Friday, November 01, 2013

Good Books Not to be Missed!

Wayne Mills is the founder and quizmaster of the Kids' Lit Quiz.  He is passionate about kids reading for pleasure and works to ensure that readers are challenged to read widely across a range of literature.

Over the years, Wayne has read thousands of children's books and it is hard for him to list just a few of his favourite books.  Some of the books he recommends are included in the "Good Books Not to be Missed" lists he provides to students taking his courses at the University of Auckland.  The lists given here are his 2013 Reading Lists.

It is important to remember that these lists are updated and changed each year and that they are just some of Wayne's suggestions - there are many, many other good books out there for you to read.  Children competing in the Kids' Lit Quiz should not attempt to read all these books for the purpose of doing well in the Quiz.  It never works!  Everyone remembers best, the books they've enjoyed the most. 

Wayne also recommends getting to know your librarians.  One of the best ways to find good books is to ask a librarian - especially one who knows your reading level and interests - for book recommendations.  One way of using these lists is to show them to your librarian and ask what she (or he) thinks you'd enjoy reading.  Also, don't be be too influenced by the list headings.  They're there for guidance only.  Even if you're an advanced reader, books in the other lists should not be dismissed - they're all good books, not to be missed!

Happy Reading!

For the Beginning Reader

Barnaby Grimes:Curse of the Night Wolf,  Paul Stewart, 2007

Clementine,  Sara Pennypacker, 2008

Rascal,  Paul Jennings, 2004

Lob,  Linda Newbery, 2010

Marvin Redpost Kidnapped at Birth,  Louis Sachar, 2004

How to Train Your Dragon,  Cressida Cowell, 2003

Victor’s Challenge, Pamela Freeman, 2009

Hollie Chips,  Anna Gowan, 2010

Legend of Spud Murphy,  Eoin Colfer, 2004

Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane,  Kate DiCamillo, 2006

No1 Car Spotter,  Atinuke, 2010

Super Powers: Tusked Monster, Alex Cliff, 2007

Phineas and Ferb,  Molly McGuire, 2011

Utterly Me, Clarice Bean,  Lauren Child, 2002

You’re a Bad Man Mr Gum!, Andy Stanton, 2006

Geronimo Stilton (series),  Elisabetta Dami, 2004

The Tale of Despereaux,  Kate Di Camillo, 2003

The Girl With the Broken Wing,  Heather Dyer, 2005

Big Nate,  Lincoln Peirce, 2010

For Average Readers

Gangsta Granny,  David Walliams, 2011

Skulduggery Pleasant,  Derek Landy, 2007

Angel Cake,  Cathy Cassidy, 2009

Trash,  Andy Mulligan, 2010

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas,  John Boyne, 2006

A Monster Calls,  Patrick Ness, 2011

Time Riders, Alex Scarrow, 2010

Pig City, Louis Sachar, 2009

The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman, 2008

Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick, 2007

Running Wild, Michael Morpurgo, 2009

Itch, Simon Mayo, 2012

Reluctant Journal of Henry K Larsen, Susin Nielsen, 2012

Percy Jackson Battle of the Labyrinth, Rick Riordan, 2008

The Abominables, Eva Ibbotson, 2012

Crocodile Tears, Anthony Horowitz, 2009

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling, 2007

When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead, 2009

Comin 2 Gt U, Simon Packham, 2010

Bluefish,  Pat Schmatz, 2011

For Advanced Readers

Elsewhere, Gabrielle Zevin, 2005

Maggot Moon, Sally Gardner, 2006

Gone,  Michael Grant, 2009

The Alchemyst, Michael Scott, 2007

The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness, 2008

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, Mark Haddon, 2003

Flip, Martyn Bedford, 2011

Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins, 2010

Impossible, Nancy Werlin, 2008

Spud, John Van de Ruit, 2005

Twilight, Stephenie Meyer, 2006

Stolen, Lucy Christopher, 2009

Bog Child, Siobhan Dowd, 2008

Exposure, Mal Peet, 2008

The Enemy, Charlie Higson, 2009

The Year the Gypsies Came, Linzi Glass, 2006

Set in Stone, Linda Newbery, 2006

The Book Thief,  Markus Zusak, 2006

Lockdown, Alexander Gordon Smith, 2009

The Poison Garden, Sarah Singleton, 2009

Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld, 2009

Picture Books

It’s a Book, Lane Smith, 2010

An Undone Fairy Tale, Ian Lendler, 2005

Mirror,  Jeannie Baker, 2010

Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears, Emily Gravett, 2007

Bad Boys, Margie Palatini, 2003

Imagine a Place, Sarah Thomson, 2005

Flotsam, David Wiesner, 2006

How to Heal a Broken Wing, Bob Graham, 2008

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, Mo Willems, 2003

Believe Me Goldilocks Rocks, Nancy Loewen, 2011

What Really Happened to Humpty?, Jeanie Franz Ransom, 2010

The Lion and The Mouse, Jerry Pinkney, 2009

Sophisticated Picture Books

Beneath the Surface, Gary Crew, 2004

A Book, Mordicai Gerstein, 2009

The Arrival, Shaun Tan, 2006

Into the Forest, Anthony Browne, 2004

Auschwitz, Pascal Croci, 2003

Erika’s Story, Ruth Vander Zee, 2003

Requiem for a Beast, Matt Ottley, 2007

The Wolves in the Walls, Neil Gaiman, 2003

In the Wake of the Mary Celeste, Gary Crew, 2004

The Highwayman, Murray Kimber (ill), 2005

The Island, Armin Greder, 2007

Woolves in the Sitee, Margaret Wild, 2006

Some of My Favourite Books

Watership Down, Richard Adams, 1972

Tuck Everlasting, Natalie Babbit, 1975

The Language of Goldfish,  Zibby O’Neal, 1987

Mama’s Going to Buy You a Mockingbird, Jean Little, 1985

King of the Cloud Forests, Michael Morpurgo, 1987

Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien, 1954

Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine Paterson, 1977

The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas, 1845

Dicey’s Song, Cynthia Voigt, 1982

Northern Lights, Philip Pullman, 1995

Midnight Hour Encores, Bruce Brooks, 1986

Eva, Peter Dickinson, 1988

Some of My Favourite Picture Books

The Polar Express, Chris Van Allsburg 1985

The Jolly Postman, Janet and Allan Ahlberg 1986

The Wolf,  Margaret Barbelet 1991

Rose Blanche,  Ian McEwan 1985

The Ultimate Alphabet, Mike Wilks 1987

The Gruffalo, Julia Donaldson 1999

The Duck in the Gun, Joy Cowley 1969

Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak 1963

Round Trip, Ann Jonas 1983

The Clown of God ,Tomie de Paola 1978

The Story of Ferdinand, Leaf Munro 1936

David’s Dad, Jennifer Beck 1991

Voices in the Park, Anthony Browne 1998

Graphic Novels

Rapunzel’s Revenge, Shannon Hale 2008

Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman 2006

28 Days Later-The Aftermath, Steve Niles 2007

Grandville, Bryan Talbot 2009

Emily the Strange, Rob Reger (el al) 2005

Usagi Yojimbo, Stan Sakai 2004

Mary Jane, Sean McKeever 2004

Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi 2003

300, Frank Miller 2006

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Alan Moore 2002

The Complete Maus, Art Spiegelman 2003


Welcome to the South Seas, Gregory O’Brien 2004

Bird in the Hand, Janet Hunt 2003

Snot, Vomit, Blood, Guts and Maggots, Karen Anderson 2006

Tree of Life, Peter Sis 2003

Fairies and Magical Creatures, Matthew Reinhart 2008

Galileo’s Universe, Patrick Lewis 2005

Patently Female, Ethlie Ann Vare 2002

Freeing of Nelson Mandela, Simon Beecroft 2003

How to do everything with Google, Fritz Schneider 2004

Swords, Ben Boos 2008

New Zealand Books

Weaving Earth and Sky, Robert Sullivan 2002

Letters From the Coffin Trenches, Ken Catran 2002

Hideout, Lorraine Orman 2007

Roivan, Glynne Maclean 2003

The Sheep on the Fourth Floor, Leonie Thorpe 2010

Genesis, Bernard Beckett 2006

Sting, Raymond Huber 2009

Ghosts of Iron Bottom Sound, Sandy Nelson 2010

The Sea-Wreck Stranger, Anna Mackenzie 2007

Super Finn, Leonie Agnew 2011

Salt, Maurice Gee 2007

Snake and Lizard, Joy Cowley 2007

The Tomorrow Code, Brian Falkner 2008

I Hate School by Michael Fatarsky, Kris Stanhope 2008

Yo, Shark Bait! , Vicki Simpson 2007

The Whale Rider, (reprint) Witi Ihimaera 2003

Hunter, Joy Cowley 2005

The Travelling Restaurant, Barbara Else 2011

Sitting on the Fence, Bill Nagelkerke 2007

Thor’s Tale, Janice Marriott 2005

Brainjack, Brian Falkner 2009

New Zealand Picture Books

Three Fishing Brothers Gruff, Ben Galbraith, 2006

Rats!, Gavin Bishop, 2007

The Grumble Rumble Mumbler, Melanie Drewery, 2007

Down the Back of the Chair, Margaret Mahy, 2006

Maraea and the Albatrosses, Patricia Grace, 2008

Selafina, Catherine Hannken, 2003

Kiss! Kiss! Yuck! Yuck!, Kyle Mewburn, 2004

Carpet of Dreams, Tessa Duder, 2006

Pania of the Reef, Peter Gossage, 2003

Roadworks, Sally Sutton, 2008

Wonky Donkey, Craig Smith, 2009

Haere Farewell, Jack Farewell, Tim Tipene, 2005

The Whale Rider, Witi Ihimaera, 2005

Barnaby Bennett, Hannah Rainforth, 2006

Nobody’s Dog, Jennifer Beck, 2005

Old Hu-hu, Kyle Mewburn, 2009

Dudgeon is Coming, Lynley Dodd, 2008

Koro’s Medicine, Melanie Drewery, 2004

Bubble Trouble, Margaret Mahy, 2008

Copyright, Wayne Mills, 2013.  All rights reserved.


  1. I would be interested to know a little more about the different qualities of readers that Wayne uses to distinguish between beginner/average/advanced. I am curious about the advanced category - particularly regarding Twilight being listed alongside the Book Thief! For me this suggests a classification system based on theme and content rather than language and the style of prose - though Boy in the Striped Pyjamas being listed as "average" pokes holes in that theory!

    1. Good question! There are a couple of books whose classification I wondered about too.

      My guess is that the categories are pretty flexible with differing criteria determining the placement of different books - with the result that some books could fit in several categories (eg a book by a NZ author). I think that's why Wayne says they're "not to be missed" and why it's worth looking at all the categories even if you're an advanced reader. You wouldn't want to miss The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas or A Monster Calls or ....

      Wayne's now in the UK but when I remember and he has time - I will ask him!

      Thanks for your comment.