A novel I’m reading had me thinking about my favourite children’s books.

The first book that excited me, learning to read at infants school, had a story about a thunderstorm. I forget the rest, but it was an adventure. I devoured adventure stories after that.
My list (alphabetical, by author) spans from 1865 to 1978 – what made old fiction so exciting was that children COULD have adventures, go wherever they pleased, solve mysteries and defeat the bad-guy grown-ups – all without adult supervision.

  • Margaret Baker. Castaway Christmas. Three resourceful children stranded in an isolated cottage by flooding.
  • Paul Berna. A Hundred Million Francs. An adventure which introduced me to France.
  • Enid Blyton. St Clares and Mallory Towers. No doubt upset a lot of parents, when their daughters informed them : “I want to go away to boarding school”. Based on it being all midnight feasts and adventures.
  • Michael Bond. Who doesn’t love Paddington?!
  • Frances Hodgson Burnett. The Secret Garden. Magical. (Should she be under ‘H’?).
  • Lewis Carroll. I read both Alice books I don’t know how many times. And hated the Disney cartoon for mangling the two and adding bits. Like Alice needed extra bits!
  • Alan Garner. The Owl Service. Which introduced me to the Mabinogion.
  • Norman Hunter. Professor Branestawm. Had me laughing out loud when I was little.
  • Captain WE Johns. I must admit I used to think of the Second World War as a big adventure! My favourite character was Ginger.
  • E Nesbit. The Railway Children, and the ‘Five Children’ series, The House of Arden (time travel!). But most lasting for me, The Wonderful Garden. Because that introduced me to the language of flowers, which still means a lot today.
  • Beatrix Potter. The first stories Mum read to me. And among the first that I read as a parent.
  • Malcolm Saville. I really loved the Lone Pine series, especially the ones set in Rye (The Gay Dolphin Adventure, and Rye Royal). I even wrote to him, when I was little, via a publisher, and he took the time to reply. I’d said pretty much what I’ve typed here, adding helpfully: “…except Sea Witch, which was boring”!!
  • Desmond Skirrow. The Case of the Silver Egg. An adventure which made science seem cool!
  • Catherine Storr. Marianne Dreams. Aged eight, off school sick with something, someone gave Dad a box of old books for me and this one, being about a girl who is confined to bed with illness, naturally struck a chord.
  • The Three Investigators (various authors). Introduced me to Sherlock Holmes, and Alfred Hitchcock. The one that stands out is The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot.

And as a parent…

Along with some of the above:
JK Rowling. Need I say more?
Fireman Sam and Postman Pat: the books from the TV series.
Along with Thomas the Tank Engine, which of course started out as books.
As did The Wombles (Elizabeth Beresford).
And I used to be able to recite Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar off by heart!

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