Must Read 2020

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 a diverse arange of subjects, genres, authors and interests.

Titles from the 2020 Teen and Primary lists will be chosen for the Tower Hamlets Book Award short list. Don’t forget to register for this event!

Posters and Bookmarks for the 2020 booklists will be delivered a little later than normal this year – look out for them from September.

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

Click here to see the full list
Title Author Notes
The Girl Who Speaks Bear Sophie Anderson Fairy tales ancient and modern weave in and out of this entrancing story of Yanka, the girl who as a baby was cared for by a bear.  Struggling with acceptance in her village as she grows up, Yanka must leave and journey through the forest full of dangers as well as extraordinary friends to the find the answer of who she really is.
Asha & the Spirit Bird Jasbinder Bilan Asha leaves home in the foothills of the Himalayas to save her family after her father disappears and her mother is threatened by a cruel money lender. With help from her friend Jeevan and Nanijee, the spirit bird of her grandmother, she crosses mountains and faces many dangers including child exploitation. An exciting and uplifting story.
No Ballet Shoes in Syria Catherine Bruton Aya’s dreams and love of ballet help her through heartrending situations. She, her mother and baby Moosa seek asylum in the UK after leaving her father behind in war torn Syria. A chance friendship enables her to attend a ballet class and her talent is recognised but will she find a new home in this challenging place?
A Pocketful of Stars Aisha Bushby A magical story which begins with clashes between Safiya and her mum. But when mum falls ill, to save her Safiya is transported to Kuwait, mum’s childhood home, and she needs to use all her gaming skills to overcome dangers and rescue their relationship.
Orion Lost Alastair Chisholm Fast paced science fiction. Space craft Orion is taken over by outside forces and only children are left awake and able to take control. Beth has to learn who or what to trust – the other children, the Artificial Intelligence system, or her own judgement – to save the ship and all aboard.
What’s That in Dog Years? Ben Davis George’s beloved dog Gizmo is fourteen and won’t be around for much longer and George is helping him fulfil his bucket list, leading them into many adventures.  A loving, humorous read.
Fire Girl Forest Boy Chloe Daykin An intense and exciting adventure in Peru. Maya from Scotland and Raul from the cloud forest alternately tell the story of environmental destruction, family pain, and rescue from the clutches of a logging company, with more than a splash of magical realism.
Captain Rosalie Timothée de Fombelle Beautifully illustrated and poignant story told by five-year-old Rosalie living in hardship with her mother during World War One. Her father is away fighting and writes loving letters home. Rosalie is inspired to go on her own secret mission, but its revelation tells her, and us, more about grief and love than hard facts ever can.
Talking to the Moon S E Durrant Iris loves living with her grandma and away from her noisy family, but grandma sometimes puts clothes on inside out, and her memories are fading away.  Who is Coral, the girl in the old photo?  Can Iris find her and bring comfort to her grandma? A tender and uplifting story.
The Longest Night of Charlie Noon Christopher Edge Charlie, Dizzy and Johnny are determined to find out what lies in the heart of the wood, but as night falls, they become lost and time begins to twist around them. Charlie begins to fear for the future as they wonder whether this night in the forest is all that there is and ever will be…
The Girl Who Stole an Elephant Nizrana Farook Chaya is a rebellious child. Daughter to the headman of her village in Sri Lanka, she feels perfectly justified to take from the rich to help those in need. Except one day she goes too far and steals the Queen’s jewels, unwittingly putting her village in danger – leading to an escape into the jungle with her friends. And the King’s elephant.
To Night Owl From Dogfish Holly Goldberg-Sloan Avery’s very close to his Dad – it’s been the two of them his whole life, they’re best friends and tell each other everything. So he’s quite surprised when a stranger – Bett – sends him an email claiming that their fathers are now a couple.
The House of Light Julia Green Nothing in the world is normal any more. There are poisonous dangers to be found on the seashore but Bonnie and Granda make their living there and risk discovery by the guards. When Bonnie finds a boat and a barefoot boy she knows she must act to change her world for the better.
Nothing Ever Happens Here Sarah Hagger-Holt Izzy lives in Littlehaven where nothing ever happens. The most exciting thing is the upcoming auditions for the school production of ‘Guys and Dolls’ – until her dad breaks the news that he’s transitioning to become a woman and suddenly the spotlight is on Izzy’s family…
The Cosmic Atlas of Alfie Fleet Martin Howard Meet Alfie Fleet. In this book, we’ll be travelling to the ends of the universe with him. On the way we’ll encounter brains-in-jars, twang bears, giant sand lobsters and other things that are not quite so wonderful.
The Unexpected Find Toby Ibbotson William is different, and people don’t really like that. Judy is difficult, and people don’t like that either. So when they become friends, it’s unexpected. And everything that comes next is unexpected – teaming up with eccentric Mr Balderson and his campervan, the search for Judy’s father, the journey to Sweden, the crash, the fight and the fact that, somehow, William’s unexpected find turns out to be useful in the most truly unexpected way
White Fox Chen Jiatong Dilah the white fox wants more than anything to be human and embarks on a quest guided by a magical moonstone. This is an exciting tale of animal transformation.  If it could happen the other way round, what animal would you like to be?
Pog Pádraig Kenny There’s something powerfully strange in the woods, and Pog, a brave furry creature who acts as guardian, needs the help of David and Penny to overcome the evil unleashed.  The children are battling with their own troubles, the loss of their mother and their grief stricken father, and must find strength to win trials both fantastic and real.
Small Mercies Bridget Krone Mercy lives with two eccentric but loving foster aunts in a crumbling house in South Africa.  Family life and school life can be a challenge, and then a housing developer threatens to make things really fall apart. What Mercy needs is a miracle…
Pie in the Sky Remy Lai When his family move to Australia, Jingwen struggles to fit in, and his pesky younger brother doesn’t help either. Fun illustrations throughout make this book about baking, broken hearts and family love hugely entertaining.
A House Without Walls Elizabeth Laird The Syrian war brings hardship to 13-year-old Safiya and her family. They flee to Jordan and have to live in a tent near relatives and Safiya is forced to stop school to look after everyone. All her dreams are endangered including the longed-for reunion with her lost twin, but will hope see her through?
The Faraway Truth Janae Marks Do innocent people end up in prison? Really?

Zoe’s never asked herself this question until a letter arrives from her father on her twelfth birthday. She’s never met her father. He was sent to prison before she was born. Her mum always said he was dangerous but he seems… nice.

The Land of Roar Jenny McLachlan When twins Arthur and Rose were little they were heroes in Roar, their imaginary world which was filled with the things they loved – dragons, mermaids, ninja wizards – as well as the things that scared them the most. Now they are eleven, Roar is almost forgotten until strange things start to happen…maybe, just maybe, Roar is real?
Planet Omar: Unexpected Super Spy Zanib Mian Omar is a lively and imaginative boy who goes into action to save the local mosque when it is threatened with closure. The story teems with characters, including the world’s grumpiest sister, not to mention a money-making scheme, a talent contest, a secret thief…and loads of cookies.
Nevertell Katharine Orton “Imagining tends to give people inconvenient ideas, and those in power don’t like being inconvenienced.” Lina has ideas – she wants to see beyond the prison camp that has been her life for eleven years. One night she escapes across the snowy Russian wilderness but finds herself pursued by a sorceress and her wolves…
Anna at War Helen Peters It’s 1939 and Jewish refugee Anna arrives in Kent on one of the last kindertransport trains to leave Germany.  Life with a foster family in England is not easy for Anna – local people are suspicious and don’t trust anyone or anything German, so when it looks like there is a spy in their midst, Anna must be brave and devises dangerous plan to prove her loyalty.
Way of the Waves Janina Ramirez Viking girl Alva has stowed away, crossing the North Sea on a longship. There’s no turning back for this shield maiden – exploring new lands, solving mysteries and – she hopes – finding her father.
Empire’s End: A Roman Story Leila Rashid The Roman Empire 207 AD – Camilla’s family are called to the Emperor’s side from their home in North Africa, but instead of Rome, Camilla’s family are sent to the furthest corner of the Empire, Britannica. After a traumatic journey, tragedy strikes and Camilla finds herself alone, navigating life in a cold and dangerous land at the mercy of a capricious Empress.  Based on a true story, we see that Roman Britain was a cultural ‘melting pot’ with a mix of ethnicities and religions at all levels of society.
Demelza & the Spectre Detectors Holly Rivers Demelza is an inventor. She believes that everything in the universe can be explained by science and numbers and that there definitely isn’t such a thing as life after death and ghosts.

On the other hand, she has no rational explanation for what just happened in the greenhouse…

Spylark Danny Rurlander Tom has struggled to walk since the accident. His drone – Skylark – gives him the freedom he craves, exploring his world from above. But he finds more than freedom when he stumbles on a terrorist plot.
Lampie: a seaswept fairytale adventure Annet Scaaf A lighthouse light not lit, a ship wrecked on the rocks, a drunken father – Lampie must leave her lighthouse home and work as a maid at the Admiral’s house – a dark foreboding place with rumours of a monster up in the tower.   But what Lampie discovers is not a monster….  An enthralling adventure that defends everyone’s right to be different.
The Paninis of Pompeii Andy Stanton In Roman times there lived a fat merchant called Caecilius Maximus Panini. He was so fat he looked like a large football with a face on top, and this is what the name ‘Caecilius’ means: large football with a face on top.
Extraordinary Birds Sandy Stark-McGinnis December knows all about getting kicked out of foster homes. And birds.  All she wants is to fly away, but when she’s placed with Eleanor, her new foster mum, she wonders if she’s found somewhere she belongs.
Malamander Thomas Taylor This visit to Eerie-on-sea isn’t your normal English seaside holiday. Not just because it’s the middle of a bitterly cold winter, but because it’s quite likely that there’s a fish-man monster lurking in that shipwreck. And just what are the mysterious Violet Parma and Sebastian Eels up to?
Some Places More Than Others Renée Watson Amara visits Harlem, New York, for the first time to see where her Dad grew up, and discover not just her roots but also the importance of place and family. Thoughtful and emotionally engaging.
Cloud Boy Marcia Williams Harry and Angie are as close friends as could be, and explore lots of interests together including their love of clouds. When Harry develops a serious illness their reliance on each other starts to deepen. Written as a diary by Angie this is a life affirming story dealing with the hardest of issues.
The Girl with Space in Her Heart Lara Williamson Mabel has a lot of worries – why has her father left home?  Why does her older sister hate her Mum’s new boyfriend so much?  At school, why is Dolly Rose so prickly and angry?  Mabel packs all her worries in a suitcase that is getting so full that it is going to explode – is there anyone who can pick up the pieces?  A funny but sensitive exploration of mental health.
Gorebrah: Mightiest Chef in the Universe James Stayte He’s tough, he’s a barbarian…

And he’s out to save the world with the most amazing cooking known to humans or monsters! Hilarious comic adventures to be taken with a pinch of salt or your choice of table sauces.

The Way Past Winter Karen Millwood Hargraves It has been winter for five years, and when older brother Oskar is lured away by the same evil force that took their father away, Mila and her sisters decide to follow his trail to the frozen north, find a way past winter and bring their brother home
Children Who Changed the World: Incredible true Stories About Children’s Rights! Marcia Williams Marking 30 years since the Convention on the Rights of the Child was signed by the United Nations General Assembly, discover the incredible true stories of child activists around the world. Important issues, such as the right to a safe place to live, the right to education and the right to protection from harm, are explained and explored through the stories of children who have stood up for them.


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