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Books for children

From 6 months to 12 years
RE | Issue 15 | 2019

 

Can you recommend any books for children from six months to twelve years old? Once you start, it’s hard to stop. I still have collections of nursery rhymes and folk tales and poems for children on my shelves from years ago. All I have space to mention here is a bear of very little brain, Winnie-the-Pooh; and the poet Michael Rosen; and the illustrator Alan Marks. Oh yes, and Rosie & Jim. And the writer Shirley Hughes. And the Ahlbergs. The Borrowers. Thomas the Tank Engine. Professor Astro Cat. Yuri Norstein’s Hedgehog in the Fog. The Iron Man. And for the grown-ups, Lucy Mangan’s memoir, BookwormThe Editor

 

 

ALMOST EVERYBODY FARTS

Marty Kelley (writer/illustrator)
(Sterling Children’s Books, 2017)

The title of this book says it all. This is one that should be reserved for the silly times, which for Maeve is always! The book was actually a gift from her little friend who picked it because ‘Maeve is always up for a good, loud laugh.’ The illustrations are very good—adding to the general silliness. Lisa Cabel, Toronto (selected by 6-year old Maeve)

 

ANNE OF GREEN GABLES

L. M. Montgomery 
(L.C. Page & Co,. 1908; V&A Collector’s edn, Puffin Classics, 2017)

A well-written, evocative story of a young girl who has a rough start as an orphan but whose spirit, wit and high intelligence sees her win the hearts of her reluctant adoptive parents and the society around her. Written in 1908 by Lucy Maud Montgomery and set on Prince Edward Island in Canada. Allison Chong, Melbourne (eighteen nieces and nephews)

 

BUBBLEGUM DELICIOUS

Dennis Lee (poet) and David McPhail (illustrator) 
(Key Porter Books, 2000)

Dennis Lee is a Canadian poet best known for his children’s classic, Alligator Pie. This particular collection of poems takes you on a whimsical reading journey and has some great illustrations. There are poems for the silly at heart (‘Goober and Guck’) and for the romantics (‘If Lonesome Was a Pot of Gold’). Lee’s rhythmic style makes this collection fun for both the reader and those being read to. My son has enjoyed these poems since the age of two and will, I’m sure, come back to it in the years to come. Keya Dasgupta, Toronto (5-year-old son)


BUSY, BUSY WORLD

Richard Scarry (writer/illustrator)
(Golden Books, 1965; 50th anniversary edn, Random House, 2015)

A classic from my childhood. Richard Scarry takes you around the world in a series of short, silly stories. Thirty-three countries and thirty-three characters. I still have my original copy! leur Shaw-Jones, Melbourne (7-year-old son, Christian)

 

CAR-JACKED

Ali Sparkes 
(OUP Oxford, 2015)

The truly gripping, exciting story of a twelve-year-old boy who makes an unlikely friend when they should be enemies! Dawn Hayes, London (selected and reviewed by 11-year-old son, Maxim)

 

DIE HÄSCHENSCHULE

Albert Sixtus (writer) and Fritz Koch-Gotha (illustrator) 
(Alfred Hahn, 1924; Esslinger Verlag, 2009)

A 95-year-old classic. (The English translation might not be that old.) In English, A Day at Bunny School. Andrea Spellerberg, Munich

 

DIE WIMMELBÜCHER

Ali Mitgutsch (illustrator/writer) 
(series, Ravensburger Buchverlag, 1968—)

Best picture books ever. No text, just huge pictures, with endless details to discover (also for the grown-ups): pictures of daily life in the 1960s and ‘70s, in town, in the countryside, in the mountains and at the sea. Look for the skiing scenes and the kissing boys in the 1960s chairlift. The series started with Rundherum in meiner Stadt. A joy to explore. Andrea Spellerberg, Munich

 

DOG MAN

Dav Pilkey (writer/illustrator) 
(series, Scholastic, 2016—)

Dav Pilkey (the creator of Captain Underpants) is still writing this series of tales about a half man/half dog police officer and his misadventures with an Evil Cat. The stories are written and illustrated in comic book style (‘graphic novel’ in today’s speak) so the content is easily digestible for kids who are learning to read and reluctant to try on their own. They encouraged my son Liam to start reading; and the humour kept him interested. Liam wishes to point out that the characters include a strict Police Chief, an actor, a news lady (reporter) and the not-so-smart security guard easily and absurdly foiled by a kitten. Lisa Cabel, Toronto (selected by 8-year-old Liam)

 

GO, DOG. GO!

P.D. Eastman (writer/illustrator) 
(Random House, 1961—)

This book is full of dogs. Big dogs, little dogs, red dogs, green dogs, blue dogs and yellow dogs, dogs going fast, dogs going slow, dogs in cars, dogs going up, dogs going down, dogs sleeping and dogs playing, but best of all a dog PARTY! It is a fun book for babies and young readers alike. I remember this book from my own childhood and have read it to all of my own kids who have each loved the dog fun, culminating in a slight puppy obsession for everyone! Georgina Hey, Sydney

 

HARRY POTTER

J.K. Rowling 
(series, Bloomsbury, 1997–)

Each and every night, when it came time for the bedtime story, I was obliged by my firstborn to read her the full adventures of Harry Potter. His life in Hogwarts, his struggle to defeat He Who Must Not Be Named—I read my daughter all 1,084,170 words out loud, over the course of what felt like centuries. Why should I be the only parent to know such suffering? Seven masterly books: nuanced, layered storytelling. Highly recommended. John Kim, Vancouver/Singapore (two children, 8 and 12)


HAVE SPACESUIT—WILL TRAVEL

Robert Heinlein 
(Scribner’s, 1958, 1st edn; Del Rey, 1981; New English Library, 1987)

In this late 1950s piece by a noted science fiction writer (and engineer), the young male hero acquires an old space suit, repairs it, and becomes caught up in an extra-terrestrial adventure. The novel deals with plenty of science fiction images, but also takes on some pretty interesting ideas—evolution of species, judgment of others and genocide (indirectly), and ends with the hero returning to Earth with valuable mathematical insights to benefit humanity. The hero heads off to college to be an engineer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology aka MIT. This is an easy read by a talented writer. Recommended for anyone who is nine years old. Josh Agrons, Houston

 

HOLES

Louis Sachar 
(Bloomsbury, 2000)

The story of a boy who unfortunately has to endure an old family curse that gets him into unbearable pain and trouble. Dawn Hayes, London (selected and reviewed by 11-year-old son, Maxim)

 

I WANT MY HAT BACK

Jon Klassen (illustrator/writer)
(Walker Books, 2012; board book edn 2018)

This was a firm favourite during the pre-school and ‘learning to read’ years. Simple repetition for the kids, quirky but cool illustrations, and a dark twist at the end—what’s not to like? Katie Knight, London  (7-year-old daughter, Eva; and 6-year-old son, William)


KIDNAPPED

Robert Louis Stevenson 
(Young Folks magazine, 1886; var. publishers incl. Vintage, 2012; Usborne, 2016 )

This historical novel captures the feel, if not the precise chronological events, of Jacobite political conflicts and controversies in mid-eighteenth century Scotland. It tells the story of David Balfour, a young man denied his inheritance by a scheming uncle, who is kidnapped to be sold into slavery, escapes, and by his adventures comes into his fortune. Along the way, Balfour must learn among other things the meaning of justice, and that good friends may none the less have profoundly differing views of politics and religion. This is a great tale for children of ten and up to read by themselves; or catch them younger and read it to them. Josh Agrons, Houston

 

KITCHEN DISCO

Clare Foges (writer) and Al Murphy (illustrator) 
(Faber & Faber, 2015)

Comedy illustrations and words that get the resident grown-up rapping against your will—the problem with this one is that nobody is up for bedtime by the end of it! Katie Knight, London (7-year-old daughter, Eva; and 6-year-old son, William)


LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

Alice Schertle (writer) and Jill McElmurry (illustrator) 
(series, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008—)

This is a great book for younger children. It tells the story—in rhyme—of a large ‘bully’ dump truck who gets stuck in the mud. The little blue truck, who is a kind little truck, goes to help the big dump truck, but he too gets stuck! When his friends (from horse to toad) come to rescue him, the dump truck learns a valuable lesson about being kind to others, no matter how busy and important you may be. Lisa Cabel, Toronto (selected by 6-year-old Maeve)

 

PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS

Rick Riordan 
(series, Disney Hyperion, 2005—)

Full immersion in the vast and complex world of Greek mythology. My son James is an avid reader and loved all five books in the series. There’s a lot of text to read here—ideal for kids with a vivid imagination and a strong vocabulary. Percy Jackson is the demigod son of a mortal (Sally Jackson) and the Greek god Poseidon. My son James says that the writing is ‘very funny’ and the stories are ‘cool’ because they change up Greek mythology in a way that is fun. As James tells it, ‘the real stories are not funny, so this is a better way for kids to learn’! Lisa Cabel, Toronto (selected by 9-year-old James)

 

PIPPI LONGSTOCKING

Astrid Lindgren
(Rabén & Sjögren, illustrations by Ingrid vang Nyman, 1945; OUP gift edn, illustrations by Lauren Child, 2010)

All the Pippi and Lotta stories by the Swedish writer Astrid Lindgren are beautifully written and funny. Andrea Spellerberg, Munich

 

SCARLETT AND THE SCRATCHY MOON

Chris McKimmie (writer/illustrator) 
(Allen & Unwin, 2013)

The ‘one and only’ Chris McKimmie: is in fact my fabulous dad. This is the story of a young child (my second daughter), the loss of two much loved family dogs (my own) and the comfort that is offered by her favourite toys (which she still sleeps with every night). The theme of loss and renewal is universal, and particularly striking when viewed through the eyes of a young child. Dylan McKimmie, Perth


SNUGGLEPOT AND CUDDLEPIE

May Gibbs (writer/illustrator) 
(Angus & Robertson, 1918—; HarperCollins (Australia) deluxe edn, 1990)

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, little gumnut brothers, go in search of a human and meet new bush friends along the way. As a child living in rural Australia, I believed the bush was alive with these characters! Jenny Leslie, London (three nieces, 2 and 5 [twins])

 

THE BAD GUYS

Aaron Blabey (writer/illustrator)
(series, Scholastic Australia, 2015—)

Meet Mr Wolf. Mr Shark. Mr Snake. Mr Piranha—a tough gang of scary-looking animals trying to change their bad reputations. They’ll do anything to be heroes. I cannot wait for episode nine. (And they’re making a movie!) Fleur Shaw-Jones, Melbourne (7-year-old son, Christian)

 

THE GRUFFALO

Julia Donaldson (writer) and Axel Scheffler (illustrator) 
(Macmillan, 1999–)

I probably know The Gruffalo off by heart. It was the first book I read to my daughter in my quest to get her to sleep better—and then read to her every night before bed for six months. It’s fun, simple to read and not too long, with lovely illustrations. Before she could understand the story properly, my daughter simply enjoyed the rhythm and rhyme of it, plus Mummy doing daft voices. Laura Louw, London (two children, 9 months and 2 years)

 

THE LITTLE PRINCE

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (writer/illustrator) 
(translation from French by Katherine Woods) Reynal & Hitchcock, 1943; Gallimard, 1945; Egmont incl. Heritage edn, 2013) 

Le Petit Prince. Another classic. Andrea Spellerberg, Munich


THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER

Mark Twain 
(James R. Osgood, 1881/1882; Simon & Schuster, 2006) 

This charming nineteenth-century writing also carries some meaningful messages. A prince and a pauper switch places in society. Mark Twain takes a hard look at social inequality, and helps the reader to see that judging someone by how they look is profoundly misguided. Though written for children, with some wonderful illustrations, the book takes on some provocative topics. Josh Agrons, Houston

 

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

Soman Chainani
(series, HarperCollins, 2013–)

Alice in Wonderland meets The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Sleeping Beauty meets The Walking Dead. The Princess Diaries meets Game of Thrones. What’s not to like? Only those with a macabre sense of humour and an appreciation for inspired lunacy need apply for this ride. John Kim, Vancouver/Singapore (two children, 8 and 12)

 

THE SHAPE-SHIFTER: STIRRING THE STORM

Ali Sparkes 
(series, Oxford University Press/OUP, 2016—) 

A story packed full of excitement, drama and crime. There is only one person who can stop the evil head-teacher from committing his worst crime yet! Warning: this book is the fifth in the series of six books. Dawn Hayes, London (selected and reviewed by 11-year-old son, Maxim)


THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA

Judith Kerr (writer/illustrator) 
(HarperCollins, 1968–)

A favourite of mine as a child, I rediscovered this recently. Even though it seems a bit old-fashioned (who has ‘a boy from the grocer’ come round anymore?), my daughter loves the idea of a tiger coming by to eat all the buns and drink all the water straight out of the tap! I was sad to hear of Judith Kerr’s death this year. She has left us a lasting legacy. Laura Louw, London (two children, 9 months and 2 years)

 

TOOT, TOOT, BOOM! LISTEN TO THE BAND

Surya Sajnani (writer/illustrator) 
(Wee Gallery, 2017; QED Publishing 2017)

A press-and-listen board book: what’s not to like?! Simple illustrations, minimal words and great sounds combine to create this cornucopia of fun for toddlers. The result? My two-year-old niece, Maddie, is ‘in a band with Daddy’! ‘Off’ switch included—the book, not Maddie. Jenny Leslie, London (three nieces, 2 and 5 [twins])

 

WAR HORSE

Michael Morpurgo 
(Kaye & Ward, 1982, 1st edn; commemorative edn, Egmont, 2014)

I read this to my son, then aged ten. It’s about a horse in the First World War; but it’s actually about the greatest of friendships, the depths of loss, and the curative power of kindness. I sobbed my way through the final chapters. My son was oblivious to the sadness (a relief, really) but thoroughly enjoyed the story. Lily McMyn, Singapore (three children, 8, 11 and 12)


WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE

Joan G. Robinson 
(Collins, 1967, 1st edn; HarperCollins, 2014)

Anna, orphaned and lonely, is sent to live with an elderly couple in Norfolk, on the east coast of England. Her days are carefree, but friendless—until she meets Marnie. But who is Marnie? A thoroughly charming read, oozing magic and mystery. Now also a Studio Ghibli film (with the story transposed to Hokkaido) directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, whose previous work includes The Secret World of Arrietty—but that’s another story. Read the book before you watch the film. Let the story on the pages work its way into the child’s imagination. Jenny Leslie, London (three nieces, 2 and 5 [twins])


First published in RE: issue 15 (2019)