Eight children's books tackling big themes
Published on: 03 May 2021 Author: Kirsty Applebaum
There are so many wonderful children's books that introduce young readers to important topics in interesting and imaginative ways. The Life and Time of Lonny Quicke author Kirsty Applebaum shares eight of her favourite middle-grade books which look at the big issues.
Kirsty Applebaum and the cover of her book, The Life and Time of Lonny Quicke
Bloom by Nicola Skinner (Harper Collins)
This is the tale of Sorrel Fallowfield, who finds herself in possession of a packet of Surprising Seeds - and flowers begin to bloom in the most unexpected of places. A blend of contemporary fiction and outrageous fantasy, Bloom is a wonderfully entertaining take on the pressing theme of caring for our green spaces.
Boy, Everywhere by A.M.Dassu (Old Barn Books)
This gripping work of contemporary fiction tells the story of 13-year-old Sami, forced out of his comfortable Damascus life into the nightmarish existence of a refugee. Boy, Everywhere doesn’t shy away from the terrible realities of people-smuggling, detention centres and prejudice, but A.M. Dassu always keeps the text age-appropriate for its upper middle grade audience.
Illustration from Boy, Everywhere
Emmy Levels Up by Helen Harvey (Oxford University Press)
Emmy Levels Up is an authentic portrayal of bullying which is also very readable, relatable and empowering. Helen Harvey handles this difficult subject in a fresh and original way by weaving parallels between Emmy’s real life and her computer-gaming life throughout the book.
How I Saved the World in a Week by Polly Ho-Yen (Simon & Schuster)
How I Saved the World in a Week is about a boy in the midst of a complex family situation. It explores parental separation and mental health – but all against the backdrop of an exciting apocalyptic adventure. It also has lots of really interesting apocalypse survival tips! (How I Saved the World in a Week publishes in July 2021)
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson (Puffin)
Roller Girl is a graphic novel about a girl who discovers a love for the sport of roller derby. At its heart, this book is about growing up and dealing with change; and it proves without a doubt that graphic novels can pack an emotional punch just as powerfully as traditional books.
Illustration from Roller Girl
How to Bee by Bren MacDibble (Old Barn Books)
How to Bee is a dystopian novel set in a future Australia, in which bees have become extinct and children are employed to pollinate plants in their place. It engages with a number of weighty issues including materialism, domestic abuse and climate change, but due to its ever-positive protagonist – the utterly brilliant Peony – the story is ultimately joyous and uplifting.
The Bigwoof Conspiracy by Dashe Roberts (Nosy Crow)
The Bigwoof Conspiracy is the first of the Sticky Pines mysteries – a spooky sci-fi series with a great Stranger Things meets Scooby-Doo vibe. As well as being enormously fun, it raises some important issues that young people face today, in particular the problem of discerning truth in a world full of manipulated information.
The Shark Caller by Zillah Bethell (Usborne)
On first glance, The Shark Caller is the story of a burgeoning friendship between two girls from very different backgrounds, beautifully and skilfully set in the author’s childhood country of Papua New Guinea. But it’s also a deeply mystical tale about grief, guilt and forgiveness, set in a location undergoing seismic change.
Illustration from The Shark Caller
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