Best summer books for young readers

Channelling everything from Samuel Beckett to Scandi-noir, The Big Issue recommends six gripping summer reads for children of all ages

3+

Waiting For Goliath by Antje Damm
(Gecko Press, £10.99)
A children’s book that looks to the changing of the seasons, touches on the strange logic of The Gruffalo, carries a gentle nod to Samuel Beckett, all the while retaining an incredible warmth, presents a rare gem indeed.

Waiting For Goliath book jacket

Add to that an ending that is surprising enough to make you delighted to read time and time again during the holiday – and when you return home – and you have a new classic-in-waiting.

Antje Damm’s touching and beautiful illustrations make this a special book.

In Focus: Cities, created by Libby Walden
(360 degrees, £15.99)

In Focus: Cities book jacket

Oshiyas, the people employed to push Tokyo commuters onto packed trains, need to train for six months. The story of the hunchback of Notre Dame was conceived by Victor Hugo to draw attention to the ruinous state of the cathedral and bring visitors, and their money, in.

These, and many, many more brilliant pieces of info jump out of this glorious book. A look at 10 of the world’s most famous cities – Moscow, Rome, Cairo and London are amongst the others – it includes beautiful illustrations, hyperreal maps and a sense of genuine globe- hopping. Even if your break is limited a little this year, here, the world for your young reader, opens.

8+

Eddy Stone and the Epic Holiday Mash-up by Simon Cherry
(Usborne, £6.99)

Eddy Stone and the Epic Holiday Mash Up

In the grand kids’ story tradition of great adventures coming when a summer holiday looks like being the dampest squib, Simon Cherry plants a new flag. And his is a jolly roger.

Eddy’s poor summer moves on immeasurably when he discovers a pirate in his gran’s bath. There’s a grumpy penguin and ship-shaped shed and illustrations that, as Lenny Henry noted, add to the Pythonesque air of the proceedings. Ripping yarns.

DID YOU KNOW…

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8+

Go Wild In The Woods, An Adventure Handbook by Goldie Hawk & Rachael Saunders
(Nosy Crow, £7.99)
Working alongside the National Trust, this ‘how to’ guide is properly useful and not patronising. It’s about the glory of getting outside and knowing what to do when the iPad is switched off.

Go Wild In The Woods book jacket

The guides are varied – from reading a map and compass, to identifying leaves, building a toilet and noting the constellations and how to use them. Adult companions would do well to knuckle down and learn from here. Start at the glossary, daddio. A hardback and one to treasure.

9+

The Matilda Effect by Ellie Irving
(Corgi Children’s, £6.99)

The Matilda Effect

As every whip-smart primary school child will tell you, the Matilda Effect is the name of the bias against women in science who see their work attributed to their male colleagues.

It’s not clear if Roald Dahl had that in mind for his feisty, not to be crossed heroine, but Irving’s titular firecracker is definitely railing against those wrongs.

She discovers her grandmother, an astrophysicist, has discovered her own planet

Her journey starts when judges at school stop her winning the science fair because they don’t believe a girl could have come up with the entry. Angry, she discovers her grandmother, an astrophysicist, has discovered her own planet. But a male colleague is going to get the Nobel Prize for HER work!

A brilliant race-against-time caper follows. Ideal for the righteous and indignant change-makers in your house.

Young Adults

October Is The Coldest Month by Christoffer Carlsson
(Scribe, £7.99)
Given the prominence of Scandi-noir in fiction, both in novels and TV, it’s not a surprise that a YA book has appeared. The underlying elements that propels those works – claustrophobic small towns rippling with brooding darkness, taut sparse language – are all here.

October is the Coldest Month book jacket

Add that to late teenage concerns – sexual awakening, identity, the crossing into the adult world – and you have the makings of a compulsive read. Here, in rural Sweden, Vega, 16, opens the door to cops searching for her brother. She hasn’t seen him in days, knows he was involved in a terrible crime and also knows she was present. Gripping.