The Owl and the Pussycat
By Edward Lear, Amazon, £5.99
What’s the story: The absurd and fanciful verses of this poem has enchanted generations of readers, children and adults alike. Lear wrote the poem for a three-year-old girl, Janet Symonds, the daughter of Lear’s friend poet John Addington Symonds.
Why we love it: The richness of language and the comical and quirky characters amuse both the reader and the listener. Completely mad with rhymes galore. Whoever heard of an owl and a pussy cat falling in love and being married by a pig?!
First published: 2006 (poem first published in 1871)
The Sheep Pig
By Dick King-Smith, illustrated by Ann Kronheimer, published by Puffin, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: Babe is a runty little piglet taken away from his mother and siblings to be sold at a farmer’s fair. When Farmer Hogget wins him he is destined for fattening up and an eventual end on the dinner table. But brave Babe ducks away from death by learning new skills from his adoptive mother, Fly, the sheepdog.
Why we love it: Babe’s unique technique of speaking politely to the sheep will endear him to anyone. Funny and touching it’s just as delightful to read as it is to watch the 1995 film, which manages to stay very true to the text.
First published: 1983
By Jeff Brown, illustrated by Scott Nash, published by Egmont, RRP £3.99
What’s the story: After a billboard falls on top of him, squashing him flat, Stanley Lambchop lives a new and deliciously dotty life – being posted to California to visit an old school friend (so much more cheaper than buying a seat on a plane) to turning himself into a kite for his little brother. Stanley saves the day by catching a bunch of museum thieves by posing as a shepherdess in a painting. Not bad for a boy that’s only half an inch thick.
Why we love it: Anyone who’s read this book remembers it forever. This is a book which shows that heroes can come in all shapes and sizes (and widths).
First published: 1968
Just So Stories
By Rudyard Kipling, published by Puffin, RRP £6.99
What’s the story: These gorgeous, magical tales, explain how things came to be, including how the leopard got his spots and the camel his hump and the ingenious invention of the alphabet. Kipling’s compilation of very tender and often laughable stories has become firm favourites since they were first published over 100 years ago.
Why we love it: Kipling narrates the story as if he’s addressing one person, ‘best beloved’. He was in fact addressing his daughter Josephine who sadly died very young of pneumonia. Reading the stories to your own Best Beloved will be as touching as Kipling had meant them to be.
First published: 1902
The Magic Faraway tree
By Enid Blyton, illustrated by Jan McCafferty, published by Egmont, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: When Joe, Beth and Frannie take their cousin Rick on an adventure, they make sure it’s one he never forgets! They climb to the top of a magical tree and visit countless worlds. They have to escape from the Land of Dreams, things go wrong for them in the Land of Topsy-Turvy, and they find out who drives a runaway train in the Land of Do-As-You-Please.
Why we love it: you’ll revel in the pleasure of introducing this magical world and the memorable characters of Moonface, Saucepan Man and Silky the Fairy as well as savour the thoughts of ‘toffee shocks’ and ‘pop biscuits’.
First published: 1943
Her Mother’s Face
By Roddy Doyle, illustrated by Freya Blackwood, published by Scholastic, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: Siobhán misses her mother dearly. Since she’s been gone, she spends her days reminiscing about the time they spent together. She remembers her mother’s voice singing and her mother’s hands combing her hair, but no matter how hard Siobhán tries she can never see her mother’s face.
Why we love it: This is an affecting yet uplifting story, which deals with the difficult subject of love and loss. Enhanced by the soft images and colours throughout the pages, this is a thought provoking story that deserves to be read.
First published: 2009
A Bear Called Paddington
By Michael Bond, illustrated by Peggy Fortnum, published by Harper Collins, RRP £4.99
What’s the story: When Bond bought the last teddy bear on a shop shelf he was inspired to write about the adventures of the accident prone bear ‘from Darkest Peru’. Sitting on a suitcase at Paddington station with a tag around his neck which reads ‘Please look after this bear. Thank you’, the good intended Mr and Mrs Brown take him in to their home and their lives are never quite the same again. For ordinary things become quite extraordinary when a bear called Paddington is involved.
Why we love it: Paddington is truly a British institution. This is a favourite for all generations to read aloud or alone. Stephen Fry is a big fan saying he has ‘always had respect for Paddington’. You certainly will too.
First published: 1958
The Velveteen Rabbit
By Margery Williams, illustrated by William Nicholson, published by Egmont, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: The Velveteen Rabbit is a newcomer and asks the oldest and most knowledgeable of toys all the toys in the nursery, the Skin Horse, what it is to be ‘Real’. It’s not how you’re made but what happens to you. When a child loves you then you become real. And so begins the story of the Velveteen Rabbit and his quest to become ‘Real’ though the love of a child.
Why we love it: This plays with the idea that toys want to become real just as much as children do. The ending is poignant and significant – reality means something different for the rabbit than he anticipated, but it is a joyous happening nonetheless. The Skin Horse, the rabbit and the boy are all real, and serve as an extended parable on how right relationships can overcome much adversity.
First published: 1922
By Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake, published by Puffin, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: Mr and Mrs Twit are dreadful and disgusting. They love nothing more than wallowing in their filthy habits and playing cruel tricks on each other. So the Muggle-Wump monkeys and the Roly-Poly bird hatch a clever plan to give the ghastly duo their just-desserts!
Why we love it: This is one of Dahl’s shorter books making it perfect for a children aged six to tackle on their own. There’ll be woops and cheers as the nastiest couple in children’s literature get their final comeuppance and get ‘the shrinks’.
First published: 1980
By J.M. Barrie, published by Puffin, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: From the moment Peter Pan and his irritable fairy friend, Tinker Bell, fly through the window of the Darling children’s nursery, the story immediately casts a magic spell over the rest of the story. Carried away to Neverland, Wendy, John and Michael meet the Lost Boys, some shy mermaids, Red Indians and the dreadful Captain Hook and his wicked pirate band.
Why we love it: The childlike world of Neverland appeals and intrigues both children and adults. The story was originally a Christmas play that received such immense success that Barrie soon turned the story into a novel so children could enjoy it all year round. This is a book to read to your child on quiet nights in a softly lit bedroom. Get ready to clap our hands if you believe in fairies!
First published: 1911