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Recommended Books for Year 5

Books for 9 - 10 year olds

Last updated June 24th, 2024

Recommended Books for Year 5 for children aged 9 – 10 years old: In year 5, most children will be confident readers though there will be differences in the volume children choose to read. Some will be avid readers, and others may be busy with other activities and need to be supported in finding time and space for reading at home and in school. It’s important to recognise that getting better at reading doesn’t mean reading increasingly ‘fat’ books or reading through them at speed. It may be the readers who are considered ‘high-attaining’ that need help in slowing down and reading more deeply. Some children will prefer shorter reads, so these should be available, along with longer fiction, poetry, graphic novels and nonfiction. Inclusivity is always considered in 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


By Kate diCamillo. Published by Walker Books.

It’s the summer before fifth grade, and for Ferris Wilkey, it is a summer of sheer pandemonium. Her little sister, Pinky, has vowed to become an outlaw. Uncle Ted has left Aunt Shirley and, to Ferris’s mother’s chagrin, is holed up in the Wilkey basement to paint a history of the world. And Charisse, Ferris’s grandmother, has started seeing a ghost in the doorway to her room – which seems like an alarming omen given that she is feeling unwell. But the ghost is not there to usher Charisse to the Great Beyond. Rather, she has other plans – wild, impractical, illuminating plans. How can Ferris satisfy a spectre with Pinky terrorizing the town, Uncle Ted sending Ferris to spy on her aunt, and her father battling an invasion of raccoons?

Our reviewer, Anne Thompson, writes, ‘ ‘Kate DiCamillo has a rare gift as a storyteller; she writes with such care and wisdom that her stories stay with you for a very long time. She has a remarkable understanding of children’s emotions and in this book her words will comfort and reassure readers of all ages.’

Read the full review

Angel of Grasmere

By Tom Palmer. Published by HarperCollins.

July 1940 – as Tarn struggles to come to terms with the loss of her beloved brother in the chaos of the British retreat at Dunkirk, she and her friends scour the hills around their Lake District home, watching for any signs of the long-dreaded Nazi invasion. But as the war drags on, with little good news from the front, the locals become aware of someone carrying out anonymous acts of kindness, such as saving a flock of sheep from a snowdrift and getting help for an injured farmer who might other wise have died. With no one claiming credit, they come to think of this unidentified stranger as a kind of guardian angel, but when his identity is finally revealed, can Tarn come to terms with the truth…?

Our reviewer, Helen Dearing, writes, ‘It is not only a compelling read but also a tool for teaching resilience, the significance of history, and the beauty of the English countryside.’

Read the full review

When the Wild Calls

By Jasbinder Bilan. Published by Chicken House.

This is the sequel to Where the World Turns Wild.

Having escaped their city, Juniper Green and her brother Bear have settled in Ennerdale with their dad and his family. Every day the Wild introduces them to a new wonder, but Juniper can’t stop worrying about her grandmother and best friend left behind. When she hears news that disease has entered the city, she’s determined to bring her loved ones to safety.

Our reviewer, Helen Dearing, writes, ‘Nicola Penfold’s When the Wild Calls proves to be a delightful continuation of her captivating narrative, seamlessly picking up where the first book left off. As a devoted reader of the series, I found myself thoroughly engrossed from the very first page to the climactic conclusion.’

Read the full review


By David Almond. Published by Walker Books.

What should a puppet master do when he’s old and alone, and all his puppets are gone? Sylvester makes one last puppet. But this one is different. When the old man speaks to him, Puppet speaks back. And then he walks… While Sylvester shows Puppet the town, the playground and the wonders the world holds, Puppet, in turn, helps Sylvester to make a new friend and share his puppet-making skills with the next generation in this wonder-filled story of creation and the circle of life.

Our reviewer, Stephen Dilley, writes, ‘Puppet is an unusual and curiously innocent book, reminiscent of a fable or fairytale with echoes of many creation stories and myths. In spite of the sadness lurking at the edges of the story – Fleur’s loss of her father, Silvester’s loss of Belinda and his sense that he is reaching the end of his life – it is full of wonder and wisdom about creation, love and living with imperfection.’

Read the full review

Peril on the Atlantic

By A M Howell. Published by Usborne.

July, 1936. As the Queen Mary sets sail across the Atlantic, Alice can’t wait for the summer of adventure that lies ahead. She’s excited to explore the huge ship, with its shops, animals and even celebrities on board. As Alice’s sailor father focuses on winning a prestigious race, she witnesses a shocking attack. Alice and her new friend Sonny start to uncover a dark plot to sabotage the race, and as they investigate gold bars, anonymous notes and lost silk gloves, secrets in their own lives come to the surface. While fog threatens the boat’s journey and dangerous enemies show themselves, Alice and Sonny are in their own race to solve all the mysteries unfolding. But what they discover might change both their lives forever…

Our reviewer, Stephen Connor, writes, ‘Peril on the Atlantic is an excellent start to a series that would draw in fans of both history and mystery alike – if any readers have enjoyed M.G. Leonard’s Trains series, or Emma Carroll’s work, then this would come highly recommended.’

Read the full review

This is Skateboarding

By Hannah Wilson. Illustrated by Peter Phobia. Published by Magic Cat.

A dark, gothic adventure set on the island of Anglesey in North Wales, featuring a fantastical beast…

Our reviewer, Barbara Valentini, writes ,’This is truly a worthy story for readers aged 9 and over to enjoy and be inspired by.’

The Destiny of Minou Moonshine

By Eliose Williams. Illustrated by Anna Shepeta. Published by Barrington Stoke.

The beautiful queendom of Moonlally has fallen under a tyrant’s rule. Their queen is dead, worship of their goddess, the Dark Lady, is forbidden, and the precious black diamond that protects the city – a rare fragment of fallen star ­– has gone missing. When fierce orphan girl Minou Moonshine’s life is unexpectedly shattered, she joins the ragtag band of rebels, the Green Orchids, who are plotting to overthrow the General.

Our reviewer, Ben Harris, writes, ‘There is much to be discovered about the role of freedom of choice, poetry, and – as has already been described – the crafting of meaningful things, including relationships. The pages turn themselves and there are some gentle twists along the way, too, but overall, the way in which the author honours the time-honoured parabolic structures of fairy- and folktale is to the novel’s great benefit.’

Look out for Gita Ralleigh’s second book which will be released this summer.

Read the full review

Diamond Jack: Your Magic Or Your Life

By Anna Rainbow. Published by Chicken House.

Eleven-year-old Bramble unearths a scarlet mask in her grandpa’smagical emporium. When she tries it on she becomes a notorious highwayman,Diamond Jack. It seems Bramble has been chosen for a mission: stand and deliver!

Our reviewer, Ros Steward, writes, ‘Humour weaves its way throughout the narrative, appealing to both young readers and adults alike. Clever references, such as Mrs. Kipling’s cake-making prowess (though younger readers may not grasp this without some support), add charm and levity to the tale. Yet as well as the laughter lies a wealth of topics ripe for discussion. From exploring connections to legendary figures like Robin Hood to delving into the history of real-life highwaymen, the story invites readers to ponder themes of identity and familial secrets. ‘

Read the full review

Going for Gold

By Andy Seed. Published by Walker Books.

A mystery puzzle book with codes and cyphers to keep children occupied this Olympic summer.

When ancient Greek friends Phoebe and Leon discover that a pentathlon athlete is cheating in the Olympic Games, they decide that they must stop him before it’s too late. But there are a lot of puzzles to solve along the way, from a mysterious message discovered in the temple to a suspicious conversation at the stadion. Will Phoebe and Leon be able to stop the villain before the winner is crowned?



By David Long. Illustrated by Terri Po. Published by Faber.

A single spy can save thousands of lives. Spies and secret agents have been hard at work for centuries, risking their lives and sometimes changing the course of history. Discover twenty-seven of the most courageous and daring, including Britain’s first female spy, a teacher turned saboteur, the spy who sang for Hitler and the man who never was . . .

Our reviewer, Roy James, writes, ‘Spies will hook readers of all ages from nine years and up and it is the perfect companion to a WW2 topic. A spy story a day will have children on the edge of their seats while also telling them of the sacrifices people made, some very young, of their bravery, and determination.’

Read the full review

Out There in the wild: Poems on Nature

By James Carter, Dom Conlon, Nicola Davies. Illustrated by Diana Catchpole. Published by Macmillan.

Us humans mostly live in towns and cities nowadays – yet still we retain our sense of wonder in nature, and that’s why we wander the rivers, lakes, forests, beaches and ancient paths of the world. And still we ponder over what it is to be free, to be wild, to be out there fending for ourselves amidst the elements and throughout the seasons.

Poems to get in touch with nature as you enjoy carefree summer days.

Little House

By Katya Balen. Published by HarperCollins.

Juno’s furious about being sent to stay with her grandfather for the summer. She’ll miss all the fun she and her friends had planned for the holidays. She’ll also miss her mum, but it’s her mum’s fault for leaving anyway. Then Juno discovers a long-forgotten little family in her grandfather’s attic. As she works to carefully craft a new home for them, can she learn to forgive her mum and understand her reasons for going away?

Our reviewer, Stephen Dilley, writes. ‘Little House is designed to be accessible to reluctant and struggling readers but engaging to all. Balen is in no way limited by this format, as she weaves a perfect story of loss and healing in just 80 pages. Her writing is full of beautiful and evocative descriptions, whether of her grandfather’s ‘soft lines that spread like crumpled cotton’ or Juno’s feeling that the ‘jigsaw puzzle of our family is broken into a thousand pieces.’

Read the full review

Always Clementine

By Carlie Sorosiak. Published by Nosy Crow.

Bee’s family runs a lakeside inn, offering rest and sustenance to weary travellers. Bee’s Nan has gone missing, possibly drowned, but Bee knows that can’t be true. And so does the hungry fox that her grandmother was feeding. Shadow is cross that her supply of salmon has dried up and is determined to do something about it. Soon, both fox and child are on an adventure to find Nan, uncover what’s happening to all the secret islands on the Great Lake and learn just how far magical powers can take you…

A magical and emotional animal story.

Hide and Seek

By Rhina Tracey. Published by Barrington Stoke.

The second book in Rhian Tracey’s Bletchley Park Mystery series.

When the war starts, Ned is resigned to a future working in the family funeral parlour. Then, the covert operations at Bletchley Park begin, and his life is transformed. Ned and his mother leave Bletchley Park on a vital wartime mission into the remote Welsh countryside. Their task: to protect the priceless artwork stored in a slate mine in the village of Manod. As long as its whereabouts are secret, they’ll keep the national treasures out of the hands of the enemy. But when it appears that someone in the village is trying to expose the truth, suspicion turns to the newcomers – Ned, his mother, and a young Jewish refugee, Anni. Can Ned, Anni and their friend Harri prove their loyalty to the mission and keep the secret safe?

Our reviewer, Kate Hitchings, writes, ‘The characterisation is rich and nuanced. Harri ‘has not been himself since his dad left’ for the war, but this realisation does not make his initial hostility easy. The dog on the front cover is key to the plot and is not any ordinary dog but an early guide dog. This is one of many intriguing historical nuggets tucked away in this adventure story; sharing this book will surely nurture a real love of history.’

Read the full review

Oh Mummy Mia!

By Maz Evans. Published by Firefly Press.

Maz Evans is back with another dose of hilarity.

Seth, the Egyptian god of war, has kidnapped Ra, the sun god – and now Earth is on the brink of total destruction. It’s up to Vesper and Aster to bravely descend to the Egyptian underworld to find Ra and save the world … again.

Teachers' Treasures

Classic and established favourites

Bridge to Terabithia

By Katherine Patterson. Published by Penguin Random House.

An unforgettable story of friendship and loss. This book has a round effect on readers. We recommend it as wither a class read or a book for confident readers in year 5 who enjoy the classic storytelling voice.

The Last Wild

By Piers Torday. Published by Hachette.

A deadly virus has killed all the animals except pests, and it’s expected to be equally dangerous to humans. But when Kester realises he can talk to the pests, he finds they have great hope invested in him. An outstanding, highly original and beautifully written animal adventure.

Blackberry Blue

By Jamila Gavin. Published by Penguin Random House.

Watch Blackberry Blue rise from the bramble patch; follow Emeka the pathfinder on his mission to save a lost king; join Princess Desire as she gallops across the Milky Way on her jet-black horse. Six original fairy tales which reflect diverse cultures. The stories have shades of light and dark, beauty and cruelty, much like the Grimms collection of folk tales. This book is included in our Take One Book resource.

The Boy in the Tower

By Polly Ho-Yen. Published by Penguin Random House.

When they first arrived, they came quietly and stealthily as if they tip-toed into the world when we were all looking the other way. Ade loves living at the top of a tower block. From his window, he feels like he can see the whole world stretching out beneath him. His mum doesn’t really like looking outside – but it’s going outside that she hates. She prefers to sleep all day inside their tower, where it’s safe. Except it isn’t any more. Strange plants have started to take over, and tower blocks are falling down around them. Now Ade and his mum are trapped, and there’s no way out . . . Polly-Ho Yen’s gripping science fiction novel is one of the most popular choices of our Reading Gladiators book club. Year 5 children will enjoy it as an independent read, but there’s a lot to discuss, so it’s also a good choice for a class novel.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

By Joan Aiken. Published by Penguin Random House.

A fast-paced Dickensian adventure set in an alternative 19th Century England – with wolves! In a period of English History that never happened, when Good King James III is on the throne, and the whole country is ravaged by wolves which have migrated through the newly-opened Channel Tunnel. Young orphans Bonnie and Sylvia fall into the hands of evil Miss Slighcarp, they need all their wits – and the help of Simon the goose-boy – to escape unscathed,

How to Live Forever

By Colin Thompson. Illustrated by Colin Thompson. Published by Penguin Random House.

Peter and his family live among the Quinces in the cookery section of a mystical library, and at night, when the library comes to life, Peter ventures out of his home to find a missing volume: How To Live Forever. Colin Thompson’s highly-detailed illustrations will have readers poring over the pages for hours, and they provide a rich seam for discussion. The book works especially well in literature circle style discussions, where children have the freedom to explore the pages at their own pace. The philosophical themes that the book provokes provide ample scope for class discussion and dialogue.

Coming to England

By Floella Benjamin. Published by Macmillan.

With a foreword by the author and some additional historical information, this is the incredible story of Floella’s journey from Trinidad to London, as part of the Windrush generation, to the House of Lords. This autobiographical account while covering some uncomfortable truths, remains upbeat and hopeful. It’s a good introduction to the History of Britain in the twentieth century and could be read together as a class.

Who Let the Gods Out?

By Maz Evans. Published by Chicken House.

When Elliot wishes upon a star, he doesn’t expect a constellation to crash into a dungheap on his family farm. The star is Virgo. She thinks she’s perfect. Elliot doesn’t. And together, they release Thanatos, evil Daemon of Death … epic fail. They need the King of the Gods and his noble steed. Instead, they get a chubby Zeus and his high horse Pegasus. Maz Evans irreverent humour is a huge hit with young readers. Who knew Greek mythology could be such fun.

Beetle Boy

By M G Leonard. Published by Chicken House.

Darkus can’t believe his eyes when a huge insect drops out of the trouser leg of his horrible new neighbour. It’s a giant beetle – and it seems to want to communicate. But how can a boy be friends with a beetle? And what does a beetle have to do with the disappearance of his dad and the arrival of Lucretia Cutter, with her taste for creepy jewellery? M G Leonard is a superb storyteller and won the Branford Boase for this debut novel. Pacy and exciting, this is a good read-aloud choice.


By Neil Gaiman. Illustrated by Chris Riddell. Published by Bloomsbury.

There is something strange about Coraline’s new home. It’s not the mist, or the cat that always seems to be watching her, nor the signs of danger that Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, her new neighbours, read in the tea leaves. It’s the other house – the one behind the old door in the drawing room. Another mother and father with black-button eyes and papery skin are waiting for Coraline to join them there. Neil Gaiman’s imagination is given full rein, darkly humourous and highly original. Terry Pratchett called this book a masterpiece, and who are we to argue with that? A good book for a class novel or independent reading.

Asha and the Spirit Bird

By Jasbinder Bilan. Published by Chicken House.

Asha lives in the foothills of the Himalayas. Money is tight, and she misses her papa, who works in the city. When he suddenly stops sending his wages, a ruthless moneylender ransacks their home and her mother talks of leaving. From her den in the mango tree, Asha makes a pact with her best friend, Jeevan, to find her father and make things right. Jasbinder Bilan’s novel won the Costa Children’s Book Award. Literature has the potential to open up the world for children and this beautiful novel does just that, For your class book corners or to read aloud.


By Helen Ward. Illustrated by Mark Craste. Published by Templar.

Once, the only sounds to be heard were the buzzing of bees in the grass, the murmuring of moles in the earth, and the song of birds in the sky. These warmed the hearts of those who cared to listen – until the others came to fill the sky with a cacophony of noise. This science fiction picture book for older readers explores themes of industrialisation, colonisation, activism and ecology. A good choice for a whole class project. It is included in our Take One Book resource.

The Ghost of Thomas Kempe

By Penelope Lively. Published by HarperCollins.

James is fed up. His family has moved to a new cottage – with grounds that are great for excavations and trees that are perfect for climbing – and stuff is happening. Stuff that is normally the kind of thing he does. But it’s not him who’s writing strange things on shopping lists and fences. It’s not him who smashes bottles and pours tea into the Vicar’s lap. It’s a ghost – honestly.

Penelope Lively’s classic ghost story has just the right amount of humour. It explores themes of memory and time, as does another of her children’s novels, A Stitch in Time. It reads aloud well and is a good choice for introducing children to older literature. Particularly children who enjoy a good ghost story.

Love that Dog

By Sharon Creech. Published by Bloomsbury.

Sharon Creech’s verse novel Love that Dog explores the relationship between a boy and his dog, and the role of a sensitive teacher in helping him come to terms with his loss through creative writing. Poignant storytelling and themes that most children will be able to relate make this a good choice for a class read-aloud or project.

The Song from Somewhere Else

By A F Harrold. Illustrated by Levi Pinfold. Published by Bloomsbury.

Frank doesn’t know how to feel when Nick Underbridge rescues her from bullies one afternoon. No one likes Nick. He’s big, he’s weird, and he smells – or so everyone in Frank’s class thinks. And yet, there’s something nice about Nick’s house. There’s strange music playing there, and it feels light and good and makes Frank feel happy for the first time in forever. But there’s more to Nick and to his house, than meets the eye, and soon Frank realises she isn’t the only one keeping secrets. This is an incredible collaboration between A F Harrold and Levi Pinfold. Deeply moving, the story explores themes of being an outsider, friendship, compassion, love, the power of music and sacrifice. An excellent choice for a class novel and one of the popular choices in our Reading Gladiators book club.