Recommended children's booklists sorted by age or topic

Home > Blog > Chapter Book Round-Up: 10 You Might Have Missed

Chapter Book Round-Up: 10 You Might Have Missed

Every month our panel of reviewers reads a selection of children’s books and tells us what they think. Our Review Panel includes teachers, librarians, education consultants, headteachers, teaching assistants and education lecturers, and this week they have been telling us about the newly published chapter books that have caught their attention over the last several months…


1. Twitch

by M G Leonard

Reviewer: Jacqueline Harris

Twitch is in Year 7, where he is the victim of vicious bullying. Not surprisingly, he would prefer the company of birds to anyone at his school. His plan for the summer holidays, when he finally finishes the first year of secondary, is to spend his time bird watching and also train his pigeons to home. However, his plans are thwarted when a dangerous convict, in prison for murder, escapes. The police believe the escapee will be returning to the area where Twitch is planning to spend his summer- Aves Wood. There are also millions of pounds involved that have yet to be recovered. Twitch makes some unlikely allies and together they end up trying to track down the prisoner and find the lost millions. But with so much at stake, this becomes a highly hazardous pastime.


M G Leonard writes beautifully and knowledgeably about birds and bird-watching. As someone who has never been a bird watcher, I ended up going out with my family and looking for birds and we all got interested. I think this book would do the same for many children. The story is infused with a love of nature in general and birds in particular and it leaves a vivid impression.


Twitch himself is a very likeable hero and his ingenious problem solving is both clever and engaging. He is a fantastic role model, and I was overjoyed to discover he will feature in further books.


This is an exciting adventure, a mystery story and one that also deals with some difficult topics such as bullying and a parent in jail. It is also so full of interesting wildlife facts I felt I had learnt a lot by the end of it. It would also make an excellent read-aloud story that children would really enjoy for the suspense and great storytelling.


Publisher: Walker

Publication date: June 2021


> Buy on Amazon

> Buy on Bookshop


See Twitch on our Summer 2021 Recommended Reads List


2. Children of the Quicksands

By Efua Traoré

Children of the Quicksands is the debut novel by Efua Traoré and winner of The Times/ Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition 2019.


Set in Nigeria, the story centres on 13-year-old Simi, sent away from the city by her busy mother to stay with her grandmother in Ajao, whom she has never met and who is not expecting her. There’s no internet, TV or phone; just the sounds of birds and animals. Why has her mother never spoken of her grandmother? Her grandmother readily dispenses advice and healing potions and tinctures to the community yet remains silent on the topic of her own family. Simi only knows that she must keep away from the forbidden lake and jungle-like forest, but soon defies her grandmother and decides to explore. While at the lake, she is pulled under by the dangerous quicksand and her fantastical journey begins; a journey that she can share with no one. Will she uncover the truth? Can the years of rifts be healed?


This is a beautiful story with an evocative setting. The reader is drawn to the rich sights, sounds and smells of the remote setting with its mysteries woven into a story dealing with separation, grief and loss. It is Simi’s personal story, yet the history that she uncovers is also deeply powerful and moving: the story of a family dealing with loss in their own individual ways. It is her grandmother, Iyanla, whose secrets we want to uncover and, when we do, it is via a tale steeped in Yoruba folklore and magic.


This story radiates warmth and colour and deserves a place in a KS2 library. The book itself is a thing of beauty with a stunning cover by Helen Crawford-White. Display this on your classroom shelf and it just begs to be picked up by any middle-grade child in search of a wonderful adventure.


Publisher: Chicken House

Publication date: June 2021


> Buy on Amazon

> Buy on Bookshop


3. Me and the Robbersons

by Siri Kolu

Reviewer: Hayley Warner


Translated from the original Finnish by Ruth Urbom, Me and the Robbersons by Siri Kolu tells the hilarious tale of Maisie and her life on the road with the Robberson family. On the way to her summer holiday – which Maisie is expecting to be fully boring – she is stolen from her car by the Robbersons and soon embarks on the summer adventure she has always wanted as a real-life bandit. Luckily, Maisie writes down her adventures in her diary, including top tips for stealing by the Robbersons.


This book will certainly appeal to all who like humorous adventure stories and sweets (though these are the favourite item for the Robbersons to steal!). The bandits – take Wild Karl for example – will hook readers with their individual personalities and wild tales of heists. In particular, I really liked the Robbersons’ references to ‘The Great Farnaby’, who is a national treasure in the bandit world. The way in which the bandits’ relationship changes with Maisie throughout the book is memorable and slightly touching. She goes from initially trying to escape them to becoming a great ally, and how they take her under their wing to develop her skills as a bandit also helps for her to be seen as one of the gang.

This book could be used to inspire some fantastic writing opportunities and debate skills in any Key Stage Two classroom, making an interesting comparison text with Robin Hood or Pippi Longstocking. The story would make for a great individual read or class text and would fit perfectly into any classroom library.


Publisher: Stripes

Publication date: June 2021


> Buy on Amazon

> Buy on Bookshop


4. Mayhem Mission

By: Burhana Islam & Farah Khandaker

Reviewer: Julie Bennett

Yusuf lives with his older sister, his mum and his grandma. When his older sister starts to prepare for her wedding, Yusuf realises that he must become ‘the man of the house’. However, when he looks into the responsibilities that this entails, he knows that he is not yet ready for the role. So he sets about trying to prevent his sister from getting married so that she will stay at home and continue to take on responsibilities.


The series title for this book is ‘My Laugh-Out-Loud Life’ and, as soon as you start reading the book, it is clear why. Yusuf and his cousin Aadam get into all sorts of bother as they try to sabotage everything to do with the wedding, from meal preparation to the wedding outfit. The harder they try to cause problems, the more trouble they get into. And as they go about causing mayhem, they have to contend with the formidable Amma (Yusuf’s mum) and Nanu (Yusuf’s grandma).

This is ultimately a book about family and the bonds that hold them together. Through the story, the reader learns a lot about daily life, cultures and traditions in a British-Bengali family. Yusuf always has a side note to explain Bengali words and phrases that are used throughout the story.


The illustrations by Farah Khandaker really help to bring the story to life and to capture some of the mayhem that Yusuf causes. This is a great book to have in classrooms or a school library. The style would appeal to readers who feel daunted by pages of text, as the side notes and illustrations help to break up the words on the bag and make it feel less daunting. It is also ideal for bringing more diversity into class bookshelves, whether for children to see themselves represented in books or for them to learn more about other cultures.


Publisher: Knights Of

Publication date: April 2021


> Buy on Amazon

> Buy on Bookshop


See Mayhem Mission on our Year 4 Recommended Reads List.


5. The Race

By Roy Peachey

Reviewer: Amy Cross-Menzies


Lili loves to run. When she’s running fast “it feels like the world has faded away”. Unlike other people her age who spend their weekends hanging around the shops or going to parties, Lili spends her time training or travelling to running competitions, being disciplined and consistent even in the rain and snow. This year’s school sports day is going to be extra special – the Queen will be there – and when Tom, who seems intent on annoying Lili in any way he can, decides to join the athletics races just to try and beat her, Lili feels the pressure is on. Alongside training for sports day, a school project to research Chinese-Scottish Olympic gold medallist Eric Liddell connects Lili with both her own multi-national identity and her ethos as a runner.


Written by a teacher, this book gives a good insight into school life including dealing with mean or difficult people, the importance of consistent effort, and how to do good research to find out accurate information. It is presented in a dual narrative style and alongside Lili’s story we learn about Eric Liddell, focusing on his life after his historic gold medal win and leading up to the outbreak of World War Two.


This is a book with many aspects to it, and could spark discussions about resilience, race and identity, research, the Olympics, history, family and personal priorities. It is aimed at ages around eight to twelve, and is sure to offer an extra special appeal this year in the run-up to the Olympic Games.

Publisher: Cranachan

Publication date: June 2021


> Buy on Amazon

> Buy on Bookshop


6. Panda at the Door

By Sarah Horne

Reviewer: Jo Littlewood


Pudding the Panda lives at Edinburgh Zoo, where she is the Star Attraction. She spends her days entertaining the visitors and chatting to her keeper Gerald. She also loves the film Mary Poppins and dreams of leaving the zoo to become a nanny. Life is about to change for Pudding when she learns that she is to be sent to China. But then she receives an email from Callum, who needs her help and she escapes the zoo in a bid to help him.

This is a highly illustrated story full of fun and friendship. I’m sure many children will be able to relate to Callum, who has a difficult relationship with his little sister. Initially he is not accepting of Pudding as she quickly becomes a part of their family, taking on the nanny role she has longed for. But he soon warms to her and helps to come up with a plan to stop Mike Spiker, the school bully, and his father getting a reward for finding the missing panda.


I’m sure many young readers will love Pudding, as she learns about life in a human household, and there will be moments of laughter at the panda puns and antics scattered throughout the book. This story could be a great way to start to discuss endangered animals or the animals that might be found in a zoo environment.


With large text and detailed, cartoon-like pictures, this would be a great book for developing readers who are beginning to read chapter books or as a class read-aloud in KS1 and lower KS2.


Publisher: Chicken House

Publication date: May 2021


> Buy on Amazon

> Buy on Bookshop


7. Black Brother, Black Brother

By Jewell Parker Rhodes & Jeff Őstberg


Black Brother, Black Brother is the latest offering by the New York award winning author of Ghost Boys, Jewell Parker Rhodes. It is a powerful story of a boy’s path to finding his voice against racism and discovering who he is.


The Ellison family have moved to Boston from New York and brothers Donte and Trey are new arrivals at Middlefied Prep, a private school. Trey is immediately popular – however, Donte struggles to fit in. As sons of a biracial family, Donte soon finds out that having a different colour skin from his brother means that he is treated differently. The pupils view him with suspicion and it is not long before Donte is the focus of taunts and jibes of ‘Black Brother’ called his way, fuelled by ‘king’ Alan. After a seemingly trivial incident during which Donte is wrongly accused, events quickly escalate and he is arrested and suspended from school. Wanting others to see him for who he is and tired of feeling invisible, Donte decides to try and beat Alan at his own game: fencing. Donte journeys to inner city Boston – a world away from the rich white suburbs where he currently lives – to enlist the help of a once Olympic fencer. But will he help Donte? Will the children and headmaster at his school ever accept him? Will Donte find out who he is inside?


While the setting for this story is the USA, this is an important story that highlights the discrimination and inequalities that many also face closer to home due to the colour of their skin, bringing it into sharp focus in a way that is accessible for middle grade children. This is a story demanding to be read and I found it difficult to put down until it had reached its conclusion. I was both shocked and moved by the sheer unjustness of Donte’s situation. This is truly a children’s story for our times. A thought-provoking and important read.


Publisher: Orion

Publication date: May 2021


> Buy on Amazon

> Buy on Bookshop


8. Shipwreck Island

By Struan Murray & Manuel Šumberac

Reviewer: Rachel Caddick


Shipwreck Island is the much-anticipated sequel to the brilliant Orphans of the Tide. Ellie and Seth have fled the City and journeyed across the ocean in search of freedom and peace. When they arrive on the shores of a colourful tropical island ruled by a mysterious queen, they wonder if they might have found the perfect home. However, Ellie and Seth soon find themselves caught up in a dangerous power struggle between the queen and her arch-rival.

This is another fantastic book from Struan Murray. It’s full of tension and excitement, adventure and peril. There’s a terrific pace to the story and so many action-packed scenes.


Themes of friendship and loyalty are particularly powerful. This time the story really focuses on Ellie and Seth’s relationship. Both Ellie and Seth develop new friendships with people they meet on the island and this places a strain on their own relationship; tensions simmer and jealousy gets the better of Ellie. Ellie and Seth’s friendship is tested to its limits but, ultimately, the fierce loyalty that binds them wins out. It’s such a believable relationship dynamic and one that is so authentically realised. It really hooks you into the story and connects you to the characters. I also loved how, over the course of the book, we learn so much more about Seth’s mysterious past. We get a much greater sense of who he is and the true extent of his power. As old adversaries continue to haunt Ellie, it seems that she cannot escape her past either.


As in the first book, there are some real wow moments when unexpected plot twists are revealed. Not everything or everyone is as they seem. Manuel Šumberac has again illustrated the story and his atmospheric full-page black and white illustrations are wonderful. The story finishes on a cliffhanger and leaves you desperate for the third book.

Shipwreck Island would work brilliantly as a class novel in upper Key Stage 2. I serialised Orphans of the Tide with my Year 5 class and they loved it.


Publisher: Puffin

Publication date: March 2021


> Buy on Amazon

> Buy on Bookshop


9. Noah’s Gold

By Frank Cottrell-Boyce & Steven Lenton

Reviewer: Marion Park


I absolutely loved this book! The narrative is cleverly formed through a series of witty one-sided letters from Noah to his family as we are taken along on his surprising adventure.


Noah’s journey begins with him sneaking aboard the bus for his sister’s geography field trip. Little did he know, satnavs don’t always get it right and the group end up on the remote and uninhabited island of AranOr without their teacher or any means of getting home.


The children soon realise that their phones don’t work, the internet is broken (for which Noah gets the blame) and that they are going to have to survive by looking after each other and eating whatever they can find. When Noah finds a treasure map, the gang search for gold and the solution to all their problems – fixing the internet so that they can return home. The characters all learn a lot about themselves and each other along the way as the story unfolds.


Noah, as the smallest and youngest – and also the person who seems to be responsible for everything going wrong – is a humorous and likeable character who I really rooted for throughout the story. He is the proof that ‘being the smallest doesn’t stop you having big ideas.’ Brimming with the author’s trademark humour and heart and coupled with Steven Lenton’s engaging back and white illustrations, this is a hugely entertaining story that readers that will appeal widely to readers across Key Stage 2.


Publisher: Macmillan

Publication date: May 2021


> Buy on Amazon

> Buy on Bookshop


See Noah’s Gold on our list of Recommended Summer Reads 2021.


10. Waiting for Murder

By Fleur Hitchcock

Reviewer: David McBride


Dan is accompanying his mum on a dig in a searingly hot summer. The village reservoir is getting lower and lower due to the heat and a car is revealed as the water level drops. The contents of the car lead to a mystery which Dan and local girl Florence can’t wait to solve, despite the danger that follows them when they start.

This is a hugely entertaining adventure story set against the backdrop of an unsolved mystery from years before, involving money and disappearing people. Dan and Florence have to encounter sceptical police, a mum that worries too much and someone who is determined to make sure that they never find out the truth.


Fans of crime and mystery books are sure to love this latest book from Fleur Hitchcock. The mystery is well crafted, but the clues are all there for peicing together and it’s a brilliant story for those who enjoy the challenge of solving a puzzle. The description of the events, the atmospheric settings and the colourful characters are thoroughly enjoyable. The pace is fast (I actually read the book in about two sittings as I was hooked) and couldn’t wait to reach the end to see if I was right in my guesswork. You can always count on Fleur Hitchock for gripping middle-grade mysteries, and this one is another cracking thriller.


Publisher: Nosy Crow

Publication date: May 2021


> Buy on Amazon

> Buy on Bookshop




Thank you to the publishers of these titles for sending us copies of the books and to our review panellists for reading and reviewing.


Where next?

> Visit our Reading for Pleasure Hub

> Browse our Topic Booklists

> See our Books of the Month.

> Preview our NEWLY UPDATED Year Group booklists

Subscribe to our newsletter

Your Review

Stone Girl Bone Girl


Year group(s) the book is most suitable for:

Year group(s) the book is most suitable for:

Does the book contain anything that teachers would wish to know about before recommending in class (strong language, sensitive topics etc.)?

Does the book contain anything that teachers would wish to know about before recommending in class (strong language, sensitive topics etc.)?

Would you recommend the book for use in primary schools?


Curriculum links (if relevant)

Curriculum links (if relevant)

Any other comments

Any other comments