Best reads for under 12s
Best reads for under 12s, submitted by you.

Bromeliad Trilogy (Truckers/Diggers and Wings)

by Terry Pratchet

My older child, Keanu (9), loves the Terry Pratchett novels. His favourite so far is the Bromeliad Trilogy. The lives of a bunch of gnomes are looked at in incredible detail, with fun and laughter on every page. The things that these gnomes get up to on their adventures are wonderfully exciting. (Submitted by Bev Morgan)

To buy now click here.

Captain Underpants

by Dav Pilkey

My boy did not like to read to himself, but this collection of books has inspired a desire to read in my Keanu. We have ordered the entire set which he re-reads and has even started writing his own "Captain Underpants" books. (Submitted by Bev Morgan)

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by Andrew Norris

I have three sons who are avid readers. My boys are now 10, 12 and 14 years. There are two books that they all enjoyed very much. Aquila is a must, especially for boys who are battling at school.

Two boys come across an ancient Roman flying vehicle whilst bunking their geography lesson. They learn to use it but it causes many problems for them.

The book is an exciting adventure but also has a lovely lesson. Andrew Norris is one of my boys’ favourites and other titles by him are The Unluckiest Boy in the WorldTouchstoneMatt’s Millions andBernard’s Watch. (Submitted by Carol Liebenberg, Mom to Andrew 14, Luke 12 and Timothy 10)

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The Great Blue Yonder

by Alex Shearer

This book about a boy who dies and can’t go to the great blue yonder before he finishes his unfinished business on earth is also excellent. My middle son has the entire collection of Roald Dahl books and particularly enjoyed: Matilda, The Twits, The Vicar of Nibbleswicke, Danny the Champion of the World and Esio Trot. (Submitted by Carol Liebenberg, Mom to Andrew 14, Luke 12 and Timothy 10)

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Wishing Chair Adventures

by Enid Blyton

This book is a wonderful collection of the Adventures of the Wishing Chair and The Wishing Chair. It follows the exciting adventures of Mollie and Peter and their little pixie friend, Chinky. Whenever the wishing chair grows its wings, the three are off to yet another magical journey.

My 5-year-old son, Joshua, who has a very creative mind, absolutely loves this book. (Submitted by Lucinda Cedras)

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by Hergé

The favourite books in our household at the moment, are without a doubt Tintin and all his adventures. My son, who is 8, started reading them about eight months ago. He has only two to go and he’d have read them all!

Reading those stories has been quite beneficial for him in learning the difference between fact and fiction. (Submitted by Claire Myers)

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The Megamogs and the Dangerous Doughnut

by Peter Haswell

A favourite with both my children, is It hilarious and a fun read.

The next favourites are anything written by Roald Dahl. I see that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was chosen in your Best Reads, but what about Danny the Champion of the World? I think it deserves a vote! (Submitted by Claire Myers)

Alex Rider (series)

by Anthony Horowitz

These books are packed with action and readers look forward to the next in the series. Alex Rider, the teenage super spy, takes the reader on many exciting missions. (Submitted by Jane Sweetlove)

 is the new book in the series which also includes StormbreakerArk AngelEagle Strike,Point BlancSkeleton Key and Scorpia. (Submitted by Jane Sweetlove)

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The Mona Mousa Code

by Geronimo Stilton

This series of books is about a mouse who runs a newspaper. The books are humorous and appeal to readers aged between 6 and 10, who enjoy the humour and play on words. (Submitted by Jane Sweetlove)

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Into the Land of the Lost

by Toby Abbott

The Secrets of Droon series appeals to readers who enjoy fantasy and adventure. (Submitted by Jane Sweetlove)

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by Kate DiCamillo

Despereaux is multilayered and both kids and adults will enjoy it. My 8-year-old daughter and I had to reach for the tissues when the poor little poetic and articulate mouse falls in love with the princess and goes on a heroic journey to safe her.

The words are beautiful, the story intriguing and we just could not put the book down. By the same author, and also beautifully written, is The Miraculous Adventures of Edward Tulane. It is a story about the adventures of a porcelain rabbit and how he discovers true love and authenticity. Again a profound adult message in a charming children story. (Submitted by Marlene de Lange)

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How to live forever

by Colin Thompson

Again a very clever book – extremely detailed and witty pictures that you can study and discover new things in for hours – children and adults will love it. The story is charming with a very deep message about life and mortality. (Submitted by Marlene de Lange)

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You’re a Bad Man, Mr Gum!

by Andy Stanton

My 9-year-old giggled her way through this wonderful book. Its appeal? Totally irreverent, amusing and written in a style that engages the reader. Like the large dog in the story, nemesis of Mr Gum, who leaves "little gifts" on the lawn, this book would make a great "little gift"! (Submitted by Mel Wagenaar)

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Star of Kazan

by Eva Ibbotson

My favourite book is Star of Kazan. It is set in Vienna, Austria. It is a beautifully-written story about a girl who has finally found her mother after many years.

The book is mysterious and has an unexpected, yet happy ending. It’s a fantastic read for anyone older than 8 years old. (Submitted by Megan Brown (11))

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Call of the Wild

by Jack London 

To buy, click here.                                                                          

The Secret Garden

 by Frances Hodgson Burnett

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The Borrowers

by Mary Norton

These are three books my 10-year-old daughter and I have to add to your list. My daugther loves anything to do with animals, which is one reason she enjoyed Call of the Wild so much.

It’s more difficult to explain the lure of the other two books, but we have both been entranced by them, even though we read them decades apart! (Submitted by Birgit Holt)

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A Bear Called Paddington

by Michael Bond

My 8-year-old daughter Catherine loves this book. It is a delightfully funny book and every time I read it to her, I am greeted with shrieks of laughter and delight.

I would really recommend this book to parents who are trying to introduce their children to a transition from picture books, to books with chapters and less pictures. It really helps with their imagination and visualisation skills which can really benefit children at school. (Submitted by Sharon Brown)

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Paper Bag Princess

by Robert Munsch

Talk about gender reversal, this is the cute story of a princess who has to set off on a rescue mission when a dragon snatches her beloved prince. This book has a wonderful message for girls, and my daughter (who is 5) read it over and over. (Submitted by Luanna Larusson)

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by Gary Paulsen

A city boy crash-lands an aeroplane in the Canadian wilderness. He has to use all his skill and knowledge to survive. 11 and up.

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How to train your dragon

by Cressida Cowell

Hiccup is the Viking heir who is to be initiated to become a full member of the tribe once he has taught and trained a dragon. This book is for every hero who is having a little trouble being heroic. 10 and up.

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Paradise Garden

by Colin Thompson

Peter finds contentment in a fabulous garden but in winter he has to return home, so he takes a garden with him. The illustrations and depth of Colin Thompson books are stunning and will appeal to all ages.


by Graeme Base

A series of stunning images, each scene reveals an ever-expanding world of detail and discovery. Exceptional combination of colour, design, ingenuity and sense of humour. All ages.

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Adam’s Ark

by Paul Stewart

Adam is locked in his own world but discovers that he can talk to animals. He takes an interest in their plight and tries to find out why he alone has the ability to communicate with them.

Best Friends

by Jacqueline Wilson

A story about friends who share all secrets. One day Gemma finds out that Alice has a secret she has not shared so everything changes. Preteen girls love this author.

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Secret Friends

by Elizabeth Laird

Rafaella and Lucy start at a new school. Rafaella is different and Lucy is the first to tease and call her Earwig, on account of her sticking-out ears. She won’t be seen with Rafaella at her school but a secret friendship starts at school time.

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Walk Two Moons

by Sharon Creech

The story of a 13-year-old girl whose only wish is to be reunited with her mother.

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How to write really badly

by Anne Fine

Chester starts at a new school really hates it. He persuades Joe to change his project to "How to write Really Badly" and their astonishing partnership begins, bringing rewards to both. 10 and up.

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Good night Mr Tom

by Michelle Magorian

Willie is evacuated to the countryside during the Second World War. A sad, deprived child, he slowly begins to flourish under the care of Old Tom Oakley, but his newfound happiness is shattered by his mother’s summons back to London.

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by Pete Johnson

A group of children are bullied and they are ashamed of being victims and full of fear. Then they suspect that one of their gang is helping the bullies.

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The Snowman

by Raymond Briggs

A picture storybook about a boy’s friendship with a snowman. All ages.

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The Whisperer

by Nick Butterworth

A book about prejudice. It shows that diversity is a gift and should be celebrated.

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I am David

by Anne Holm

David is a boy in a concentration camp who manages to escape. He learns his own identity and has to find his way back to his mother and safety. A very moving story for older kids and teens.

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Ms Wiz Series

by Terrence Blacker

A funny and exciting series about a new teacher arriving at school. With her special powers and strange pets, all kinds of weird things start to happen.

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The Dark is Rising

by Susan Cooper

Born the seventh son of the seventh son, 11-year-old Will is the last of The Old Ones. He has to lead the fight for light against the invading forces of darkness. A fantasy classic, recently made into a movie.

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The Book of Virtues

edited by William J Bennett

This is an amazing book with carefully selected stories that inspire and explain a variety of traits such as the essentials of a good character. A book to be shared by parent and child.

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Pippi Longstocking

by Astrid Lindgren

The red-headed, freckle-faced Swedish heroine is just as hilariously funny today as she was decades ago. She lives in a huge house, doesn’t go to school and has a monkey for a pet; as you can imagine, kids are taken with her!

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Percy Jackson and the Olympians Lightning Thief

by Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson always thought he was just an ordinary kid but then weird stuff starts to happen. Monsters attack him and he suddenly becomes fluent in Ancient Greek. Now the father he’s never known suddenly needs help. If you’re struggling to get your older boys to read, try this one

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Time Warp Trio Series

by Jon Scieszka

The Time Warp series is about three boys who have a magic book that take them back in time. Each books goes to a specific time and they have adventures there. It’s full of humour and lots of fun. 9 and up.

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The Enchanted Horse

by Magdalen Nabb

Irina, sad and lonely, is given a little wooden horse from the blind man at the junk shop. It is an enchanted horse and it changes her life forever.


by Christoper Paolini

A best-selling book for older readers. It is very imaginative, set in a magic world of dragons and other strange creatures. If your near teen is sucked into the tales, he can move on to Eldest.

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My Secret Unicorn series

by Linda Chapmen

This might not be great literature, but little girls just love this series about a young girl whose pony turns out to be a unicorn. Great for newly competent readers.

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Madiba Magic

Nelson Mandela’s favourite African tales are lovely to read together and this is a book that you’ll come back to again and again.

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Measle and the Wrathmonk

by Ian Ogilvy

Fabulous tales about a skinny, weedy, unwashed boy who has a big adventure. Also featuring a giant cockroach and a wicked guardian. A great adventure that is sure to turn your kids on to the rest of the series.

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Rotten School (series)

by R. L. Stine

For those who love practical jokes, bad puns, burping and ghosts, we recommend Dudes, the School is Haunted and the rest of this yucky series. A good choice for reluctant readers, particularly 8-year-old boys.

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Molly Moon series

by Georgia Byng

Molly, an orphan, discovers that she can hypnotise people and make them do anything she wants. Her new-found talent brings her into contact with all sorts of baddies.

To buy, click here. 

The Horrible History series

by Terry Deary

From the Awful Egyptians to the Ruthless Romans and Vile Victorians, the horrors of history come alive thanks to this authors’ foul facts and gruesome truths – and a lot of humour. Be amazed, intrigued, appalled and learn at the same time. A good choice for non-fiction lovers.

To buy, click here.

The Slightly Bruised Glory of Cedar B Hartley

by Martine Murray

Who hasn’t wanted to join the circus? This offbeat heroine of this story (and its sequel) and her circus friends will delight older girls. This book is funny, moving, believable and original.

To buy, click here. 

Do you have a book we should add to the list?

Then send us the title, author and a short 2-sentence description! The book must be available in South Africa.

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