The 10 best children’s books of 2016 − as chosen by children

The TES published its top ten children’s books of 2016, as voted by children. You may read the full list here, reproduced below;


This year, TES started a series of weekly pupil-written reviews of books for children. Here are the 10 that most impressed our classroom critics.

Children’s books do not get much attention from newspapers and magazines. So, in February, a group of children’s authors, led by SF Said, set up a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #CoverKidsBooks. The aim was to encourage newspapers to increase and improve their review coverage of children’s books.

TES responded almost immediately. We’d been talking about setting up a children’s book-review page on our website for a long time, and this was the incentive that we needed.

We asked teachers to review books, but we didn’t simply want adults to give their opinions; this seemed to miss the point. Surely it would be far more effective to ask children to review books that were intended for their eyes. So that’s what we did.

Here are 10 books that our reviewers − both teachers and students − loved this year.

1. The Accidental Secret Agent 

by Tom McLaughlin
(OUP Children’s) 

A book about…a clumsy 13-year-old boy called Kevin, who is mistaken for a secret agent and ends up getting armed with an arsenal of James Bond-style gadgets to tackle a supervillain.

“When I read this book, it lured me in like magic. I could not wait for the next page, and when my mum told me to go to sleep I was really annoyed, as I was extremely wrapped up in the story.”

Aidan, 9,  from Whitchurch Church of England Primary, Hampshire

2. Max

by Sarah Cohen-Scali
(Walker Books)

A book about…a young German boy living in Nazi Germany between 1936 and 1945, and how a Polish boy challenges his dedication to the Hitler Youth.

“Heart-wrenching, devastating and groundbreaking – it’s impossible not to fall in love with this book.”

Edith Reavley, Year 9 pupil at Fortismere School, North London

3. Anna and the Swallow Man

by Gavriel Savit
(Bodley Head)

A book about…a young Polish girl who is led away from the danger of the Second World War by a mysterious man, who is known as “The Swallow Man”.

“This is a perfect novel from the undoubtedly talented Gavriel Savit. It makes you want to read more and more. It is very well structured and beautifully and carefully written. I would have rated it 15 stars if it was possible, but really I would rate it five stars.”

Fuhaira Chaudhary, Year 10 pupil at Central Lancaster High School

4. Malkin Moonlight

by Emma Cox, with illustrations by Rohan Eason
(Bloomsbury Children’s)

A book about…a small black cat who falls in love and then battles to bring peace to a recycling centre full of other cats.

“I really enjoyed this book and it was very ‘popping’. My favourite part was when Malkin and Roux travelled to the recycling centre. I would recommend this to a confident reader.”

Shreyas, 9,  from Chalk Ridge Primary School, Hampshire

5. Steven Seagull, Action Hero

by Elys Dolan
(OUP Children’s)

A book about…a bird, closely modelled on the actor of a similar name, who saves Beach City from all sorts of miscreants.

“When I asked the children if they enjoyed the story, Leon called out: ‘Ding! It’s a tick!’

“Across the board, the children scored this 10/10 on their hands.

“Well done, Steven Seagull. You have made it onto the Butterfly Class’ favourites shelf. And you made this teacher laugh a lot, too.”

Alice Edgington, deputy headteacher at St Stephen’s Infant School, Canterbury, Kent

6. Ada Twist, Scientist

by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts
(Abrams Books)

A book about…the power of curiosity and a child who opts to use science to understand the world around her.

“I enjoyed this book, because it made me appreciate all of the scientists’ hard work.

“It also shows you how even young children can love and nurture their interest in science and the world around them. This is why you should check this book out – it will inspire you to do something you love.”

Abbi, 13, from Linton Village College, Cambridge

7. Lydia: The Wild Girl of Pride and Prejudice

by Natasha Farrant
(Chicken House)

A book about…Lydia, a girl who falls for a soldier and follows him to Brighton where she tries to find out what she really wants from life.

“In a fresh take on the fabulous Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Lydia finds herself in a whirlwind of social drama. Natasha Farrant conjures up a romantic atmosphere that might melt your heart. It is a must for all major bookworms out there.”

Teagan McClymont-Dodd, Year 6 pupil at The District CE Primary School, Merseyside

8. Alison Hubble

by Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingman

A book about…a girl who suddenly starts creating doubles of herself, and the ensuing chaos that it brings.

“I think that it was double the double the double the fun! It was funny and silly.”

Abigail, a Primary 3 pupil at Auchtermuchty Primary School, Fife

9. The Christmasaurus

by Tom Fletcher, with illustrations by Shane Devries

A book about…a boy and a baby dinosaur and their adventures at Christmas.

“My favourite part in the book is when the Hunter and his dog, Growler, get involved. I love action parts. When I was reading, I thought to myself, ‘I’ll read one more page’, but I ended up reading six more chapters.”

Romy, Year 5 pupil at Crondall Primary School, Hampshire

10. Knights of the Borrowed Dark

by Dave Rudden

A book about…an orphan who is drawn into a world of monsters and knights, one in which the true story of where he comes from is buried under half-truths.

“The book glows with flair and humour – clever and different, with no hint of stating the obvious. This is what makes me breathe a sigh of relief. Not at the end of the book – the ‘I’m glad that’s over’ sigh. No. The ‘Yes! Finally a real writer who isn’t dead’ sigh.”

Eleanor, 13, from Exeter Cathedral School

If you or your class would like to write a review for TES, please contact Adi Bloom at

This is an edited version of an article in the 2 December edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full story here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click hereTES magazine is available at all good newsagents.

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