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International Literacy Day: JAGS reading recommendations

In honour of International Literacy Day, Head Librarian Helen Stein provides a run down of some of the best books for pupils in KS3, KS4 and the Sixth Form:


We enjoyed two wonderful author visits last year from Ann Sei Lin and Katya Balen which is why we are including Rebel Skies and October, October in this list for KS3 readers.

Ann’s visit in September sparked some creative fun with origami foxes based on the cute character Akane from Rebel Skies. Rebel Skies features floating cities, power struggles and adventure.

Illustration of two girls studying.

October, October won the Carnegie Medal for Katya in 2022 and has been enjoyed by many of our readers. The main character, October, lives in the woods with her father until an accident tips their world upside down and she finds herself transplanted into the overwhelming city. A new way of life, new clothes, a new school bombard October’s senses but then… we’ll let you read what happens then! A terrific book from an inspiring writer whose visit made a profound impact on our KS3 pupils.

Boy, Everywhere has turned author A. M. Dassu into a very busy person! Sami and his family flee Syria and find themselves in the UK facing a fresh set of challenges. Their lives are suddenly dramatically different – how do they manage? A book of two halves, well worth your time!


You Think You Know Me by Ayaan Mohamud tells Hanan’s story as she busily crams for medical school entrance exams, helps look after her extended family and negotiates friendships. Then a violent racist attack sparks off a chain of events that have a massive impact on Hanan and her brother. What should Hanan do and what does she actually do?

Cane Warriors by Alex Wheatle is a historical novel following the main character Moa and a slave rebellion on a sugar plantation. The audio version of this book is well worth a listen ,too, for the way it represents Moa’s voice as that of a young teenager who cares for his mother, sister, and friends in a brutal situation.

This Poison Heart by Kalyn Bayron is one of several recent publications that draw on myth and make a great contemporary story. Briseis has a power over plants but why, and who else might be interested in this power? Be prepared for twists and turns in this great read.

Parachutes is Kelly Yang’s first YA and her strength in writing is tantamount from her younger books (New from Here and the Front Desk series are solid favourites among younger readers!). Dani and Claire could hardly be more different but are brought together as not-quite-allies when Claire’s parents decide to send her to finish school in the US. The two character’s story arcs that are woven together brilliantly.

Sixth Form

Illustration of three young women.

Finally taking the plunge with a big classic, we are recommending Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens. You have the social commentary and the long, engrossing story you expect from Dickens (of course) but you also have the hilarious supporting cast of Miss Tox, the Nipper, Major Bagstock and Mr Toots, plus the villain of the piece, Mr Carker (the manager). And, because Dickens knew his Victorian audience loved their dogs, he created the greatest of them all – Diogenes! Woof, woof.

Assembly by Natasha Brown is a thin sliver of a book compared to the brick of Dombey and Son but packs an incredible amount into every page with a narrative voice that is quietly powerful. A very worthwhile read that will make you stop and think about priorities and expectations.

Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson is one that appears in the lists on review sites for anyone who read and enjoyed Assembly. Another short but literary read, this is definitely for the more mature reader who likes to think about what they are reading. Contemporary settings heighten the familiarity.



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