Children's reading lists

The best new Puffin books out in 2021

It's going to be another bumper year of Puffin books. From magical adventures and hilarious fictional diaries to body-positive picture books, we've put together a list of the stories to watch out for in 2021. 

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Puffin team
A selection of the best Puffin books out in 2021 on a pink background
Image: Alicia Fernandes/Penguin


Humans have been changing the world since, well, forever! And in Rashmi Sirdeshpande’s new book, you’ll meet 15 different groups of people who have made changes for the better. From the campaigners who fought for women’s rights to the scientists working to protect the ozone layer, it’s amazing what can be done when we all work together.

Sohal is a worrier. His parents and teachers always say so but this just makes Sohal worry more. He worries about the dark, not having friends and mutant sheep. So, to make himself feel better, Sohal decides to scribble down his worries. And this helps! Except when he wakes up the next morning, he finds his worries sitting at the end of his bed in furry creature form! Will Sohal be able to keep them under control? A great story for fans of Pixar film Inside Out.

Uma Gnudersonn has a million and one questions. Why do old people shrink? What’s the most disgusting animal in the world? Will my dad ever start talking again? Why did mum leave before she passed away? Unfortunately, Uma doesn’t always get an answer. But then she stumbles across a single mysterious in-ear headphone called Athena who has the answers to everything. Armed with this access to unlimited knowledge, Uma is determined to make some changes in her life. But then Athena’s sinister inventor comes looking for her creation… 



Cordelia Hatmaker belongs to a family of magical milliners. In her world, alchemy and enchantment can be woven into different clothing items – this is a rare and ancient skill known as Maker magic. Cordelia’s father Prospero often has to travel to collect some special hat ingredients but this time he and his ship go missing. Cordelia is determined to find him – however, with a longstanding family rivalry resurfacing and a potential war brewing, will Cordelia ever see him again? This captivating debut from actress Tamzin Merchant is perfect for lovers of fantasy adventures.

Antiracism is bred, not born. And if you need a little guidance on how to broach the subject with younger children, Ibram X. Kendi’s picture book is ideal. Ashley Lukashevsky’s bold illustrations alongside Kendi’s playful rhymes will introduce little ones to the concept of antiracism and provide parents with the tools they need to have those necessary conversations.

Despite having saved the world twice already, Little Badman aka Humza Khan finds himself caught up in another hair-raising adventure for World Book Day. This time Humza and his friends end up with superpowers after a box of delicious samosas are hit by a rock from outer space. Pretty cool, huh? Less cool are the giant terrifying hamsters now on the loose…

The characters from the Who’s In Your Book? series are also taking part in World Book Day this year. And in this special interactive tale, they have made a book inside a book! But there’s a big bad wolf on the loose and he’s causing chaos. Can you help them get rid of this meddlesome beast? 


Former First Lady of the USA, Michelle Obama, has adapted her bestselling memoir Becoming for younger readers. Get ready to be inspired and learn about Michelle’s humble beginnings in Chicago and how she went on to become a successful lawyer, loving mother, and activist championing all girls' right to an education.

In this sequel to Struan Murray’s Orphans of the Tide, Ellie and Seth have arrived on a mysterious tropical island after fleeing from the City following their battle with the Enemy and the Inquisition. They still need to uncover the truth behind Seth’s lost memories but at least they can rest easy for now. Or can they?

Greg Heffley’s best friend Rowley is continuing to show off his knack for story writing with this collection of spooky tales. There are zombies, vampires, ghosts, and a host of other ghoulish beings. Don’t read this with the lights off…

In Jacqueline Wilson’s new tale, the year is 1851 and two young girls from very different backgrounds are struggling. Kitty Fisher lives on the streets, performs tumbling to earn her meals and has recently lost the only friend she had. Lucy Locket on the other hand comes from a wealthy family, but the arrival of her new stepmother and a mean governess has left Lucy feeling very lonely. So, she runs away and ends up meeting Kitty. It’s now up to the girls to work together if they are to survive on the streets of London and avoid the workhouse.

Lottie Brooks is only 11 years old but her life is officially already over. She doesn’t have any friends at her new high school. She doesn’t have glamourous swooshy hair. And worst of all, she’s too flat-chested to wear a bra! The only thing left for her to do is go into hibernation with her hamsters. How will she ever get through this? Fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid will love this new series. 


Families look different for everyone and all are equally wonderful. For one little girl, she has two daddies and they go on the most amazing adventures. From battling dragons and running from dinosaurs to travelling to the moon and finding treasure, she always has the best time with them. Perfect for bedtime, this charming picture book is sure to be a new favourite for all little readers.

Maud is a guinea pig who likes judo, and she’s gifted as a birthday present to a young girl called Kit. However, things get off to a rocky start between Maud and Kit’s other pets; they think she’s a bit of a weirdo. But a friendly encounter with a neighbour shows Maud she should embrace her individuality. This gorgeous story from veteran writers Zadie Smith and Nick Laird, alongside Magenta Fox’s delightful characters, will be treasured by weirdos young and old.

This is the diary of Billie Upton Green (don’t ever call her BUG). Although it’s not really meant to be a diary – it’s supposed to be used for practising her spellings. Anyway, there’s a new girl called Janey at Billie’s school, so Billie decides to show her the ropes. But then Janey starts to get very close to Billie’s BFF Layla. And she seems to know an awful lot about their teacher Mrs Robinson’s missing purse…

We all throw a wobbler now and then. And Barbara is having one of those days. First of all, she couldn’t find matching socks. Then there was a strange pea on her plate. And to top it all off, Barbara has a very unfortunate incident with her ice cream. So, she throws a wobbler. But it’s now getting out of control. Will Barbara be able to make it go away? 


It’s been 40 years since we were introduced to young Willie Beech who is evacuated from London due to the war and sent to live with the bad-tempered Tom Oakley. Despite their differences, the pair form a lifelong friendship. This anniversary edition is a must-have for older fans and new readers.

This beautiful picture book reimagining of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid is perfect for readers new to the classic story. Princess Coral is a mermaid who dreams of living above the ocean waves. After rescuing and falling in love with the human Prince Eldo, Coral seeks out the Sea Witch to give her two legs instead of a fin. But powerful magic like that comes at a terrible price…

Jasmina Santos-Campbell is part of the Bramrock Stars. Maybe you’ve heard of them? Don’t worry if not, you will soon when they become famous football stars. Jaz formed the team to show everyone that girls can play football too. And hopefully once Jaz is a football star, her mum will come back home…

The summer holidays are meant to be fun, not spent on a remote and very rainy Irish island surrounded by sheep. But silver lining: Rex gets to stay with his strange and very brilliant Uncle Derm. And Uncle Derm is planning on robbing the island’s travelling bank. 


Tyler Feder’s empowering picture book shows younger readers that all kinds of bodies exist in the world. The rhythmic words are great for reading aloud together and paired with Feder’s vibrant illustrations, little ones will learn there are all different kinds of skin tones, body shapes, hair types and more. Every body is a cool body!

Inspired by her husband and son, The Duchess of Sussex releases her first children's book The Bench this summer. Christian Robinson's beautiful watercolour illustrations complement Meghan's touching narrative poem, which speaks about the special relationship between father and son, as seen through a mother's eyes.

Hey You! by Dapo Adeola (10 Jun)

Written by superstar illustrator Dapo Adeola, Hey You! is a powerful picture book that tackles the experiences Black children face growing up. With artwork from 18 other incredible Black illustrators, this is a powerful and inspiring book for every child.

Beatrix Potter’s iconic character is still up to lots of mischief in this new series by Rachel Bright and Nicola Kinnear. Peter needs to help his mum clean the sheets he’s made so grubby. So, looking in his big invention book, he hatches a plan with Squirrel Nutkin. But things don’t quite go to plan…

Sarah’s grandma loves gardening and it’s nearly her birthday, so Sarah sets off to Mr Pottifer's Parlour of Plants to find her grandma the perfect gift. There’s so much to choose from; there are tiger plants, foxgloves, green runner beans and birds of paradise. Sarah settles on a packet of unicorn seeds – what a wonderful gift this will be. But after she plants the seeds, Sarah finds that a garden full of unicorns is hard to maintain.

Aldrin Adams has quite a rare superpower: if he eats smelly cheese before bedtime, he can enter people's dreams and nightmares. Pretty cool, huh? Aldrin likes to help people with their problems. But he doesn’t really have anyone to help him with his own. His dad hasn’t been the same since his mum died and their cheese shop is in danger of being closed. And to top it all off, someone is trying to steal Aldrin’s superpower for their own evil plan of world domination! If Aldrin’s going to save the day, he’ll need the smelliest of cheeses. 


In the follow up to The Ship of Shadows, Aleja and her fellow pirates are keen to set sail and find the second piece of the magical map. But the clues are bewildering and time is running out. Aleja also begins to experience strange visions – could these be the key to getting what she wants?

Abigail Balfe always felt different and a bit out of place growing up. She couldn’t understand the ‘normal’ world like everybody else. This is Abigail’s story of how she came to learn she was autistic, as well as her experiences with scary toilets, crowded trains, and a mysterious tub of ice cream. Plus, there is some very crucial information about autism.

Listen, Layla is the sequel to You Must Be Layla and school has just finished for the summer. Layla can’t wait to spend all her time getting her inventions ready for the Grand Design Competition. But then her grandmother in Sudan falls very ill, so Layla and her family go to be with her. This summer is going to be a difficult one to navigate. 


Just when we thought we had bid farewell to Daisy and Hazel, this never-before-published short story collection arrives! Our favourite schoolgirl detectives along with their friends and Hazel’s sisters must solve four more mysteries. A perfect addition to the Murder Most Unladylike series.

Happy space couple Tim and Tim long for their own family. So, the pair set off into the sky to find their own star child. This is a lovely tale for children and a great starting point for conversations around the experiences of LGBTQ+ families. 


Grandude and his grandchildren are back in this follow-up to Hey Grandude! This time they’re on a mission to find Nandude and the only way to do that is to jump in Grandude’s green submarine and follow her musical trail. This fun picture book from music legend Paul McCartney is a must-have.

To celebrate 10 years of fairytale hairdresser Kittie Lacey for making sure everyone in Fairyland has a world-class hairdo, the first picture book in the series has had a makeover! As well as the mammoth task of untangling Rapunzel’s miles and miles of hair, Kittie Lacey also needs to defeat an evil witch and save the day.

Malorie Blackman has teamed up with award-winning illustrator Dapo Adeola to breathe new life into her original story Marty Monster. Two intrepid travellers are having fun using their imaginations to turn their house into a wild wonderland. The problem is this then turns their big brother into a mighty monster!

Following the success of the Kid Normal series, Radio 1 DJ Greg James and newsreader Chris Smith have teamed up again for The Great Dream Robbery. Maya Clayton is slightly different from other 12-year-olds in that she can’t wait to go to bed early. However, this is only because it’s the only way she can save her brilliant but bonkers dad, Professor Dexter. He invented a device that allows you to visit other people’s dreams. Unfortunately, he’s now trapped in a nightmare and so it’s up to Maya and the Dream Bandits to save him!

In Change Sings, a young girl leads the way for a cast of characters on a musical journey. And along the way, they learn they can make changes, both big and small if they just believe in themselves. Presidential inaugural poet and activist Amanda Gorman has created a dazzlingly beautiful lyrical picture book for children.

The Frostheart trilogy concludes in this third and final book from Jamie Littler. The world is in big trouble. Shaard, the evil Wraith leader has unleashed the fearsome Devourer from its centuries-long imprisonment. Despite all being in the same predicament, the tribes remain divided and unwilling to work together. So, Ash and the Frostheart crew journey to the forbidden yeti lands in the hope they'll find a way to defeat the Devourer and save everyone.

Former doctor Adam Kay taught us all about the inner workings of the human body in Kay’s Anatomy. And now he’s back to school us on all the gruesome ways doctors used to treat their patients during a time where very little was actually known about the body. We hope you’re ready…


Rick Riordan's brand new adventure is perfect for fans of Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Ana Dakkar is in her freshman year at Harding-Pencroft Academy; a high school that produces the best marine scientists, naval warriors, navigators, and underwater explorers. At the end of the year, Ana and her classmates are sent on a secret weekend trial at sea. But on the bus ride to the ship, a terrible tragedy occurs that will change their lives forever...

This empowering sticker poster book comes from the minds behind Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. Featuring inspiring women such as Amelia Earhart, Rosa Parks, Frida Kahlo, Simone Biles and more, you can create your own portraits of these trailblazing women to stick on your bedroom wall with numbered stickers. Make sure you check out the Rebel Girls of Black History sticker book too!

Our favourite Christmasaurus is back in this third adventure from Tom Fletcher. We all know that you need to be good and stay off Santa's naughty list. However, some children can't help but be mischievous. So this year, the Christmasaurus is on a mission to track down all those children on the naughty list and help them put wrongs to rights! 

Greg Heffley and sports don't tend to mix very well. Following an abysmal field day competition at school, Greg makes the decision to officially retire from his athletics career. It's just not meant to be. But his mum encourages him to give it one more shot, so Greg tries out for the basketball team and surprisingly makes the cut! The team is pretty bad but anything can happen during a game. Will Greg be able to step up and lead them to glory?

The Ice Whisperers by Helenka Stachera & Marco Guadalupi (28 Oct)

Fans of Disney's Frozen and Frostheart will love this magical adventure set in deepest, darkest Siberia. When Bela's mother dies, she is sent to live with her uncle who she's never met. Whilst exploring his workshop, Bela stumbles across a secret door that leads to a icy world, one that's frozen in time and filled with prehistoric creatures. The land is in danger however, so Bela must join forces with her long lost sister Ren-ya who was born 40,000 years before...

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