Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Favourite Children's Books

In a post about children's books a friend asked "what children's books would you recommend?". I can't resist that question! (She also asked about pet hates and views on Enid Blyton, but I'll leave those questions for separate posts.) (Oh, and do check out her nice new blog at Like Sunshine in the Home.) (And yes, I am a shameless overuser of parentheses.)

Back in my early blogging days I posted a list of 100 favourite children's books from baby board books on up. This time I'm going to stick to chapter books suitable for reading aloud, split into two categories - younger children (roughly 4 to 7, the stage Cherub is just entering), and middling children (roughly 7 to 10). Our favourites, not surprisingly, are very girl oriented.


Read Alouds for 4 to 7 Year Olds

My Naughty Little Sister books (Dorothy Edwards) - these have been a hit with all three girls, and are a good transition to story books rather than picture books as each story is complete in itself. Written in the 1950s, the naughty little sister is very naughty in an old-fashioned way (eats all the trifle at a birthday party, throws her sister's doll out of the window, cuts up things she shouldn't, tries to sweep her own chimney, and even bites Father Christmas). The stories are told in the voice of her scandalised older sister, and have a warm, gentle tone. The naughty little sister isn't always naughty - one title is When My Naughty Little Sister Was Good. Wonderful small girl books.

Milly-Molly-Mandy books (Joyce Lankester Brisley) - written in the 1920s, these stories of a little girl growing up in an English village with her mother, father, grandparents, aunt and uncle are period pieces with a timeless appeal to small girls. I love this illustrated collection of some of the best stories.

Ramona books (Beverley Cleary) - American classics about a funny, cheeky, curious little girl called Ramona. I think Ramona is four in the first book, and maybe ten at the end of the series? Just to prove our reading isn't completely Anglo-centric! 

Sophie books (Dick King-Smith) - yes, yet more books about a small girl. Sophie is a little girl who loves animals and wants to be a farmer when she grows up. Star particularly loved Sophie.

Little Mrs Pepperpot stories (Alf Proysen) - books I remembered from my childhood, about a little old lady who shrinks to the size of a pepperpot at unpredictable times, leading to all sorts of adventures.

Charlotte's Web (E.B.White) - classic about a little girl, a pig and a spider. 

Pippi Longstocking (Astrid Lindgren) - another classic, about - yes! another little girl. Pippi isn't just any little girl, though. She is an orphan, with red hair, freckles, oversized shoes, throwing herself into life with an anarchic joie-de-vivre all her own. If you want to know how to go turnupstuffing, you need to read Pippi.

Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner (A.A.Milne) - hard to know what age to recommend for Winnie-the-Pooh. Children probably need to be around 6 to 8 to really "get" Winnie-the-Pooh, but some love listening the stories at two (like Angel and Bella).


Read Alouds for 7 to 10 Year Olds

Narnia books (C.S.Lewis) - Angel and I adored them; Star wasn't interested, proving that the unmissable (to me) isn't always unmissable. I have high hopes that Cherub will be another Narnia fan, as she fixated on the movie version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

The Borrowers series (Mary Norton) - set in a house that is now a local middle school, the borrowers are tiny people who live by "borrowing" from the "human beans" who live in the house, and whose safety depends on never being seen. Once borrower child Arietty is spotted, they are catapulted into a series of adventures.

Five Children and It  (and anything else by E.Nesbit) - classic fantasy in which a family of Victorian children meet a psammead, or sand fairy, which can grant wishes. Unfortunately, working out what to wish for is not as simple as it sounds, as ill-considered wishes have a habit of going wrong. Sequels are The Phoenix and the Carpet and The Story of the Amulet. Not all her books are fantasies -  The Railway Children is another of her unmissable classics.

Ballet Shoes (and anything else by Noel Streatfeild) - almost all Streatfeild's books have some sort of talent theme. In Ballet Shoes three orphan children are adopted by an eccentric explorer who leaves them with his great-niece and disappears off on his travels again. When the money runs out, they find they can help make ends meet by developing their own talents (and yes, one of the girls is a ballet dancer).

Emil and the Detectives (Erich Kastner) - this was Tevye's all time favourite children's book, and he read it more than once to both Angel and Star. An adventure story set in Berlin, in which Emil is robbed while travelling by train, and his friends help him to track the thief. Erich Kastner also wrote Lottie and Lisa, the story on which the film The Parent Trap was based (and yes, we enjoyed that book too).

The Secret Garden and A Little Princess (Frances Hodgson Burnett) - beautiful, gorgeous, unmissable classics. 

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (J.K.Rowling) - yes, we are Harry Potter fans. I read the first book to Angel when she was six, and she loved it. Age is an issue with HP ... the first three books are both simpler and younger than the later books, which are darker and more mature (as well as being very long to read aloud! Best left for older children and teens to read to themselves, IMO). The early ones have a touch of Enid Blyton about them, and are rollicking good stories.

Oh dear, there are many, many more, but I am out of time and this post could get far too long. For more book recommendations (many / mostly children's books), check out Lissa's list of "truly, Maudly, deeply" books, the ones she loves with a passion (be sure to read the comments too). Actually, check out her whole blog and you will never be stuck for something to read, for adults or children.

Hmmm ... I feel a "truly, Maudly, deeply" post of my own coming on.

1 comment:

Melanie B said...

Oh wonderful list! Some old friends, some new friends and some that I haven't heard of that I need to check out.

Thanks for reminding me of my Bella and Pooh post! I'd forgotten exactly how we discovered Pooh. Sophie is another two year-old Pooh fan. Though not as addicted as Bella was, she too will sit though fairly long passages.

Right now my nap time read with Sophie is The Wind in the Willows. I often keep reading long after she's fallen asleep. Again, I'm not sure how much she gets; but she seems to enjoy listening. I'd forgotten how long and descriptive an lyrical so many of the passages are. It's a little less kid friendly than Pooh; but oh so lovely to read aloud. Yesterday I read the passage where Mole goes back home and the field mice come caroling and Rat and Mole have a feast with them. So much of the joys of good food and home and friendship!