Children’s novels, the middle years, 10-13

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This list includes many award-winning titles that are well worth reading on many levels. They deal with important and highly relevant themes, especially  in our uncertain times. These include, friendship and relationships, coming to terms with change and developing a sense of our identity. Strong characters in many of these stories develop courage to speak up or undertake difficult tasks in worlds that are often challenging and unfriendly. 

While recommended for both for readers in the later primary and early secondary years the themes also resonate for adults. These recommendations are listed alphabetically. 


Constable, K. Crow country

A time travel fantasy. Sadie, a young Australian girl, and her mother move to a small rural town. It is town with a dark past, a town of secrets. When the crows begin to speak with her, Sadie learns about Aboriginal history.


French, S. Other brother

Kieran wants to be cool, to fit in. When is cousin Bon comes to live with his family, Kieran feels this threatens his standing at school. Bon is different. A story about what friendship means and the importance of learning to accept our differences.


Gleeson, L. Red

When Red wakes up she can't remember anything about herself or the cyclone that has left chaos behind. Despite her loss of identity Red finds she has an important task to undertake. She must work out how she can do this and who she can trust. A well-told story, very relevant to our current context.


Gleitzman, M. Once 

Once is the first in a series of children's novels about Felix a young Jewish boy during the Holocaust. Felix is determined to escape the orphanage he lives in to save his Jewish parents from the Nazis in the occupied Poland of the Second World War. The whole series is well worth reading.


McKinlay, M. Catch a falling star

In 1979 Australians wait and watch as the space station Sky Lab falls to earth. For Frankie, this time of waiting intensifies her grief about her father’s death and reawakens many memories of him. She is frustrated that her mother won’t talk with her and is worried that her younger brother is acting strangely. A well-crafted story about coming to terms with loss, acceptance and learning to live with change.


Morgan, S. Sister Heart

A heart breaking story about a young Aboriginal girl who is taken from the north of Australia and sent to an institution in the distant south. Told in verse, from the child’s perspective, in time she makes a new life for herself, finding strength through new friendships.


Orr, W. Dragonfly song 

Set in the Bronze Age, this beautifully written story is of Aissa, the dragonfly, first born daughter of a priestess who is cast out and then later raised as a slave when her foster family is killed. An absorbing series of events and a fascinating exploration of destiny.


Rodda, E. His name was Walter 

Colin, his teacher and three classmates take refuge in a deserted mansion after their bus breaks down on a school excursion. While there, Colin discovers an old handwritten book with strange vivid drawings about a boy called Walter. The children take it in turns to read this compelling story within a story.


Thiele, C. Storm Boy

Set in South Australia’s Coorong, Storm Boy is a moving Australian story by Colin Thiele about a boy and his pelican, Mr Percival. The book explores friendship and relationships on many levels and is a must!


Wilkinson, C. Dragonkeeper 

Set during the Han Dynasty in ancient China, the aging and only surviving dragon is rescued by a nameless orphan. She must protect him and his mysterious purple stone as they are chased by a wicked dragon hunter and sorcerer. The Dragon Keeper must find new strength and she and the dragon must learn to trust and understand each other. The first book in a series.


List compiled by Robyn Ewing AM

Professor Emerita | Sydney School of Education and Social Work| Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences |Co-Director Creativity in Research, Engaging the Arts, Transforming Education (CREATE) Centre |Board Member, WestWords| Honorary Associate, Sydney Theatre Company| Principal Fellow ALEA| Visiting Scholar, Barking Gecko Theatre|