A list of books the Youth Services staff read this year and loved best of all!

Middle grade

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbali (2019)- Think Percy Jackson but with a West African and African American pantheon – brilliant, adventurous, highly recommended

Mophead: How Your Difference Makes a Difference by Selina Tusitala Marsh (2019) – inspirational graphic memoir written and illustrated by our favourite poet laureate - wonderful

His Name was Walter by Emily Rodda (2018) – a story within a story full of mystery, ghosts and magic and an ending that will take your breath away 

The Tea Dragon Festival by Katie O'Neill (2019)– graphic novel, sequel to The Tea Dragon Society about a village with Tea Dragons who finally meet a real dragon

The Mapmaker’s Race by Eirlys Hunter (2018)–An enterprising young family set off on an amazing race to map a rail route for a steam train through a mountainous wilderness . They are competing against adults and have no money, no food and no parents. An exciting page-turner.

Willow Moss and the Lost Day by Dominique Valente (2019) – Willow is the youngest witch in her family with the magical ability to find lost things, not very exciting compared to the others, that is until the most powerful witch in Starfell needs her help.

Where Dani goes, happy follows by Rose Lagercrantz (2019)– When Dani decides to take a train trip, all by herself, things don’t quite go to plan, however she has a great adventure.


The Buried Crown by Ally Sherrick (2018)- Set during World War 2, this is a great combination of history, mystery and adventure involving a hunt for buried treasure. Highly recommended.

The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell (2019)- A fantastic adventure story about a girl who is determined to help her grandfather reclaim his family home from a bunch of crooks. Fast-paced and enormously entertaining. 

Our Castle by the Sea by Lucy Strange (2019) - This story is about espionage, love and betrayal. Set in a lighthouse near Dover where 11 year old Petra lives with her family. The year is 1939 and her life is about to change dramatically because of the war. 

The List of Things that will not Change by Rebecca Stead (2020)– fabulous pre-teen contemporary story told by Bea who navigates her parent’s divorce, her dad’s remarriage and her befriending of his new husband’s daughter – the sister she’s always wanted. Funny, lovely story and a gentle read.

Young Adult

Afakasi Woman by Lani Wendt Young (2019) – a beautifully written collection of short stories about being a woman in Samoa that will make you laugh and weep. For older teens.

Half my Life by Diana Noonan (2020) although the cover would win worst of the year, this is an enjoyable story about family secrets and feuds and their impact on generations. Set in Wellington and Greece it’s a contemporary story about a teen finding her place in the world.

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo(2020)

another great novel in verse by the bestselling author of the hit The Poet X. Two narrators tell the story of their grief after their father dies tragically in a plane crash. Based on a true event, the book has warmth and hope amongst the loss. For older teens.

Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughren (2018)- A group of boys and men become stranded on a small rocky island off the coast of Scotland. This is a gripping read about their survival. 

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi (2019)– Jam lives in a future world free of monsters, at least that’s what the adults say, but what happens when the monsters come back and no one believes you? 

The Wicked King (2019) & The Queen of Nothing (2019) by Holly Black -Books 2 & 3 of the Folk of the Air series which began with The Cruel Prince. A faerie world of complicated characters, suspense and treachery to satisfy fantasy fans 

Blood, Water, Paint by Joy McCullough (2019)- A truly inspiring story, mostly written in verse, based on the life of seventeenth century artist Artemisia Gentileschi. 

The Earth is Singing by Vanessa Curtis (2015)- Set in Latvia in the 1940’s, this is the story of teenager Hanna Michelson, a Jewish girl living with her mother and grandmother in a privileged neighbourhood. However, life is about to dramatically change for these women as they face the biggest test of their lives. 

Lark by Anthony McGowan (2019)-The fourth book in ‘The Truth of Things’ series but it can be read as a standalone book. A day walk on the Yorkshire Moors takes a frightening turn when two brothers unwisely leave the path and then bad weather sets in. This beautifully written novella is printed in a dyslexia friendly format.

Find out all about our City of Readers Summer Reading Programme - 1 December 2020 - 31 January 2021.

Register for the City of Readers Summer Reading Programme.