Novels that deal with difficult concepts/themes

I’ve been reading a few great novels with my class over the last few months and I’ve spotted a lot of stories that deal with themes and concepts that can be difficult to explain or difficult for children to relate to. With a book, children can understand and walk in the shoes of the characters in the story and empathise with these characters. Stories bring these difficult concepts/themes alive in an interesting, engaging and child friendly way. Here are some of my current favourites;

Once by Morris Gleitzman

I cannot recommend this book. The theme covered is the Holocaust and it tells the story of how Jews were treated in Poland during the second world war through the eyes of a young boy who at first doesn’t fully comprehend what is happening and then begins to realise. It is a heartbreaking story which gives a glimpse into the brutality and horror of the Nazi regime. It is a fantastic read and many children in my class are currently reading the story. I think it would be most suitable for children from 5th class up.

You can read the first chapter here.

Illegal by Eoin Colfer

This is a graphic novel which tells the story of the epic journey of a young boy across Africa to Europe. This is an interesting read which highlights the problems/issues faced by people who decide to take this dangerous journey in hope for a better life. This would be a fantastic book as the focus for a unit of work on immigration.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wonder is probably one of the most talked about books over the last few years. But it is still one of my favourites and a book I think all children should read in primary school. It is a story about bullying and the importance of being kinder than necessary. I read Wonder with my class this year and we did lots of work on the theme of kindness. The book is written in the perspective of the main characters and this gives an insight into their thoughts and feelings.

Mr. Stink by David Walliams

While this book is hilarious and very entertaining, it also deals with the concept of homelessness which unfortunately is all too prevalent in Ireland today. There is a fantastic resource pack from Focus Ireland available to download here. We are listening to the audiobook which is really fantastic!

Do you have any more suggestions to include – comment below!

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