Top Ten Children's Books About Weighty Subjects

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Bookbag's certain belief is that fiction is perfectly placed to incite topical and philosophical debate amongst the young. It enables them to explore dangerous and painful subjects vicariously, so they're engaged emotionally, but have enough distance to feel secure and safe whilst doing it. We bemoan political uninterest in our teenagers, so what more perfect way than a good book is there to energise them about the social issues that affect us all? Here are some of our favourites, but there are many, many more. Why not tell us about your favourites too?


Billy The Kid by Michael Morpurgo

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Billy The Kid is a lovely little book, recommended for newly confident readers of six to nine, especially sporty little boys who might be otherwise uninterested in fiction. It's moving, honest and tugs at the heartstrings. As an inclusive and accessible book introducing fairly complex ideas about war, Bookbag couldn't recommend it more. Full review...

A Child's Garden: A Story Of Hope by Michael Foreman

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It's about war and oppression, clearly but not explicitly set in Palestine. Oh, and it's a picture book, for the very youngest readers. In anyone else's hands but Michael Foreman's, it would have been horribly misjudged and inappropriate. In his hands, it's masterful and perfectly judged. This is a special book; read it and see for yourself just why. Full review...

Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah

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Refugee Boy is an angry book, although it is not one without hope. It's a very personal perspective on one of today's big issues and its central character is tremendously engaging. One for the zealous enthusiasms of all teen readers. Full review...

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon

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The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time is a much talked-about book. Ignore the different releases - one for children and another for adults. They are irrelevant. It's a serious children's book although adults could also take something from it. Beginning as a whodunnit, Curious Incident transforms into a powerful work on the family and on fitting in. Bookbag thinks it's a tour de force. Full review...

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

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Incredibly sad, but life affirming and heart warming, everyone who has ever had to make a difficult choice involving things they love should read this book. Full review...

The Wave by Morton Rhue

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Based on a real incident in a Californian high school in 1979, The Wave gives the lie to anyone who says "It couldn't happen here". A short and easy read but with a very serious message. Full review...

Before I Die by Jenny Downham

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Poetic, lyrical, heartbreaking, agonising, Before I Die tells the story of the final few weeks in the life of a terminally ill adolescent. It's frank and open, dealing with every possible taboo subject, but it has great beauty and at times touches on profundity. Full review...

Burn My Heart by Beverley Naidoo

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A story of burning injustice and the shameful end to colonial rule in Kenya, told through the eyes of two small boys. Well-written and passionately told, it doesn't duck the issues. Recommended. Full review...

Lost Riders by Elizabeth Laird

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Wonderfully researched and heartbreakingly vivid, Elizabeth Laird tells the story of the child-slave camel jockeys of the Middle East with her trademark robust sympathy. Highly recommended. Full review...

The Savage by David Almond and Dave McKean

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A beautiful allegory of the stages of bereavement, from grief to anger to resolution. The double story device allows children to explore threatening emotions without fear. Beautiful, meaningful, artistic and uplifting. Highly recommended. Full review...

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Bookaneer said:

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne, Wrecked by Robert Swindells and Kerosene by Chris Wooding