By Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake, published by Puffin, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: It’s so hard to choose among Dahl’s books. Matilda is one of the most borrowed books by children in libraries, so let’s go with her. Super bright Matilda has very mean and stupid parents. They’re horrified that their daughter prefers books to TV. Her teacher, the lovely Miss Honey thinks Matilda is a genius. And she’s right. Matilda proves she has courage as well as cleverness when she frees her school from the head mistress, the tyrannical Miss Trunchbull.
Why we love it: The exploits Matilda goes to in getting back at her horrid parents is incredibly amusing. She dyes her father’s hair platinum blonde and hides a talking parrot up the chimney pretending to her family it’s a ghost. It’s a sheer delight to read and Blakes illustrations perfectly complement this captivating story.
First published: 1988
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: a novel in cartoons
By Jeff Kinney, published by Puffin, RRP £6.99
What’s the story: Meet Greg Heffley, who finds himself thrust into a new year and a new school where undersize weaklings share the corridors with kids who are taller, meaner and already shaving. Everything that happens to him are noted down in his journal because he figures later on, when he’s rich and famous, this book will come in handy. But for now, he has to deal with a bunch of morons.
Why we love it: If you haven’t had a good laugh lately, Diary of a Wimpy Kid is your source for timeless humour. There’s a particular goofiness about boys in middle school. Jeff Kinney creates a book with plenty of tongue-in-cheek irreverence that will amuse anyone reading this book.
First published: 2007
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
By C.S. Lewis, illustrated by Pauline Baynes, published by Harper Collins, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy accidentally discover the magical land of Narnia through the back of an old wardrobe – a land ruled by the cruel White Witch, where it’s always winter, but never Christmas. Only the mysterious Aslan can save the creatures of Narnia and break the cursed spell. Apparently, this is Geri Halliwell, Noel Gallagher and Peter Mandelson’s favourite book for children.
Why we love it: These books are a riot of fauns, talking beavers and dancing druids. This is Book 2 of 7 in the classic series, but it was the first to be published and it’s the one most people start with and favour.
First published: 1950
The Phantom Tollbooth
By Norton Juster, illustrated by Jules Feiffer, published by Harper Collins, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: Bored Milo unexpectedly receives a magic purple tollbooth and with nothing better to do he drives through it in his toy car. He’s transported to the Kingdom of Wisdom where he picks up two companions, journeys through Dictionopolis, has adventures in Digitopolis, and saves two banished princesses named Rhyme and Reason.
Why we love it: This is a children’s adventure novel and modern fairy tale rolled in to one dazzling, discomforting, enchantment of a read. There’s a whole extra dimension to the story – about being educated and everyone’s complete puzzlement over all the weird and useless things they make you learn in school.
First published: 1961
Five Children and It
By E. Nesbit, published by Puffin, RRP £6.99
What’s the story: Robert, Anthea, Cyril, Jean and their baby brother – the Lamb, move from London to the countryside in a house next to the sea where they discover a grumpy creature called a Psammead, a sand fairy. It grants them one wish every day. Of course, all the wishes go comically wrong, much to the amusement of the reader.
Why we love it: Everybody, and I mean everybody, wishes that wishes could come true, and this delightful tale shows what could happen when the things you think you want actually appear. Funny, suspenseful and wise, this will keep your eight year old entertained.
First published: 1902