Journeys in Childhood – My Top 11 Children’s Books

Moving to a foreign country, I have found, makes you look at the concept of home in a completely new light. This blog post, that I wrote months ago but never got round to finishing, now strikes me on a whole new level. These books that I loved so much when I was younger (and still do!), not only have inspired me to write, but provide a concrete link to a time that is gone forever, and a place from which I am separated by hundreds of miles. I hope you enjoy this list as much as I enjoyed making it!

Looking back, my fascination with literature and reading began at a young age, when I discovered the magic of books and their wonderful ability to transport you to different worlds and open your mind to new ideas. For this reason, I have decided to list the top 11 books (in no particular order) that stuck with me in some way, either because they changed my ideas about something, inspired me to write myself, or even just created a magical world I could get lost in!

  1. The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson – Absolutely bursting with lush descriptions of Viennese cakes that made me desperately want to go to Vienna! This is one of the first books that made me realise the power of setting and description, when executed well (as it so often isn’t).
  2. Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman – I haven’t actually re-visited this book since I first read it many years ago, but I remember being extremely moved and struck by the issues being raised, as well as engaging with the characters in a way that shifted the focus and gave it more depth.
  3. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech – Simply written but absolutely heartbreaking, as with all of Creech’s books. She just has a magical way of capturing emotion which has particularly stuck with me.
  4. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – I have always found this book absolutely captivating! One that I have re-read again and again.
  5. Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling – I couldn’t narrow it down to just one of the books, since it is as a whole series that they make the most impact, and that they showcase the thing that, for me, makes these books so memorable and engaging, which is the incredible detail and thoughtfulness with which the world of magic is created and sculpted around the reader. It has inspired me to try and create a fantasy world of my own.
  6. Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster – This book evokes strong memories of my childhood, when I was ill and my mum read it to me. A bit of a silly story really, but also charming, and I love how the main character’s voice is so strong throughout.
  7. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis – Powerfully symbolic but in a way that is understandable for children, and somehow easy to identify with, even though it is set in a fantasy world.
  8. Northern Lights by Philip Pullman – Known as the Golden Compass in the US, this was recently (ish) made into a film, and I was supremely unimpressed by the way the magic of the setting was lost, even though the descriptions in the book are so visual. I suppose it is the mark of a great story, when the images in the reader’s head are so vivid that no visual adaptation can live up to it.
  9. The Railway Children by E. Nesbit – One of those books that you read on different levels as a child and as an adult.
  10. Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo – Morpurgo is the absolute king of writing poignant, deep, but also fun, children’s literature. I loved this book, but found it absolutely heartbreaking.
  11. The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett – This is still one of my absolute favourite books. It is hard to pinpoint exactly what makes It so special, but possibly it is the perfect balance of wry humour, inventiveness, originality and mystery (combined with great characters and plot, of course!). This book has definitely inspired me to write!

Do you agree with my list? What are your favourite children’s books? Let me know in the comments.