My Top Ten Children’s Books
Last week I posted Ten Books I couldn’t Put Down, and when compiling my long list I realised some of them were children’s books. I used to be a children’s librarian (way back) and I’ve always retained my love of books for all age groups, so I figured my favourite children’s books deserved a list of their own. Some of these are from my own childhood, others from more recent times, but all of them stand out as personal favourites. The list is probably not complete and I’ll kick myself later for missing out something obvious… and it’s not in order of preference.
1) Monica Edwards: No Going Back
I loved all of Monica Edwards’ Romney Marsh stories when I was a kid. They are very gentle and of their time (written in the 1940s/50s/60s.) Ponies, boats, adventures, a cast of interesting characters (adults and children). Choosing a favourite is difficult because there are so many good ones. (Special mention to Storm Ahead based on the Mary Stanford of Rye lifeboat disaster which Monica Edwards experienced as a child waiting on the shore.) No Going Back is the one where the four protagonists are beginning to grow up and a special relationship develops between Tamzin and Meryon. Well, about time, too.
2) J.K.Rowling: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
What can I say? The Potter phenomenon was well underway before I was tempted to read the first one and I was hooked. I didn’t enjoy them all equally (Harry was a bit of a brat in Order of the Phoenix and the final book suffered from the endless camping trip) but I liked them sufficiently to grab the later ones as soon as they were published.
3) Alan Garner: Weirdstone of Brisingamen / The Moon of Gomrath
Breathlessly exciting fiction that sucked me straight in. Visceral writing. The scene in the tunnels with the backpack gave me nightmares. Still my favourite Garner.
4) C. S. Lewis: The Horse and His Boy
At the time when I was reading my way through every pony book in the children’s library I stumbled across this. Lucy had to climb through the wardrobe to get into Narnia, but all I had to do was to open this book.
5) Rosemary Sutcliff: Eagle of the Ninth
I’ve always enjoyed Rosemary Sutcliff’s writing, but this tale of what might have happened to the lost Ninth Legion which marched north from York, never to be seen again, is fascinating.
6) Marguerite Henry: King of the Wind
A Newberry Medal winner. The fictionalised story of how the Godolphin Arabian (one of the three ‘fathers’ of the English Thoroughbred) came to Britain, told through the viewpoint of Agba, the horse’s mute handler. Whether Agba existed or not, the Godolphin Arabian is real. I adored this book as a child.
7) Diana Wynne Jones: Dogsbody
The first Diana Wynne Jones book I ever came across. When Sirius, the Dog Star, makes a mistake he’s sent to earth to rectify it – as a dog. Very neat.
8) Elyne Mitchell: The Silver Brumby
I loved this book so much during my pony phase that I’m almost scared to try and read it again. It’s all from the horse’s point of view – about a wild stallion, a brumby in the Australian Outback.
9) David Henry Wilson: Elephants Don’t Sit on Cars
The hilarious adventures (and misadventures) of Jeremy James, episodic in nature, chapter by chapter. The first chapter is a gift to anyone who has to read a story out loud. I dare you to do it without breaking into fits of laughter.
10) Dodie Smith: The Hundred and One Dalmations
The book from which the Disney movie was adapted, featuring Pongo, Missis and Perdita, the evil Cruella DeVille and missing puppies.
Oh, that’s ten already and I haven’t even mentioned Michael Bond’s Paddington Bear books, or Leon Garfield’s The Ghost Downstairs, or Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching books, or my favourite read aloud picture book of all time, Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel, or even Each Peach Pear Plumb by Janet Ahlberg, which I read so often to my kids that when my grandson got hooked on it I could still remember it word for word.