Summer reading: unmissable children's books

Girl reading a book outside in summer

It can be hard to keep kids entertained over the holidays, which is where the Summer Reading Challenge comes in. The challenge – if your child chooses to accept it – is to read six books and solve the mystery. Get started with our recommended reads, inspired by this year's theme of Animal Agents

The Summer Reading Challenge is aimed at children aged four to 11, completely free to join and includes exclusive rewards. To get involved, sign your child up at your local library – for more information, visit the Summer Reading Challenge website. For reading list ideas, we've rounded up a list of our favourite books for children that feature creatures great and small.

Middle School: Escape to Australia (8+)

Middle School: Escape to Australia (8+)

When Rafe wins a national art competition and the prize is a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Australia, he thinks he's got it made. But the Land Down Under – with its hostile host-siblings, scorching temperatures and poisonous critters – isn't exactly what he expected. Full of mischief and mayhem, the latest adventure from James Patterson is ideal for Middle School fans and newbies alike.

“If your child is a fan of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, like mine is, the Middle School books could well be their next big thing.”

Buy on Amazon for £5

Read an extract

AniMalcolm (9+)

AniMalcolm (9+)

Malcolm doesn't like animals, which is a problem considering his family is animal-mad. The Year Six school trip seems like a welcome escape from the pet-filled house, until Malcolm realises where they're heading – to a farm. Soon, he discovers more about animals than he ever would have imagined, or wanted to – in fact, he learns what it's actually like to be one…

Buy on Amazon for £3.49

The Secret Horses of Briar Hill (8+)

The Secret Horses of Briar Hill (8+)

It's December 1941 and World War II is raging. Emmaline has been evacuated to Shropshire and whilst there, she discovers a secret. She'll share it with you (as long as you don't tell anyone) – there are winged horses that live in the mirrors of Briar Hill. A moving and beautifully-illustrated novel about the power of storytelling and the imagination.

“My 11-year-old daughter loved this, especially the magic of the horses – which is Potter-esque.”

Buy on Amazon for £12.08

Mostly Mary (6+)

Mostly Mary (6+)

Meet Mary Plain – an orphan who lives with her relatives in the bear pits at Berne Zoo in Switzerland. Be enchanted by this charming, if rather unusual, bear's escapades in the first classic adventure from Gwynedd Rae, brought to life by Mango and Bambang illustrator Clara Vulliamy.

“Clara's lovely illustrations have made my children into life-long fans.”

Buy on Amazon for £8.99

Word of Mouse (8+)

Word of Mouse (8+)

Isaiah is no ordinary mouse, with his sky-blue fur, oh and the fact that he can read, write and talk to humans. After escaping from a laboratory, Isaiah must use these skills to survive in a world full of terrifying predators such as cats and owls – and humans who seem to be scared of him. Luckily, he soon meets a kindred outsider spirit – in the form of human girl Hailey and together, the two embark on an unexpected friendship. A wild adventure from the bestselling author of the Middle School books.

“My son had never read any James Patterson before Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life and it was devoured in 2 sittings, so we will definitely be getting some more for him. He's a fan now, as am I – any novel that can get him engrossed like that is a hit in my eyes…”

Buy on Amazon for £6

Julius Zebra: Bundle with the Britons! (7+)

Julius Zebra: Bundle with the Britons! (7+)

Following the antics of Julius and his pals in Julius Zebra: Rumble with the Romans!, this time the gladiator animals must win over the crowds of Britain before Emperor Hadrian will grant them their freedom. See whether they succeed in this action-packed chapter book, perfect for history and animal fans alike.

“My son found it very funny. He liked the way the humans spoke to the animals and how they made Julius Caesar into Julius Zebra. He thought it was quite silly which appealed to his sense of humour!”

Buy on Amazon for £6.99

Wed Wabbit (8+)

Wed Wabbit (8+)

When Fidge's toy rabbit comes alive, everything starts getting curiouser and curiouser. Thrown into a strange world, with even stranger companions – not to mention three thousand Wimbley Woos – Fidge must solve impossible challenges in order to find his way home. Wed Wabbit is a hilarious and wacky adventure story, perfect for fans of Alice in Wonderland.

Buy on Amazon for £10.68

Catlantis (9+)

Catlantis (9+)

Baguette is just a normal cat who likes to eat, sleep and sit in the window, watching the birds go by. But that all changes when he falls in love with beautiful street cat Purriana and will do anything to win her over, even travel through time to the lost island of Catlantis. There, he must find a way to save the nine lives of all cats and outwit the wicked black cat Noir, before it's too late.

Buy on Amazon for £11.39

Middle School

Kids eat free this summer at Bella Italia in partnership with the bestselling Middle School series. Visit the website to download your voucher, enter the competition to win a holiday to the Med and download fun Middle School activities!

This page is sponsored by Middle School by James Patterson

All age recommendations are a guideline. Prices correct at time of publication