From King Arthur and his knights to the immortal genius of Tolkien many an afternoon of my childhood slipped away lost in the pages of countless books. Over the last 7 years I have been fortunate enough to revisit the worlds created by my favourite childhood authors during my nightly bedtime story ritual with my daughter. As she has grown we have traveled through the wonderful world of Peter Rabbit and Dr Suess, lived the adventures of Narnia, and recently discovered the magic of Harry Potter.
This is my list of favourite children’s books, due to space constraints it’s not a complete one, a number of them I have found to contain deeper meanings that one can only understand as an adult. But regardless of that, if you are lucky enough to have a child in your life and the time to read them bedtime stories or are looking for a meaningful gift for a child you know. This list is for you. *The books are arranged in ‘age’ order, as I read them to my daughter.
1) Peter Rabbit
“There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they’ll take you.”– Beatrix Potter
The first book I was ever given as a child was the Tale of Benjamin Button from the Peter Rabbit series of books. And this timeless classic tale of Peter Rabbit, his Sisters; Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail and their extended family brings back fond memories. Originally created in 1893 in a letter to cheer up Noel Moore, the ill five-year-old son of Potter’s former governess, the books have since sold over 151 million copies in 35 languages worldwide. Peter Rabbit is a must-read classic for children under the age of 5.
2) Dr Suess – Oh the Places you Will Go
“Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away”!– Dr, Suess
The amazing world of Dr Suess, we could have included almost all of his books in this list as each one is uniquely wonderful. But for me; Oh the places you will go remains my firm favourite to this day, from a delightful bedtime story book to a meaningful graduation gift, it contains timeless rhyming wisdom for adults and children alike.
3) The Selfish Giant
“He did not hate the Winter now, for he knew that it was merely the Spring asleep, and that the flowers were resting.”– Oscar Wilde
The Selfish Giant is a touching tale of a giant who built a wall around his beautiful garden to keep the children out. Its a moving story of selfishness and greed changing into selflessness, friendship, care and love, it is beautifully illustrated and easy to understand for small children and one of my favourites.
4) The Wind in the Willows
“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”– Kenneth Grahame
Wind in the Willows wasn’t originally written as a children’s book, neither does it mysteriously contain any willows. The novel is however notable for its mixture of adventure and the camaraderie between Mole, Rat, Toad and Badger. Its a classic British tale, alternately slow-moving and fast-paced and one that you will love as much as your kids.
5) The Chronicles of Narnia
“Wouldn’t it be dreadful if some day in our own world, at home, men started going wild inside, like the animals here, and still looked like men, so that you’d never know which are which?”– C.S Lewis
There are few books that stand against the superb excellence that is “The Chronicles of Narnia” C.S. Lewis captivated our hearts and minds with Edmund, Lucy, Susan and Peter as they stepped into a dusty wardrobe and out into Narnia, a world covered in snow with it’s never-ending Winter, talking animals and magic. I love how Lewis describes his characters and their adventures, their disappointments, challenges and triumphs writing about them in a form that children and even adults will enjoy. The magic of finding an entire world in something as ordinary as a wardrobe, has me still feeling through coats in my wardrobe wondering if some day I might just find myself brushing through the coats and into the fur trees of Narnia.
6) The Hobbit
“Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.”– J.R.R. Tolkien
‘The Hobbit‘ is simply a charming adventure story, perhaps one of the most charming and most adventurous ever written. Its the story of an ordinary Hobbit who through a chance encounter finds himself on an adventure that changes him forever. Accompanying a motley crew of Dwarves to rescue their stolen fortune he encounters Dragons, Elves and Orc’s, and proves that there is greatness in all of us no matter our size. Enjoy a journey through the magnificent world created by Tolkien as you follow the adventures of quite possibly the worlds most unlikely hero.
7) The Little Prince
“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
I was recently gifted this extraordinary book by a close friend and although it is not per-se a children’s adventure book, it is to my mind one of the greatest children’s books ever written. Antoine de Saint-Exupery, managed to make a book that combines superb prose with stellar illustrations, and the result is a stoically marvellous, extremely imaginative novel. Although “The Little Prince” was written for children, all ages should be able to savour the poetic writing.
9) Harry Potter
“And now, Harry, let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”– J.K Rowling
J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series have made her the most successful literary author of all time, selling in excess of 400 million copies world-wide. The defining aspect of Rowling’s work is the interesting and surreal fantasy world she created. The books follow Harry Potter as he discovers the world of Magic, and the adventures of him and his friends as they grow up and study Magic at Hogwarts. Rowling has managed to infuse the series of books with a lovely wit and charm that will both amuse and delight adults and children.
This might surprise you slightly, it definitely did us. But the most sold Children’s books of all time are:
1) The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince), Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1943)
2) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J. K. Rowling (1997)
3) Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll (1865)
4) The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis (1950)