Today we celebrate World Book Day, and all that’s great about literature. Here in the UK, WBD is a big deal for schools, and this morning I escorted Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Winnie the Pooh to the school gates where they joined up with Alice in Wonderland, Puss in Boots, Noddy, Mary Poppins, and Matilda to name but a few.
My children all adore books. My youngest is learning to read, and after a slow, struggling start which involved many battles, he is now flying, and deriving much joy from being able to decipher the words on a page.
Books are brilliant. They inform and educate. They paint pictures in our imaginations and help it take flight. For children, encouraging reading from an early age doesn’t just help their literacy skills, but it also teaches them the value of books for educative purposes.
My heart lies in fiction though, and there is a wealth of children’s books out there that are not only thoroughly enjoyable for little ones, but adults as well. Here is my pick of fifteen classics that adults and kids can enjoy.
War Horse – Michael Morpurgo
A beautiful, informative and heart rending tale told from the perspective of Joey, a young horse who is sent to serve in the First World War. Will he ever be reunited with his beloved owner, Albert? This book will make you cry, but it will stay with you forever. One of my favourite stories of all time.
Oh The Places You’ll Go – Dr Seuss
Dr Seuss is a genius, and has helped many a child learn to read over the years. I love all his books, but the words in this poem are so encouraging, not only for kids but adults too.
“You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
Any direction you choose.”
Surely a mantra worth repeating?
The Railway Children – E. Nesbit
A classic tale, beautifully told. A family must move home after their father is falsely imprisoned for spying. the ending still makes me bawl like a baby.
Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
Though styled as a children’s book, The Little Prince has many valuable lessons for adults too. “One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eyes,” and “You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed” are two of my favourite quotes. It is a lovely story to read to children, but its message is definitely more applicable to adults.
Matilda – Roald Dahl
Simply one of the best books ever written. Matilda is a child prodigy with the world’s worst parents and an evil headmistress, Miss Trunchbull. Thank goodness for her charming teacher, Miss Honey, who helps Matilda find joy in the world.
The Gruffalo – Julia Donaldson
A modern day classic. “Oh help, oh no! It’s a Gruffalo!” I can recite this book by heart. With beautiful illustrations by Axel Scheffler and humour that works on both kids and adults levels, this is a must read.
The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
One of my childhood favourites, a charming, magical and beautiful story about becoming a better person.
Winnie-the-Pooh – A A Milne
Now this is a true classic. There can’t be a person on earth who hasn’t heard of the bear with very little brain. Charming tales, they are simple and heart warming and have gifted us some of the best literary characters of all time.
Charlotte’s Web – E.B White
One of the best selling paperbacks of all time, Charlotte’s Web is told in an understated, low key manner. It is such an adorable tale of friendship between a pig and a spider that it makes me fall in love with it all over again each time I read.
His Dark Materials Trilogy – Phillip Pullman
This trilogy had me hooked from the off. They are fantasy novels, following Lyra and Will as they journey through parallel universes. They are thoroughly gripping reads, and I highly recommend them. Stay away from the film, The Golden Compass, though.
The Boy in the Dress – David Walliams
Walliams is fast becoming one of the greatest children’s authors of all time, and not just in my house. This is my favourite book of his, because the themes of acceptance, tolerance, love and understanding are things that all kids should be taught. Plus, I own a boy in a dress (not available in shops).
The BFG – Roald Dahl
Yes, he does get two entries on the list, because Dahl is my favourite author of all time. The BFG is my favourite story in the entire world. It is divinely funny, wicked and rude as a child, and as an adult perhaps even more so. From BFG’s made up words, to his beautiful relationship with Sophie, this book is an absolute treasure.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas – John Boyne
I read the entirety of this book while waiting for a connecting flight in Toronto airport. I sobbed so hard that the man next to me gave me his tissues. I defy anyone to read this story and then tell me that Children’s books don’t convey emotion. The very special tale of a friendship between two boys; one in a concentration camp, one the son of a Nazi officer. A truly harrowing tale.
The Chronicles of Narnia – C.S Lewis
Before Harry Potter came the tales of Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy in the fantasy world of Narnia. Each and every one is a gem and you will be delighted to meet talking beavers, centaurs, the White Witch and Aslan.
Harry Potter – J.K RowlingIt’s hard to believe, but there are people in this world who have not read the Harry Potter books. They might have seen the films, they might think they know all they need to know about it, but they have not read these delightful, magical and inspiring tales. If you do nothing else in life, I urge you to read them all. It’s a rite of passage, and you will thank me for it.
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