As your child grows and their ability to read on their own gets better and better, it can be hard sourcing enough books to keep them occupied. Whether they still prefer you to read to them at night or have taken your role as nightly storyteller, there’s enough variety here to keep their nose deep in a book!
We’ve curated a selection of books perfect for children who are in the upper primary years of education. With a mix of subjects and styles, there’s sure to be the perfect piece of literature for your little one right here. If you’d prefer a more specific genre then please head to The Bedtime Story Finder for our wide selection of bedtime stories.
Editor’s Note: See more on our dedicated bedtime story topic page.
The Iron Man by Ted Hughes
The Iron Man came to the top of the cliff. How far had he walked? Nobody knows. Where did he come from? Nobody knows. How was he made? Nobody knows.’ A great classic modern fairytale, The Iron Man opens as an enormous, mysterious being arrives in a small, unnamed town and proceeds to wreak havoc by consuming any metallic item in its path. But rather than try to understand it, the adults in the village hatch a plan to simply bury the giant creature. Overwhelmed by fear and anger, their reaction to the creature is fuelled by panic and selfishness. However, it is little Hogarth who works instead to understand the creature’s motives, and create a solution that will bring about harmony for all. A beautiful tale of understanding and tolerance, this story is brimming with intrigue, mystery and suspense, but has a strong and human moral at its heart.
The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier
Set in Poland during the 1940’s Nazi invasion, The Silver Sword, based on true historical events, begins with Joseph, a Polish headmaster, arrested by the Gestapo and taken to a prison camp, from which he later escapes. But upon returning to Warsaw, Joseph finds his family gone (his wife has also been arrested, and the three children are in hiding) and their home destroyed. A paper knife (The Silver Sword), once belonging to his wife, now lies in the possession of a pickpocket called Jan. Joseph leaves, intending to follow his family to Switzerland, where he assumes they have fled. But Jan and The Silver Sword form the central thread of the story, as the boy befriends the three children and joins them in their journey in search of their parents. An exciting, tense and often exhilarating story, The Silver Sword follows one family’s challenging journey to safety, and finally back to each other.
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
A truly magical book which children will never forget – a gift they will take with them into adulthood. Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy are sent to stay at a big old house with an eccentric professor and accidentally stumble into Narnia through the back of a wardrobe – a frozen, snowy land in which it is always winter, but never Christmas’. This is a book full of adventure and imagination, with great characters like Mr Tumnus the Faun, the icily terrifying White Witch and Aslan, the great and mysterious Lion whose arrival signals a great change in the land, as well as a great sacrifice. Deep and layered, as well as a real page-turner, The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe is a wonderful introduction to The Chronicles of Narnia even though it is the second book in the series. It will leave you and your child eager to read the other 6 together!
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
I remember discovering Artemis Fowl soon after it was published (I was twelve), then later surreptitiously reading the eighth and final book of this sci-fi fantasy series in a shop (I was, er, twenty-three). Twelve-year-old criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl may inhabit a sprawling mansion on the outskirts of Dublin, but he is already primed for his first big money-making scheme: divest the fairyfolk of their pot of gold’, by kidnapping a fairy and waiting for the ransom to arrive. What he doesn’t bet upon is Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon (Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance) Unit, who is to be assisted by technologically adept centaur Foaly, and a whole host of outlandishly unforgettable characters. This fast-paced, wise-cracking adventure, described by the author as Die Hard with fairies’, is a guaranteed gripping read for young readers and any older ones…
The BFG by Roald Dahl
Don’t be fooled by his size! When Sophie is carried from her room in the middle of the night and taken to Giantland, she believes her cards are marked. However, more mousey than murderous, Sophie is in the good hands of her midnight captor, the BFG. His fellow giants, on the other hand, are not as friendly and have a penchant for children’s blood. Sophie must prevent their gluttonous massacre. With the help of the snozzcumber munching BFG, they set out to stop the Childchewer, Bonecrusher and the rest of the terrifying giants from swallowing the children of England.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Young Hugo lives unnoticed within the walls of a Parisian train station – until a series of encounters with a strange and bitter old man places Hugo at the centre of the discovery of the magical new art of cinema. Its blend of visual and written stories lends this book the wonderfully unique experience of reading a film. The eerie and evocative black and white illustrations draw the reader into Hugo’s shadowy world of mysterious bookshops, clockwork men and the forgotten genius who first pioneered the use of visual effects in film.
There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom by Louis Sachar
Bradley Chalkers sits at the back of the classroom, all alone: everyone ignores him and he ignores everyone else, including his teachers. In this powerful novel, the reader gets to explore how new friendships and the magical world of books enable Bradley to take on some of the challenges he faces, until the Bradley we see by the end is a very different boy to the one whom we meet at the start of the story.
Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian
A story which tells the tale of the Second World War experienced through the eyes of those children who were evacuated to the countryside. One of the most touching and powerful children’s books ever written, it tells the story of Grumpy Tom Oakley who takes in young Willie only to form an unlikely friendship which helps to enrich both of their lives. Yet no one was safe from the ravages of the war, and circumstances conspire to split them apart.
Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce
A true modern classic; set in a fictional time as England is about to change from pound sterling to the Euro, two brothers discover millions of pounds in cash, with seventeen days left to spend the money. Damian, the younger brother, believes the money has come from God and should be used for doing good. But his older brother Anthony has other ideas, and starts using the money to bribe classmates, even looking into real estate. Unbeknownst to the brothers, the money came from a train robbery, and the robbers are looking for their money… will they be able to catch up with the brothers before time finally runs out?
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Ivan is a gorilla of few, but well-chosen, words. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he’s used to us peering at him through the glass but make no mistake, he’s been watching us too. In my size humans see a test of themselves. They hear fighting words on the wind, when all I’m thinking is how the late-day sun reminds me of a ripe nectarine.’ But Ivan’s thoughtful life of resignation abruptly changes, with the imminent arrival of a baby elephant. His elderly elephant companion, injured by cruelty in captivity, asks him to ensure the baby doesn’t suffer her own fate. Katherine Applegate’s powerful story is inspired by a real Ivan; she explains: I wanted to give him someone to protect, and the chance to be the mighty silverback he was always meant to be.’ Expect tears before bedtime but they may well be your own!
Goggle-Eyes by Anne Fine
Kitty is on the war-path: mum’s got a new boyfriend, and Kitty is adamant he’s not going to have an easy time of it. Can she succeed in driving Goggle Eyes’ Gerald away, or will she realise he’s not all that bad once you get to know him… ? Kitty’s emotional journey plays out in the context of her telling her own story to comfort fellow classmate Helen, who dislikes her prospective stepfather and who is sitting in the school cloakroom in tears. The positive framing of the story will help any young reader appreciate the often hilarious developments in Kitty’s tale, as well as accommodate potentially new family dynamics in their own lives.
The Red Tree by Shaun Tan
Spare, poetic text and beautifully intricate painted illustrations reveal the inner fear and isolation of a young girl – who could be any one of us – as she struggles to get through the day in a world where nothing makes sense, and everything seems to be going wrong. That is, until the unseen hope, foreshadowed by a tiny red leaf on every page, is realised and we find it breaking through and blooming into a red tree growing right in front of us on the final pages. This is a story of how we can all feel alone and utterly hopeless at times, but of how hope is there – somewhere – even if we can’t always see it. It is waiting to break through and blossom for all of us. A brave, powerful and inspired rendering of what so often remains unsaid within each one of us, regardless of age.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (illustrated by Helen Oxenbury)
In contrast to John Tenniel’s original depictions of Alice’s escapades down the rabbit hole, Helen Oxenbury brings us a modern Alice in a simple blue dress finally free of that Victorian petticoat and sets the visual tone for a warmer, more accessible presentation of this now classic story. Helen herself remembers how her mother read it to me when I was about eight and many of Carroll’s jokes and much of his wonderful nonsense went over my head, but she must have passed on her enthusiasm, because I have read it many times since then and my enjoyment grows with each reading’. With the story laid out here so beautifully, it won’t be hard to become engrossed whatever your age.
The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan
An unusual tale of a boy who discovers an obscure looking creature whilst out collecting bottle-tops on the beach. Guessing that it is lost, the boy decides to try to find out who owns it, or where this thing belongs. Faced with the distinct unhelpfulness of the people around him, the boy feels sorry for the lost thing’, becoming even more persistent in his search – now aided by clues in the form of directional arrows. This beautifully mysterious picture book explores a landscape which will no doubt fuel the imagination and immerse any reader, with its eventual arrival at a safe haven for the lost thing.’
Have we missed out one of your child’s favourite bedtime reads? Let us know which one it is in the comments below.