When it comes to children’s literature, you can’t beat the classics. Each generation gets a chance to explore the world of Narnia or experience seeing the world through Matilda or Jo March’s eyes. Even if you’re an adult reader, don’t discount the delight of returning to your old favourites - they are classics for a reason!
Read on for our top 5 classic children’s books….
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Secret Garden’s young protagonist is sent away to live with her frosty uncle after the death of her family. Alone in a crumbling mansion in Yorkshire, she is told by a chambermaid of a secret garden, untouched since the death of her uncle’s wife.
For readers who love gothic stories with surprisingly creepy twists, The Secret Garden unfolds thrillingly.
Aside from the gripping plot, the story has a realistic and lovable protagonist. Initially sickly and disagreeable, Mary learns to be brave and independent. Mostly left to her own devices, she must make friends and solve the mysteries of the mansion by herself.
Despite dealing with difficult themes like illness and death, The Secret Garden has a fantastical ending that will delight younger readers too.
My favourite Secret Garden quotes...
2. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
With an over saturation of movies, cartoons and other related paraphernalia, it might be easy to overlook the books that have spawned so much media. Yet Carroll’s books remain weird and wonderful, hilarious and also genuinely terrifying at times.
The books are great fun to read aloud, can be read from cover to cover, or just your favourite stories. Like The Secret Garden’s Mary, Alice finds herself alone in a strange and unsettling place a long way from home. With tenacity and courage, she makes friends and has wonderful adventures and eventually finds her way home. Younger readers will delight at the silly and fantastical humour and older readers will appreciate the darker elements and clever word-play.
My favourite Lewis Carroll quotes...
3. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Whilst routinely criticised and castigated for some of the themes, Lewis’ Narnia series remains a firm favourite for each new generation of children. It would seem that they love reading about children navigating fearsome challenges in unfamiliar settings. Like Alice, the Pevensie children find a portal to a strange fantasy world. They must battle formidable challenges and summon their bravest selves.
While some of the language and themes may be old fashioned, new readers who love fantasy stories will find the series is still magical. The series starts with The Magician’s Nephew, many readers are introduced through the series’ most popular book, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
Some of my favourite C.S. Lewis quotes...
4. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Some may associate this book with slightly older readers, but children of all ages can appreciate this beautifully written story. Jo, the main protagonist, is feisty and independent. She fights with her sisters, Meg, Amy and Beth, and loves to write. It is the story of her growing up and becoming her own person and finding her way in the world. She is unable to be anyone but herself and that sometimes means her life is difficult. But with fierceness and her family’s love, she is able to actualise her dream of becoming a writer.
With some more adult themes and older characters, Little Women is a great book for parents and children to read together. And if you are grown and haven’t read it in many years, why not pick it up again? While for many this the ultimate comfort read, you may be surprised at how modern and refreshing it is as well.
My favourite Little Women quotes..
5. Matilda by Roald Dahl
Matilda might be the star of children's literature. A solitary, clever child, Matilda is belittled by her ignorant parents and belittled by cruel teachers. A voracious reader, she escapes through books. But reading isn't her only super-power...
Not without Dahl's signature blend of frights and delights, Matilda is the perfect book for young readers who are just starting out. It is exciting with some fantastical elements with a satisfying and heart-warming ending. Forever inseparable now are Quentin Blake's charming illustrations, who bring the story's spiky characters to life.
My Favourite Matilda Quotes...
“The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives. She went on olden-day sailing ships with Joseph Conrad. She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling. She travelled all over the world while sitting in her little room in an English village.”