Books are so much more than ink on paper – like tunes they can evoke strong memories. Certain books will always remind me of my children at the age they were when they read them. My eldest, Raffaella, has always been a bookaholic. These are the titles that map her childhood from 0-18.
Guess how much I love you – Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram
Big Nut Brown Hare and Little Nut Brown Hare search for ways to express how much they love each other. A very simple story with beautiful illustrations. A friend gave this book to R when she was born and and it was a perfect bedtime story. I hope she’ll read it to her own children.
Don’t put your finger in the jelly, Nelly – Nick Sharratt
This interactive book was ideal when she reached the inquisitive stage. Each page has a hole for the child to poke their finger into and the following page reveals a possible consequence of that action e.g. if you put your finger in the jelly you might upset the jellyphant.
One Snowy Night – Nick Butterworth
I was given this book by the author when I wrote an article on his house and it soon became a firm favourite with Raffaella. Percy Park Keeper tries to get to sleep but it’s a cold night and he keeps getting disturbed by animals wanting to join him in his warm bed – but will there be enough room for them all?
Horrid Henry – Francesca Simon
These books about a self-centred, prank-playing big brother were a hit with all my children. They gave us so much fun, keeping us entertained on car journeys and rainy days and we all enjoyed listening to Miranda Richardson reading the audio books.
The Witches – Ronald Dahl
As she got older she started to look for adventure stories that stretched her imagination. This tale is about a brave young boy and his grandmother battling to save the world’s children from witches who have an evil master plan. Although the ending is not one most readers would hope for it’s a compelling, gruesomely funny read and teaches children not to judge by appearances.
Harry Potter – JK Rowling
If I hadn’t had children I wouldn’t have known what the fuss was about but these stories captured R’s imagination and I found myself getting drawn in and liking the main characters. I would read a few pages to her at bedtime and she’d carry on by herself. Like many JK Rowling fans she grew up with the books and it’s hard to imagine her childhood without a wand or a Hogwarts scarf.
The Twins at St Clare’s – Enid Blyton
Written in the 1940s, these books with their jolly japes, dares and midnight feasts, still have such strong appeal. In the first of the series the rebellious twins are determined to be as difficult as possible so they will get sent to a different school but St Clare’s gradually works its magic on them.
Dustbin Baby – Jacqueline Wilson
Another author that R grew up with, from the young children’s titles to the teenage ones. These stories fired R’s imagination and got her thinking about how it would feel to be in similar situations. Her favourite, Dustbin Baby, is about 14-year old April who has spent her childhood in care and takes a day off school to try and find her mother who abandoned her as a baby. It’s a powerful and moving story that had me in tears.
Neville the Devil – Michael Lawrence
Another story that had me in tears but this time from laughter. Part slapstick, part satire, the Jiggy Mccue stories revolve around the mad, unpredictable things that happen to Jiggy and his friends Pete and Ange. I suppose we all have days when we think “what just happened?” but with Jiggy it’s always something that bit stranger than you expect.
The Medusa Project – Sophie Mackenzie
This six-part thriller series follows a group of teenagers who as embryos were implanted with the Medusa gene, giving them psychic abilities. They are brought together by a government agent to form the Medusa Project, a special crime-fighting unit performing dangerous undercover operations. R loved it and went on to read all the other books by this author.
Noughts and Crosses – Malorie Blackman This dystopian young adult novel is about forbidden love between Sephy, a dark-skinned Cross and Callum, a light-skinned Nought against a background of prejudice and distrust. It’s clever and cathartic although it’s very sad and raises awareness about racism.
Twilight – Stephenie Meyer
The Twilight series of four vampire-themed fantasy/romance novels had her gripped. In Twilight, the first of these, Bella finds herself drawn to the mysterious and alluring Edward Cullen but Edward has to battle his vampire instincts. The pair are caught on a knifepoint between desire and danger…
The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
R was so lucky with the books her school chose for English Literature A Level. This was her favourite and got her interested in gothic novels. Dorian Gray is drawn into a hedonistic world but stays as young and beautiful as he was when his portrait was first painted, whereas the portrait ages.