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I recently posted another review, best books for babies, so I thought I would start this one with books for slighly older children. My point in suggesting this topic was in hopes of hearing about other great books to try so I really hope every joins in. These are my very favourite children books:
Bumpus Jumpus Dinosaurumpus, a wonderful rhythmic: rhyming text about a dinsaurs dance, perfect for the youngest of children.
The Little Engine that Could : the classic story about believing in yourself, I think I Can, I Think I Can.
Tom and the Tinful of Trouble: A wonderful story that toddlers will love about a naughty boy who discovers a tin of paint.
No David: Another brilliant tale about a young troublemaker, made touching by the unconditional love of a Mom.
When Mom Turned Into a Monster: Side splittingly funny book we can all relate to.
Curious George: An essential part of childhood, the stories of a naughty but good hearted monkey will appeal to everyone.
The Berenstain Bears: Series of books from beginner books to chapter books based on a down to earth bear family with helpful solutions to most common situations.
But No Elephants: Wonderful story about an elderly lady with a soft spot for pets.
Popcorn: A great story for Halloween about a young bear who has his own party when Mom and Dad go out on Halloween Night.
The Poky Little Puppy: Unmissable classic story of five little pups.
Peter Rabbit : aother slightly naughty character children will love.
Androcles and the Lion, you never know when an act of kindness may be repaid.
For the older children
Rikki Tikki Tavi: a brilliant story by Rudyard Kipling about the bravery and devotion of a young mongoose.
The Mouse on the Motorcycle: absolute classic story of friendship between a boy and a mouse with a common love, motorbikes.
The Secret Horse: Great story for girls about friendship which revolves around their special secret.
The Young Winston Churchill: All the adventure of Indian Jones, i loved this as a child.
The Black Stallion Books: An obvious choice for horse lovers, they also included plenty of mystery and adventure.
Nancy drew/ The Hardy Boys: dated perhaps, but very interesting mysteries adn adventures. I loved them as a child.
Lambs Shakespeare: A number of shakespeares stories in a bit easier to understand format perfect for a pre teen.
The Illiad and the Oddesy: Timeless adventures of the Trojan War and the journey home.
And for early teens:
The Outsiders: One of the best books ever about teenage identity and anguish, as well as touching story of honour and kindness.
Jock of the Bushveld: A true story based in South Africa about an explorer and his dog, a plucky staffy no less.
The Outlaw of Torn by Edgar Rice Burroughs; Briliant historical fiction.
'Good children's literature appeals not only to the child in the adult, but to the adult in the child.'
~ Anonymous ~
It's my belief that every parent should introduce their children to the wonders of books as soon as possible in their lives, starting with picture books when they are babies and progressing through read-aloud story books up to read-alone books for older children. Begin reading to your children early enough and they will be hooked on words for life. Most local libraries have a large and ever-changing selection of books for children, and it's never too early to get your children a library membership.
I won't deny that television has its place in the modern child's life but it can prove to be stiff competition for the more traditional storybook. However, as a means of stimulating their imagination there is no better medium than the written word. For myself as a child and later for my own children, the bedtime story tradition was sacrosanct.
The oral tradition of storytelling must be as old as time and the first stories that I remember were ones made up by my father. He was pretty good at doggerel, if that isn't a contradiction in terms, and he would tell stories in rhyme all about me and my fictional adventures. Later, when my brother came along, he added him into the stories too. We enjoyed many adventures before, much to my Dad's relief I daresay, we progressed to the written word.
My recommendations for the best children's books are based on those I loved as a child but mainly on those I read to my own children. Not very modern choices, I'm afraid, but ones that I hope have stood the test of time. I've tried to categorise them into age groups, although many children have much higher reading ages that they have years.
For ages 3-5 years:
Usually, the first stories for children, once they have progressed beyond baby books, are fairytales, often told without the use of a book. (The oral tradition again.) I would not recommend Hans Christian Andersen's at this stage though; his stories are far too traumatic for the very young. I still cry when I read The Little Match Girl, even now. Far better to begin with the good old British variety of fairytales: Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs and Cinderella for instance. I know these stories probably have their origins rooted firmly somewhere in Europe rather than Britain but they have been retold in this land for centuries now which makes them as good as British.
These stories, I know, are filled with just as much death, violence and magic as Hans Christian Anderson's but they don't pull at the heartstrings in quite such a melodramatic way and children love to be able to join in with the stories. A particular favourite for my children was The Three Billy Goats Gruff for that very reason. I'd have to be the Troll (typecast again!) and they would play the parts of the Billy Goats trip-trapping over the rickety-rackety bridge. Quite often, too, there would be a fair bit of adaptation of the stories during the telling. A great way to stimulate children's imaginations.
This is the age for enjoying short one-off stories, often sold in series, such as the Mr Men and Little Miss books, as well as other slightly longer stories.
I'm not sure whether the old Ladybird story books are still in print but my childhood copies of these proved very popular with my children. Favourite titles in the series were, The Green Umbrella, The Runaway, The Little Red Hen and The Old Woman and Her Pig.
1. Meg and Mog - Helen Nicoll, and Jan Pienkowski
2. The Very Hungry Catapillar - Eric Carle
3. Where's Spot? - Eric Hill
Age 4-7 years:
By this age, children are developing a sense of humour and seem to love anything vulgar, at least my children did. For this reason Fungus the Bogeyman is a great choice, although it might make you feel a little queasy as you read it aloud.
A more genteel book, perhaps, would be Winnie the Pooh. This book and its sequel, The House at Pooh Corner, are perfect books for both children and for adults to read aloud. The stories are fun, the characters delightful and the books can be enjoyed on so many levels. For the very young, the descriptive passages and subtle humour might be a bit too much but can be missed out when reading aloud to your child and they will still enjoy the basic stories of Christopher Robin, Pooh, Piglet, and their friends of the 100 Acre Wood. In many ways, I find these books bear comparison to The Simpsons, in that they also can be viewed as purely an enjoyable cartoon for the very young but offer a much more subtle and sophisticated message to the adult.
Of course, Dr Seuss books have to be on the list. The children will love them though you might find some of the tongue-twisting rhymes a bit of a problem when reading out loud.
A special favourite for the Bracknells was What Made Tiddalik Laugh by Joanna Troughton. This is based on an Australian aborigine folktale about a giant frog that drinks all the water in the world and to get him to release the water, the other creatures have to make him laugh. Great book for developing children's sense of humour, though your own may wear a little thin. There are only so many times you can bring yourself to laugh at the joke "Why do birds fly south for the winter?".
1. Fungus the Bogeyman - Raymond Briggs
2. Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner - A A Milne
3. Horton Hatches the Egg, The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs & Ham - Dr Seuss
4. What Made Tiddalik Laugh - Joanna Troughton
Age 7-10 years:
As children grow older, the choice of books available is immense. They're ready for the longer stuff which surely has to include Enid Blyton. I know she is very old fashioned in many ways and her child characters are a bit too upper middle class for most modern children to relate to, but she told a darn good story. For that reason, I would have to pick the Magic Faraway Tree trilogy or The Wishing Chair. In both of these sets of books, the children have different adventures either in the land at the top of the Faraway Tree or fly off to some adventure in the Wishing Chair. Not only are the stories exciting, these books introduce children to the concept of the longer novel but are neatly divided into separate adventures so that you can read just one adventure a night and the children can go to sleep with the prospect of hearing another exciting episode the following bedtime.
At this age, my children seemed to enjoy animal books, especially those by Dick King-Smith and Charlotte's Web by E B White. I found Charlotte's Web a very difficult story to read aloud to the children, certainly at the end.
Other, more classic, stories for this age group would be Treasure Island and Kidnapped. These books are still as exciting today as they were when they were written in the nineteenth century and appeal to both boys and girls.
As children get towards the upper end of this age group, they begin to enjoy reading alone and other Enid Blyton books are a good jumping off point. The Famous Five and Secret Seven books are filled with action and adventure and, I believe have now been updated for the twenty-first century child. No more Uncle Quentin or Aunt Fanny!
I have to confess here that I've never read any of the Harry Potter books, although I have enjoyed the films, but if my children were young now, these would certainly be on my reading list. I think the idea that children can read these books almost in real time, as it were, and grow up alongside Harry, Hermione and Ron, is an excellent concept.
My children however, were the Roald Dahl generation and we read the whole cannon. Their favourite by far was The BFG, probably because of the delights of Frobscottle, that wonderful drink that made you, to put it euphemistically, a bit windy. Roald Dahl knew exactly how bloodthirsty and vulgar most children are and catered to their tastes in all his books. A child's view of the world is often very black and white and the justice meted out in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is exactly what a child would expect. Another great favourite was The Twits, one that was short enough for them to read alone.
1. Heidi - Johanna Spyri
2. Stig of the Dump - Clive King
I'm afraid, here, I'm restricted to only writing about the books that I enjoyed at that age. Sadly, like many boys, by the time he got to secondary school my son decided he didn't want to read anymore and always claimed he was sick of the sight of the written word whilst he was at university. (I'm pleased to say that once he finished his education, he rediscovered his love of books).
My daughter, spent much of her early teens reading the dire Sweet Valley High books which are like Mills & Boon for teenagers and fill them with false expectations of what boys are really like. She soon learned though!
For me, at this age, the defining book was Little Women. I absolutely loved that book and identified completely with Jo March (the feisty one for those who haven't read it). Jo spoke her mind, had very decided views and lived her life as she wanted to do. This book also taught me that life often throws out a curved ball. Jo didn't marry the man I expected but instead married some impoverished professor. Looking back from an adult perspective, I can now see that her choice was the right one for her, but to my much younger self, this was such a disappointment. I so wanted her to marry the handsome and wealthy Laurie, instead of which he married her sister.
By the time most children reach the age of fourteen or fifteen they are moving into the adult world and are certainly old enough to begin to read more adult books. When I was growing up, there didn't seem to be any books specifically written for young adults such as the Twilight Series, so in my early teens I turned to Georgette Heyer and John Wyndham, and have never stopped reading since.
1. Forever - Judy Blume
2. The Chrysalids - John Wyndham
3. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
From the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of children's books printed, it is very difficult to confine the selection to a choice few but I've tried my best. I'm sure other, younger, DooYooers will come up with a completely different selection.
I apologise for this very long-winded ramble down my own particular Memory Lane and if you've stuck with it to the end - Thank you.
The books that were read to me as a child and that I later read alone have given me a lifelong love of books and literature. Someone once said "The world is in books" and that is so true. Even the most mundane story has something in it to enrich a child's mind. It only needs one little spark to the imagination to begin a conflagration.