I was a voracious reader as a child. I didn’t read books, I devoured them. To the point where my parents used to “test” me on books I’d said I’d read, because they didn’t believe I was getting through them so fast. I nearly always passed the test.
But which books really grabbed my attention, as a child with far too much energy, who couldn’t sit still for more than about ten seconds? Below, I have listed ten of the books that I adored as a child, and think all children should have the chance to dive into.
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I have ordered the below books by age, although the ages I have put are extremely flexible, as some children may be reading these books much earlier than this, and others might not until they’re older. It’s very much a guesstimate based on when I was reading them.
1. The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy
Starting off with something fairly lighthearted, but a book that always managed to make me laugh (and make me wish I could fly off to witch school!). The Worst Witch is a series that follows the (mis)adventures of Mildred Hubble at Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches. Mildred is a mess of a witch, but just about manages to muddle by with the help of her two best friends Maud Spellbody and Enid Nightshade. There have been several TV shows made out of the books (including one when I was a child in the nineties) which have brought the books onto the small screen.
The books themselves are short and easily accessible. There are seven books in the series in total.
The Worst Witch (Seven Book Series) on Amazon Books
2. The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame
The clever men at Oxford
Know all that there is to be knowed.
But they none of them know one half as much
As intelligent Mr. Toad!
The Wind In The Willows on Amazon Books
3. Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling
I picked the third book in the Harry Potter series to talk about here because I already talked about The Philosopher’s Stone in my post about Six Beautiful Books That Changed My Life and because I think the third one is actually the best in the series before it all becomes really “serious” (which I count from five onwards). I would count books 1-3 as “children’s books” in their style (although of course they can be enjoyed by everyone and absolutely should be!), so therefore I picked out of that selection.
The third one is my favourite of that group because it has the most detail in it about actual life at Hogwarts, and it has three(!) Quidditch matches in it. I ate that up. As someone who wanted to go to magic school (see above – The Worst Witch), being able to read the detail about classes, the magical sport, the castle, and the grounds, was absolutely brilliant. I loved being able to flesh out the world in my imagination. I never forgave the film for what it did to this book. It didn’t do it justice at all as far as I’m concerned (fight me!).
Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban on Amazon Books
Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban (hardback, illustrated version) on Amazon Books
4. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
I mean, let’s be honest. This one was always going to be on here, right? I’ve already talked about my intense love for Lord of the Rings, and will probably keep talking about it ad infinitum. Not even sorry about that one. I mentioned in my piece Another Six Beautiful Books That Changed My Life that my dad read me The Hobbit as a child. We used to read about half a chapter a night, and he would put on voices for all of the different dwarves. The scene with Bill, Burt, & Tom the trolls was especially great done with all of the voices. It was brilliant & made me laugh a lot. Now don’t get me wrong, the novel is a little bit scary in places (as I mentioned in the above piece), but it is an absolutely epic tale of fantasy, adventure, and humour; all wrapped up in the incredible legendarium of Tolkien’s Middle Earth.
The Hobbit on Amazon Books.
5. Pangur Bán the White Cat by Fay Sampson
A tale with a mix of myth, legend, poetry, and folk tales. Based on the 9th century Irish poem Pangur Ban, these children’s books follow the adventures of Pangur Ban (a talking white cat), Niall the monk who has a talent for aristry, and the Welsh Princess Finglass. In this book they find themselves in the realm of the Sea Witch and her pet monster Pengoggen.
Pangur Ban the White Cat on Amazon Books
6. The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
I loved this book as a child. It’s the story of Prosper and Boniface after they run away to Venice, Italy and are taken in by a group of street urchins who live, or all places, in an abandoned cinema. Their leader is the mysterious Scipio, who takes the gang on various adventures through the streets of Venice. The thing is, Scipio might not be all who he claims to be.
The Thief Lord on Amazon Books
7. Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo
I loved Michael Morpurgo books when I was a child. The most famous of his is, of course, War Horse, which has been made into a Broadway/West End musical to great success. For this list, however, I chose to go with the less well known Private Peaceful, which is a story that brings to light the tale of men suffering from shell shock during the First World War, and were then subsequently executed for “cowardice” when they were unable to complete their duties.
Private Peaceful on Amazon Books
8. The Amazing Maurice & His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett
My year five English teacher read this book to the class, and did an excellent job of doing all the different voices of the Maurice and the various rats with whom he is friends including Dangerous Beans, Peaches, HamnPork, Darktan, and Sardines. They got these names after they suddenly became educated from eating rubbish from behind the University, and picked them off various cans and scraps. It is a retelling of the classic Pied Piper of Hamelin folk story. As a child I especially loved the fact that an animal could be called Dangerous Beans of all things.
This book is the 28th book in the Discworld Series, but considering that I had not read or even heard of the Discworld when I had this book read to me, it does not have to be read as part of the sequence.
The book one the Carnegie Medal for the book, which recognises the best children’s book published in the UK each year.
The Amazing Maurice & His Educated Rodents on Amazon Books
9. Pirates! by Celia Rees
Follows the stories of two girls, one a high born merchants daughter from Bristol, the other a slave girl she meets when she reaches the West Indies. Both wish to escape the life that fate has carved out for them, so they choose to take to the seas and become pirates. Very loosely based on the tale of Mary Read and Anne Bonnet I think, but as a young girl it was nice to read something where the girls got to be swashbuckling badass pirates as well!
Pirates! on Amazon Books
10. The Thieves of Ostia by Caroline Lawrence
The Roman Mysteries series was ace when I was a child. I think I had about eight of them, but there were more in the series. The Thieves of Ostia is the first in the series that chronicles the adventures of Flavia, a Roman girl, and her band of friends (a slave girl called Nubia, and Lupus a beggar boy) as they solve various mysteries plaguing the Roman world in which they live. The stories are lively, but I would say definitely aimed towards slightly older children as they can be a bit scary in parts (I guess it depends how well the child in question deals with scary stuff!).
The Roman Mysteries (Book 1-6) on Amazon Books
What books did you adore as a child (<12 years)? Let me know in the comments!