Posted by: Bill Lord | October 29, 2009

Top ten books

I am on holiday with my family and my parents in the beautiful Pembrokeshire village of Broad Haven.
The cottage is 100 metres from the beach and we are spending the majority of the time walking the dog on the sand and then relaxing reading and watching my children play a range of Nintendo DS and Wii games.
We all brought a huge amount of books with us and it is fascinating to see how the children appear to have the attitude this week that downtime is electronic and reading is for bed. I realise that two children are hardly representative of the population (particularly two who have access to a large number of books at home) but it did make me think about the recent survey of parents about their children’s gaming and reading preferences.

At the same time I have been doing a small amount of homework before breakfast each morning for some forthcoming Literacy Subject Leader conferences looking at books to fire children up in the Primary phase.
I have been asked to draw up a list of ten books of which every Subject Leader should be aware. It has taken me a long time to come up with a final list which, to be honest, could have been a top fifty. Ultimately I decided to go for books which seem to stand out at a time when, in the United Kingdom, we are in the middle of a golden period of children’s books.
The rules I gave myself for this were that the books had to be published in the last six years, they were not necessarily aimed at being taught in a sequence but will fire children up as readers and were books which would be as enjoyable for adults as children.

The authors who nearly made it into the list were Dav Pilkey, Mini Grey, Diana Wynne-Jones, Angie Sage, Eoin Colfer and Philip Pullman.

The books which made the list, in no particular order, are:
Hugo Cabret – David Selznick: One of the most original books I have seen recently with this historical novel told through image, photos and texts. The book references Georges Melies, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and the world of automata. A captivating book for 9+

Morris the Mankiest Monster – Giles Andrae and Sarah McIntyre: From the well known wordsmith and a fairly new illustrator on the block this tale of a charmingly foul young monster who takes time each morning to squeeze his boils and has grown potatoes in his pants will charm and amuse children of all ages. It needs little more description other than a recommendation to buy.

The Arrival – Shaun Tan: Tan’s fantasy tale of immigration has many images which will remind the adult reader of the arrival of migrants to 1930’s New York. Indeed there are many links which could be made to When Jessie travelled across the Sea. The story revolves around the central character, a father and husband, who travels ahead of his family to set up home and raise the finances to create a new life for them all in the new country. Surrounded by fantastic animals and scene he takes the reader through the bewilderment and fear felt by many migrants. Again, like so many Shaun Tan books the reader could spend a significant amount of time reader the end papers before entering the book.

Wolves – Emily Gravett: I could have chosen any of five books by Emily Gravett particularly the Rabbit Problem (which explores the Fibonacci theory). Wolves is a magical book which can be read out aloud to children as a non fiction text without sharing the pages whilst once the images are read the whole meaning changes. Whilst often given to infant aged children this book could appeal to older readers.

The London Eye Mystery – Siobhan Dowd: This novel narrated by Ted an autistic teenager who, with this older sister, tackles the puzzle of the apparently impossible disappearance of his cousin from a pod on the London Eye. A warmly told story which tries to explore the thought process of a teenager with a disorder without ridiculing or patronising.

My secret war diary – Marcia Williams: It is almost impossible to describe the wonder of this diary. It is of such quality that it really could be the true diary of Flossie Albright recounting her war years, as the daughter of a soldier fighting in France, whilst she lives on a large estate encountering rationing, evacuees, land girls and other key elements of World War 2. With photographs, captions, diagrams and illustrations the book is as powerful a non fiction tool for study of the period as an enchanting read.

Silverfin The graphic Novel – Charlie Higson and Kev Walker: The graphic novel version of the first book in the Young Bond series combines Higson’s excellent writing with the illustrations of Kev Walker who has made his name drawing for 2000AD and Warhammer comics. This book is one of a growing number of high quality graphic novel translations of well loved texts – Artemis Fowl, Alex Ryder – and should not be considered purely as a boy friendly text.

The Flower – John Light: I have referred to this book previously in this blog suggesting links with the Delivery and Varmints. It tells the story of one person going against the system to produce something of beauty. In this story Brigg is not immediately aware of what he is dealing with but the messages of acting on your instincts and not giving into apathy are strong no matter what the age of the reader.

Lost and Found – Oliver Jeffers: When a penguin turns at a boy’s door he takes him to the lost and found office but no-one is missing a penguin. The boy then rows with the penguin to the South Pole to take him home but the story does not end there. A beautiful and witty book from one of my favourite picture book authors of the moment.

Cloud Busting – Malorie Blackman: The oldest of the books in the list this book is told entirely in verse. It covers suspicion, bullying, friendship, jealousy and growing up. It provoked a huge amount of discussion, engagement, laughter and even tears with a class of Year 5 I recently taught.

Obviously I could have chosen many other books and would love to hear your top ten.


  1. […] of the wonderful books out there which are not being widely used. I have already posted a list of top ten books and will post a new list of great books later in the spring, Video conference presentation front […]

  2. […] A link from the great Devon Literacy team blog – Literacy Resources which is well worth a read […]

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