This week the Goodreads group’s Top 5 is about your favourite children’s books. My list is in no particular order, so here goes:
1. The Grumpalump by Sara Hayes
This book is aimed at toddlers, whilst the rest of the books on the list I read in primary school. I just couldn’t leave it out, because it is SO GOOD. I had an understuffed toy bear as a child that was my absolute favourite and he was named after the Grumpalump. Hayes’ writing has a lovely rhythm and is full of internal rhymes and repetition and it is just perfect for reading aloud. The plot concerns the Grumpalump and how various animals react to it – the bear stared, the cat sat, the mole rolled and so on – and I could probably recite the whole thing by heart even now!
2. The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
This book sparked my love of Venice, and is probably the root cause for the last year of my life living in Italy. It tells the story of two boys who are placed in the care of their rather Dursleyish aunt and uncle after their mother dies. They escape their relatives and run away to Venice, where they fall in with a gang of children who pick pockets and live in an abandoned cinema. The book contains mystery and magic and is perfectly set in the fantastic atmosphere of Venice. The children are quick witted and resourceful and pit themselves against the adult world, which is always fun to read as a child. I was particularly fond of Hornet, who suffers only-girl-in-the-group syndrome, but is characterised by her love of books.
3. Indigo’s Star by Hillary Mckay
This is the second book in Mckay’s series about the Casson family, but it doesn’t matter. Each book stands quite well alone, and centres on a different member of the family – the first is about Indigo’s sister Saffy and this one centres on Indigo. This book is my favourite and the one that influenced me most – just look at my WordPress name, IndigoJo! I loved bookish, quiet Indigo and related to his troubles with bullies. I also enjoyed reading about how fiercely protective of him his family is and how Saffy and Rose try to help him. Indigo makes friends with a new boy at school, Tom, who is almost his exact opposite, and you get to see how they influence each other. Tom is brash and reckless and seemingly a compulsive liar, but he teaches Indigo to play guitar and face his fears, and Indigo teaches Tom about peacefulness and about family. McKay is really good at creating this sense of a chaotic but loving family that I always enjoy revisiting.
4. Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
This is a classic children’s book and as such a bit preachy, but I find it charming. It follows the fortunes of the Fossils, three foundlings who are raised as sisters by Sylvia and Nannie after Great Uncle Matthew, a world traveller, finds them and sends them to his great house in London. Throughout the book we see the Fossils grow, and each one has her own very distinct personality and flaws. We see them struggle economically and the adults aren’t able to shield the girls from reality – they face the pressure to earn money at an early age, which they manage to a certain extent through ballet dancing. I love each Fossil girl for a different reason, and I like how hopeful the book remains despite the difficulties they face, and the resourcefulness of each character.
5. Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones
Any list of my favourite children’s books would be incomplete without a Diana Wynne Jones book, but which one to choose? I went with Charmed Life for a few reasons. Firstly it was the first Diana Wynne Jones book I ever read. Secondly, as with many of her books, the narrator has to completely reevaluate his view of the world partway through the book. Thirdly, it features great pranks. And lastly, it features children hiding things from adults and not trusting them, trying, much like in the Thief Lord, to be self-sufficient. This is integral to the plot of many children’s books, but not every writer manages to pull it off so that you understand why the children don’t feel they can involve adults. In Charmed Life, we follow Cat and his big sister Gwendolen, orphans who go to live with their distant relative the Chrestomanci, a powerful figure who governs the use of magic across multiple universes. Gwendolen aspires to be a great witch, and Cat is used to being in her shadow. But circumstances are about to change…
Have you read any of these books? What are your favourite children’s books?
(PS: All caption links go to goodreads 🙂 )