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Top 11 summer reads for kids

Our librarians have selected the top 11 summer reads for kids from our 2019 Critics’ Picks collection. Whether your kids are looking for great escapes or brilliant careers, it is full of awesome stories to enjoy during the long lazy days of summer.


There are thousands more great books – many reviewed by top critics – to browse and read in our new Children’s Library, located in the Governor Marie Bashir Reading Room.

Summer Reading List - Kids Who Did

Kids Who Did
by Kirsty Murray

When the future looks dark, courageous kids bring light and hope into the world. Forty true stories celebrate kids who have protested, prayed, rebelled, saved lives, earned a fortune, lost everything, become world-famous, or fought to survive war and oppression. Fearless kids, feral kids, Olympic champions, human-rights crusaders, climate-change warriors, princes and prisoners, workers and whiz-kids — they all show the true courage of kids. From the distant past to the present moment, kids have made their mark on history; and now they’re set to change the world.

Kids Who Did is a refreshing and uplifting read for 8+ years, showing kids who have risen to the challenge and are set to change the world. And what better message for the young people of today?’ — Children’s Book Council of Australia

Summer Reading List - Little Bird's Day

Little Bird’s Day
by Sally Morgan and Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr

A simple, universal story of a day in the life of Little Bird as she sings the world alive, flies with Cloud, travels with Wind, nestles with Moon and dreams of flying among the stars. Sally Morgan’s beautiful words and Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr’s sensitive artwork combine to make this a beautiful, distinctive publication with global appeal. Johnny infuses his illustrations with his fine-art aesthetic, his traditional motifs and a quirky sense of humour.

Little Bird’s Day by Sally Morgan and Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr is a simple but beautifully told story that celebrates the creatures of the outback and honours the elements, in just the perfect amount of words and a handful of colours.’ — Sydney Morning Herald

Summer Reading List - A Great Escape

A Great Escape
by Felice Arena

When Peter’s family leaves for a trip across the border, he stays behind. So, when the government builds a wall through the city, guarded by soldiers, tanks and ferocious dogs, he’s trapped. Everyone says he might never see his family again. But Peter has a courageous plan. Set in Cold War Germany, A Great Escape is a story of true-life heroism and the unbreakable bonds of family.

‘Inspiring and full of action and suspense, Felice Arena, author of The Boy and the Spy, has created another gripping tale with children as heroes and leaders.’ — Kids Book Review

Summer Reading List - Baby Business

Baby Business
by Jasmine Seymour

Baby Business tells the story of the baby smoking ceremony that welcomes baby to country. The smoke is a blessing — it will protect the baby and remind them that they belong. This beautiful ritual is recounted in a way young child will completely relate to.

‘Baby Business felt like being warmly invited to witness the very intimate occasion of a baby being welcomed into country, as wisps of smoke bathe the newborn and connects them to their land, keeps them safe from bad spirits and encourages them to always remember their family, law, land and language.’ — Children’s Books Daily

Summer Reading List - Funny Bones

Funny Bones
edited by Kate Temple, Jol Temple and Oliver Phommavanh

A bumper book to tickle your funny bone with over 100 hilarious one-liners, jokes, shaggy dog tales as well as silly stories and wise-cracking cartoons from Australia’s favourite comedians, children’s authors and illustrators.

‘Every time I went back for another read, I found something I hadn’t discovered the first time. All stories are unique but the one thing they definitely have in common is that they will get your little reader laughing.’ — Better Reading

Summer Reading List - Mr. Chicken All Over Australia

Mr Chicken All Over Australia
by Leigh Hobbs

Australia is big, but so is Mr Chicken. He can’t wait to go everywhere, see everything and meet everyone. Luckily, a helpful marsupial from Tourist Information helps Mr Chicken organise his hectic itinerary.

‘Inspired by author/illustrator Leigh Hobbs’ time as Australian Children’s Laureate, Mr Chicken All Over Australia is dedicated to the kids, librarians and teachers Leigh met as he criss-crossed his way all over Australia.’ — Storybox Library

Summer Reading List - Invisible Boys

Invisible Boys
by Holden Sheppard

Invisible Boys is a confronting YA novel, tackling homosexuality, masculinity, anger and suicide with a nuanced and unique perspective. Set in regional Western Australia, the novel follows three 16-year-old boys in the throes of coming to terms with their homosexuality in a town where it is invisible — and so are they. Invisible Boys depicts the complexities and trauma of rural gay identity with painful honesty, devastating consequence and, ultimately, hope.

Invisible Boys is a raw, confronting Young Adult (YA) novel that explores the complexities and trauma of rural gay identity with painful honesty, devastating consequences and, ultimately, hope.’ — Arts Review

Summer Reading List - Summer Time

Summer Time
by Antonia Pesenti and Hilary Bell

Summer is here. Put your school shoes away — the long, lazy days can begin. Mangoes and magpies, municipal pools. Take a deep breath and dive in. The bestselling creators of Alphabetical Sydney and Numerical Street are back with their new picture book, Summer Time — a stunning tribute to an Australian summer.

Summer Time, Hilary Bell and Antonia Pesenti’s third picture book collaboration, explores ideas of time within the grand nostalgic mythology of Australian summer.’ — Books+Publishing

Summer Reading List - Miss Franklin

Miss Franklin: how Miles Franklin’s brilliant career began
by Libby Hathorn and Phil Lesnie

This is a story about iconic Australian writer Stella Miles Franklin, namesake of two major literary prizes, during her brief but formative time as a governess in rural New South Wales. Teenager Stella Miles Franklin has to work to help support her family. Stella is unhappy in her job and longs for the freedom and excitement of city life. While working, she meets a young orphan girl, Imp, who is almost as feisty as Stella herself, and who spurs the older girl on to follow her dreams. Inspired by events in Miles Franklin’s life, Miss Franklin is told by multi-award-winning author Libby Hathorn and acclaimed illustrator Phil Lesnie and includes a facts page about Stella Miles Franklin.

‘Picture books like this introduce children to history and people that sometimes are never encountered… It is as much a story about encouraging you to follow your dreams as it is about how Miles got to where she did and became such a well-known author’ – Book Muse


Summer Reading List - The Rise of Mythix

Golden Unicorn: Rise of the Mythix, Book 1
by Anh Do

Some heroes are legends. Some legends are real. The tyrant known as the Soul Collector hunts down anything that is beautiful, unusual or unique. Kelly Swift is trying hard to be an average teenager, to fit in. But every day her powers are growing: she can run faster than the wind, she can hear people’s thoughts, she is not normal. When her mother is taken by the Soul Collector, Kelly can’t linger in the shadows any longer. But who is she really? Can she be the one in the prophecy? Is she...the Golden Unicorn?

‘With glances back in time to the great super heroes of the ’50s and ’60s, and the old Trigan Empire strips in Look and Learn magazine, this is a terrific, page-turning adventure for kids and young adults.’ — QBD Reviews

Summer Reading List - Explore Your World: Weird, Wild and Amazing

Explore Your World: Weird, Wild and Amazing!
by Tim Flannery

Bursting with bizarre facts, packed with vibrant illustrations and guided by one of the world’s greatest living scientists, Professor Tim Flannery, this deep dive into the natural world will enthral and enlighten readers. It will also make them laugh out loud … and squirm in disgust.

Weird, Wild, Amazing! is exactly that. A modern, educational exploration of fascinating creatures with astounding facts.’ — Kids’ Book Review