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Top 5 Books to Give Your Kids Who Have Just Finished the Harry Potter Series

So, your little munchkin has munched through all seven Harry Potter books in record time and their hands are now empty. But what should they read next to keep the reading (and peaceful bliss) going on and on?

It’s a question that countless parents have asked the internet. I’m speaking from experience here. Before J. K. Rowling put pen to paper I was a ten-year-old boy who was allergic to reading. I was a complete embarrassment to my ex-Primary-School-Teacher-turned-School-Librarian mother. After reading the Harry Potter series I was converted. I used to be a book-sloth and now I’m a book-worm, and it’s all thanks to Hogwarts and Hippogriffs and Hufflepuff.

It’s a hard act to follow. Book One is the third bestselling book of all time (only beaten by Tolkien’s masterpiece and some French picture book). So then, here it goes . . . my five suggestions for the next magical middle-grade series that’ll keep kids reading.

5. Skulduggery Pleasant Series by Derek Landy

This seems to be what many parents nudge gently towards their kids. I can testify to this having eaten through the series myself as a young lad. It’s top-notch.

Derek Landy has created a wonderfully imaginative character – a skeleton detective sorcerer who drives a Bentley and flings fireballs at his enemies with the best name you’ll ever hear . . . Skulduggery Pleasent. This is another ‘magical subculture hidden from the rest of society’ kid’s fiction series, but here’s what makes it better than the rest. The author has mixed the magic we all crave with wise-cracking wit that’ll make everyone laugh.

“So you won’t keep anything from me again?” He put his hand to his chest. “Cross my heart and hope to die.” “Okay then. Though you don’t actually have a heart,” she said. “I know.” “And technically, you’ve already died.”

And it’s set in Ireland, which I found very refreshing.

This twelve-book strong series contains a trill-a-minute and a laugh-a-second. It came out just as Harry was graduating from Hogwarts, and just as well as no-one wants to be forcibly retired. But unike Harry, Skulduggary hasn’t retired.

4. Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series by Rick Riordan

Now here’s a great middle-grade series to rival Potter.

Are you a bit weird in school? Maybe you don’t fit in. Maybe you’re a target for bullies or get into trouble a lot or sucked at reading or have dyslexia. Well, Rick Riordan is here to tell you that it’s okay . . . truth is, you’re probably a demi-god with powers that enable you to zap those bullies and save the world from a catastrophic war between the gods.

The plot is sensational (it goes at a mile a minute). The writing is sensational (this guy knows how to write fast-paced thrilling action). The characters are sensational (seriously, mixing Greek gods with 21st century New York makes for entertaining stuff). The monsters are, well, pretty good too (as you can imagine, this book is jam-packed with mythical creatures and celestial beings).

Percy Jackson will draw you in just as much as Harry Potter and will make you laugh twice as much.

3. The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel Series Quintet Series by Michael Scott

Now here’s a familar name to Harry Potter fans.

If you’re looking for an epic adventure where myths and legends come to life then you’re in for a treat here. Inside this series you’ll find a 600-year-old alchemist who performs magic, a 2,000-year-old vegetarian vampire along with cameos from Joan of Arc, King Tutankhamen, and Queen Elizabeth I, to name a few. In this universe the myths and legends are all real, they’re all immortal and they coexist with our modern world. Furthermore, there are more twists and turns than a centipede could count on its arms and legs.

This magical series is six books long and each is the size of the longer Potter books, like the Goblet of Fire. They contain everything we all loved about the world of Hogwarts and Hagrid – magic, mystery, and the battle between good versus evil.

2. The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare

This next book series is quite possibly the love child of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Harry Potter.

Clary Fray is a 15-year-old trying to find her place in the world – is she goth, a punk, or perhaps a half-angel kick ass demon slayer? Turns out she is the last one. Vampires, werewolves, demons and angels are everywhere and it’s up to her and the Shadowhunters to keep the peace. Clary has got much to learn if shes going to defeat the evil villain called Valentine (not quite as good of a villain name as Voldemort, but just as twisted and detestable).

The author has masterfully created a vivid, believable parallel world of Shadowhunters and demons full of three-dimensional characters, punchy dialogue, and fascinating magical elements that will keep the pages turning all night. This is urban fantasy at it’s best!

1. The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula K. Le Guin

And finally, if you’re wanting to level up your kid’s magical fantasy reading, then here’s an excellent series to get their teeth into.

This is the tale of Sparrowhawk – a young boy who will become the most powerful wizard to have ever lived. Anyone for a dragon fight? Raising the dead? Awesome shadows underneath the waters? Amazing magical discoveries? It’s all here.

The magic inside these pages is simply wonderful – dare I say it, better than anything you’ll see in Hogwarts. The world of islands is gorgeous. But most importantly, it’s Sparrowhawk that I love the most. This young kid has gone through so much. All his bad decisions lead to wisdom, and all the while, the magic grows and surges and becomes something amazing.

Everyone has got to grow up, even Harry Potter! Rowling’s books are plot-driven team-based struggles with some deeper themes woven in. On the other hand, Le Guin’s tales are woven around the metaphysical. They are a deep dive into themes of morality and spirituality making this series very profound indeed.

“To light a candle is to cast a shadow…”

That’s good stuff! Rowling can type, but Le Guin can write.

Top 5 GREEN Kids Books to Encourage Your Little Environmental, Climate Change Activist, Anti-Plastic Eco-Warriors

Lately, I’ve been making small environmental changes – silicone lids to replace cellophane, soap nuts to replace washing powder, switching to a renewable energy provider. My wife and I even decided to use cloth nappies and reusable baby wipes (which are brilliant and every parent should at least give them a go).

It’s important to carry on making these small changes, but what we should also be doing is encouraging our children to adopt these green alternatives as well. Kids love reading so let’s make sure they read books that help them become part of the solution rather than the problem.

It’s what Greta would want, right!

So I’ve been searching through the libraries and the bookstores to uncover the best climate change combating, plastic straw scrapping, extinction rebellion-ish books out there to inspire the leaders of the future. And here are the best of the bunch.

5. Greta and the Giants by Zoë Tucker & Zoe Persico

This book is a wonderfully crafted allegory involving a real-life climate change activist – Noble Prize nominee Greta Thunberg.

In the narrative, governments and industry are represented by giants who destroy the environment, leaving the animals fearing for their future. Nobody wants to do anything because everybody is afraid of standing up to the giants. Everybody except Greta, that is. She starts by herself, but is soon joined by others, until there are so many that their complaints can no longer be ignored. And as you can see from the front cover, the illustrations are gorgeous!

Greta and the Giants somehow manages to simplify climate change and the power one child has to change the world into a story that reception kids will grasp. Despite this, parents and adults need to read this just as much as children. It’s a fable for the modern world. What makes this story even better is that the main character, Greta, has Aspergers in real life and so we now have a book that not only encourages environmental discussions but also champions positive representation . . . phew, that was a long and meaningful sentence.

PLUS – at the end, there is a little blurb explaining that in real life the fight against the giants is still raging on. It also gives suggestions on what they can do to be apart of the solution.

4. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba

There’s nothing quite like a true story, and this one is so damn inspirational the boy in the story went on to do a TEDTalk!

William lives in Malawi, Africa, and faces the harsh realities of poverty. The young boy has it rough – he nearly starves during a famine, is forced to drop out of school due to poverty, and his only hopes are in an extremely minimal library of books that aren’t even in his own language. Despite the odds, he manages to build a working windmill that generates electricity to his home and pumps water to feed the crops . . . and also builds a radio station! Like, wooooooooow, this kid is AMAZING!

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind would be perfect for a whole class read through (and then build mini windmills of their own). If you want your kids to learn resilience and the importance of learning, this is the book to do just that.

3. Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce

If you’re looking for an eco-book disguised as a brilliant middle-grade book then I’ve found it for you.

“I’m not exactly in the Lake District.”

Indeed he is not. He’s not even on Earth. With that small, understated sentence Frank Cottrell Boyce introduces readers to his twelve-year-old narrator, Liam. He is really tall; tall enough to ride any amusement park ride he wishes, tall enough to drive, tall enough to be repeatedly mistaken as an adult (like on his first day at secondary school when his classmates mistake him for being their teacher). Liam ends up in a rocket blasting off towards the moon . . . with a bunch of kids . . . who thinks he is a dad.

Boyce is a very funny writer. He really does know how to craft a good sentence. For example: “I don’t think the world has vanished. But it is worrying not being able to see it. After all, Earth is where I keep all my stuff.” But, he can also make you think. He writes fantastic books that star boys, that are laugh-out-loud-on-your-work-lunch-break-and-get-strange-looks funny (I speak from experience here), and that also makes you think about life, death, the universe, and everything in it. Cosmic pairs the story of a twelve-year-old who looks thirty with discovering our place in the universe and responsibility to not waste it.

I’m thinking 9-12’s for this, but I reckon any aged human who picked this up would start thinking more and more about their carbon footprint.

2. Hoot by Carl Hiaasen

If endangered animals are your little eco-warriors prefered subject than take peek at this.

Hoot is about, you guessed it, endangered birds – the burrowing owl to be precise. Roy’s first acquaintance in Florida is Dana Matherson, a school bully. Then again, if Dana hadn’t mashed his face against the school bus window, Roy might never have spotted the running boy. He was running away from the school bus, carried no books, and – here’s the odd part – wore no shoes. Sensing a mystery, Roy goes on an adventure to find him and in the process meets a potty-trained alligator, a fake-fart champion, several endangered owls, a renegade eco-warrior, and several extremely poisonous snakes.

For anyone who has read a Hiaasen book for adults, you’ll recognise all his usual troupes in his middle-grade fiction: the quirky hero, the feisty female character, the grunt that seems bad but turns out to be not-so-bad, the odd law enforcement officer, the evil business owner, and a natural environment or animal that is endangered. All the ingredients are here mixed in with his trademark funny banter and quirky humour (except a PG version).

Hiaasen always manages to get a pro-environment and anti-development message into all of his books, as well as his love of Florida. So it’s nice to see this one got nominated for the Newbury Award, and well deserved too!

1. The Last Wild by Piers Torday

I’ve left the best to last. This book is the most astoundingly imaginative, breathtakingly creative and wonderfully inspiring book I’ve ever had the fortune to read.

In a world where animals no longer exist, twelve-year-old Kester Jaynes sometimes feels like he hardly exists either. Locked away in a home for troubled children, he’s told there’s something wrong with him. So when he meets a flock of talking pigeons and a bossy cockroach, Kester thinks he’s finally gone crazy. But the animals have something to say. And they need him. The animals manage to save Kester Jaynes from his prison and take him to The Last Wild. But can Kester save the animals?

Yes, this book is pro-environment, but it is also very very very good. It is both incredibly educational and a thrilling read. It has the power to impact a children’s minds but is also is an enthralling story. And it’s the first of a trilogy (Book Two is called The Dark Wild is about living in harmony with nature and Book Three is called The Wild Beyond is about ocean pollution).

The Last Wild desires to be in every classroom, school library and children’s bookshelves!

. . . and, last but not least, here’s my Eco kids book

There are three things you should know about Seaweed:

1. He is an eleven-year-old boy (and not the slimy green stuff at the bottom of the ocean)
2. He is an Eco-Warrior and the only one in his hometown – Picklington
3. He is willing to do whatever it takes to save the planet . . . anything!

Here are three more things that make Seaweed really angry:

1. The people of Picklington are wasting far too much electricity. Bummer!
2. The Mayor of Picklington is profiting from the pollution by building his unsafe and unnecessary Nuclear Power Station. Double bummer!!
3. The Picklington Vegetable Society is campaigning tirelessly against the Mayor (which is hard work considering Seaweed is the only member) and they are getting zero results. Triple bummer with a non-biodegradable plastic cherry on top!!!

He feels like he is letting the planet down . . . until he joins The Carrot Bandits. Join him as he discovers that indoctrination isn’t so bad. Sure, joining a criminal organisation and stealing one million socks is probably wrong but he gets to hang out with Pank, his equally indoctrinated sidekick, and he is finally making a real difference.

But blowing up the entire town in a catastrophic nuclear explosion would be a step too far, wouldn’t it?

This hilarious book is perfect for the little and big Eco-Warriors in this world. It’s going to take everyone to save our planet, and that’s exactly what this book is here to say (and also to make you laugh, but mainly the saving the planet thing).

Top 5 Awarding-Winning Kids Book from 2019

With Christmas around the corner, all us parents are looking for solid gold reading material to put in our kid’s stocking. Something that will capture their imaginations and broaden their minds (and maybe stop them from looking at a screen for least a few minutes).

Here are my top five award-winning middle-grade fiction books for kids that have earned a badge of honour in 2019.

5. British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year 2019 Winner – The Ice Monster

The all-conquering David Walliams has been scooping up awards with a JCB Digger, and I say good for him (but it would be nice if he left some for everyone else).

This one bagged the British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year for 2019. The Ice Monster takes young readers to the wintry wilds of the arctic for his most epic novel yet. Elsie, an adventurous Victorian orphan, hears about a 10,000-year-old woolly mammoth being discovered at the North Pole which kicks off the expedition of a lifetime. While everyone else sees a beast, Elsie sees a friend. It’s chocked full of friendly humour and zany villains and crazy science stuff worthy of a Roald Dahl book.

The Ice Monster has only sold 625,000 copies. And it managed to sell a quarter of a million more than the second top seller (which also happens to be Walliams too, the show-off).

Other Notables on the Shortlist: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeymi (which won the Goodreads Choice Awards in 2018), The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson (which was nominated for the Carnegie Medal in 2019), and Head Kid by David Baddiel (which is, well, it’s a good read).

4. CILIP Carnegie Medal 2019 Winner – The Poet X

The Carnegie Medal (pronounced ‘car-neigh’, and now you’ll always think of a horse driving a mini cooper when you hear it) is the oldest book awards for children and young people in the UK.

By debut author, Elizabeth Acevedo, The Poet X was concocted whilst working as an English teacher at a secondary school in Maryland, USA, as you do. The daughter of Dominican immigrants, she realised that the books on the curriculum didn’t contain characters of colour. And she also noticed that this often leads to a disinterest in reading for those kids not being represented in kids books.

This book is a searing, unflinching exploration of culture, family and faith. Xiomara, does every type of verse through the story. She cries, laughs, loves, prays, writes, raps and, ultimately, offers hope. It’s a book that will show kids how girls and women can learn to inhabit, and love, their own skin. Which is a fantastic life-lesson for everyone!

Other Notables on the Shortlist: The Land of Neverendings by Kate Saunders (which won the Costa Children’s Book Award), A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge (who won also won the Costa Children’s Book Award, but for a different book), and Things A Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nicholls (which won the Waterstone Children’s Book Prize).

3. LOLLIES Winner 2019 – Tom Gates: Epic Adventure (Kind Of)

The LOLLIES (or the Laugh Out Loud Book Awards) is the only prize dedicated to funny books, which makes it my favourite! But the best thing about the Lollies is that the winners are chosen by the readers, so anyone who reads the books and wants to have their say can vote.

The winners in all three categories in 2019 were all women, another reason to like this award. Liz Pichon’s Tom Gates: Epic Adventure (Kind Of) won in the 9 – 13 category. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of flicking through the pages of a Tom Gates book you’ll know that an infinite amount of imaginative doodles fly off the paper. It’s a delightfully addictive series that, as the award says, makes you laugh out loud.

The Other Winners: Mr Bunny’s Chocolate Factory by Elys Dolan (Best Laugh Out Loud Picture Book), The Big, Fat, Totally Bonkers Diary of Pig by Emer Stamp (Best Laugh Out Loud Book for 6 – 8s)

2. FCBG Children’s Book Award Winner 2019 – The Explorer

The Children’s Book Award is the only national award voted solely by children from start to finish. Everyone loves it – kids, parents, teachers, librarians, publishers, children’s authors and the illustrators. Why? Because every year nearly 12,000 books are donated to hospitals, women’s refuges, nurseries and schools. Isn’t that incredible!

The Explorer by Katherine Rundell won the most votes in 2019. Fred, Con, Lila, and Max are travelling back to England when the plane crashes in the jungle. That’s not the worse bit . . . the pilot dies upon landing. For days they survive alone until Fred finds a map that leads them to a ruined city, and to a secret. This tale of friendship and discovery is a long, but thrilling read.

The Other Winners: I Have No Secrets by Penny Joelson (Winner of our Older Readers Category), I Dare You by Reece Wykes (Winner of the Younger Children’s Category).

1. Blue Peter Book Award Winner 2019 & Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize Winner 2019 – The Boy at the Back of the Class

This book decided one award wasn’t enough, so it went and won another. If you’re from the UK you can skip over the next paragraph.

So, Blue Peter is a children’s TV programme that has been going for over 60 years which aims to encourage reading. And Waterstones is a chain of bookstores dotted across the UK that are rather marvellous because, as you already know, books are wonderful.

The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Rauf’s is a book that, in my opinion, everyone should read. Four classmates befriend the new kid at school, Ahmet, who they discover is a refugee from Syria. Through their sensitivity, curiosity, ingenuity, bravery and innocent niceness, they make a massive impact on Ahmet’s life, friends, class, school, community and wider world . . . and also you, if you read it.

Other Notables on the Shortlist: The Clockwork Crow by Catherine Fisher (no relation to Princess Leia), The Train to Impossible Places by P.G. Bell (no relation to the telephone guy), and The Boy Who Grew Dragons by Andy Shepherd (who may or may not herd sheep).

Top 5 Most Spooky, Creepy, Scary, Frightening and Spine-Chilling Kids Books

If Christmas is a time for ‘sharing with your kids’, then Halloween is a time for ‘scarying the living daylights out of your kids’.

But let’s not forget, kids love being scared just as much as adults. Ghost trains, haunted houses, Goosebumps books, the Hotel Transylvania films, zombie slime and the Granny App (oh man, it’s a really freaky online game for kids where an old lady tries to find you and stab you in the head. The internet has a lot to answer for).

If you think it’s time to add a sprinkling of vampire dust and a dollop of witches brew to storytime with your munchkins then here are my top five suggestions.

5. The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

Wow!

It’s a slow burner, but wooow this is a fantastically spooky middle-grade book (I’d say 10+).

The Night Gardener is a perfectly recreated Victorian Gothic Ghost Story. Molly and Kip are Irish orphans who have fled to England. They become servants of the Windsor Estate which, as legend has it, is cursed. They hear heavy footsteps at night, find a mysterious locked room and must uncover the dark forces at work before they too succumb to them.

It also covers a long list of subjects – growing up without parents, the power of storytelling, the hardships of Victorian poverty, survivor’s guilt, the consequences of greed, xenophobia and the Irish Potato Famine.

Creepy, atmospheric, full of adventure and magic and some really spooky stuff. This book is the ideal autumnal read.

4. Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

This book is a strange mixture of an adventure detective and a gory horror story . . . and I loved it! As you can see, it ticks a lot of boxes:

– adventure
– magic
– vampires
– a Bentley
– a skeleton wearing a hat
– even the kitchen sink (and by that I actually mean some genuinely wonderful throwaway lines that stitch the story together).

I would compare Skulduggery (the skeleton who wears the hat and drives the Bentley and is the main source of the kitchen sink factor) to James Bond with a history degree. He is highly entertaining and has enough mystery about him to keep young readers hungry for the next book. And the ending is very satisfying indeed… but you’ll need to read it to find out just how satisfying it is.

Five stars. I’ll certainly be reading the next one soon.

3. The Witches by Roald Dahl

If you are looking for a fairytale, look away now!

As you probably already know, witches are REAL (according to Roald Dahl). This is the story of a grandma and her grandson and how witches turn him into a little mouse. Inside you’ll learn all about witches, how to evade their capture and, most importantly, how to recognise them.

“She might even be your lovely school-teacher who is reading these words to you at this very moment. Look carefully at that teacher. Perhaps she is smiling at the absurdity of such a suggestion. Don’t let that put you off. It could be part of her cleverness. I am not, of course, telling you for one second that your teacher actually is a witch. All I am saying is that she might be one. It is most unlikely. But—here comes the big “but”—not impossible.”

This is a clever and courageous tale of a young boy and her spirited grandmother who decide to fight back! Thank goodness for Roald Dahl, who cunningly combines scariness with funny stuff making this a wonderful Halloween book for ages 7-9.

2. Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson

From scary witches to a friendly witch (for much littler readers).

Room on the Broom is about a witch with “long ginger hair in a braid down her back” and a cat who ride through the night on a . . . you guessed it, a broomstick. It soon gets breezy up there and things start to blow away. Fortunately, several different animals come to her rescue in exchange for a spot on her broom until a dragon tries to make her its dinner!

You can instantly recognise her books from the whimsy and friendly illustrations. They’re truly fantastic! (From a marketing perspective, it’s 100% intentional and helps us parents with cash in our pockets make an instant connection). If you’re looking for a light-hearted Halloween book you can read to your little witches (I’d say aged 1 to 6) then look no further.

P.S. Please, please, please, when reading this book to your kids, read it in your best British accent and I guarantee it’ll make the experience even better.

1. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

This is an extremely imaginative book . . . and it won the Newbery Medal so that proves it!

Bod is the only living resident in the local graveyard. A childless ghost couple adopts the parentless toddler and a vampire becomes his guardian and teacher. The book follows the boy’s childhood with a new chapter for each year of his unusual and spooky upbringing. Can a boy raised by werewolves and vampires and ghosts face the wonders and terrors of the worlds of both the living and the dead? (So, in summary, it’s The Jungle Book but for Halloween.

“It takes a graveyard to raise a child”

Neil Gaiman is a master storyteller. The Graveyard Book is a delightful blend of the macabre and the grave. It’s a haunting and mesmerizing allegorical tale about the joys of childhood, the gradual transition to adulthood, and the philosophical ponderings of life and death.

Be sure to put this in the hands of 10+ aged kids and do yourself a favour by keeping one eye on where the book ends up so you can add it to your reading pile afterwards).

… and, last but not least, here’s my HALLOWEEN kids book

Was your candy bag only half full on Halloween last year? . . . Does your sweet vampire tooth come out on a full moon? . . . Need some inspiration for a spooky costume that’ll put a smile on everyone’s face (and your belly too)? . . . Then here’s 49 (extremely silly) excuses for bagging more candy at Halloween!

Join the comical adventure of these mischevious kids who will try absolutely anything to trick their neighbours into more treats, dress up in the most devious and devilish costumes, and swag the most candy humanly possible on 31st October. With an illustration for each haphazard attempt, you’re guaranteed to laugh, smirk, and chuckle for hours.

Disclaimer: reading this eBook will definitely get you into trouble! (So if your parents ask where you heard these excuses you didn’t hear them from me. Do we have a deal?)

Top 5 Dragon Books for Kids Who Crave Adventure

One of my favourite films, when I was growing up, was Dragonheart. (It’s the one with Sean Connolly playing a dragon with a Scottish accent). It introduced me to a fantasy world where you could become friends with a mythical beast that can fly and breathe fire. I desperately wanted to live in that world and be the hero. To ride a dragon, have an epic sword fight with the bad guy and save the kingdom. I must have watched it over a hundred times.

In recent year dragons have made an impressive come-back. Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Pokemon, even Godzilla seems to make a come-back every five or so years (and let’s not forget the big Lego dragon at Legoland). They’re all over the place.

Dragons are back on the kids reading list too . . . and here are my suggestions.

5. How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell

Immediately after reading this book, I wanted to live on the wild and windy isle of Berk.

I had my reasons. a) dragons. b) sea dragons. c) pet dragons. d) fiery dragons. e) I’ve always thought I would suit those Viking helmets with the pointy horns. f) MORE DRAGONS.

This is the tale of how Hiccup, a small and scrawny Viking boy, becomes the hero of the tribe. It’s a fantastic adventure full of excitement and danger and some brilliant bits in between. I could have read this in one go! Did I mention the dragons? They’re great, partly because they talk and get sarcasm, but mainly because the Viking children train them (so jealous).

Highly recommend this read. Well written and great storytelling. Now you’ll have to excuse me while I go and fill in my immigration papers.

4. Eragon by Christopher Paolni

So, here’s a book that was written by a fifteen-year-old. That’s right, what did you achieve when you were fifteen? (Don’t ask me, you really don’t want to know!)

To start with there is a real cool-looking dragon on the front cover! And it’s not just epic on the outside, it’s epic on the inside too. There are battles, miracles, elves, high emotions, secrets, dwarves and magic inside this book waiting to hook you in and keep you turning the pages. There’s even an amazing map on the inside cover that you could stare at for hours.

If you are hoping your kids will one day become a fantasy reader, who will actually read every single word of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, then make sure they read this. Seriously, it’s a gateway drug into the world of fantasy.

3. Dragonology by a bunch of interesting people

Time to take a side-step into non-fiction.

This book contains the long-lost research of renowned nineteenth-century dragonologist Dr. Ernest Drake. Inside curious readers will discover why dragons are able to speak, how they can fly and breathe fire, and even maps that will show you where to find them. Written like a mixture of a field manual and a scrapbook, it really is packed full of fun and interactive information.

The elaborate illustrations, pullouts, letters, spells, maps, flaps and popups make this book irresistible to even the most stubborn little anti-readers. Put simply, this book is a work of art. It’s is so magical it was probably stolen from the library at Hogwarts.

I’d say this ancient-looking tome would be perfect for ages 8-12 (but be warned, they may end up believing that dragons are real).

2. The Hobbit (or There and Back Again) by J.R.R. Tolkien

I’ll admit it, when I was ten years old my mum gave me The Hobbit to read. Being the nice son I was (and still am) I gave it my best shot.

Now, it’s important to remember that at this point I had barely touched chapter books. I was a PlayStation kid who loved cartoons and riding my bike and was a major disappointment to my Librarian mother. I managed to get to the part where Bilbo escapes [someone] by hiding in a barrel, at which point something else caught my attention. I didnt even get to the dragon bit. Sorry, mum!

I’ve obviously come to my senses about reading and finished the book. Tolkien’s children book is a joy to read, full of magic and adventure and, as the reader, you find yourself identifying as the young hobbit experiencing this new, amazing world.

If your kids are anything like me, I’d recommend reading this one to them the first time around. What a shame, right!

1. The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis

Now here’s a book that seems to have been co-written by Tolkein and Willy Wonka!

It was actually written by a delightful children’s author from the USA who now lives in Wales. The first of three books, The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart cleverly combines high adventure and high morals. Aventurine must prove herself as a young dragon, but that might be difficult having been transformed into a puny human girl with a sweet tooth. She must navigate the human world and pursue her dream of becoming a chocolatier. (And if you’ve ever wondered if chocolate can save your life, this is a must-read).

This book oozes girl-power, playful humour and real heart. It’s a chocolate-filled, girl-powered fantasy that teaches us about finding your passion, dealing with disapproving parents and trusting yourself to achieve greatness.

… and, last but not least, here’s my DRAGON kids book

Well, it’s still in the oven and no quite done yet (the timer should go off around March 2020).

But you can read the first three chapters here.

Happy reading 🙂

Top 5 Most Disgusting, Revolting, Gross and Hilarious Kids Books

Let’s be honest . . . kids LOVE gross stuff, and they also love reading about gross stuff. Purple gunge, fish guts, gooey boogies, stinky socks, monkey poop, and, let us not forget the cornerstone of all kid humour, fart jokes. Every now and then you may come across a child reading Jane Austin who eats all their vegetables and doesn’t pick their nose. But I’m guessing most of the kids you know would laugh-out-loud when reading about someone eating a plate of worms (and I’m sure you did too when you first read The Twits).

I’ve had the pleasure of reading in this sticky sub-genre, having written a grotty kids book myself about a disgusting restaurant owner and his haphazard adventures, so I know what makes a good gross-out kids book. In my opinion, there is a line between gross for funny and gross which is off-putting. So I’ve painstakingly plucked my favourite 5 books from the hairy armpit of children’s literature.

Go on, give them what they want. Feed your little munchkins with some of these gross reads.

5. The Butt Trilogy by Andy Griffiths

These wonderfully gross books are written by Australian funny man – Andy Griffiths. Please don’t judge the first book in the trilogy by its title. You’d be forgiven for assuming the story to be one-dimensional and jam-packed with overused cliches. What you find inside is actually refreshingly original and full of imagination.

It all starts when Zackary wakes up to find his bottom is escaping out his bedroom window (I should explain that last sentence. In Zackary’s world your bottom has its own consciousness, it can walk and talk and cause all sorts of trouble for its owner). The boy must journey high and low with a team of butt-fighters in order to recapture his runaway butt. The foreshadowing is expertly executed, the laughs are too numerous to count, and the plot-twist at the end is wonderfully unexpected.

And when you read a quote like this, it’s hard not to smile.

“You might be unreliable, rude, smelly, non-self-wiping, and completely psycho, but you’re my butt and I love you.”

4. Ratburger by David Walliams

Yep, this one’s not just gross, it’s gruesome too. But don’t be squeamish adults – kids love gruesome!

David Walliams needs no introductions. The protagonist of this book does – she’s called Zoe. Much like all his other books, the main character is down-trodden from the start. She hates her nasty, benefit-stealing, prawn cocktail munching step-mum. She loves her broken-hearted, out-of-luck dad. Zoe also lost her hamster but finds a rat. Cue the villain – Burt, the very odd man who sells ‘special’ burgers outside the school gates, who is after Zoe’s rat for, well, the clues in the title.

Walliams has a talent for taking a stereotype, turning it upside, and picking it apart to reveal the beauty underneath. It’s why so many parents love his books – they are teaching kids to walk in other people’s shoes. Emotional intelligence is a valuable skill to learn.

This book hits all the icky notes. With constant gooey references throughout and a highly entertaining ‘Shawshank Redemption’ style escape at the end, it’s absolutely worth putting this in front of your kids.

(And don’t be fooled into thinking this book is for boys. It’s definitely not!

3. The Twits by Roald Dahl

If you need reminding, or for some reason have never read any Roald Dahl books as a kid, this book is amazeballs!

Everybody loves a good villain, and Mr and Mrs Twit are as good as they come. The couple do nasty things to each other (we’ve already mentioned the worms) and nasty things to the local birds and monkeys (who can forget the infamous glue on the tree and the bird pie). They are all round awful human beans who absolutely deserve what the monkeys and birds have planned for them.

Admittedly, this is one of his shorter books. However, flip that last statement and got a great bedtime read-together story. With 29 short chapter’s you could either read 3 chapters a night over 10 days or 5 chapters a night over 6 days. That way you get to watch your kids as they discover the very same book you enjoyed at their age.

And, let’s not forget, that these wonderful words came from this book. An important message as the world wakes up to the importance of mental health:

“If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until you can hardly bear to look at it.

“A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”

2. Fungus the Bogeyman by Raymond Briggs

It’s hard to believe that the author of The Snowman, a beloved book that has become a national treasure in the UK, also wrote a disgustingly brilliant book about a place called ‘Bogeydom’.

Raymond Briggs is long overdue a knighthood for his services to children’s literature. However, his true passion was for illustrating, and you’ll see why in this comic-style book. Deep down underground lives Fungus and the Bogeys – a vile collection of slimy, smelly creatures who revel in everything revolting. As you follow the bogey business of Fungus, kids will discover the many gross horrors of Bogeydom, each one more delightfully grotesque than the next. It’s a surreal but very funny field trip into a world full of snot, smells, slime, scum and many other unspeakable things.

The book is essentially a comic for reluctant readers, just like me when I was young. At only 48 pages long I’d say any 6 – 9 year old’s can handle it. But saying that, the number of parents who have reviewed this book and enjoyed it while their kids were in bed would suggest I change the age range to 6 – 9+.

1. Monster and Chips by David O’Connell

I can guarantee that you’ll never find a fish and chip shop as good as the one that David O’Connell has dreamed up. This book serves up a great, big dollop of imagination mixed in with some wonderful illustrations that no child could resist.

Joe accidentally stumbles into a strange alley. All he wants is to buy some chips. Instead, he get a part-time job. Now Joe finds himself serving all sorts of monsters all sorts of wild and wacky dishes – zombie-cupcakes to exploding milkshakes. The book is full of gastronomic laughs, however, the core of the story will certainly leave you with a warm fuzzy glow.

It’s bright, easy to read with fantastic illustrations and hilarious names for monsters and their culinary delights. Kids will especially love the head chef, Fuzzyby (who is the monster equvilalent of Jamie Oliver).

Warning: if you read this book to your kids you’ll have this inappropriate word stuck in your head for weeks… bum-toots!

… and, last but not least, here’s my GROSS kids book

There is no restaurant quite like ‘The Grotty Spoon’, and to be clear, that’s not meant to be a compliment.

The food is revolting, the service is slow, the chairs are uncomfortable, the toilets are infested, the dishwasher is a Yak called Fee Fee and every night something goes disastrously wrong in the kitchen… oh, and it’s also a holiday hotspot for jet-setting bacteria. But Mr Sprout, the head chef and all-around disgusting human being, thinks it deserves the top award in the restaurant business and will do anything to get it.

“Even though this book makes you go yuk my 8yr old loved it and as a parent I did get hooked and needed to keep reading with her.”

– 5 star review.

Thanks for reading:)