Neil Gaiman once said that “Often the adult book is not for you, not yet, or will only be for you when you’re ready.” That is something that I think rings true a lot when life is hard and we would much rather act like a child than face the adult world. As a student, I have found myself thrust into the adult world and it isn’t fun all the time so the best thing for me to do is to reread some of my favourite books from when I was a kid. And most of these are actually Children’s Classics.
You can learn so much from Children’s stories. They teach you how to act through whimsical tales that capture your imagination and in this list I have included twelve of my favourite children classics.
The Hobbit, by J.R.R Tolkien
In a hole in the ground, there lived a Hobbit and his name was Bilbo Baggins. He is used to a perfectly ordinary life in Hobbiton since he is a Baggins and they never go on any adventures or do anything unexpected. But that all changes with the arrival of Gandalf the Grey and the thirteen Dwarves, led by the famous Thorin Oakenshield. Soon Bilbo Baggins finds himself doing things completely unBagginslike as he travels across Middle Earth to help the Dwarves reclaim their homeland of Erebor that currently houses the dragon Smaug.
If you’ve been reading this for a while you will know my love for The Hobbit so I’m sure that there’s no surprise that it’s on this list. But this really is a brilliant book that does deal with some serious topics when you think about it. For example, it talks quite openly about refugees and that even the smallest person can help change the future. Something that Tolkien talks about a lot. Oh it also shows that mercy can have an impact on your life in the future too. The writing is breathtaking and in many editions of this there are some wonderful illustrations that bring out any persons imagination.
From the moment that Mary Poppins arrives at number seventeen, Cherry Tree Lane, everyday life at the Banks house has changed forever.
I grew up loving the Disney version of this classic book series and until I watched the film ‘Saving Mister Banks’ (which is also by Disney) I didn’t know that it was based on a set of books. Now the books are very different from the Disney classic but it is still wonderful and the tales that are told really show that you can never judge a book by its cover.
The BFG, by Roald Dahl
Sophie is just like any other girl living in the orphanage until she is kidnapped by a giant. Yes, a giant. But The BFG is not like the other child eating giants in giant country. No he is king and gentle. And Sophie is very lucky that it was the BFG who found her. For if she had been found by the Bloodbottler, the Bonecruncher, the Butcherboy or any of the other giants then it would have been a completely different story; Sophie would have been their breakfast.
But Sophie does something that even the BFG doesn’t suspect, she decides to go to the one place in England where someone might be able to help save the rest of the children in the world from being eaten. But only if she can make adults believe what they see in their dreams.
To be honest, any of Roald Dahl’s books could be on this list because they are all brilliant but I think The BFG was my first experience with his writing. I’m not actually sure if it’s a complete classic yet because it was only released in the 80s. But it is a brilliant book that really brings out this authors fantastical writing.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by Frank L. Baum
Dorothy thinks she is lost forever when she and her dog, Toto, are thrown into the magical land of Oz by a tornado. But she soon learns that to get home she must follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald city where she will meet the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. On her way she meets the Scarecrow, The Tin Woodman and the Cowardly Lion. But the Wicked Witch of the West has other ideas – will Dorothy and Toto ever return home to Kansas?
Another classic musical that I’m sure everyone and their mother has watched at least once. But there is something even more wonderful about the book, the opening to this magical series, which just doesn’t come through in the film. You learn so much more about the relationship of Dorothy and her Ozian friends by reading about it than you can by watching the infamous Judy Garland adaptation.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
Weary of a book, one without pictures or conversations, the young and imaginative Alice follows a hasty hare underground to come face-to-face with a cast of fantastical characters like The Ugly Duchess, the Mad Hatter, the weeping Mock Turtle, the diabolical Queen of Hearts and the Cheshire Cat; each more eccentric than the rest.
This is a classic that i’m sure everyone knows from the various adaptations over the years but there is something about the whimsical characters involved and the way that they are described that just creates the perfect book for any child.
Ballet Shoes, by Noel Streatfeild
Pauline, Posy and Petrova are three orphans who are determined to help out their new family so they decide to join the Children’s Academy for Dancing and Stage Training. But things aren’t going to be as simple as they first believed. It will take a lot of work. But Pauline is destined for the movies. Posy is a born dancer. And Petrova, well she feels more comfortable with planes than on the stage. No matter what, they have to fight for their dreams and not let these dreams tear their family a part.
I feel in love with this book when I was a little kid. It talks about following your dreams whilst not letting them get in the way of what really matter; family. It is such a beautiful tale that was highlighted in a rather good film featuring Emma Watson, Emilia Fox and the Late Richard Griffiths. It is a hidden gem that more people need to embrace, whatever the age.
The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
This tells of a young boy from a distant planet with two active volcanos (and one dormant one) and a talkative flower who decides to see the other worlds that are out in the universe. He tells his story to a man lost in the desert about the extraordinary encounters that he has had, all of which talk about the strange behaviour of adults.
This is a perfect story for both children and adults. It tells a flamboyant tale that will hold the imagination of children for days whilst teaching adults some important lessons that they’ve probably forgotten over the years.
Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren
Tommy and his sister, Annika, move into a small neighbourhood not really expecting it to be out of the ordinary, but then one day they come home from school to meet their neighbour. She bright red hair in pigtails, no parents to tell her what to do, a horse who lives on her porch, and a flair for the outrageous that lead to a few dazzling adventures.
Surprisingly I hadn’t read this book until a few months ago. I knew who Pippi was because I grew up watching a tv show about her but I hadn’t read the book. And I regret not reading it as a kid. I loved it so much from the spunky way Pippi was to the outrageous adventures she went on. This really will make everyone laugh for days; no matter what the age.
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis
A wardrobe door was opened and that led to a whole new world – Narnia! Only four people know about it and they are the Pevensie’s – Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy – a small family who were sent into the country during the Second World War to escape from the bombs of London. Lucy is the first to discover this strange world and her siblings don’t believe her until they stumble into the snow and meet the infamous Aslan, the Great Lion. And in the blink of an eye, their lives change forever.
A true classic. I know that, depending on how you view the reading order, you might not want to pick this one up first. But there’s something about this book that allows you to easily slip into the world without the backstory. It’s the original tale and it tells you a lot about the characters and allows you to go into this beautiful world into possibly the best story in the whole series. It is delightful and though it a piece of Christian literature, it is barely noticeable and not in your face at all. It is a wonderful piece of timeless literature that will attract anyone’s attention no matter what the age.
Peter Pan, by J.M Barrie
One magical night the Darling children – Wendy, John and Michael – are visited by two mischievous denizens of Neverland; an island of imagination where pirates prowl the mermaid lagoon and fairies live so long as children believe in them. Peter Pan and his fairy companion, Tinker Bell, have come for Peter’s shadow that was stolen the previous night by Nana – the children’s Newfoundland nanny. The pair leave not just with his shadow but with Wendy and her brothers in tow, whisking them away to Neverland to join the Lost Boys in their fight against the Pirate; Captain Hook.
There are brilliant adaptations of this book out there from stage to screen but nothing beats the book; which is kind of hilarious considering that it’s the adaptation of the original script. Peter is flippant in the way that a lot of children are but he goes on wonderful adventures with the Darlings and his Lost Boys. It is a delightful tale that helps everyone relive their childhood through whimsical adventures that I’m sure everyone would love to live.
The Golden Compass, by Phillip Pullman
Lyra Belcaqua is an orphaned girl who spends her carefree days among the scholars at Oxford’s Jordan College until the arrival of two shocking visitors. First, her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, comes forward with mysterious information about the strange substance known as Dust from the North. Then comes Mrs Coulter, an enigmatic scholar and explorer, who takes Lyra away from Jordan; promising to take her to the North. But nothing is as it seems. Lyra disappears one day in search of her kidnapped friend, Roger, bearing a rare truth-telling instrument known as the alethiometor. All around her children are disappearing – taken by the mysterious “gobblers” – and any that make it back are found without their daemons; their animal companions that reflect each person’s inner being. And somehow, Mrs Coulter and Lord Asriel are involved.
This is another piece of Christian literature but it is even less obvious than the Chronicles of Narnia and honestly most people don’t even realise that it’s Christian lit until you tell them. Lyra is like most children, she questions everything and befriends people without even thinking about who they are or what they will do. She trusts her instincts and because of that she goes on an amazing journey which only begins with this book. This is a joy for everyone to read, despite the age, and despite it being a relatively new release it should be deemed a classic by all.
Winnie-the-Pooh, by A.A Milne
Winnie-the-Pooh is a bear of very little brain who stumbles through several adventures from a battle with some bees over honey to becoming stuck in the entrance to his friend, Rabbit’s, burrow.
Last but not least is the joyful book known as Winnie-the-Pooh that, to me, is the ultimate children’s classic. I grew up adoring Winne-the-Pooh, Christopher Robin and their other whimsical friends. If I was sad and I just wanted something quick to read I would grab my own Kanga – a ratty toy that I still have to this day who has survived a lot of horrors that I promise I won’t go into – and cuddle up to submerge myself into this wonderful world. The fact that some of these stories are based around the real Christopher Robin’s play with his own Edward Bear – a.k.a Winnie the Pooh – just makes it so much more magical. A perfect tale for everyone out there; trust me.
And there we have it, there are the twelve children’s classics that I think everyone, no matter their age, should read. Are any of your favourites up here? Feel free to let me know; oh and tell me about any that I haven’t mentioned. I’m always up to escaping from this world into a far more whimsical one.
Book Total of 2017 – 65