Books for Christmas Part 5: Beauty and a whole managerie of Beasts: Our favourite reads for 10+

We've had books for those children just starting their reading journeys (7+) and we've had books for sharing with little ones. So now it is our almost-impossible job to select our absolute favourite books for what is euphemistically-phrased 'middle grade' (we say 10+, but 8-12 might cover it better). It's been a bit of a fight, because we couldn't all agree...

In our opinion, this is the most exciting, dynamic and consistently high-quality area of all publishing, an area under huge pressure from the encroaching Bug-Blatter Beast that is 'Young Adult' but also those books that will be the first to make a huge impact on impressionable minds, and remembered for the rest of their lives.

So with that in mind - with a big responsibility as booksellers - we offer up the following top picks. But as always - come into the shop for some hand-picked choices for a child you are buying for this Christmas!

Imaginary - A F Harrold and Emily Gravett - £9.99
Rudger is Amanda's best friend. He doesn't exist, but nobody's perfect. Only Amanda can see her imaginary friend - until the sinister Mr Bunting arrives at Amanda's door. This is a really wonderful, modern classic,and we can't recommend it highly enough. It's both brilliantly funny and chillingly scary at times, a moving read from the unique imagination of children's author and poet A.F. Harrold. And as if that wasn't enough, the whole book is astoundingly illustrated with integrated art and colour spreads by illustrator Emily Gravett. A perfect gift and a book we look forward to winning awards next year.

Apple and Rain - Sarah Crossan - £10.99
When Apple's mother returns after eleven years of absence, Apple feels whole again. She will have an answer to her burning question - why did you go? And she will have someone who understands what it means to be a teenager - unlike Nana. But just like the stormy Christmas Eve when she left, her mother's homecoming is bitter sweet, and Apple wonders who is really looking after whom. Like a brilliant hybrid of Cathy Cassidy and Jacqueline Wilson, Sarah Crossan entices you into her world, then tells a moving, perceptive and beautifully crafted story.

PathFinder - Angie Sage - £12.99
We love recommending Angie Sage's 'Septimus Heap' trilogy - Sage is easily one of the best fantasy authors for children. 'PathFinder' is the story of Tod, set seven years after the final Septimus Heap book, Fyre. She has grown up a PathFinder, one of an ancient seafaring tribe. Her mother, who died when Tod was young, had a very different history. She was from a mysterious magykal desert-dwelling family. When Tod's father disappears she is not only alone, but soon finds herself swept into the path of an evil sorcerer. Now Tod must choose which of her pasts will help her to survive: PathFinder or Magician...exciting, transporting, fantasy writing at its best. And another beautifully-produced book.

She Is Not Invisble - Marcus Sedgwick - £7.99
Laureth's dad goes missing and her mum doesn't appear to care. So when Laureth gets an unexpected clue that Dad is in New York and in trouble, Laureth and her younger brother, Benjamin, sneak onto a plane to go and find him. As they struggle to follow Dad's weird clues about where he might be, they must stay one step ahead of the law and the baddies. But this is more than just a thriller or a road-trip novel. Novelist Dad is obsessed with coincidence and unravelling the clues takes Laureth into the scientific thinking of Jung and some number puzzles that make this a highly original and thought-provoking read as well as a great thriller. Marcus Sedgwick really is head and shoulders above most of his contemporaries in the way he presents ideas to children through impeccable story telling. A master at work.

Magisterium: The Iron Trial - Cassandra Clare and Holly Black - £12.99
From the imaginations of bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare comes a heart-stopping plunge into the magical unknown. The Magisterium awaits...Most people would do anything to get into the Magisterium and pass the Iron Trial. Not Callum Hunt. Call has been told his whole life that he should never trust a magician. And so he tries his best to do his worst - but fails at failing. Now he must enter the Magisterium. It's a place that's both sensational and sinister. And Call realizes it has dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future...

The Rising - Tom Moorhouse - £10.99
Tom Moorhouse was a guest in the shop in October, talking to children about his conservation work with water voles - and his thrilling, highly-acclaimed novel, 'The River Singers'. The sequel, 'The Rising', transports readers back into the vivid world of Kale and Strife, and the exciting, dangerous world of the riverbank and its creatures. The beautiful black and white illustrations by Simon Mendez only add to the enjoyment.

Feel the Fear - Lauren Child - £12.99
Ruby Redfort: supercool secret agent, code-cracker and thirteen-year-old genius. The fourth book in the scarily awesome Ruby Redfort series, by multi-million-copy bestselling author Lauren Child. This time Ruby must pit her wits against a seemingly invisible foe. How do you set your sights on catching a light-fingered villain if you can't even see him...?

Firestorm - Lauren St John - £6.99
The One Dollar Horse trilogy is that rare thing: books set in the world of horses, with wide appeal, imaginatively told, brilliantly plotted and endlessly surprisingly. And Firestorm completes the trilogy perfectly. Teenage eventing star Casey Blue has it all - fame, her champion horse Storm and a boyfriend who loves her. But when the country's hottest equestrian coach, Kyle West, walks into her life Casey knows right away she's in trouble. Who is Kyle and why are there so many unanswered questions about his past? And what is his connection to Anna Sparks, Casey's old rival? As the Burghley Horse Trials approaches, what's at stake is not just the Grand Slam, but Casey's life...

Itchcraft - Simon Mayo - £10.99
When a school trip to Spain for element hunter Itchingham Lofte ends in exploding currency and rioting locals, he knows that he has to look for answers. Itch knows the lives of those closest to him are at risk. He must track down a deadly enemy who will stop at nothing to take his vengeance...'Itch' is turning into a great series, packed with science and adventure.

Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone - JK Rowling - £12.99
The new editions of these classics feature instantly pick-up-able new jackets by one of favourite illustrators Jonny Duddle - he's the perfect choice to to bring Harry Potter to the next generation of readers, and for anyone about to enter the magical world. When a letter arrives for unhappy but ordinary Harry Potter, a decade-old secret is revealed to him that apparently he's the last to know. His parents were wizards, killed by a Dark Lord's curse when Harry was just a baby. He is transported to Hogwarts, a wizarding school brimming with ghosts and enchantments, Harry stumbles upon a sinister mystery when he finds a three-headed dog guarding a room on the third floor. You know the rest...

(And take a look at the fabulous Jonny Duddle-illustrated boxed sets of all seven books- a very special gift indeed)

Five Children on the Western Front - Kate Saunders - £10.99
A heart-wrenching sequel to E. Nesbit's classic Five Children And It, set on the eve of WWI. The five children have grown up, and the war will change their lives for ever. This time the Psammead appears for a reason, and his magic might have a more serious purpose.

Looking At The Stars - Jo Cotterill - £12.99
Jo Cotterill writes a staggeringly accomplished, gripping and uplifting book with the most difficult of subject matter - it's a book that deserves to be lavished with awards. The story of Amina - in an unnamed, but familiar-sounding country ravaged by war - is a triumph of the power of storytelling in times of little hope. Amina's journey, under oppression, fleeing after a 'liberating' army arrives, and ultimately her emergence as a leader is a cracking story and a modern-day parable.

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