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Recommended Books for Year 4

Books for 8 - 9 year olds

Last updated June 24th, 2024

Recommended Books for Year 4 for children aged 8 – 9 years. In year 4, children’s reading identities become more formed. If they have had plenty of reading experience, they will know what they like and don’t like. The teacher has an important role in continuing to broaden children’s reading experiences, but at the same time, always valuing children’s reading preferences. Some books will attract children’s immediate attention. Other books may not be obvious choices, but when mediated by an adult can provide some of the most enriching and profound reading experiences. Children will also have wide interests, hobbies and other activities that should be reflected in class collections.

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

How to Chat Chicken

By Nick Crumpton. Illustrated by Adrienne Barman. Published by What on Earth Books.

It’s a noisy world out there. Almost eight billion people are saying hello, asking for directions, buying food, singing lullabies, paying compliments, and all in their own languages – of which there are six or seven thousand! And that’s just humans… animals have millions of languages! Insects, birds, reptiles, mammals, and amphibians are all talking to each other, too, with grunts, squeaks, and tweets, as part of the natural orchestra that is Life on Earth. Some of those noises can sound scary, others sweet. Wouldn’t it be nice to understand what they were all trying to say?

Or reviewer Stephen Connor writes, ‘I particularly enjoyed the section on stridulation and the near-final page (The Science Behind the Sounds), which both went into a little more depth scientifically. An extensive glossary also details scientific vocabulary that would be taught across the primary curriculum. Adriene Barman’s illustrations are cartoonish and clearly appeal to the younger reader, making this a science book that is not too heavy on terminology.

Read the full review

Rani Reports

By Gabrielle and Satish Shewhorak. Illustrated by Navya Raju. Published by Rock the Boat.

I’m Rani Ramgoolam – roving reporter. And I think I’ve found the perfect story for the junior journalism competition run by the local paper. An eccentric millionaire has created a treasure hunt with a reward for the first person who figures out the clues. Luckily, my mischievous Nani is visiting from Mauritius. She’s promised to help me work out what a priceless painting, a minotaur, and a glass eye have in common.

Our reviewer, Anne Bradley, writes, ‘Children of 7 years upwards will love the fun and excitement of the story alone. Navya Raju’s illustrations provide additional humour and detail. There are themes such as family loyalty, kindness to others, co-operation and resilience that can provide great discussion points. It is also interesting to learn about Rani and Nani’s Mauritian culture. Children will look forward to future titles in this new series.’

Read the full review

The Adventures of Invisible Boy

By Doogie Horner. Illustrated by Doogie Horner. Published by Scholastic.

It’s his first day at a new school, and Stanley wishes he could disappear. He can hardly believe it when, after a big spill at the science fair, POOF! Stanley is invisible! It’s awesome! He can do anything he wants, and no one will know! But Stanley isn’t the only one who turned invisible. The inventor of the potion is not happy about the accident and takes his anger out on kids all over town. Stanley wants to use his power for good … which means going up against the one person who can make him visible again.

Our reviewer, Roy Moss, writes, ‘I’m looking forward to more titles in this series, and I know children will be adding this series to their other graphic novel favourites.’

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Bunny Vs Monkey: Bunny Bonanza

By Jamie Smart. Illustrated by Jamie Smart. Published by David Fickling.

The latest addition to Jamie Smart’s genius series, Bunny vs Monkey

Monkey and the gang are on a hunt to find Bunny, after he mysteriously disappeared . . . On their search they’ll be bamboozled by Old Bunny, Neanderbunny, the mysterious Shadow Bunny and the always-confusing Not Bunny. Will they ever find their faithful friend? It’s a rollicking race to the rightful rabbit in this cornucopia of chuckles!

Our reviewer, Laura Ovenden, writes, ‘Whether you were a reader of The Beano, etc., as a child, as I was, or if you are only just introducing comics and graphic novels to younger readers, start with Bunny vs. Monkey, and you will all be hooked.’

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Kevin the Vampire

By Matt Brown. Illustrated by Flavia Sorrentino. Published by Nosy Crow.

Kevin Aurelius is just like any other almost eleven-year-old. Well, apart from his fangs, obviously. And that he’s immortal. Oh and did I mention he’s a vampire? Together with his vampire parents and annoying older siblings, Kevin’s on his way to Monstros City when, due to dodgy batnav, they get stranded in a strange, quiet place full of humans called Lower Drudging. With empty coffers in need of filling, their only choice is to put on an impromptu carnival to earn the gold they need to get back on their way. But Lower Drudging has a monstrous secret of its own.

Our reviewer, Anne Bradley, writes, ‘This is a story that will really appeal to independent readers of 8+. Children will love the humour and adventure and will be swept up in the fast-moving pace of the story.’

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Libby and the Manhattan Mystery

By Jo Clarke. Illustrated by Becka Moor. Published by Firefly Press.

This is the third book in Jo Clarke’s Travelling School Mysteries.

The travelling school arrives in New York, and Libby and her friends find themselves organising a charity auction alongside Hollywood star Eloise Fitzwilliam. But something isn’t right. Why is Eloise’s friend Count Alvarez acting so strangely and can a face from the past really have followed the school all the way to New York?

Our reviewer, Anne Bradley, writes, ‘The book is full of humour and cheerful events. New York is described in all its glory with wonderful food and trips to Central Park. If you are new to this series, I highly recommend you read the two previous novels too.’

Read the full review

The Summer Dolphin

By Holly Webb. Illustrated by David Dean. Published by Little Tiger.

When Lillie spends the summer in Wales with her family, she can’t help but feel like the baby of the group. Her big sister Frankie would rather spend time with their older cousin Lana than play with her, and no one else seems to notice how lonely she is. Then during a boat trip Lillie spots a young dolphin swimming alongside them, and for a short while all her worries melt away. Later, when Frankie and Lana are particularly mean to her, Lillie decides to set off on her own in hopes of seeing the dolphin calf again…

Roman Soldiers

By Tegan Evans. Illustrated by Tom Troese. Published by Nosy Crow.

What was a Roman legion? How exactly did soldiers train for battle? And why did they have to ‘march like a tortoise’? Find out the answers to these questions and many more in this complete guide to life in the Roman army. Filled with fascinating facts and grisly detail, you’ll uncover what life was like in the army camp, how soldiers planned a siege and even why they catapulted creepy-crawlies at the enemy!

Our reviewer, Gethin Wallace, writes, ‘Tom Troese’s illustrations really bring this ancient history to life. They are painted in a pleasing, muted colour palette, possibly based on the colours of Roman mosaics like those shown in the handsome endpapers. The pictures are full of movement and action. Children would particularly enjoy exploring the scenes showing soldiers practising battle formations, honing their weapon skills and carrying out a siege.’

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The Beasts of Nobbly Bottom: Rise of the Zombie Pigs

By Emily-Jane Clark. Illustrated by Jeff Crowther. Published by Scholastic.

This is the second book in Emily-Jane Clark’s hilarious series. Energetically illustrated by Jeff Crowther.

Someone or something in the village of Knobbly Bottom is eating up EVERYTHING! When a chocolate cake goes missing, nine-year-old Maggie McKay gets the blame. But when entire vegetable plots are devoured overnight, huge bite marks are found in garden furniture, and even her friend Fred’s grandad’s disgusting courgettes are gobbled up, she kicks off an investigation! However, when the ravenous local pigs start turning green and doubling in size, Maggie and Fred wonder whether they might have bitten off more than they can chew… How can they fend off the rise of the ZOMBIE PIGS?

Our reviewer, Jayne Truran, writes, ‘The illustrations extensively used throughout the story enhance the text and totally add to the hilarity of the story.’

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The Case of the Abandoned Boat

By Kereen Getten. Illustrated by Leah Jacobs-Gordon. Published by Pushkin Children's Books.

The third mystery in Kereen Getten’s Di Island Crew Mysteries.

Fayson and her friends are back together and ready for their toughest case yet – someone is sending anonymous emails accusing the detective agency of being a nuisance to the island! But when they discover an abandoned boat with two wet lifejackets on board, they know they have a new mystery to solve.

Our reviewer, Heather Hann, writes, ‘Kereen Getten’s writing is fast-paced and engaging, and the short chapters make it ideal for younger readers. The author was brought up in Jamaica and the setting and references to the food, culture and language really helps transport you to the island.’

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Yomi and the Power of the Yumboes

By Davina Tijani. Illustrated by Adam Douglas-Bagley. Published by Little Tiger.

This is Yomi’s second adventure, and a third book will be released in August, so add it to your summer reading pile.

Now Yomi and her younger brother Kayode are official members of the Sacred Beast League. They can’t wait for more adventures! And when a Yumboe – a fairy-like creature from Senegal – seeks them out and asks for their help, they’re ready to shine. But with a secret city to protect, beast hunters to outsmart and moon magic in the mix, Yomi and Kay will have to put their skills to the test…

Our reviewer, Ann Cowling writes, ‘Once again, we see that Yomi is quick-thinking, smart and brave. Together with her brother’s rather different type of intelligence, they continue to protect the magical world of African folklore and tradition by working together. Their sibling relationship is realistically portrayed and often endearing to the reader.’

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The Worst Class in the World: Animal Uproar

By Joanna Nadin. Illustrated by Rikin Parekh. Published by Bloomsbury.

A welcome new addition to the hilarious The Worst Class in the World series by Joanna Nadin.

Best friends Stanley and Manjit are part of Class 4B, which Headteacher Mrs Bottomley-Blunt says is the WORST CLASS IN THE WORLD. She says school is not about footling or fiddle-faddling or FUN. It is about LEARNING, and it is high time 4B tried harder to EXCEL at it. But they didn’t LITERALLY mean to let the class stick insects loose in the wilds of the playground. And they really didn’t LITERALLY mean to make a massive mess trying to do modern art (which may or may not have involved a mummified cat being stolen). These things just happened, even though they had FOOLPROOF plans to get away with it all.

Our reviewer, Claire Tidy, writes, ‘This is a perfect introduction to chapter books for lower KS2 or emerging readers. The mixture of illustrations and easy-to-read text will enable those who are becoming more confident in their reading journey to persevere and enjoy a longer text. It would also be a great read-aloud for all KS2 classrooms.’

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Beasts from the Deep

By Matt Ralphs. Illustrated by Kaley McKean. Published by Nosy Crow.

Did you know there is a place on Earth that’s hardly been explored at all? A place with near-freezing temperatures, crushing water pressure and total darkness?Discover a magnificent menagerie of monsters that lurk deep down in our oceans – from sharks that can live for 500 years to fish with teeth so long they can’t close their mouths. Find out about anglerfish, giant squid, goblin sharks, coffinfish, barreleyes and many, many more amazing creatures in this stunningly illustrated gift book that will delight, surprise and inspire on every page.

The Little Book of the Little Brontes

By Sara O'Leary. Illustrated by Briony May Smith. Published by Walker Books.

Many years ago, the four children of the Brontë family – Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne – lived in a windswept house by the Yorkshire moors with their father. Although their lives were often filled with sadness and their world was only as large as the distance they could walk, their inner worlds were bound only by their imaginations. Hungry for stories, these children devoured novels and poetry, history and fables. And with the gift of a group of toy soldiers, they were inspired to make their own tiny books … a passion that would last them a lifetime.

Our reviewer, Eve Bearne, writes, ‘With additional pages on how to make a small book, an author’s’ note acknowledging Sara O’Leary’s fascination with miniature things and a timeline of the Brontë’s lives, this is more than an information book as it shines a light on an otherwise little-known aspect of the lives of famous women. Readers from 6 years upwards will enjoy this story of a family’s imaginative lives and later may come to enjoy their stories for adults.’

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Totally Chaotic History: Ancient Egypt Gets Unruly

By Greg Jenner. Illustrated by Rikin Parekh. Published by Walker Books.

The first book in this fabulously funny new series from historian Greg Jenner. Look out for the Romans causing more chaos this summer.

Think history is just a boring list of facts and dates? Think again! History is hectic, exciting and unpredictable – in fact, it’s absolute CHAOS! Join bestselling author Greg Jenner on a riotously fun journey through ancient Egypt, from brilliant beginnings to epic endings. Accompanied by expert Egyptologist Dr Campbell Price and with side-splitting illustrations from Rikin Parekh, Greg’s whirlwind tour will cover everything you need to know about the Egyptians and show you what it would REALLY have been like to live through thousands of years of chaotic history. Hold on tight because with history, you’ll never believe what happens next!

Teachers' Treasures

Classic and established favourites

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

By Kate diCamillo. Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. Published by Walker Books.

Abilene loves her blue china rabbit, but Edward Tulane is extremely vain and only loves himself. On a voyage from New York to London, Edward falls overboard and, from there, finds himself on an amazing journey. He travels with tramps, works as a scarecrow, comforts a dying child … and finally learns what it is to love truly. This story of self-discovery is an ideal choice for a class read-aloud,

Lob

By Linda Newbery. Illustrated by Pam Smy. Published by Penguin Random House.

He’s older than anyone can tell. Older than the trees. Older than anybody. For as long as she can remember, Lucy has wanted to catch a glimpse of the mysterious green man who lives in Grandpa Will’s garden: Lob. You have to be very special to see him; that’s what Grandpa says. Lucy’s parents think Lob’s just imaginary, but Lucy knows he exists. A deeply moving, gentle story, which benefits from being read aloud and talked about. We selected this book for our Take One Book resource.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

By C.S. Lewis. Illustrated by Pauline Baynes. Published by HarperCollins.

Deservedly one of the most popular classics to read aloud in primary school. Four children travel to Narnia, where they become Kings and Queens and must fight with the lion Aslan to save the country from the icy grip of the White Witch.

Varjak Paw

By S F Said. Illustrated by Dave McKean. Published by Penguin Random House.

An icredible adventure story. This book does for cats what Watership Down did for rabbits. Through the hero  Varjak Paw, a Mesopptamian Blue, we learn what it means to be persecuted for coming from another culture. We also discover how wisdom is passed down through generations and helps to form our cultural identity. A superb choice for a class novel in year 4.

The Fireworkmaker's Daughter

By Philip Pullman. Illustrated by Peter Bailey. Published by Penguin Random House.

Philip Pullman’s story is a beautiful fairy tale about a girl, Lila, who wants to be more than the fireworkmaker’s daughter. She wants to be the firework maker and she sets out alone on a quest to achieve this. Atory about courage, fmily and friendship. An excellent choice for a class read aloud but also for the year 4 reading corner or library/

One Dog and His Boy

By Eva Ibbotson. Illustrated by Jamie Littler. Published by Scholastic.

Hall’s parents are always busy. His mother is always shopping. His father is always working. So it’s not surprising that Hal wants the companionship of a dog. When his birthday arrives, he is delighted to find his wishes have been granted. But things quickly turn to tragedy when we learn that the dog has just been rented for the day. This is such a tender story about love and the special bond that can form between a human and dog. There is a lot of scope here for discussion about things that are important to children in year 4. A good choice for a class novel. This book is a former Reading Gladiators choice.

Tuesday

By David Wiesner. Illustrated by David Wiesner. Published by Andersen Press.

Frogs in a pond lift off on their lily pads and fly to a nearby town where they zoom through a woman’s living room, encounter a dog playing in his yard, and distract a bathrobe-clad citizen from his midnight snack. Who knows what will happen next Tuesday? David Wiesner’s near wordless picture book, has sparked many a creative project in the classroom. It’s a good choice for small group reading, for sharing in pairs or for a whole class project.

Small Change for Stuart

By Lissa Evans. Published by David Fickling.

Stuart Horten, ten years old and small for his age, is about to have the strangest adventure of his life. After moving to the boring town of Beeton, he finds himself swept up in an incredible quest to find his great-uncle’s lost legacy: a magician’s workshop stuffed with trickery and magic.An extremely well-written mystery with puzzles. We selected this book for our Reading Gladiators book club and it has proved to be one of the most popular choices with year 4. There is plenty of scope for discussion for a book club or it can be read as a class read-aloud.

The Boy the Bird and the Coffin Maker

By Matilda Woods. Illustrated by Anuska Allepuz. Published by Scholastic.

Alberto lives alone in the town of Allora, where fish fly out of the sea and the houses shine like jewels. He is a coffin maker, spending his quiet, solitary days creating the final resting places of Allora’s people. Until the day a mysterious boy and his magical bird arrive – flying from danger and searching for a safe haven. A fariy-tale like plot and beautifully written, this was voted as a top choice by our year 4 Reading Gladiators groups. This story benefits from being read with an adult to encourage discussion. Recommended as a class read-aloud.

Leon and the Place Between

By Angela McAllister. Illustrated by Grahame Baker-Smith. Published by Templar Publishing.

Wanting to prove to his brothers and sister that magic really exists, Leon volunteers to be in Abdul Kazam’s magic show and gets transported to a mysterious world. Filled with rabbits, doves, playing cards and magician’s assistants – among other things – if a magician can make it disappear, it will end up in the Place Between!  An enigmatic story which benefits from discussion. Some may find the magician unsettling but the majority are fascinated by the idea of ‘the place between’ and what might happen there. There’s scope for many interpretations of this surreal picture book. A good choice for small group reading or literature circle.

A Boy and a Bear in a Boat

By Dave Shelton. Illustrated by Dave Shelton. Published by Penguin Random House..

A boy and a bear go to sea, equipped with a suitcase, a comic book and a ukulele. They are only travelling a short distance and it really shouldn’t take long. But their journey doesn’t quite go to plan… Faced with turbulent storms, a terrifying sea monster and the rank remains of a very dangerous sandwich, the odds are against our unlikely heroes. A funny, original and somewhat surreal story which will appeal to a wide age range.

How to Train Your Dragon

By Cressida Cowell. Illustrated by Cressida Cowell. Published by Hachette.

A perennial class favouirte, this story of a small Viking, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third, son of rhe chief of the Hairy Hooligan tribe is a funny book with an emotional heart. Cressida Cowell is a writer of great wit and this is matched by the distinctive black and white illustrations. The brains over brawn theme appeal to young children living in a world controlled by adults. A great class novel for year 4.

The Promise

By Nicola Davies. Illustrated by Laura Carlin. Published by Walker Books.

In a mean street in a mean city, a thief tries to snatch an old woman’s bag. But she finds she can’t have it without promising something in return – to “plant them all”. When it turns out the bag is full of acorns, the young thief embarks on a journey that changes her own life and the lives of others for generations to come. A remarkable book, Davies and Carlin’s story is poetic and profound. Like all fables and fairy tales, the simplicity of the narrative serves to elevate the themes – the restorative power of nature, inidividual responsibility, the connectedness of living things. There’s so much more to explore in the artwork too. One of the most popular choices in our Take One Book resource for year 4.

Journey

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

Aaron Becker’s wordless Journey trilogy work with readers of all ages. However, children in year 4 upwards will probably have a a more nuanced response to the themes of the story. The book lends itself to discussion in small groups and literature circles. And theworldess format allows all children to participate regardless of reading attainment There are so many details in this exquisite book which will be picked up through rereading, so allow time for revisiting the story and for children to read it at their own pace.

Zoo

By Anthony Browne. Illustrated by Anthony Browne. Published by Penguin Random House.

Several of Anthony Browne’s picture books work well with this age group. Zoo and it’s concern with how humans treat animals in captivity raises lots of questions that children care about. The author does have a very strong viewpoint, so to generate a lively debate, research and present alternative viewpoints so they children can consider and form their own opinions. The gap between text and image provides ironic comment. Scaffold the discussion so that children can consider this without too much ‘telling’. A thought-provoking choice for small group reading or literature circles.