Rediscovering the Classics: Some of the Best Children’s Books

The Wind in the Willows

The Wind in the Willows

It’s important for children to read as wide a variety of material as possible, but the likes of Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings have swamped children’s literature and overtaken a generation’s imagination. Whilst it is great they are enjoying these novels, it is still important to be as diverse as possible. It is time to introduce some classics to your collection and allow your child to enter the weird and wonderful world of the best children’s authors. This list should set you on a trip down memory lane, and introduce some now obscure talent to your book collection.

A Little History of the World – E.H. Gombrich

In this lovingly crafted account, Gombrich provides an overview of notable history through the ages. Using a wonderfully appropriate tone, his book is educational and beautifully presented (you should purchase the hardback edition for the marvellous illustrations), it was only made available in English in 2005, 70 years after its first publication! It is ideal reading, and as the book’s sleeve suggests it would be appropriate for parents to read to their children at bed time. In an equally pleasant twist, the book is very enjoyable for adults. There really is no excuse – this must be in your book collection!

The Redwall Series – Brian Jacques

The Redwall series remains epic on a grand scale. Totalling some 22 book, Jacques’ magnificent fantasy world consists of the inhabitants of Redwall, a giant Abbey populated by the good creatures of Mossflower woods, and their lives through different generations. Each novel deals with complex themes and despicable villains attempting to corrupt the world. These books will be particularly appealing for young boys who will adore their adventurous nature. Redwall, the first in the series, is an excellent introduction to this world of swashbuckling mice, rats, ferrets, and badger lords. Highly recommended.

Roald Dahl

Somewhat forgotten in recent times, Dahl’s books simply must be discovered by each generation of children. Whether it is James and the Giant Peach, The Twits, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda or BFG, the weird and wonderful worlds Dahl created are a joy to be a part of and are exhilarating for children of all ages.

The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

Featuring four human-like animals in a tale of mysticism, morality, and adventure, The Wind in the Willows is a classic everyone has heard of but few have read! So follow Ratty, Mole, Toad and Badger as they discover a new world. Soon this, along with Toad’s wild lust for fast travel, sends all four on a famous adventure.

The Borrowers – Mary Norton

Perhaps best known for its television and film adaptations (it recently been tailored into a superb animated film called Arrietty), Norton’s the Borrowers follows the lives of tiny people who live in human houses and “borrow” things from their giant counterparts. A wonderful novel.

The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

It’s impossible to have a list of classic children’s literature and not include Burnett’s The Secret Garden. Quite simple in its structure, it is a tale of wonderment, friendship, loss, and dealing with adversity. A book which should be particularly popular with young girls due to the ability to identify with the 10-year old Mary Lennox (the central character), but it should also appeal to everyone through its sense of wonderment.

The 13½ Lives of Captain Bluebear – Walter Moers

A vivid work of the imagination, it is not strictly for children. Its quirky artwork and fantastical premise certainly suggest it is a children’s book, but at 700 pages long it would be an advanced child who would sit and read this! Following the adventures of Bluebear in the first half of his 27 lives, things begin on an absurd level and soon a sprawling and fantastical world unfolds. It does not shy away from big words, quantum physics, complex developments, or politics. However, it has proven popular with children (even spawning a television show) and I can recommend it for all ages.

The Nome Trilogy – Terry Pratchett

Pratchett’s trilogy is a forgotten gem. Following the plight of Masklin and his race, series opener Truckers (1989) finds the diminutive Nomes living in a shopping centre where they fear the dreaded Prices Slashed, and worship Bargains Galore. With each passing book the nomes have to escape the destructive nature of humans (Diggers, 1990), and by the time of trilogy closer Wings (1990) things take a very dramatic turn!

To Kill A Mocking Bird – Harper Lee

No list can be complete without Harper Lee’s brilliant portrayal of inequality. Told with terrific warmth and humour, it has been very influential and has been part of endless English Literature classes around the world. It is also an excellent novel, so buy it, read it yourself, and give your son or daughter a head start!

Alex Morris works for Office Kitten in Manchester where he writes, researches and blogs about the business world. He can also be followed on Twitter.




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