Getting children to read from an early age is a fantastic way to prepare them for the intellectual landscapes they’ll be navigating later in life. After all, reading is a skill that takes time to master. A good children’s book will provide exactly the required practice material – something that’ll engage your child from beginning to end, and keep them coming back for more.
But while learning to read is important, far more so is the pleasure that children’s books can provide. With the help of a little imagination, they can conjure up fantastical worlds, breath- taking adventures, and even a tear or two. Ideally, children’s stories should have a moral, too: that’s why there exist copious children’s books with lessons on life woven memorably into the narrative.
If you read as a child, then the chances are that you have a few favourites that you’d like to pass on to your children. But at the same time, there are plenty of newer children’s authors whose work you might not have heard of. We’ve all got our favourite works – so we thought we’d share some of them to provide some inspiration!
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Though it feels as though it’s been around for far longer. this classic illustrated novel was released in 1963. Since then, it’s scooped multiple accolades (including a Caldecott Medal), conquered global sales charts, and captured the imagination of successive generations. It’s even spawned a few television and film adaptations of varying quality. So, what makes this book so enduringly appealing? In to its 338 words are packed enormously weighty concepts and themes – but they’re presented in a manner that’s jovialenough for a child of almost any age to whip through. Maurice Sendak struck exactly the required balance, and not a single word or image is superfluous. Banned in some libraries thanks to the intimidating appearance of the eponymous ‘wild things’, this is a novel that’s defied censors, and is beloved by children to this day.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
If you were to ask a hundred people to name classic children’s book to read out loud, then the chances are that most of them would nominate ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’. This distinctively-styled book navigates some seriously deep terrain, instructing children on the wisdom of a sensible diet, teaching them the basics of colours and counting, and conveying the fact that even hairy, red faced caterpillars are capable of transforming into beautiful butterflies.
Since its release in 1969, this book has conquered the globe. It’s sold more than forty- million copies, and been translated into sixty-two languages. The art style is abstract and instantly recognisable, and was created using a collage of hand-painted paper shapes. It’s
won the hearts of children across the world, including that of former US President George W. Bush, who famously cited the book as his favourite as a child (despite the fact that he was in his twenties when it came out).
There’s a Tiger in the Garden by Lizzy Stewart
So far, we’ve addressed some tried-and- tested classics. But not all classics were released decades ago! This beautiful picture-book scooped the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize 2017, following a raft of critical acclaim and enormous commercial success. The tale recounts the adventure of a little girl named Nora, whose grandmother advises her that there’s a tiger in the garden. Being naturally sceptical, Nora proceeds to test this claim – eventually discovering (spoiler alert) that there is indeed a tiger in the garden, along with enormous insects, carnivorous plants, and a polar bear with a fishing rod. It’s a rollercoaster adventure that’s sure to be a hit at bedtime!
Curious George by H. A. Rey and Margret Rey
The oldest entry to our list, Curious George was first introduced into the public sphere with the publication of his first book in 1941. It was the work of husband-and- wife-duo Hans Augusto Rey and Margret Rey, who fled Paris the previous year with the manuscript stowedinto their luggage. It tells the tale of an orphaned monkey rescued from Africa by an American in a yellow hat. George’s curiosity gets him into all sorts of awkward situations that’ll delight and amuse parents and children alike.
The book proved incredibly popular just about everywhere it was published, and spawned aseries of sequels, television shows and films. When it was initially released in the UK, the titular monkey was named ‘Zozo’ – since giving a monkey the same name as the king didn’t seem like a very sporting thing to do.
Today, this titan of children’s fiction is still going strong – but if you’re looking for a way to introduce the kids to the story of one of the most iconic monkeys ever to grab a child’simagination, why not return to the original adventure? From there, there are scores more to proceed into!
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
We could have chosen just about any Roald Dahl novel for this roundup – he is by far and away the most popular children’s author the country has ever produced. But we decided to nominate James and the Giant Peach, his first full-length novel for children, and where the real magic began to happen in 1961. The plot is typically Dahlian, with a central good- natured protagonist being abused by thoroughly horrible relatives until something extraordinary happens: in this case, a peach being magically inflated to enormous proportions, along with several nearby insects, before rolling down a hill and being carried off by the sea.
There are few better introductions to the wonderful world of Roald Dahl. It provides a hint of darkness, but not quite so much as later works like Matilda and The Witches – and it’s sure to prompt any child to immediately seek out and devour the rest of the Dahl bibliography.
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