I thought this blog post could combine two of my favourite things:
a) Writing lists
b) Children’s fiction.
As I’ve been a children’s author for seven years now, with a book series of my own, The Time Hunters, I am often asked at school or library visits what are the most important children’s books to have affected me in my life. With this is mind, I thought I'd share this list with you. Some are well known, others not, but all hold a special place in my heart.
10) Ned the Lonely Donkey by Noel Barr. This was a real favourite of mine as a child. It’s a beautiful story in Ladybird hardback about, yeah, you guessed it, a lonely donkey called Ned (shocker, eh?). It’s sweet, charming and I was always so very touched by the story. Perfect for children or the child in you.
9) Skullduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy. Derek is one of the most gifted and witty writers in recent years. His natural flair for comedy is ever present in what is a terrific action book with a strong heroine. I’ve enjoyed the entire series.
8) Z for Zacharariah by Robert C O’Brien . I first read this at school in early 80s when the issue of nuclear war seemed a very real one. It’s a very powerful book. Perhaps it’s more YA than children’s fiction as it contains some very powerful ideas but these themes stayed with me for a long time. Being the father of a girl, they still do.
7) The Adventures of Mister Pink-Whistle by Enid Blyton. I can just about about remember my mum reading this book to me before I went to sleep at night (Slightly weird as I was 15 years of age at the time... JOKING!). When I started reading books on my own I remember this was one of the first books I read. I loved it.
6) The Hobbit by J R Tolkien. Obviously it’s a classic, but interestingly enough I nearly missed this one in my formative years. It wasn’t recommended to me by a committed English Lit Teacher or a passionate librarian - no, I was introduced to Tolkien via the 1982 Adventure game on the ZX Spectrum. I played the game and then read the book. The game was utterly brilliant, the book even better. Here’s a picture of the game which may bring back memories for some of you oldies :)
5) The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper. I remember reading this at primary school and being absolutely gripped. Wonderful story, great characters and a genuine American classic. I didn’t get the many levels to the book at the time (I was about ten) but I remember loving it as a thrilling adventure story. It also might explain why Hawkeye became one of my favourite Marvel characters (in the comics, not the films).
4) The Famous Five on Treasure Island by Enid Blyton. Miss Blyton again. I adored the famous five books and although I can’t remember a single storyline from any of the twenty one book series, I know I was always reading them.
3) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling. This was the book that changed my life. I enjoyed the first two books but couldn’t quite understand the Pottermania that surrounded me (in 2001). But with Azkaban I got it!. Such characters, such depth, such fantastic plot twists, such a detailed and rich fantasy world. It was a joy to read... and 16 years later it still is. Well done, Jo. And on a personal note, it was Rowling’s Potter stories that, more than any other, inspired me to take a sabbatical in 2005, live in the SW France for a year and write the first draft of The Time Hunters, and for that I’m very grateful.
2) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling. Just when I thought it couldn’t get better than Azkaban, I read this. This could so easily have been my number one favourite children’s book of all time, but there is one more that’s even more special to me. Still, this is as good as it gets. It’s funny, exciting, well-crafted with some of the greatest plot twists in children’s literature. It also investigates such (sadly) eternally relevant themes as bigotry, intolerance and prejudice that are as pertinent to a Trump/Post-Brexit world as they are to Rowling’s magical community
1) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. My number one favourite children’s book of all time. In fact, it’s my all time favourite book of all time. It’s just perfect. Dahl’s ability as an intelligent storyteller to delight children of all ages is unsurpassed and this is just a wonderful, sublime story. Serious yet whimsical, funny yet challenging, conventional yet anarchic, charming yet dark at times, it so perfectly reflects the many complexities of childhood and the capacity for children’s fiction to create stories and characters that operate on so many intellectual levels. I read it regularly and if I’m ever stuck with my own writing this is one of the books I pick up to inspire me. And inspire me it does... every single time.
This is the image from the very paperback copy I had as a boy. It brings back so many wonderful memories.
Anyway, there you have it. Thanks for reading.