There was much on the news and in the papers about the Childrens’ Laureate’s choices of best children’s books to celebrate 10 years of having the post – Long may it continue. The five Laureates, past and present, each chose about twelve books which were whittled down to seven. In the media, much is being made of the fact that just five of the thirty-five in total were published during the past twenty years. You can explore the full choices here.
The list is dominated by classics – E. E. Nesbit comes top with two entries, but there’s also Treasure Island, Ballet Shoes, A Little Princess, Emil and the Detectives amongst them, and yes – Enid Blyton appears too with one of the Famous Five books, but there’s no place for Harry Potter.
Jacqueline Wilson’s top seven in particular are a microcosm of everything I devoured as a kid, and that set me thinking about which books I would pick as my personal favourite children’s titles. Having just read a large number of mainly older children’s books for the Easter holidays, it seems like a fun exercise. My choices now are coloured by being a Mum and had to include my new favourites from reading with my daughter:
- Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr – A creepy story of a girl’s drawings that come to life as she sleeps. I love this book and re-read it endlessly when I was about eight.
- Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild- I’m with Jacqueline Wilson here. Another that I read repeatedly as a child.
- Where the wild things are by Maurice Sendak – My daughter and I loved reading this one together. I adored the quirky and poetic text, she loved the monsters. It feels very contemporary but was actually published in 1967 – which perhaps explains its quirkiness!
- Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll – the first proper book I remember reading, and getting more out of each time.
- The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis. This was always my favourite of the Narnia books with Puddleglum the pessimist giving ome comic relief. It’s also chock full of Christian allegory, but that went straight over my head as a kid (still does mostly).
- The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler – An absolute modern classic for toddlers, written in rhyme with a mini-climax at
the end of each page and I think I can still recite the whole tale word for word.
- The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner. This is the book that I enjoyed the most out of my recent reading – set during the early days of the French Revolution, and an absolutely rollicking adventure with a bit of everything! You can read my full review here.
I think when making lists of this kind, you inevitably draw from books that influenced you most as a child. Having an eight year old daughter and hence much recent reading of books for very young children, and a love of reading older children/ya books for myself, allowed me a bit more breadth to choose from. Without the Gruffalo and Sendak, The Railway Children and The Secret Garden would have been in there.
But don’t let lists that are light on recent titles fool you – there is plenty of absolutely top-class writing for children out there, and I intend to keep on finding and reading it.