Ok, this post is going to be a bit of a mish mash, as by listing my favourite kids books, it’s going to be a mixture of books that were favourites of mine when I was a kid, books that my kids like now and that I enjoy reading to them plus books I’ve been studying in my attempts to improve myself as a children’s writer.
So if I start with books I liked as a kid, I liked most books, as I was a complete bookworm, there were a few I hated, who’s titles escape me unsurprisingly, although I remember one was the spin off novel of a Santa Claus movie and another one seemed to feature a lot of rainbows and elves, I don’t think I even finished that one, both books had this weird effect on me, reading them made me my head feel muzzy, like I was sitting reading in a hot stuffy car, even though I wasn’t.
But back to books I did like, there was a series set in the past (wow that narrows it down doesn’t it!) which I really liked, although the name of the series sadly escapes me to, otherwise I’d read it again. I also really liked Animals of Farthing Wood by Colin Dan (really pleased to see they’re still printing this one). It’s an environmental story where the animals have to leave their destroyed home and escape to a nature reserve.
Another favourite of mine, when I was a bit older was The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper, a series of books weaving Arthurian legend with (what was then) present day Britain. I loved this series and I remember really wishing I was an Old One (you’ll have to read the book!).
Another favourite, this time when I was a young teenager, was a book that haunted me for a long time, Children of the Dust by Louise Lawrence. I clearly remember buying it, I was with my mum and sister in WHSmiths and our mum said she would buy us a book each, so I browsed the book section and came across Children of the Dust, from the blurb at the back of the book, it was clear the story was about a nuclear war and I remember thinking that my mum might not think it was suitable for me as the subject matter might be considered a bit too dark, so I kind of sneaked it into the shopping basket, carefully placing it, so that my mum couldn’t see what it was about. I don’t know actually whether she would have been bothered about the subject material or not actually, I know I now as a parent I wouldn’t mind my children as young teenagers reading it, in fact I would actively encourage it, children need to and want to read about difficult issues. The book haunted me for some time and helped clarify for me, my opinion on nuclear weapons. A brief precise from memory, it follows the survivors of a nuclear war from the moment the fire alarms ring at the first main character’s school, as nuclear bombs had just been dropped in Europe. The main character gets home in time and her and her family have to attempt to survive the nuclear fallout in their taped up kitchen. The family is split up because the father could not make it home in time and it follows the survivors of the family over a number of generations. A definite must read.
Now for books my children love (they’re both pre-schoolers) and that I love reading to them (a factor that I think is important in books for pre-schoolers, they have to be interesting for the person doing the actual reading to).
The number one favourite is the Charlie and Lola series, if you want to check the whole marketing merchandising marvel that is now Charlie and Lola, best check out the website, but even with the hype, they’re still really fun, readable books, I particularly like the ones written before the TV series came out. I’m sure I have a little Lola of my own.
My other favourite is the Hairy Maclary series by Lynley Dodd, some if it is a bit hit and miss but Hairy Maclary and Zachary Quack is my favourite, it reads aloud incredibly well (another important factor with small kids books).
The final pre-school favourite is Where’s the Cat? by Stella Blackstone, which is sadly out of print now, lucky then that we brought a copy when we did after we borrowed it from the library and Boy Lacer fell in love with it.
And now onto children’s books I’ve been reading and enjoyed (there’s been a few that I haven’t) recently, as part of my ‘training’ as a children’s writer.
The Young Bond Series by Charlie Higson; I was in two minds whether to include these books as I think there are some major flaws in them, so much so I spent much of the book wondering whether if it wasn’t for the fact that the author was already famous, would they have got published. My criticisms of them being that Higson in many parts goes into way too much detail, specially considering the target audience these books are aimed at (teenage boys). Higson has obviously done a hell of a lot of research (something I struggle with as a writer myself, so hats off to him) but it felt like he’d done the research and he had to put everything in, so the readers are treated to way too much detail about life at Eton (and I felt much of the Eton stuff, plot wise, could have been lopped off anyway) and the inner workings of car engines, Sardinian architectural history and how crosswords are created (although I’ll give him his due on the crosswords bit, that was slightly more necessary for the plot). However, once you wade past the excess detail, the plotting is really exciting and there are some fantastic sequences in there, the sort of stuff I would love to be able to write. Oh and despite all the bad things I’ve just written the series, whilst just popping onto Amazon to get a cover photo for one of the books, I’ve just noticed that there is a new Young Bond out on 6 September, this year (see below for cover photo), titled Hurricane Gold and I’m really excited, will definitely be reading that one, even if it’ll probably go into great depth about the ecology of the Mexican jungle (the new book’s location) or something similar.
Finally, another favourite has been The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, set in Germany in the Second World War, it’s another book that tackles issues that should be written about and read about. It tackles how ordinary Germans took part in or in many cases did not take part in, the Nazi regime. It’s an incredibly sad book, not many books make me blub but this one did.
PS By the way, of course I love Harry Potter to, but I’ve written about that already.