10 Addictive Reads for Upper Primary (perfect for school holidays)

Guest post by Dr Zewlan Moor of Byron Bibliotherapy

Dr Zewlan Moor is a registered GP and mental health practitioner, as the ad goes, ‘Your specialist in life’. She also happens to be one of my oldest friends and so you can imagine the phone calls she’s had to deal with over the years regarding fevers, rashes, strange lumps and sporting injuries—and that was before the kids came along.

Zewlan studied English alongside her medical degree went on to do her Honours in children’s literature. As well as her GP work, Zewlan now has a sideline as a bibliotherapist and children’s writer. I’ve asked for her advice on the blog today for some books to keep upper primary-aged children entertained on the long (Australian) summer holidays. As a bibliotherapist, Zewlan seeks to manage difficult feelings through the prescription of books, and my theory is that holiday boredom (kids), frustration (mine), despair (kids) and rage (mine) are all difficult feelings that need to be managed.

I’ve asked Zewlan for a mix of old and new, Aussie and other, and to avoid the usual suspects that many upper-primary kids have ripped through already – Treehouses, Ella Diaries, Harry Potters, Anh Do’s and so on. Here’s what she’s come up with.

10 Addictive Reads for Upper Primary (perfect for school holidays)

We all know the feeling, right? Those long six weeks, and kids just don’t seem to know how to amuse themselves like we used to! What happened to cycling with no-hands down to the golf links for salt-and-vinegar chips? Well, here’s a list of books that will hopefully get them hooked and immersed for hours.

  1. Who Let the Gods Out by Maz Evans


Perfect if your child loves Percy Jackson and is willing to diversify into comedy. A satirical adventure with heart, based on the antics of Greek Gods as you’ve never seen them. Reminiscent of Terry Pratchett. Three in the series with the fourth due out in Feb 2019.

  1. Outcast by Rosemary Sutcliff


Our 10 year old houseguest was reading this the other day and I was so excited. He chose it himself because he loved Greek and Roman stories. He was devouring it. So once again, if your child loves Percy Jackson and needs to be challenged… And there are plenty more Sutcliffs where that came from.

  1. The Naming of Tishkin Silk (Kingdom of Silk series) by Glenda Millard


Lyrical books that every Australian child should read at some stage, in my humble opinion. They’re thin, have largish writing and ethereal illustrations by Caroline Magerl and Stephen Michael King. The first book is about “an uncommon sort of boy, from an uncommon sort of family,” and the subsequent books switch to other family members’ perspectives. They deal with the death of a child, adoption and loneliness in a beautiful way. Deceptively simple gems.

  1. The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity (Brixton Brothers series) by Mac Barnett


As signalled in the title, this is very meta. It’s also very funny. A great snarky voice and a sophisticated take on the mystery series. It’s also illustrated by Barnett’s fellow-genius and partner in crime, Adam Rex.

  1. The Mystery of the Squashed Cockroach (The Peski Kids series) by RA Spratt


In the same vein of knowing mystery/spy series, this nicely acknowledges the working mother. The great thing about this one is that the author is so prolific, your kids can move onto the Friday Barnes series if they haven’t already read it.

  1. Truly Tan by Jen Storer


Another clever and hilarious mystery/spy series by an Aussie author. Storer has been working on the screenplay for this, after a British movie producer’s daughter recommended the book to him. Hooray for good kid readers! There are seven of these in the series.

  1. I Am Jack by Susanne Gervay


Great voice, realistic family & school settings with humour. A loveable 12-year-old central character with a big heart dealing with bullying and caring for his friends. There are three in the series, each about 160 pages long, with largish writing and appealing line drawings.

  1. Trouble at Home by Cate Whittle


This series is more for the Stage 2 level, ages 8-10, or reluctant readers. Whittle is a master at capturing dialogue as Australian kids are speaking it now. When I was reading it, I could hear my daughter saying some of the phrases in my head. It’s fun, because it extends that trope of the imaginary in the mundane world that is common in picture books, eg There’s a Hippopotomus on My Roof Eating Cake, into chapter books.

  1. Northern Lights by Philip Pullman


This is an outstanding parallel-world fantasy by a master storyteller (I wrote my thesis on this!). Kids will love the animals that sit on people’s shoulders and reflect their spirit; as well as the armoured bears and hot-air-balloon-flying cowboy. It is followed by two other books in the trilogy. If the reading level is a bit high for your child, save it for high school and given them his shorter tales, such as The Firework-Maker’s Daughter or I Was a Rat!, which are compiled in Four Tales.

  1. The Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M Martin and Sweet Valley High by Francine Pascal


They’re back! Recently sold in ALDI [Baby-sitter’s Club available at Dymocks], but you don’t need to go there, do you? You still have them on your shelf, like I do – admit it! These are the original voracious reads and are noted by many great readers and writers as their “gateway books” into literature. Including this chap, bless his heart, who is one of my favourite book bloggers and podcasters.

Happy holidays! I hope you can visit me on my website at Byron Bibliotherapy or on all things social, @byronbiblio



Child reading photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

One thought on “10 Addictive Reads for Upper Primary (perfect for school holidays)

Comments are closed.