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Recommended Books for Year 6

Books for 10 -11 Year Olds

Last updated June 24th, 2024

Recommended books for year 6 for children 10 – 11 years old

Most children in year 6 should be confident readers if they have had lots of opportunities for reading independently and with adults and other children at home and school. There are plenty of books and other reading materials that are age-appropriate and provide opportunities for deeper thinking and reflection. Most year 6 children are interested in the issues that affect their own lives and the world. Reading these books will elicit thought-provoking discussions. Some words of caution: getting better at reading doesn’t mean reading books that have been written with an older audience in mind; there is no need to expose children to subjects and themes that they may not be ready for, as there is a huge variety of books written for children in the transition from primary to secondary school. Year 6 is also when everything can feel very serious, so some lightness provided by humour may be exactly what is needed. Inclusivity is a 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.

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Our top picks from recent titles

Rosie Raja: Mission to Cairo

By Sufiya Ahmed. Published by Bloomsbury.

It is the autumn of 1941, and Rosie Raja is back for another action-packed and electrifying adventure. After successfully helping her spy father complete his mission in France, Rosie has gained quite a reputation for herself and is determined to continue her secret agent escapades.

Our reviewer, Branwen Bingle, writes, ‘Mission to Cairo is a fast-paced narrative which travels quickly from the English countryside to the Egyptian desert and also to Rosie’s country of birth, India, through her memories of living there with her mother, who is now deceased. The geography of each country is described in a way that shows their similarities and differences, and historical context is provided, for example to help the reader understand the strategic importance of the Middle East and Suez Canal during World War II.’

Escape into this thrilling adventure.

Read the full review

Bird Boy

By Catherine Bruton. Published by Nosy Crow.

After the tragic death of his mother, eleven-year-old Will is sent to stay with his uncle in the mountains temporarily. After years trapped in a high-rise flat, with only birds for company, Will doesn’t know how to survive a place like this, but he soon finds solace in the woods, surrounded by birdsong. With his new friend Omar—a refugee from Afghanistan—Will discovers an osprey nest with two small chicks inside. He forms an unbreakable bond with the birds, especially the smallest chick, whom they name Whitetip. But when tragedy almost strikes again one stormy night, and Whitetip is knocked out of the nest, breaking a wing, Will is determined to save her.

Our reviewer, Stephen Dilley, writes, ‘I thought this was a magnificent novel which was both gripping and profoundly moving (as well as teaching me lots that I didn’t know about birds and avian rescue!) Bruton’s background as a teacher is reflected in the sensitivity and empathy with which she writes about different forms of trauma experienced by young people.’

A wonderful story for readers who enjoy emotional books.

Read the full review

North and the Only One

By Vashti Hardy. Published by Scholastic.

Twelve-year-old Rose can’t remember anything before last week when she woke up not knowing her own name, her own house, or even her own mother. The only thing Rose recognized was her puppy, North. But Mother patiently explained everything – well, not everything. Not the real-feeling dreams Rose has about a mysterious forest she half-recognizes. Or why she is not allowed to stray beyond the garden, out into Luminelle, the vast city surrounding them. Mother is kind and helpful, but Rose can’t shake the feeling that something’s not right. Or maybe it’s everything that’s not right?

Our reviewer, Ben Harris, writes, ‘Rose’s story – her ‘birth’, her learning, her morals, her hopes, disappointments, realisations about the world and her own place in it – unfolds against the backdrop of what technology, in the hands of less responsible humans (before her time), has created. On a grander scale, her story is a very timely one and as such must be considered carefully by young readers for its meaning to become clear.’

An excellent choice for an avid reader who enjoys thought-provoking literature.

Read the full review

Keedie

By Elle McNicoll. Published by Knights of.

Set in Juniper five years before A Kind of Spark comes a powerful coming-of-age story from award-winning author Elle McNicoll.

An accessible but beautifully crafted novel perfect for readers transitioning to secondary school.

The Island at the Edge of Night

By Lucy Strange. Published by Chicken House.

Abandoned at a boarding school on a bleak and remote Scottish island, Faye discovers that she and the other pupils have been sent there for doing something wicked. But what is it that Faye has done? She might be bold enough to explore the prison-like island, but does she have the courage to face a secret deep within herself?

Our reviewer, Stephen Connor, writes, ‘Lucy Strange has written a book that many children will devour and remember for a long time.’

Read the full review

Black Hole Cinema Club

By Christopher Edge. Published by Nosy Crow.

When Lucas meets his friends at the local cinema – nicknamed ‘The Black Hole’ – they’re excited about the movie marathon ahead. Non-stop action, blockbuster special effects and all the snacks they can eat. But as the lights go down, Lucas, Ash, Maya, Caitlin and Finn watch in disbelief as a jet-black tidal wave comes crashing out of the cinema screen and the five friends find themselves swept into an epic adventure.

A gripping, tense science fiction thriller.

Time Travelling with a Tortoise

By Ross Welford. Published by HarperCollins.

Al Chaudhury travelled back in time to save his father’s life. And it worked – Al’s dad is alive again, and life is back to the way it should be. At least, that’s what Al thinks. But when an accident robs Al’s beloved Grandpa Byron of his world-beating memory, Al is forced back in time again, this time leaving someone behind, trapped in a prehistoric dimension. Al is forced into a rescue mission to recover his friend from the past… and ensure that there will be a future waiting for them all.

Our reviewer, Ann Cowling, writes, ‘The main character, Al Chaudhury, is a clever, funny 12-year-old boy caught in a complicated web of relationships with his parents, grandfather, stepsister, and a bully/friend, made even more tricky to navigate as a result of the issues caused by his interference with time. The climax of the story, when Al meets another version of himself, was thoroughly gripping, not to mention amusing. The blend of scientific concepts and philosophical quandaries kept me engaged and fascinated throughout, and I’m sure younger readers will love the scenes with some scary dinosaurs.’

Read the full review

How to Draw a Graphic Novel

By Balthazar Pagani. Published by Thames and Hudson.

Packed with professional tips and interviews with leading graphic novelists, this is the ultimate guide on how to create a graphic novel. How to Draw a Graphic Novel is structured as a series of short art courses that combine technical advice with creative inspiration. Written by graphic novel producer Balthazar Pagani, the book includes lessons in how to construct a narrative, develop characters, design settings, and the basics of printing, binding and digital file set-up.

Get the pens and paper out this summer and start creating!

The Whisperwicks

By Jordon Lees. Illustrated by Vivienne To. Published by Penguin Random House.

Eleven-year-old Benjamiah Creek believes in science, logic and the power of reason. He definitely does not believe in magic. But when he receives a mysterious gift in the post – a doll that can transform into a bird – he is led into the impossible (and most definitely magical) world of Wreathenwold, where dark secrets are lost amongst a vast labyrinth of streets. Benjamiah soon finds himself swept along in a dangerous quest – led by the fierce and brilliant Elizabella, who is determined to solve the disappearance of her missing brother.

A brilliant new fantasy – be whisked away to a new world by The Whisperwicks.

Atana and the Firebird

By Vivian Zhou. Published by HarperCollins Inc.

A mermaid, a firebird, and a witch become entangled with the mysterious and powerful Witch Queen, who may hold the key to each of their past in this epic middle-grade fantasy by debut author Vivian Zhou.

An enchanting graphic novel that will delight fantasy fans.

Ettie and the Midnight Pool

By Julia Green. Published by David Fickling Books.

A hauntingly beautiful story about growing up, exploring the secrets of the past, and facing the darkness within.

Thoughtful readers will enjoy diving into the depths of the  pool and pondering the ripples that remain after the story is finished.

The Observologist

By Giselle Clarkson. Published by Gecko Press.

An observologist is someone who makes scientific expeditions, albeit very small ones, every day. They notice interesting details in the world around them and are experts at finding tiny creatures, plants, and fungi. They know that water snails glide upside down on the undersurface of the water, not all flies have wings, earthworms have bristles, and butterflies taste with their feet.

Our reviewer, Stephen Connor, writes, ‘Giselle Clarkson has done a wonderful job here. The Observologist is a book packed with information, knowledge, hints and tips, but is presented with a lightness and a sense of humour.’

Read the full review

Mission Arctic

By Katharina Weiss-Tuider . Illustrated by Christian Schneider . Published by Greystone Kids.

The Arctic is changing—fast. The once-frozen landscape is melting before our eyes, and the effects can be felt around the world. But the Arctic is also the region we know the least about. Thick ice, extreme cold, and total darkness have always prevented scientists from uncovering its secrets. Until now.

A brilliant nonfiction title that will appeal to readers who love technical and scientific detail. Gripping and nonpatronising. adults will enjoy this book too and it will spark some great conversations at home or at school.

Super Space Weekend

By Gaelle Almeras (Trans. David Warriner). Published by Greystone.

Super Space Weekend shares Squeak, Orni, and Castor’s thrilling space adventures through an engaging graphic novel format.

This a great book for space enthusiasts, graphic novel aficionados and anyone who wants to build themselves a treehouse and spend summer nights gazing at the stars.

And I Climbed, And I Climbed

By Stephen Lightbrown. Illustrated by Shih-Yu Lin. Published by Troika.

Cosmo is a young boy whose life has been changed forever, after falling out of the tree he loved to climb. Now, Cosmo is disabled and uses a wheelchair. Now, Cosmo wants to have a conversation with the tree.

In this outstanding debut collection for children, Stephen Lightbown draws on his own personal experiences as a wheelchair user while creating a unique and utterly engaging character in Cosmo. Written in Cosmo’s voice and peppered with contributions from the boy’s family, these poems take the reader on a journey of challenges, questions, hurts, explorations and triumphs.

Teachers' Treasures

Classic and established favourites

The Haunting

By Margaret Mahy. Published by Hachette.

Eight-year-old Barney has been haunted before. He thought it was something he’d just grow out of, like the imaginary friends his step-mother believes he has. But this time, it’s different. Footsteps follow him, there’s a demanding voice barking orders and Barney begins to feel that sometimes his body is not his own at all . . . With the help of his sisters, Tabitha and Troy, Barney sets out to uncover the truth about their family secrets and find out who it is who’s haunting him.

Margaret Mahy’s classic ghost story won the Carnegie Medal. It’s a good class read aloud for a robust class or an addition to the class bookshelf or school library.

The Viewer

By Gary Crew. Illustrated by Shaun Tan. Published by Hachette Australia.

The Viewer tells the peculiar story of a boy whose obsession with curious artefacts leads him to discover a strange box at a dump site. It proves to be an ancient chest full of optical devices, one of which captures his interest; an intricately mechanical object carrying disks of images; scenes of destruction, violence and the collapse of civilisations.

A thought-provoking and unsettling picturebook suitable for readers at the top of KS2 and KS3. Children will need time to explore the details of the images, either independently or in a literature circle type discussion.

Christmas Dinner of Souls

By Ross Montgomer. Published by Faber.

It’s a dark and lonely Christmas Eve in the dining room of ancient Soul’s College. The kitchen boy, 11-year-old Lewis, has helped prepare a highly unusual meal, made with unrecognisable ingredients, cooked by a mysterious chef. And then the guests arrive … Ross Montgomery is at his best in this deliciously Gothic selection of stories, as each guest tries to outdo the others with their tale of terror. An excellent read aloud choice, particularly in the run up to Christmas.

Clockwork

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

It is a cold winter’s night when Karl enters the White Horse Tavern looking like he’s swallowed a thundercloud. His final task as a clockmaker apprentice is to make a new figure for the great clock of Glockenheim. He has not made the figure – or got any idea of what it could be, and the unveiling is tomorrow. Fritz is also in the tavern, there to read aloud his new spooky story. Like Karl, he hasn’t finished. Well, he knows how the story starts, and he knows it’s called Clockwork – so, with the snow swirling down outside, he sets his story going and just has to hope that the ending will come to him as he tells it.

Philip Pullman’s Gothic fairy tale may be short, but it tackles some profound themes and will raise the hairs on the back of your neck, too. This is a popular choice in our Take One Book resource.

The Arrival

By Shaun Tan. Illustrated by Shaun Tan. Published by Hachette.

What drives so many to leave everything behind and journey alone to a mysterious country, a place without family or friends, where everything is nameless, and the future is unknown. This silent graphic novel is the story of every migrant, every refugee, every displaced person, and a tribute to all those who have made the journey.

The Arrival is a masterpiece that will engage year 6 readers, either as an independent read or as the starting point for a class discussion

Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

By Robert C O'Brien. Published by Penguin Random House.

Time is running out for Mrs Frisby, a widowed mouse with four small children. She must move her family before the farmer destroys their home. But her youngest son, Timothy, lies ill with pneumonia and is too sick to be taken on such a perilous journey. Help comes in the unexpected form of a highly extraordinary breed of super-intelligent rats. The rats of NIMH come up with a brilliant solution to Mrs Frisby’s problem, but the rats are in danger too, and little by little, Mrs Frisby discovers their extraordinary past . . .

A classic animal adventure story but with depths that more experienced readers will uncover through sensitive, guided discussions.

The Girl of Ink and Stars

By Kiran Millwood Hargrave . Published by Chicken House.

When Isabella’s friend disappears, she volunteers to guide the search party. As a mapmaker’s daughter, she’s equipped with elaborate ink maps and knowledge of the stars, eager to navigate the island’s forgotten heart. But beneath the mountains, a legendary fire demon awakens, and her journey is fraught with danger …

A beautifully written and highly original story in which myth, magic and political intrigue play their part. This novel will particularly appeal to year 6 readers who enjoy literary stories.

The Graveyard Book

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

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a graveyard, raised and educated by ghosts. There, living among the dead, Bod discovers that he possesses remarkable magical powers: he can avoid people’s notice, scare them, and even invade their dreams. There are dangers and adventures for Bod in the graveyard. But it is in the land of the living that the real danger lurks,

Neil Gaiman won the Carnegie Medal for this novel. It bears all the Gaiman hallmarks – his wit, humour and wisdom. It raises lots of thoughts about what it takes to raise a child and makes an interesting comparison with The Jungle Book. Year 6 classes might like to read and compare these two classics written just over 100 years apart.

Saffy's Angel

By Hilary McKay. Published by Macmillan.

After Saffron discovers she’s adopted, life is never quite the same. Her artistic parents and doting siblings adore her, but Saffy wants a piece of her past. So when her grandfather bequests her a stone angel – a relic from the childhood she never knew – Saffy knows she has to find it. Realizing Siena holds the key, she stows away on a car trip to Italy.

Hilary McKay is a writer that I would like all year 6 to encounter. She writes with warmth and compassion about people and in particular, families. And her writing style is sublime – a classic storytelling voice. All the Casson family books are good additions to the library or class collection.

The Island

By Armin Greder. Illustrated by Armin Greder. Published by Murdoch Books.

In the morning, the people of the island found a man sitting on the shore, where fate and the ocean currents had set him and his frail raft in the night. When he saw them coming towards him, he rose to his feet. He was not like them. So begin’s Armin Greder’s powerful fable which has much resonance for the world today. Read aloud with a class and with thoughtfully structured authentic dialogue, this book will help young readers reflect not only on the plight of the man in the story but also on how challenges are to be addressed when there are such inequalities across societies.

 

Listen to Armin Greder talking to Nikki Gamble In the Reading Corner

Millions

By Frank Cottrell-Boyce. Illustrated by Steven Lenton. Published by Macmillan.

Brothers Damian and Anthony didn’t mean to get caught up in a botched train robbery. But what would you do if a massive bag of cash dropped from the sky and you had only a few days to spend it before it became worthless? Buy a million pizzas? End world poverty? Not such an easy decision, is it? The boys soon find out that being rich is a mug’s game.

Laugh-out-loud, heart-in-the-mouth adventure from Frank Cottrell-Boyce. This book has so much heart, and children will learn much about what it means to be a caring human being from discussing the story’s themes. It’s not surprising that this is one of the most-read novels in year 6

Tom's Midnight Garden

By Philippa Pearce. Published by Oxford University Press.

When Tom is sent to stay at his aunt and uncle’s house for the summer, he resigns himself to endless weeks of boredom. As he lies awake in his bed he hears the grandfather clock downstairs strike . . . eleven . . . twelve . . . thirteen . . . Thirteen! Tom races down the stairs and out the back door into a garden everyone told him wasn’t there. In this enchanted thirteenth hour, the garden comes alive – but Tom is never sure whether the children he meets there are real or ghosts . . .

When Philip Pullman received the Carnegie of Carnegies, he stated in his acceptance speech ‘”Personally I feel they got the initials right but not the name. I don’t know if the result would be the same in a hundred year’s time; maybe Philippa Pearce would win then.’ Tom’s Midnight Garden is a tightly structured novel and crafted novel deals with the biggest theme of childhood – growing up. Read as a class novel children will likely reflect more deeply on the novel’s themes.

Once

By Morris Gleitzman. Published by Penguin Random House.

My name is Felix. This is my story. Felix has been living in an orphanage for three years and eight months when the men in armbands arrive to burn the books. Going on the run in search of his parents, Felix soon learns that Poland in 1942 is not a safe place for Jewish boys. But can his gift for storytelling keep him one step ahead of the Nazis and help him find his parents?

Not many writers can take a subject as big as this and deal with it in a wholly child-appropriate way. In spite of the dark subject, there is so much light in this book. The courage that some display in order to do the best for humanity and the redemptive power of love and friendship are ever-present.  The language is direct and simple, but it is all the more powerful for that. This is definitely a book that is best read with adult support and guidance

Skellig

By David Almond. Published by Hachette.

When a move to a new house coincides with his baby sister’s illness, Michael’s world seems suddenly lonely and uncertain. Then, one Sunday afternoon, he stumbles into the old ramshackle garage of his new home and finds something magical. A strange creature – part owl, part angel, a being who needs Michael’s help if he is to survive. With his new friend Mina, Michael nourishes Skellig back to health while his baby sister languishes in the hospital. But Skellig is far more than he at first appears, and as he helps Michael breathe life into his tiny sister, Michael’s world changes forever. . .

Haunting and poetic. This is a novel about love and kindness and about families coping with difficult circumstances. Michael’s developing friendship with Mina opens his eyes to worlds beyond his experience.

Journey to Jo'burg

By Beverley Naidoo. Published by Penguin Random House.

Frightened that their baby sister Dineo will die, thirteen-year-old Naledi and her younger brother Tiro run away from their grandmother to Johannesburg to find their mother, who works there as a maid. Their journey illustrates at every turn the grim realities of apartheid – the pass laws, bantustans, racism, the breakdown of family life. The opulence of the white “Madam’s” house contrasts starkly with the reality that Naledi and Tiro face – that their baby sister is suffering from starvation, not an incurable disease