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Diverse & Inclusive Books for Upper KS2

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Best Diverse Children’s Books for Ages 9-11

We have selected a list of recommended diverse and inclusive books for children in Year 5 and Year 6 (Upper KS2), which feature characters that are traditionally under-represented in children’s books.

This list of the best diverse books for children aged 9 to 11 includes books with minority ethnic main characters and books with representations of cultural diversity, different types of families, physical disabilities, visual impairment and neurodiversity. 

The selection includes the entertaining story of Danny Chung and his Nai Nai in Danny Chung Does Not Do Maths and an exciting fantasy story inspired by Hindu legends in Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom, as well as Sophie’s compelling story of hearing loss in Can You Feel the Noise and the coming-of-age graphic novel following an autistic girl who finds friendship where she least expects it in Speak Up!.

You can find Diverse & Inclusive children’s book lists for other primary year groups here:


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Books with minority ethnic main characters

Sharna Jackson
Chapter book

When their art teacher is mysteriously murdered during the summer holiday, sisters Nik and Norva turn detective to solve the case and find his killer. With a modern-day urban setting in a high-rise block, this entertaining whodunnit will keep you turning the pages. A sequel, Mic-Drop, sees the smart and curious young sleuths investigate the suspicious death of a pop-star — and I hope there will be lots more mysteries to come for Norva and Nik.

Julia Golding
Chapter book
Sahira's family are travelling to England to deliver two majestic Indian tigers to the menagerie in the tower of London.But tragedy strikes and sickness steals Sahira's parents from her on the journey. Left alone in London, Sarhira finds herself confined to a miserable and dangerous orphanage. Despite her heartache and the threats she faces, Sahira is determined to carry out her father's last request - to protect God's beautiful creatures: her tigers. To do so, Sahira must set out on an adventure and use all her powers of persuasion to engage the help of some new friends along the way.Can the quest to find her tigers a safe home, lead Sahira to find her own place of hope and belonging in this strange and foreign land?
Priscilla Mante
Chapter book

Jaz Santos vs the World is the first in a new series about a girl who gathers an unlikely group of friends together to make their own girls’ football team. This is an inclusive and empowering tale with a real-life feel that will appeal to fans of Cath Howe and Jacqueline Wilson.

Circumstances in Jaz’s life are starting to feel out of control. She has been in trouble at school, kicked out of dance club and is dealing with the growing cracks in her parents’ relationship, culminating in a house fire and her mum eventually moving out. There’s more on her mind too – Jaz loves football and often plays with the boys at lunchtimes, but is excluded from the school team because girls are not allowed to play.

When Jaz finds a leaflet advertising a girls’ football tournament, she seizes the opportunity to take back some control. Thinking carefully about how to sell the idea to her classmates, Jaz pours heart and soul into rallying a team of girls to prepare for the tournament. From fundraising to training, Jaz leaves no stone unturned – with her passionate hopes of proving that girls can be taken seriously in football matched only by her desire to get mum back. Deep down, Jaz wonders whether winning the tournament might magically solve all of the other problems in her life too, but some wise words along the way help Jaz to understand that life’s circumstances do not have to define her, and her own personal successes and failures don’t have to be tied up with the things in life that are simply beyond her control.

With girls’ football growing more popular than ever, this is an empowering book with a dynamic and entertaining main character who shows what can happen when somebody leads the way in a new sporting initiative. The discrimination against Jaz as a girl wanting to be taken seriously in football feels frustrating and unfair, but Jaz is passionate and triumphant to show what can be achieved with a little determination. Some of the other girls have no interest in the sport before Jaz recruits them to the team, but the story shows how beneficial the opportunity to join in is for them in different ways. The author Priscilla Mante says of the book, “Girls’ football and women’s football don’t get the attention they should do and it was really important for me, through Jaz, to challenge the status quo.”

This timely and heart-warming story about teamwork, self-belief and following your passions in the face of life’s ups and downs is likely to score big with readers aged 8-11.

Jamar J. Perry
Chapter book

Inspired by West African and Igbo history, this adventure-filled fantasy introduces readers to Cameron Battle as he begins his journey to greatness.
Cameron Battle has vivid memories of his early childhood, listening to his Mother read him magical and adventurous tales from the Book of Chidani – a lost mythical kingdom of the Igbo people whose Queen bargained with the gods, cutting it off from the world to save her people from slavery…

Tolá Okogwu
Chapter book

An exciting, edge-of-your-seat adventure.

Onyeka and her best friend, Cheyenne, are both Nigerian living in London. Whilst Cheyenne is confident and not bothered what others think, Onyeka feels like she doesn’t fit in. Her hair in particular causes others to stare. It has a mind of its own and no matter what her hairdresser mum does to it, it’s out of control. Onyeka’s mum doesn’t talk about Nigeria or why they left and least of all, what happened to Onyeka’s dad.

One day, Onyeka’s hair literally has a mind of its own when it glows blue and crackles with electricity when Cheyenne is in trouble. Onyeka’s mum is forced to tell her that she is ‘Solari’ and has inherited this trait from her dad. When Onyeka struggles to control her power and it starts to make her sick, her mum decides it’s finally time to return to Nigeria and try and locate Onyeka’s dad and learn to control her powers. Despite being surrounded by other Solari, Onyeka still feels like she doesn’t belong. The other children have lived with their powers for years, but Onyeka has only just discovered hers. If only her mum could find her dad and maybe she could get some answers!

‘Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun’ is an exciting edge-of-your-seat adventure with interesting and unique characters. I loved the development of the relationships between Onyeka and the other children as she got to know more about them. I became totally lost in Onyeka’s world and couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next.

This story would make a fantastic read for Upper Key Stage 2 children, particularly for those that are fans of superhero stories and films. Tola Okogwu says in the author’s note in the book that she hopes it will “act as both a mirror and a window” in terms of representation, and I think lots of people will agree that it does. What a wonderful book.

Katie Tsang & Kevin Tsang
Chapter book

A dragon-filled adventure and the first book in an exciting new series by Katie and Kevin Tsang, co-authors of the popular Sam Wu books.

12-year-old Billy Chan has been sent from his home in California – where he’d much rather be surfing – to a Chinese Summer Camp deep in the shadows of a mysterious mountain in China. In between learning Mandarin, martial arts and cooking, there are to be team challenges, the first of which takes Billy and his new friends (Charlotte, Ling Fei and Dylan) into an area that is out of bounds. Ling Fei loses her necklace and they are forced to return to the area. When his new friends disappear, Billy bravely enters the mountain to find them, but comes face to face with four dragons! As each of the children forms an unbreakable bond with a dragon, they discover that Ling Fei’s necklace is more than it appears to be and with the power it bestows, along with other magical pearls, the four small humans are tasked to save the whole dragon and human realms!

This was an amazing start to the Dragon Realm series and I was quickly hooked. Filled with legend, magic and, of course, dragons, this would sate any young fantasy lover’s reading appetite. There’s excitement around each corner – from magical objects to out-of-bounds adventuring. I also loved that each of the children was so different, but managed to form a loyal team, exemplifying how you don’t have to be friends with only people who are similar to you.

This is a beguiling start to a promising adventure series, filled with humour, warmth, action and magic.

Marcus Rashford & Alex Falase-Koya
 & Marta Kissi
Chapter book

This story was partially inspired by footballer Marcus Rashford’s own experiences growing up and is written with children’s author Alex Falase-Koya. Marcus remembers the breakfast clubs he attended growing up, and said “Breakfast Club guaranteed I had the best possible start to my day and welcomed me with open arms. It wasn’t just about food. It was about forming friendships, about togetherness, about escape. It was where some of my greatest memories were made.” This fiction book pays homage to the role breakfast club played in his upbringing.

In the story, Marcus attends Breakfast Club along with his football-loving friends. Since he lost his lucky football over the fence, his magic touch is gone and he’s lost his enthusiasm a bit. Everybody knows that he won’t get the football back because the other side of the fence is a no-go zone with a derelict, abandoned building. Before he knows it, Marcus ends up swept up on an adventure with the Breakfast Club Investigators involving a mysterious note, a strange creature and a deep dive into what really lurks beyond the fence.

This fun, pacey adventure full of twists and turns is a big hit with Key Stage 2.

Justin A. Reynolds
 & Pablo Leon
Graphic Novel

For those not already familiar with the Miles Morales character from the Marvel movie ‘Into the Spider-Verse’, Miles is an alternate Spider-Man doing his superhero thing in Brooklyn, while also juggling school, friendship issues and doing the right thing by his family.
New to the Spidey-game, Miles is still learning how to web sling accurately, when he comes across two young thieves, Vex and Trinity, who also seem to have super-powers.

Annabelle Sami
 & Allen Fatimaharan
Chapter book

Yasmin Shah has not spoken for years, not since the ‘Purple/poo incident’. Her family on the other hand, all speak at the top of their voices all of the time. Yasmin wonders if her house could possibly get any louder, when she is joined by Levi – a madcap, well meaning but noisy and often rude Llama. Annabelle Sami, author of the Agent Zaiba Investigates series, skilfully weaves a fun and silly llama adventure story with more serious themes including the impact of bullying, selective mutism, loneliness and old age. We shared this story as a family bedtime read with my 7-year-old, and once we got into the story we struggled to put it down, wanting to know just what Levi would get up to next and how Yasmin would react to the chaos unfurling around her..

Richard O'Neill
Chapter book

A thoroughly enjoyable read set in 19th-century Sheffield. This book tells the story of Lijah –  a Romani boy living in a Traveller camp. Lijah enjoys collecting scrap with his dad and brother, travelling on the cart and listening to his dad’s stories by the fire.

One day, visitors from the Sheffield census come around and decree that Lijah has to start going to school. At first, he struggles with reading and writing and faces prejudice when some of the other children call him ‘gypsy’ or ‘tramp’, he soon discovers a fascination for a new game called football and finds a way to join in with the other boys.

Back home, Lijah’s dad is not happy about Lijah playing football, calling it a dinlo (foolish) game. His dad instructs Lijah not to play, but does accept a gift of a football for Lijah in order to make a good connection with a local businessman called Jack Davis. Over time, Jack bonds with Lijah over his passion for football and tells him about a famous Romani player called Rab Howell. Can Lijah follow in his new hero’s footsteps while still staying true to his roots and keeping peace with his dad?

Written by a Romani author, this quick and compelling read deals with big themes of heritage, family, changing times and prejudice in sport. As the author explains in his note to preface the story, “If you come from a marginalised community, you often have a number of challenges to overcome. Or to use a football analogy: you’re starting the game a couple of goals down.”   Near the end of the story, Lijah comes to the realisation that his upbringing has become an asset and instrumental to his talent, despite the prejudice he will no doubt encounter.

The story provides an original new angle into the stream of football storybooks available and it was interesting to consider the time when professional football was first becoming popular and the legacy of Sheffield in football history, as well as to learn about Rab Howell. Many young readers will relate to the difficulty Lijah encounters balancing cultural traditions with modern life, as well as the tensions between family expectations and following one’s own passions.

Books that represent cultural diversity

Maisie Chan & Anh Cao
Chapter book
Eleven-year-old Danny Chung loves drawing more than anything - certainly more than maths, which, according to his dad and everyone else, is what he is 'supposed' to be good at. He also loves having his own room where he can draw in peace, so his life is turned upside down when a surprise that he's been promised turns out to be his little, wrinkly, ex-maths-champion grandmother from China. What's worse, Nai Nai has to share his room, AND she takes the top bunk!Nai Nai can't speak a word of English, which doesn't make things easy for Danny when he is charged with looking after her during his school holidays. Babysitting Nai Nai is NOT what he wants to be doing!Before long though it becomes clear to Danny that there is more to Nai Nai than meets the eye, and that they have more in common that he thought possible ...
Sangu Mandanna
Chapter book

To say I enjoyed this book would be an understatement. The story has a diverse cast of characters and pays tribute to the Hindu legends that inspired it. Full of fantasy, adventure and friendship, it is bound to be a winner in many classrooms.
Kiki has to be one of my favourite main characters that I have read recently. The descriptions of her anxieties and how it affects her life really will resonate with many children

Humza Arshad & Henry White
 & Aleksei Bitskoff
A hilarious and fast-paced adventure from comedian Humza Arshad and screenwriter Henry White, perfect for fans of David Solomons and David Baddiel.Humza Khan considers himself to be the greatest eleven-year-old rapper Eggington has ever known and soon everyone will know his name. The only problem is school has got really weird. All the teachers are disappearing and his aunties are taking over. It wasn't too bad at the start, as they keep feeding him delicious snacks all the time. But now these aunties are trying to mess with his music, so Humza and his best friends Umer and Wendy are going to hunt for the truth. ...
Kelly Yang
 & Maike Plenzke
Chapter book

This is a deeply moving story that has left an impact long after reading it and is the first a highly recommended series. Inspired by the author’s own childhood, the story charts the experiences of a Chinese girl called Mia living in America with her parents, and explores the themes of immigration, prejudice, poverty, institutionalised racism and what it looks like to hold onto hope in turbulent times.

Having immigrated to California from China, Mia’s family run a motel. Life is hard work, money is short, the American people are unpredictable and the motel owner, Mr Yao, is not somebody to be crossed. Yet Mia observes life around her with heart and humour, seeing the best in people and following her parents’ lead to offer compassion and help in all circumstances. Full of concern for the plight of immigrants in America, Mia’s parents use the empty motel rooms as a place of refuge. The racial injustice and sheer cruelty that Mia witnesses in the treatment of fellow human beings is deeply unsettling. Throughout the story, Mia becomes a beacon of light for many, as she works to navigate the challenging circumstances around her with integrity and hope.

Mia’s account of the difficulties her family faces as immigrants in modern-day America is moving and powerful. Mia is a thoroughly likeable main character who shows courage, determination and kindness even in the most difficult of circumstances and – on top of all of life’s difficulties – never gives up on pursuing her own dreams and reaching for the stars.

This is a beautiful story that gently stirs the soul and is recommended for upper KS2.

Annabelle Sami
 & Daniela Sosa
Chapter book
Determined to be the world's greatest detective, Zaiba is always on the lookout for a crime to solve! Zaiba is excited to visit an historical shipwreck and attend the reveal of its mystery cargo! But the big event is ruined when the priceless artefact goes missing. With stories of smuggling rooted in the seaside town's past, Zaiba's investigative instincts are buzzing. Will she and her team be able to uncover the coast's secrets and find the treasure before it's lost again forever? The fourth book in a fun, fresh and exciting new detective series, for readers not quite ready for Robin Stevens, Katherine Woodfine, HIGH RISE MYSTERY and NANCY DREW.

Dr Janina Ramirez
 & Sarah Walsh
Tales of powerful female figures have been told since the beginning of time and this collection brings together 50 stories from around the world. There are loving creators, wise leaders, fearsome warriors, gentle healers and mystical protectors, and they can each inspire you to find strength within yourself . . .Beautifully written by cultural historian and broadcaster, Dr Janina Ramirez, and stunningly illustrated by Sarah Walsh, this amazing book contains goddesses, guides, spirits, saints, witches, demons and many more female figures that have played an important role in shaping belief today. Based on original sources and with photographs from the British Museum collection, this incredible introduction to goddesses throughout history will entertain, engage and empower readers everywhere.Divided into thematic chapters, but connected by the power of the female, there are important stories of creation and love, action-packed stories of war and death, and heroic stories of great adventure and strength. Each gorgeously illustrated spread is a celebration of girl power in its many forms.
Emma Shevah
Chapter book
Lexie lives in London with her colourful Greek-Cypriot family - and she's devoted to her fragile cousin of the same age, Eleni, who has a heart condition. But after the death of their grandmother, Lexie tells a terrible, instinctive, jealous lie about an heirloom necklace, a lie that splits the family apart. It's up to her to bring the family back together ... but after such a lie, can she find a way to tell the truth?
Patrice Lawrence
Chapter book
A quirky family comedy set in the Caribbean from prize-winning author Patrice Lawrence. Shayla can't wait to see her cousin Michael again. Last time, they had great fun chasing Granny's chickens and playing hide-and-seek in the bamboo by the river. But Michael thinks everything in London is better than in Trinidad where Shayla lives, which makes him better than her, doesn't it? Soon everything's a competition, especially when there's hot pepper sauce involved! This humorous story featuring characters from Trinidad by Patrice Lawrence, the winner of the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2017 for Older Fiction, has fun black-and-white illustrations by David Dean and is perfect for children who are developing as readers.
M. T. Khan
Chapter book
A magical adventure rooted in Muslim culture and folklore, Nura and the Immortal Palace follows a young girl's journey from modern-day Pakistan into the world of the jinn. Nura has worked all her life in the mica mines, earning just enough to keep her family afloat - and enjoy the odd delicious gulab jamun from the market. Some day she's going to find the Demon's Tongue, a legendary treasure buried deep in the mines, and her family will never have to worry about money again. But when a terrible accident buries her best friend below ground, Nura goes in search of him and passes over into the magical and terrible world of the jinn. Across a pink sea and under a purple sky, she finds her way to a palace, where great riches and a whole new life are on offer. But it's not long before Nura discovers this world to be as unfair as the real one, and that trickster jinns will always live up to their reputation...
Sita Brahmachari
Chapter book

Sita Brahmachari is in brilliant form as she weaves loss, past secrets and the need for trust through an anxious quest for securing a safe haven for all. A great, life-affirming story.

When Secrets Set Sail is the story of Usha and Imtiyaz, to young girls who find themselves forced together when Usha’s family adopts Imtiyaz. They are forced to make a new family at the time when Usha’s grandmother has just died and Imtiyaz’s foster mother is leaving to start a new life. Also, the house where they live, that also serves as a refugee centre, is under threat of being closed down.

The girls must learn to trust each other and become true sisters in order to save their home and the spirits of Usha’s grandmother and the legacy of the family. With the help of some ghosts from the past, family history and new friends, can the girls work together to make everything ok?

This book is a fascinating look at the beliefs about spirits who look after you and guide you when they are needed. The story also emphasises the importance of both local and family history and what it means to build new relationships well. I haven’t read a book that has stuck with me the way this one did, in a long time. Have the tissues at the ready when reading this one!

Books that represent neurodiversity

Elle McNicoll
Chapter book

This 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 and a must-have for classrooms and school libraries where there are mature readers aged 10+.

Victoria Williamson
Chapter book

A moving and compassionately-told story from the author of the The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle. Also told through a dual narrative, this is a story with weighty themes including blended families, life with ADHD and the search for acceptance. Hugely relevant for today’s generation, Victoria Williamson writes with a galloping pace packaged at every turn with extraordinary compassion, delivering an enjoyable and empathy-building reading experience. The narrative offers powerful insights into life with ADHD…

Libby Scott & Rebecca Westcott
Chapter book
With diary entries written by eleven-year-old Libby Scott, based on her own experiences of autism, this pioneering book, written in collaboration with esteemed author Rebecca Westcott, has been widely praised for its realistic portrayal of autism.Tally is eleven years old and she's just like her friends. Well, sometimes she is. If she tries really hard to be. Because there's something that makes Tally not the same as her friends. Something she can't cover up, no matter how hard she tries: Tally is autistic.Tally's autism means there are things that bother her even though she wishes they didn't. It means that some people misunderstand, her and feel frustrated by her.People think that because Tally's autistic, she doesn't realise what they're thinking, but Tally sees and hears - and notices - all of it.And, honestly? That's not the easiest thing to live with.
Stewart Foster
Chapter book

An absorbing story about bullying and friendship crafted with the right balance of warmth and tension to engage readers in upper KS2. The narrative alternates between the viewpoints of teenagers Alex and Dan. Daily life is a struggle for Alex, plagued by worries caused by his OCD and living in fear of the awful bullying at school. Dan’s life is not straightforward either. Since his older brother left home, everything in Dan’s world feels different. Dan plays out his frustrations at school, messing around in class and finding easy targets at school to bully with his friends. As time goes by, the boys end up working together on a raft-building project and a new empathy begins to develop as their relationship grows. A highly recommended story for KS2.

Some books you read a few pages or some chapters and park it for the day. Other books, you get so into the story that you just keep turning the pages and lose track of time. This book is the latter. It’s so well written that both bully and his victim got under my skin.

Rebecca Burgess
Graphic Novel
For fans of Click and Brave, this touching coming-of-age middle grade graphic novel debut follows an autistic girl who finds friendship where she least expects it and learns to express her true self in a world where everyone defines her by her differences.Twelve-year-old Mia is just trying to navigate a world that doesn’t understand her true autistic self. While she wishes she could stand up to her bullies, she’s always been able to express her feelings through singing and songwriting, even more so with her best friend, Charlie, who is nonbinary, putting together the best beats for her.Together, they've taken the internet by storm; little do Mia’s classmates know that she’s the viral singer Elle-Q! But while the chance to perform live for a local talent show has Charlie excited, Mia isn’t so sure.She’ll have to decide whether she’ll let her worries about what other people think get in the way of not only her friendship with Charlie, but also showing everyone, including the bullies, who she is and what she has to say.

Books that represent physical disabilities & medical conditions

David Baddiel
 & Steven Lenton
Chapter book
It's the latest Brilliant Blockbuster from bestselling Baddiel! A non-stop thrill-ride adventure that will have readers young and old racing to the finishing line. The Taylor TurboChaser is a road-trip rollercoaster... with a twist.At its heart is the unforgettable Amy Taylor. Amy loves cars, and dreams of being a driver. But there's a major catch: her slow old wheelchair with its broken wheel. When Amy finally gets a new electric one, it's exciting... at first.But standard engines only have so much power. And that's where Rahul comes in - Amy's best friend and genius inventor. Soon Rahul turns a wheelchair into... a supercar!And so the Taylor TurboChaser is born. But when it all goes suddenly wrong Amy is going to have to hit the road - and drive...
Malorie Blackman
 & Mike Lowery
Chapter book
Although Sam has a long-term illness, all he wants is the chance to lead a normal life. So he is thrilled when he finally gets his mum and dad to let him go on the school trip to the Scottish Highlands. Sam's desperate for an adventure and wants to prove to everyone that he's just as strong as his friends. But when some of the boys from his class take a reckless risk in order to win a challenge, the trip turns out to be more dangerous than Sam could have imagined. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 8+.
Susan Brownrigg
Chapter book

Gracie Fairshaw has moved to Blackpool with Ma and younger brother George to run The Majestic, a typical seaside Boarding House. The Fairshaws have barely settled in when Ma mysteriously vanishes. Gracie, George, and their new friends, siblings Violet and Tom and Phyllis the maid must work out which of the guests is responsible for Ma’s disappearance as the clock ticks down to the 1935 Illuminations Switch-on. Gracie has congenital limb difference, and her left arm ends just past her elbow.

A gripping mystery story. Ma disappears on the eve of the 1935 Blackpool lights switch on. Blackpool is a great setting and  Gracie, her brother and two friends are wonderful characters. A mystery adventure for fans of Katherine Woodfine and Jacqueline Wilson.

Stewart Foster
Chapter book

This gripping and moving story about coping with long term illness is popular with upper KS2. Joe is an eleven-year-old boy who lives his life stuck in a hospital room. Joe has a medical condition that means he is not allowed leave the hospital or encounter germs from the outside world. Can the characters Joe meets bring hope and warmth into his hospital bubble? An award-winning story that is great for developing empathy with different viewpoints and experiences.

Laura Noakes
Chapter book

What a fabulous book! Cosima Unfortunate is a new type of heroine for Middle-Grade readers. Cosima and her friends Diya, Mary and Pearl live in a Home for Unfortunate Girls, locked away from the eyes of the world. However, there is certainly nothing ‘unfortunate’ about them! When a mysterious visitor turns up at the home, Cos overhears a conversation that sets a series of events in motion that will change their lives forever; a chain of events that includes sneaking out, stealing and even mortal danger.
Nothing is too much though for Cos and her friends. Diya is a brilliant inventor, Mary is a great planner and Pearl is a talented artist – all skills that will be needed if they are to stop the evil plans of Lord Fitzroy and save the day.
The story highlights how people who are perceived to be different can be treated. In this book, however, differences are not a hindrance. I really loved the characters, and children who see themselves as different will enjoy being represented as the heroes and heroines of the tale.

Books that represent visual impairment and hearing loss

Cece Bell
Graphic Novel

We adore this moving graphic novel memoir about deafness by Cece Bell.

Cece Bell retells her memories of being a young child, when she experienced hearing loss after being ill with meningitis. In this graphic novel retelling of her life, characters are redrawn as charming anthropomorphic bunnies – although, after a few pages, you forget that they are not just people. Despite the challenges of her condition, Cece approaches life with positivity and bounce.  A throwaway comment by another child called her ‘El Deafo’ sparks the creation of a fun alter-ego, empowering her to think like a superhero would about her hearing aid (which she sees as cool gadgets that give her extra powers). Other themes covered in the story include friendship, moving class and celebrating differences.

Readers will whizz through this thought-provoking and unique graphic novel.  There’s also an author note that gives a little more background about Cece Bell’s life.

Stewart Foster
Chapter book
A profound story about inner strength and perseverance in the face of a life-changing event, from the award-winning author of The Bubble Boy . Perfect for fans of R. J. Palacio's Wonder and Lisa Thompson's The Goldfish Boy. Life is going well for Sophie. She's getting by at school, has some pretty awesome friends, and their band have made it through to the semifinals of the Battle of the Bands competition. But when Sophie wakes up completely deaf one morning, the life she once knew seems like a distant memory. With lessons replaced by endless hospital appointments, and conversations now an exercise in lip-reading, Sophie grows quieter and quieter. Until she discovers the vibrations of sound through an old set of drums and wonders whether life onstage is actually still within reach. Drawing on the author's own hearing impairment, Can You Feel the Noise? is a deeply personal and moving story that will stay with you long after reading.
Zillah Bethell
Chapter book

A wonderfully gripping story set in a dystopian future where the rain has dried up, the world is at war over its water supply and everybody is permanently thirsty and unclean. Auden Dare is an eleven-year-old boy who has a rare condition that means he is unable to see colour. Auden moves to Cambridge after his mother inherits a bungalow belonging to Uncle Jonah, a professor who recently died under sudden and mysterious circumstances. One day Auden and his new friend Vivi Rookmini discover a fascinating robot called Paragon in his uncle’s shed. Soon the pair, together with the very clever and human-like Paragon, find themselves caught up in an investigation about Uncle Jonah’s work and his mysterious death, leading Auden to gradually reveal his own true colours as he inadvertently becomes involved in the complicated ethics of managing global water shortages. Zillah Bethell’s storytelling is wonderfully enigmatic and gripping throughout, leaving the reader hanging on to every word. I highly recommend this outstanding novel for upper KS2.

Paola Peretti
Chapter book
Nominated for the CILIP CARNEGIE MEDAL 2019 and the IBBY Honour List 2020. A novel for all ages about a young girl losing her sight, inspired by the author's own life story. For fans of Wonder, The Little Prince and The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly Mafalda is a nine-year-old girl who knows one thing: some time in the next six months her sight will fail completely. Can Mafalda find a way through a seemingly dark future and still go to school, play football and look after her beloved cat? With the help of her family, and her friends, Mafalda needs to discover the things that will be important to her when her sight has failed. A moving, empowering tale of courage and determination that will inspire young and old. Translated by Denise Muir.
Lynne Kelly
Chapter book
A stirring and heart-warming tale of a young deaf girl who is determined to make a difference, the perfect read for fans of Wonder.Iris was born deaf, but she's never let that define her; after all, it's the only life she's ever known. And until recently she wasn't even very lonely, because her grandparents are both deaf, too. But Grandpa has just died and Grandma's not the same without him. The only place Iris really feels at home anymore is in her electronics workshop where she loves taking apart antique radios.Then, during a science lesson about sound waves, Iris finds out about a whale who is unable to communicate with other whales. The lonely whale awakens something in Iris. She's determined to show him that someone in the world knows he's there.Iris works on a foolproof plan to help the whale but she soon realises that that is not enough: Iris wants to find the whale herself. One stolen credit card, two cruise ship tickets, and the adventure of a lifetime later, Iris and the whale each break through isolation to help one another be truly heard in ways that neither had ever expected.Winner of the Schneider Family Book Award, young children category, for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience.

Books that represent learning difficulties and speech disorders

Helen Rutter
Chapter book

This debut novel from Helen Rutter is inspired by her own son who has a stammer, and it delves into the worries and thoughts that Billy has about having a stammer and how he thinks the outside world will see him because of it.

When eleven-year-old Billy starts Bannerdale secondary school, he wants to fit in and be popular. In fact, he hopes to realise his dream of becoming a comedian and being known throughout the school as ‘Billy Plimpton, the Funniest Boy in School’. One thing stands in his way though – he decides he won’t talk until he’s ‘got rid’ of his stammer.

Each chapter begins with one of Billy’s jokes, and although the issues tackled in the book are serious, it’s a warm and funny read. The story shows that we all have differences, and it is important to accept ourselves as we are.

This is a lovely book with a positive message, as well as being packed with jokes which will make both children and adults laugh.

Jo Cotterill
Chapter book
Darby loves summer on her family's strawberry farm - but is the weather about to turn? A UK nomination for IBBY's List of Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities 2019 Darby is twelve and has Down's syndrome. Her favourite things are music, chocolate, and her big sister Kaydee. It's nearly time for the annual chocolate hunt, the highlight of Darby's year, but Kaydee has brought a friend home for the weekend. Suddenly both the chocolate hunt and her favourite person are in danger of slipping away... and to make things worse, the family's strawberry farm is hit by a tornado. When the storm clears, what will be left? And can Darby mend what's been broken when nobody will listen to her? A warm, thoughtful and empathetic novel from acclaimed author Jo Cotterill.
Stewart Foster
Chapter book

Check Mates weaves together the stories of 11-year-old Felix and his lonely grandad in a heartwarming read full of empathy, humour and an encouragement to look beyond the unusual behaviour of others in order to connect with the human stories that lie beneath.

Readers of Stewart Foster’s previous books will have come to expect gritty real-life issues to be unpacked in a hugely compassionate and accessible way through the eyes of a likeable young narrator. This story is narrated by Felix, who struggles to concentrate at school and home because of his ADHD. The early chapters offer stirring insights into Felix’s thought processes and the sense of hopelessness that he feels at his own failure to stay out of trouble at school, ending up in an isolation room time and time again.

Mum organises for Felix to spend more time with his grandad, whose own eccentric behaviour has been increasingly concerning since Grandma died. Felix wonders whether he will ever connect with Grandad, who is often grumpy and likes to sit in the dark at home with the curtains closed. As they spend time together, Grandad teaches Felix how to play chess and the pair forms a bond that brings blessings to each of them in surprising ways.

Stewart Foster is skilled at bringing just the right amount of warmth and humour to his narratives in order to draw the reader to the heart of the issues explored without taking away their serious nature. Young readers will easily identify with Felix and his friend Jake, whose interests and mannerisms are typical of many young people their age. I liked the way in which digital technology was a very natural part of Felix’s lifestyle and was present throughout the story in a very relatable way. A less familiar historical element is also woven in too, with interesting threads about Cold War history that bring with them a number of pleasing plot twists and turns along the way.

Check Mates is a thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking read that will strike a chord with readers in the 9-12 age bracket.

Anne-Marie Conway
Chapter book

Lily loves animals and has a stammer.

Themes of family and friendship are explored throughout the story, which is told from Lily’s point of view. Lily is in Year 6 and her new teacher sets a project about ‘One World’, where the children work together to research an issue and present it to the class – a task that feels challenging for Lily when she has a stammer. This thought-provoking and beautiful story reels the reader in to Lily’s journey from being the victim of cyberbullying to standing up for herself and ‘becoming more hedgehog.’

From friendship changes, cyberbullying and new family additions, this unique story leads to lots of discussion for KS2 classes. The story is inter-woven with animal facts and at the beginning of each chapter is a fact about hedgehogs, as well as an illustration. This book is captivating from the first page and is a must-read for celebrating differences, overcoming adversity, and having hope and courage.

I really enjoyed this story and read it in one day, as I couldn’t put it down. It would make a good class read for children in Year 5 or 6 or for children who love animals and celebrating who we are.

Jeffrey Boakye
Chapter book
Kofi had an big lightning bolt of an idea that hit him like electricity. And all it needed was Kelvin's incredible memory for words.Kofi is used to stuff going wrong, he's usually in detention or about to be. But when he finds out his best friend Kelvin has a photographic memory, he comes up with a genius money-making scheme. The whole school is obsessed with music, no one can ever make out the words, so the boys hit the jackpot selling a new fanzine full of song lyrics: PAPER JAM. It's not long before one of the teacher's tells Kofi: 'You could be a real leader at this school, you know that?' and . . . suddenly it's turning out to be the best summer ever!

Books that represent different types of families

Susie Day
Chapter book
Sam likes being a twin. He likes having two mums. He likes cheese sandwiches and his dog and drawing comics with his friend Pea. He does not like humus - or heights . . .His twin sister Sammie likes being a twin too. She knows that she's perfect best friend material for somebody - the girls in her class just haven't realised yet. And she knows that she's the best Sam - Sam A.Both Sam and Sammie - and everybody in their lives seems to be keeping secrets - which ones will come out?
Jason Reynolds
 & Selom Senu
Chapter book
It's not the taking part, it's the winning that counts for Patina!Patty, as she's known to her friends and family, has lost a lot in her life - her dad died when she was young, her mum has lost her legs and now she has to live with her uncle and his wife. On top of that Patty has to go to the poshest school that ever existed. Now her running team has become a relay team and independent "I can do everything by myself" Patty has to work with her team mates to win.
Onjali Rauf
Chapter book
Following the disappearance of her mum, 10-year-old Aniyah suddenly finds herself living in foster care. With her life in disarray, she knows just one thing for sure: her mum isn't gone for ever. Because people with the brightest hearts never truly leave. They become stars.So when a new star is spotted acting strangely in the sky, Aniyah is sure it's her mum, and she embarks on the adventure of a lifetime to make sure everyone else knows too -- an adventure that involves breaking into the Royal Observatory of London, a mischievous scurry of squirrels and the biggest star in Hollywood...Told through the innocent voice of a child, this is a story that explores the subtle faces and endless impacts of domestic violence, and celebrates the power of hope and resilience, from Onjali Rauf, the award-winning author of The Boy at the Back of the Class.
Susanna Bailey
Chapter book

Smugglers Fox is a delicate, emotional coming of age story, which will touch the hearts of any reader, young or old.

The story is told from the point of view of Jonah, older brother to Rio, who faces many challenges, as both boys tragically get separated in foster care. Now alone with a new carer, Rio builds a bond with a red fox, where he seeks companionship and understanding. Eventually, this relationship leads to great adventure in the coves of Whitby. As the tale unwinds, it appears that the fox and Rio have a lot more in common than it seems, and they both need to show bravery in the face of physical and emotional challenges.

The author has an empathetic writing style, which incorporates a child-like perspective of the world, while integrating stunning metaphors and links with nature. Themes such as mental health, abandonment and deep emotional turmoil are told from the young boy’s point of view with great sensitivity; any child who has experienced some of the challenges within this book will be able to identify with the characters personal journeys. Despite the high emotion within Smugglers Fox, the story leads to great optimism and teaches the reader how love and connection are the key to acceptance. It also includes an exciting quest to follow a secret treasure map. I would highly recommend this story to children in Upper Key Stage 2, moving onto Secondary School.

S.E. Durrant
 & Rob Biddulph
Chapter book
AJ's grandfather has always been the one to keep his unusual family together, so when he dies things start to unravel at the edges. AJ is worried about his parents but they don't really seem to notice. In order to deal with his grief and to keep his anxiety at bay, AJ does what he and his grandfather did best: running. Round and round the Olympic Park, aiming for the cross country trials. Running to escape, AJ only seems to be heading ever closer to disaster. Running On Empty is a beautiful book about false starts and emotional journeys, with hope as the ultimate finishing line. From the author of Little Bits of Sky and Talking to the Moon Cover illustration by Rob Biddulph

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Guidance: Diverse Books for Upper Ks2

We may live in a golden age of children’s books, but many young readers are still woefully under-represented in the stories they read. Making available a range of diverse children’s books is vitally important to every child, and youngsters should be able to see themselves, and their current and future friends, in the books that they read. Authentically told stories featuring a diverse range of characters help children to develop empathy and inclusion, as well as exposing children to a more realistic understanding of the world around them.

We’ve put together a selection of diverse and inclusive books suitable for Year 5 and 6 (ages 9-11), featuring characters that are traditionally underrepresented in children’s books. Research shows that only 9% of children’s books published in 2021 featured minority ethnic main characters. We’ve included on this list recommended books with minority ethnic main characters like Sharna Jackson’s urban whodunnit High Rise Mystery or Annabelle Sami’s laugh-a-minute adventure, Llama Out Loud. We’ve also included books that give insights into underrepresented cultures, like the joyful adventure inspired by Hindu legends in Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom  or the larger-than-life escapades of Lexie’s London-based Greek-Cypriot family in What Lexie Did. For more recommendations still, we also have separate booklists for BAME Main Characters and Cultural Diversity.

It’s important to stress that diversity in children’s books is about more than ethnic and cultural representation alone. For books with Neurodivergent characters, we recommend Show Us Who You Are or Can You See Me?, both of which represent main characters with autism, Victoria Williamson’s The Boy With the Butterfly Mind portraying life for a teen diagnosed with ADHD, or Stewart Foster’s heart-wrenchingly honest narrative about living with OCD in All the Things that Could Go Wrong. For characters with learning disabilities or speech disorders, try The Boy Who Made Everyone Laugh, featuring a main character with a stutter, or Jo Cotterill’s A Storm of Strawberries, about a 12-year-old girl with Down’s syndrome.​

Physical disabilities and medical conditions are also largely underrepresented in middle-grade fiction. Try Gracie Fairshaw and the Mysterious Guest for a story featuring a heroine with limb-loss (we also have a separate booklist about limb difference here), or A Dangerous Game by Malorie Blackman, which features a main character with sickle-cell anemia. For characters with visual impairment, try The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree (loss of sight) or The Extraordinary Colours of Auden Dare (colour-blindness). For characters with hearing loss, we recommend Stewart Foster’s Can You Feel the Noise? or Cece Bell’s graphic novel El Deafo.

Finally, we have included in our collection books that portray different types of family life, from adoption and fostering in The Star Outside My Window and Just Call Me Spaghetti Hoop Boy to parent health concerns and same-sex parenting in Patina and The Secrets of Sam and Sam respectively.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but is hopefully a helpful starting point in diversifying your book collections for Year 5 and Year 6 and helping you to consider where under-representation could be remedied. Similar lists for other Year Groups can be found in our Diversity Hub and full packs of these books can be purchased by schools via Peters.

If you are looking for more Year 5 and Year 6 recommendations, be sure to check out our Reading for Pleasure booklists.

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