Apart from the family home, there is no place more familiar to children than school. Whether it’s navigating the politics of the playground, figuring out how best to go unnoticed by school bullies, or wondering what your teacher this year will be like – books set in schools have an eternal appeal.
Setting books in locations and spaces already known to young readers allows them an ease of comprehension in their reading, and encourages them to focus on character and plot in a more focused way.
Following beloved characters as they start a new school year, or set off for a new adventure at boarding school – these eight titles showcase some of the best fiction set in, and around the hallowed halls of learning. Some of these schools may not necessarily look and feel like the schools that young readers attend, but the perils of antagonists, the thrill of making new friends, and the trials and tribulations of teachers good and bad are guaranteed to offer much for them to engage with.
Weirdo – Anh Do
Weir Do (no, that’s not a typo – it’s his name!) is the new kid in school. And it’s hard enough to make friends and find your way around without having a totally WEIRD family to contend with at the same time. Perfect for newly independent readers, and full of moments that will make you laugh out loud – it’s not hard to see why Weirdo is one of the bestselling kids’ books in Australia! (Ages 6+)
Alice-Miranda at School – Jacqueline Harvey
Starring the sprightly, kind and enthusiastic heroine Alice-Miranda as she sets off for her first year at Winchesterfield-Downsfordvale Academy for Proper Young Ladies, this series now has a huge following of young girls. Offering a wonderful blend of intrigue, mystery, humour and fun (and with over 12 books in the series) this is an enchanting series perfect for primary school aged readers. (Ages 8+)
The Brilliant World of Tom Gates – Liz Pichon
Told in diary format, complete with kooky illustrations, the Tom Gates tells the story of young Tom, an irreverent yet average school kid who delights in annoying his older sister and avoiding doing his homework. The books feature fabulous dialogue, fun line drawings, wonderful typesetting and a rollicking pace of unfortunate events that bring out loud giggles. (Ages 8+)
Dork Diaries – Rachel Renee Russell
One of the most successful children’s series currently in publication, Dork Diaries tells the story of Nikki Maxwell – self-proclaimed dork. Moving to a new school, Nikki is optimistic that this will be chance to finally make friends, featuring battles with the school’s queen bee Mackenzie, and illustrated in a fun diary style full of sketches and notes, it’s not hard to see why this is so beloved. (Ages 9+)
Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Jeff Kinney
The hilarious and international bestseller Diary of a Wimpy Kid perfect for reluctant readers of all ages, it is not difficult to see why this series is so beloved. Written and illustrated by Jeff Kinney, The Diary of a Wimpy Kid recounts the day to day life of hapless high school student Greg Heffley.
Wonder – R.J. Palacio
One of the most affecting and extraordinary books for young readers to have come out in the last decade, Wonder tells the story of Auggie. Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life. Now, for the first time, he’s being sent to a real school – and he’s dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted – but can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, underneath it all? (Ages 10+)
Friday Barnes, Girl Detective – R.A. Spratt
When girl detective Friday Barnes solves a bank robbery she uses the reward money to send herself to the most exclusive boarding school in the country, Highcrest Academy. On arrival, Friday is shocked to discover the respectable school is actually a hotbed of crime. She’s soon investigating everything from disappearing homework to the Yeti running around the school swamp. Hilarious and captivating, this series has fans around the country desperate for the next instalment! (Ages 10+)
Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing – Judy Blume
Peter thinks he has the world’s biggest problem – his little brother, Fudge. Fudge causes trouble wherever he goes and it’s usually up to Peter to sort out the mess. When Peter wins a tiny green turtle called Dribble, he’s determined to keep it away from his brother. But when Fudge does get his hands on Dribble – disaster strikes! (Ages 8+)