Recently I've been thinking a lot about my favourite childhood books, and whether or not I should try and reread them (and the answer was nearly always YES OBVIOUSLY), so here's a list of some of my favourite childhood reads that have stuck with me to this day:
The Chronicles of Narnia -- CS Lewis
Me and my sister didn’t read these books until we were slightly older as children (the Harry Potter books were our first fantasy series) but I still think of them very fondly, my favourite probably being the very first, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, or perhaps The Voyage of the Dawn Treader just because it has dragons.
My most vivid memory relating to this book series is also the reason we no longer have our original copy of Prince Caspian. Basically, I didn’t realise that the wall I was standing next to had already been repainted by my mum, who I thought was still working round the room and would reach it later, and so I leant the open book in my hand against the wet paint. This of course resulted in two pages being completely ruined (and obscuring, I’m sure, many crucial plot points), and we had to throw the book away.
This book is one that’s really stuck with me, even more than the first book in the series Molly Moon's Incredible Book of Hypnotism, because of how it deals with time (more specifically, pausing time, which is my chosen super-power if ever the choice actually comes us). Molly is such a lovely character (childhood-me wanted to be her!) and her best friend Rocky and pet pug Petula are equally wonderful.
I ended up loving this sequel so much that I never continued with the series (which now has six books), I think because I was worried they would disappoint me in comparison. I’m a little obsessed with the idea of pausing time (just think about useful it would be: late for the bus? running out of time in an exam? think you have a wedgie but are in public and don’t want to check? Just pause time and sort it out!), and I’m now realising that it probably all stems back to this one childhood read.
This book, telling the story of how young Danny and his beloved father set out to poach the pheasants of their nasty neighbour, is my favourite Roald Dahl book (which is saying a lot, seeing as I also adore George’s Marvellous Medicine, Matilda, and The BFG). Not that I think I’ll ever need to, but if I find myself in the situation of having to steal several hundred pheasants from a snobbish neighbour, I’ll know what to do.
I’m sure that every single child in the UK has read a Jacqueline Wilson book at some point, and as a child I was no exception. According to my Goodreads profile, I’ve read 28 of her books, and I’m sure there are a few more that I’m forgetting about, but this one will likely always be my favourite. The Lottie Project tells the story of Charlie (who detests being called Charlotte) and her life with her single mum, her mother’s new boyfriend, and his annoying son. At school, Charlie is studying the Victorians and being forced to do a project on them by her mean new teacher, and the book alternates between Charlie’s life, and a character in her project named Lottie, who is a young nursemaid to a Victorian family. Words cannot describe how much I loved this book, and how much I enjoyed both of its stories, which are full of genuinely surprising twists and turns, and moments of real emotion that I don’t think nine-year-old me was really prepared for.
Sadly this particular book and its sequels are no longer on my shelves (I gave them to my little brother but he hasn’t even tried to read them yet) but I absolutely loved them as a child. Abby, the last child of the town of Speller (which she can somehow never find on a map) and her best friend Spike, who has a mysterious past he has no memory of, team up with the enigmatic Captain Starlight and just as dramatic Sir Chadwick Street in a story all about Light Witches and Night Witches – and it’s the perfect mix of adventure! The best thing about The Witch Trade is that there are two more books following it which are just as good – The Time Witches and Wild West Witches – so now I just have to convince my brother to read them.
This childhood fave is about a powerful dark wizard who’s on the hunt for a wife – cue a coven worth of witches rolling up and competing for the honour. They’re such a motley bunch that I just adored reading about them, but I especially felt for Belladonna (a “white witch” whose magic is more likely to produce flowers than plague-ridden rats, but who desperately wants to be an evil sorceress and be chosen as the bride). I’ve always loved stories about witches and wizards (blame JK Rowling) and I especially liked all the magic that goes on in this book, and how the witches involved use their magic to show off their evil powers in the competition. And this book also gets points for having the best title on this list.
Possibly my favourite Eva Ibbotson book, in this one three sisters kidnap three children to help them look after all the magical creatures on their private island. It’s a lot better than it sounds, because living on the island and taking care of the mermaids, selkies, giant Lindworm and others, is actually a fantastic adventure. Once again it’s because of JK Rowling that I had (and still do) have an enormous obsession with mythical creatures, and honestly if I had the time I would reread this in an instant.
You’re probably now guessing that I read a lot of Eva Ibbotson books as a child, and you would be right! Though this book is aimed for slightly older readers than Which Witch? and Monster Mission, I believe it was the first of her books I read. It’s about an orphan named Maia, who in 1910 is sent to live with relatives by the Amazon, only to find her new guardians nasty, snobbish and xenophobic. But plenty of adventures quickly ensue involving her stern governess Miss Minton, a mysterious boy in a canoe, a young actor, and the incredible jungle itself.
I think I liked this book so much because it the first time I had heard anything specific and exciting about the Amazon or Brazil or even South America as a whole; and so, though it’s probably been a decade since I’ve read it, it’s still standing on my shelves.
Each book in this series is named after a letter of the alphabet, from Assassin to Betrayal and so on and so forth until Keys and Loot. Admittedly, I’ve only read the first eight books, which I still think serves a good concluding point for the series, but maybe one day I’ll continue on and finally read the Lady Grace Mysteries in their entirety. Lady Grace herself is a young maid-of-honour in the court of Queen Elizabeth I of England, and serves as a kind of private detective on behalf of Elizabeth, solving murders, thefts and all sorts of other shenanigans, and each book is just a fun exciting piece of historical fiction, with some great twists and turns.
I have such a vivid memory of reading this in Year 5 (so I was nine years old) and absolutely adoring it. Pretty much ANY Philip Ridley book could’ve made this list, but I chose to only include Scribbleboy because I can still remember so much about my original reading experience. The way the characters are described has stuck with me so well, like the main character Bailey with his frown-shaped face; “I’m not upset,” he keeps having to tell people, “that’s just how my face is”. I can relate.
Of course, I should mention here that the illustrations by Chris Riddell are so incredibly beautiful that they only serve to make this story even better. He does the illustrations too all of Philip Ridley’s books and is genuinely my favourite illustrator out there. I follow him on instagram (@chris_riddell) and the man is an absolute machine, posting tonnes of new drawings every single day – and all of them are gorgeous.