Book Nook: My All Time Favourite Children’s Books!
A little while ago I wrote a post about which books I’d class as my all time favourite reads. I decided not to include any kids books, mainly because I decided they deserved a whole post by themselves. The books I grew up loving, reading time and time again with thumbed corners and broken spines became like old friends, and are still the tomes I turn to when I want to read something comforting and familiar. I believe that the best children’s books are ones that can also be enjoyed and interpreted by adults, so that they remain life-long friends. So with that, here’s my all time favourite children’s books!
1. Goodnight Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian
This book never fails to make me cry. Will, a sickly, neglected evacuee arrives in the country and is billeted with Tom, a gruff loner making a seemingly odd couple. Over time, the two develop a strong bond and help each other to grow and discover new things about themselves and the world. As it turns out, Tom needs Will as much as Will needs him. Together, they navigate the heady highs and despairing lows of grief and joy, and the first moment Will calls Tom ‘Dad’- well, if you don’t well up at that, your heart must be made of stone.
2. The Witches by Roald Dahl
To be honest, I could’ve picked any Roald Dahl to include in this list, every single one I read until my copy fell apart. I wrote here about my Top 5 Roald Dahl reads, but this one I *think* would be the one I would read and read and read, for its more macabre moments. I wrote a huge essay at university on the appeal of Roald Dahl to children, and what I deduced was that they love him because he is just so NAUGHTY! He says KNICKERS and BUM and writes about old ladies who turn children into mice and little boys who poison their nasty grandmothers. And kids love all that. They giggle and squeal at the scampishness of it all and now, as a grown up, I love all those tales that have a wicked little glint in their eye.
3. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S Lewis
Raging battles between good and evil, centaurs and fauns and talking beavers and badgers, turkish delight, journeys to the ends of the world, everlasting winters, ships and swords and silver chairs and above all, Aslan the Lion roaring over all. The entire series is such a rich tapestry of fantasy that I discover new things, moments and phrases every time I dive in. And every time I see a proper wooden wardrobe, I still fumble around at the back of it just to DOUBLE CHECK it’s not the entrance to Narnia.
4. The St Clare’s Series by Enid Blyton
I inherited my Mum’s set of these, all with her name scrawled in the front in untidy, spidery fountain pen and read them over and over during the school holidays. So taken was I with the tales from St Clare’s, the midnight feasts and moonlight swims, the grumpy French teacher, hot buttered toast made over roaring study fires and the cries of ‘OH YOU ARE A BRICK HILARY’ I remember padding downstairs one evening aged eight and telling my parents, very seriously, that because I had read St Clare’s, I wanted to go to boarding school. Tales of friendship, sardines and moral fibre. Lovely stuff.
5. Quick, Lets Get Out Of Here by Michael Rosen
This one’s actually a poetry book. I’m well gay for poetry in my adult life, and this irreverent book of verse by the imitable Michael Rosen was a stalwart in my collection when I was wee. The poems are all totally silly, about annoying siblings, playground politics and pranks, with no formal rhyme scheme or structure. They’re often narrative and about Rosen’s own experiences about being a Dad or a kid and appealed to the Dahl loving side of me. My favourite is Chocolate Cake which I used as a performance piece with one of my classes once, and it went down a STORM with the kids. HOORAY FOR POEMS!
6. Forever by Judy Blume
I remember getting my hands on a copy of this at a car boot sale when I was in Year 5 and read it with an open mouth because MY GOD IT WAS ABOUT PEOPLE HAVING ACTUAL SEX!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And then I re-told all the juicy bits to my goggle-eyed mates in the playground. But the reason this book continues to be so important and such a rite of passage for young readers, is because of the subject matter. Two young people meet, date, fall in love, decide to lose their virginity to each other and have mutually consenting, safe, respectful sex. At the end, the relationship fizzles out and they go their separate ways. SO IMPORTANT for young people to read about sex that exists like that in a world that is increasingly full of sexually explicit content so readily available. Well done Judy Blume, you ground-breaking woman.
7. Northern Lights Trilogy by Philip Pullman
I will never tire of this series. It’s mind-blowingly clever, with a narrative that blends science, philosophy and theology in a tale about growing up, self discover and adventure, weaving in and out of dimensions and worlds. Lyra is a feminist icon in miniature as she barges her way through the books, fighting evil and having to answer existensial questions on an almost chapterly basis. Plus, ever since reading, I’ve always been DESPERATE for a daemon. Though I’d like to say it would be something completely cool like a PANTHER, in reality, knowing me, it would probably be more like a plump old hen or something.
8. Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison
Oh Georgia Nicolson. How your diaries of teenage angst, having boys tongues in your mouth and dilemmas about what to wear for house parties made me laugh whilst I was growing up. Always I wanted your squad of girls, who snuck into the loos at school to warm their bums on the radiator and how I yearned for you to realise that Dave The Laugh was the LOVE OF YOUR LIFE! From school discos, to hanging around shopping malls on a Saturday afternoon, Georgia was me and all my friends through high school and her utterly hilarious voice, poured out onto the pages of her books (through author Louise Rennison) was so stand-out.
9. The Story of Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson
Similarly to Roald Dahl, I could’ve chosen any of the Jacqueline Wilson books published between 1991-1999, so much did I love them, and their colourful, cartoony illustrations by Nick Sharratt. Always dealing with a difficult issue (divorce, death, sibling rivalry, neglectful parents, homelessness etc) in a funny and accessible way, her characters were always spirited, spunky kids who found their way of dealing with what life had thrown at them. I loved headstrong, stubborn Tracy and her yearning for McDonalds, smarties and Disneyland and my heart broke for her every time she was rejected by foster parents.
10. The Harry Potter Series by J.K Rowling
Oh Harry and the gang. I have loved you ever since I was in Year Six and got my mitts on a copy of the Philospher’s Stone. I remember reading it, utterly transfixed, finishing wordlessly and turning straight back to the first page to begin again. I grew up with the Harry Potter books, the last one being gobbled up by a 19 year old me, on my University summer holidays. I love them so much, I even wrote my dissertation on them. It is just simply, such a good story. I’m a proud Potter-head, a Hufflepuff (BADGERS 4 LIFE) and I’m *STILL* waiting for my Hogwarts Letter. I even listen to Stephen Fry read the audiobooks over and over again when I want something that feels like a big cuddle. These ones will forever be my best bookish buddies. ALWAYS.