To kick start our new feature we couldn’t think of a more perfect person to ask than the lady who compiled 1001 Children’s Books: You Must Read Before You Grow Up , Julia Eccleshare. Julia is a writer, broadcaster and lecturer as well as Children’s Books Editor of the Guardian newspaper and Co-director of the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education. She won the Eleanor Farjeon Award 2000 in recognition of her outstanding contribution to children’s books.
Julia has probably read every children’s book out there, so I’m particularly excited to present her top ten ….
The Baby’s Catalogue — Janet and Allan Ahlberg
Close observations of beautifully drawn babies sleeping, dressing, eating and playing make this a wonderful insight into the world of the very young. With only a few words of text, the pictures say everything eloquently and affectionately.
Mister Magnolia — Quentin Blake
Exuberant humour infuses this sublimely anarchic story about the cheerful Mr Magnolia who seems to mind little that he has only one boot. Quentin Blake’s rhyming text and his vigorous illustrations make this book memorable.
Mr Gumpy’s Outing — John Burningham
Elegant illustrations in soothing greens and creams capture the watery landscape of this delightful story as it builds to its satisfying climax. The bad behave of the animals who cause the boat to tip is fun and the resolution of a comforting tea is delightful.
Ug : Boy Genius Of The Stone Age — Raymond Briggs
A reflective picture book which celebrates Ug, a boy living in the stone age who wants to live a better and more comfortable life. Ug yearns for soft trousers, a soft football, to give flowers to his mother and many other things we take for granted. Ug’s enquiry is both entertaining and thought provoking.
Where The Wild Things Are — Maurice Sendak
How Max, sent to his room because of his bad behaviour, joins the Wild Things for a ‘rumpus’ is a wonderful adventure which, without spelling it out, also captures the dynamics of a child’s temper tantrum and how it tests a parent. Glorious illustrations allow Max to explore his feelings with only a minimum of description.
The Shrinking of Treehorn — Florence Parry Heide
Treehorn knows he is shrinking but his parents think he is making it up. The result is a wonderfully funny story in which readers, siding entirely with Treehorn, believe him while the parents have a very different story of their own.
Charlotte’s Web — E.B White
How a spider leads a campaign to save the life of Wilbur the pig is a touching story of friendship. E. B. White captures the spirit of the farmyard while also giving his animals the power of speech and the ability to make good decisions.
Tom’s Midnight Garden — Philippa Pearce
How Tom, living nowadays, meets up with Hatty, a little girl who lived in the house many years earlier, is a beautiful story about friendship and play in childhood which makes the point that growing up is a good too.
Warrior Scarlet — Rosemary Sutcliff
Rosemary Sutcliff had an exceptional ability to bring the past to life; in Warrior Scarlet it is the Bronze Age. Drem needs to kill a wolf to become a man of the tribe. How he first fails and then succeeds in doing so despite his withered arm is a moving story about overcoming adversity.
Northern Lights (His Dark Materials) — Philip Pullman
It is impossible not to be inspired by Philip Pullman’s rich cast of characters Lyra, Will, Mrs Coulter, Lord Asriel and the armoured bear Iorek Byrnison as they play their various roles in this mighty story about good and evil and the search for understanding of the mysterious Dust.