The predominant mood in this season’s crop of children’s fiction, is one of whimsy. Younger readers in particular, are being invited to clamber inside worlds that revolve not so much around magic and fantasy, but the odd, delightful and ever so slightly eccentric. It is, you might say, a charm offensive. Here's our pick of the most interesting books for eight to 16 year olds.

The Adventures of Miss Petitfour by Anne Michaels (Bloomsbury, £10.99)

Cats are creatures that carry a whiff of whimsy, are they not? Certainly they, and their owner, a kind of Mary Poppins type figure, come across that way in The Adventures of Miss Petitfour. The five tales in this book have a kind of quaintness, accentuated by a series of retro-chic illustrations by Emma Block of, for instance Moutarde, who is the colour of Dijon mustard. Miss Petitfour travels by tablecloth, first checking the "meteorological circumstances", and then choosing to go if conditions are “propitious”. Or, still more fanciful, there’s Mango & Bambang The Not-a-Pig by Polly Faber, and with illustrations by Clara Vulliamy (Walker, £8.99). This is the story of a girl who lives in a very busy city and has a life of frenzied activities, including karate, chess and learning to play the clarinet, but is really quite lonely – until she comes across Bambang , an Asian tapir that appears to have emerged from the sewers.

Mr Mingin (Black & White, £6.99)

There’s little whimsy in Mr Mingin. The latest Matthew Fitt translation into Scots, is Mr Mingin, a version David Walliams’ Mr Stink, only mair honkin. It’s almost impossible not to love a book that includes the line “He was the mingiest mingin minger that ever lived”. Because, as Fitt effectively brings out, mingin is not only “warse than bowfin”, but also worse than the English “stinking”. Mair foostiness, less fancy.

Meanwhile, the urge in the 8 to12-year-old bracket to pack kids off to boarding school for a literary series continues unabated. It’s a storytelling tradition, fuel-injected by the success of Harry Potter, that it seems we just can’t kick. Personally I sigh the moment the word "boarding" pops up in a story. But that said, this month brings a couple of cracking additions to the genre.

Poppy Pym And The Pharaoh’s Curse (Scholastic, £6.99)

This is the first in a series, and a debut by Laura Wood was the winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic prize, a hunt for new authors, and, naturally, there’s plenty of talk about whether this is the next Harry Potter. Pym and Potter share a few things: not only boarding school, but also missing parents. Poppy Pym, it turns out, arrived at the circus as a baby pulled out of a magician’s hat, and accompanied by the note, “This is my baby. I know she will be happy here. Please look after her.” After an early childhood of learning to juggle and swing on the flying trapeze, she is sent to boarding school to be taught “normal things”, where, naturally, she discovers her skills as a talented child detective. Wood’s writing dances across the page. And Pym makes for a chatty and distinctive first-person narrator, entertaining in her asides, when she notes that “stories are tricksy things”, or “if you want a different beginning you can just write your own at the top of the page.”

Fee and Ben McTavish in the School Ship Tobermory, Alexander McCall Smith (Birlinn, £9.99)

At least Fee and Ben McTavish in the School Ship Tobermory, the first of a new series by Alexander McCall Smith have parents – a rare thing in a boarding school tale – it’s just that they’re often away on research expeditions in their own submarine. And, really, the story is more about the kind of adventures that are possible on a Tall ship, their boarding school, in the high seas; it’s about boat life. And there are some very real seamanship lessons.

Wild Song by Janis Mackay (Picadilly, £6.99)

For older kids, the wonderful Wild Song by Janis Mackay isn’t a boarding school tale, but it does feature a teenage boy who, nothing but trouble to his parents, is sent to a young offender’s unit, a kind of wild school, on an island near Helsinki. Even the kids there, he believes, consider him one of the worst – with his homemade tattoos, pierced eyebrow and tendency not to speak. But Hannu, one of the staff, understands him, but ultimately has to leave. It’s at this point that Niilo decides to swim away, and his mesmerising journey really happens, out in nature, in the ocean, and in the company of a seal.

Next Together, Lauren James (Walker, £7.99)

The Next Together, is a rather clever piece of time-travelling science fiction meets romance, by debut author Lauren James. Katherine and Matthew are teenagers who meet and fall in love in numerous different time frames. Rather satisfyingly they come together for the “first objective”, a kiss, numerous times, and find themselves caught up in the violent dramas of history as well as the future. Smart and hugely creative.

The Rest Of Us Just Live Here, Patrick Ness (Walker, £12.99)

"Not everyone has to be the Chosen One," considers the narrator of Patrick Ness's latest novel. "Not everyone has to be the guy who saves the world. Most people just have to live their lives the best they can." There has, in the last year, been a campaign on twitter for #VeryRealisticYA. The Rest Of Us Just Live Here isn't so much realistic as an elegant argument on behalf of the real – it is a kind of play on the relationship between those of us who just live on this planet, and the teens, called the “indie kids” who are caught up in battles with zombies, vampire romances, and other tropes of dystopian teen fiction. Its main narrative follows Mikey, and his friends and siblings, during his last year at school, and as always, it’s beautifully written, almost every paragraph containing some gem.

Concentr8 by William Sutcliffe (Bloomsbury, £12.99)

Concentr8 by William Sutcliffe feels like a realism, though actually it's a fascinating dystopian satire and a critique of the over-diagnosis of ADHD, the way we treat young people more generally and the power of Big Pharma. All that rolled into a story about Karen, Femi, Troy and Blaze who became “official scumbags of the universe” when they kidnap a minor official in the Mayor’s office. “The world at large,” notes one of his characters, “does not, it appears, care all that much about which drugs are administered to disaffected children. But this is a scandal about money.” At the heart of the tale is Concentr8, a fictional drug, given indiscriminately to young people to suppress difficult or criminal behaviour. When it is taken away, it triggers a series of riots. And, just to make sure you don’t miss the message, each chapter kicks off with a quote from a real-world scientist or researcher. A book with a serious mission.