1. The Parent Agency by David Baddiel –  Disgruntled Barry Bennett wishes he had better parents (fun ones who let him do what he wants). Barry’s life is turned upside down when he gets his wish and finds himself in a world where kids choose their parents. Funny, smart and unpredictable.
  2. The Iron Man by Ted Hughes – A mysterious giant terrorises the land but the people cannot destroy it. However, when the world is threatened by a terrible monster, the metal beast becomes their saviour. Hughes’ descriptions are powerful and poetic, and his story of acceptance is compelling stuff for children starting to read alone.
  3. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling – Kipling’s wry adventures about the creatures of the Indian jungle were originally created for his daughter, who died at age six. First published over 100 years ago, they were populated with fabulously named wildlife and Mowgli, a boy raised by wolves, and were adopted by the Scout movement long before Disney.
  4. Just William by Richmal Crompton – Although William first appeared in 1922 with his pranks, high-jinks and dodges, Crompton’s pacey writing and ability to create rich and ridiculous characters with a deft wit have ensured William’s adventures still amuse and inspire naughty school children today.
  5. Asterix in Britain by René Goscinny – Other Asterix adventures were nominated, but this got the most votes. The stories are more self-mocking than Hergé’s Tintin adventures, but it’s another great comic series proving that children’s literature isn’t limited to prose. Here, plucky Gauls Asterix and Obelix join forces with Britons in the fight against the Roman baddies.
  6. Fungus the Bogeyman by Raymond Briggs – Snot, slime and bogeys – what’s not to like? ‘The Snowman’ might be a more softhearted picturebook and ‘When the Wind Blows’ might be more serious, but Briggs’ Bogeyman is a funny, simply told comic-strip to amuse even the most reluctant reader.
  7. The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm by Norman Hunter – Adapted for TV by Charlie Higson, this was the first in a series about an absent-minded boffin and his bumbling friend Colonel Dedshott. Still funny and fresh, despite references to housekeepers and library cards from the period in which it was written.
  8. Tiny: The Invisible World of Microbes by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Emily Sutton – Get them learning science early, with playful picturebooks like this romp through the world of micro-organisms. Explore how we catch a cold, what bacteria go into yoghurt and all kinds of other fascinating facts, simply and entertainingly explained.
  9. A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond – A stranger in a foreign world is always a good vehicle for comedy and a chance to explore acceptance and understanding. Especially when the hero of this odyssey is a charming, accident-prone bear. Don’t settle for the film – Bond’s humour throughout each adventure in this 50-year-old series is a joy.
  10. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – Charles Wallace Murry goes through a ‘wrinkle in time’ in search of his lost father and ends up on an evil planet where a huge pulsating brain called ‘It’ controls and enslaves the inhabitants. Can he, his sister Meg and his friend Calvin free his dad in this sci-fi caper?
  11. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll illustrated by John Tenniel – There have been many beautiful versions of Carroll’s classic, but the original drawings by John Tenniel make this edition complete. The fantasy was concocted by Carroll on a riverboat trip as a way of amusing the three young daughters of a friend. The rest is history.
  12. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame – Although you can enjoy the stories of Ratty, Mole, Badger and Toad in cartoons with young children, the novel is a more densely woven and evocative tale celebrating the countryside and companionship, better suited to older readers. US President Roosevelt was a huge fan.
  13. Werewolf Club Rules by Joseph Coelho, illustrated by John O’Leary –  This collection of Joseph Coelho’s poetry is funny and punchy – a great way to share stories using the economy of rhyme. Family, school, everyday events and language itself are explored in these magical verses.
  14. The Kingdom Under the Sea by Joan Aiken, illustrated by Jan Pienkowski – Originally published in 1971, Aiken’s retelling of European folk tales explores themes of cruelty, peril, good and evil. Illustrated with silhouette pictures by Jan Pienkowski, it’s an evocative and sometimes scary trip into the land of legends. The skulls around Baba Jaga’s house are particularly effective.
  15. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling – At nine or ten children can fully savour Rowling’s brilliant epic. An enduring drama that never loses its pace thanks to Rowling’s humour and the detail poured into each character – a cast of wizards, witches, enchanted plants and power-mad evil forces.
  16. Little Wolf’s Book of Badness by an Whybrow – Along with the ‘Harry and the Dinosaurs’ series, Ian Whybrow’s classics include the Little Wolf books. In this first story, Little Wolf must attend his wicked Uncle Bigbad’s Cunning College to learn the nine rules of being a big bad wolf. In his letters home he tells his family all about his adventures. Great fun.
  17. The Secret Seven by Enid Blyton – Secret Seven, Famous Five – gang culture was something very different in the 1940s. This was the first full-length novel in a series about a brother and sister and their crime-busting friends. The children leap into action after spotting ne’erdowells acting suspiciously.
  18. Charlotte’s Web by EB White – This moving children’s novel is a gentle way to introduce themes of loss and mortality. Fern has a pet pig named Wilbur and as he grows fatter, he eventually faces the destiny of all the pigs on the farm. However, with the help of a talking spider called Charlotte, Wilbur might be saved.
  19. 101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith – While the general plotline – spotty dogs in peril of being turned into furry fashion – is the same, Smith’s original is more insightful and gently paced than Disney’s interpretations. The relationship between the parent dogs and their puppies is lovingly explored and the search unfolds as a thrilling adventure.
  20. The Lost Happy Endings by Carol Ann Duffy, illustrated by Jane Ray – Scottish poet and playwright Carol Ann Duffy created this darkly beautiful story for older children. A witch steals all the happy endings to bedtime stories and one brave girl must save them. Jane Ray’s exquisite illustrations make this a fabulous flight of the imagination.
  21. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – When a pilot is forced to land his plane in the desert, he meets a mysterious little boy who tells him a series of fascinating and wise stories. This simple fable of imagination and compassion has been a treasure handed from parent to child for generations ever since it was first published 70 years ago.
  22. We Are All Born Free by Amnesty International – Frances Lincoln publishes a wide range of children’s fiction and non-fiction, but cultural diversity is a special interest in many of their books. This is a beautiful picturebook celebration of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in which each declaration is illustrated by a different artist or illustrator.
  23. The Mouse and his Child by Russell Hoban – The rich and colourful illustrations in this book add to its nostalgic feel. A little tin mouse and his son are accidentally broken and thrown away. Found and repaired by a tramp, they go on a journey to return to the doll’s house and animals they remember in the toy shop they originally came from.
  24. Danny, the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl – Danny lives in a caravan with his father William, who mends cars and has a nifty sideline in poaching pheasants. One night William is caught in a trap, and thereafter they begin to hatch a brilliant plan to get revenge on the greedy landowner Mr. Hazell.
  25. The Box of Delights by John Masefield – Schoolboy Kay Harker finds himself caught up in a battle to possess a magical box that can travel through time. For Kay, it is the start of a dangerous journey to stop magician Abner Brown from seizing the box for his evil purposes. First published in 1935, the adventure has lost none of its thrilling pace.
  26. Tintin and the Red Sea Sharks by Hergé – The Tintin vote was split across several stories and if you like this, you’ll love the others. Still, this is a good place to start: a tale of daring, espionage and bravery as the young reporter, Snowy the dog and Captain Haddock set off to foil a Middle Eastern military plot and bust a slavery ring.
  27. The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton – When Joe, Beth and Frannie move to a new home near the Enchanted Wood, they discover a magical tree and meet strange new friends, Moonface, Saucepan Man and Silky the fairy. When they climb to the top of the tree they are transported to other lands and find themselves on fabulous adventures.
  28. Five Children and It by E Nesbit – From the author who wrote ‘The Railway Children’, this is another story about a family who move from London to the countryside. While playing, the children unearth a grumpy sand fairy, who grants them a series of daily wishes, each lasting until sunset. The resulting escapades and mishaps shape this amusing read.
  29. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis – Four children evacuated during The Blitz discover a magical land called Narnia, entered through an old wardrobe. They become entangled in a conflict between good and evil and must overcome their fears to save this enchanted world. Despite its specifically Christian undertones, it’s a universally loved classic.
  30. Stig of the Dump by Clive King – Barney is a lonely boy who’s used to playing on his own, but one day he stumbles upon a mysterious cave in an old chalk pit and meets a strange boy clad only in rabbit skin. Although his new friend Stig only speaks by grunting, the pair enjoy lively adventures together.
  31. The Arrival Shaun Tan – A stunning picture book for children and adults, expressing so much without words. A man leaves his homeland in search of a better life. We follow him and other immigrants, as they try to communicate, settle and find work. The story ends with his family joining him, looking forward to the future.
  32. You’re a Bad Man, Mr. Gum! by Andy Stanton – Fans of the sillier excesses of Roald Dahl and Roddy Doyle? Then you’ll love the smart, colourful, conversational genius of contemporary London author Andy Stanton. Greedy, miserable Mr. Gum wants to poison a boisterous dog who keeps fouling up his garden. Can his ’horrible plan be stopped by a young girl, a hippy and the unruly woofer in this hilarious romp?
  33. Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kästner – Smalltown boy Emil is taking his first trip alone to visit family in Berlin. When he loses the money his mother gave him he is sure the suspicious man on the train has stolen it, but can he go to the police without proof? When he meets a gang of streetwise kids in the city, Emil finds his own way to get justice in a funny, fast-paced adventure that’s as fresh now as it was when it was published in 1929.
  34. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl – Roald Dahl’s delicious fantasy, like the earliest fairy stories, has a cautionary tale contained inside. One by one, the children who have won the chance to meet the reclusive chocolate magnate Willy Wonka are punished for their brattishness. Dahl revels in the rich descriptions of each scene, every character and even the sad, squalid home life of the book’s anti-hero, the unassuming little Charlie Bucket.

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