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June 21, 2004


Alasdair Robinson

I'd also add C. S. Lewis' Narnia series to that list.


What, no Arthur Ransome or Richmal Crompton.

David Gillies

My personal list would have to include The Owl Service by John Garner and The Hunting of Wilberforce Pike by Molly Lefebure. I think I'd also count Carrie's War by Nina Bawden and Judith Kerr's When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. For me ten slots is insufficient.

Chris Goodman

Computer games, pop music, loutishness, fast food, and Harry Potter! The man is a fool (on this topic) and so are you (on this topic) if you feel the need to start applauding him. There are people who enjoy reading Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings. So what! Pollard does not seem to realise that whenever he returns to this hobby horse, the general reaction to his childish foot stamping is “Pollard - Nobody is forcing you to buy the books from the bookshop so get over it!” Thanks for your recommendations by the way. I always enjoy perusing lists of books recommended by people I (generally) respect. Since we live in a free society I look forward to reading them.


I loved Through the Looking Glass as a child - but I love math and I was lucky enough to have The Annotated Alice with annotations by Martin Gardner. Another two children's books that I love, both translated from Swedish, are The Glassblower's Children by Maria Gripe, and The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren (it's nothing like her Pippi books).

Jackie D

My personal favourite is A Pocketful of Seeds by Marilyn Sachs, about a Jewish girl in occupied France whose family is taken away by the Nazis while she's at school one day. Not the most cheerful book for children, but wonderfully written, I still re-read it at least once a year, usually in one sitting.

Dave T

Oy Oli noooooooooooo! Wot abat Narnia den? CS Lewis rocks man!

James Blish for teenage sc-fi...bliss!


I know every man has his own top ten (and I'm not familiar with most of these), but "Where the Wild Things Are" doesn't get a mention?

Tim Newman

I'll second the Richmal Crompton nomination. The humour contained in her books is as perceptive as anything I've found in adult literature.


Olly, I'm horrified. For such a devotee of the free market to grouse so enthusiastically about a conspicuous example of the success of a product in the market is a wee bit confusing. It's vaguely reminiscent of the French getting all upset about Hollywood motion pictures. They may not be that good for you but you'll just have to learn to live with them. Furthermore, I'll read what I choose on a train and I'll register my protest by going out this afternoon to buy a Harry Potter book to learn what a quidditch is.


Tove Jansson's Moomin series is (it seems to me) unjustly neglected - so here's my chance to plug it. I also recommend Russell Hoban's "The Mouse and his Child" for its great narrative and wonderful cast of characters. I read it years ago, but in my memory it holds up so strongly that I plan to re-read it (and thereby risk incurring the wrath of Pollard for indulging in pure pleasure). Robert O'Brien's "Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH" is also one I remember fondly.


Oh please tell me you've got for your kid(s) that modern classic, Bottersnikes and Gumbles.

There's two books in the series, and they are uttely hilarious in the way impossible to easily describe. Alot of the humour is in the plot-driven wars of wits between the two races and in the hijinks of the great characters, like the Bottersnike king, who's main qualification for leadership is the extra-thick skull that allows him to recieve blows to the head that would render a regular Bottersnike unconcious.

These books are brilliant, I recommend them.


I make no claims for any literary value in them but the two that I recall are

The Perfect Hamburger, Alexander McCall Smith - the same as the author of the Precious Ramotswe books and, I believe, long out of print. I did find the book a few months ago looking through some old boxes at my parents' house. It is a short, rather unexceptional children's book. I have no idea why I thought it so good when I was a child, but for some reason I remembered it twenty years later.

Rebecca's World, by Terry Nation. I recall very little about it other than I loved the thing. Again, it is long out of print and I only wish that I could find a copy of this in my parent's attic - not least because second hand copies sell for $250.

Andy Charlwood

Well done for leaving out Lewis Carroll. I never enjoyed these. I found the section where Alice drunk the potions which altered her size particularly terrifying - I can still remember the nightmares.

While I can see an argument for adding the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, I think that adding the whole 7 books of the Narnia series would be over the top.

Swallows and Amazons would also be a worthy addition.


In the end what counts is simply how well it is written. I'm not suggesting adults should start reading Meg and Mog, but people like Philip Pullman and Alan Garner produce work which stands up to any test. I've never read Harry Potter so I can't comment on those. As for Richmal Crompton and William I suspect that is more to do with nostalgia and Martin Jarvis' readings.


I'd certainly defend Richmal Crompton - courtesy of the shelving arrangements in my parents' downstairs lavatory, I suspect I (re-)read at least a couple of the William stories per year, and am invariably impressed all over again by the level of the vocabulary and the overall quality of the writing given the presumed target audience.

This is quite apart from them being invariably laugh-out-loud funny regardless of how many times I read them - not to mention educational: my first exposure to Hamlet was via a William story, not to mention my first detailed portrait of ordinary English lives during wartime.

As for Carroll, while I read the Alice books for the first time in childhood, I certainly agree that they have more to offer adults - and I don't think its any coincidence that the two most consistently impressive film adaptations (by Jonathan Miller in 1966 and Jan Svankmajer in 1988) are those that make the fewest concessions to younger audiences.

Ed Snack

Second,or is that third, the Alan Garner and Arthur Ransome nominations. I enjoyed AR as a child, but only discovered AG later. As a writer AG stands out I suggest. Narnia, "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" is possibly the most enjoyable. Ursla K Le Guin, Earthsea trilogy anyone, although the later additions are rather more adult fiction. Also an interesting book, Timpetill, by Henry Winterfield.


Lewis, Garner, Ian Seraillier's "The Silver Sword", Charles Kingsley's "the Water Babies" - read an unedited version - it's far more sophisticated that most people realise and an important part of social history. Kenneth Graham's " The Wind in the Willows", The chapter called "The piper at the gates of dawn" is superb writing. Pink Floyd devotees will recognise a track named after it. Richard Adams, "Watership Down" - read the book - not the film. I could go on, but the essence is a good story, well told. Even the simplest of books for children learning to read can be appreciated by an adult. It's a pretty lousy teacher who cannot communicate genuine enthusiasm when reading to children.


For me good childrens' literature (and movies) do something that adult equivalents rarely do: provide interesting stories and entertainment. Adult fare tends to focus on "issues" (especially psychological problems) that I couldn't care less about. It is generally boring, tedious and pathetically didactic. Odd that childrens' literature is often less didactic than the adult stuff, you would think it would be the other way around.


Grimble by Clement Frued - a glorious adventure set in various kitchens


Other commenters have got the essentials covered (Arthur Ransome and CS Lewis), but Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising sequence deserves adding to the pot.

I also went through a Famous Five phase at around 8. Not great literature by any stretch, but they were exciting stories.

Didn't anyone here enjoy Winnie the Pooh? I loved having it read to me when very tiny. And "A Near Thing for Captain Najork" is a cult classic.


What, no Hobbit?


"A Wrinkle in Time"
The Robert Heinlein juveniles, especially "Citizen of the Galaxy."

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