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Kiran Millwood Hargrave – bestselling author of The Girl of Ink & Stars and winner of the Waterstones Children's Book Prize – has joined Caboodlers' Corner as our Book Doctor. Kiran has picked five questions – sent in by Caboodlers just like you – to answer. All five Caboodlers will each receive a £15/€20 National Book Token and a signed copy of Kiran's latest book, A Secret of Birds and Bone.Got a bookish bothering of your own? Send your questions in and if we pick yours for the attention of our future Book Doctors, you’ll get a National Book Token!
It's no secret publishing has a problem with putting its money where its mouth is in terms of reflecting the society we live in. Luckily, publishers such as indie Knights Of are shaking things up, and retailers are finally understanding that we all need and want diverse books. For your five year old, I'd recommend the Waterstones Children's Book Prize winning Look Up! by Nathan Bryon and Dapo Adeola, Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love, The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael Lopez, and Tom Percival's series including Ravi's Roar and Ruby's Worry. When he moves into the next reading bracket, keep an eye on the Jhalak Prize and Little Rebels Prize, which especially celebrate diverse and wonderful books.
There's such a wealth of books out there, it's just a case of finding the right one for them. If they have particular interests, try finding them stories that reflect them – being very assumptive here, if they like football then Kick by Mitch Johnson or Mal Peet's Keeper, if they like spies then Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider series had me gripped as a child.
Otherwise, try something that is impossible to put down, like White Rabbit, Red Wolf by Tom Pollock – a complete thrill ride of a book – Alex Wheatle's brilliant Crongton Knights trilogy, or Patrice Lawrence's award-winning Orangeboy. These books read like films, fast paced and highly engaging. I'm not sure what age you're looking for, but these are all suitable for readers 12-16+.
Your first port of call should definitely be Barrington Stoke. This publisher exclusively publishes for dyslexic and reluctant readers, and the quality of the authors and stories are amazing. Some personal favourites are Malorie Blackman's Grandpa Bert and the Ghost Snatchers, Katherine Woodfine's Rose’s Dress of Dreams, Michael Morpurgo's We Are Not Frogs, and Lisa Thompson's Owen and the Soldier. Their website is beautifully laid out, and I recommend having a browse with her to see what catches her eye!
Alternatively, consider comics/graphic novels. This is how I engaged with a lot of stories as a child, such as Asterix and Obelix, and Tove Jansson's The Moomins. Recently I especially enjoyed highly illustrated books such as Liz Pichon's Tom Gates series, Chris Riddell's Goth Girl, and Cressida Cowell's How To Train Your Dragon and Wizards of Once series.
There's nothing more exciting than a brilliantly told mystery, and Robin Steven's Murder Most Unladylike series is one of the best ever. If you haven't yet discovered Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong's adventures, I wholeheartedly recommend you read the whole series, which just this year culminated with its ninth and final novel, Death Sets Sail. Sharna Jackson's High Rise Mystery is brilliant, and the second in the series has just come out. If you're not encountered Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl series, they are fantastic – so exciting and twisty! If you can fall asleep reading that I'll be very surprised and a bit worried…
If you haven't read Holly Bourne's Spinster Club series, please, please pick it up. They are so funny, and demolish just about every trope you can think of. Katherine Webber's Only Love Can Break Your Heart does not go where you think it's going to. A Good Girl's Guide to Murder is the perfect mystery read, entwined in a school project. Some other favourites that aren't set in schools are Catherine Doyle's Blood for Blood trilogy – so gripping and twisty and hilarious – The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury, Yaba Badoe's A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars, and if you don't mind crying your heart out, Jamila Gavin's Coram Boy is one of my all-time favourites.
In an Italian city ravaged by plague, Sofia's mother carves beautiful mementoes from the bones of loved ones. But one day, she doesn't return home. Did her work lead her into danger? Sofia and her little brother Ermin are sent to the convent orphanage but soon escape, led by an enigmatic new friend and their pet crow, Corvith.
Together they cross the city underground, following clues in bones up to the towers of Siena, where – circled by magpies – the children find the terrible truth...
Don't miss out on this month's giveaways! Win signed books and once-in-a-lifetime prizes.
Browse our children's books recommendations, games, and competitions over in Caboodlers' Corner.