt, and Uma’s intrepid venturing in the underground tunnels beautifully mirrors her own soul-searching as she explores her emotions about her family situation.

This is an absolute winner of a story that has all the right ingredients to be an instant hit with readers in Key Stage 2.

Amanda Li
 & Amy Blackwell
Non-fiction
This book tells the stories of girls and boys from around the world and the challenges they have faced and overcome. It features over 29 tales of amazing young girls and boys who have achieved the unimaginable – from surviving a plane crash in the jungle to striking against climate change. There are tales of triumphing over illness and injury, and of overcoming bullying. Entries include Greta Thunberg, Boyan Slat and Phiona Mutesi, to name a few. Each incredible story is narrated in an exciting and engaging style, and is combined with visually stunning illustrations by Amy Blackwell. Children can lose themselves in the remarkable true-life tales of ingenuity, courage and commitment. Practical tips and skills accompany every entry, from how to deal with altitude sickness to how to be more green. They provide children with an exciting springboard and the confidence to apply the knowledge to their own life situations – now and in the future. A perfect gift for every fearless child you know, these empowering stories show that no matter who you are, how old you are, and what you do, you can rise to the challenge.

Guidance: About the Year 5 Booklist

Helping children in Year 5 discover a love of reading is most successfully achieved when a wide range of appealing and age-appropriate books are available.  Research on reading for pleasure shows that children who choose to read for enjoyment are more likely to achieve higher academic outcomes, to have improved mental health and to gain economic success later in life. What’s more, when children choose to open a book to read, they are able to discover new worlds beyond their own experiences, to learn about different people and to develop critical thinking and crucial empathy skills, as well as advancing their language and vocabulary.

Getting the right book into the right child’s hands at the right time is absolutely key to sparking a love of reading. At the ages of 9 and 10, most children are able to read longer chapter books and handle stories with an increasing complexity of themes. Popular with this age group are thought-provoking books about relevant social issues, as well as laugh-out-loud funny booksgraphic novels and non-fiction that covers topics of interest. As well as having a wide range of styles and formats to choose from for independent reading, an essential ingredient in developing a lifelove of books at this age is when adults protect shared reading experiences and continue to read aloud at storytime well beyond the age that children can read for themselves.

With this in mind, we have carefully selected a range of books to help to encourage reading for pleasure in Year 5. Some of the books in the collection are picked especially for making children laugh out loud, like the hilarious Uma and the Answer to Absolutely Everything or Jack Meggit-Phillips’ darkly humoured The Beast and the Bethany. Other stories have been picked especially for readers who appreciate a high image-to-text ratio, like Konnie Huq’s Cookie series or the action-packed Iguana Boy stories, which features lively, comic-style illustrations. Graphic novels are also popular with many children in Year 5, and we recommend trying Mr Wolf’s Class or Roller Girl.

Many children at this age start to enjoy stories that encourage thinking and discussion around social issues. Hannah Gold’s The Last Bear is a beautiful story that highlights the plight of polar bears affected by global warming, and Onjali Q Rauf’s The Night Bus Hero explores the topic of homelessness. Historical fiction also becomes popular around this age, with children able to draw on their increasing knowledge of history from their curriculum learning in Key Stage 2. We recommend Ally Sherrick’s award-winning gunpowder plot story Black Powder, or Emma Carroll’s Secrets of a Sun King, which is set at the time of Howard Carter’s discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun.

Many children at this age enjoy fantasy stories to spark the imagination. Fantasy adventures like Rumblestar and Dragon Mountain are popular choices, as are stories of adventurous expeditions like Alex Bell’s The Polar Bear Explorers Club. Some stories in the collection explore the themes of technology and innovation, like Vashti Hardy’s wonderful sky ship adventure Brightstorm or Kirsty Applebaum’s Troofriend, a fast-paced read that explores the ethics of artificial intelligence.

If you are looking for classic stories suitable for 9-10 year olds, try The Wolves of Willoughby Chase or The Silver Sword. Popular poetry books to browse for pleasure are included in our Year 5 selection too, like Matt Goodfellow’s Bright Bursts of Colour or A.F. Harrold’s imaginative and slightly bonkers The Book of Not Entirely Useful Advice, which is delightfully illustrated in colour by Mini Grey.

Longer reads are not for everyone, and we’ve included a number of shorter texts in the selection too. For children looking for shorter chapter books, try Tom Palmers’s Armistice Runner or David Long’s Tragedy at Sea, both of which are specially formatted to be accessible to dyslexic readers. For recommended picture books suitable for Year 5, we recommend Helen Ward’s Varmints or the inspiring story of Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code.

We’ve also included a super selection of non-fiction to appeal to children in Year 5,  from the intriguing exploration of nature-meets-engineering in Invented by Animals, to the inspiring real-life stories in Young, Gifted and Black, to the incredible visual history of Music, which folds out into an impressive 8-foot-long timeline. If you are looking for books themed around a particular topic, head over to our KS2 topic booklists.

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50 Recommended Reads Year 5 (2021)

Year 5 Checklist (2021)

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