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Year 6: 50 Recommended Reads (2021)

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best books for y6

Best Books for Y6 (Ages 10-11) for 2021

We have selected a list of 50 recommended books for children aged 10-11. Find the best books for children in Year 6, including storytime read-alouds, edge-of-your-seat thrillers, issue-based stories, laugh-out-loud books, picturebooks, graphic novels, poetry and non-fiction. We’ve tried to include something for all tastes – but look out for legendary sea monsters, Wundrous societies, clocks that strike thirteen and the scariest school detention ever…

Scroll down to find more purchasing options and printable resources.

Zillah Bethell
 & Saara Soederlund
Chapter book

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Zillah Bethell’s books, so it was delightful to see a copy of her new book arrive from Usborne. The Shark Caller is a stunner of a story – rich with the sights and sounds of its Papua New Guinean setting while also reflecting sagely on universal themes of life and death, family, friendship and time. It’s beautifully written, wise, enticing – haunting at times – but also full of thrills and surprises….

Thomas Taylor
Chapter book

A hugely popular sea themed mystery laced with monstrous humour. Welcome to Eerie-on-Sea, a seaside setting with its own legend of the mysterious sea creature called the Malamander. Young friends Herbie and Violet find themselves on a whirlwind of a coastal adventure steeped in imagination and eccentric humour, involving a book dispensary, a mermonkey, a Boathook Man and a flotsamporium shop. Can Herbie and Violet put together all the pieces of the puzzle before it is too late?

Malamander mixes scary parts, mysterious parts and whimsically funny parts too, as Thomas Taylor creates an original fantasy mash-up with a nautical twist that will no doubt be enjoyed by readers across KS2 classrooms. I enjoyed the quirky humour and wordplay, the imaginative characters and the galloping pace of the unravelling mystery that is edged with peril throughout. A teachers’ resource pack is available to download from the publisher.

Elle McNicoll
Chapter book

Show Us Who You Are is the new title from Elle McNicoll, who made a spectacular entrance to the children’s book scene last year with her debut middle grade novel, A Kind of Spark. Happily, I’d say that Elle McNicoll has exceeded what was achieved in her first novel and produced an assured, fresh and impactful story in Show Us Who You Are, which is as gripping as it is unforgettable.

The story follows twelve-year-old Cora, who describes herself as autistic, as she befriends a boy called Adrien at a party that she never wanted to go to. A little unwilling at first, Cora is used to distrusting others and feels sure that Adrien’s intentions are unlikely to be driven by genuine interest in her. In no time at all, Cora learns to trust Adrien, who confides in her about his own ADHD, and as the pair become close they enjoy each other’s unquestioning acceptance and bond over their experiences of not quite fitting in at school.

Adrien’s Dad runs a company called ‘Pomegranate Technologies’, and Cora finds herself drawn to their innovative programme of creating incredibly lifelike holograms (or ‘grams’) of people. Having recently lost her own mother, the idea of being able to interact with a loved one after they die appeals instantly. Cora is intrigued to discover that scientists at the institute are keen to interview her as a ‘person with autism’, and after an unexpected event happens with Adrien she agrees to help. Before long, Cora notices something amiss with one of the grams and begins to unravel some surprising truths about what is really going on behind the scenes at Pomegranate…

There was so much to enjoy in this book. I loved the depth of the storytelling – the multilayered writing with its many allusions, symbols and reflections that provoke an enjoyable tension between feeling the need to pause for thought and wanting to rip on through the genuinely gripping plot. I enjoyed the artificial intelligence strand of the plot very much, and in particular how thought-provoking the story was with regard to the ethics of AI in both the hypothetical sense of holograms, but also hinting at a closer, everyday sense too. There’s food for thought aplenty, and yet the writing is watertight and never strays from the plot to dwell on these themes or impose judgement. I also enjoyed the emerging themes of acceptance and the importance of being true to oneself.

This is a stand-out story for me so far this year and a must-have for classrooms and school libraries where there are readers aged 10+.

Lara Albanese
 & Tommaso Vidus Rosin
Non-fiction

Space Maps is a super-sized visual treat. It will appeal to those already interested in the topic of space and will attract those who are new to the subject. The reader is invited to take a tour of all things space in the company of a diverse crew of space guides. During our space tour, a wealth of facts are covered -each double page focuses on a different aspect and so information is given in speedy, bite-sized fact boxes making this an ideal book for dipping into.

There is a good balance of facts and exciting nuggets from history, science and folklore. The legends behind the science add charm and warmth. Large and detailed illustrations guide the reader through their journey, each page devoted to a thorough, labelled map or diagram. For readers who struggle to visualise the images behind the arrangements of the constellations, this book certainly helps! I was able to ‘see’ Orion in the night sky having studied the beautiful constellation map.

This full-sized feast for the eyes would happily sit amongst a collection of Space books and interesting non-fiction books for readers who love to dive into the detail of a topic.

Struan Murray
 & Manuel Sumberac
Chapter book

Original and enticing, this is one of the best fantasy stories I have read for a long time. There’s a mix of peril and intrigue in all the right proportions, a strong female lead and a well-constructed fantasy world with its own haunting mythology that really does immerse the reader from the start.

Ellie Lancaster is a feisty young inventor who lives in the last city to survive in a world that has been almost entirely drowned by a fear-inducing god known as the Enemy. The city sits upon a steep mountain that juts out above sea level, and one day washed up on one of its rooftops appears a whale, out of which emerges a mysterious boy whose origins are unknown. It doesn’t take long for rumours to accrue – rumours that suggest the boy is the Enemy himself returning to the city to cause destruction. Only Ellie seems convinced of his innocence and when the boy is caught and sentenced to death by the city’s Inquisitors, Ellie finds herself on a whirlwind of an adventure to keep the boy from being wrongly harmed.

The story is full of edge-of-your-seat danger and has its fair share of scary parts while also tenderly exploring themes of friendship, loyalty, forgiveness and grief. The twists and turns in the plot are delightful, with secrets, surprises and delicious ‘penny drop’ moments that kept me turning pages late into the night.

here’s already a buzz around Orphans of the Tide and it’s easy to see it finding a lot of fans in the coming year, especially readers who have enjoyed Philip Pullman, Suzanne Collins and Vashti Hardy. For me, it’s a gripping middle-grade fantasy that ticks all the right boxes as an exceptionally enjoyable read.

Nominated for “Favourite Books of 2020” by: Alison Leach (founder of BooksForTopics)

Alison says, “Original and enticing, this is one of the best fantasy stories I have read for a long time. There’s a mix of peril and intrigue in all the right proportions, a strong female lead and a well-constructed fantasy world with its own haunting mythology that really does immerse the reader from the start. The twists and turns in the plot are delightful, with secrets, surprises and delicious ‘penny drop’ moments that kept me turning pages late into the night.”

Guidance: About the Year 6 Booklist

At the very centre of inspiring reading for pleasure in Year 6 is the element of choice. Readers who are motivated to choose to read are often the ones who are best able to exercise agency over where, when, what and how, knowing that they can read at their own pace in their own way. Key to this is providing a wide range of appealing and age-appropriate texts for readers to explore. Being exposed to different styles, formats and genres helps children to define themselves as readers, to have a range of alternatives to choose next if something they read is not for them and to make choices about the books that will give them the reading buzz. This process is crucial for children to develop the intrinsic motivation to read and to lay the foundations of a lifelong love of reading.

At the ages of 10 and 11, most children are able to read chapter books and to think critically about what they read. They begin to enjoy multi-layered stories that present different characters’ viewpoints about key issues, and to think deeply about books that explore relevant social issues. Also popular with this age group are graphic novels, funny books and illustrated non-fiction that delves deeply into a particular topic of interest. Storytime with adults continues to be important and enjoyed at this age – despite the high level of independence at the ages of 10 and 11, nothing can replicate the magic of a shared reading experience.

With these factors in mind, our team has carefully selected a list of books designed to encourage reading for pleasure in Year 6. Some of the books cater well for children who love to laugh, like Jenny Pearson’s The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates or David Solomon’s action-packed My Brother is a Superhero series. Other stories on the list are designed to leave readers on the edge of their seats, from Jennifer Killick’s super-spooky Crater Lake to dystopian thrillers like Orphans of the Tide. Graphic novels are also very popular with many children in Year 6, and we recommend trying the Amulet series or Cece Bell’s El Deafo.

Many children at this age are ready to engage with stories that explore social issues or offer insights into a diversity of ways of seeing the world. Catherine Bruton’s award-winning No Ballet Shoes in Syria charts the experience of a young refugee finding her feet in a new country and Boy in the Tower hauntingly explores the experience of isolation when it does not feel safe to go outside, as well as the topics of parental mental health and the coming together of community in the face of a crisis. Other stories in our collection give insight into what life is like for those who feel like they don’t quite fit in, from a would-be comedian with a stutter in The Boy Who Made Everyone Laugh, to the gruelling tale of bullying and OCD in All the Things that Could Go Wrong, to Elle McNicoll’s neurodivergent main duo in the superbly gripping Show Us Who You Are. 

If you are looking for classic stories suitable for 10-11 year olds, we recommend Tom’s Midnight Garden or Judith Kerr’s When Hitler Stole Pink RabbitPoetry collections offer a wealth of enjoyment for reading for pleasure at this age too, from Mandy Coe’s upbeat Belonging Street or Joseph Coelho’s Overheard in a Tower Block, which is always a hit with Year 6.

For those without the time or reading stamina to pick up a longer read, try one of the shorter chapter books included in our Y6 reading list, like Lisa Thompson’s Owen and the Soldier or David Long’s Survival in Space, both of which are specially formatted to be accessible to dyslexic readers. For excellent picture books suitable for Year 6, we recommend the super-intriguing The Viewer by Gary Crew and Shaun Tan or the inspiring story of Eugenie Clarke in Swimming With Sharks.

High-quality non-fiction is a brilliant option for reading for pleasure in Year 6. We recommend the inspirational mountain-set recount of peril and resilience in Everest, the chemistry-inspired award-winner The Element in The Room and Rashmi Sirdeshpande ’s super-helpful guidebook to all things money-related in DOSH.  If you are looking for books themed around a particular topic, head over to our KS2 topic booklists.

Where to purchase:

Downloads

50 Recommended Reads Year 6 (2021)

Year 6 Checklist (2021)

 

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