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