Must Read 2019

40 of the best new fiction titles for your primary school Library, aimed at years 5 and 6.
The Must Read Book list is one of our annual selections of the best fiction for primary schools chosen by librarians from the Schools Library Service and primary and secondary schools, and is a suggested list to buy for your school library.

For fiction for years 3 and 4, take a look at our Takeoff! booklist.

The book list represents a selection of the best new fiction first published in paperback within the last year, and aims to cover as diverse a range of subjects, genres, authors and interests as possible.

Titles from the 2018 Teen and Primary lists will be chosen for the Tower Hamlets Book Award short list in July. Don’t forget to register for this event!

A set of posters and bookmarks for the book list will be sent to all subscribing primary schools.

Please contact the library for any further information about the book list.

To request additional posters/ bookmarks email (subject to availability)

View the list of 40 books

Anderson, Sophie

The house with chicken legs

Orphan Marinka does not want to follow tradition and become a Yaga, whose only friends are the dead who depend on the Yaga to guide them back to the stars from whence they came.   But when Marinka learns a devastating truth about herself and at the same time, her beloved Baba (grandmother) disappears, her life changes forever.

Bell, Peter Gwilym; Sorrentino, Flavia

The train to impossible places : a cursed delivery

Disturbed by a noise in the middle of the night, Suzy wakes to find that someone’s run a railway track through her house. When the train arrives, she finds herself whisked away to work for an interdimensional post office…

Brown, Peter

The wild robot

Robot Roz finds herself alone on a remote island, with only animals for company.  She has no idea how she got there, but in her programming is knowledge of what she ought to need to survive.  But then her programming was not designed for dealing with storms and vicious, unwelcoming animals….

Burnell, Cerrie

The girl with the shark’s teeth

Minnow has grown up on a boat and is closer to the sea than to the land. When her mother is taken from her, protecting her for reasons she doesn’t understand, her journey takes her to the enchanted ocean of the Wild Deep.

Cameron, Neill

Mega Robo revenge

The Mega Robo Bros return to battle not only with a rogue robot intent on destroying the world, but with school rules on wearing the colour pink, and which school football team they’re allowed to play on.

Carroll, Emma

Secrets of a sun king

The mysterious death of a Professor of Middle Eastern art, connected with her own grandfather, sparks the journey of a lifetime for Lilian. She must return the priceless and secret remains of Tutankhamen to his true tomb and try to release her grandfather from their suspected curse .

Cooper, Helen

The hippo at the end of the hall

Visiting the local museum of curiosities, Ben finds out that its existence is under threat from a property tycoon and rival museum, but he is also shocked to discover that the exhibits at the museum can speak!  The magical world of the Museum become entwined with reality as Ben and his mum cope with grief and financial worries.

Cotterill, Jo


Angelica (Jelly) is the class joker, but her Mum’s new boyfriend realises that this is all an act, and that she’s hiding something behind the comedy. But can she risk showing her real feelings to the world?

Doyle, Catherine

The storm keeper’s island

There is power in the Island – both Fionn and Tara can feel it.  Tara is determined to find the sea cave, a secret place reputed to grant one wish per generation.  Fionn would use the wish to find his father, lost at sea, and save his mother from depression, but will Tara throw it away on a temporary crush?

Durant, Alan


Dak wants to get away from everybody asking him how he is after his dad dies from a heart attack. He heads for the local aquarium, his Dad’s favourite place, and to his amazement, finds his dad there – alive and well, and a clownfish!

Durrant, S. E.; Biddulph, Rob

Running on empty

AJ’s parents both have learning difficulties. His Grandfather helped out with things like bills, money for the electricity meter and parents evening. But after he dies, AJ has to take on a lot more responsibilities and his ambition to be a runner suffers.

Edge, Christopher

The infinite lives of Maisie Day

Maisie Day is a ten-year-old genius who wakes on her birthday, alone, the universe collapsing around her. How can this be connected to her older sister? And is she running out of time, or does she have all the time there is?

Ellis, Deborah

The breadwinner (graphic novel)

Eleven-year-old Parvana lives with her family in one room of a bombed-out apartment building in Kabul,. Parvana’s father is arrested for the crime of having a foreign education. Forbidden to earn money as a girl, Parvana must transform herself into a boy, and become the breadwinner.

Elson, Jane

Will you catch me?

Animal lover Nell finds it hard looking after her pet menagerie when she has to look after her mum as well. Things would be a lot easier if she had a dad, especially when she’s getting bullied. But will Nell’s grand plan to find her dad work in time?

Fischel, Emma


When his divorced mum and dag build walls to divide his home into two houses, Ned is driven by fury to barge through them as if they are not there.  This magical ability to “wallboggle” is a way to vent his anger, but can he use his new power to positive ends as well?

Fisher, Catherine

The clockwork crow

Seren didn’t want to look after the newspaper parcel left with her by a stranger when she was on her way to a new life in Wales, but the contents – a clockwork crow that she has to piece together – proves very handy when embarking on a perilous journey to the enchanted snow world of “Them” to bring happiness back to her new family.

Forrest, Juliette


A witch, a necklace, a rainstorm, a river – and the terrible White Eye wants it all. Follow courageous rebel Twister as she tries to find her Pa and escape White Eye’s clutches.

Gino, Alex


George really really REALLY wants to play Charlotte in the “Charlotte’s Web” but no one will even consider her, because, after all, she’s a boy, isn’t she?  But George knows that she is not a boy.  She knows that she is a girl, and together with her best friend Kelly, she comes up with a plan to not only get to play Charlotte, but to let everyone know once and for all who she really is.

Green, Julia

To the edge of the world

Jamie loves the wild beauty and remoteness of the island in the outer Hebrides where he lives.  The Island is also home to Mara, a wild spirit not much older than Jamie, whose ambition is to sail her boat to St Kilda, another island that really is on the edge of the world.  When she finally sets out, pretty well accidentally, Jamie goes too…

Harbour, Vanessa


Austria 1945. When a German officer finds the precious Lipizzanner stallions in their rural stable, Jakob and his guardian know they must get the horses to safety before Hitler sends his soldiers to steal them.  Joined by Kizzy, an orphan Roma girl, the three must guide the horses across the perilous Austrian mountains. Will they reach safety? What will be waiting for them on the other side?

Howe, Cath

Ella on the outside

Ella desperately wants to make friends with popular girl Lydia, she seems so kind and friendly. But why is it Ella never feels that confident around her, and why does Lydia want her to spy on shy and quiet Molly? Torn between having a best friend and spilling Molly’s big secret, which will Ella choose?

Jennings, Paul; Kelly, Geoff

A different boy

“The ship was a towering fortress looming over the pier. Anton stared enviously at the emigrants lining up in front of the wide gangplank. Heading off on a voyage to a land of peace and plenty. Leaving the land of broken buildings and crushed hopes behind… How he wished that he was one of the lucky ones.”  But life as a stowaway brings its own problems….  Also by Paul Jennings –  “A Different Dog”

Johnson, Catherine


Nathaniel doesn’t want to move to England with his master’s family and leave behind his mother and sister on the Jamaican plantation. But then he remembers what his mother told him: once a slave sets foot on English soil, they’re free…Also by Catherine Johnson,  Race to the Frozen North

Kenny, Pádraig


Christopher is ‘Proper’: a real boy with a real soul, orphaned in a fire. He works for an engineer, a maker of the eccentric, loyal and totally individual mechanicals who are Christopher’s best friends. But after a devastating accident, a secret is revealed and Christopher’s world is changed for ever. What follows is a remarkable adventure, as Christopher discovers who he really is, and what it means to be human …

Khan, Hena

Amina’s voice

Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” While Amina grapples with this she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized…

Lewis, Gill

The closest thing to flying

Semira is desperate for a friend. One who gets what it’s like to be lonely, to have a lot going on. When Semira finds a one hundred year old diary though written by a  girl called Hen, Semira finds the inspiration to be brave and uncover a few of the pieces that are missing in her own past.

MacDibble, Bren

How to bee

Peony lives with her sister and grandfather on a fruit farm outside the city. In a world where real bees are extinct, the quickest, bravest kids climb the fruit trees and pollinate the flowers by hand. Then Peony’s mother arrives to take her away from everything she has ever known…

McKay, Hilary

The skylarks’ war

Clarry and Peter love their summers in Cornwall, running free with their cousin, Rupert.  But the shadow of a terrible war looms ever closer and when Rupert goes off to fight at the front, Clarry feels their skylark summers are finally slipping away from them.

Nicholls, Sally; Helquist, Brett

A chase in time

Alex and Ruby fall through their aunt’s mirror into 1912 and find themselves in a scarily dangerous car, racing around catching criminals and having other exciting adventures.  Now they just need to find their way home….

O’Connell, David; Powell, Claire

The chocolate factory ghost

Archie knows his lucky underpants must really work, because when he is  summoned to Honeystone Hall in the Scottish village of Dundoodle, he finds he’s inherited not only the hall, but the world-famous McBudge Confectionery Company!

Pastore, Luize

Dog Town

All Jacob wants is for the rivers to swallow his city, Riga, and for a tall ship to sail down the street, right past his dining-room window … but now his wish has got him into big trouble. He meets the Boss, leader of the Dog Town pack and everything changes. They need Jacob to help them fight tooth and paw to save their home from the evil Skyler Scraper.

Peretti, Paola

The distance between me and the cherry tree

Mafalda is a nine-year-old girl who knows one thing: in the next six months she will be blind. Can Mafalda find a way through a seemingly dark future and still go to school, play football and look after her beloved cat? With the help of her family and her friends, Mafalda needs to discover the things that will be important to her when her sight has gone.

Rai, Bali

Now or never: a Dunkirk story

Private Fazal Khan, from India, is proud to be in the British Army in World War Two, but is that pride misplaced when his comrades turn on him during the frightening evacuation at Dunkirk

Rauf, Onjali Q.

The boy at the back of the class

There used to be an empty chair at the back of my class, but now a new boy, Ahmet, is sitting in it. He’s nine years old and very strange. He never talks, never smiles and doesn’t like sweets.


But then I learned the truth: He isn’t strange at all. He’s a refugee who’s run away from a War. With bombs and fires and bullets that hurt people. And the more I find out about him, the more I want to help.

Renner, Ellen

Storm witch

Is she a child of Air, Water, Earth or Fire? Now that she is thirteen, Storm must undertake The Choosing and be claimed by one of the Elementals which will determine her whole life’s work. But for Storm, daughter of a father murdered by Water and a warrior mother claimed by Earth, there will be no easy destiny.

Saunders, Kate

The land of neverendings

Emily’s bizarre interactions with world of Smockeroon help her to cope with the death of her disabled sister, Holly.  The doorway between Smockeroon and reality is broken, a black toad of despair has forced its way into the imaginary work spreading gloom and bereaved humans like Emily must take the lead in searching for the Sturvey, the authority that can establish order in the other world.

St. John, Lauren

Kat Wolfe investigates

When Kat starts pet-sitting for pocket money, she finds some dark and dangerous secrets in the town where she lives.  A pet owner vanishes from his clifftop mansion and so Kat turns to her new friend, Harper Lamb, for help. What began as mystery-solving holiday fun quickly turns deadly for Wolfe and Lamb. Can they count on their unruly animals to save their lives?

Torday, Piers

The lost magician

They have survived the Blitz, but when three children step through a mysterious library door, it is the beginning of their most dangerous adventure yet. They discover the magical world of Folio, where an enchanted kingdom of fairy knights, bears and tree gods is under threat from a sinister robot army.

Ventrella, Kim; Assanelli, Victoria

Skeleton tree

Twister’s father has gone missing and searching for him, she stumbles across a witch living in the woods. She is given a magical necklace that can turn the wearer into a wolf,  a rushing river or a rainstorm. But there’s a dark foe on the hunt for this necklace too.

Welford, Ross

The dog who saved the world

When eleven-year-old Georgie befriends an eccentric retired scientist, she becomes the test subject for a thrilling new experiment: a virtual-reality 3D version of the future.


But then a deadly disease threatens the life of every dog in the country – and that’s only the start of her troubles.



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