The Best Kids Books Ever
The Best Books for Children – a list of the very best books for kids
What are the greatest children’s books ever?
We’re talking about the books that first make us fall in love with reading and stay with us forever.
Around 10,000 new children’s titles are published in the UK every year so it’s no mean feat to select a handful that really touched you and have stood the test of time. Especially as the years fly by…
We asked a group of our closest LoveReading friends to name their top 5 children’s books of all time. Here is the list, over 100 books that we believe every child and adult should read. There are 118 to be exact – books that we believe should be on every bookshelf and encouraging children of today to become avid readers, just like they did us.
The Best Kids Books Ever
, Sinead O'Hart
, Jonathan Emmett
, Wendy Meddour
, Sophie Anderson
, Abi Elphinstone
, Liz Robinson
, Coralie Bickford-Smith
, Tom Nicoll
, Eve Chase
, Charity Norman
, Tina Seskis
, David Solomons
, Josh Lacey
, Steve Cole
, Emma Chichester Clark
, Pip Jones
, Jan Stannard
, Andrea Reece
, Lilja Sigurdardottir
, Tanya Landman
, Joanne Owen
, Karen McCombie
, Susanna Crossman
, Guy Bass
, Lynda Graham
, Patrice Lawrence
Elizabeth Wein is the author of the award-winning Code Name Verity, The Pearl Thief, and Firebird. She writes about women pilots and lives in Scotland.
- A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett - Forget everything you ever heard about this being a "rags to riches" story. Sara Crewe is my original role model: smart, creative, proud, generous, kind, bold and stubborn. She crosses class boundaries, she speaks fluent French & Hindustani, she takes responsibility for her own actions. And though she endures the worst kind of physical and emotional suffering - hunger, cold, overwork, loss - she remains indomitable and loving. Basically, there is a little bit of Sara in every one of my characters.
- The 13 Clocks by James Thurber - The edition with illustrations by Marc Simont is PURE GOLD. It's an invented fairy tale with ridiculously quirky characters, and Thurber's poetic and humorous prose never gets old. It's a great book to read out loud, whether with your parents, kids, or best friend.
- The Stone Book Quartet by Alan Garner - I love Alan Garner because I used to live where many of his books are set. But this one in particular is a wonderful cross-generational, semi-autobiographical group of stories that feel like magic and yet could be real. From the darkness of a prehistoric cave to the darkness inside the pinnacle of a church steeple, the themes of ancestry and shared memory are beautifully told in something that's almost like dialect and a lot like poetry.
- A Hundred Million Francs by Paul Berna - It's got the most complicated plot of any mystery I ever read, it's set in a gritty postwar slum in France, and it features a gang of wonderfully diverse and loyal schoolchildren who take down a gang of bad guys with glee. My favourite character is Marion Fabert, the ten-year-old girl who runs a local dog hospital and takes no nonsense from anybody.
- The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K LeGuin - Ursula K. LeGuin is another favourite. This book is the middle of her Earthsea Trilogy; it's dark and strange, but I love the exploration of female empowerment, good and evil, and the way LeGuin creates an incredible history for her imagined world. And I like the dangerous relationship between Tenar and the wizard she manages to hold prisoner, and how they eventually help each other to freedom.
I'm the author of The Eye of the North and The Star-Spun Web, a dormant medievalist and bookseller, slightly unhinged parent, and booklover.
- Elidor by Alan Garner - I point to this masterpiece when I tell people: 'this is why I write'. It's a gripping, genuinely scary, utterly absorbing tale, incorporating elements of folklore, fantasy, and good old-fashioned high adventure. Four siblings stumble from Manchester into a different, dying world; they try to help, but when dark magic starts to seep from Elidor into their reality, the children realise how deep is the danger they've landed in...
- The Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O'Shea - This book is a standout from my own childhood. It tells the story of Pidge and his sister Brigit who get mixed up in a plan to awaken an ancient and terrible magic, and everything about it is perfect. Madcap humour, unforgettable characters, brilliant use of Irish folklore and mythology, and bits of dialogue I still remember a lifetime later ('All those who pedester here do so on pain of measles!') it's a book which should be on everyone's shelves.
- The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster - Milo mysteriously finds a tollbooth in his room one day and drives through it in his toy car to see what happens - and what happens is the most interesting, mind-opening tale imaginable. He finds himself in another realm, driving his toy car through The Lands Beyond, making his way via the Doldrums to the city of Dictionopolis under King Azaz, the realm of Digitopolis ruled by the Mathemagician, and meeting a host of amazing characters along the way including Tock the Watchdog and the many-sided Dodecahedron. Can the Princesses Rhyme and Reason be restored, to bring balance to the land? I loved this book as a young reader; it fed my love for fantastical stories and brilliant facts all at the same time!
- Coraline by Neil Gaiman - Coraline isn't a book from my childhood, but instead one I read as a grown-up which showed me, more than anything else I'd read up to that point, exactly how brilliant a book written for children could be. Unapologetically terrifying (but utterly compelling), extremely clever, fabulously well written and in possession of the finest heroine I've ever known, Coraline Jones, it's a definite Top 5 Book of All Time for me.
- Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce - I love Tom's Midnight Garden because it's so delicate and beautiful, keeping the reader enthralled as we follow Tom on his time-slip adventure. When he is quarantined in a flat which was once part of an old house, Tom is bored and unhappy - until he hears the clock strike thirteen one night. He slips into the garden to find an unexpected world, one with a young girl named Hatty whom Tom befriends... but what is the truth? Does Hatty exist? What is real, and what is not? How can you be friends with someone who might not be alive? This story has a very special and very deep place in my heart and I love it completely.
Jonathan Emmett has written over 60 books for children including Ruby Flew Too and A Spot of Bother. His work has been translated into over 30 different languages and has won several awards.
- Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak - A perfect blend of words and images. One of the books that got me hooked on reading as a child, it was the only picture book in my local library that featured genuinely scary-looking monsters.
- The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss - Written in perfectly scanning rhyme from a simple word list supplied by Seuss's editor, this funny, subversive story is one of the most technically accomplished pieces of writing in the English language and the pictures are terrific too!
- Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve - A gripping adventure story set in a dystopian future that feels as detailed as Tolkien's Middle Earth.
- The Mansions of the Gods, An Asterix Adventure by René Goscinny - I could have picked any of the Asterix books which all have inventive and original plots and a wealth of amusing characters, packed with atmospheric detail and visual witticisms.
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl - Dahl is one of the few writers who is able to talk to children directly. When I first came across this book I felt like I had also been allowed to enter the chocolate factory. The book is full of the subversive ideas and outrageous humour that set Roald Dahl apart from other children's authors of his generation.
Wendy Meddour teaches Creative Writing at Exeter University and has published 15 internationally successful children's books. Her latest book is called Lubna and Pebble.
- The Great Smile Robber by Roger McGough - Because a librarian handed it to me when I was 8 years old, and it was like a bit of magic in my hands. In fact, I think it might be one of the reasons I became a children's writer.
- The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry - This is a book I always go to when I want to see more than 'just a hat'. It helps me think about the big questions: What is love? Why are we here? What's the meaning of it all? And is it a trilby, or could it be a big snake that's just eaten an elephant?
- Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren - Because it's bonkers and daring and fun, and makes me want to be more than I am.
- Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter - Potter never talked down to me. Even when I was 6, she believed I could understand the concept of 'soporific lettuce'. Also, she's a bit of an inspiration: a woman with just a pen and paintbrush who convinced the publishing world that she important things to say.
- The BFG by Roald Dahl - How can I not include Dahl? I love so many of his books, but the BFG is such a cleverly written and lovable character. I totally believe in him, and always did.
Sophie Anderson writes stories. Her debut novel, The House with Chicken Legs, has been shortlisted for several major awards including the Carnegie Medal.
- Russian Fairy Tales by Alexander Afanasyev - Russian fairy tales, folklore and legends have always been an endless source of wisdom, joy and inspiration for me.
- One Thousand and One Nights by Jan Pienkowski and David Walser - These beautiful and ancient tales of epic journeys, djinn, sorcerers, talking animals and magical objects, told by Scheherazade to save her life, have enchanted me all my life!
- Tales of Uncle Remus by Julius Lester - The Brer Rabbit tales brought me so much joy as a child, and as I grew older, discovering the history and meaning of these stories was a poignant but important journey.
- Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery - I loved this book when I was young and it still holds a special place in my heart. Anne feels like an old friend, a kindred spirit who I can turn to whenever I need comfort.
- Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson - Another childhood favourite, this book is bursting with imaginative characters, settings and stories. Re-reading as an adult I am astonished by the beauty and layers of meaning in the writing.
Abi Elphinstone is the bestselling and multi-award shortlisted author of Everdark, Rumblestar (The Unmapped Chronicles), Sky Song & The Dreamsnatcher Trilogy. When she's not writing Abi volunteers for Beanstalk, speaks in schools and travels the world looking for her next story.
- The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis - My favourite moment in all literature is when Lucy Pevensie pushes open a wardrobe door to discover a snow-filled Narnian forest on the other side; it taught me to believe in impossible, unlikely and even magical things.
- Northern Lights by Philip Pullman - This was a defining book for me as a child because not only was I was enthralled by the story ' by the alethiometer, the daemons, the witches and Lee Scoresby's hot air balloon ' but I was fundamentally changed by Lyra Belacqua who showed me that girls can be just as brave as boys, adults and even armoured polar bears.
- The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy - I adored the heroine of this story, Mildred Hubble, because she's clumsy, knotty-haired and always getting into trouble at Miss Cackle's Academy for Witches but she's also fiercely brave and loyal to her friends.
- The BFG by Road Dahl - I'm dyslexic and sometimes that means I get my words muddled up - I loved the Big Friendly Giant as a child because he was forever getting his words in a pickle.
- The Mennyms by Sylvia Waugh - The characters in this book are rag dolls and they made me question, every single night when I was a child, whether my teddies, dolls and toys might, in fact, be real.
LoveReading Editorial Expert
I'm going to be sneaky and use this section to say any children's book by Terry Pratchett (I just couldn't narrow it down)...
- The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis - Oh how this made by sob as a child, and still makes me cry every time I re-read it. I regularly go back to the Narnia series as they give me a huge welcoming hug... and it is this, the final book in the series that really touches my heart and mind.
- The Broken Trilogy by L. A. Weatherly - A breathtaking trilogy set 2000 years after time was reset and war and atomic weapons banned. Uncomfortable truths stride across the page, yet they don't preach, instead this punchy, vibrant, incredible trilogy allows you to make comparisons, to feel, to think, to decide. l absolutely adore and highly recommend these three books, they storm your emotions, echo the past and yet, are a warning from the future.
- Iron Sky: Dread Eagle by Alex Woolf - Adventurous steampunk storytelling at its very best. With hugely exciting adventures, steam driven automatons, warships and hidden floating cities you are transported into a wonderfully created new world. The beautifully drawn and explained pull out diagrams and plans of the steam entities pull you further into this sensational alternative reality.
- The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick - This is a remarkable and surprising book, just when you think you understand it, whoosh, the unexpected taps you on the shoulder again. There are four quarters to this story; they travel across time, yet somehow are connected and can be read in any order. Shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Award 2014.
- The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris - An award winning book to make you think and feel, this is an important, beautiful, spellbinding treasure. Words from nature are disappearing, being removed, left to one side to be forgotten. Some words are in real danger of being lost forever, this book reveals those words, sings them, shows them, reminds us how to love them. Spell-weavers Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris have created a bewitching ode to nature, reminding us of the danger of absence, highlighting beauty, whispering to our soul.
The illustrator and author of the children's books The Fox and the Star and The Worm and the Bird, Coralie is one of the most renowned designers in the publishing industry.
- The Snowman by Raymond Briggs - A classic which has inspired many generations of children. A beautifully moving exploration of life and friendship. One of the books which inspired me on my own career path as I am sure it did many other artists.
- I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen - Hilariously funny. I love this deceptively simple tale, its sarcasm, whit and the complex emotions of the characters are beautifully portrayed with incredible simplicity.
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl - An escapism from the reality of how hard life can be, demonstrating the power of hope and dreams.
- The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams - A timeless tale that feels relevant today as it ever was. The longevity the stories message is extremely beautiful and as relevant today as it was when it was first published in 1922.
- The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry - A tale of imagination and compassion with beautiful morals and lessons that stayed with me years later. A book to life your life by.
Tom Nicoll is award winning author of several kids books including Boyband of the Apocalypse, There's a Dragon in my... and Level Up!
- Truckers by Terry Pratchett - This is the first book in the Bromeliad Trilogy, a series about a group of Nomes who believe that the department store that they live in is the entire Universe. When they find out the department store is to be destroyed everything they thought they knew comes crashing down. I love this series so much. When I was little, the animation studio Cosgrove Hall had an ITV series based on the book which I was obsessed with, and I remember getting the book out the library, just so I could find out what happened before it happened on the show and spoil it for everyone else. Which I realise now is wrong.
- Matilda by Roald Dahl - I'll limit myself to one Roald Dahl book, and Matilda has to be my favourite. I remember reading it as a child thinking how great it would be to read all the books in the library like Matilda does. Now, my oldest daughter is a big reader too and Matilda is one of her favourites too, which is pretty cool.
- Tin by Padraig Kenny - Tin is a funny, sweet, sad and thought-provoking story about the journey of a young boy and his mechanical friends. For me it was one of those books that as a writer, once I had finished it, my first thoughts were that it was clearly brilliant, but also, I couldn't help hating it just a little because how on earth am I ever going to write something as good as that? Come on Padraig, give the rest of us a chance would you?
- The 1,000 Year Old Boy by Ross Welford - Ross is another author where I could literally pick any of his books to place on this list, but this one is probably my favourite of his. I love the high concept of a boy who never ages and how he has to adapt when the life he's known for a thousand years changes forever.
- The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend - Before Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries, there was only one diary written by an uncool school child worth reading and that was Adrian Mole's. This may be the funniest book ever written across any age group or genre. Neurotic, self-obsessed and completely self-unaware, Adrian Mole may also be the most relatable character ever written. Or maybe that's just me...
Eve Chase is the bestselling author of acclaimed novels, Black Rabbit Hall, and The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde. Published by Michael Joseph.
Still nine at heart.
- Anne of Green Gables by L.M Montgomery - A nostalgic read, yes, but brilliant. The spirited Anne is impossible not to love. I was hooked by this as a little girl, and my daughter is too. There's something immensely comforting about falling into one of Anne's adventures at bedtime.
- The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank - I read this at about twelve years old, and it was the book that made me want to write. I'd never read anything before that had such life to the page. It felt like Anne was whispering in my ear. Whenever I think about the second world war, I think of Anne. Vitally important. A masterpiece. For all its sadness, a joy.
- Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak - One of those rare, magical children's books that never seems to age. It's the perfect story, a burrow into a child's vivid imagination with all its delights and terrors. The illustrations will never be forgotten either. This picture book has become part of childhood itself.
- Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell - This novel enchanted my son when he was about nine. It was one of the first 'chapter books' he loved. And it was a delight to read aloud. Rich in atmosphere and mystery, it's about children who live on the rooftops of Paris, and a quest for a lost mother. Rundell is such an original, beautiful writer that it keeps the grown-up reader totally enthralled too.
- Tintin in Tibet by Herge - Blue blistering barnacles, I LOVE Tintin, and have read each book dozens of times, as a child myself, and now as a mother of three. This for me stands out as the best Tintin story. It's got everything, a terrifying quest to save a dear friend, a lonely monster and jokes that still make me snort with laughter. I will never give my dog-eared Tintins away. A keeper.
Charity was once a lawyer but prefers writing. She has children, cats and a budgie, and lives in New Zealand. Her sixth novel is on-the-way.
- Watership Down by Richard Adams - I think I'd read this story ten times by the time I was ten. A ragtag band of rabbits escape their warren just before tragedy strikes, setting out on a perilous journey. The warm characters, gripping adventures and vivid descriptions captivated my imagination. The book lived in my school bag for years - it was my friend. I still treasure a copy, signed by Richard Adams himself.
- The Mousehole Cat by Antonia Barber - There's magic, loyalty and courage in this haunting tale of the Cornish fisherman's cat who tamed the Great Storm-Cat and helped saved a village from starvation. The prose is like music, the illustrations are works of art. I can't read the last page aloud without a catch in my throat, because the simple beauty of the language is overwhelming.
- Slinky Malinki by Lynley Dodd - Like all Lynley Dodd's books, this is a joy to read aloud. Incorrigible Slinky Malinki - 'a stalking and lurking adventurous cat' - sneaks out each night to steal stuff from all over the neighbourhood. I love New Zealander Lynley Dodd's illustrations, her humour and rhythm and rhyme, her larger-than-life characters. I was once lucky enough to share a stage with her at an event, and she was every bit as wonderful as I'd imagined.
- Matilda by Roald Dahl - Roald Dahl's gloriously zany stories lead their readers on one fantastic journey after another. It was difficult to pick just one, but in the end it had to be Matilda - the child genius with a dim, mean-spirited family and a vicious tyrant of a headmistress - who coolly uses her unique powers to outwit them all. What a marvellous heroine!
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain - Mark Twain's classic, set in a small town on the Mississippi River around the 1840s, is much more than a cracking good yarn (though it certainly is that). It's brimming with sharp observation, humour, social commentary, captivating story-telling and a cast of characters who still resonate today, almost a hundred and fifty years after they were created.
Tina Seskis's novels have been published in 18 languages in over 60 countries. Her latest book, Home Truths, will be released in November.
- Watership Down by Richard Adams - I won it in a competition and it was the first "big" book I read. I totally loved it and became swept up in the terrors and adventures of a motley bunch of rabbits. I read it again a few years ago with my son and it was one of my greatest pleasures.
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis - I am not usually a huge fan of fantasy literature but this one grabbed me and literally transported me to Narnia with those children. (Maybe it was because my favourite TV show at the time was Mr Ben!) The White Witch was both beauty and evil combined in my young mind, a quite confronting concept.
- Stig of the Dump by Clive King - I was charmed by this story of friendship beyond boundaries. The writing was so powerful I knew exactly what Stig looked like and I wanted him to be my friend too. When Barney helps Stig make his dump of a den more appealing, it also spoke to my early home-making instincts too.
- Malory Towers by Enid Blyton - I loved all of Enid Blyton's books but this series was my absolute favourite. I thought going off to boarding school would be the best thing ever, with tuck boxes and trunks and rounds of shortbread. I especially loved the way the series continued through time as Darrell grew up and her sister joined the school too. It was pure unadulterated joy, and in fact I'm tempted to go back and read them again now!
- Nancy Drew Mystery Stories by Carolyn Keene - I wanted to be Nancy Drew! I thought she was the coolest, cleverest, prettiest(!) girl ever. This series was the precursor into my favourite books as a teenager, those of Agatha Christie. I think Nancy Drew was indirectly the person who led me into writing mystery stories myself.
Josh Lacey is the author of many books for children, including The Dragonsitter and A Dog Called Grk.
- The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr - I read this as a child. I've read it to my children. And I've never got bored of it. Why not? I wish I knew. Somehow this picture book survives a thousand readings.
- Tintin in Tibet by Herge - It's impossible to pick a favourite Tintin, but I'll always be happy to read this one.
- The Parent Trap by Erich Kastner - This was called Lottie and Lisa when I read it as a child, but has been renamed in recent editions to fit with the film versions. The movies are fun, but the book is better. To me, the unhappy child of divorced parents, it was a perfect fantasy.
- A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin - Such a strange and mysterious story, which confused and fascinated me as a child, and has again when I've read it as an adult. The other Earthsea stories are even wilder and weirder. That's what makes them so memorably wonderful.
- The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier - A magnificent adventure story, set in the Second World War, about a family broken up by the Nazis. Profound, moving, and exciting.
The author of the bestselling Astrosaurs series and novels for Young Bond and Doctor Who, Steve Cole has written over 150 titles for children, most recently Adventure Duck.
- Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr - That simple, haunting premise of an invalid girl who dreams herself into a house she has drawn, and somehow draws a fellow patient in with her. Hugely imaginative and atmospheric with spare, satisfying prose. Written in 1958 but with a timeless moral - we have to live in the worlds we create for ourselves, and the anger we aim at others can come back on ourselves.
- Mooncop by Tom Gauld - One of my very favourite graphic novels. A cop performs his lonely beat on a moon colony in decline. Poignant, stark and beautiful.
- The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper - Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without reading Will's wintry travails against the evil magics of the Dark, questing for the Signs of Light. Compellingly cold and dark.
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle - A year before Doctor Who first aired on our screens this lively and satisfying fantasy gave us Mrs Who, the original mysterious alien to travel the universe with unlikely companions! Likeable characters, cosmic meanderings and a battle against the evil Black Thing evoke awe and wonder throughout.
- The Comic Strip History of Space by Sally Kindberg and Tracey Turner - It's the complete history of space discovery and exploration told in comic strip form, covering a vast array of subjects and concepts with clarity and laugh out loud humour. Education and entertainment rarely come so perfectly pitched.
Emma is the author and illustrator of some beautiful children's books, including I Love You, Blue Kangaroo! and The Rescue of Bunny Wunny.
- Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans - I love the drawings- their simplicity and sophistication - the way that some pages are just black and yellow while others are full colour. I love the drama- there is always drama in the Madeline books, and in this one Miss Clavel is allowed 2 or 3 pages to rush along a corridor at an increasing slant. The story is told in rhyme - relaxed and charming.
- Captain Najork and his Hired Sportsmen by Russell Hoban and Quentin Blake - Here is anarchy and invention. Every word is delicious and every character is interesting and unique and somehow Quentin Blake must have known exactly how Russell Hoban meant it to look. I can't imagine a more excellent partnership of words and pictures.
- Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig - I love all William Steig's books. They are nearly always about an animal in some sort of trouble and nearly all have a magical rescue. The drawings are deceptively simple again, but with enormous warmth and sympathy and humour.
- Simp by John Burningham - I am a sucker for books about dogs- particularly a small ugly black one like Simp. The pathos and dumpiness of this little creature gives me a lump in my throat and I'm hopelessly devoted. He's drawn with love- every whisker, every claw, his chewed up ears are all products of a tender heart. I like its lovely old-fashioned ending where Simp finds love at last.
- The Happy Lion by Louise Fatio, illustrated by Roger Duvoisin - Again, I chose this book for its simplicity and its characters. The elegant drawings are mostly black and white with a little colour blocked in. It's a world long-gone- some gentile town in France where a peaceful lion lives in a zoo and everyone loves him- so long as he stays in his cage. The face of the lion is pure perfection to me. It is how a lion should look. In fact I would like to live in that little town. It's nostalgia, I suppose, and it has another old-fashioned happy ending, but I love it.
Pip Jones (Squishy McFluff, Izzy Gizmo, Piggy Handsome) writes books in both rhyme and prose, and is known for creating brilliantly bonkers and funny characters.
- Stig of the Dump by Clive King - A class read when I was about seven years old (thank you, Mrs Ford), this was the first book I remember wishing would never ever end. Barney and Stig's adventures were so exhilarating, and their friendship so touching. I was entranced. It was one of the books which made me fall deeply in love with stories.
- Eric by Shaun Tan - A gorgeous little book about accepting and celebrating the differences between us, the story at first seems simple, but it's layered with complexity. Tan's illustrations always have wow factor but there's something extra special in this one monotone until the very end, when the startlingly colourful pay off actually makes you gasp. It's pure joy.
- One by Sarah Crossan - One is powerful, honest, uplifting and very moving. The novel is in verse, and every single word seems so perfectly weighted, each emotion reaches you on an incredibly personal level. It's beautiful, and superb in every way.
- Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak - As a HUGE lover of picture books, I could have wrestled with tons of my favourites, but this one has it all. It's 100% perfect as a concept, its language sublime and otherworldly, its illustrations as mad as they are magical. And the whole adventure summed up with the most perfect finishing line, when Max returns to find his supper: 'and it was still hot'.
- Mr Gum by Andy Stanton - A voice so unique, so madcap, so bonkers no other book has ever come close to making my children laugh as much, and that is always a joy to see (which I do often, they return again and again to the series). Utterly brilliant.
Jan was the People's Choice winner of LoveReading's Very Short Story awards 2019. Her first novel is out on submission with agents.
- The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton - I loved climbing trees as a child and who wouldn't want to discover a new world in the leafy canopy above one's head? This was Blyton rooting deep into the vivid imagination of my eight-year-old self. So easy to choose as my most memorable childhood book.
- Spirit of Punchbowl Farm by Monica Edwards - I desperately wanted my own pony and to live on a farm, when the reality was a suburban street in a town in Middlesex. But I could walk to the stables and muck out in exchange for rides. Monica Edwards captured the spirit of life in deep, unspoilt country. 'It's the nightingale tree,' said Lindsey, when Dion wanted to cut down her beloved yew tree. Who can say that now? A time I loved which is almost lost.
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle - The copy we bought for our two girls, now grown, fell to pieces. The pictures, the story, the holes in the pages! They all make this the perfect young children's book. We all loved reading it over and over again.
- The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr - Judith Kerr's genius story, of a tiger arriving at an ordinary house and doing lots of naughty things, remains etched in the memories of all our family. The line '...drank all Daddy's beer and all the water in the tap' came back to me in an instant as I wrote this. Another book a parent can enjoy reading a hundred times (which I reckon we did).
- Meg and Mog series by Helen Nicoll - No one book in particular, but all of these simple, colourful stories were childhood staples for our girls. Adventures, great characters, brilliant drawings.
LoveReading4Kids Editorial Expert
Andrea Reece has spent all her working life in children’s books. Her first job was at Transworld Publishers back in the 1980s where, amongst other things, she ran the fan club for readers of the smash hit teen series Sweet Dreams.
She went on to work for other children’s publishers, large and small, and with authors including David Almond, Nick Butterworth, Mick Inkpen and Michael Morpurgo. In 2005 she set up children’s independent Catnip Publishing Ltd., publishing Richard and Judy favourite Scaredy Squirrel in the process, and went on to run Books for Keeps, the children’s books journal.
She is very used to odd looks from people on trains and buses who see her reading children’s books, and is still as excited as ever to discover a new children’s author. Apart from being one of the Lovereading4kids editorial experts alongside Julia Eccleshare she is also director of the children’s and young people’s programme of the FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival.
- Skellig by David Almond - Skellig has the spiritual intensity of William Blake, one of David Almond’s acknowledged inspirations, and asks young readers to accept the miraculous. At the same time, it is intensely realistic. Almond vividly creates the north east of his own childhood and finds beauty and lyricism in its language. Beautiful, moving, unpindownable, it’s a book everyone should read.
- Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak - First published over 50 years ago, Where the Wild Things Are is timeless. Sendak’s beautiful illustrations expand a short, very simple text into an exciting story with the most satisfying denouement. It allows children to explore aggression and their fears, while reassuring them that supper will always be there, and still hot. The colours and rich detail of Sendak’s images is unforgettable.
- The Exiles by Hilary McKay - Double Costa winner McKay’s debut novel describes four book-mad sisters who are sent to stay with Big Grandma in the Lake District while their parents use an unexpected windfall to decorate the house. Closely based on McKay’s own family life, it is an absolute joy, a book guaranteed to make you laugh out loud with some of the funniest, and indeed most dramatic scenes you are likely to find in children’s books.
- A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness illustrated by Jim Kay - In 2012, A Monster Calls became the first book ever to win both the Carnegie Medal and the Greenaway Medal, deservedly, because books don’t come any better than this. Written by Patrick Ness and illustrated by Jim Kay, it takes an idea by the late Siobhan Dowd, and tells a story of grief, love, loss and rage – a huge story that we feel as intensely personal to the boy Conor, at its heart. Extraordinary storytelling, words and images working together sublimely.
- Collected Poems for Children by Ted Hughes illus Raymond Briggs - Every list of top books for children should feature poetry and I’ve picked Ted Hughes’ children’s collection. Nature is Hughes’ dominant theme and much of his prolific output for younger readers takes a realistic look at the animal kingdom. The poetry is original, powerful, honest and still highly topical. As an added bonus, this collection features beautiful illustrations by Raymond Briggs.
Lilja Sigurdardottir is an award winning Icelandic playwright and crimewriter. She is the author of six critically acclaimed and best selling crime novels.
- Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren - Pippi is the world's strongest girl. She lives by herself, keeps her horse inside the house and a monkey on her shoulder. She only does what she wants and doesn't have to go to school or abide by other laws of society. This to me as a child seemed an idyllic lifestyle and I so much enjoyed reading about Pippi and her life. Pippi is one of the most memorable female characters from Nordic children's literature.
- The Brothers Lionheart By Astrid Lindgren - An exceptionally beautiful story dealing with illness, death and grief in a way few other children's books have. The story is in fact a thriller, where the a rebellion against tyranny is the driving plot, and the brothers have to find courage to fight against evil. A truly magnificent read and a tearjerker.
- Moomins by Tove Janson - I don't name a specific Moomin book as it is a whole series and in fact two series as there are also picture books about the same characters as Tove Janson was also an illustrator. The Moomins are just a hilarious, lovable bunch, solving practical problems with philosophy and humour. In fact I'm not sure if they are children's books as I have grown to love them more as I get older.
- Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak - A beautiful picture book for young children that allows for experiencing a range of emotions that is so important for emotional development. The little boy in the story has a temper tantrum and is locked in his room where his fantasy world reliefs him of his fear and anger. The pictures are gorgeous and I imagine they balance the line between horrific and cute in a young child's view.
- The BFG by Roald Dahl - There is something so magical about a dramatic size difference in characters. The little girl in the story is kidnapped by a giant and becomes a sort of a pet in his house. The story deals about really serious issues, injustice, bad treatment of children and bullying. I always love how in Roald Dahls books the child always ends up victorious over a bigger power or establishment. It fills the reader with hope.
Tanya Landman is a Carnegie Medal winner and author of more than thirty books for children and young adults, including One Shot, Buffalo Soldier and Beyond the Wall.
- Stig of the Dump by Clive King - I loved Stig and spent my entire childhood looking for him. When I read it to my own children it was still every bit as funny and magical as I remembered.
- Astercote by Penelope Lively - Again, a childhood favourite that I returned to over and over again. Mysterious, magical, poignant and funny.
- Charlotte's Web by E.B. White - This book changed my life. I was utterly in love with Wilbur and because of him I ended up keeping a pet pig called Tilly. Tilly inspired 100% Pig, the first book of mine to be published.
- Keeper by Mal Peet - Just genius. A superb read . (And I don't even like football!)
- The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean - When I finished reading this for the first time I had to go back to page 1 and start all over again because I couldn't bear leaving that world.
LoveReading Editorial Expert and Author
Born in Pembrokeshire, Joanne Owen studied Anthropology and Archaeology with Social and Political Sciences and is now a London-based children's writer and LoveReading Editorial Expert. Her novels include Martha Mayhem, Circus of the Unseen and Puppet Master.
- Meg and Mog by Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski - One of my earliest memories is being read the Meg and Mog books in nursery school and this experience certainly played a big part in sparking my love of books (and witches!). Their unmistakable bold style, perfectly formed text (both conceptually and typographically) and sense of mischief and adventure make them agelessly appealing to pre-schoolers.
- Coming to England by Floella Benjamin - As evocative of place (vibrant Trinidad, and the contrasting bleakness of England) as it is of emotional states and experiences (hope, alienation, harassment, hostility and determination), this honest, inspirational child's-eye view of racism and prejudice is a glorious ode to standing tall and feeling proud of who you are. Based on Floella Benjamin's experience of moving to England as a young girl with hope in her heart, anticipating a warm welcome from the apparently gold-paved Motherland, this is timely, timeless and truly affecting.
- The Moomins and the Great Flood by Tove Jansson - Packed with peril, and suffused in the unique emotional charm that's abundant in the later books, this very first Moomin story (originally published in 1945) tells the captivating story of Moominmamma and Moomintroll's search for missing Moominpappa and how they came to be in Moominvalley.
- Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson - Set in 1910, this absolute read-over-and-over-again adventure classic sees orphaned Maia transported from her English school to the heart of the Amazon to live with her ghastly relatives. The plot twists and snakes like the Amazon itself, with duplicitous dealings and secret identities aplenty, and the author's unforgettable evocation of nature and landscape is a dazzling delight.
- Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume - This compassionate, funny, taboo-breaking book about growing up remains as relevant and appealing to today's pre-teen girls as it did when it was published almost fifty years ago. Margaret is a sublimely authentic character, whose hopes and worries are universal.
Karen McCombie is the best-selling author of more than 90 published books. Her latest novel is the highly-acclaimed historical adventure Little Bird Flies (Nosy Crow).
- Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder - This is a simply staggering real-life story of an ordinary family navigating the extra-ordinary pioneering experience in 1870s America. There's so much to think about with this book; the fact that it is 'quietly' told, yet drops the reader right into the landscapes and beauty and complexities of the new life the young Laura found herself and her family facing.
- The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd - A deeply satisfying urban mystery, featuring the backdrop of the capital, with the iconic London Eye by the Thames as the star. Main character Ted is on the autistic spectrum and - with the help of his sister - he turns detective when their cousin Salim disappears... A deliciously gripping relatively swift-read for all abilities.
- The Explorer by Katherine Rundell - A vintage-feel adventure, as a group of children navigate the aftermath of a plane crash in the Amazon. Contains lavish descriptions of natural beauty, combined with themes of friendship, love and loss - and heart-stopping jeopardy, of course.
- Winnie-the-Pooh by AA Milne and illustrated by DH Shepard - This slim but utterly unmissable classic is just sublime... humour that is so sweet, quirky and timeless. Suitable for everyone from tiddly to ancient. Perfect for reading - and sniggering - aloud together.
- Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve - The 'Fever Crumb' trilogy is a prequel to the better-known 'Mortal Engines' series by Philip Reeves, but is such an immersive dystopian world in its own right. The first book - 'Fever Crumb', named after its young engineer heroine - is utterly mesmerising, set in a just-recognisable London. Terrifying and unputdownable in equal measure.
Susanna Crossman is an award-winning Anglo-French fiction writer and essayist.
- Patrick by Quentin Blake - Aged five, I read and re-read Quentin Blake's book about Patrick and his purchase of - what turns out - to be a magic violin. As Patrick places his bow on the strings cows become multi-coloured, sad people turn happy, grey birds metamorphose into exotic fine-feathered creatures. Quentin Blake's vivid, detailed illustrations pull us into his textured, magical world. As a child reader of this book, my favorite picture was of a tree growing slices of hot buttered toast. I always imagined taking a bite.
- Dogger by Shirley Hughes - A child's booklist without the delicate, cozy world of Shirley Hughes seems impossible. In Dogger, Dave loses his toy dog Dogger at the school fate. Dave's big sister Ella finally rescues the toy. The book is a story of love and devotion for the soft toys that are vital during childhood. Whilst realistic, Hughes's stories are never prosaic and she beautifully captures the real dramas and comedies of early childhood: attachment, loss, and sibling rivalry. Her books always make me want to sit around a table with homemade cake and chat somewhat idyllically - as children play at my feet.
- Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson - One night, Harold draws a purple line, making the shape of a window, a moon, a sea, and a boat. He tells the story as we read, goes on an adventure and then has to find his way home. The idea of the adventure, an almost Homeric Odyssey, told from the purple line, is deceptively simple and yet taps into all of our desires to travel, invent and then return back to the comfort of home. All and this and more told through a purple line - A classic from 1955!
- You Choose by Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart - With each of our three daughters, many bedtimes have been spent inside the interactive pages of You Choose, a collaboration between Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart. Double pages offer multiple choices of landscapes, homes, pets, costumes and food. Reading this book, we've invented a thousand stories, imagined fantasy lives. Conveniently, You Choose finishes with a choice between different beds: A pink shell, a pirate's hammock, a cradle - this leads to a bedtime kiss, and an easy goodnight!
- The Brother's Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren - The Brother's Lionheart is a heart-breaking fantasy novel by Astrid Lindgren, the inventor of the fabulous Pippi Longstocking. In The Brother's Lionheart , two brothers enter a parallel Kingdom, Nangijala, and join the occupants to fight against evil Tengil and the dragon Katla. Unusually for children's fiction, the book deals with dark, complex themes: death, betrayal and disease. Yet, The Brother's Lionheart's searing message of adventure, hope and resistance, means it was translated into 46 languages and remains one of my unforgettable favorites. Prepare for a few tears!
Guy is an award-winning author whose series include Stitch Head & Spynosaur. In 2010 his book Dinkin Dings and the Frightening Things won the Blue Peter Award for Most Fun Book with Pictures.
- George's Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl - This is the book that got me into books. Roald Dahl at his simplest and best, a taught, tantalising tale of a boy giving his grumpy granny what for. It also contains my favourite last line: "For a few brief moments he had touched with the very tips of his fingers the edge of a magic world." ...Which also sums up reading in a nutshell.
- The Princess Bride by William Goldman - A book I read as an adult that I so wish I'd read as a child. Endlessly witty and inventive, dark yet whimsical and packed with more good ideas that I'll ever have.
- The Silver Brumby by Elyne Mitchell - I've never been into horses but Elyne Mitchell's book is awesome. Thowra is the toughest horse in Australia, and that's saying something. The Silver Brumby tends to be packaged as a "girl's book" but the less said about the absurdity of "boy's books" and "girl's books" the better.
- The Encyclopedia of Superheroes by Jeff Rovin - The book I've probably read more than any other over the years. Jeff Rovin's exhaustive who's who of superheroes, from classical to capes and cowls. The finest fact book about fiction I own.
- Appointment With F.E.A.R. by Steve Jackson - One of Steve Jackson's many choose your own adventure books - but instead of a sword and sorcery theme, this one was about superheroes. This was as close as I got to being a real caped crusader - closer, perhaps, than running around the garden with a tea towel tied around my neck. Total immersion!
Primary teacher, advisory teacher for English. Now UKLA trustee, UKLA Book Awards team, chair 2008-2018. Lots of grandchildren.
- The Little Grey Men by B.B. - This is the book that made me a reader. Miss Badcock was my Y6 teacher and she read 'The Little Grey Men' aloud to us every day at the end of the day, every day ending with a cliff hanger. I've read it several times since over time, and still love it. I'm still in love with Dodder.
- Owl Babies by Martin Waddell - This was the first choice of our grandchildren when very young, chosen they were having sleepovers with nanny and gramps. 'I want my mummy!' was a heartfelt cry, and they caught the sadness in the poignant illustrations, The relief with 'AND SHE CAME' never waned.
- Shhh! by Sally Grindley - A firm favourite with all 12 grandchildren, each has heard it many, many times. The youngest still has to hide before the end. Pages are turned, flaps lifted fearfully every time. 'SHUT THE BOOK!' is always heard with relief...but repeat readings always instantly demanded. A classic (and I love reading it!)
- Little Rabbit Foo Foo by Michael Rosen - A noisy, joyful read. Again loved by all the grandchildren. The phrase 'I don't like your attitude!' has seeped into everyday use. Children never fail to be stunned by the ending.
- The Day The Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt - We all loved 'The Day the Crayons Quit', but this is even better. Who couldn't be moved by Esteban the Magnificent's heartfelt postcard:'Dear Duncan, I've see the world. It's rainy. I'm coming back'. I love reading it to grandchildren, and it wa a very special day when one,formerly quite hestitant at reading aloud, chose to read it to me,with fantastic voices!
Patrice Lawrence is an award-winning writer for children and young people. Her debut novel, Orangeboy, was shortlisted for the Children's Costa Award and won the Waterstone's Prize for Older Fiction and the YA Bookseller Prize.
- The Wishing Chair by Enid Blyton - One of the first books that I remember making me cry. It taught me that those little black squiggles on paper can affect you in so many ways.
- So Much by Trish Cooke and Helen Oxenbury - A rare UK picture book showing a Caribbean family. A wonderful depiction of a loving black dad. Words that are just so say-togetherable.
- Z for Zachariah by Robert C O'Brien - A fantastic character study of a young woman in a post-apocalyptic world. Memorable because I read it in the 80s when nuclear war seemed a reality.
- Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien - That world-building! The friendship between Sam and Frodo! It was impossible to believe that this was only fiction.
- The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame - More fantastic world-building. Humour and pathos. Weasels with cudgels and one of the sweetest lessons in empathy ever.
As you know our job is one of curation, and every month we select dozens of books right across the age ranges and subject matter to encourage the most reluctant of readers to become engrossed in a book and to engender that lifelong love of reading.
How many of these books have you read?
How many have you shared with your kids or the children in your life?
Is there a book you think should be in here?
Let us know your thoughts. We’d love to hear them.
Thank you to all of our contributors for sharing their selections. Our mission is to share book love and this series of round ups is about just that.
Look out for our next round up – the best autobiographies of all time. Now that, I am looking forward to.