Children’s book recommendations for reluctant and insatiable readers alike!
Every literary expert will tell you: the first step to getting your child to love books is to read, read and read some more. And to do that, you’ve got to find the right books to pique their interest. So, if you’re running out of ideas, we’ve come up with a list of recommended children’s books based on what they already know and love. It’s important to note that each child reads at their own pace and will differ in maturity level, so the age ranges we have included are more of a guide rather than set age restrictions. Some may find these suggestions too advanced or not challenging enough, so we’ll leave it to you (and your kids!) to decide what you think is the most appropriate page-turner for your little bookworm.
Here are our favourite book recommendations by age:
4 to 7 years old
If they like Peppa Pig… try Charlie and Lola by Lauren Child
A natural progression from many a parent’s saviour, Peppa Pig, is Charlie and Lola by Lauren Child. Before the cartoon there were the books, and there’s plenty to choose from with 38 titles including I Will Never Eat That Tomato and I Am Too Absolutely Small to Go to School. This series is particularly great if your child has a younger sibling, as Charlie is a picture-perfect, patient, big brother to Lola and her curious and crazy ways.
If they like One Gorilla by Anthony Browne… try Chu by Neil Gaiman
Who doesn’t love pandas? Neil Gaiman writes for all ages – the very young, teens and adults – but we’re big fans of his series about everyone’s favourite panda, Chu. Chu’s charming adventures would be an excellent addition to your picture book collection because he’s just so incredibly cute (we can’t even). This series is ideal for little readers, as the books aren’t too long and the delightful artwork really helps bring the stories to life for parents and children alike. If Chu isn’t already your child’s best friend, he sure will be soon. Find the series at Amazon.
If they like We’re Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen try… his whole catalogue
Not only does Michael Rosen create timeless, family-focused stories perfect for reading out loud, he’s also an author that really knows what little ones love to read. That’s why we’re recommending his full back catalogue. He was previously the British Children’s Laureate and a professor in children’s literature – not that this means anything to kids, mind you. But children with a cheeky streak will love his Little Rabbit Foo Foo in particular and her meddling ways in this cute poetic story which you can even sing along to. Click here to see his full author page on Amazon!
8 to 11 years old
If they like Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney… try Hank Zipzer by Henry Winkler
Jeff Kinney’s Diary Of A Wimpy Kid has been a revelation in getting kids to read (especially boys!). This series tells the tale of Greg Heffley’s hilarious school fails as he tries to navigate being a slightly awkward middle schooler (ah, takes you back to your own school years, right?). If your kid loves these books, and they probably already do, then we suggest Henry Winkler’s (yes, the Fonz!) Hank Zipzer series. Hank is everyone’s favourite anti-hero, struggling at school due to his learning difficulties but still trying his best to get by. Winkler himself has struggled with his own dyslexia and wanted to reflect this in his books – they’re even formatted in an easy-to-read typeface. This is a great series to give a confidence boost to any young reader struggling with their own obstacles and teaches empathy and understanding to the rest. Available from Book Depository here.
If they like Roald Dahl… try Gangsta Granny by David Walliams
David Walliams seems to have taken his place as the modern-day Roald Dahl. His books are even illustrated by Quentin Blake, the man behind all of the classic Dahl covers you loved as a kid. Cheeky, irreverent and wildly funny (even for adults!), Gangsta Granny – along with Walliams’ many other titles – will have your kids rolling on the floor with laughter. The gangsta granny in question is deemed the “boringest” grandma in the world, until our curious protagonist, Ben, discovers she’s actually an international jewel thief (didn’t expect that, did ya?) and she’s after the crown jewels… Find it here on Amazon.
If they’re into James Bond-esque thrillers… try Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer has everything an action-loving reader needs. The title character is a 12-year-old millionaire, criminal, and mastermind who decides to takes on the race of fairies to steal all their gold. Keeping up? This series is so entertaining, we think it’s the perfect choice for parents to read with their children (reading together doesn’t have to stop once they’re too big for your lap!). We particularly love this series as it’s a brilliant introduction to more sophisticated storytelling. The dialogue is witty and Artemis is a whip-smart, complicated fellow – the definition of an antihero. So you’ll be able to have some epic discussions together about Artemis’ slightly skewed inner moral compass. Click here to see Book 1 on Amazon!
12 to 14 years old
If they like Girl Online by Zoe Sugg… try Geek Girl by Holly Smale
Holly Smale’s “Geek Girl” series revolves around the proudly nerdy Natasha. She is trying to survive her secondary school years with a limited social circle, while battling a nasty bully intent on making her life a living hell. That is, until she’s discovered by a modelling talent agency and her life is thrown into a whirlwind of fashion shows and international travel. This is an awesome series for girls trying to find their way; it teaches that it’s okay to be a geek and it’s okay to be a chic fashionista, just as long as you stay true to yourself (cheesy we know – but an important lesson all the same). Available from Book Depository here.
If they like Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy… try Garth Nix’s catalogue
In a past life, when I worked as a librarian (no jokes about cat hair and cardigans please!) Skulduggery Pleasant, the wise-cracking skeleton detective was always in high demand, especially with boys. Now in its 11th reincarnation, it’s dark, witty and full of spine-tingling mystery and action. So, if you have an avid reader looking for what’s next after the adventures of Skulduggery, we recommend the works of Garth Nix. There’s the “Troubletwisters” series about two twins discovering their supernatural powers, which is better suited for the lower end of this age range. And for the older kids, there’s “The Abhorsen” series. Nix writes magical, dark and dramatic stories that often focus profoundly on death. There are themes of sex and drinking featured in this series, so we suggest you read them beforehand to see if they are age-appropriate for your kids. Available from Amazon.
If they like The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins… try The Knife Of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Patrick’s Ness’ dark dystopia The Knife of Never Letting Go begins in a small town where women have been banished and only men remain (the horror!). Due to a virus, everyone can hear each other’s thoughts, an epidemic known as the “Noise”. This is the first in a thrilling sci-fi series that tackles big questions, much like “The Hunger Games”, such as identity and prejudice. Available from Book Depository here.
14 and older
Sassy Mama Tip: We’re now entering the YA (young adult) genre, which can vary widely in themes, content and levels of maturity, so do your due diligence if you feel uncomfortable with your teen or tween reading beyond their age or about certain topics.
If they like The Fault In Our Stars by John Green… try Sarah Desson’s catalogue
Even the most casual reader knows of John Green’s sob-fest The Fault In Our Stars, so if they loved the thoughtful tone of Green’s teen mega-hit, look for anything by Sarah Desson. We particularly recommend Just Listen, which is about Annabel, the girl who had everything and then quickly lost it all. The book details how she deals with her new social status (or lack thereof), her sister’s anorexia and the new mysterious guy in her class. It’s a thoughtful and sometimes sad read, tackling mental illness and the importance of family, listening to each other and the healing power of music.
If they like Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman… try The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This book has won multiple awards and certainly packs a punch as it depicts modern-day race relations in the United States. The main protagonist, Starr, witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer and struggles to know where to turn next as the ensuing media circus and debate boils over. Big themes and even bigger discussion points here, so don’t be surprised if your teen goes quiet while reading this one — there’s a lot to mull over. Find it on Amazon.
If they like The Maze Runner by James Dashner… try Gone by Michael Grant
A lot of YA fiction is targeted at girls and focuses on romance, so we wanted to recommend something for boys who might be reluctant readers. Gone is certainly a page-turner and a half, similar to a Stephen King mystery with added sci-fi fantasy. In this dystopia, everyone disappears, except the young, which might sound like a dream to your teen, but with no technology (no phones?!), the threat of hunger, and no adults to guide them, tensions rise and a new world of territorial, supernatural teens arises.
Sassy Mama Tip: If you’re wanting to avoid online shopping and you can’t find a particular title in-store or at your local library, then ask! Often, shops and libraries are willing to order in books but this can sometimes come with an extra cost. Check out this list of libraries in Hong Kong to find your nearest book-borrowing service.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published on 29 May, 2018 by Lauren Boydell, and was updated on 11 March, 2019.