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Great books for children starting secondary school

Age group: 9-11, 12-14
school pupils reading by lockers

Starting secondary school can be a daunting and scary experience, and transitioning to a new school is never easy. Here are some great books to share with young people moving up to secondary school. They offer insights into the first term and school life, advice for dealing with change and anxiety, and reassurance that everything will be okay.

Natalie Smillie Rosie Jones The Amazing Edie Eckhart

Written by comedian and debut author Rosie Jones, The Amazing Edie Eckhart is a laugh-out-loud story of the trials and tribulations of starting secondary school. Edie has Cerebral palsy and is thrown straight into school life, auditioning for the lead role in the school play and learning to adapt to old and new friendships. This is a story about challenging ourselves, understanding and accepting others, and navigating changing relationships – perfect reading for starting secondary school!

Steven Camden Everything All At Once

A beautiful and moving collection of poems about one week in secondary school. Meeting a range of characters, we share moments that span everything from hoping to make it to the end of the week, finding friends and falling out, love lessons, and worrying. This collection of poems will resonate with many young people.

Benjamin Dean Sandhya Prabhat Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow

A joyful and funny read, this story is about navigating many new things, from changes in the family to gender and sexuality, as well as life at secondary school life. Archie sets off on a heart-warming and unforgettable journey with best friends Bell and Seb, which leads them towards the end of a rainbow. This is an uplifting and joyous read, perfect for those feeling nervous about secondary school.

Matt Abbott A Hurricane in my Head

A collection of poetry perfect for sharing, this book explores everything from friendship to bullying to school life and technology. It will make you laugh (and cry), discussing secondary school life in a humorous, reassuring, and honest way.

Jerry Craft New Kid

A stunning graphic novel following Jordan Banks as he starts at a new school. Jordan loves drawing and feels out of place when his parents send him to a highly academic school where he is one of the few kids of colour. Jordan finds himself torn between home and school and feels like he doesn't fit in anywhere. This is an honest and poignant story about being true to yourself while navigating new environments and school cultures.

Angela Harding Katya Balen October, October

An emotive read, October, October is all about dealing with change. October grew up in the woods with her dad. She loved her life and being wild. But after an accident, she moves to the city and must start school. This is a story of feeling like an outsider, not fitting in, and struggling with the challenges that life throws at us. It is also a story of resilience and is ideal for reading before experiencing a big change like moving to high school.

Aimee Lucido In the Key of Code

This book is about finding friendship and fitting in. When Emmy's musical family moves to California, she feels out of place. But after joining a computer and coding club at her new school, Emmy finally feels like she has found her rhythm. A unique story told through Java, this is an ideal book for anyone searching for a sense of belonging.

William Sutcliffe The Gifted, The Talented and Me

From Scottish author William Sutcliffe comes a laugh-out-loud story about moving to a whole new school environment. Sam feels out of place and distinctly ordinary in a school of talented youngsters. But as the year progresses, Sam begins to find a new hobby and realises that actually, it isn’t all bad.

Libby Scott Rebecca Westcott Can You See Me?

Meet 11-year-old Tally as she starts high school. Tally is like most of her friends. Well, kind of. But Tally keeps a secret – she is autistic. Tally's autism means there are things that bother her even though she wishes they didn't, and it also means people misunderstand her or think she can't understand when she can. This book beautifully brings to life the difficulties young people feel about fitting in and negotiating friendships as they start a new chapter in their life.

Sabine Adeyinka Jummy at the River School

Set in 1900's Nigeria, this historical fiction is an ideal read for anyone worried about making friends and fitting in at their new school. We join Jumoke (known as Jummy) as she starts secondary school at a prestigious boarding school, the River School. By the Shine-Shine River, the school is everything Jummy hoped. Except, her friend Caro isn't able to join her. But when Caro arrives as a maid to Matron, Jummy knows things have to change. She holds firm to her belief that everyone is entitled to education. A story of friendship and fighting for what you believe in, this is a powerful and joyful read.

Peter Carnavas My Brother Ben

A heartwarming story of sibling love, Luke and his brother Ben have a supportive and strong sibling relationship. But as Ben starts at secondary school, this relationship is tested. A very realistic portrayal of a family going through a period of change and learning to readjust, this is a really wonderful read and ideal for siblings as well as those moving to secondary. The book has gentle messages about the importance of mindfulness, doing what you enjoy and looking after yourself as well as the importance of communicating with others. A really positive and uplifting read.

Lily Bailey When I See Blue

When I See Blue is a moving and honest portrayal of a young person living with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). We follow Ben as he moves to a new town and new school. When Ben meets April and starts a new friendship, his life begins to change. With the support of a professional counsellor, Ben begins to settle into his new school and understand his behaviour. However, the road is not smooth and at the Halloween disco Ben and April find their friendship tested. This book is the perfect read to develop empathy, and ideal for sharing with those uncertain about a new school and how friendships might form. It is an authentic and inspiring story of friendship and supporting one another through the challenges we face.