I was a voracious reader as a child, and I still am, even though I read a lot less than I did back in those days. My husband and I read to our kids every night before bed, and they have also started reading by themselves – even though both of them still seem to enjoy the “read me a story!” aspect of bedtime. Since today is International Children’s Book Day, I’ve made a list of some of my favourite books, and some of my kids’ favourite books. Maybe I ought to call them all children’s books, except that I still enjoy reading most of them myself.
To quote Maurice Sendak:
I know so many adult writers who I would happily chop into pieces, who say, ‘… I think I’ll [write] a kiddy book!’ Stop pretending that there is such a thing as being able to sit down and write a book for a child: it is quite impossible. One simply writes books.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
This is one of my son’s all-time favorite books. My husband and I have read him the entire book many times, even when he was quite young and wasn’t the least bit interested in other chapter books.
Astrid Lindgren’s books
Some of Lindgren’s books, like Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter, and The Brothers Lionheart take place in fantasy worlds. Others, like The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking, and Karlson on the Roof blend fantasy elements and the real world. And many, like Lotta on Troublemaker Street, and Emil and the Great Escape take place in the real, Swedish world of the early 20th century. No matter what the setting, they’re all great reads for kids.
Little House on the Prairie books, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
I loved these books as a child, and few books have made me as hungry when I was reading them as Farmer Boy. They are such fun to read, even now when I’m an adult, so yes, there is a reason these books became classics.
The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Tolkien’s tale about Bilbo’s journey to find treasure and adventure is a great read for kids and adults (and it’s significantly less violent and complex than the tale as it’s told in the new movies!). For older kids, The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a more serious and more epic tale of good, evil, hobbits and a very great journey through Middle Earth to destroy the One Ring.
The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis
My daughter really loves the Narnia books, and her favourite is The Magician’s Nephew. She just thinks Uncle Andrew is hilarious (go figure!). The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is still my favourite in the series.
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, by Robert C. O’Brien
This is a wonderful tale about some very unusual rats, and how they end up helping mrs Frisby move her house, and save her family. It was made into a Disney movie as well, but (at least in my opinion) the book is far superior.
Comet in Moominland (and other Moomin-books), by Tove Jansson
Finland’s Tove Jansson created a very special and enchanting world in her stories about the Moomin-family and their life in Moomin-valley. If you haven’t checked out this particular fantasy-realm, it’s well worth a read.
Beezus and Ramona, by Beverly Cleary
This book, written in 1955, is absolutely delightful and at times hilariously, laugh-out-loud funny. Ramona is the quintessential trouble-making little sister, and Beezus is her suffering older sister. The stories about their trials and tribulations are so close to real life, and have a real ring of truth.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
This is yet another classic story that never, ever gets old. Wonderfully crazy, kooky and weird, it still holds up as a captivating and thoroughly entertaining fantasy-romp.
Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones
My kids already loved Hayao Miyazaki’s movie version of this story, but the book is a masterpiece in its own way. The story and characters are rather different than in Miyazaki’s adaptation, but I think that the differences just makes the reading more interesting (my kids agreed). Sophie’s adventures after she’s cursed by the witch of the Waste, her encounter with the wizard Howl, and the fire demon Calcifer make for a great story to read aloud.
The Earthsea Quartet, by Ursula K. Le Guin
I’ve mentioned these books, and this writer, many times in my blog and it’s because they are amazing literature for kids and adults. I loved these books as a teenager, and they have stood the test of time: the prose is still exceptionally beautiful, the stories are gripping, and the characters original and believable in the midst of dragons and magic.
Red Shift, by Alan Garner
To quote the sales blurb: “Three separate stories, three utterly different lives, distant in time and yet strangely linked to a single place, the mysterious, looming outcrop known as Mow Cop, and a single object, the blunt head of a stone axe: all these come together in Alan Garner’s extraordinary Red Shift.” This book by is a twisting, trippy and hard-to-describe tale that winds through three different historical times, all set in the same place. It’s a story that I first read in my teens, but it has stayed with me over the years. Fantasy/history/poetry… there are shades of all three in this story.
His Dark Materials (The Golden Compass; The Subtle Knife; The Amber Spyglass), by Philip Pullman
This trilogy of fantasy books is probably better suited for kids age 11 and up (and I mean up to adult age!), but it is a fantastic story and a modern classic, as far as I’m concerned. Pullman has created a fantastic and very original world. Great for reading out loud, or by yourself.
The Animorphs series, by K.A. Applegate
This book series is a relatively new discovery in our home, even though the books were actually published several years ago. The story follows a group of kids who are fighting back against an alien invasion: they’ve all been given the power to “morph” into various animals. There are 54 books in all, so there’s a lot of ground to cover! My daughter is rather obsessed with these stories at the moment…
The Ice Dragon, by G.R.R. Martin
I’ve mentioned this book before. It’s written by the author of the “A Song of Ice And Fire”-books (made famous on TV as “Game of Thrones”), but this is a book for children, as well as young adults and adults. By that I mean that it’s a lot less brutal Martin’s books for adults. The Ice Dragon is beautifully told, beautifully illustrated, and very evocative. It’s not for the smallest children, but definitely a fantastic story. Be warned that the ending is bittersweet rather than a traditional “happy ever after”.
The The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
A modern classic in young adult literature, this trilogy has become a very hot commodity because of the movie-franchise based on the books. Collins’ writing is captivating, but these books are not for younger kids: the story is dark and violent (and very well-written!). It’s a terrific story for older kids and adults.
The Dark Is Rising Sequence: Over Sea, Under Stone; The Dark Is Rising; Greenwitch; The Grey King; Silver on the Tree, by Susan Cooper
For kids in their tweens and teens, this series of fantasy books is a great read. The books weave together fantasy with bits of Celtic folklore, and strands of the King Arthur legend. The story is set in 1970s Britain, as well as ancient Britain, and other fantasy-realms in-between the worlds.