6 Mar 2011

Once Upon A Time - Top 10 Favourite Kids/YA Books

I've been promising a top 10 childhood memories post for several weeks now, but when I was pulling together my list every single one pretty much involved a book/reading/being read to/being in a library/buying books. So I've cut out the middle man as it were and decided to do a top 10 kids/YA books list. 

When I was selecting books for the list though I ran across a problem - what do I mean by `kids` books - seeing as I've been reading voraciously since the age of 3. So to make it easier for myself, I created a spreadsheet, with columns that allocated books by age (picture, pre-teeen, teen, new stuff + series) It looked like this:

And from that I could pick my top 10 books, after the list though, I'll talk a little about some other books I liked when I was around the same age - it was such a close call as to what made the final cut, and I know for sure I've forgotten some classics so please please please comment + remind me of what you think I've missed out :)

Top 10 Kids/YA Books

1) The Dark Is Rising Series - Susan Cooper. I love this. Nuff said. In my list of `save in case of house fire` my signed hardcover bind up edition of all the stories is up there (along with my signed Margaret Atwood)
2) The Hobbit - Tolkien. Just mind-bendingly original. I felt like my head had split open when I first read this around the age of 11-12. I know you've all read it too so I'll shut up now!
3) The Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis. Well if you liked the above, you'll have read this too. I just remember sitting on my parents' white leather sofa (it was the 80's) in our flat in NYC in 1989 having Prince Caspian read to me. One of the godfathers of fantasy along with Tolkien.
4) The Tiger Who Came To Tea - Judith Kerr. I loved this picture/simple story book when I was little. Not for the bizarreness of a tiger showing up to your house, but instead for the prospect of actually getting to do something far odder - go out to dinner with your parents, and on a school night no less!
5) The Silver Crown - Robert O'Brien. Better known I suspect for the wonderful Mrs Frisby + the Rats of NIMH, the Silver Crown is a very special fantasy novel for any child - wonderfully suspenseful and a little scary too. I still dream about this book now.
6.) My Naughty Little Sister - Dorothy Edwards + Shirley Hughes. I have a little sister. She was naughty. I loved this book. Simples! PS the Shirley Hughes illustrations make this book the classic it is.
7.) Anne Frank's Diary. i struggled to describe this in one sentence, so here's a tweet from @wilkravitz about it for you "it is a clear example of innocent, wide-eyed hope and potential crushed and destroyed by evil people."
8.) Love You Forever - Robert Munsch This american story book is, frankly, a bit twee and fluffy. *But* that's why it's lovely. I first read this book when I was around 7 or 8, and even then it tugged at the heart strings. A book about parental love - and familial love - I will be reading this one to my kids. Sometimes we need to be twee + fluffy and tell people we love them.
9.) Homecoming - Cynthia Voigt I loved this - and all the books in the Tillerman saga when I was around 13-14 and I'm disappointed to see that it doesn't look like they're still in print :(
10.) Matched - Ally Condie This is the most recent book on my list (pub 2010) but it is hands down the best YA book I've read recently - comparable to (and dare I say better than) The Hunger Games. Don't be put off by the fluffy girly cover, this is dystopian love at it's best. Annoyingly it's part of a trilogy (!) but this book stands alone for its story. I loved it for its detail, characters and lovely, crisp narrative. Read it!

So there you go - my top 10. But as promised here are some other books I loved, grouped by age:

Where the Wild Things Are, Peepo, Mog the Forgetful Cat, The Hungry Caterpillar, Meg + Mog, Bill the Burglar, Spot and The Zoo. More recently I have loved *anything* in the Charlie + Lola series and Harry + the Dinosaurs. I used to do story time for small people when I worked in a bookshop and these were very popular. 

Pre-teen/Fluent Reading
Heidi, Pippi Longstocking, The Secret Garden, Ramona the Pest (anything by Beverley Clearly). more recently I've loved the Percy Jackson series and rather obviously, Harry Potter! 

Kiss the Dust, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, Carrie's War, Rumblefish + The Outsiders. Current/recent YA stuff I have loved includes, How I Live Now, Before I Die, Enna Burning, The Goose Girl as well as Twilight (sorry but I did!) and the amazing Hunger Games (1st book is my fave). Ooh and lots of spooky stuff by Robert Swindells.

I couldn't do this list and not include series of books - where it wasn't just one book but the whole body of work that appealed, so this includes absolutely anything by Enid Blyton but particularly The Famous Five and Malory Towers, Topsy + Tim, the Ladybird learn to read books, Chalet School Girls, The Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley Twins, Sweet Valley High (you know you all read them), Point Horror series and the wonderful Redwall.

Phew - that's it. A bit of a sprint through tonight. I've not put in tons of links - I know you guys know how to work Amazon by now! Please share with me if you've read anything on this list - if you disagree with anything, books I've missed, and most importantly *your* favourites! 

I'll be back on Wednesday with WoTW but for now, have a lovely rest of day/evening/weekend depending on your timezone.

Thank you and goodnight

Stupidgirl has left the building


  1. Another fan of The Silver Crown - one of THE best children's books ever, and sadly very under read. I still have it now, and still read it regularly :D

  2. Concur I LOVE The Silver Crown. Agree with virtually all your list - loads of my favourites and books I have kept for Emily :)

    The only one on your list I don't like is Love You Forever - makes me vomit ;p

    Did you read Nancy Drew? They were fabulous!

  3. What a good way to spend a gray Sunday afternoon! Liked some of the same books. Did they have 'Little Golden Books' storybooks around your way? Lots of cozy tales about Disney characters,plus older, classic stories, with wonderful illustrations. I liked the 'Freddy the Pig' series, like Pooh, but minus humans. Animals would do things like go on a road trip down to Florida and have neat, little adventures along the way. Now I'm trying to remember the others I liked as well. Don't u like when u see 1 of ur favorites in a store + kids still like it?...And thanks for the quote. Seems I also remember lots of non-fiction books about prehistoric life and dinosaurs and stuff too.

  4. Great list!

    I had not heard of The Dark is Rising series until recently. I have been reading it this past few days on my Kindle and I love it. I'm half way through The Grey King.

    I don't know if I read all the Tillerman books, but I remember Come a Stranger in particular as one I enjoyed, and Cynthia Voight as an author I looked out for as a young teenager.

    Narnia of course and The Hobbit I loved. I re-read the Narnia Chronicles at university.

    One I read as a young child which I loved and have never seen since is At the Back of the North Wind by George McDonald.

  5. Ooh, I love this sort of discussion. Also, I love that you made a spreadsheet for this! I've only read the first 3 of your main list, but they're all good. I think the Voight books are still in print in the US - I bought Jackaroo there last year and I think they had at least one Tillerman book as well.

    Tor.com have just finished a reread of the Narnia books:


    A couple of series that were big for me were Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons books and Willard Price's Hal & Roger adventure books - brilliant! Also, everything by Dick King Smith and the Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark by Jill Tomlinson.


  6. Love You Forever - wonderful! have you still got it?

  7. What a lovely post! So many of these books were my faves too - particularly The Dark is Rising books. Don't know many other people who've read them, but me and my sisters read those books so many times they fell apart and we had to buy a whole new set!

  8. LOL glad you all liked this post - it was sooooo nostalgic researching it! When I worked in publishing I had access to a fair few er, free books, and I've certainly been saving a few kids books away for my future kids. Hope they'll love them as much as I did.

    GiW - no, I think Katie has it somewhere. We bought it in San Diego or Washington DC I think.

    Caroline - I think I have a bunch of Alia's books that she wants you to read, I'll bring them tomorrow - including the amazing Matched!

    Woodsie/Nicole - there are lots of Dark is Rising fans out there I have discovered - such a fab series!

    Rach/KT - The Silver Crown is *awesome* isn't it. Better than Frisby/NIMH imo

    Thanks all x

  9. Yay, new books. Matched does sound good :-). There are some awesome YA books being published now and we’re totally not too old to read them. Hard to pick just a couple to mention, but I love Megan Whalen Turner, Eva Ibbotson and the Firebirds short story anthologies.