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5 fantastic summer reads for children

Fantastic Summer Reads For Children – Girl Reading On The Beach

It’s time for weekends away, long evenings, and for stocking up for the summer holidays. Don’t forget the books! Here are five fantastic summer reads for children – including an insider tip – by major authors, for your children to read this summer. I’ve read them all in the last few months, and loved them.

1: ‘A Parcel of Patterns’ by Gill Paton Walsh

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Published by: Vintage Children’s Classics, 2022. Available from Amazon.

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A Parcel of Patterns is a new publication of a gripping historical novel for readers of 12+. This is a fascinating, often disturbing book based on the real events that took place in the village of Eyam in Derbyshire in 1665. It was the time of the Great Plague in London, and when the villagers of Eyam became infected their vicar, Mompesson, urged them to cut themselves off from the rest of Derbyshire in order to stop the plague from spreading. In Walsh’s novel the central character Mal and her sweetheart Thomas live in different villages. Desperate to keep him safe, she stops going to their usual meeting place where she and he tend their sheep. She even persuades a friend to tell Thomas that she is dead. Will that keep him away?

The ending of A Parcel of Patterns is bittersweet, yet there is hope for the villagers as the effects of the plague finally wane. The prose is beautiful, the attention to historical detail is excellent, and the fine story is simple and gripping.

By the way: If you’d like to watch a video of four children’s authors (including myself) discussing A Parcel of Patterns and our own novels about Eyam, follow this YouTube link.

2: ‘When the Sky Falls’ by Phil Earle

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Published by: Andersen Press, 2021. Available from Amazon.

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When the Sky Falls is set in the second world war and is about a twelve year old boy who is evacuated to London during the Blitz. His hostess is a grim and seemingly uncaring acquaintance of his grandmother. Joseph doesn’t want to be with her, he only wants to be at home with his dad, who is fighting in the war. Mrs F. obviously doesn’t want to have this difficult child on her hands. Joseph is angry, afraid of the bombs, friendless except for a strange girl, Sid, and frightened that his dad will die. And then one day he discovers where it is that Mrs F. goes every day, even when she’s supposed to be protecting herself in an air raid shelter. She’s looking after the animals in a zoo! There, Joseph comes face to face with something even more frightening than anything else he has had to cope with. Adonis!

Phil Earle certainly knows about difficult and needy children, having worked as a carer in a children’s home, and later with abused children. When the Sky Falls is a great book about courage, friendship and love, and has a very unusual and dramatic twist that the child reader will never forget.

3: ‘The Thief Who Sang Storms’ by Sophie Anderson

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Published by: Usborne, 2022. Available from Amazon.

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Sophie Anderson draws again on her background of Slavic traditional stories in this novel, introducing her readers to a richly imaginative culture.

The setting is the island of Morovia, which has been split in two, ‘like a broken heart’, by an earlier tsunami. In one half live the humans. In the other live the bird-people, the Alkonosts, who have the gift of singing magic. Linnet, the heroine, is an Alkonost without a song. She has two quests: to rescue her father, Nightingale, who has been captured by the ruling Bogyatars; and to re-unite the islanders.

In a rather lovely, dreamy literary device Linnet keeps taking the reader into her memories of when all Alkonosts and humans lived peacefully together before the Bogyatars brought hatred and suspicion to the island.

The Thief Who Sang Storms is full of exciting adventures which will keep the young reader in suspense and wonder.

4: ‘The Girl of Ink & Stars’ by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

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Published by: Chicken House, 2016. Available from Amazon.

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Strikingly similar and just as appealing is The Girl of Ink and Stars, which was the debut novel of the now established Kiran Millwood Hargrave. It brought her immediate acclaim. I hadn’t read it till my ten year old granddaughter pressed it into my hand when I was going on holiday. ‘You’ll love this,’ she said. She was right.

As the story begins, Isa’s twin brother Gabo is dead, and so is her mother. She lives with her father, who is a cartographer (a skill that she inherits, hence the lovely title), on a divided island, which she is determined to restore to its original equanimity. The islanders are ruled by the governor, a cruel tyrant, and Isa’s best friend is his daughter, Lupe. The girls discover that one of their schoolfriends, Cata, has been murdered because at Lupe’s request she trespassed into the governor’s land.

Lupe disappears, and Isa, disguised as her dead twin brother, becomes the governor’s cartographer and guide as they search for her. Isa’s mantra is a quote from her father: ‘Each of us carries the map of our lives on our skin.’

The Girl of Ink and Stars is a daring book of adventure, violence, tragedy, courage and friendship. It would make a great film.

Did you know that Kiran Millwood Hargrave also writes for adults? Her second adult novel The Dance Tree was published in May (2022). That’s one for the grown-ups to pack!

5 – insider tip: ‘The Misunderstandings of Charity Brown’ by Elizabeth Laird

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Published by: Macmillan Children’s Books, 2022. Available from Amazon.

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And here’s a brand new book by one of our most acclaimed authors, Elizabeth Laird.

The Misunderstandings of Charity Brown (published July 2022) is based on Elizabeth Lairds’ own childhood, though it’s by no means an autobiography. Charity (sisters Faith and Hope, brother Theodore) are born into a very religious family, and throughout her childhood Charity struggles with her parents’ demands that she must spread the Word. It’s hard, especially when it means that you are mocked for it at school. Many things embarrass Charity, including the fact that her family inherits a huge house, again setting her apart from the other children in her class.

And, worst of all, Charity has missed a lot of school because she had contracted polio. Because of it she’s behind in her studies, people are wary of her in case she can pass it on, and she can’t join in the physical school games.

Charity has her own prejudices; against Germans, against Jews, against non-practising Christians. For a thirteen year old girl she has a lot to overcome. This family story is unusual and a delight to read – funny, caring, warm, and unerringly in touch with the anguish of adolescence.

Do you know that Elizabeth Laird has also written a book for adults? It’s called The Lure of the Honey Bird, and is an account of her travels in Ethiopia collecting folk stories.

Over to you

What books will you be taking on holiday? Old favourites? Brand new authors? What would you like to recommend? Tell me in the comments box below!

Main photo: Drew Perales/Unsplash.

Berlie Doherty

Berlie Doherty is the author of the best-selling novel, Street Child, and over 60 more books for children, teenagers and adults, and has written many plays for radio, theatre and television. She has been translated into over twenty languages and has won many awards, including the Carnegie medal for both Granny Was a Buffer Girl and Dear Nobody, and the Writers’ Guild Award for both Daughter of the Sea and the theatre version of Dear Nobody. She has three children and seven grandchildren, and lives in the Derbyshire Peak District with Alan James Brown. Her brand new novel for adults, Rose Doran Dreams, is out now. Her forthcoming novel The Haunted Hills will be published later in 2022. See the About me page for more information.

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