Each mention may contain spoilers.
Since I was a child I’ve found solace in books, spending most of my free time within the stories of my favourite authors. After reaching adulthood, I feel it’s time to return to these tales and reminisce of school holidays past. So, in no particular order, here are some of my favourite books as a child.
Shrinking Violet by Jean Ure
Genre: Children’s, Young Adult, Fiction, Contemporary
The story follows twins (shrinking) Violet and (Tiger) Lily, who are polar opposites in character. Lily is a bold, striking character, known for being popular in school and always out socialising, whereas Violet is quiet and finds most things daunting. However, she eventually finds herself a pen pal, Katie, and manages to come out of her shell.
As a child I loved this book, relating to Violet’s character easily and finding comfort in her tale as she spoke of school troubles and sibling rivalry. I remember returning to this book multiple times, having always kept it under my bed, where most of my favourite books were for easy access, and rereading a few of the letters exchanged between the pair on numerous occasions. Also, the animated cover and my love for purple as a child made me love the book even more.
Angels Unlimited: Heavenly Collection by Annie Dalton
Genre: Children’s, Young Adult, Science Fiction, Paranormal, Angels, Time Travel
This edition of the ‘Angels Unlimited’ series featured the first three books; Winging It, Losing The Plot, and Flying High; each a continuation of the last. The books follow Melanie Beeby, a victim of a fatal traffic accident, who awakes in Angel Academy – in heaven. Heaven is populated by human-turned-angels such as herself, and Pure Angels, in a vibrant city. It is there she becomes a trainee for the Angel Agency, an elite group whose job is to counter the Opposition, or Power of Darkness.
Remembering the plot now seems a little dark for something I’d read as a child, however, I’ve always had an interest in books which feature an afterlife of some sort, and I adored this series as a kid. Although, I never read further than the third instalment, I felt it was a worthy mention here due to the numerous times I’d reread this collection. The first few chapters, which featured Melanie’s passing and interactions with her family, are ones I remember well, loving how Annie Dalton wrote the protagonists death and journey to Heaven.
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Genre: Young Adult, Children’s, Humour
This modern classic follows the story of Matilda Wormwood, a six year old in a neglectful home, who sought escapism in books and how she got revenge on those around her. Her Mother and Father found her interest in books disgraceful, and her headteacher had a hatred for children altogether. The only person who seems to notice her potential was her school teacher, Miss Honey, who was dealing with similar struggles of her own.
I remember loving this book as a kid, being full of excitement as I read about a child who had a similar passion for reading as myself. Although, I didn’t have as much as an interest in any other books by Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake’s illustrations putting me off on multiple occasions – I assume they were too harsh and unusual to others I was lured to. However, Matilda’s revenge story was something I always returned to, loving Miss Honey’s character and how she overcame the dreaded Miss Trunchbull. The 1996 film adaptation of the book was also another factor for my love of the tale, having spent multiple evening curled up watching it.
Family Poems & Spooky Poems by Jennifer Curry
Genre: Children’s, Poetry
Both written by Jennifer Curry, both ‘Family Poems’ and ‘Spooky Poems’ are poetry anthologies written for children revolving around the themes mentioned in the titles; family relationships and lighthearted horror.
As a child I adored these collections, having picked them up at a Book Fair held by my primary school and are still in my possession to this day. Each poem is so simplistic yet effective in their own way, showing different poetry techniques throughout. There were multiple occasions where I’d read a poem to my family and friends, and the memory of being asked to recite one in front of my class at school is still clear in my mind. I’m a firm believer that Jennifer Curry’s anthologies are one of the many reasons why I’m not pursuing a career as a writer and would recommend these books to everyone, regardless of your age.
The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Fiction
Harry Potter is a seven book series about a young boy who attends a school of Witchcraft and Wizardry, while also defeating Lord Voldemort on the side – the most evil wizard who ever lived.
I don’t think there’s a 90’s child alive whose heart hasn’t been touched by this series, whether it be from the books or film adaptations. I first read this series when I was very young, having taken it from my parents book collection, and haven’t put it down since. As a child, I always took it with me to recite during Guided Reading, so much that my name is written in pink glitter Gel Pen on the inside cover. There’s now three editions of the entire series in my household, and regardless of how long it’s been since the series completion, the story never gets old. Although, I love the movies and have a few collections of them dotted around, it’s nowhere near as magical as the books to me; the characters always seem to have more spark, and the world creates more excitement than anything Warner Bros created.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Children’s, Fiction, Classics
This edition of ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ features three of the classic series; The Magicians Nephew, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Horse and His Boy. It’s set in the fantasy realm of Narnia, a world inhabited by magic, mythical beasts and talking animals, which four children find themselves stumbling into and discover its history.
I was first introduced to this series as a very young child, I believe I was around eight years old, when my school played the BBC adaptation of ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ (1990) and I fell in love with the world. Although, I’ve read the three instalments many times, I fell in love with the first, finding Lucy’s character relatable and Susan’s maturity inspiring. I remember not being too fond of Edmund or Peter, their characters too foolish on multiple occasions for me to understand, especially the fight scene and Edmund’s betrayal.
Horrible Histories by Terry Deary
Genre: Non-fiction, Children’s, Historical
These illustrated history books were designed to make education fun for children, by discussing the most gory and unpleasant moments of history with tongue-in-cheek type humour as an easy and effective way for children to remember it.
I owned too many of these books to count when I was a child, my parents insisting on buying me them the moment I saw interest; it’s not everyday that a little girl finds intense interest in historical non-fiction. I doubt I’d have willingly spent hours reading about important moments in history if it wasn’t for Terry Deary’s humour .With added alliteration in each title, it’s so difficult to not be immediately intrigued. I remember countless moments reading at the early hours in the morning, a hand over my mouth to suppress laughter in fear of my family waking up. The illustrations are beautiful and easy to read along to, yet not enough to distract a child from the information being fed to them. It doesn’t matter what age you are either, I still find myself learning new things while rereading a few chapters, or spending some free time watching the BBC adapted series (2009); I’ll always be jealous of those who took History as a GCSE and were allowed to watch it in lessons.
A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult
‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ narrates the lives of three siblings orphaned after a fatal house fire, sent from relative to relative in hopes of escaping Count Olaf, who threatens to steal the family fortune.
This series has a very special place in my heart, having adored it after watching the 2004 film adaptation, staring Jim Carrey. Although, I’m still yet to complete the full thirteen series, the majority of what I’ve read still deserves a mention in this list. The narration itself is beautifully cryptically written, full of dark humour and backwards logic as Lemony Snicket insists that readers not read this book, that it’s too scary to read, and as a nine year old who loved everything a little creepy, I read them immediately. Violet Baudelaire was a huge inspiration to me as a child, as she was the eldest of the siblings and it’s her inventions that protect her family on multiple occasions. I loved her strong personality and ability to look after her brother’s without an adults assistance, and I desperately wanted to be like her. Plus, her dress in the film was beautiful!
The Saga of Darren Shan by Darren Shan
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, Vampires, Young Adult
The twelve book series follows the life of Darren Shan, a young boy who after attending a mysterious freak show leads him down a dark path of Vampirism.
Darren Shan’s writing has been a huge inspiration to me for years, adoring his storytelling and this series in particular. I loved reading the entire twelve, getting lost in the dark world yet finding the Vampire’s lifestyle and being a part of the cirque enticing. Larten Crepsley was someone I loved from the first mention, him becoming a role model to Darren and although, it was his cruelty that led him to life as a vampire, he didn’t leave him to suffer alone. However, my all time favourite character was Evra Von, a snake boy who grew up as part of the Cirque. The main reason for my love of him was his progression throughout the twelve books, watching him grow into an adult until eventually having a family of those alike him of his own.
However, the film adaption of the first book was disappointing and something I completely ignore, I adore this series, and will always recommend it.
Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya
Genre: Sequential Art, Manga, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
‘Fruits Basket’, a twenty-three book series, tells the story of Tohru Honda, an orphan, who moves in with Shigure, Yuki, and Kyo Sohma, after they found her living in a tent on their estate. She soon learns of the family curse, that twelve members of the Sohma family are possessed by the Chinese Zodiac and transform into the animals whenever they’re weak, stressed or embraced by a member of the opposite sex.
Although, this series isn’t necessarily suitable for children, due to the strong language on multiple occasions, I still found myself reading it frequently. ‘Fruits Basket’ was the series that introduced me to manga, and there was multiple occasions where I’d doodle the characters across my school books. I love all the characters and their overall elegance within the series, yet their backstories broke my heart on multiple occasions. Growing up with this story, alongside their characters, was comforting, as their design ages them as they move through high school to the finale. Kyo and Tohru’s relationship was beautiful to watch form, their character’s protecting another in different yet somewhat similar ways. I love, love, love this series and I always reread it in times of anxiety.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Short Story, Classics
‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ is a short story that narrates the life of a man who ages backwards, starting life old and already fully capable of speech, yet as the years go by he becomes younger, experiencing war, running a business, falling in love, attending college and school, and as his mind dissolves, returns to the care of his nurse.
I’m fully aware of the target-audience of this short story, however, I have very fond memories of this as a child. I first picked this up at a charity fair my primary school were holding when I was very young, having been attracted to the title and cover. Although, the woman in charge of the stall told me how complex the language was in the book and advised I chose something a little further down the table, I insisted on it, hating the thought of not understanding something and wanting to prove her wrong. I remember having to reread it a few times to understand it, having been in the single digit ages back then, however, I managed it and loved the tale. The concept is still something that deeply interests me today, loving the idea of someone ageing backwards and attempting to cope with the struggles that comes with it, and the beautiful language as a whole. Even now, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing is some of my favourite, and I’m so proud I started reading his work so young.