You’re a Bad Man, Mr Gum
By Andy Stanton, illustrated by David Tazzyman, published by Egmont, RRP £4.99
What’s the story: Mr Gum, for lack of a better word, is a horror. He’s a bad tempered old man who has an angry fairy living in his bathtub. This book is all about him, and the angry fairy, and a dog named Jake who has a habit of leaving a ‘little gift’ in your garden and a little girl who has a very long name, but is more commonly known to everyone as Polly.
Why we love it: This splendid book and the others that follow it will leave you crying with laughter and unable to speak. It’s got big jokes, little jokes, jokes that you don’t realise are jokes unless you pay attention, and jokes that hit you over the head and say ‘look at me, I’m a joke!’
First published: 2006
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
By Kate Di Camillo, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline, published by Walker, RRP £6.99
What’s the story: Edward Tulane is a china rabbit that is adored by Abilene. Treated with the utmost care, he is an item of pride and joy. And then, one day, he becomes lost, and so begins the very long and weary journey of Edward Tulane where he ends up at the bottom of the sea, then months later is rescued by a fisherman and ends up in a pink dress with ruffles. Edward Tulane ends up going on many travels for years to come until finally he ends up in the place where he’s reunited with a lost loved one.
Why we love it: This book offers a wonderful glimmer of hope to any child (and grown-up) that has lost a cherished toy. They can be found even if it’s years later when you’re all grown up.
First published: 2006
By P.L. Travers, illustrated by Mary Shepard, published by Harper Collins, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: You’re probably more familiar with the all singing, all dancing Disney film of the same title. But the book is just as wonderful, if not more – just don’t expect the twinkly eyed Julie Andrews Mary. This one can be quite harsh and lacking in tenderness. Jane and Michael Banks find out straight away that their new nanny is like no other they’ve had before. She slides up the banisters, unpacks endless amounts of items from her empty carpet bag and talks to the starlings outside the nursery window.
Why we love it: Mary Poppins is the good fairy for whom we all seek to find. The book manages to be frightening and sad as well as full of magic and fun. There are some valuable lessons for children and adults to learn. There are some laugh-out-loud moments and some chapters that will make the tears flow.
First published: 1934
Finn Family Moomintroll
By Tove Jansson (translated by Elizabeth Portch), published by Puffin, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: They may be small, fat and shy hippo-like creatures, but that doesn’t stop the Moomins and friends from having the most amazing adventures. It all begins when Moomin finds a tall black hat that makes exciting and funny things happen. The stories of the Moomins have a timeless quality to them. Fantasy and reality are delightfully fused together. Family time together set against a very domestic background (in a large blue house in the style of an old fashioned Finnish stove) alongside magical journeys in the most enchanting surroundings make this a wonderful read.
Why we love it: This isn’t the first of the Moomin books to make it over to England from its native Finland (Comet in Moominland has that privilege). However, this book is perhaps a good one to start with as it introduces some of the key characters throughout the books; Moomintroll, Moominpappa, Moominmama, Snufkin and Snork Maiden. There’s also opportunity to meet the cutest jewellery thief duo ever, Thingumy and Bob.
First published: 1948 (Finland), 1950 (UK)
Famous Five books
By Enid Blyton, illustrated by Eileen A. Soper, published by Hodder, RRP £4.99
What’s the story: In the very first Famous Five adventure, Five on a Treasure Island, featuring Julian, Dick, Anne, not forgetting tomboy George and her beloved dog, Timmy, there’s a shipwreck off Kirrin Island. The Famous Five are on the trail for the treasure, looking for clues but they’re not alone. Someone else has got the same idea. Time is running out for the Famous Five in their bid to get to the treasure first.
Why we love it: There’s something magical and very pleasurable about reading a couple of chapters of a Famous Five book at bedtime. There’s also a surprising amount of humour that your child will indulge in. Despite Blyton not being as popular to some people (society’s obsession with being ultra PC and all that) many would argue that the Famous Five books are essential for all children’s bookshelves.
First published: 1942
The Adventures of Captain Underpants
By Dav Pilkey, published by Scholastic, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: When naughty George and Harold hypnotise their headteacher, they accidentally create the greatest superhero in the history of their school – Captain Underpants! His true identity is so secret that even he doesn’t know who he is! In spite of this, he’s fighting full force for truth, justice, and all things pre-shrunk and cottony! If you’re a naughty villain like the diabolical Dr Diaper, watch out! Captain Underpants has weggie-power on his side, and he’s coming your way.
Why we love it: Any of the Captian Underpants stories is a journey into the bizarre mind of Dav Pilkey, who as a kid spent his life in detention or at his ‘private’ desk in the corridor. This book is guaranteed to entice even the most reluctant of readers.
First published: 1997
The Iron Man
By Ted Hughes, illustrated by Tom Gauld, published by Faber and Faber, RRP £4.99
What’s the story: A strange and at times terrifying story of a creature that crashes down to Earth and lies smashed and scattered along a beach. Then his various parts get up and search for each other. The creature befriends a small boy and saves the planet from a dragon from outer space.
Why we love it: Subtitled A Children’s Story in Five Nights this weird, compelling fantasy can be read by or to your child in a series of five nights which builds up suspense and clings on to those precious bedtime reading sessions which are not too far away from being over.
First published: 1968
George’s Marvellous Medicine
By Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake, published by Puffin, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: To cure his grumpy granny, George Kranky concocts a medicine to cure her of her nastiness. Shaving foam, sheep dip, engine oil and brown paint and much more are but a few ingredients stirred into the pot. The results prove explosive.
Why we love it: The ending is dark even for Dahl, but it must be admitted, deep down we love the the story of a daring boy and the outcome of his grizzly old grunion of a grandma!
First published: 1981
By Humphrey Carpenter, illustrated by Frank Rodgers, published by Puffin, RRP £4.99
What’s the story: As a rule, magic carpets don’t usually turn up in schools, but this is exactly what happens when Class Three’s new teacher flies in through the classroom window and lands on the floor with a bump. Mr Majeika can behave just like any ordinary teacher, if he wants to, but something has to be done about Hamish Bigmore, the class nuisance. So he uses a little magic to turn him into a frog. And to everyone’s delight it looks as if Hamish will have to remain a frog because Mr Majeika can’t remember the spell to turn him back again!
Why we love it: With Mr Majeika in charge, suddenly life at school become much more exciting – there’s even a magic-carpet ride to Buckingham Palace! This book is just perfect for confident readers.
First published: 1984
Fattypuffs and Thinifers
By Andre Maurois, illustrated by Fritz Wegner, published by Jane Nissen Books, RRP £6.99
What’s the story: Edmund is fat and loved food – just like his mother. His brother Terry is thin – just like his father. The boys are amazed when they discover a secret staircase that leads to the Country Under the Earth. They soon find themselves on opposite sides in a battle between the warring nations of the huge and happy Fattypuffs and the spiky, prickly Thinifers.
Why we love it: Fritz Wegner’s deliciously funny and beguiling illustrations are unforgettable, and more than do justice to this excellent story. The lasting originality of this uproarious story make it a true classic that will never go out of date. Forget whether you’re a Griffindor or a Slytherin, a Swallow or an Amazon; the real question is: Fattypuff or Thinifer?
First published: 1968