Must Read 2021

44 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 covers a diverse range of subjects, genres, authors and interests.

Titles from the 2021 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 2021 booklists will be delivered soon to subscribing schools

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

Click to view the books!
The Infinite Patience Agbabi Elle is a leapling, born on 29th February, so has a birthday every four years.  But some leaplings have a special gift – they can leap into the future.  When Elle finds she is one of these, she is excited about being able to travel to the future, but there are dark forces at work, and suddenly, she is in a race against time to save the world.
The Space We’re In Katya Balen Frank feels a whirlpool of emotions towards his younger brother Max, who is on the autistic spectrum, and resents the parental time that Max demands.  Just when it seems life couldn’t be more difficult for Frank, tragedy happens, and the whirlpool deepens.  Can Frank and his family through the most painful of times.
Wonderscape Jennifer Bell Three children find themselves trapped aboard The Principia – a scientific research ship sailing through hazardous waters, captained by Isaac Newton, after they investigate a mysterious explosion on their way to school.

Lost in the year 2473 in the Wonderscape, an epic in-reality adventure game, they must call on the help of some unlikely historical heroes, to play their way home before time runs out.

Tamarind & the Star of Ishta Jasbinder Bilan Tamarind never knew her Indian mum, Chinty, who died soon after she was born. So when she arrives at her ancestral home, a huge mansion in the Himalayas surrounded by luxuriant gardens, she’s full of questions for her extended family. But instead of answers, she finds an ominous silence.
Stars with Flaming Tails Valerie Bloom I traveled once around the world
On stars with flaming tails,
And touched the colors of my dreams
Along some silver trails.
Morgana Mage in the Robotic Age Amy Bond Morgana loves robots and longs to attend robotics school in the city. But when she finally finds a way, she learns of a troubling secret hiding beneath its gleaming surface: a secret that threatens the balance of civilisation. Caught between two worlds, only Morgana has the power to find a solution.
My brothers name is Jessica John Boyne Jason is Sam’s beloved older brother. He’s looked out for him from the moment of his premature birth, through his struggles with dyslexia and has always been his hero. Their bond is especially important because their parents are ambitious politicians, totally focussed on their work and with little time for their teenage boys.

When Jason sits the family down to tell them his ‘secret’ everything goes into freefall for Sam.

The Restless Girls Jessie Burton For her twelve daughters, Queen Laurelia’s death is a disaster beyond losing a mother. Their father cannot bear the idea of the princesses ever being in danger and decides his daughters must be kept safe at all costs. But the eldest still has one possession her father can’t take: the power of her imagination. A feminist retelling of a classic fairytale.
Freddy Vs School Neil Cameron Okay humans, listen up! My name is FREDDY. I live with my Mum and Dad. I go to school. Oh yeah, the MAIN thing: I am an AWESOME ROBOT! With awesome robotic SUPERPOWERS! But I’m hardly ever allowed to USE them, and definitely not at SCHOOL. Which is going to be a PROBLEM…
Zombierella: Fairy Tales Gone Bad Joseph Coelho A yellow moon hangs in a satin sky the night Cinderella, barefoot and in hand-me-downs, slips at the top of the stairs … and dies. But not for long. Cinderella goes forth as Zombierella. With her skin as cold as ice, can she seek revenge on her three cruel, fake sisters, once and for all?
Stick Boy Paul Coomey When you’re drawn with a round white head and a stick body which can fall apart and be put back together again, it’s hard to fit it.  Stick boy is at his third school in three years and it’s still hard to make friends.  But when he uncovers a plot involving an evil ICT teacher, hacking computers and the opening event of The New Mega Mall, he must work with Gretchen and Sam to prove to unsuspecting families that their new HOMEBOT is part of a sinister plot plan to rule their lives.
Boy Everywhere A M Dassu Sami and his family travel from privilege to poverty, across countries and continents, from a comfortable life in Damascus, via a smuggler’s den in Turkey, to a prison in Manchester. A story of survival, of family, and of bravery.
The Soup Movement Ben Davis Jordan promises his very good friend he would do an act of kindness whenever he could and help change the world. Was that really why he gave up his mum’s wholesome soup to a homeless man? In any case, that one small gesture became life changing, and helped Jordan adjust to a world without Rio.
Undercover Robot: My First Year as a Human David Edmonds Year 7 is tough enough without having to pretend you’re a human, but that’s exactly what Dotty has to do. Only she now also has to worry about a boy in her class outing her in order to win a reward…
Vi Spy: Licence to Chill Maz Evans Vi has an unusual family – her mother is ex-secret service and her father is one of the bad guys – so there’s plenty of secrets to be uncovered, and supervillains to defeat.
The Boy Who Met a Whale Nizrana Farook Set in Sri Lanka, Razi, a fisherboy, meets Zheng, who’s escaped a shipwreck and is full of tales of sea monsters and missing treasure. But the villains who are after Zheng are soon after Razi and his sister, Shifa, too.
Darwin’s Dragons Lindsay Galvin Syms Covington has landed the job of a lifetime – cabin boy on Charles Darwin’s Beagle – but when he is separated from the crew during a storm, his life takes a truly extraordinary turn.  Shipwrecked on a Galapagos island, he makes a discovery that could change the world – and make his fortune. But should he share his find, or will it lead to the extinction of a legendary species?
When life gives you mangoes Getten Life in rural Jamaica seems idyllic but Clara is trouble by an unmentionable event last summer. Old friend Gaynah is acting mean towards her, quirky new friend Rudy friend is causing ripples all round, but it takes a big storm to reveal secrets and clear the air.  A multi-layered story about community with an amazing twist.
Twisted threads of polly freeman Pippa Goodhart A moving tale of hard times in the 1830s. Polly and her Great Aunt Jem scratch a living by their sewing and mending but when their landlady throws them out on the street they end up in a workhouse in St Pancras.

Visions of Oliver Twist ensue with grey, sloppy gruel and hard, unpaid work until Polly befriends Min and together they are sold as apprentices to a Manchester cotton mill.

Proud of Me Sarah Hagger-Holt Not quite’ twins Becky and Josh take turns to tell this two mums family story from different angles.  Both are born through donor donation and Josh is desparate to find his so called real dad.  Beth is not bothered. She’s too busy with teenage angst – so confused about her feelings for sassy new girl in her school!  Will they be able to sort out their feelings and learn to accept who they are?
When stars are scattered Victoria Jamieson Omar and his younger brother, Hassan, have spent most of their young lives in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya. Life is hard there: never enough food, achingly dull, and without access to the medical care that Omar’s non-verbal brother needs.  But it’s better than their life in Somalia. Heartbreak, hope, and the joy of friendship come together in this graphic novel about day-to-day life in the biggest refugee camp in the world
Queen of Freedom Catherine Johnson 1720 in Jamaica, a group of ex-slaves – Maroons – buildthemselves a town but need the wisdom and tactical skills of Nanny to ensure their freedom from the English Redcoats who are determined to wipe them out.  Based on a true story.
More to the Story Hena Khan When Jameela Mirza is picked to be feature editor of her middle school newspaper, she’s one step closer to being an award-winning journalist like her late grandfather. The problem is her editor-in-chief keeps shooting down her ideas. ~Inspired by Louisa May Alcott’s ‘Little Women’, featuring four sisters from a modern American Muslim family living in Georgia.
The Strangeworlds Travel Agency L.D. Lapinski The Strangeworlds Travel Agency is not like any travel agency you might have encountered before. It stores hundreds of suitcases which are the gateways to different, magical worlds where Flick and Jonathan are led on a series of adventures and a quest to rescue a world struggling to survive in the magical multiverse.  Along the way, they are also desperate to find out what has happened to Jonathan’s Dad…..
Evernight Ross Mackenzie Thousands of years ago, the Evernight came to the Silver Kingdom and turned everything to darkness and chaos. It was only defeated thanks to the skill and bravery of the Witches. But now the Evernight is about to return…
The Beast and the Bethany Jack Meggitt-Phillips Ebenezer Tweezer is  511-year-old. He keeps a beast in the attic of his mansion, who he feeds all manner of things and in return the beast vomits out presents for Ebenezer, as well as potions which keep him young and beautiful. But the beast grows ever greedier, and soon only a nice, juicy child will do.
Planet Omar: increditble rescue mission Zanib Mian When Omar and his friends come back after the school holidays, their lovely teacher seems to have been replaced by somebody much more grumpy. Overhearing other teachers talking about her, Omar decides something terrible has happened. Could she possibly have been abducted by aliens?!
Children of the Benin Kingdom Dinah Orji Papa Eze found Ada as a baby in the forest, and brought her up as his own.  Sh;es always known this, but now she is 12, it is time for him to tell her the whole truth about where she is from – a truth that sends her on a journey deep into the rainforest to the ancient Edo kingdom of Benin.
Where The World Turns Wild Nicola Penfold Juniper and her brother live in a walled city from which nature has been banished, following the outbreak of a deadly man-made disease many years earlier. When scientists discover that they hold the key to fighting the disease, the pair must flee for their lives. As they journey into the unknown, they soon learn that there’s cruelty in nature as well as beauty.
Lightfall: the Girl and the Galdurian Tim Probert Bea’s grandpa goes missing (he’s a Pig Wizard by the way) on a mysterious trip and worse still he’s left the Jar of Eternal Flame behind him! Concerned for his safety, Bea teams up with Galdurian Cad to search for her Pig Wizard Grandpa and, since they’re searching, the rest of the vanished Galdurian people. However, eternal darkness is stirring…
Swordswoman Devika Rangachari It’s 1854 , the British are taking over India and they refuse to recognise Queen Lakshmibai’s’s adopted son as rightful heir to the Jhansi kingdom.   The queen is determined to save her kingdom for her son and, using her skill and teactical expertise, sets about training are army of both men and women to fight for their rights.  But will they be strong enough to defeat the British?
The Forest of Moon and Sword Amy Raphael Twelve-year-old Art lives in a small village in Scotland. Her mother has always made potions that cure the sick, but now the townspeople say she is a witch. One cloudless night, Art’s mother is arrested and taken to England. Art mounts her horse, taking a sword, a tightrope, and a herbal recipe book, and begins a journey through wild forests, using nature’s signs and symbols to guide her.
The Night Bus Hero Onjali Rouf Hector is always in detention; his family are in despair and Hector just keeps getting nastier each day. Until he goes too far and picks on a homeless man. That starts a chain of events involving thefts from famous London landmarks (all along the N15 night bus route) and a daring finale at St Paul’s Cathedral.
The Good Thieves Katherine Rundell Do two wrongs make a right?  Is stealing OK if you are only stealing back what is rightly yours? Vita’s beloved grandfather Jack has been cheated out of his home and possessions by a notorious conman with Mafia connections and Vita is determined to get it back for him.
The Boy Who Made Everyone Laugh Helen Rutter Billy is good at making lists, but most of his lists are about how to get rid of his stutter -which he absolutely must do if he is to follow his dream to become the world’s funniest stand-up comedian
The Boy who fooled the world Thompson Cole’s family are always struggling for money, and kids at school laugh at him for his old clothes and old trainers, but when his Mum is made redundant from her job at the art museum, things get worse.  To save the museum, and Mum’s job, Cole must solve the puzzle of the museum’s most famous painting
The Phoenix Colossal Comics Collection : Race to adventure Various A bumper comic book full of the laugh-out-loud humour, thrilling adventure and general awesome from the Phoenix. Race across the country with the fastest girl in the land; follow the misadventures of a beefy barbarian chef; embark on a crazy odyssey through Ancient Greece alongside its hapless hero, and more!
The Prince and the dressmaker Jen Wang Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride–or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia–the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!
How to Be a Hero Cat Weldon When trainee valkyrie Lotta mistakes an unconscious thief, Whetstone, for a fallen hero and takes him triumphantly to Valhalla, things are definitely not turning out to be epic or glorious. But things really start to go wrong when Loki gets involved with a plan to unleash chaos across the nine worlds. Can Whetstone prove himself a hero after all?
Turtle boy M Evan Wolkenstein Will is learning that life is too short to live in a shell. Kids at school call Will Turtle Boy because of his funny-looking chin. But when Will meets RJ – suffering from an incurable disease – he learns not everyone is his enemy. RJ has a bucket list of adventures which extends way beyond his hospital room, and he needs help ticking them off.
Vote For Effie Laura Wood The fact that she is new at the school, not made many friends yet and the current junior class preseident is the mos popular boy in school does not put Efie off running for high office.  The injustices – there’s no girl’s football team, no recycling system and the school doesn’t have a librarian – are so great, SOMETHING needs to be done.
Roxy and Jones: the great fairytale coverup Angela Woolfe Once Upon a Modern Time, in the city of Rexopolis, in the Kingdom of Illustria, lived twelve-year-old Roxy Humperdinck, half-sister to Hansel and Gretel (not that she knows it). Now Roxy’s about to discover the truth about her world and her family: that witches are real, magic is real and fairy tales are not only real … but recent history.
Time School Nikki young When you’re running late for school, then you find your usual train has turned into an old steam train, you know it’s not going to be a normal day. And today, Jess, Nadia, Tomma and Ash find themselves spending the day at Hickley School. One hundred years in the past.
The Creature Keeper Damaris Young Cora just knows she’s the right person for the job of creature keeper at the mysterious Direspire Hall, and she has a knack with all the strange and magical creatures kept there. But there’s one stranger than all the others and someone wants it….

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