The Top Ten Children’s Books I Would Hand Down
There were so many books that shaped my childhood. After my Desert Island Books post the other day, a friend and I got in to a conversation about children’s books, as only one of my choices came from my childhood.
And then the hypothetical scenario came up: what if you could only hand down ten (we started with five but couldn’t pin it down) books to your children to read? There was a long discussion about which books to choose, and there are so many incredible books that I would want to share.
So, without further ado, here are my top ten children’s books, that, if only allowed to pass on 10 books, these are the ones I would choose…
1. The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton
The Magic Faraway Tree appeared on my Desert Island Books for good reason. Join Jo, Beth and Frannie (I was always so excited to have a character with my name – or close enough) as they venture in to the Enchanted Wood, discover Moonface and friends at the Faraway Tree and explore lands such as the Land of Do-As-You-Please. I would spend much of my time climbing trees trying to find my own Faraway with its adventures at the top. Instead, I found it whilst wrapped in my duvet with a book on my knees.
2. The Minpins by Roald Dahl
My earlier experiences of The Minpins was an audio book (I can’t remember who it was narrated by) and it fired my imagination. I used to pretend there were Minpins at the end of the garden (another reason to climb trees). Not one of Dahl’s most famous, but one of his best. The audio book, with the crunching of the flowerbed beneath the window, the screaming and snorting gruncher, and the rustle of leaves as Little Billy climbs to see the Minpins, makes this a magical story to listen to.
3. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
“I write this sitting at the kitchen sink” – one of my favourite opening lines. I Capture the Castle is a brilliant coming-of-age novel that was perfect reading for a fifteen year old. I felt the cold of the castle seeping in, felt the drama of first love, and it was the first time I tried to keep a journal that went beyond “today I went to school and I ate a banana for lunch”. I tried to express my tumultuous feelings as I tried to navigate teenagehood, with as much temerity and eloquence as Cass. Reading it back, it’s torturous angst and makes me cringe. But at the time, I thought I was very Cassandra-like.
4. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
One of the best picture books ever. The Very Hungry Caterpillar was a story that seems to have stuck, though I’m sure I was far too young to really remember it when my parents began to read it to me. Instead, I remember seeing it on the shelves at my grandparents, of flicking through the pages, and assigning it to my “class” when I played teacher. I would run my hands over those beautiful illustrations, and waggle my fingers through the holes as I turned the pages.
5. The Bad-Tempered Ladybird by Eric Carle
There’s just something about Eric Carle books. The Bad-Tempered Ladybird is the story of a grumpy ladybird who fights with every bug he meets, until he learns to be more cheerful. This book is a life lesson – want to fight? Na, you’re not big enough.
6. Mog the Forgetful Cat by Judith Kerr
I adore Mog books – even now. Judith Kerr is a fantastic author, and her stories about Mog are just wonderful. My favourite is Mog the Forgetful Cat, which is a sweet tale of Mog forgetting everything.
7. Stig of the Dump by Clive King
It might be 50 years old, but Stig of the Dump is timeless. This is the story of Barney, a young boy who discovers a caveman living in the chalk pit – Stig. This is funny, heartwarming, and fabulously written, and a favourite of mine to read aloud.
8. The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien
I think I may have already explained a bit about my love of The Hobbit. Read to me growing up, it opened up the world of fantasy writing to me. I never looked back.
9. Junk by Melvin Burgess
A gritty tale of drug addiction, Junk is perhaps not an obvious choice for an adult to willingly hand to a child (teenager), but it’s something I still believe everyone should read no matter their age. It’s a haunting, beautiful story.
10. The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier
This is perhaps the first story I ever read where I began to comprehend the power of war fiction. The Silver Sword follows Ruth, Edek and Bronia and orphan Jan as they fight to survive war-torn Europe and find their parents. I used to try and imagine living in the rubble of your home city, imagine how it would feel searching for parents you weren’t even sure were alive, and even imagine how it would feel to be hunted and hated by people who had invaded your home. It was incomprehensible. It still is today, and The Silver Sword still echoes with that same breathless bravery and fear and love that I felt from the pages the first time I read it.
What are your top ten childhood books?