Our Recommendations for 5 to 8 Year Olds

The Mirabelle series by Harriet Muncaster

My 6-year-old loves these books. Small but perfectly formed mini-novels, the combination of brilliant illustrations and short chapters make these an accessible but ‘grown-up’ read. Half-witch, half-fairy, Mirabelle just can’t help getting up to mischief. Whether she’s making concoctions with her travelling potion kit or using spells to create her own baby dragon (yes, really!), Mirabelle wants to be good but the pull of magic is just too strong. Delightfully funny, these books are great to read out loud too.

The Frost Goblin by Abi Elphinstone

This is the gorgeous but little-known origin story of the winter’s deepest frost: how it transforms the world into a wondrous place and gives hope to those in need. Bertie Crash-Wallop is a quiet soul, who feels that he doesn’t belong in his incredibly loud family. However, when he accidentally meets Ada Frostgobble – one of the goblins responsible for scattering the all-important frost, he realizes that he can help with this crucial job and, consequently, is actually very special indeed. A beautiful story about finding your place in the world and the adventures that happen when you’re curious enough to open that secret door in an ivy-covered wall.

First Big Book of Why

This is the best book to have on hand to answer some of life’s most interminably difficult questions, such as ‘Why do mice squeak?’, ‘Why are some cheeses stinky?’, ‘Why can’t I meet a T Rex?’ and ‘Why are mountains so tall?’ Full of brilliantly concise, well laid out information on almost any subject you can name this is an excellent introductory encyclopaedia, perfect for younger children with lovely bold, bright illustrations to keep them engaged.

Wildlife in Your Garden by Mike Dilger

This is such a wonderful book for introducing children to nature on their doorstep. Combining creative colour photography with characterful illustrations, Wildlife in Your Garden is an excellent practical guide to identifying beetles, butterflies, bees, birds and larger garden visitors alike. It is also a beautiful book, packed full of fascinating facts in an accessible format, which children will enjoy exploring indoors too. In a lively and entertaining style, Mike Dilger touches on issues such as the loss of traditional meadows and ‘wildlife corridors’, as well as giving practical tips on how to make a difference from your own garden, creating a space where wildlife can thrive.

The Iron Man by Ted Hughes

I was spellbound by this book when I heard it on Jackanory in the 1980s, rushing home from school every day to catch the next installment. Now, in this gorgeous new edition, Chris Mould’s illustrations capture the otherworldly magic of Ted Hughes’ story. I’ve loved reading it with my six-year-old son recently; beautifully written and visually stunning, it’s also a great adventure story.

Rabbit’s Bad Habits by Julian Gough and Jim Field

Most tales of friendship do not begin with a theft. But this is an exceptional story. When Bear is rudely awoken from hibernation to find her precious food store gone, little does she suspect that the thief is her neighbour, Rabbit. Venturing out, Bear marvels at the wonderland outside her door… but Rabbit is determined to be grumpy. He is more interested in getting back to his burrow to eat the stolen food than in being friends. As this hilarious tale unfolds (via a most edifying digression on why rabbits eat their own poo), Rabbit comes to see the value of friendship and how much more fun life is when you share. You can follow Rabbit and Bear’s adventures through further books in the series – I challenge you to read them without laughing! Perfect for reading aloud or for younger independent readers.

Willow Wildthing and the Swamp Monster by Gill Lewis

Like all the best adventure stories, Willow Wildthing and the Swamp Monster has one foot firmly planted in reality and the other in the realm of magic. As the book begins, we find Willow at an unsettling time. She has just moved house and her parents are preoccupied with her younger brother who is in hospital. A strange noise lures Willow (and her precious dog Sniff) towards the wooded area her garden backs on to – and she bumps into the most unusual group of children she has ever met. Introducing themselves as the Wild Things, they whisk Willow and Sniff into The Wilderness, and so begins an exciting adventure. Atmospheric and entertaining, this book is compulsive reading without being too ‘dark’ for younger readers.

Bad Nana: Older Not Wiser by Sophy Henn

From popular children’s author and illustrator Sophie Henn, comes the delightfully subversive world of Bad Nana. Through the eyes of 7-year-old Jeannie, we are introduced to her favourite grandma – and soon discover that ‘things sort of happen’ when this stick-waving, line-dancing, sherbet-lemon-sucking Nana is around. A true maverick, Bad Nana is also a stickler for manners, standing up to bullies and picking up your litter – and she somehow seems to manage to turn the world upside down and yet usually make it a better place. The wacky design, crazy adventures and sensitively drawn characters make Bad Nana a hilarious read which also has heart.

Fortunately The Milk by Neil Gaiman

I love this crazily inventive tribute to fatherly love (and the power of storytelling). Mum’s at a conference, Dad’s in charge. It’s all going swimmingly until breakfast time arrives, with the alarming discovery that there’s no milk! Undaunted – and spurred on by the prospect of a cup of tea – Dad sets out for the shop. What took him so long?? Well. An encounter with a Stegosaurus in a hot air balloon, a run-in with the intergalactic police and a foray into trans-temporal science may have had something to do with it. Or at least that’s what Dad tells his incredulous kids, having (allegedly) risked the universe to get back to them. Fortunately, he is still clutching the milk.

Mr Penguin and the Lost Treasure by Alex T. Smith

Convinced there’s more to life than sitting on a rock in the Frozen South, Mr Penguin sets himself up as an Adventurer and awaits his first assignment. He waits so long that when he finally receives a call, from the Museum of Extraordinary Objects, he falls straight off his chair and into the waste-paper basket. With slapstick humour aplenty, and more than a whiff of Indiana Jones, we join Mr Penguin on an action-packed quest to find a hoard of treasure and save the crumbling museum. We can’t remember life without Mr Penguin in our household!

Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss

From the inimitable Dr Seuss, this guide to life is inspirational. As its trademark rhythm trips off your tongue, Oh The Places You’ll Go invites you to slow down and ponder where your choices are taking you: ‘You can steer yourself/any direction you choose.’ It’s great to read with kids, sharing the excitement of where they might go in life – and helping to instil that kernel of self-belief, so crucial when plans do not turn out as hoped: ‘Because, sometimes, they won’t’. I challenge anyone not to have more spring in their step with the words ‘Kid, you’ll move mountains’ ringing in their ears. Equally apt for life’s biggest challenges and cosiest moments, this book is one in a million.

The Complete Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem

First published in 1980, the Brambly Hedge books (both written and illustrated by Jill Barklem) take readers on a journey of delightful scenes through each passing season. Gentle flowing language and intricate drawings bring to life the world of Mr and Mrs Apple, Wilfred, Teasel, Dusty Dogwood and Poppy Eyebright: a world in which there is acorn coffee and primrose puddings, high hill adventures and daring feats on the stream, and where there is always a celebration such as a mouse wedding, naming day, or winter ball. These books cast a magical spell over children and adults alike - I was six when I first discovered Brambly Hedge and I began to expect all tree roots to contain tiny painted doors and perfect little spiral staircases winding down into a mousey world!

​The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith

This is a truly beautiful book, cloth bound, thick quality paper full of rich colours with exquisite patterns and stunning illustrations. The story is a charming tale of a lonely fox searching for his friend Star; a short simple fable about being aware of our surroundings and keeping our eyes open to see what is there. This is a children’s book for all ages!

​Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson

This is possibly my favourite Moomins story, one which captures the wonderful spirit of this most eccentric and diverse of families. When philosopher Muskrat informs the Moomins that a comet may be about to hit the Earth, Moomintroll sets out on a journey to the Observatory in the Lonely Mountains to find out all about it. On realising the collision is due in only a few days Moomintroll heads home, travelling through a land which is becoming drier and darker as each day passes. However, true to form, Moomintroll and his companions Snufkin and the Snork Maiden stoically press on, even finding some joy and cheer on the way, in typical charming, life enhancing Moomin fashion.

​Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat by Ursula Moray Williams

Gobbolino was born a witch’s kitten – but everyone knows that witch’s cats don’t have white paws or blue eyes. And besides, Gobbolino wants nothing more than to be an ordinary kitchen cat. So he leaves the witch’s cavern and sets out on a trail of adventures to find a warm and loving kitchen. Will he find his forever home? A heart-warming classic about fitting in and being who you want to be, the short chapters also make this the perfect book to introduce children to reading by themselves.

​Stories for Boys who Dare to be Different by Ben Brooks

This book was given as a gift to my son; and together we have taken great pleasure in dipping into it. Ben Brooks is one of many contemporary authors who have created a new wave of books that can happily sit alongside and compliment all of those empowering books aimed at girls. Each man’s journey past or present is told in a delightfully short chapter celebrating their positive achievements and contributions to the world, on all sorts of levels…science, sport, medicine, politics, art, music, cooking, literature…. The bold, zany illustrations by Quinton Winter jump off the page and give the book a cult classic feel. Definitely one for all, regardless of age or gender.

​Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls - Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo

This utterly unique book offers a new type of fairy tale for modern girls. In 100 bedtime stories, real women inspire girls to explore, learn, and dream with courage and determination. From Queen Elizabeth I to Maria Sibylla Merian, a 17th-century naturalist; from Serena Williams to Yusra Mardini, a Syrian refugee training for the 2016 Olympics; this Kickstarter project has become essential, empowering reading for girls (and boys) of all ages. And it features the gorgeous illustrations of 60 female artists from across the globe. It is absorbing, engaging and an absolute treat!

Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

This is a fun and creative story about a young boy embarking on an adventure. After his exploring obsessed parents go missing, he becomes embroiled in a contest to rule the seas. A tale of courage and friendship told not only through Philip Reeve’s fantastically imaginative storytelling but also by Sarah McIntyre’s entertaining illustrations.

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