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7 Authors' favourite children's books | Word Book Day

7 Authors' favourite children's books | Word Book Day

We chatted to seven distinguished authors to find out which children's books are on their must-read lists

1. Muhammad Khan

the boy who grew dragons.jpg

This is a fantastic middle-grade book with lots of heart, imagination and excitement to keep any reader happy. Tomas is a kind-hearted boy who helps his eccentric grandad clear up the weeds from his garden so he can grow radishes, beans and cauliflowers. But something is already growing in the garden, an extraordinary, spiky plant with glowing red fruit. Unbeknownst to Tomas, a baby dragon is about to hatch and once it does he’ll learn that amidst the thrill of owning an actual dragon is the reality of dealing with random fires, shredded comics and exploding poo. Soon all his friends want dragons too. An unforgettable adventure with three exciting sequels.


2. Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet

In order to prepare and arm our children to effect change they need to properly understand the problems their planet faces. Brilliantly simple but extremely informative this book goes back to basics and explains the plastic situation from the point of its invention. Reading this book was a fun and happy experience, Neal’s brilliant illustration of super chemist Mr Baekeland made us and our daughter laugh rather a lot (his eyes are popping out of his head!) Often when my daughter and I discuss environmental issues I sense tension and worry, these are not empowering emotions and our children need to feel empowered. This book with its straight up, down to earth approach does exactly that. Thanks Neal! 


3. Laura Ellen Anderson


I like to describe this book as ‘deliciously scary’. Quentin Blake’s lively illustrations perfectly compliment Dahl’s writing, which is very perceptive. You feel as if the author is talking to you; giving you top secret advice that only you the privilege of knowing. 

The opening chapter titled A Note About Witches is just sublime. From the very beginning, you are intrigued as a reader, desperate to know more about these ‘real witches’ and how to catch one. Now, every time I see a woman wearing long gloves on a mild day, I immediately assume she MUST be a witch. 

The Grand High Witch is utterly terrifying, and I don’t think there’s one person who doesn’t find the whole concept of the little girl stuck in the painting highly disturbing. But that is what makes this book so great. It’s a mixture of slightly scary to keep us on our toes, but also delightfully witty and heart-warming. 


4. Onjali Q. Rauf

henry sugar.jpg

It was a story read to my class by a beloved teacher when I was about eight, and it completely blew my mind! The thought that someone could teach themselves a skill (that most importantly, I thought I could learn too!), and then use that skill to secretly help people, fascinated me. It was only later, long after my school days, that I learned Roald Dahl had based his fantastic story on an essay he wrote about the real-life Pakistani mystic and magician Kuda Bux. And it was only upon sharing the story with my nephews and nieces, that I realised the story is actually a story within a story within a story. Dahl’s beautiful ability to mix fact with fiction, and the real with the realm of imagination inspired me as an eight-year-old, sitting on that reading carpet, and continues to do so to this very day. Each of his stories are perfect for sharing, but I think there’s something extra wondrous about Henry Sugar, which makes it a story that once heard or shared, is never, ever forgotten.


5. Lesley Pearse

little grey rabbit.jpg

As a seven or eight-year-old, I loved Little Grey Rabbit and now after reading it to my three daughters over 30 years ago, I am reading it to my grandchildren. Like me they are entranced by Little Grey Rabbits world, the cottage she shares with Hare and Squirrel, and meeting their other friends Fuzzypeg the hedgehog, Mouldy Warp the mole and Wise Owl. In this book Grey Rabbit is snatched by the wicked Weasels to cook and clean for them, and I felt outraged. She is of course rescued by Wise Owl and taken home, but not before Wise Owl banishes the Weasels permanently. The illustrations by Margaret Tempest are as delightful as the story. 


6. Louise Candlish

those dreadful children.jpg

The bad behaviour in this lesser-known Blyton gem—holding grudges, taunting those who are different, not owning up to accidental breakage—are not a million miles away from the neighbourhood disputes that rage to this day among adults! I loved reading about the straitlaced Carlton kids, who want nothing to do with the unruly Taggertys when they move into the house at the bottom of the garden. Gradually, exposure to The Other leads to self-discovery in both camps.


7. Dorothy Koomson

I love how Reynolds has written these connecting short stories about something every-day—the journey to and from school—but has brilliantly woven in plots that will keep you turning the pages. The children are wonderfully well-formed characters and you can’t help but be drawn into the different tales. I would urge anyone—young and old—who enjoys a great read to pick up this clever, engaging book. 


Read more: Michael Morpurgo "Books that changed my life"

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