Thursday, October 1, 2009

My favourite children's books

In keeping with the theme of favourites, here are some of the best children’s books of all time. In no particular order. And just because you're an adult it doesn't mean you can't read kid's books. In fact, I recommend it.

The Harry Potter series (but of course) – J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter is an ordinary boy who lives in a cupboard under the stairs at his Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon's house, which he thinks is normal for someone like him whose parents have been killed in a 'car crash'. He is bullied by them and his fat, spoilt cousin Dudley, and lives a very unremarkable life with only the odd event here and there to cause him much to think about. That is until an owl turns up with a letter addressed to Harry and all hell breaks loose! He is literally rescued by a world where nothing is as it seems and magic lessons are the order of the day.

Adventure series – Enid Blyton
The Adventure Series is a collection of eight children's novels. These books feature the same child characters: Philip, Jack, Dinah, and Lucy-Ann, along with several adult characters. Jack's pet cockatoo, Kiki, is also a standard feature in each novel. The stories show the four children off on their own, discovering and solving mysteries without much adult assistance.

The Faraway Tree Series – Enid Blyton
The stories take place in an enchanted forest in which a gigantic magical tree - the eponymous "Faraway Tree" - grows. The tree is so tall that its topmost branches reach into the clouds and it is wide enough to contain small houses carved into its trunk. The forest and the tree are discovered by three children named Jo, Bessie, and Fannie, who move into a house nearby.

What Katy Did – Susan Coolidge
Katy Carr is untidy, tall and gangling, planning for the day when she will be beautiful and beloved, and amiable as an angel . An accidental fall from a swing seems to threaten her hopes for the future, but Katy struggles to overcome her difficulties with pluck, vitality and good humour. TIP: don't bother to read this if archaic English makes you zone out.

The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
One of the best-loved stories of all time, The Secret Garden is a classic tale reflecting on themes such as helping others and believing in people. Mary, a young orphaned girl, meets her bedridden cousin, Colin. She discovers an enchanting secret place, separate from the outside world. It is in this place that Colin and Mary learn lessons about overcoming obstacles. This story will captivate audiences of all ages. I read this recently for my daughter and enjoyed it just as much if not more as an adult.

Anne of Green Gables – Lucy Maud Montgomery
Anne of Green Gables is a bestselling novel by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery published in 1908. It was written as fiction for readers of all ages, but in recent decades has been considered a children's book. A classic story of a young orphan who finds a family when she is adopted by a brother and sister living in the small Canadian town of Avonlea. Anne is willful, imaginative, temperamental, and loquacious. She falls in love with the town, but she will need all her charms to adjust to her new life. This is a timeless story of an impetuous girl who grows into a sensitive young woman.

Narnia series – C.S. Lewis
The Chronicles of Narnia present the adventures of children who play central roles in the unfolding history of the fictional realm of Narnia, a place where animals talk, magic is common, and good battles evil. Each of the books (with the exception of The Horse and His Boy) features as its protagonists children from our world who are magically transported to Narnia, where they are called upon to help the Lion Aslan handle a crisis in the world of Narnia. Please don't just get your kids the movies - give them the books. Read them together, in fact. They are way, way better.

The William series – Richmal Crompton
The William stories are about an 11-year-old schoolboy and his band of friends, known as the Outlaws, feared and loathed by adults all over the village for their mischievous pranks which often have diastrous but hilarious consequences.

The Asterix comics – Goscinny & Uderzo
Yes, I know they are comics. But no childhood would be complete without them. The series follows the exploits of a village of ancient Gauls as they resist Roman occupation. They do so by means of a magic potion, brewed by their druid, which gives the recipient superhuman strength. Asterix, along with his friend Obelix, have various adventures. In many cases, this leads them to travel to various countries around the world, though other books are set in and around their village.

Heidi – Johanna Spyri
Heidi is an orphaned girl initially raised by her aunt Dete in Maienfeld, Switzerland. In order to get a job in Frankfurt, Dete brings 5-year-old Heidi to her grandfather, who has been at odds with the villagers for years and lives in seclusion on the alm (mountain). This has earned him the nickname "Alm-Uncle". He at first resents Heidi's arrival, but the girl manages to penetrate his harsh exterior and subsequently has a delightful stay with him and her best friend, young Peter the goat-herd. When she is taken away by Dete to live with a rich family in Frankfurt, Heidi's longing for the mountain life and her grandfather make her constantly misunderstood by her benefactors.

Mary Poppins – P.L. Travers
The books centre on a mysterious, vain and acerbic magical English nanny, Mary Poppins. She is blown by the East wind to Number Seventeen Cherry Tree Lane, London and into the Banks' household to care for their children. Encounters with chimney sweeps, shopkeepers and various adventures follow until Mary Poppins abruptly leaves.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
Charlie Bucket, an intelligent boy from a poor family, lives with his parents and both sets of elderly grandparents. From these four, especially Grandpa Joe, he hears stories about the candymaker Willy Wonka and the chocolate factory he built in Charlie's hometown. As time passed, rival chocolate makers sent in spies, posing as workers, to Wonka's factory to steal his recipes. Mr Wonka was frustrated by this and fired the workers so there would be no spies left. The factory has since resumed operations with workers whose identity is a mystery, for the gates remain locked, and nobody, including Wonka, is seen going in or out of the factory anymore. Then Wonka holds a worldwide contest, in which five Golden Tickets are hidden under the wrappers of his candy bars; the prize for those who find them is a day-long tour of the factory and a lifetime supply of chocolate, and it is Charlie Bucket's greatest wish to find one. But his only chance is in the solitary bar of chocolate his parents manage to buy him for his birthday.

Matilda – Roald Dahl
The parents of five-year-old Matilda Wormwood have no interest in their daughter. Although she exhibits strong signs of being a child prodigy, they pressure her to watch television instead of her preferred activity of reading. Matilda discovers her local library and thinks up some ingenious pranks to bring her father down a peg or two. After witnessing Matilda's great intellect in the classroom, her benevolent teacher, Miss Honey, appeals to have Matilda moved up, but the eccentric and brutal headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, refuses. Matilda develops some strange powers and devises a plan to get the dreaded Trunchbull out of the school for once and for all.

The BFG – Roald Dahl
The story is about a little girl named Sophie. One night when Sophie couldn't fall asleep during the "witching hour", she sees a giant blowing something into the bedroom windows down the street. The giant notices her; although she tries to hide in her bed, he reaches through the window and carries her away to his home in giant country. Fortunately for Sophie, she has been abducted by the world's only benevolent giant, the Big Friendly Giant or BFG.

Pippi Longstocking – Astrid Lindgren
Nine-year-old Pippi is unconventional, assertive and extraordinarily strong, being able to lift her horse one-handed without difficulty. She frequently mocks and dupes adults she encounters, an attitude likely to appeal to young readers; however, Pippi usually reserves her worst behavior for the most pompous and condescending of adults.

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