Recommended Books for Year 4. 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
Libby and the Parisian Puzzle
By Jo Clarke. Illustrated by Becka Moor. Published by Firefly Press.
Mystery-lover Libby is excited but nervous when she’s sent to live with her aunt while her mother is working abroad. Aunt Agatha is the headmistress of an extraordinary travelling school that moves from country to country. Libby joins it in Paris, where she is just starting to find her feet when her aunt is arrested, accused of a daring jewel robbery. The first book in a fantastic mystery series written by a school librarian who knows exactly what children enjoy.
The Beast and the Bethany
By Jack Meggitt-Phillips . Illustrated by Isabelle Follath. Published by HarperCollins.
There’s deliciously dark humour in this Gothic story about a feisty orphan called Bethany, a mysteriously ever-youthful Ebineezer Tweezer and a hungry monster. And the relationship between the three of them? well, it’s not looking good for Bethany. A fun read-aloud for year four and an independent read for more confident readers. There’s a sequel for fans.
Peanut Jones and the Twelve Portals
By Rob Biddulph. Illustrated by Rob Biddulph. Published by Macmillan.
Some legends are born, some are drawn. . . Famous works of art are disappearing from all over the world. One moment they are there; the next, they have crumbled to dust. Peanut Jones, artist and adventurer, and her friends suspect it might have something to do with the magical world of Chroma and the wicked Mr White’s plot to wipe out colour, art and creativity. Rob Biddulph’s story is playful and original. As you would expect masterfully illustrated throughout.
The Guardians of Magic
By Chris Riddell. Illustrated by Chris Riddell. Published by Macmillan.
The first book in The Cloud Horse Chronicles by former Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell is a magical fantasy. It is fully illustrated throughout with black-and-white line illustrations that support confident readers in building their reading stamina. This is also an excellent choice to read aloud, using a visualiser so the class can enjoy the illustration. This book was selected for our Reading Gladiators Book Club,
Loki:A Bad God's guide to Being Good
By Louie Stowell. Illustrated by Louie Stowell. Published by Walker Books.
Written in diary form, this hilarious story recounts Norse trickster, Loki’s attempts to be as perfect as the shining Thor. He’s sent to Earth, where Odin sets him the task of proving that he can be good. what could possibly go wrong? This is a highly popular choice and fortunately, there are sequels for fans to enjoy.
By Nadia Shireen. Illustrated by Nadia Shireen. Published by Simon & Schuster.
Fox cub siblings Ted and Nancy are on the run from Princess Buttons, the scariest street cat in the Big City. They flee for Grimwood, expecting to find refuge in the peaceful countryside. Instead, they are met with thieving eagles, dramatic ducks, riotous rabbits and a whole host of unusual characters. Grimwood is. . . weird. Anarchic humour and silly escapades. We selected this book for our Reading Gladiators Book Club.
Brand New Boy
By David Almond. Illustrated by Marta Altes. Published by Walker Books.
When new boy, George, arrives at school, he seems a little strange. But he’s brilliant at football and quickly makes friends. As events unfold, it emerges that George isn’t exactly what he seems. A highly readable, thought-provoking book which will promote discussion about our relationship to technology and each other. An excellent choice for a class novel.
Ollie Spark and the Accidental Adventure
By Gillian Cross. Illustrated by Alan Snow. Published by David Fickling.
Ollie Spark loves mending machines and solving mysteries. But he gets more than he bargained for when fixing Aunt Caz’s van throws him into a real-life spy adventure! Inventions with adventure from the combined talents of Gillian Cross (demon Headmaster) and Alan Snow (Here Be Monsters).
Future Hero: Race to Fire Mountain
By Remi Blackwood. Published by Scholastic.
When Jarell discovers that the fantasy world he is obsessed with doodling is actually real, he is launched into an incredible adventure. Ulfrika, the land of his ancestors, is in trouble, and he is the hero they need. With the help of brave and wise-cracking Kimisi, Jarell must stop the evil Ikala. The future of Ulfrika depends on it. . . A highly appealing story for today’s children blending high tech gadgetry with African mythology. This book is the first in a series. For independent reading.
The Story of Greenriver
By Holly Webb. Published by Hachette.
Sedge is the reluctant heir to the leadership of the Greenriver otter holt. His first spring he was nearly drowned in a flash flood that swept through the otter community. Now it’s spring again, and the river is rising dangerously once more. With the holt threatened, Sedge is convinced he must be the one to save them. Holly Webb has written a beautiful animal story with just the right amount of jeopardy. An uplifting story for animal-loving children.
The Rage of the Sea Witch
By Roland Chambers. Illustrated by Roland Chambers. Published by Bloomsbury.
The first story in Blily Shaman’s Adventures is set in an old museum, former home of Charles Darwin. Here Billy encounters a giant talking Galapagos tortoise and a portal to the arcic where he meets and Innuit girl and her sea goddess grandmother, plus an Ancient Greek explorer with questionable morals. Our reviewer, Ellie Labbett, writes, ‘With Chambers’ lively illustrations breaking up the narrative, this text would suit pupils that are still developing their confidence with reading longer texts in Lower KS2. This is set to be an intriguing series for fans of history and it is great to see such a punchy story presented in a shorter format.’
By Lis Jardine. Published by Pneguin Random House.
School reporter Lydia thinks her news story will sweep everything else off the front page. And young carer Daniel needs the police to arrest the right culprit – for his mum’s sake. They may not be friends, but they’re about to become. . .The Detention Detectives. Our reviewer, Eve, Bearne, enjoyed this intriguing detective story. She writes, ‘Lis Jardine provides the reader with plenty of clues and some wonderfully drawn characters,’ For confident readers in year 4 (age 9+).
Olly Brown God of Hamsters
By Bethany Walker. Illustrated by Jack Noel. Published by Scholastic.
Olly desperately wants a hamster but it’s an emphatic ‘No’ from his father. So imagine Olly’s delight when he wakes up to find a room full of hamssters and one that talks to him. It would seem that he is the Great O they have been seeking. What could possibly go wrong? Bethany Walker’s writing and Jack Noel’s illustration work in perfect harmony. This one will have children laughing-out-loud. For independent reading or a class read-aloud.
By Jenny Machlachlan. Illustrated by Jenny Machlachlan. Published by HarperCollins.
Written in diary form this is the story of a fairy who is more of a Stinkerbell than a Tinkerbell. Will Danny be able to help her to do a good deed that she needs to win her silver wings? Laughter and mayhem, this book will be enjoyed as an independent read in year 4
Two Terrible Vikings: Feast with the King
By Francesca Simon. Illustrated by Steve May. Published by Faber.
There are three stories in this collection about Viking twins Hack and Whack, which our reviewer Stephen Connor says,’ is genuinely funny, without being too reliant on toilet humour (which is present, but not overdone, for my money),’ It’s a good choice for readers in year 4 who may not yet have discovered the delights of reading, offering a quick, pacy read with illustrations to break up the text and lots of laughs,
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.