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 2023 Teen and Primary lists will be chosen for the Tower Hamlets Book Award short list. Don’t forget to register for this event!
Posters for the 2023 booklists will be delivered to subscribing schools
Please contact the library for any further information about the book list.
|Rosie Raja Churchill’s spy||Sufiya Ahmed||1941. Rosina is of English-Indian heritage and has always lived in India. Orced to move to England, life changes when she discovers that her father is actually a spy for the British government.|
|Little Badman and the rise of the punjabi zombies||Umza Arshad & Henry White||Humza Khan – aka Little Badman, might have finally met his match. He’s already been out rap-battled by the school bully, laughed at by his classmates. And now and ancient magical orb is causing havoc…|
|The Secret of Haven Point||Lisette Auton||Alpha was the first wreckling in Haven point, home for any disabled person needing somewhere to belong. But their haven is under threat from outsiders on the hunt for their mermaid allies…|
|Some Sunny Day||Adam Baron||Cymbeline Igloo is BORED. Bored of home learning, bored of lockdown. To make things even worse, his mum gave away his favourite football shirt. When events bring the reality of the pandemic close to him, he doesn’t realise that it’s the beginning of something incredible and even dangerous.|
|Explorers at Stardust City||Alex Bell||Ursula and her friends are in a race against time. The Collector is snatching up all the beautiful places of the world in her snow globe prisons. She needs to be stopped, but first they must find her. To aid them in their quest, the explorers seek help from new allies, including a Pirate Queen, with a ghost ship that can defy time and space, and then take to the skies in a galaxy fairy rocket.|
|Peanut Jones and the illustrated City||Rob Biddulph||Drawing feels like magic to Peanut Jones. But art can’t fix her problems. Her dad has gone missing, and she’s stuck in a boring new school. Until the day she finds a unique pencil turbo-charged with special powers.|
|Future Hero : Race to Fire Mountain||Remi Blackwood||When Jarell discovers that the fantasy world he is obsessed with doodling is actually real, he is launched into an incredible adventure.
Ulfrika, the land of his ancestors, is in trouble and he is the hero they need. With the help of wise-cracking Kimisi, Jarell must stop the evil Ikala.
|The Clockwork Queen||Peter Bunzl||Chess prodigy Sophie Peshka inherited her love of the game from her grandmaster father. But now that he has been imprisoned in the dungeons of the Winter Palace by Empress Catherine the Great, Sophie must use all her strategic skill and cunning to help him escape.|
|Keep Dancing, Lizzie Chu||Maisie Chan||12-year-old Lizzie lives in Glasgow with her grandad and he’s been acting a little strange lately. He is becoming forgetful, and spends a lot of time talking to his statue of Guan Yin – the Chinese goddess of compassion, kindness and mercy. Lizzie is worried but doesn’t really know what to do to help him. She’s already got a lot on her plate with caring for him.|
|The Beatrice Prophecy||Kate DiCamillo||In a time of war, a mysterious child appears at the monastery. As a monk nurses Beatryce to health, he uncovers her dangerous secret, one that imperils them all – for the king of the land seeks just such a girl, and Brother Edik, who penned the prophecy himself, knows why.|
|Frankie’s World (graphic novel)||Aoife Dooley||Frankie knows she’s not like anyone else in her class: she’s different, but she can’t quite figure out why. Is it the new freckle on her nose, or the fact she’s small for her age?
Everyone else seems to think she’s weird too, and they make fun of her at school. Frankie’s dad left when she was a baby – maybe he was different too? A graphic novel offering a unique perspective on autism
|The book of stolen dreams||David Farr||Rachel and Robert live a grey, dreary life under the rule of cruel Charles Malstain. But when their librarian father enlists their help to steal a forbidden book, they are plunged into adventure. With their father captured, it is up to Rachel and Robert to uncover the secrets of the Book of Stolen Dreams and track down its mysteriously missing final page in order to save him.|
|Rules for Vampires||Alex Foulkes||There are highs and lows to being a vampire. On one claw, you get cool powers like beastly strength and hypnotism and the ability to GRIMWALK. On the other claw, however, vampires are bound by the Vampiric Laws: rules to protect the balance between the worlds of the Living and the Undead. And unfortunately, 11-year-old Leo has just forgotten rule number one . . .|
|If you read this||Kereen Getten||When Brie was young, her mama would surprise her with treasure hunts around their town. After she died, these became Brie’s favourite memories.
Now on her twelfth birthday, is another surprise: a series of letters leading Brie on one last treasure hunt.
|Cookie and the Most Mysterious Mystery in the World||Connie Huq||Hurray, Cookie’s Nani is coming to stay from Bangladesh! But she doesn’t speak English and Cookie is the only one in the family who doesn’t speak Bengali. Luckily, science-mad Cookie realises that her coding lessons at school might help her crack the language code and help her bond with Nani.
Some mysteries are hard to solve, like, why is Jake’s mum acting so weird? Who is the mystery gamer who keeps levelling-up in Cookie’s computer game? And who is the Woodburn Hacker, who keeps posting teachers’ secrets on the school website? Why does it look like it might be Cookie herself?
|Dastardly Duo||Burhana Islam||Yusuf has messed up big time… AGAIN. He needs to defend his family’s honour.
What better way to do that than by running for class president?
Expect more chaotic mishaps, more mayhem, and even more laughter!
|The Good Turn||Sharna Jackson||Josephine Williams is definitely a leader – and is looking for more challenging tasks. She enlists her friends into her own Scout troop. Together they start their quest for their camping badge by sleeping out near to the abandoned factory behind their houses. But that night they stumble across something strange…|
|Nura and the Immortal Palace||M.T. Khan||Nura has worked all her life in the mica mines, earning just enough to keep her family afloat – and enjoy the odd delicious gulab jamun from the market. Some day she’s going to find the Demon’s Tongue, a legendary treasure buried deep in the mines, and her family will never have to worry about money again.|
|The Battle of Cable Street||Tanya Landman||Stepney, London, 1930s
When fascist thugs come marching down your street … Do you run away? Hide? Or do you stand up and fight?
Life has always been hard for Elsie and her brother Mikey. But with Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists on the rise, things are about to get even harder. As lifelong friendships are torn apart, Elsie and Mikey find they have some tough choices to make.
|The Arctic Railway Assassin||M.G. Leonard & Sam Sedgman||Harrison Beck and Uncle Nat climb aboard the night train to Narvik, travelling to the Arctic Circle to see the northern lights for Christmas.
But as their train leaves Stockholm, Hal and Uncle Nat realize they’re being followed by a sinister figure, and Hal’s powers of observation are tested when Uncle Nat’s past comes back to haunt him.
|I Got This||Cara Mailey & Chrissie Sains||When a mega-famous pop group announces a competition for fans to be part of their next music video, Erin decides to go for it. She wants to show her younger brother that in life, there are no limits – even if you don’t look like most other kids.|
|All four quarters of the moon||Shirley Marr||The night of the Mid-Autumn festival, making mooncakes with Ah-Ma, was the last time Peijing remembers her life being the same. Now facing a new home, a new school and a new language, everything is different. Peijing thinks everything is going to turn out okay as long as they all have each other. But cracks are starting to appear in the family.|
|The Chestnut Roaster||Eve McDonnell||12-year-old Piaf has the ability to remember everything that has happened since the day she was born. When she discovers everyone in Paris has forgotten the entire last year, 1887, including the disappearance of several gifted children, Piaf and her twin Luc embark on a dangerous journey that brings them to the depths of Paris’ Catacombs|
|Like a Charm||Elle McNicoll||Edinburgh is a city filled with magical creatures. No one can see them… until Ramya Knox. As she is pulled into her family’s world of secrets and spells, Ramya sets out to discover the truth behind the Hidden Folk with only three words of warning from her grandfather: Beware the Sirens.|
|Onyeka and the academy of the sun||Tola Okogwu||Onyeka has a lot of hair – the kind that makes strangers stop in the street. She’s always felt insecure about her vibrant curls, until she makes an important discovery: she can control her hair with her mind!
Her mother quickly whisks her off to the Academy of the Sun, a school in Nigeria where Solari – children with superpowers – are trained.
|A Different Kind of freedom : A Romani Story||Richard O’Neill||Lijah is a Romani boy, a Traveller. When he has to go to school he sees some boys playing football and is desperate to join in. But his father doesn’t want him playing that game. Yet as Lijah becomes better and better, he discovers there was a famous Romani player – Rab Howell. How can Lijah follow in his idol’s footsteps if he has to hide it from his dad?|
|Picture Perfect||Serena Patel||Sonal needs to capture a great family picture for her school photography project but it’s impossible when everyone’s always so busy on their screens! Luckily they’re heading off on a family camping trip which should provide lots of great photo opportunities… shouldn’t it? Or will only chaos ensue?|
|The Elephant Girl||James Patterson & Ellen Banda-Aaku||Jama is a clever and sensitive young Maasai girl who likes elephants better than people.
She decides to escape the classroom gossip about the new boy, Leku, by going to the watering hole outside her village. There, she befriends a baby elephant that she names Mbegu. When Mbegu’s mother, frightened by poachers, stampedes, Jama and Mbegu are blamed for two deaths – one elephant and one human.
|The Heart Scarab||Saviour Pirotta||Renni and Mahu are brothers, but they are complete opposites. When Mahu hatches a plot to rob the tomb of a long-dead general in the Valley of the Kings, Renni is swept into the crime to help his family. But taking the general’s heart scarab sets a much greater chain of events into motion, which are governed by dark and mysterious powers.|
|Every Cloud||Ros Roberts||Amy feels like everything is going wrong. For a start, she’s just found out she isn’t going to the same high school as everyone else. Add to that her annoying younger brothers, Pops’ worsening dementia and Cassie, her supposed best friend, being meaner than ever, and Amy’s summer is not looking promising. Can she find a silver lining somewhere?|
|The Haunting of Tyrese Walker||J.P. Rose||After a shocking event leaves Tyrese struggling with grief, he’s taken to visit family in Jamaica. From the first night, strange things start happening: impossible visions, blackouts, swarms of insects, and the discovery of a grave hidden deep in the forest… Tyrese can’t explain what’s going on and he’s scared that he’s losing his grip on reality.|
|The Aquanaut (graphic novel)||Dan Santat||First there’s a band of sea creatures struggling to find their way to a fabled paradise and safe haven for marine life. Then there’s a girl who lost her father at sea and is at risk of losing her uncle to his obsession with the legacy of a theme park. The unlikely group find their way to each other at AQUALAND, and stumble across what they are looking for in unexpected ways.|
|The Asparagus Bunch||Jessica Scott-Whyte||Leon John Crothers is 4779 days old (thirteen years and one month, if you’re mathematically challenged). He has been ‘moved on’ from six different schools and most people think he has an attitude problem. Leon doesn’t care for the label, in the same way that he doesn’t care for Tim Burton, supermarket trolleys, train fanatics or Bounty bars.|
|Ajay and the Mumbai Sun||Versha Shah||Abandoned on the Mumbai railways, Ajay has grown up with nothing but a burning wish to be a journalist.Finding an abandoned printing press, he and his friends Saif, Vinod, Yasmin and Jai create their own newspaper: The Mumbai Sun.As they hunt down stories they uncover corruption, fight for justice and battle to save their slum.|
|Kelly Yang||Key player||The women’s world cup is coming to California causing excitement everywhere. Mia is determined to get interviews with the key players, but it’s not so easy when they are holed up in secret locations – but Mia is playing to win! Fourth book in the “front desk” series|
|The Wild Before||Piers Torday||One stormy, snowy night, a pure silver calf is born on an ordinary muddy farm by the light of the moon. This is the legendary Mooncalf, whose arrival has been foretold since the dawn of time. According to legend, if the calf dies, a great Terribleness will come, and Little Hare vows to persuade all the animals to protect Mooncalf, whatever the cost.|
|The Map of Leaves||Yarrow Townsend||Orla has lived on her own since Ma died, with only her beloved garden for company. When sickness comes and nature is blamed, Orla knows she must find a cure.Armed with her mother’s book of plants and remedies, she steals away on a river boat. Soon they must navigate the rapids of the Inkwater to a poisonous place from which they may never return …|
|The House of Shells||Efua Traore||Kuki refuses to believe in the curse of the Abiku. Her destiny is not to die young!
Her biggest problem right now is moving house and fitting in at her new school, until Kuki makes a terrifying discovery …
|The Monkey who fell from the future||Ross Welford||The year is 2425. Centuries after a catastrophic meteor collision, nature has retaken the earth. In a small town in what was once England, young Ocean Mooney and the monkey-owning Duke Smiff have just dug up a 400 year-old tablet computer.
Meanwhile, in the present day, Thomas Reeve and his genius cousin Kylie create the Time Tablet – a device which they hope will allow them to communicate with the future.
|You’re not the boss of me!||Catherine Wilkins||Amy Miller is a very positive person and she is fully prepared to be the star of the school Comedy Show. But when Harry is put in charge, he stops her from performing or writing or doing anything fun. Amy can’t understand what’s happening until her sister tells her: Harry is being sexist, and Amy must take a stand.|