Book recommendations for young readers.
Getting the little ones to become voracious readers can be a tough task for us mamas, but every literary expert will tell you: the first step to getting your child to love books is to get them 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 book recommendations 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 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:
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4 to 7 years old
If they like Peppa Pig, try “Charlie and Lola” by Lauren Child.
A natural progression from every 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 relatable if your child has a younger sibling, as Charlie is a picture-perfect, patient, big brother to Lola and her curious and crazy ways. Available from Book Depository here.
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 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. Available from Amazon here.
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, but he’s also an author that 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 Bunny Foo Foo” and her meddling ways in this cute poetic story which you can even sing along to. Available from Book Depository here.
If they like “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr Seuss, try “The Adventures Of The Dish And The Spoon” by Mini Grey.
What happens after the dish runs away with the spoon? With engaging visuals and easy-to-pick-up rhymes, this popular story by Mini Grey takes us on a journey with two best friends (the dish and the spoon) and how they went from being rich and famous to ending up with a life on the run (spoiler alert: it has to do with the evil knives). Narrated by the spoon, this storybook extends itself from the usual entertaining nursery rhyme setting to teach a valuable lesson that crime doesn’t pay and love conquers all. Definitely worth a recommendation! Want to know how Grey does it? Check it out on Book Depository here.
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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 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 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 “Gansta 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. They’re 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 “boringist” 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… Available from Bookwise here.
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 take 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 anti-hero. So you’ll be able to have some epic discussions together about Artemis’ slightly skewed inner moral compass. Available from Book Depository here.
If they like “A Series of Unfortunate Events”, try The Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch.
What can possibly go wrong with two bold, young adventurers and a world full of secrets? Much like Snicket’s adventurous tales from A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Secret Series entails the exciting journeys of Cass and Max-Ernest. With Bosch’s dynamic portrayal of the young protagonists and captivating storyline, this series will definitely keep the little ones on the edge of their seats! From a synesthetic magician to a seer with supervision, each of the books in the series focuses on a specific sense that leads the protagonists to various secret missions, as they meet exciting companions along their odyssey. As one of our favourites, this series is perfect for those who enjoy a quirky, witty novel with riddles, secret societies and more! Available from Book Depository here.
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. Since then, her life is thrown into a whirlwind of fashion shows and international travel. This is an excellent 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 a valuable 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 one of the Sassy Mama editors worked as a librarian (no jokes about cat hair and cardigans please!) Skulduggery Pleasant, the wisecracking 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 Abhorson” 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 here.
If they like “The Hunger Games” by Suzanna 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.
If they like “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling, try “Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief” by Rick Riordan
This book will always find its place in a list of book recommendations. Riordan’s fantasy-adventure novel tells the story of Percy, a twelve-year-old who, through an unexpected encounter, discovers his true identity as the son of Poseidon. In his quest to locate Zeus’ stolen lightning bolt, Percy and his friends step foot into Hades’ Underworld, fight Medusa and discover a larger plot behind the seemingly one-off accident. While Percy has been diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia, he later finds out they are due to his heightened battle reflexes as a demigod. With a son who has ADHD and is dyslexic, Riordan has created an empowering character that not only keeps the little ones engaged from one page to another, but also reminds parents of every child’s unique talents and potential. 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. Before you pass on these book recommendations, do your due diligence if you feel uncomfortable with your teen or tween reading beyond their age or about specific topics.
If they like “The Fault In Our Stars” by John Green, try Sarah Dessen’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 Dessen. Particularly, we 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. Available from Book Depository here.
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. Available from Book Depository here.
If they like “The Maze Runner” by James Dashner, try “Gone” by Michael Grant.
Since a lot of YA fiction is targeted at girls and focuses on romance, 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. Available from fishpond here.
If they like “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” by Jenny Han, try “Love and Other Foreign Words” by Erin McCahan
Just like Han’s heart-warming novel (and a popular movie on Netflix too!) with its Song-Covey sister dynamics, “Love and Other Foreign Words” is a realistic portrayal of the confusion and struggles of growing up. The story’s protagonist, Josie, finds her sister, Kate, engaged to someone she finds far from perfect. As Josie becomes determined to break Kate and her fiancé up, she finds herself re-examining and redefining her understanding of love. Although this may not be one of those smooth-sailing romantic YA novels (the book most certainly has its adorable moments though!), Josie’s story provides an honest glimpse of what love is, in its many forms. Available from Book Depository here.
Sassy Mama Tip: If you want to avoid online shopping and you can’t find a particular title in store or at your local/school library, then ask! Often, shops and libraries are willing to order in books, but this can sometimes come at an extra cost. Check out this list of libraries in Hong Kong to find your nearest book-borrowing service.
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Editor’s note: This post was originally published on 29, May 2018 by Lauren Boydell and was most recently updated by Lydia Ching on 18, February 2020.