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Recommended Books for Year 3

Books for 7 - 8 year olds

Last updated June 24th, 2024

Recommended Books for Year 3 for children aged 7 – 8 years: This can be a tricky year. Most children are still transitioning to become confident, independent readers, and it is crucial that books that allow children to be successful are plentiful in year 3 classrooms. If the books are too ‘aspirational,’ this can prove a stumbling block for children at this age. So a balance is essential between quick wins and forward-looking books that show children the delights of reading in all of its diversity. Children’s understanding is likely to be ahead of their reading attainment, so reading books aloud and sharing in groups and book clubs allows for the discussion of deeper themes. Series fiction is important too. Revisiting familiar characters and story worlds decreases the cognitive load and also encourages children to develop reading preferences. Introduce children to picture books, first-chapter fiction, graphic novels, poetry and nonfiction. Inclusivity is an important consideration for all of our selections.

Most of the books in this list have full reviews that you can read for more detailed information and our evaluation.

Individual books and special easy-purchase collections are available from our bookselling partner Best Books for Schools.

The book selection for our recommended reading lists is overseen by Just Imagine Director Nikki Gamble, a former teacher and university lecturer, co-author of Guiding Readers and author of Exploring Children’s Literature. The views of our review panel inform our choices. The panel is convened, and reviews are edited by Jo Bowers, a former teacher and university lecturer specialising in literacy and children’s literature.

Our top picks from recent titles

Dungeon Runners: Level 1 Hero Trial

By Kieran Larwood. Illustrated by Joe Todd-Stanton. Published by Nosy Crow.

Kit has dreamed of being a Dungeon Runner all his life, although being a gnorf (part gnome, part dwarf) means he’s much smaller than the other competitors. But when a space opens up for a new team in the Dungeon Running League, Kit doesn’t want to miss this chance to try out! With his new friends Sandy and Thorn, they’re ready to take on anything – mazes, puzzles, monsters, treasure and most of all adventure!

Our reviewer, Stephen Connor, writes, ‘The idea of levelling-up, this gamification of story, is one that will really catch on, and I can’t wait to see how it moves forward.’ 

In the Reading Corner with Kieran Larwood and Joe Todd-Stanton

Read the full review

Our Tower

By Joseph Coelho. Illustrated by Richard johnson. Published by Frances Lincoln.

From award-winning children’s poet Joseph Coelho comes this enchanting story of three kids looking for adventure in their tower block. Drawn from Coelho’s own experience growing up in a tower block, this is a celebration and reclaiming of them as places full of power and magic.

Our reviewer, Prue Goodwin, writes, ‘When the words combine with Johnson’s images, a form of intertextual magic is created that spans centuries of stories. Readers may find whispers of ancient Greek mythology, the Green Man, nursery rhymes and other ageless tales which have been told from generation to generation. In a nod to 20th and 21st-century technology, readers may also find The Iron Man lurking in the background.’

Read the full review

Press Start: Super Rabbit Boy Blasts Off

By Thomas Flintham. Illustrated by Thomas Flintham. Published by Nosy Crow.

This is the fifth book in a series of young graphic novels inspired by Nintendo Game Boy. The full-colour images and subject appeal will make this a popular choice in the class book collection.

Sunny’s favourite game is Super Rabbit Boy, where his carrot-loving friend must thwart all the plots the evil King Viking of Boom Boom Mountain comes up with. Help! King Viking is causing trouble in outer space! It’s up to Super Rabbit Boy to stop him. But with a weak and slow Level 1 rocket, it won’t be easy to stop the army of space robots or find King Viking. Can Super Rabbit Boy dodge Robo-UFOs, save aliens and level up his rocket to beat King Viking? Or will King Viking’s Level 10 rocket send him blasting off into space?

Our reviewer, Karen Vickers-Hulse, writes. ‘This text will appeal to children who engage with online platforms such as Minecraft. Thomas Flintham has used fonts and illustrations that are recognisable from the gaming world. The difference between the fonts and images used in family and gaming scenes add to the coherence of the text. This will help younger readers to recognise how these two worlds align. The inclusion of gaming language (Power Up!) make this an excellent gateway text for reluctant readers in Y2 and Lower KS2 who love gaming!’

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The Pinchers and the Diamond Heist

By Anders Sparring. Illustrated by Per Gustavsson. Published by Gecko Press.

The first is in a funny chapter book crime series about a well-behaved child who doesn’t fit into his family of criminals. It features a prison break, a diamond heist, and a lie that saves the day.

Our reviewer, Helen Morgan, writes, ‘The illustrations beautifully compliment the text and will give children much to discuss as will the quiz and activities at the back of the book which they can share with their friends, for example, ‘find your criminal name’, and the opportunity to ‘train your criminal mind’. It is a light-hearted, funny story which will be great for promoting reading for pleasure in schools and at home.’

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Meet the Maliks -Twin Detectives: To the Rescue

By Zanib Mian. Illustrated by Kyan Cheng. Published by Hachette Children;s Books.

This is the Second Book in the Meet the Maliks series.

Maysa Malik has got herself into trouble yet again and this time she’s forgotten to post her dad’s passport application before his SUPER IMPORTANT work trip. Then Imam Abdullah goes missing, and Maysa and her twin brother Musa have a new mystery to solve with the help of their neighbour, Norman, of course. But, as they search for clues around the neighbourhood, Maysa will have to find a way to save her dad’s trip too!

Our reviewer, Tracy Parvin, writes, ‘I gave this book to a Year 3 teacher to read with her culturally diverse class, and they loved it! Many of the children were delighted to see central characters whose lives reflected their own culture and practises reflected in print. They loved the story’s many humorous moments and particularly enjoyed how the family dynamics were presented. The class teacher agreed that this book was perfectly pitched for a Year 3 class in terms of language, structure and content. But, and maybe more importantly, she loved how engaged the children were with the story, regardless of their backgrounds.’

Read the full review

The Girl Who Became a Fish

By Polly Ho-Yen. Illustrated by Kim McCarthy. Published by Knights Of.

Ita is afraid of lots of things. She’s afraid of talking to her classmates at her new school. She’s afraid of walking through her new town. But most of all she is afraid of water. When one day she realises the river in her new town turns her into a fish, she is forced to face up to her fears. In doing so, can she bring her family together again?

Our reviewer, Stephen Connor, writes, ‘The climax of the story is beautiful, written from the point of view of a child who cares deeply about somebody else and what they are going through.’

Read the full review

Juniper Mae: Secrets of the Guardian Knights

By Tim Fraser. Illustrated by Sarah Soh. Published by Hachette.

This is the second book in the Juniper Mae series.

Deep in the forest, Juniper Mae and her best friend Albie are working hard to become Guardian Knights. When they’re not helping the tama-tamas with amazing new inventions, they’re discovering ancient artefacts, training to fight evil, and learning more about their ancient knightly heroes. But a great darkness is rising close to home, and when one of Juniper’s latest inventions creates a rift between her and Albie, they must find a way to work together to take the latest evil down and save their beloved forest.

Our reviewer, Stephen Dilley, writes. ‘This series will offer a lovely way into science fiction and fantasy for KS2 children. There is plenty of complexity both in the language of Tim Fraser’s text and the themes explored, but Soh’s images invite us to step into Juniper’s world, and once children have read this volume, they will be keen to return there for more adventures.’

 

Read the full review

Ivy Newt and the Swamp Dragons

By Derek Kielty. Illustrated by Magda Brol. Published by Scallywag Press.

This is the third book in this delightful series from Derek Kielty. Heavily and charmingly illustrated by Magda Brol and with a map and gallery of characters to support the reading. This could be read aloud to the class(use a visualiser to share the images) or for group or independent reading.

By accident, Gran’s magic bubble bath creates pesky Ivy and Tom lookalikes, intent on some serious mischief! All too soon, they have made dangerous doubles of the swamp dragons, who launch a fiery attack on Miracula. Can the real Ivy and Tom stop them before everything goes up in smoke?

Our Reviewer, Anne Bradley, writes, ‘The story is very entertaining to read. The characters are amusing and very likeable. They all care for each other and their teamwork demonstrates great resourcefulness.

Read the full review

A Llama Called Lightning

By Helen Peters. Illustrated by Ellie Snowdon. Published by Nosy Crow.

One of the books in Helen Peters’ Jasmine Green series of animal books. Helen Peters is a super storyteller and this story evokes a range of emotions. Ellie Snowdon’s black and white illustrations are supportive of children gaining independence and fluency.  One for the class reading corner.

When Lightning escapes his lonely field to follow Jasmine home, she’s determined to find a place for him on her farm. Jasmine is convinced that he’ll make a perfect guard llama for the sheep and their newborn lambs! But Lightning is young, and there’s a fox on the loose. When the lambs face mortal danger, can Lightning rise to the challenge?

Beti and the Little Round House

By Atinuke. Illustrated by Emily Hughes. Published by Walker Books.

Beti lives in a little round house in the woods with Mam, Tad, Baby Jac, her cheeky goat Naughty and many other farm animals. Written in Atinuke’s rhythmic, heartfelt style and brought to life by Emily Hughes’ lush, warm illustrations, this exquisite collection of four stories centred around a strong-willed little girl is a celebration of having adventures with our friends in the lush wild with each changing season. Every page is rich in humour and filled with touching observations of the family’s wild and enchanting way of life. It is escapism at its finest and will inspire readers to reconnect with nature, to find happiness on their doorstep among the love of friends and family.

Indigo Wilde and the Giant Problem

By Pippa Curnick. Illustrated by Pippa Curnick. Published by Hodder Children's Books.

This is the third book in the brilliant Indigo Wilde series.

Indigo and her brother Quigley live in a house secretly full of magical Creatures. Indigo is never happier than when feeding chocolate to the fire-breathing rabbit or making nests for the colourful hophop birds. She loves a challenge! But when a giant appears in the garden, she has an enormous problem on her hands. Can Indigo and Quigley help the giant save his sister against all the odds? Indigo will need help from all her friends in both the Known and Unknown Worlds to save the day.

The Last Zookeeper

By Aaron Becker. Illustrated by Aaron Becker. Published by Walker Books.

The Earth has flooded. The only signs of humankind are the waterlogged structures they left behind. Peeking out from the deluge are the remnants of a zoo, home to rare and endangered animals, survivors of long neglect. Tender-hearted NOA is a construction robot who’s found a new purpose as the caretaker of the zoo’s beleaguered inhabitants. Bracing for the next storm, NOA builds an ark from the wreckage in search of new land, only to discover something even more profound.

Our reviewer, Stephen Dilley, writes, ‘Becker’s storytelling is sufficiently layered and complex that all children and young people (and adults) can respond to it on different levels. It would offer a rich stimulus for discussion or writing—or, indeed, for children to create their own wordless picture books.’

In The Reading Corner with Aaron Becker

Read the full review

Murray and Bun: Murray and Viking

By Adam Stower. Illustrated by Adam Stower. Published by HarperCollins.

The first in a brand-new time-shifting comedy series from Adam Stower.

And when Murray and Bun travel through the cat flap and find themselves in a land of VIKINGS, they are given a VERY IMPORTANT MISSION: to travel to TROLL ISLAND and rescue Eggrik the Viking… if he hasn’t already been gobbled up by the trolls, that is.

Bibi and the Box of Fairy Tales

By Vivian French. Illustrated by Amy Grimes. Published by Zephyr.

Bibi doesn’t believe in fairies. But when she meets her fairy godmother, the tiniest of hopes flickers in her mind. Seven quests to seven lands that will open a magic box and grant her a wish…. could it, just possibly, be true? Whisked away with her trusty companion, Sylvestro the cat, Bibi quests with giants, dragons, princes and princesses, wizards, witches, water sprites and sea elves, unicorns, trolls and gnomes… Can Bibi earn the keys to open the box…. and unlock her belief in fairy magic?

Bad Panda: Mites, Camera Action

By Swapna Haddow. Illustrated by Sheena Dempsey. Published by Faber.

This is the third book in Swapna Haddow and Sheena Dempsey’s  Bad Panda Series.

A documentary crew has come to the zoo to film everyday life with the animals. The only thing is that the reality is a bit boring, so they ship in some animal actors. Lin and her best friend Fu are less than impressed with the prancing lion that wants to take centre stage. And the smaller animals in the zoo, the mites, are fed up with being overlooked. It’s time to unleash some bad pandaness! Insects and pandas unite to create an authentic show about real zoo life that promises to be anything but boring!

Our reviewer Prue Goodwin writes, ‘I love this book for so many reasons. Obviously, the slapstick wit (including poo jokes) running through the text but also: six pages of amazing lyrics to a popular panda song (so we can all join in); the delightful pictures and other graphic elements of the storytelling; the insightful characterisation of leadership. A fabulous read-aloud experience which will have you laughing together with your class.’

Read the full review

Teachers' Treasures

Classic and established favourites

The Ice Palace

By Robert Swindells. Published by Penguin Random House.

Ivan lives in a land where the winter is dark and fearful. Starjik, King of Winter, steals Ivan’s little brother and Ivan braves the bitter cold to find him. This classic fantasy based on a traditional story is a lovely read aloud for a year 3 class.

The Worst Witch

By Jill Murphy. Published by Penguin Random House.

Lovable but disaster-prone Mildred is a trainee at Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches, but she’s making an awful mess of it. She keeps getting her spells wrong and crashing her broomstick. Jill Murphy’s series about a school for witches has been a favourite class read-aloud for many years

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

By Allan Ahlberg. Illustrated by Janet Ahlberg. Published by Penguin Random House.

A small boy who has been kidnapped by brigands, passes a dark and stormy night in their cave weaving for them incredible stories of their own exploits. Through the stories, he solves his own problem and manages to escape. A book that embodies the saying ‘stories take us places’. An enjoyable book to share with your class.

Riding a Donkey Backwards

By Sean Taylor. Illustrated by Shirin Adl. Published by Otter-Barry Books.

Why does Mulla Nasruddin spoon yoghurt into the river? What is the reason he rides his donkey backwards? Why does he paint a picture that is blank? These short stories that contain snippets of wisdom, riddles and jokes introduce children to  the folkloric character of Nasruddin who is known throughout the Middle East.

After the Fall

By Dan Santat. Illustrated by Dan Santat. Published by Andersen Press.

After the fall, Humpty Dumpty is a broken egg. Life is tough: he’s so afraid of heights. Inspired by bird watching, he decides to try and overcomes his fears. Resilience pays off – a great mindset message for readers in year 3, when persistence is often needed. A picture book that works for this age.

Charlie Changes Into a Chicken

By Sam Copeland. Illustrated by Sarah Horne. Published by Penguin Random House.

Charlie McGuffin has an incredible secret . . . He can change into animals. All sorts of animals: a flea, a pigeon, even a rhino. The trouble is, he can’t decide when – it only happens when he gets worried. This brilliant laugh-out-loud story is a good choice for bringing a class together. Underneath the humour are some serious themes about anxiety, which affect us all at some point.

The Wild Robot

By Peter Brown. Illustrated by Peter Brown. Published by Bonnier Books.

When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers she is alone on a remote, wild island. She has no idea how she got there or what her purpose is – but she knows she needs to survive. A beautifully and enigmatically written and illustrated novel that works well as a class read-aloud. There are lots of opportunities for discussion themes such as what it means to be human, a topical issue as our developments with AI accelerate.

The Boy Who Grew Dragons

By Andy Shepherd. Illustrated by Sara Ogilvie. Published by Bonnier Books.

A charming story about a young boy who picks a strange fruit in his grandad’s garden and is surprised when it hatches into a baby dragon. Funny and heartwarming it’s a perfect choice for a read aloud in year 3. Confident readers will enjoy reading the story themselves. The text is well-supported by Sara Ogilvie’s characterful illustrations.

The Lost Happy Endings

By Carol Ann Duffy. Illustrated by Jane Ray. Published by Bloomsbury.

What would happen if we lost the happy endings to stories? A wonderful story about the power of stories with poetic text by Carol Ann Duffy and emotional illustration by Jane Ray, with magical contrasts of light and dark. It is a picture book that  children can read independently, but it’s a story that will be enriched by sharing and talking with the class or a group.

The Adventures of the Dish and the Spoon

By Mini Grey. Illustrated by Mini Grey. Published by Penguin Random House.

Children will be very familiar with the nursery rhyme ‘Hey Diddle Diddle’, but in this story, set in the 1920s,  the dish and the spoon end up travelling to New York. We follow their rising and falling fortunes before the redemptive feel-good ending.  A classic picture book take on Bonnie and Clyde, and although younger readers won’t get all the references to silent movies, there is plenty to explore in the text and images. A delight for children to share in small groups and with the class. This book is one of our choices for our Take One Book resource.

The Abominables

By Eva Ibbotson. Illustrated by Sharon Rentta. Published by Scholastic.

How do you smuggle a family of yetis from Tibet to England? When Agatha Farlingham is kidnapped by a yeti on a mountain in Tibet, she soon discovers that the hairy monster is clever and noble. His children are in danger from the modern world, and he needs her help. Children will enjoy this compelling adventure with its ecological themes. The darker themes that relate to Ibbotson’s own family experience in World War II are there for older readers. A magical warm-hearted class read-aloud.

Emil and the Detectives

By Erich Kastner. Published by Penguin Random House.

The classic prototype story of a child detective. Emil and his group of newfound friends plot to outwit a thief who has stolen Emil’s money.  Humourous adventure in which good prevails and the hero, Emil gets a handsome reward. A good choice to read aloud to a class.

 

The Iron Man

By Ted Hughes. Illustrated by Chris Mould. Published by Faber.

Like all fables, The Iron Man is a story that can be read and enjoyed by a wide age range, and it will carry different meanings according to age and experience. Readers in year 3 will enjoy this story which deals with the important theme of how we respond to people/things we don’t understand. The illustrated version by Chris Mould adds appeal for today’s children.

Belonging

By Jeannie Baker. Illustrated by Jeannie Baker. Published by Walker Books.

This wordless book by Jeannie Baker is about the regeneration of a neighbourhood through growing and gardening. All ages can appreciate it but it sits well here in year 3. Children will enjoy looking at this book in pairs and small groups. The wordless genre allows all children to participate and offers opportunities for rich language development, irrespective of reading attainment.

The Lion and the Unicorn

By Shirley Hughes. Illustrated by Shirley Hughes. Published by Penguin Random House.

When Lenny’s father goes to fight in the Second World War, he gives his son a brass badge with two animals engraved on it: a lion for bravery and a unicorn for courage. Then, Lenny must go away, as he is evacuated from his home and family to escape the bombing. This longer picture book introduces children to the history of the Second World War in an approachable format and through the eyes of a child of similar age. Told with compassion and stunningly illustrated.