Top 10 Fictional Diaries

Published on: 20 January 2017 Author: Julia Lee

Julia Lee, author of Nancy Parker's Diary of Detection and The Mysterious Misadventures of Clemency Wrigglesworth, chooses her Top 10 Fictional Diaries across children's literature.

Julia Lee

January is the month for starting a diary - or another diary! I've never been a committed diary-keeper myself but I've found writing a fictional one much more fun.

My detective series for 9-12s, which began with Nancy Parker's Diary of Detection, features a would-be sleuth called Nancy Parker. Nancy begins her journal on the day she leaves school, aged just 14, with grand ideas of having 'momentous things' to write down. But what awaits her is a lowly job as a maid-servant.

This doesn't stop her ambitions and she finds herself stepping out into the world at the start of the 1920s which, by strange coincidence, was the golden age of detective fiction.

Here are some of my other favourite fictional diarists. Looking at this list, you may be able to tell that I go for 'witty and eccentric' in terms of characters, and I have a soft spot for shy characters and nerds, whose inner voice can shine through in a diary. And there's always room for the achingly funny self-delusional types, too.

The Dinosaur's Diary1. The Dinosaur's Diary by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Debbie Boon (Puffin)

A book by top storyteller Julia Donaldson, plus dinosaurs! What more could you want? This is a lovely early chapter book, following a mother dinosaur's quest for a safe place to lay her eggs and raise her babies. Debbie Boon's pictures will satisfy young dinosaur experts too.


Utterly Me, Clarice Bean2. Utterly Me, Clarice Bean by Lauren Child (Orchard Books)

I love Lauren Child's rich, all-embracing world. Clarice writes her utterly candid observations and mad ideas with typical visual Lauren Child fun. A school project turns into a thrilling mystery. And everyone has fab names!


The Diary of a Killer Cat3. Diary of A Killer Cat by Anne Fine, illustrated by Steve Cox (Puffin)

Smart-mouthed Tuffy brings a cat's-eye-view of the world, which may be a bit of a challenge to us softie pet lovers. Witty and wise-cracking with glorious illustrations.




The Ellie McDoodle Diaries: New Kid in School4. New Kid In School: the Ellie McDoodle Diaries by Ruth McNally Barshaw (Bloomsbury)

Part diary, part doodle-pad. Book-loving Ellie reluctantly rises to the challenges of settling in at her new school. Got to love a nerd.



Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made5. Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis (Walker Books)

Not so much a diary as 'a historical record of my life as a detective'! There are nuanced layers to Timmy, so that children and adults can both enjoy this schoolboy version of Inspector Clouseau - always a deal-breaker when reading together.



My So-Called Life: The Rachel Riley Diaries6. My So-Called Life: The Rachel Riley Diaries by Joanna Nadin (Oxford)

13-year old Rachel is an ordinary small-town girl from a 'depressingly unbroken home' but her life's lack of sensational drama is very relatable and funny. We've all been there.



Witch Child7. Witch Child by Celia Rees (Bloomsbury)

The chilling words, 'I am Mary. I am a witch' set the tone for this gripping historical YA novel. In 1659, fleeing danger in England, Mary travels to a strict Puritan community in America where she hides her diary pages by sewing them into a quilt. But she can never feel safe. A compulsive and fast read.



Dear Nobody8. Dear Nobody by Berlie Doherty (Puffin)

A touching story of teenage love, career plans, family ties, and how it's all impacted by a crisis pregnancy. Chris, the young father, writes a monthly diary, while his girlfriend Helen puts her feelings into letters to her unborn baby. A Carnegie Medal winner.



I Capture The Castle9. I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith (Vintage Classics)

Written at a time when YA was unheard of, this classic for adults and teens alike has everything I love: a strong voice in diarist Cassandra Mortmain, quirkiness, romance, amazing settings, and an appreciation of how money works and what it means not to have any!


Nancy Parker's Spooky Speculations10. Nancy Parker's Spooky Speculations by Julia Lee, illustrated by Chloe Bonfield (Oxford)

The second in my Nancy Parker series. This time Nancy finds herself up to the eyeballs in ghastly - or is it ghostly - goings-on?



Julia Lee is the author of The Mysterious Misadventures of Clemency Wrigglesworth, The Dangerous Discoveries of Gully Potchard and Nancy Parker's Diary of Detection. Her next book, Nancy Parker's Spooky Speculations, is out on 5 January 2017. She has written fiction and non-fiction for adults under the name Julia Widdows.

Sign up for our newsletter

Stay up to date with BookTrust by signing up to one of our newsletters and receiving great articles, competitions and updates straight to your inbox.

Join us