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The (incomplete) Lit in Colour book list: Years 5-6

Have a look at some titles in the 2021 and 2022 lists for years 5-6.

The 2021 and 2022 lists contain titles on topics including activism, friendship, American history, British history, folklore, poetry, family and more. The 2021 list can be downloaded here, the 2022 list can be downloaded here, and the 2023 list can be downloaded here, and you can look through a selection of titles from all the lists below.

Chompa must learn to use her own powerful magic as she hunts for her mother through the streets of Dacca and then London, encountering a host of characters – some friendly, and some not so.

Ahmed Pathak is a British Bangladeshi writer, historian and visual artist. Her research focuses on the geography and history of migration, and she was one of 12 mentees for the inaugural Penguin Books Write Now mentorship scheme, which aims to support and publish underrepresented writers.

City of Stolen Magic is Ahmed Pathak’s first novel, but her poems and short stories have also been published in Places of Poetry: Mapping the Nation in Verse, The Puffin Book of Big Dreams, and A Match Made in Heaven: British Muslim Women Write About Love and Desire.

Themes/topics: Colonialism, British history, British Empire, Fantasy, Friendship

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhhà Lai

Ten-year-old Hà was brought up in Saigon, and it’s the only place she’s ever known. But when the Vietnam War reaches the gates of her home, she and her family are forced to flee.

Their journey on a refugee ship is hard, but it’s not enough to prepare Hà for the strangeness of America, where the language is impossible, the food is strange and not all the locals are friendly.

Among her struggles though, Hà finds joy, friendship - and most of all, the power of hope, love and family.

Inside Out & Back Again is a novel in verse. Kirkus Reviews called it “an enlightening, poignant and unexpectedly funny novel”.

Themes/topics: War, Refugees, Family

Stolen History by Sathnam Sanghera

Following on from his bestselling non- fiction book Empireland, in which he examined the legacy of the British Empire, journalist Sathnam Sanghera has turned his hand to introducing empire to children in an accessible and honest way.

Exploring the ways in which Britain’s empire once made it the most powerful nation on earth, the book also looks at how empire affects our lives today, from the language we use to the food we eat and sports we play.

Sanghera has been shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards twice, for his memoir The Boy With The Topknot and his novel Marriage Material. Empireland was longlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction, was named a Book of the Year at the National Book Awards of 2022, and inspired the Channel 4 series Empire State of Mind.

Themes/topics: Colonialism, British Empire, British history

Lit in Colour

2023 list

The 3rd (incomplete) Lit in Colour primary book list.


Listen, Layla  by Yassmin Abdel-Magied

Listen, Layla is engineer-turned-writer Yassmin Abdel-Magied’s follow-up to her debut novel You Must Be Layla. 

School’s out for the year, and inventor Layla is going to spend the summer getting her inventions ready for the grand design competition. But when her grandmother falls ill and her family must rush to Sudan to be with her, Layla feels like she’s being pulled in many different directions. With big protests looming in Sudan, could Layla save the day with her revolutionary ideas? 

Abdel-Magied had a career as a mechanical engineer – working often as the only female on an oil rig – before she pursued a career in writing. 

The Guardian said of You Must Be Layla that it was a “warm, humorous account of a larger-than-life Sudanese girl navigating a posh Australian school”. 

Topics/themes: School, Family, Belonging, Politics 

Boy In The Tower by Polly Ho-Yen

Ade lives at the top of a tower block, and feels like he can see the world stretching out before him. His mum, however, doesn’t like looking outside, and she especially doesn’t like going outside. 

It used to be safe in the tower, but strange plants have started to take over and tower blocks are falling down around them. Now Ade and his mum are trapped and there’s no way out. 

Boy in the Tower is a science-fiction tale that addresses real-world subjects including friendship, loyalty and bravery. It was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and the Blue 

Peter Book Award. It was also long listed for the Branford Boase Award 2015, and runner-up for the Teach Primary New Children’s Fiction Award. 

Ho-Yen is a former primary school teacher who began writing what would become Boy in the Tower in her spare time. 

Topics/themes: Family, Friendship, Bravery, Mental health

Black in Time  by Alison Hammond 

Television presenter Alison Hammond’s Black in Time is a book about Black people throughout history. 

From sportspeople to scientists, activists to musicians, politicians to writers, the book will introduce a number of figures who have helped shape the world that we live in, including Mary Seacole, Ira Aldridge, George Bridgetower, Pablo Fanque and Walter Tull. 

Hammond has been a much-loved fixture on British television for two decades. In 2021, she became one of This Morning’s main hosts, alongside Dermot O’Leary. 

Topics/themes: History, Black history, Biography

The Good Turn  by Sharna Jackson 

When Josephine Williams, a future-focused, internet-loving 11-year-old, learns about Josephine Holloway, a woman who started the first Girl Scout Troop for Black girls in America, she knows she must start her own. 

With her friends Margot Anderson and Wesley Evans, she begins a quest to earn her Camping Badge. Drawn to an abandoned factory nearby, the trio stumble across a square, ancient television and two tatty armchairs with a wooden sideboard containing an old photograph of a young, happy couple. And so they have a mystery to solve. 

The Good Turn is perfect for fans of The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd, and is inspired by the true story of Holloway. 

Sharna Jackson’s debut novel High-Rise Mystery won the Waterstones Book Prize for the Best Book for Younger Readers. 

Topics/themes: Friendship, History, Mystery, Activism

Dream Team series  by Priscilla Mante 

The Dream Team series, currently consisting of The Dream Team: Jaz Santos vs. the World and The Dream Team: Charligh Green vs. The Spotlight, are inclusive stories about families, unlikely friendships and girl power. 

In Jaz Santos vs. the World, readers are introduced to the Bramrock Stars, a football team put together by Jasmina Santos-Campbell to prove to her mum that she’s a a football star, so that her mum will return home. 

But seven very different girls will have to learn how to work together if they want to be taken seriously as footballers. 

Charligh Green vs. The Spotlight continues the story, focusing on Charligh, who is having trouble with both football and with learning the lines for her dream part in the school play. 

Topics/themes: Sport, Friendship, Family, Self-belief

Little Badman series by Humza Arshad and Henry White

The Little Badman book series, written with comedy writer Henry White, follows 11-year-old Humza Khan, the greatest rapper the town of Eggington has ever known.

In the first book, Little Badman and the Invasion of the Killer Aunties, something strange is happening at school: all the teachers are disappearing and being replaced by aunties. At first, the children don’t mind as the aunties keep feeding them delicious snacks, but it soon becomes clear something strange is going on.

Humza’s adventures continue in the World Book Day story Little Badman and the Radioactive Samosa, and in the full length novel Little Badman and the Time-Travelling Teacher of Doom.

Topics/themes: School-set story, humour, family

Books by other publishers

You Are A Champion: How to Be the Best You Can Be  by Marcus Rashford and Carl Anka 

Published by Macmillan Children’s

Footballer and campaigner Marcus Rashford’s first book, written with sports journalist Carl Anka, is about Rashford’s own life and the lessons he has learned. 

Along with tips from Rashford, there is also advice from performance psychologist Katie Warriner to help children to reach their full potential. Among the topics covered are how to be comfortable with who you are. 

The Evening Standard said: “But besides the message that everyone is special, which is undeniably true, there’s a useful moral here, which is that the harder you practice, the better you get.” 

Topics/themes: Self-belief, Advice, Mental Health, Sport 

A Dinosaur Ate My Sister and A Robot Squashed My Teacher  by Pooja Puri, Allen Fatimaharan (illustrator)

Published by Macmillan Children’s 

A Dinosaur Ate My Sister is the first book selected in the Marcus Rashford Book Club, and is a wacky adventure through time. 

Both A Dinosaur Ate My Sister and its sequel A Robot Squashed My Teacher are about Esha Verma, a self-described genius inventor extraordinaire. In the first book, she accidentally sends her sister back to the age of the dinosaurs, and now has to find a way to get her back. 

In A Robot Squashed My Teacher, Esha accidentally turns her teacher into a pigeon. 

Topics/themes: Science, Technology, Humour, Engineering, Family

Front Desk by Kelly Yang 

Published by Knights Of 

Mia Tang lives in a motel, helping her parents out by working at the front desk while trying to keep her dreams of being a writer alive. Life for her family has been less idyllic than they believed it would be when they left China. 

Every day that her parents go to work, Mia worries for them, especially when they begin to shelter immigrants in the motel. 

Kirkus Reviews said: “Debut author Yang weaves in autobiographical content while creating a feisty and empowered heroine. The supporting characters are rich in voice and context, with multiple villains and friends that achingly reveal life in America in the 1990s for persons of color and those living in poverty. Heavy themes, including extortion, fraud, and racism, are balanced with the naïve dreams and determination of a 10-year-old.” 

Front Desk was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize Younger Readers Prize 2022. 

Topics/themes: Family, Immigration, Creativity

Cover of Sunny and the Mysteries of Osisi

Published by Cassava Republic

Sunny Nwazue, a 13-year-old and albino, is a little bit lost. She was born in New York and now lives in Nigeria, she’s good at football, and she can see into the future. In What Sunny Saw in the Flames, Sunny becomes part of a quartet with unique powers, and with her friends Orlu, Chichi and Sasha explores an exciting realm of strange creatures and dark secrets.

But when someone begins kidnapping children, and maiming or killing them, Sunny and her friends are asked to help track down the perpetrator. Sunny has to try and overcome her fears to overcome the killer, or risk the future she saw in the flames becoming reality.

In the sequel, Sunny and the Mysteries of Osisi, Sunny is settled into life and her magic powers are continuing to grow as she studies her strange Nsidi book and begins to understand her spirit face, Anyanwu. But Sunny’s destiny is to travel to the shadowy town of Osisi, where awaiting her is a battle to determine the fate of humanity.

Okorafor is a Nigerian-American author of Africanfuturism and Africanjujuism books for children and adults, and has won some of the world’s most prestigious science fiction and fantasy awards.

Topics/themes: Mythology, adventure, family, belonging

Cover of The Girl Who Stole an Elephant

The Girl Who Stole an Elephant by Nizrana Farook

Published by Nosy Crow

This novel is about Chaya, a no-nonsense and outspoken hero who leads her friends and a beautiful elephant through a jungle where revolution is stirring. The gang has a plan to steal the queen’s jewels, but will it be the beginning or the end for them?

Girl Who Stole an Elephant is Farook’s debut novel, and was longlisted for the Blue Peter Book Awards 2021. The Observer review of the book said it “positively rustles with the textures of rural Sri Lanka. It introduces an author keen to write a love letter to her culture, and upend preconceptions too".

Topics/themes: Family, adventure, mystery

Cover of Pie in the Sky

Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai

Published by Walker Books

Jingwen has moved to Australia, and it’s a bit like living on Mars. He hates school, and since he doesn’t speak English, making friends is impossible. And on top of that, he’s stuck looking after his little brother Yanghao. 

To distract himself from his loneliness, Jingwen daydreams about making all the cakes on the menu of the bakery his father had planned to open before he unexpectedly passed away. But his mother has a rule: no using the oven while she’s at work. So Jingwen and Yanghao must bake in secret, and come up with more elaborate excuses to continue the dream their father started. 

Themes/topics: Grief, family, belonging, migration 

Cover of Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress

Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda and Joshua Khan

Published by Harper Collins Children’s Books

Ash Mistry hates India, but that’s where he is after his uncle takes up a dream job with the mysterious Lord Savage in Varanasi.

Ash immediately suspects there’s something very wrong with the eccentric millionaire, and soon uncovers a plot by Lord Savage to open the Iron Gates that have kept the demon king Ravana at bay for four millennia.

Topics/themes: Mythology, family

Covers of Little Badman, Funky Chickens, Kiki's Delivery Service and Tall Story

Download the 2021 book list for primary schools here

Download the 2022 book list for primary schools here

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