The following article comes from Primary English Specialist Kate Heap, who shares her top five books to celebrate the season of Autumn.

The air is crisp, leaves are falling and nights are drawing in. Autumn is the perfect time to curl up with a good book.

Here are five fantastic Middle-Grade novels that will put you in the mood for this season of sweaters, shadows, Harvest and Hallowe’en.

1. October, October

by Katya Balen & illustrated by Angela Harding (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

October, October is a powerful story of love, discovery, challenges, loss and rebuilding. 11-year-old October lives in the forest with her father. They are wild and love everything about their off-grid existence. They rely on themselves and the forest for life, joy and fulfilment.

October thrives on their traditions and her close relationship with both her father and the natural world around her. She loves to find treasures and imagine their stories. Her collection of found things are precious to her and she is happiest when exploring the forest after a storm. As the story begins, October discovers her most special treasures yet. Their stories become key to October’s future and the unexpected turns life takes.

Cleverly told through a first-person inner monologue, Katya Balen gives incredible insight into the thoughts and intense feelings of her character. The reader is drawn right into the powerful emotions October experiences as she attempts to navigate her way through an unknown world. Themes of letting go, dealing with change, loss and gain shape the story into something truly special. Readers are encouraged to really think about what it means to be wild and free and how to find their own perfect ending.

2. The Haunting of Aveline Jones

by Phil Hickes (Usborne Publishing)

The Haunting of Aveline Jones is a deliciously scary story that will send shivers down your spine. One cold, blustery October half-term, Aveline travels to the Cornish coast to spend the week with her hard-edged Aunt Lillian. Right from the start, readers are immersed in a shadowy, autumnal mood. The town of Malmouth is full of folklore and ghost stories. Superstitions live on even though most towns people have forgotten how they started and Aunt Lillian’s old house is full of secrets.

When Aveline discovers Lieberman’s Second-Hand Bookshop, she enters a treasure trove – like a secret book cave waiting to be explored. Searching through the stacks of old books, she comes across a volume of local ghost stories and the name Primrose Penberthy. Who was this girl? How did she disappear? What connection could she possibly have to Aveline Jones?

Readers’ hearts will beat a little faster and they’ll hide under their blankets as they journey with Aveline to solve the mystery of the missing girl and the strange hauntings of her aunt’s house. Is Primrose Penberthy a kindred spirit or is there something more sinister yet to come?

3. Time School: We Will Remember Them

by Nikki Young (Hashtag Press)

Where do you come from? Who came before us? These powerful questions about heritage and the rich history of our homes, schools and towns launch readers into the first fantastic story in the Time School series. Four friends have just started Year 7 in a Yorkshire mill town near Leeds. Surrounded by soot-stained Yorkshire stone Victorian buildings, Jess, Nadia, Ash and Tomma don’t think very much about their roots and those who walked the corridors of their school before them. Then one day, everything changes. A power cut makes them late for school and in a mad rush to board the train, they find themselves all alone in a strange carriage. When they arrive at school, the Yorkshire stone is the colour of golden sand, boys and girls are on separate playgrounds and the school uniform is not at all like the one they are wearing. Could they have travelled back in time?

Alarm bells ring as they hear talk of war and realise the unusual train has taken them to November 1918. It’s the same school in the same town but so much is different. The impact of the First World War is all around them and the effect on the local people is clear. It’s not just the soldiers in Europe who have their lives changed by war. Jess and her friends realise the importance of remembrance and that the soldiers on the war memorial are so much more than just names.

Author Nikki Young has created a reading comprehension guide to accompany this book. Click here to download it free from her website.

4. The Invasion of Crooked Oak

by Dan Smith & illustrated by Chris King (Barrington Stoke)

Lose yourself in this chilling mystery of an abandoned fracking site, unusual smells and adults behaving strangely. As soon as readers pick up this engaging book, they will be pulled in by the intensity of the cover, the very first chapter title, “Something Strange”, and the characters’ interest in the intriguing “Mystery Shed” website. Pete and Krish are desperate for something extraordinary to happen in their ordinary village.

For months, everyone in Crooked Oak has been furious about the fracking site. Worried about it damaging the environment, causing earthquakes and poisoning the drinking water, protesters have been raising the alarm and ostracising anyone who works there. Suddenly, the site is shut down and things begin to change. Can Pete, Krish and Nancy find out what’s going on and stop it before it’s too late? They’ll need to use all of their knowledge, investigation skills and daring to work out who they can trust and help each other find the answers.

Fans of horror, science fiction and mystery will love this fast-moving story. The explanation of Hydraulic Fracturing (fracking) is very current and will interest readers who are keen to protect the environment and learn more about important issues.  As a whole, this book looks grown-up and with Year 8 characters, it bridges the gap from primary to secondary beautifully. The exciting story is accessible and is resolved fairly quickly but in an extremely satisfying manner. This book is sure to help more reluctant readers find their reading spark, building their confidence with manageable chapters and text. It has been published with dyslexia-friendly font and colours to ensure everyone can access the heart-stopping adventure.

5. The Velvet Fox

by Catherine Fisher (Firefly Press)

The lilt of haunting music carried on the breeze; a soft, velvety laugh; a magical toy carousel turning in the night – The Velvet Fox is the spine-tingling sequel to Catherine Fisher’s brilliant story, The Clockwork Crow.

Seren and Tomos have become firm friends in Plas-y-Fran since their first dangerous encounter with the magical Tylwyth Teg fairies. As they play conkers on a fresh Autumn day, Tomos makes the grave mistake of boasting about how they defeated those mystical creatures. Suddenly, a breath of wind stirs up the crackling leaves and a mysterious carriage appears. Mrs Honeybourne has arrived to act as the children’s governess. Who is she? Where has she come from? Is she everything she seems to be? The gift of a mysterious toy carousel brings a kind of magic into the house that Seren thought was gone forever.

Seren soon finds herself treated unjustly – second best because she’s an orphan. When Tomos turns on her, she knows she needs help. It’s time to call for her old friend, the Clockwork Crow. He understands the old magic and might be able to help her defeat the enchantment encircling the house before it’s too late.

The Velvet Fox is a wonderful story of bravery and standing up for yourself, of power in friendship and strength in honesty. Readers will see that a person’s background does not determine whether they are important or not but, instead, who they are inside and how they choose to behave makes all the difference.


Kate Heap

Kate Heap is an experienced Primary English Consultant from Leeds. She is passionate about helping children to be inspired in their learning through adventure and imagination. Kate is also an author for teachers with her book, Reading the Classics at Key Stage Two, to be published in 2020.

Read more from Kate on her blog Scope for Imagination.

Follow Kate on Twitter – @KateHeap1.

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