The BBC recently came out with a list of the 11 greatest children’s books, as chosen by critics… And it’s an interesting article, but not one that I necessarily agreed with. For instance, I’m sure a lot of people remember Little Women fondly, but I personally found it unreadable when I was a child. And where are the Harry Potter books? So many people my age (myself included) only started reading for pleasure because of them, so surely that should earn them a place on the list! 😦
Anyway, I thought I’d try my hand at making my own list, as a counter to theirs, and I’d really love to hear what you consider to be the best children’s books, too! (And, for the record, when I think of children’s books, I think of the kind of books I would’ve been reading in primary school, so there won’t be any teen books on the list – though I know that, technically, they still count…)
11) A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
An incredibly creative series of books about a trio of orphans trying to solve the mystery of their parents’ deaths, whilst simultaneously being pursued by their distant cousin, the nefarious Count Olaf, who’s after their inheritance.
10) Green Eggs & Ham by Dr. Seuss
A book that’s most famous for having been written using only 50 words, to settle a bet between Seuss and his publisher over whether it was possible to write a book with so few words. It’s a simple story about somebody who doesn’t like green eggs and ham.
9) Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
The story of a boy who, after being sent to bed without supper, finds himself on an island inhabited by monsters, who make him their king. An amazingly-written book, with great, atmospheric illustrations, and themes of anger and growth.
8) The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
My favourite book as a child, this tells the story of an ordinary gentlehobbit called Bilbo Baggins, who is manipulated by the wizard Gandalf into going on an adventure with thirteen dwarves, in order to reclaim their homeland from a dragon. Probably one of the best pure adventure books ever written, though some people find Tolkien’s writing prosy.
7) Heaven Eyes by David Almond
Skellig is the most critically-acclaimed of David Almond’s books, but my favourite has always been Heaven Eyes, which is about a group of friends who escape from their orphanage on a raft, only to find themselves stuck in a bog not too far down the river. They’re rescued by a strange girl called Heaven Eyes, who lives in the boggy island with her grandfather.
6) Matilda by Roald Dahl
Matilda is raised by her abusive parents and brother, and is constantly bullied by the awful Miss Trunchbull, the headteacher at her school. But through her own wits, she manages to forge a happy ending for herself and her friend, Miss Honey. A wonderful story about friendship and resourcefulness.
5) A Mouse Called Wolf by Dick King-Smith
There are a lot of Dick King-Smith books I could have chosen, but the one I remember most fondly is A Mouse Called Wolf, which follows the tiny Wolfgang Amadeus Mouse (named for Mozart, naturally), who has a great love for music, and becomes the world’s first singing mouse.
4) Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
This series really needs no introduction, as it’s famous worldwide, and for good reason! Reading about all Harry’s adventures is the best kind of escapism, and these books left millions of people wishing for their very own Hogwarts letters.
3) The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
A pilot stranded in the desert meets a prince from a small asteroid, who tells the tale of his travels on different planets, and the people he met on the way. This book is sombre, but incredibly touching, and all about childhood, and the strangeness of grown-ups.
2) The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
The tale of four siblings, evacuated to the countryside just before the second world war, who find another world by climbing into a wardrobe, and are tasked with saving Narnia from the White Witch. A great story about family, friendship, and loyalty.
1) A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Sara is made to become a servant at her elite boarding school, after her father dies, leaving her with enormous debts to the school, but she is able to make the most of her situation, befriending the school’s other servant girl, as well as, and keeping her spirits up through imagination and storytelling.