Amnesty's top summer reads for children

Fancy spending your summer with a smelly dog? Or maybe you’d rather spend it exploring ancient city woodlands? Or maybe even embarking on a daring adventure to post-Civil War America? For whatever it is that piques your child’s interest, there’s a book out there that will make an excellent addition to their summer reading list.

But where to begin!? With the range of amazing books available, it can be hard to narrow in on the best picks for your child’s summer reading list. Here at Amnesty we believe that the best books inspire empathy in a fun and engaging way. Luckily, there are many amazing new reads for children and young adults that do just that. We’ve compiled a list of our favourites below:

Lots of fun for little ones

Smelly Louie by Catherine Rayner (for ages 2+)

Louie the dog has just had a bath and now he smells all wrong. Deeply uncomfortable, he sets out on a stenchful quest to get his smell back. You may not believe it, but this book is perfect for exploring our right to an identity and freedom of expression! Beautiful, delicate, eccentric and great fun, Smelly Louie was shortlisted for this year’s CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal.

Find out more about Smelly Louie.

Oliver by Birgitta Sif (for ages 5+)

Not many kids can say that they’ve leapt over oceans or battled dragons - but Oliver can! Oliver is a quiet boy with an exciting imagination. But when Oliver has to engage with the real world around him, he feels sad and different. One day, Oliver is forced to venture outside his comfort zone when he loses his ball and has to travel next-door to get it back. This sends Oliver on his biggest adventure yet. A book to celebrate the power of the imagination and the value of friendship - and to remind us that we are all born free - this quirky, thoughtful and fun read will appeal to even the dizziest of daydreamers.

Find out more about Oliver.

Perfect for juniors

Jim’s Lion by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Alexis Deacon (for ages 7+)

A beautiful celebration of the importance of kindness and the life-affirming power of our imaginations, this deeply moving tale about a very ill boy is part story, part graphic novel. A masterpiece, this book was shortlisted for this year’s CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal.

Find out more about Jim's Lion.

Red Leaves by Sita Brahmachari (for ages 9-11)

This novel tells the tale of three runaway children, each uprooted by war, rejection, family break-up and grief who find an unexpected new home in an urban woodland in London. A moving novel about family, love, community, refugees – and the many meanings of the word ‘home’- Red Leaves tells a gentle story that encourages empathy, tolerance and kindness - all values that help us to uphold human rights.

Find out more about Red Leaves.

Great for young adults

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge (for ages 11+)

For those who like sinister books, this dark and surreal tale explores identity - and what it means to be human - in an extraordinarily gripping way. A fabulously frightening story that will keep you on your toes, this is a great read for both teenagers and adults. Cuckoo Song was also shortlisted for this year’s CILIP Carnegie Medal.

Find out more about Cuckoo Song.

Buffalo Soldier by Tanya Landman (for ages 14+)

A freed slave, Charley disguises herself as a man and joins the army in a last-ditch attempt to survive. Soon after, her human instincts and sense of freedom are tested as she is sent to fight the ‘savage Indians’. A deeply thrilling adventure story dealing with race and gender inequality set in the immediate aftermath of the American Civil War, Buffalo Soldier is a must-read for teens of all genders. It’s also the winner of the 2015 CILIP Carnegie Medal.

Find out more about Buffalo Soldier.

Amnesty International and fiction

To all parents unsure about your children’s summer holiday reading, did you know that Amnesty International is very interested in fiction? It’s because great literature – from picture books to poetry anthologies - has the power to change minds, expand horizons and help us develop empathy. And with empathy comes confidence to stand up and make a difference.

Read more about literature and human rights, and see more great reads, recommended for you by the world’s largest human rights organisation.

Written by Emma Childs and Nadina Kulara, publishing team volunteers.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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