11+ Library - What were the successful candidates reading in 2022?

Will your child be sitting school entrance exams next year? Have you made gentle academic plans for the summer holidays? And have you considered the benefits of boosting confidence well in advance of the entrance interviews?

The children I interviewed last year have secured places at many of the best performing independent and grammar schools in England including Winchester, Westminster, Eton, St Paul’s Girl’s School, Wycombe Abbey, Wellington, Hampton, City of London School for Girls, The Tiffin, Lady Eleanor Holles, Brighton College and Harrow. The list goes on….

And while the interview season for those in Year 6 is over, preparations are just beginning for Year 5. Many are now sensibly focusing on reading and building their general knowledge and I am already getting enquiries about my interview chat sessions. 

The biggest factor determining success at 11+ is academic performance but the interview can make the difference between one candidate and another. A topic I always include in my question list is reading. Which books are these 9, 10 and 11 year olds reading? What is the most challenging book they have ever read? Do they read non-fiction? And if they hate reading, can I encourage them to read more?

Below I have listed just 10 of the books from last years’ 11+ cohort. Perhaps these books will interest your child over the long summer holidays?


The Last Bear - Hannah Gold

An animal adventure story for 8-11 year olds.

There are no polar bears left on Bear Island. At least, that’s what April’s father tells her when his scientific research takes them to this remote Arctic outpost for six months. But as the title of this book reveals there is a bear - the Last Bear - and April is determined to save him.


How to Save the World with a Chicken and an Egg - Emma Shevah

An environmental story for 8-12 year olds.

...about two children who solved a mystery and saved the world's animals. A great way to learn and absorb some general knowledge about ecology and sustainability.


Kidnap on the California Comet - M.G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman

Mystery - 8-10 year olds.

When the daughter of billionaire entrepreneur August Reza goes missing, there’s a mystery to solve. Can the kidnapper be found before the journey's end?

(This book is the second book in the Adventures on Trains series of books. The first book is The Highland Falcon Thief. )


Who Let the Gods Out  - Maz Evans

Fantasy adventure - for 9-11 years. 

Are the Gods really ready to save the world? And is the world really ready for the Gods? Who Let the Gods Out? is the first in a series centred on the Olympian gods - perfect for fans of Greek mythology - described by some as an exciting, laugh-out-loud hilarious and Percy Jackson-esque adventure. You decide.

(Simply the Quest, Against all Gods and Beyond the Odyssey are other hilariously named titles in the same series.)


You Don’t Know what War is - Yea Skalietska

Diary - 11+.

The diary of young Ukrainian refugee Yeva Skalietska over twelve days in Ukraine that changed her life forever. She was woken in the early hours of 24th February to the terrifying sounds of shelling. Forced to seek shelter in a damp, cramped basement and then to flee to western Ukraine and Hungary, she and her grandmother eventually found safety and a new home in Dublin. Her diary is a powerful insight into what conflict is like through the eyes of a child.


Mythos - Stephen Fry

Greek Myths - 12+

Stephen Fry's retelling of the greatest Greek myths and legends ever told; he assures us that no background knowledge is necessary to appreciate the stories.  And he's right! Its all very entertaining.


The Gladiator Mindset - Adam Peaty


The boy reading this in preparation for his 11+ was an excellent, award-winning swimmer. And it was great talking to him about Adam Peaty's advice on developing talent and having the confidence to believe in yourself. The book is an original choice and it was relevant to the student giving him more to talk about at interview. Filled with no-nonsense advice on how to locate your 'inner gladiator' and to recognise that there are limits you are imposing on yourself, this book will help you to find your fighting spirit.


The Giver - Lois Lowry

Dystopia - 11-13 years

It is the future. There is no war, no hunger, no pain. No one in the community wants for anything. Everything needed is provided. And at twelve years old, each member of the community has their profession carefully chosen for them by the Committee of Elders. Twelve-year old Jonas has never thought there was anything wrong with his world. But from the moment he is selected as the Receiver of Memory, Jonas discovers that their community is not as perfect as it seems.


Boy - Roald Dahl

Memoir - 7-9 years old 

Boy is the story of Roald Dahl's childhood; tales of exciting and strange things - some funny, some frightening, all true. 


Little People Big Dreams - Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara

Biography - 6-9 years

Discover the lives of outstanding people, from designers and artists to scientists and activists. All of them achieved incredible things, yet each began life as a child with a dream. This treasury of 50 stories is perfect for those who want to know more about inspiring people who have changed the world.



Over the the last two years. I have had the benefit of seeing how candidates compare. I have been able to gauge what a good interview candidate looks like and also to see how a shy child can be encouraged to become more confident after a few sessions. What works well for each candidate is different. I am not an expert on what will be asked at a specific interview - formats change each year - but I do prepare children to present the best version of themselves on the interview day.





Further Reading

For a longer reading list, I always recommend this one from Cambridge Academic Tuition. And to build vocabulary, why not try The Cadwaladr Quests, the first book in a popular series with a built-in dictionary on every page.

For children approaching exams, there’s no doubt that reading improves language, vocabulary and comprehension skills.  And it gives them something to talk about. It doesn’t matter what they read - just encourage them to read. 


Next time, how you can help prepare your child for interview without making your home an interview hothouse!


 If you buy something through the links, Jumping Yak might earn an affiliate commission.