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A Child's Library

From:   Whereorwhen0  (Original Message)        Sent: 7/7/2008 10:19 AM
While trying not to buy more new books for my self other than the ones I must have, I have recently been buying a few books to add to my own collection of children’s books to give in due course to my new great granddaughter, who at 7 months old loves her fabric books. My two most recent were Emil and the Detectives and Tom’s Midnight Garden (which I loved), and I have most of the ‘classics’, The Tales of Beatrix Potter, The Wind in the Willows, all the Pooh stories, The Secret Garden, Five Children and It, one or two William books and many more.
Would anyone care to make a list of the books they believe should be included in a home collection of books for children, from the earliest to be read to them to the ones they would read themselves before graduating to adult books. I would love to know what the posters here would choose

From:   lunababymoonchild                Sent: 7/7/2008 11:44 AM
Well, I loved my fairy tales - Grimm's and Hans Christian Anderson's - and I loved nursery rhymes.  I always loved things like Chicken Licken - don't know if that's a nursery rhyme or a fairytale!
There is always Thomas The Tank Engine (also loved) and I always loved to read the Enid Blyton ones, when I got a little older.  Aesop's Fables are always good too, and I believe I heard a Horrid Henry tale being told to children in the book shop the other day which I just loved, not sure if the children did, though  

From:   Ann_M5                                          Sent: 7/7/2008 1:13 PM
While she is still little, Whereorwhen, how about some of the Alberg books? My daughters loved Peepo which has circles that you look through as you read it. Also I think no nursery should be without The Very Hungry Caterpillar which is a classic as far as I am concerned. There has been a Radio 4 programme recently on classic children's stories and The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Where the Wild Things Are were mentioned - they are two lovely books and have been around for a long time now.
One of the stories I was read to as a child, and was quite enjoyably scary, is the probably un p.c. Strewelpeter full of all the awful things that will happen to bad children. My girls liked it too.
I loved fairy tales too and wonder if that is why I have such a fondness for fantasy.

From:   bookfreak0                                     Sent: 7/7/2008 2:44 PM
I second Ann's suggestion of Strewelpeter, my brother and I really loved it and I still have my copy.
My own choice of a "must have" book for a child's library is Kipling's Just So Stories, such absolutely fabulous stories to read aloud - especially that great, grey-green, greasy Limpopo river... Oh best beloved!
For the younger child I suggest Alison Uttley's Little Grey Rabbit series; a perennial favourite.

From:   KiwiCaro1                            Sent: 7/7/2008 3:05 PM
Rather off the top of my head:  Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Hairy McLarey, certainly Where the Wild Things Are, some Dr Seuss, Roald Dahl, some Enid Blyton, Pippi Longstocking, LM Montgomery's Anne series, Cynthia Voigt.  Heidi, perhaps.  Berenstain Bears.  Michael Murpurgo (may not have his name right). Meg and Mog books, Dr Doolittle.  
There are some wonderful picture books around now for children but I am not familiar with the 'classics' among them now.  Also an interesting series putting kids into historical situations - My Stories.  
These are very good; some of them are set in NZ, but there are others in Britain and America.  Different authors.  

From:   Whereorwhen0                              Sent: 7/8/2008 12:04 AM
Thank you very much all for your suggestions, some of the books I have already and others I will try to add to the collection. I have already given my granddaughter a series of Ladybird books of nursery rhymes that I had kept from when she herself was tiny and I know she sings them to her own little one, to the pleasure of them both. My granddaughter is also a great reader so I feel this baby will be given every encouragement to read, and I hope she will have many, many happy hours doing do.
My thank again, Whereorwhen

From:   Evie_again                                       Sent: 7/8/2008 12:43 AM
I would second Kipling's Just So stories, but also The Jungle Book, which has suffered at the hands of Disney (great fun though the film is, it misses pretty much all the depth and darker side of the book, and has very little to do with Kipling - why do Disney think the world always has to be *nice*???).
Ursula le Guin's Earthsea trilogy would be one of my top nominations, for when she is older (the fourth one is not so good, written 20 years or more later, but probably unavoidable in omnibus and collective editions these days).
Also Helen Cresswell's Lizzy Dripping, and Nina Bawden's Carrie's War. The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier (sp?), and Goodnight Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian.
I hesitate over the Narnia books....I loved them *so* much as a child, and love them still, but they are dated, and I'm not sure what children these days make of them (except from the experience of my nephews, who couldn't get beyond sniggering at phrases like 'jolly hoax, Lu', before they started to worry about old-fashioned values). I can't imagine a children's library without them, though.
And Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass - with the Tenniel illustrations, of course!
And Walter de la Mare's anthology of poems, Peacock Pie.
And Eve Garnett's wonderful The Family from One End Street.
And some of Andrew Lang's fairytale books (the ones sorted by colour - I think the Red and the Olive are held to be classics, but my own series is stowed away, and I can never remember which stories are in which books - the complete set never hurt anyone, though!).
Oh, too many, Whereorwhen!! Enjoy your great granddaughter, how wonderful to have one!

From:   MikeHarvey1935                                Sent: 7/8/2008 12:58 AM
Walter de la Mare's Peacock Pie has already been suggested, but might I also draw your attention to his Collected Stories For Children which are beautiful. And his anthology - for when she is older - Come Hither.  And I loved, and still do, Eleanor Farjeon's children's verse and her collection of children's stories The Little Bookroom.  

From:   Chibiabos83                                        Sent: 7/8/2008 5:48 AM
I have to echo many of the names already mentioned. For young children, Meg and Mog, the Ahlbergs' books (Funnybones is one that springs to mind - not their best, but I certainly enjoyed it, and the pictures are lovely), The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Little Grey Rabbit, Pooh, Emil and the Detectives, Pippi Longstocking (and Lotta, also by Astrid Lindgren). Scandinavian authors are good, aren't they? Tove Jansson wasn't really a part of my childhood, though she's certainly worth noting, but Alf Prøysen was. I had an octogenarian Austrian babysitter called Lisl who would read me Mrs Pepperbox ad infinitum.
Quentin Blake's books for young children are marvellous - Patrick, I think, is his finest, which has a picture of a tree with cakes and pieces of toast hanging from its branches that is the stuff of dreams, now sadly out of print but not totally unavailable, and Mister Magnolia is also delightful. While we're on Quentin Blake, surely no child's library is complete without some Roald Dahl. Of his books for younger children, I don't think you can better Fantastic Mr Fox, though The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me and George's Marvellous Medicine repay frequent visits. For somewhat older children, The BFG is highly recommended.
Where the Wild Things Are is justly regarded as a classic, but so are other books of Maurice Sendak's.
Try the Nutshell Library, which may now be out of print but, like Quentin Blake's Patrick, is still available from some online sellers:
It's terrific, especially Chicken Soup with Rice.
The more I think about it, the more convinced I become that Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr, which I read aged 9, is a masterpiece, though it's wasted on children. The kind of children's book adults probably get more out of...

From:   Chibiabos83                                       Sent: 7/8/2008 6:04 AM
Other books will keep popping into my head for the next few days, but I've just remembered Florence Parry Heide's Treehorn books, which are smashing.

From:   MikeAlx                                              Sent: 7/8/2008 6:06 AM
For younger readers, and for being read to, the Gruffalo books are excellent. For somewhat older readers, the Flat Stanley books were a big hit with my nephew a few years back.
My personal childhood favourites would be Blyton's Mr Meddles' Muddles, the Professor Branestawm books by Norman Hunter, Jean Merrill's The Pushcart War, and of course the William books by Richmal Crompton.
I would also lap up anything about King Arthur, but that's probably just a personal thing. Later, Alan Garner and Leon Garfield were favourites of mine; I particularly enjoyed Garfield's Smith (I guess it's aimed at maybe 11-12 year olds?).
Of children's books I've read in adulthood, Michael Morpurgo's books have impressed me a lot, especially War Horse.
Amongst my wife's childhood favourites were The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr, Fattypuffs and Thinifers by Andre Maurois, and The Magical Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton.
She also liked the Secret Seven books, but disliked the Famous Five (for some reason!).

To be continued

From:   Chibiabos83                             Sent: 7/8/2008 6:12 AM
Judith Kerr brings to mind When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, which is surely one of the best novels about the Holocaust, for children or adults.
Interesting how some children's books appeal and some don't - I don't like Leon Garfield or Alan Garner at all, but that's probably because I read them in English lessons at school. That kind of thing can turn you against an author.

From:   MikeAlx                                               Sent: 7/8/2008 6:19 AM
I can relate to that, Gareth - I never got on with Stig of the Dump for similar reasons. Fortunately Garner and Garfield were personal choices from the school library lorry that used to come round every week.
I'm afraid I haven't read When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, but it certainly sounds like an ambitious and brave thing to do (write a children's book about the holocaust, I mean). I remember Judith Kerr talking about it on 'Desert Island Discs' some years back. I will no doubt use the excuse to read it when George is old enough! I'd also like to read Art Spiegelman's holocaust graphic novel Maus some time.

From:   Chibiabos83                          Sent: 7/8/2008 6:20 AM                  
Well, it's not set in the death camps, nothing as graphic as all that, but it's remarkable and moving and quite chilling. I see it is part of a trilogy, which I'm not sure I'd realised before. I must read the other two.

From:   Chibiabos83                                      Sent: 7/8/2008 6:52 AM
Mike, I've only just noticed your mention of Flat Stanley - I'd entirely forgotten about him, but the memories are gradually returning. Apart from his flattening by being in the path of a falling bulletin board, I can't remember what happens to him, but clearly that image was lodged somewhere at the back of my mind. Professor Branestawm is fun too, and why shouldn't children enjoy Molesworth just as much as adults?
Some other series of books:
Oliver Pig by Jean van Leeuwen
Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel (utterly irresistible)
Katie Morag by Mairi Hedderwick
And there's Dick King-Smith. I think his books vary in quality, but George Speaks (which I have a recording of myself reading in its entirety aged 6, omitting words like Guinness which I didn't know how to pronounce and at one point saying, rather sweetly, "know-ledge") and Harry's Mad (for older readers who have learnt to pronounce words) are both excellent.

From: Jen M                                                    Sent: 7/8/2008 8:23 AM
Many of my favourites have already been mentioned, but a look at my son's bookshelf reminds me of the following - they are books either he or I can't bear to get rid of - a sure recommendation.
Five Minutes' Peace (and the rest of the Large family stories) - Jill Murphy
Old Bear (a series) - Jane Hissey
Mog the Forgetful Cat (another series) - Judith Kerr
Dr Xargle's Book of Earth Tiggers/Book of Earthlets - Jeanne Willis & Tony Ross
My daughter loved This little Baby, partly because it featured a Dad who stayed at home with baby while Mum went out to work, which is how we were for a time during her toddlerhood.

From: Jen M                                       Sent: 7/8/2008 8:26 AM
I forgot to mention Percy the Park Keeper by Nick Butterworth.

From:   MikeAlx                                             Sent: 7/8/2008 8:37 AM
A good one I read in a bookshop once was Baby Brains - the Smartest Baby in the Whole World by Simon James.
I see this is now a series. It's a rather fun book about a ludicrously intelligent baby who reads the paper, fixes the car and, in his spare time, performs surgery in the local hospital. Indeed, it takes a journey into space (assisting top scientists) to bring home the fact that he has one thing in common with normal babies - he wants his Mummy!

From:   Wyspianski8                                        Sent: 7/8/2008 9:34 AM
Now that 5 year olds are going to be introduced to Shakespeare, you just can't start collecting too soon.  Many of my favorites have already been mentioned, but do find space for The Hobbit.  The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery is wonderful, and The Railway Children and The Phoenix and the Carpet both by E. Nesbit, and Treasure Island by R.L. Stevenson are much loved.  My own childhood favorites included The Children of the New Forest and Biggles but they will be a bit dated now!!  
I hope you get time to read every thing you collect.

From:   MikeAlx                                                Sent: 7/8/2008 10:18 AM
For some reason I never read those Nesbits - but I enjoyed The Enchanted Castle. The one everyone seems to recommend these days is Five Children and It.

From:   HeHireDramaticJet                             Sent: 7/8/2008 12:07 PM
I grew up with the classic boys' adventure stories - Treasure Island, King Solomon's Mines, etc. - but there's no reason why girls shouldn't enjoy them as well.
And I was about 11 when I became introduced to Holmes & Watson - and they've remained good friends ever since!
I also enjoyed various books by leon Garfield, both when I was a child, and more recently with my children. Smith, especially, is a terrific read.

From:   Whereorwhen0                                  Sent: 7/8/2008 12:35 PM
I have been fascinated reading the wonderful variety of titles and authors you have been kind enough to think about and post for me.
Evie... I do have the Narnia books but like you I wonder if many children in say 7 or 8 years time will be interested in them. My daughter loved them, her daughter did not, she found the ending too difficult to accept but perhaps this little one may love them too. Time will tell.
So many other books mentioned I do not know and others I know of but have not read, (and yes, I do read them all before putting them away). You have all given me a lot to think about and I shall do my best to build a broad selection of the books you remember with affection.
Thank you all again for some very interesting posts.

From:   kitsumehime                          Sent: 8/4/2008 6:08 PM
My children liked many of Beverly Cleary's books. Her Ramona books were particularly nice as Ramona grew up as the series progressed. My girls enjoyed having them read to them and then reading them for themselves later on. Her books are pretty low key and quite suitable as a bedtime read. They also enjoyed Diane Duane's series that started with So You Want to be a Wizard which are dated and probably not quite up to snuff when compared to the Harry Potter novels.
I found Montgomery's classic Anne of Green Gables novels boring when I was a kid and so did my girls until my youngest taught in Japan and found that Japanese girls are wild about them. Then she had to read them all.
To be perfectly frank, I think that there is nothing that kills a child's joy of reading more than having the "classics" thrust upon them before they are mature enough to appreciate them. Let them read whatever turns them on even if it is the modern equivalent of the "penny dreadful." Eventually the good books will drive out the bad.
I would also let them enjoy reading books that you may think are "too young for them" instead of always challenging them until they ask for more challenging materials. School is hard enough. It is nice to come home to a comfortable read.

I didn't see this post when it was originally on the other board so I am going to post a reply now, possibly too late but never mind if I was putting together a definative list of books for children of all age groups this is what I would choose.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Thomas the Tank Engine
The Three Billygoats Gruff
Three Little Pigs
Aesops Fables
The Chronicles of Narnia
Horrid Henry
Harry Potter Series
Tom's Midnight Garden

I lament that ‘doing’ books for children are no longer as popular as in my day. There was Ransome of course but I remember being enthralled at the activities of the children in the Malcolm Saville and Gary Hogg series’. Saville had his books set in places like the Peak District during the school holidays. Everyone was respectful of adults, kind to animals and thoughtful about tidying up after an adventure.
Hogg’s books featured a group of children holidaying in scenic parts of England such as Dorset and Northumberland, There were clear maps of the route of the expeditions with practical tips on how to set up a camp and maintenance of their bikes. Instructive details of geography and history would be given as part of the stories so there was always something to keep the interest up.

I was talking to my sister a while back and happened to mention one of my favorites as a child - Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher.  Written in 1916, it is a true piece of Americana much like the Little House on the Prairie books.

Elizabeth Ann is 9 years old and living with her spinster aunt Frances in the city when Aunt Frances is taken ill.  Poor Elizabeth is sent off to live with relatives, the "Dreadful Putneys" who live on a farm.  It is quite a change for the formerly coddled child who now has to make her bed and do chores as well as attending a one room school that she has to walk to.  Needless to say it was quite a culture shock.

By the way, my mother's maiden name was Putney and she went to a one room school much like the one in the novel.

Today I have just 'happened upon' this interesting collection of peoples recommendations.  The small 7 month old baby is now 4 years old and I was delighted to see that many of the books so many of you took the trouble write about have been already given to her whilst others are still waiting until she is ready for them. The Very Hungry Caterpillar was one of the first I sent, also The many of the classics, Beatix Potter and A.A. Milne. There are too many to detail but am delighted to tell you she still loves her books and enjoys being read to at bedtime (who doesn't?) and it has been a nightly ritual.
I shall print out the posts for future reference and I would like to thank you all again for your responses to my request. I only look here from time to time and I think I may have missed the later replies so my thanks again.

How lovely to have this feedback, whereorwhen - thank you!  And even lovelier to hear how much your great granddaughter is loving her books.  Fantastic.

Evie...Thank you for your kind response.  Needless to say how happy I am that our small girl is showing such an interest in books.  She has several shelves of her own books already and has been visiting the library since the age of two. My one fear is as she sees most of the children she knows using computer games and playing them herself, she will lose interest in reading.  I know her Mother will continue to encourage the love of books that we share so I hope it remains with her. I personally cannot imagine a life without books, like everyone else posting here I am sure.

I think there is room for both, and I think an early grounding in reading and being read to and parents (and great grandparents!) who continue to encourage that means she is unlikely to lose that interest, especially as she has responded to it so well.  Computer games are fine - and even if she does develop an interest in those, I doubt if it will be at the expense of reading.

Our boy never showed any interest in computer games. Our girl, 16 now, had ( and still has, as far as I know) one of the Nintendo DS things (I have no idea what they're called) but she never became obsessed with computer games, as we had been warned she might. I think the main thing is that if there is a bookish atmosphere at home, that'll rub off on the child. It may not be immediately apparent, but childhood influences do stay with you.

I am sure you are both right and if there are books there and reading is a normal activity in the home a child will accept that and the interest will be held.  

Thank you for your reassurance.  The trouble is we hear so much about the lack of interest in books and reading in children I think I probably worry about it too much.  And let's face it, children must be able to use computers etc.  They even have them in Nursery School so I shall trust to my Granddaughter's good sense as to how much time is spent using them. Smile

My son George has a Nintendo DS (which we got second hand for 20 quid!). It's proving very useful in developing his fine motor skills - one of several areas in which he is significantly delayed. He was still holding the stylus in a "palmar grip", so the occupational therapist suggested replacing it with something smaller. I trimmed down a bit of doweling wood in a pencil sharpener, and we told him we'd lost the stylus. He now uses that instead and is forced to use a pincer grip, which is closer to a proper pencil hold.

I know some other families with kids with special educational needs who have reaped great benefits from ipads and suchlike. And of course, games can always be used as motivational rewards. It isn't the technology, it's how you use it!

Couldn't agree more Mike! My son loves his playstation and as far as I am concerned it has helped him no end, admittedly he would sooner play on it rather than read a book, but he has to read on his game as the games he tends to play have things which pop up on the screen with instructions to follow, etc and I believe it helped with his coordination and directional skills as he had difficulty with his left and right.
Green Jay

My children were reluctant and not very able readers, although it was a bookish household, and one of them in particular was into computer games as a teenager (still is) but they both read books now (real books made out of paper!) as adults, so there is hope.

It is good to hear about the positive aspect of children's use of computer games.  I am not too sure what our 4 year old is playing with but I am sure it will be appropriate for her.
 Apple... I feel you must be right and it will also help her co-ordination as well as encouraging her to read the on screen instructions.
C Beebies also have games on line I believe,  I must have a look at them and see what is available.  I am not able to visit my Granddaughter  so I don't actually see how she is developing but I am kept in the picture how she is progressing.
In fact you all have shown me I should not worry, so thank you,  everyone.
Green Jay

My children may not have done much reading under their own steam, but they do look back with great fondness on the books we all read together when they were little, and we still use phrases out much-loved and many-times-repeated books, even now, two decades and more on. There are so many lovely books still produced, with gorgeous illustrations of all sorts - funny, silly, traditional etc - and I think it is great that children always did, and still will, become very attached to these magical well as their fondness for moving pictures on a tiny screen.

One thing I do find a bit disconcerting is the number of absolutely tiny children being distracted by their mums, on buses or doctor's waiting rooms and so on, by apps or games on their phones - babies and toddlers for whom I and my generation of mums would have got a rattle, little book or other toy out of my bag for. Now first stop for both mum and child seems to be the phone. I can understand that I'm just old-fashioned, and of course it is better to pay attention to a child and share something with them than to ignore or tell them off for being whiny and bored (poor little things) but 2-D stuff on a screen is not the same as physically handling 3-D objects and making all kinds of learning from that. I know there is research that too much of being baby-sat by a TV screen leads to delays in speech & language acquisition ( a TV screen is not responsive to the child as an adult is, just highly captivating). Likewise, games are responsive and interactive but only in very limited pre-planned ways. It is another case of technology moving on so fast and challenging the nice slow way we've evolved over milllenia. Perhaps as well as a Slow Food movement we need a Slow Tech movement or something like that?

Green Jay....a very thoughtful post.  I go out so very rarely now I was unaware of the use being made of a mobile phone to distract very young children.  I can see it must be tempting if you have a fretful child in a waiting room and you find the moving pictures are interesting enough to keep him/her amused but I would be concerned that focussing on them might be harmful.  In other circustances playing with or at least responding to a child would would be better.  Technology is a wonderful thing but needs using with care, especially where small children are concrned.  When my Granddaughter travels ( especially long distance), I know she still carries a book or two and the soft toy of the moment for comfort if needed.

Green Jay wrote:
One thing I do find a bit disconcerting is the number of absolutely tiny children being distracted by their mums, on buses or doctor's waiting rooms and so on, by apps or games on their phones - babies and toddlers for whom I and my generation of mums would have got a rattle, little book or other toy out of my bag for. Now first stop for both mum and child seems to be the phone. I can understand that I'm just old-fashioned, and of course it is better to pay attention to a child and share something with them than to ignore or tell them off for being whiny and bored (poor little things) but 2-D stuff on a screen is not the same as physically handling 3-D objects and making all kinds of learning from that. I know there is research that too much of being baby-sat by a TV screen leads to delays in speech & language acquisition ( a TV screen is not responsive to the child as an adult is, just highly captivating). Likewise, games are responsive and interactive but only in very limited pre-planned ways. It is another case of technology moving on so fast and challenging the nice slow way we've evolved over milllenia. Perhaps as well as a Slow Food movement we need a Slow Tech movement or something like that?
I couldn't agree more with your points here Green Jay, you see it all the time very young children with DS's and the like, its all a question of the amount of time spent on these things, and the amount of other stimulating things in the childs life, for example if a DS or whatever is basically used as a baby sitter to entertain the kid and keep it quiet that is just asking for trouble, and issues down the line, but used in moderation with other stimulating things I believe there is a positive benefit to them, but having said that, inveitably that question of monitoring usage and providing other stimulous is down the parents and up to them to decide what is a reasonable amount of time to use these things and when you see so many adults nowadays pre-occupied with their mobile phones wandering around the streets in a world of their own with a phone almost an extension of their hands it does make you wonder. (I was actually rammed by a pushchair the other day as the mother was walking along texting on her phone and not realised someone was standing waiting to cross the road, she was so pre-occupied she didn't even realise I was there till the pushchair went into me).

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