The best children’s book series you’ve never read

The best children’s book series you’ve never read

My dear friend Allison Rushby, the third Musketeer on Team Your Kid’s Next Read, has a new book out this week – her eighth (or is it ninth?) in the past 12 months.

Best book series for kids and YA readersThe third book in her Miss Penny Dreadful trilogy for lower middle-grade readers, it’s called The Mermaid’s Locks and concludes this engaging historical mystery series.

Sitting, as it does, right in the sweet spot for young readers who have outgrown heavily illustrated junior fiction but still need some pictures, accessible language, fewer words than a traditional middle-grade book, and a clever mystery to solve, the biggest puzzle for my podcast co-host Megan Daley and I about this series is why it isn’t… bigger.

It got me to thinking about underrated book series for children and YA readers.

Those series that are well-written, exciting and absolutely beloved by those who read them, but which, for whatever reason, don’t make the big splash that’s required to stand out on shelves crowded with celebrity books, ‘look at me’ titles and publisher favourites.

And I’ve decided to shine a spotlight on a few of them, but asking the Your Kid’s Next Read community to share their favourite underrated series – these are the books, in no particular order, that our members recommend over and over and press into the hands of young readers whenever they can.*

Here’s hoping some of them might resonate with your young readers!


Our favourite underrated children’s book series

By the Your Kid’s Next Read community

Includes comments where available. Click the series title to find out more at Booktopia**

Junior fiction (6-9)


underrated book series for kidsAussie Kids series (by assorted authors and illustrators)

“Each is a great intro to chapter books. different towns and lifestyles of Australian kids.”– Suzanne

The Secret Explorers series by S. J. King

“Both an interesting and entertaining read. I’ve been surprised that it is not more popular with 7-9 year olds.” – Kath

The Travelling Bookshop series by Katrina Nannestad (illustrated by Cheryl Orsini)

“It is recommended every now and then but it is such a wonderful series full of whimsy, vocabulary and imagination.” – Caitie


underrated book series for kidsHow to Make a Pet Monster series by Lili Wilkinson (illustrated by Dustin Spence)

Fish Kid series by Kylie Howarth

“Each book is a great read.” – Kath

Charlie series by Sam Copeland (illustrated by Sarah Horne)

Kid Normal series by Greg James (illustrated by Chris Smith) 8+

Heroes In Training series by Joan Holub, Suzanne Williams (illustrated by Craig Phillips)


underrated children's book seriesTime Hunters series by Chris Blake

Ghoulia series by Barbara Cantini

Science Comics series (various authors and illustrators)

I will never shut up about them!” – Sally

Amelia Fang series by Laura Ellen Anderson

Ottoline series by Chris Riddell


underrated children's book seriesFurball series by Adrian Beck

“Full of jokes and action-packed adventure.” – Louise

Daisy and The Trouble With … series by Kes Gray (illustrated by Garry Parsons and Nick Sharratt)

“We found them in the UK and they are just wonderful!” – Yvette

The Kingdom of Silk series by Glenda Millard (illustrated by Caroline Magerl)

“One of my favourite series of all time. The only series I finished and felt compelled to write to the author to tell her how much I adored them.” – Anna


underrated children's book seriesWhimsy and Woe series by Rebecca McRitchie (illustrated by Sonia Kretschmar) (8+)

“This was my daughter’s favourite series and she dressed as Whimsy for Book Week. Gothic. Delightful. Mysterious. I wish more people had faith in their children not to “need” the same thing over and over!” – Laura

Wayside School series by Louis Sachar

Wandi and (sequel) Kimmi by Favel Parrett

“Fictional stories based on real life dingoes.” – Andy


Middle-grade fiction (10+)


underrated children's book seriesBeetle Boy trilogy by M. G. Leonard

“These are absolute page-turners.” – Margot

The House at the Edge of Magic series by Amy Sparkes

At The Sign Of The Sugared Plum by Mary Hooper

“This one is judged by its really bad cover!! But it’s a brilliant read and so is the sequel.” – Ruth

Amari and the Night Brothers by B. B. Alston


Stella Montgomery Intrigues series by Judith Rossell

This series was nominated multiple times by multiple members as not receiving the attention it should.

The Forbidden Library series by Django Wexler

“This series is AMAZING and I recommend it in both printed and audiobook form. It’s SUCH an amazing series but I don’t think anyone I’ve met has already read it so I keep recommending it to everyone so I have someone to talk/rave about it with.” – Bec  

Cogheart series by Peter Bunzl

“A fabulous steam punk series – I devoured every one of them.” – Margot


underrated children's book seriesThe Keepers trilogy by Lian Tanner

“My 10-year-old daughter massively rates this trilogy.” – Amy

Elementals series by Amie Kaufman

George’s Secret Key To The Universe series by Lucy and Stephen Hawking (9+)

“They’re interspersed with pages of space and physics facts, which can be skipped to continue with the story. Great fun!” – Danielle


underrated children's book seriesThe Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series by Maryrose Wood (illustrated by Jon Klassen)

“It’s clever and witty and funny and a teeny bit creepy without being yuck. Perfect for ages 10 to adult.” – Kat

Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage

“I love it more than Harry Potter. It is better written, with similar themes and I think a more magical setting.” Rhonda

The Books Of Elsewhere series by Jacqueline West

The Children of Green Knowe by L. M. Boston (illustrated by Peter Boston)


underrated children's book seriesThe Sun Sword Trilogy by Belinda Murrell

“I have four children ranging from ages 12-26 and they all loved this series. It is plotty and adventurous. I had to buy new copies of the series recently, as the original books had fallen to pieces due to being read so much.”Amanda

Maven & Reeve Mysteries by A. L. Tait

The Figgy series by Tamsin Janu

“We absolutely adored this series with its unique protagonist and window into a different culture.” – Anna

The Enchanted Forest Chronicles series by Patricia C. Wrede

“My favourites as a kid. Funny, creative, great female characters who save themselves.” – Lauren


YA series


underrated children's book seriesAlanna series by Tamora Pierce

Tamora Pierce’s books (this series and others) were nominated multiple times by multiple members.

The Abhorsen trilogy (and prequels) by Garth Nix

“For teens, and he is the BEST fantasy writer the country has produced. He’s huge overseas but not here, and I don’t understand why. His world building is outstanding.” – Erin


Which children’s or YA series would you add? Let me know in the comments!


A. L. Tait The First Summer of Callie McGeeAre you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of middle-grade series, The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher, and the Maven & Reeve Mysteries. My latest novel THE FIRST SUMMER OF CALLIE McGEE is out now. You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.

If you’re looking for book recommendations for young readers, join the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook community, and tune in to the Your Kid’s Next Read podcast!


*edited to include only those titles still readily available

**Link to first book in series where possible. See contact page for affiliate link details

25 books to extend young readers 9+

25 books to extend young readers 9+

“I’m looking for books for an advanced reader aged 9 – please help!”

“I’m trying to help my 10 year old move on from books with pictures – please help!”

When it comes to regular queries in the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook group, these two (or variations of them), are in the top five.

Finding suitable books for a child who is reading at a level well above their age can be a minefield. Your child may be demanding more, more, more, but books for older kids or adults can contain subject matter that young readers are just not ready for.

On the other hand, some kids get stuck in a rut, re-reading Diary Of A Wimpy Kid, or similar, over and over again because they haven’t really found a longer book that ‘grabs’ them. Well-meaning adults will throw all the ‘usual suspects’ at them (think Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, et al), but nothing really sticks.

Extending a reader might mean moving ‘up’ or it might mean moving sideways. Either way, it’s about trying something different. So the Your Kid’s Next Read team (Allison Rushby, Megan Daley, Allison Tait/me) put our minds to the problem and came up with this list.

Whether you have an advanced reader of nine*, or you’re looking to extend your middle-grade reader into books that make them think, feel and wonder, this list has something for you.


25 books to extend young readers 9+

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Ally is smart. So smart she has been able to fool a lot of other smart people, covering up the fact that she can’t read. And then she meets her match – her new teacher, Mr Daniels.



We are Wolves by Katrina Nannestad

The Russian Army marches into East Prussia and the Wolf family has to flee. Liesl promises Mama she will keep brother Otto and baby sister Mia safe. To do so, they will have to turn wild.


The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Ada’s fight for self-worth and a life to call her own is absolutely heartbreaking, as is her carer’s backstory of love and the loss of her partner. Together, these strong-willed characters manage to help each other strive for a happy ever after in troubled times.


Mapmaker Chronicles: Race to the end of the worldThe Mapmaker Chronicles (series) by A.L. Tait

Quinn is content with life on the farm, but he is selected to become a mapmaker. He soon finds himself racing across the world against other ships, battling sea monsters and searching for treasure. What lies off the edge of the map is more than he could have ever bargained for.



A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen

With the rise of the Berlin Wall, Gerta finds her family suddenly and devastatingly divided.


Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Hà’s whole world is Saigon until the Vietnam War reaches her home and she and her family are forced to flee to America.


When This Bell Rings by Allison Rushby

This story within a story told by an unreliable narrator and a famous children’s author will leave the reader guessing until the very end and re-reading to see which clues they missed along the way.




George by Alex Gino

When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s a girl. When her teacher won’t let her try out for the female lead role in the school play, George and best friend Kelly come up with a plan to show everyone who she really is.


Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

This childhood memoir verse novel sees Jacqueline Woodson growing up in the 1960s and 1970s. It covers an incredible amount of topics, from race to religion, to the divide between the North and the South and the Civil Rights movement, using imagery that will stay with you forever.



The Ranger’s Apprentice (series) by John Flanagan

When 15-year-old Will is rejected by battleschool and his ambition to become a knight is thwarted, he becomes the reluctant apprentice to the mysterious Ranger Halt. Some fantasy, mostly adventure.


Front Desk by Kelly Yang

Mia’s immigrant parents are doing it tough and so is Mia, who tends the desk at the Calivista motel while they clean rooms.


Aster’s Good, Right Things by Kate Gordon

Each day Aster must do a good, right thing – a challenge she sets herself, to make someone else’s life better. Nobody can know about her ‘things’, because then they won’t count. And if she doesn’t do them, she knows everything will go wrong. Then she meets Xavier.



Bindi by Kirli Saunders (illustrated by Dub Lefller)

Written from the point of view of 11-year-old Bindi and her friends on Gundungurra Country, this beautiful verse novel explores climate, bushfires and healing.


Refugee by Alan Gratz

Three different children with one common mission: escape from the horrors of their war-torn homelands.


Call Of The Wild by Jack London

A classic tale of survival, adventure and finding your true self, told through the eyes of Buck, a farm dog who is kidnapped and ends up pulling sleds in the Klondike region of Canada during the goldrush.



Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents and when they are tragically taken from her and Willow must find a way through her grief.


Sick Bay by Nova Weetman

Meg is struggling and hides out in sick bay to avoid other kids. Riley doesn’t want to go to sick bay, but has type 1 diabetes and an over-protective mother. Together, the unlikely pair find the space and courage in sick bay to be themselves.


Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

Jude and her mother must leave volatile Syria for America and a strange new life full of unexpected surprises.



Surface Tension by Meg McKinlay

On the day Cassie was born, they drowned her town. Twelve years later, she and her classmate Liam are drawn to the man-made lake and the mysteries it hides. As summer heats up and the lake waters become lower and lower, secrets are slowly uncovered. Can Cassie bring the shocking truth to light before it’s too late?


Across The Risen Sea by Bren MacDibble

Neoma and Jag and their small community are ‘living gentle lives’ on high ground surrounded by the risen sea that has caused widespread devastation. When strangers from the Valley of the Sun arrive unannounced, the friends find themselves drawn into a web of secrecy and lies that endangers the way of life of their entire community.


Everything I’ve Never Said by Samantha Wheeler

Ava is desperate to communicate with her family, but Rett Syndrome makes this impossible. That is, until some new people in her life allow this strong, driven character to finally show the world her true personality.



El Deafo by Cece Bell

Cece is starting at a new school, one where she is the only kid with a giant hearing aid strapped to her chest. And then she discovers her superpower – she can hear her teacher in the teacher’s lounge and the bathroom. If only she could channel her superpowers into making a true friend …


Pax by Sara Pennypacker

Told from the alternating views of Peter and Pax (a fox), this is an emotional tale of love, loss, loyalty and the horrors of war.


The Fall by Tristan Bancks

An exciting, action-packed story. When Sam hears a struggle in the apartment above and sees someone fall (pushed?) from the sixth floor, he goes to wake his father, Harry – but Harry, a crime reporter, is gone, and when Sam goes downstairs, so is the body. The next 24 hours are a heart-stopping ride.


A L Tait The Fire StarAre you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of two epic middle-grade adventure series, The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher, and a new ‘almost history’ detective series called the Maven & Reeve Mysteries (you’ll find book #1 THE FIRE STAR here).

You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.


*As always, particularly with advanced readers, suitability comes down to knowing your individual reader. Please check the full description of each book for an insight into themes, level of tension, and more. Clicking the book title will take you to Booktopia. See contact page for details.

100+ books for tweens full of mystery, history and adventure

100+ books for tweens full of mystery, history and adventure

As part of the launch of The Fire Star last month, I’ve been very busy putting together booklists for readers of all ages. But, mostly, books for tweens.

Mystery books for tweens. Adventure books for tweens. Fantasy books for tweens.

You name it, I’ve rounded them up.

Now I’m bringing them all together here in one place for easy reference.

Click on the links below to discover some fabulous new books for your young reader.

20 novels for tweens who like history

21 fantastic books for older girls

22 great new book series by Australian authors

Adventure series for tween readers by Australian authors

15 new books for 12-14 year olds

22 mystery novels for tweens


I’ve also got some tips here to help you to keep the very tricky tween age group engaged in reading.

3 top tips to keep your tween interested in reading

3 tips to get girls reading books again


Lastly, some new reviews of THE FIRE STAR!

A mystery, an adventure, a secret society and an unlikely friendship between a maid and squire… ‘The Fire Star: A Maven & Reeve Mystery’ by A.L. Tait has it all.” – Megan Daley, Children’s Books Daily

“This is an adventure/mystery that will immediately capture the imaginations of middle grade readers with immensely likeable heroes as well as thoroughly unpleasant villains.

Maven and Reeve make a terrific pairing as both bring their own backgrounds, upbringing and personal standards to a narrative that is fast-paced and full of excitement.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards.” – Sue Warren, Just So Stories

Chapters jump between third- and first-person perspective as the story switches between Reeve and Maven’s point of view but the author writes so clearly this does not present a problem. This middle-grade historical adventure novel is suitable for readers aged nine and older and is sure to be enjoyed by AL Tait’s fans.” – Dianne Bates, Buzz Words Magazine


A L Tait The Fire StarAre you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of two epic middle-grade adventure series, The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher, and a new ‘almost history’ detective series called the Maven & Reeve Mysteries (you’ll find book #1 THE FIRE STAR here).

 You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.

Launching THE FIRE STAR: news, reviews, interviews

Launching THE FIRE STAR: news, reviews, interviews

Now that THE FIRE STAR (A Maven & Reeve Mystery) has been out in the world for a month or so, I thought I’d best do a round-up here of just what I’ve been up to. As discussed before, this blog is my home on the internet and I do like to make sure I bring everything home.

So here’s a taste of some of what’s been happening to launch THE FIRE STAR.


I really enjoyed talking to Pamela for the Middle Grave Mavens podcast – it’s a bumper episode!

A L Tait on middle-grade mavens

And I had a great chat with Cheryl Akle for the Better Reading Podcast. If you’d like to hear the story behind my story, have a listen.

allison tait better reading podcast


I launched THE FIRE STAR in the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook community and had a lovely time with Megan Daley and everyone who came along. Watch the replay here:


I’ve been lucky to be invited to be part of several online events, including this interview (part of the Creative Conversations series). Watch the replay here:

Reviews of THE FIRE STAR

There’s nothing more exciting (or nerve-wracking) than watching those first reviews come in. Here’s a selection of some that I’ve seen over the past few weeks.

Review: The Fire Star (Readings)

On its surface, The Fire Star is a fairly traditional story about knights, lords and ladies. But you’d be foolish to think that’s all there is to it … Great for kids aged 9+.

Books for reluctant readers: Review of The Fire Star by A.L. Tait (Mumlyfe)

“Gift a copy of The Fire Star to the young readers in your life (or even the reluctant readers – this is the kind of book that will soon reel them in). Or buy a copy for yourself. Promise that like me, you won’t be able to put it down either. I’m itching for the next book and luckily AL Tait is already working on it.”

Book review: The Fire Star (A Maven & Reeve Mystery) by A. L. Tait (Glamadelaide)

This book doesn’t talk down to the reader, but leads them through a time in history and a language that may not be a familiar, but will nonetheless draw them in. All threads are pulled together at the end to give a satisfying conclusion. A great read.”

The Fire Star (A Maven & Reeve Mystery) by A. L. Tait (The Book Muse)

“I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am very eager for the next one in the series, which I am sure will deliver with just as much oomph and gusto. A spectacular read for all readers aged nine and older.”

Book review: The Fire Star by A. L. Tait (The Bookish Kirra)

“I’ll definitely be recommending this book to younger readers and I think it would be a great family read-along.

The Fire Star on seventyeight.sundaysSeventyeight.Sundays (Instagram)

“Oh my stars! I loved this book. This is one of my fave reads this year.

I was hooked from the start…”


Thank you to everyone who’s taken the time to read and review the book, whether on their blogs or social media, for other websites, for Goodreads or on bookseller sites. Reviews make such a difference to the word of mouth for a book, so if you’ve read The Fire Star and liked it, please consider leaving a review on your site of choice.

Signed bookplates

I’ve sent a stack of signed bookplates out to happy customers, and you have until TOMORROW NIGHT (30 September 2020) to claim yours! All you have to do is to share a #shelfie of your copy of THE FIRE STAR before midnight 30 September 2020 (AEST) on your favourite social media platform and tag me.

Don’t have your copy yet? Buy it from your favourite online bookseller here, or pop into your local bookstore!


A L Tait The Fire StarAre you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of two epic middle-grade adventure series, The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher, and a new ‘almost history’ detective series called the Maven & Reeve Mysteries (you’ll find book #1 THE FIRE STAR here).

 You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.

Writing For Kids: 5 top tips for creating a page-turning story

Writing For Kids: 5 top tips for creating a page-turning story

I get very excited every time I receive a new post for the Writing For Kids series because I learn something new from every post.

They might be writing tips aimed at kids, but they’re actually brilliant for writers of any age. After all, these are writing tips from some of Australia’s top children’s authors!

This week, Sue Whiting is taking time out from launching her brand-new book – The Book Of Chance – to share her 5 best tips for creating a page-turning story. If you’ve ever read any of Sue’s work – from picture books, through middle-grade fiction, to YA stories – you’ll know that these are tips worth reading.

5 top tips for creating a page-turning story

Don’t you love a book that keeps you up late at night? Turning the pages quickly, heart pumping and eyes flying across the page? I certainly do.

When I write, this is what I’m aiming for too – a thrilling, page-turning story, full of nail-biting suspense. One to keep my readers up late at night to find out what is going to happen next.

So here are my top tips for creating these page-turning stories.


In order for readers to keep turning the pages and go on a story journey with your characters, readers must firstly CARE about them. Deeply.

They must worry for them. They must empathise with them. And the best way to achieve this is to show how your characters are FEELING and what they are THINKING.

These insights into the hearts and minds of your characters are all-important, if you want your readers to care.

2.     BE A MEANIE

Writing stories is the one time in your life when you get to be a big bad meanie.

In fact, if you want your readers to turn the pages, you HAVE to be MEAN. It is your DUTY as the boss of your story.

After all, stories are all about characters getting into trouble (and getting out of trouble). So YOU are responsible. It is up to you to create that trouble – big trouble – trouble that will make your readers fret and frown and twist their hands with worry.

So be MEAN to your characters and make their lives as DIFFICULT as possible.


As the boss of your story, it is important that you know what your characters want – to find a lost friend, to catch the bad guy, to discover the miracle cure etc.

It is also important that the CONSEQUENCES if your characters are unsuccessful are HUGE: DIRE, DISASTROUS, DEVASTATING.

So as well as being mean, you must make the STAKES HIGH. This will ensure a thrilling story, where your readers’ hearts will be pounding, and you will have them worrying all the more – and, yes, you guessed it, turning those pages quickly.


This might sound contradictory. I don’t mean make your story slow; what I mean is that you should try to keep a few SECRETS and SURPRISES up your sleeve, a few unexpected TWISTS and TURNS that you REVEAL slowly throughout the story.

These unexpected twists and surprises slotted in at just the right moment, when your readers least expect them, will make them think, Uh-oh. I didn’t see that coming. I need to read the next chapter now!


Telling stories is very similar to telling lies. And the best way to tell a lie is to make sure it is as close as possible to the truth.

The same goes for stories.

If you want your readers to keep turning those pages, then you need to make your story CONVINCING. And the way to achieve that is to pepper in as much TRUTH – specific details, authentic emotions – as you can in order to make your story, no matter how fantastical, CREDIBLE and BELIEVABLE.

This is a sure way to hook your readers and to keep them reading.

Happy writing everyone!

Sue Whiting has written many books in a variety of genres: fiction and nonfiction, picture books through to YA. Her latest book is The Book Of Chance, for middle-grade readers, out now through Walker Books Australia.

More writing tips for kids

How To Write Funny Stories

How To Create Remarkable Characters

Write What You Love

Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of two epic middle-grade adventure series, The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher.

You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.

If you’d love more writing advice for kids, check out my Online Creative Writing Quest For Kids

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