15 Brilliant Books to Bridge the Gap between Primary and Secondary
The new school year is upon us and all across the country, thousands of children are making the giant leap from primary to secondary school.
This is a huge transition that can be full of uncertainty. What could be more calming than losing yourself in a new book with characters who tackle adventures with courage and resilience?
Here are 15 fantastic books that are just right for Year 7 children as they step out into their own big adventures:
The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates by Jenny Pearson (Usborne)
The end of Year 6 is supposed to be exciting – the start of a new adventure – but for Freddie Yates, a sudden turn of events causes him to question everything he knows. For someone who loves facts, this is very unsettling. He decides to set off on his greatest adventure to find a father he’s never known with his best friends by his side. Through a series of hilarious mishaps, best intentions and almost unbelievable miracles, Freddie finds far more than he ever expected.
Jenny Pearson has truly captured the humour and sense of adventure of Year 6 children. With the help of the fantastic illustrator Rob Biddulph, this story leaps off the page for readers to devour. We journey with the boys, willing them on and watching with a smile as they discover the truth and learn a whole lot more about themselves along the way.
Crater Lake: Evolution by Jennifer Killick (Firefly)
Bursting with next generation aliens, dangerous spores, a survival bunker and an evil teacher everyone wanted to forget, Crater Lake: Evolution is a gripping page-turner that demands to be read! Jennifer Killick is a science fiction genius with a sequel that is even better than the original.
Lance and his friends will never forget their time at Crater Lake when their Year 6 residential went incredibly wrong. Now, months later, it’s Christmas and they have a new set of challenges – learning how to cope when friends drift apart and things in secondary school just aren’t the same as they were in primary. New friends threaten to replace old and life is moving on far too fast.
This is a story of friendship, teamwork and trust. Lance discovers there is room in his life for both old and new friends – friends who understand without needing an explanation, who accept him for who he really is, laugh with him and stick by him when it comes down to the crunch. There’s no room for one person to be the hero – they all save each other. Full of personality and pop references, children will definitely see themselves in these brilliant characters.
Readers of Crater Lake: Evolution need to be ready for anything! They will be taken on a hair-raising adventure that will send shivers down their spines and ensure they never eat soup again! This is a Christmas story like no other! No matter what – Don’t. Ever. Fall. Asleep.
The Boy Who Made Everyone Laugh by Helen Rutter (Scholastic)
The Boy Who Made Everyone Laugh is inspirational, touching and downright funny!
Billy Plimpton has a stammer. As he leaves Year 6 and begins secondary school, he is terrified of others finding out. He does all he can to hide his voice and think of ways to cure his stammer so he can follow his dreams of becoming a stand-up comedian – and not be embarrassed about who he is every single day. In the process, Billy must learn to face so many fears. From school presentations to persistent bullies to the school talent show, Billy is exhausted by life and is running out of ideas.
Helen Rutter has created an insightful, empathy-building book about the challenges of starting at a new school when you feel different from everyone else. The issue of identity and how we define ourselves is developed as Billy grapples with important questions: is he Billy Plimpton, the boy with a stammer or is he Billy Plimpton, the funniest boy in the world? Maybe he’s both and so much more. As Billy learns to accept himself, he begins to see that he’s not the only one who feels different. Everyone has difficulties to face and mountains to climb.
Twitch by M.G. Leonard (Walker Books)
Non-fiction meets delightful narrative in this story bursting with fascinating facts about all sorts of birds and the intriguing world of birdwatching. M.G. Leonard has gone above and beyond with her knowledge of birds and passion for her hero to come out on top no matter how many challenges he faces. Twitch is a story of strength – digging deep and being true to yourself. Leadership, finding real friendship and standing up for what you believe in are central to this fantastic mystery!
12 year-old Twitch loves birds, especially his family of pigeons. He wants to be a true birder and be able to spend his summer holiday in his den in Aves Wood Nature Reserve watching for new species and training his smallest pigeons to carry messages. An escaped prisoner and a school bully get in the way and suddenly his quiet nature reserve is full of police and excitement, scaring off all the birds.
Life takes an unexpected turn when he meets an eccentric stranger and forms an unlikely friendship. Suddenly, this quiet, nervous boy is faced with danger and a deadly crime. He finds that he is more than capable to make a difference.
How to be a Human by Karen McCombie (Little Tiger)
How to be a Human is a story about discovering who you are and figuring out how to fit in with a charming sci-fi twist. Kiki and Wes are in Year 7. Bullies, humiliation and falling out with friends make every day hurt. They are alone and don’t know how to fix it.
When strange electrical storms and flooding hit their town, something isn’t right. Kiki’s little brother is sure he’s seen aliens in the sky and nature isn’t actually to blame for the damage around them. This sounds like nonsense to Kiki until she discovers a strange metallic pod hidden on the school grounds. Could there actually be aliens in their ordinary little town?
Ironically, it’s only when Kiki and Wes meet Star Boy that life suddenly starts to make sense. His observations of his “subjects” and life on Earth reveals truths about happiness, friendship and the importance of being in a group with those you can trust. Together they learn that sadness can be healed, that honest, caring relationships are so important and sometimes what you really need is right in front of you.
This is an insightful book about learning to stand up for yourself. So many readers will identify with Kiki, Wes and the challenges they face. Starting high school isn’t always easy and other children are not always kind. The honesty of this story shows children that they aren’t alone and there is a way through the difficulties they face.
The Week at World’s End by Emma Carroll (Faber & Faber)
Nothing exciting ever happens in World’s End Close. At least that’s what Stevie Fisher and her best friend, Ray, used to think. They had to rely on Ray’s overactive imagination and stories they made up themselves to bring a little bit of spark to the routine of their lives.
Then they meet Anna – a girl hiding in the coal shed. Who is she? What is she doing there? Who is she running from? Anna is a girl of so many questions but no answers. Stevie and Ray find themselves on an exhilarating adventure where they must do all they can to protect Anna without their families noticing.
At the same time, the grown-up world is bursting with worry over the mounting Cuban Missile Crisis. Special reports from the White House across the Atlantic and frightening newspaper headlines are filtering down to the children who are trying to make sense of everything they’re hearing. Is there going to be another war? Are their lives actually in danger? What will happen if someone pushes the “red button”? Is there even a button to push?
Reading historical fiction by Emma Carroll is all encompassing. The story surrounds the reader with the atmosphere of the time period – every detail coming to life on the page. In The Week at World’s End, the reader is transported to 1960’s England with all of the culture, fashion and trends that made it such a unique and important time.
A significant aspect of this book is the challenges faced by Ray and his family as mixed-race people in 1960’s England and the influence of Martin Luther King Jr and the rallies in the US at this time. This is treated honestly and sensitively with the blatant injustices ringing through.
There is so much to explore in terms of politics, war, media, racism, secrets, truth and finding your voice. This is a book to be read and shared for a very long time.
The House on the Edge by Alex Cotter (Nosy Crow)
The House on the Edge is a story of life on the edge: on the edge of family break down, on the edge of loss, on the edge of everything falling apart.
Faith and her little brother, Noah, live with their mum in The Lookout – a strange, old house that sits on the very edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean. For years, it flashed a light to warn ships of the rocks below but now it is falling apart and a crack in the garden hints at trouble to come.
Mum hasn’t been the same since Dad left. She hardly gets out of bed and Faith is left to care for them all. Responsibilities, anxieties and lies told to keep strangers away build up until she just can’t cope anymore. When Noah talks about a ghost in the cellar and the voices of the old house get louder, Faith has to do something.
Perhaps the Preservation Society can help save the house but can it help with the mysteries deep inside? Stories of shipwreck, treasure and ancestors with dark secrets show Faith there is so much more to the House on the Edge than meets the eye.
Crowfall by Vashti Hardy (Scholastic)
Vashti Hardy has done it again with an exciting ecological adventure that transports readers to a world where invention and nature struggle to live side by side. Her wonderful, trademark steampunk style moves in a whole new direction in this story of hope, harmony and survival.
Meet Orin Crowfall, an intelligent, determined boy who lives on the island of Ironhold. Orin is full of curiosity, potential and the engineering legacy of his grandmother. He loves anything that grows and wants nothing more than to help the natural world to heal.
Their land is reliant on the survival of The Eard – a huge, living entity that supports the last remnants of nature hidden beneath layers of technology. When Orin overhears a dangerous plot concocted by those in power, he and his robot friend, Cody, are forced to flee their island home. A violent storm and a mysterious sea monster drive them towards Natura – an island they didn’t even know was there. On Natura, everything is different. The natural world flourishes and people treat The Eard with the utmost respect. It seems they know how to live in a sustainable manner that will support life forever.
Crowfall is a fascinating examination of our relationship with the earth. The two contrasting islands shine a light on humans’ place in the world and just how often we get things wrong, even when we have the best intentions. When it comes down to it, humans must stop sacrificing The Eard for their own gains and learn to protect what is most precious – to keep the life-light alive. In the battle of invention vs nature, nature must win if any nation is going to survive.
The Bewitching of Aveline Jones by Phil Hickes (Usborne)
The Bewitching of Aveline Jones is another deliciously creepy adventure from Phil Hickes – every page overflowing with suspense and that spine-chilling feeling that nothing is quite as it seems.
Aveline is on holiday with her mum in Norton Wick near Bristol. Their cottage is right next to ‘The Witches Stones’ – ancient standing stones with a dark history. Always curious, Aveline is determined to find out their real story. Were there witches in Norton Wick? Are there witches there now? And what is the purpose of the strange bottle she finds buried at the end of the garden? The village is full of paganism, folklore and a history that leads to more questions than answers.
When Aveline meets a mysterious girl walking among the stones, she is drawn to her intriguing ways. At first, Hazel is fun and friendly but the more time Aveline spends with her, the more unsure she feels. Thankfully, her good friend Harold is coming to visit with a stack of books from his uncle’s shop. Hopefully, these books will hold the answers, even if it means discovering something that doesn’t want to be revealed.
The Beast of Harwood Forest by Dan Smith (Barrington Stoke)
Pete, Nancy & Krish are back for another spine-chilling sci-fi, horror adventure – the sequel to the deliciously creepy The Invasion of Crooked Oak! They are on their Year 8 Geography residential to Heathland Camp. It all seems quite tame until they discover the abandoned Harwood Institute – a Ministry of Defence research facility from the Second World War. Ghost stories, out of bound signs and strange screams in the night are too tempting to resist and the trio decide they need to sneak out to investigate.
What they discover is the stuff of nightmares – bioweapon warfare, top secret scientists, strange experiments. It’s a night they’ll never forget but can they keep it a secret?
Dan Smith has created another fantastic, easily-devourable and cover-to-cover gripping story for a reading age of 8+. In true Barrington Stoke style, the chapters are manageable making “just one more” an inevitable phrase at bedtime! The vocabulary is appropriate yet accessible making the tale come to life. The font, spacing and page tint are dyslexia-friendly so everyone can enjoy this brilliant book.
The Incredible Talking Machine by Jenni Spangler (Simon & Schuster)
The Incredible Talking Machine is a cleverly crafted story about fighting your fate and discovering truth, led by Tig Rabbit, a feisty and courageous girl who works at the Theatre Royale in Victorian Manchester. Struggling with finances, the theatre is under threat of closure unless they can come up with an act that will draw in the crowds. Then Professor Faber arrives from Vienna with his Incredible Talking Machine – a mechanical head that speaks with a human voice.
What seems like an amazing technological invention soon turns spooky when the head starts speaking on its own. Suddenly, eerie prophecies set everyone on edge and everything keeps going wrong. Tig’s intuition tells her she must try to stop tragedy from striking but whatever she does just makes things worse. The fascinating turns spine-chilling as Tig strives to discover what the strange messages mean, save the theatre and protect her future.
The fact that this story is based on a real machine and a real inventor makes it even more intriguing. Professor Faber and his ground-breaking invention inspired many scientists, including those who went on to develop the telephone.
Jenni Spangler has done it again with her uniquely dark, supernatural style sprinkled with hope. Like The Vanishing Trick, this shadowy mystery grips its readers from the start and carries them through a fast-paced, wonderfully creepy story.
Mystery of the Night Watchers by A.M. Howell (Usborne)
It’s May 1910 and Halley’s Comet has been spotted streaking across the sky. Everyone in England is on edge. Is it safe or will gas from the tail poison them all?
Twelve-year-old Nancy is fascinated with comet but worried about her mother and all the things she isn’t telling them. Then, one morning, she and her younger sister, Violet, find themselves suddenly uprooted from Leeds and transplanted to a new life in Suffolk. In her mother’s childhood home with a grandfather they’ve never met, the girls are surrounded by secrets. Why can’t they leave the house or be seen by people outside? Why does no one ever come to her grandfather’s apothecary shop? Why can’t they go up to the telescope at the top of the house to look at the comet as it moves closer to Earth? Determined to find answers, Nancy embarks on a quest to discover the truth about the people of the town, her grandfather and her mother’s life before she moved to Leeds so many years ago.
Nancy is a wonderful role model of a strong girl who is not afraid to stand up for what she believes is right. Through grit, determination and intelligence, she takes on the world and is not afraid to put the adults right. She learns important lessons about women’s suffrage, thinking critically about what she reads in the newspaper and how those in power are not always to be trusted. This is a powerful story that will challenge and inspire its readers.
When the Sky Falls by Phil Earle (Andersen Press)
When the Sky Falls is a story full of truth: truth about humans, animals and how we’re not really all that different after all.
Set in London in 1941, we meet Joseph – kind of a reverse evacuee, sent to live with Mrs F when his father is killed and he has nowhere else to go. Mrs F owns a run-down zoo and is responsible for the animals who remain. Most importantly, she is responsible for what happens to Adonis, a magnificent silverback gorilla, when the sky falls. If a bomb hits the zoo and the walls of his enclosure are destroyed, Adonis becomes a threat to everyone he comes across. If that happens, her only option is almost unthinkable.
Joseph is trapped in a cage of his own – a cage of anger, frustration and loss. Misunderstood and alone, struggles at school and the relentless attacks of a bully only compound his problems and make life unbearable. As Joseph fights against forming any kind of relationship with Mrs F or Adonis, he starts to realise just how much he’s lost but also how much he’s found.
When the Sky Falls is an inspiring story for anyone who has ever found life hard. There is a little bit of Joseph inside us all. As the truth of his life unfolds and he discovers hints of light, we are taken on his journey with him. We all have a choice – to live in fear of what might happen when the sky falls or live in the light of each day.
Between Sea and Sky by Nicola Penfold (Little Tiger)
Between Sea and Sky is a powerful story that encourages readers to question what we value and how our actions now will impact the future.
Set in a post-climate change society, life is hard. People have lived through the Greedy Years, the Decline, the Floods and the Hungry Years. Nothing is the same as it once was. Government controls are strong and restrictions dictate every part of life. Nat, Pearl and Clover live in two very different parts of this ecological dark age: Nat is a landlubber while Pearl and Clover live on an oyster farm in the bay.
Everything changes for them all when their families are brought together. Nat must learn the ways of the sea as the girls scrutinise his strange ways. Each of them has their own fears and things they have lost. They need answers, healing and friendship.
Tiny signs of recovery bring hope – the value of migrants, the pricelessness of pollinators, the healing power of the sea. Change is possible but it takes a child to see it.
Lightning Strike by Tanya Landman (Oxford University Press)
Inspired by the Match Girls Strike of 1888, Lightning Strike is a gripping story about the history London’s East End.
Eliza and her family work in a match factory. The phosphorus they come in contact with is pure poison, causing a horrible condition known as “phossy jaw”. There’s little money, never enough to eat and the constant worry that pain and death are just around the corner. It isn’t fair and Eliza is angry. But is there anything she can do to change things? The factory owner doesn’t care and no work means no money. It simply isn’t an option.
Then Eliza meets a woman who says they don’t have to put up with the way things are any longer. Is what she suggests worth the risk? Eliza is in enough trouble already but maybe things have to get worse before they can get better. Rallying the other women in the factory, Eliza takes the risk to speak out and strike. She isn’t going to let anyone take advantage of her any longer.
This book meets the issues of the time head-on. Socialism, activism, women’s rights and the role of religion in the late 19th century work together to form a story that will challenge and inspire. So often, we take our rights for granted. The story of Eliza and her family reminds us that there were people who had to fight for those rights and paid dearly.
Oxford University Press has teamed up with Barrington Stoke to create an incredibly accessible book that is “Super-Readable” with dyslexia-friendly font and spacing. It is written in a style that aids comprehension while the shorter length builds confidence and stamina. It bridges the gap between middle grade and young adult beautifully with a story that engages readers.