top of page

6 favourite childhood books—recommended reading lists

I read a lot as a kid. I loved books, and ever since I was tiny that love of books and reading paved away my only life career goal—writing books. Recently, Papa and I have been communicating online to work through my book collection in his house back in England and trying to figure out which books to keep and which to donate. It was tough! But, we looked through some nostalgic ones and it got me thinking of some of my favourites books when I was a child. So, I thought I'd write a list of 6 favourite childhood books to see if you'd like any of them or if you've read any already (book cover pics below each bit so you can see what they look like).

I've also shared the book cover versions of the copies I had at the time, as they're familiar covers for me. But you might have seen them with different covers. I know different versions of The Neverending Story and The Edge Chronicles are quite numerous!

So, here's the list of 6 favourite childhood books, and one of my fav childhood pics of Papa and me celebrating our love of reading when I was tiny. I love this pic. (But, oh, the 90s home decor styles ...)

My 6 favourite childhood books—recommended reading lists
Papa and little me for some book fun (plus, who else doesn't squish their daughter when reading?!)

The list of 6 favourite childhood books

Here's where I wish I'd rebelled and said 10! Choosing just 6 favourite childhood books to share with you was tough, but these are the ones that still stand out to me, even years on. I can remember their stories and their impact well in that young reader through to the end of primary school age group, and they're books I'd like to have in my house if I ever have kids too. In fact, I still think I own them all back in England, with a couple here in Aus, as I loved and kept them.

Here goes:

The Bear Dance by Chris Riddell

The Bear Dance by Chris Riddell was one of my absolute favourites as a young child. Papa used to read it to us and make us dance around like the main character and the bear and growl and laugh, and it was one of the most engaging and fun books. It caught so many emotions for a child: happiness and fun and then sadness and then joy again. He and I still talk about it and joke about the bear dance.

This book is fun and quirky and charming (everything I look for in a book). The main character lives wild in the forest with her best friend, the bear, and they love to dance the bear dance all the time. In winter, her friend goes into hibernation, so she gets lonely, and Jack Frost comes out and makes everywhere cold. The girl decides she wants to see her friend, so she challenges Jack Frost to the bear dance to see if it will end winter sooner to wake her friend up again. So cute.

Extra info: Chris Riddell's artwork

The Bear Dance is written and illustrated by an icon of mine: Chris Riddell. One of the other books (well, series) in this list is illustrated by the same person, and when I was a child I just took this book and his work in the other series for granted, but I adored his style. It was only later on that I realised I'd been collecting his works and that many of the illustrated books I had were all illustrated by him! Small world. One of my dreams was that he might illustrate a book of mine one day, because I realised I've loved his work since The Bear Dance, all through my childhood and many of the series I've loved, even to now.

Age group:

Early readers (before school and young primary school)

Dragonology: The Complete Book of Dragons by Dr Ernest Drake

I'm an absolute sucker for dragons. I love all kinds of them, and I 100% agree with Tolkien when he says, 'It simply isn't an adventure worth telling if there aren't any dragons.' Absolutely. Dragonology: The Complete Book of Dragons has it all. I studied this book with absolute devotion as a child and would listen to no-one when they said dragons didn't exist. Um, they're only in hiding. They're a highly intelligent race that of course would hide from humans ... Anyway, back to the book. The artwork in this is stunning, and I love the field scientist adventure exploration feel to it with studies and observations. There's even an insert that teaches you 'dragon runes' (actually based on moon runes from Tolkien's world, also similar to Viking runes).

Did I learn how to write and read these as a kid?

Yes. Of course.

Which is great, because I can read some of the runes in The Lord of the Rings movies and figure out what the background things are saying. Thanks, nerdy dragon-obsessed childhood.

So, if you're looking for an engaging book with interactive touchy-feely artwork and puzzles and pieces with an explorer-style feel to it with stunning artwork, this is the book for any kid (or adult ... I have one here in Aus).

Age group:

Key stage 2 (later primary school ages) and up to early secondary school or middle school.

(Or nerdy adults ...)

The Last of the Sky Pirates from The Edge Chronicles series by Paul Stewart

The Last of the Sky Pirates is book 7 in The Edge Chronicles series, and I think I'm cheating by mentioning the book and the series. But, I can't just list the one book when the whole series is good.

This is the other item on the list that is illustrated by Chris Riddell. I came across it quite by accident in my primary school library when I was in Year 3, I think. I was an advanced reader and had quickly read many of the 'colours' (levels) in school and was bored of the options. I wanted something fun and adventurous (wasn't really a Pony Club gal, tbh. Nothing wrong with that, but give me weird creatures and fantasy adventures, as you'll learn about me, any day). The teachers let me look at the top-level bookshelf, and I was mooching through the covers and saw some really cool artwork (that may have been slightly familiar, but without my relating to where). It turned out to be The Last of the Sky Pirates from The Edge Chronicles series. Sky Pirates ... that immediately caught my attention. And the cover was really cool. They only had the one book in this series at the school (much to my young self's disappointment), but I was soon keeping an eye out for it everywhere, and it's now on my collection list. One day, I'll own them all. I'm still just getting through them.

I think this book is actually one that really got me into fantasy stories and series. I was read The Hobbit as a young kid before I started school by my mum before naptime, and loved the idea of dwarves with hairy feet, but likely I didn't fully remember the story. This was likely one of the first high fantasy things I really dove into.

Weird creatures, quirky characters, interesting adventures with high stakes. And yes! Great female characters too that actually have a good role in the story. And no, not the love interest!). Magda, the scientist explorer apprentice girl in this one was really cool, and I loved her and her quirky ways. Here's a proper series where boys and girls can enjoy and relate to it alike without it being one of the 'all boys' clubs that fantasy-loving females have to accept. Nice one, Paul.

(And, yes—quirky illustrations by Chris Riddell seal the deal.)

Age group:

Key stage 2 (later primary school ages) and up to early secondary school or middle school.

Scottish Fairy Tales retold by Philip Wilson

My mum was born in Scotland, so we went there more than anywhere else when I was young. We didn't go on holiday often, and when we did they were more like 'walking holidays' in countryside areas, so Scotland was a good place to go for this. I loved the raw countryside, the castles and forts, the wilderness, the highland cows (so fuzzy and huuuge horns), and the stories. So, one of my favourite books, when I was a child, was the Scottish Fairy Tales book retold by Philip Wilson. Much like many children's books, it had great artwork to complement the stories, and the fairy tales were unique and more wild and magical than the ones I knew from Disney (of course the only other place a child relates fairy tales too).

Much like many of the stories I've realised I like, the stories are quirkier, and this book started my love for folk tales and mythology (much of which I like to base my author work on now). I guess you could say it was stories like this that inspired me, and I love to write about creates from myth, legend, and cultural folk tales. No dragons in these stories, but there are witches, goblins, seal-people, and sprites.

Age group:

Key Stage 2 (later primary school ages).

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

Another journey into fantasy, I loved how this book flicked between the real world and the fantasy world. A boy finds an old book in a book store, and because he's bullied at school at hates it, he hides in the attack at school and just sits and reads The Neverending Story (it's almost like inception, but bookception—the story within the story). We flick between this boy's life as he's reading it and the story he reads too. I adored this concept, and I loved how the different worlds were written in different coloured ink (expensive to produce, I know now. The perks of living the publishing life, you can't not think about these things), but a beautiful effect. You'd not get it now. The fantasy story part of it was beautiful too, and I loved how the stories wove in together.

Again, quirky creatures and an adventure—I'm sensing a pattern, here.

Age group:

Key stage 2 (later primary school ages).

The Whales' Song by Dyan Sheldon and Gary Blythe

I love whales, and I think this might have been the book that started that off. The Whales' Song is such a cute and beautiful story with beautiful painted artwork with lots of details that it engages a child with awe. A young girl lives near the sea and speaks with her grandma about the songs of the whales as the pods migrate near where they live. She hears it in the night and dreams of seeing them and speaks with her grandma about them, who tells her of these gentle giants. Finally, the book ends with the wow factor of her running to the cliffs and watching great whales jump in the ocean.

It's hauntingly beautiful with the grandma's stories and the girl's wonder at them, and then seeing the whales. I've loved whales ever since, and I adore watching them on documentaries. They're the animal I donate to with the WWF regularly, and I even had a beautiful pottery whale piggy bank when I was a little girl (a gift from my grandfather when he donated to the WWF for whales for me. I wonder if he knew I loved this book as a child, I bet he did.)

Age group:

Early readers (before school and young primary school)

Other honourable mentions for the list of favourite children's books

  • Malory Towers series by Enid Blyton

  • Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

  • Alex Ryder by Anthony Horowitz

  • His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman (I've actually posted this on my 6 favourite YA books list, as though I read it in primary school, I realise it's more likely to be for teens these days. I think reading ages and book suitabilities may have changed? I've noticed children reading younger and younger themes over the years.)

  • There was a story I read about two china doll princes, and the girls who own these dolls end up going on an adventure in another world where these dolls are actually real people. I remember reading it in Year 3, but I can't for the life of me remember the name. I wish I'd kept my reading record, as it still stands out to me but I can't find the title to share it. Do you know what it could be? Sorry I can't give much more info other than 2 china doll princes and two girls going on another world adventure XD

Your childhood reading lists

Thanks for reading my 6 favourite childhood books blog. I'd love to know your thoughts.

  • Have you read any of the books on this list?

  • Reckon you'll share it with the children in your life?

  • What would your 6 favourite memorable children's books be from your childhood?

Would love to share book titles! Comment your thoughts and your lists below.

1 Comment

Ned Stephenson
Ned Stephenson
Jan 06, 2022

Excellent article!

I'm afraid to say that I haven't read any of the main 6 you list (yep, haven't even read The Neverending Story!). However, from your descriptions I can easily see why they were your favourites.

To be fair, I honestly can't remember many books from when I was that small. It was a mist of Golden Books and Beatrix Potter. But I can say that two do stand out - Spike Milligan's Bad Jelly the Witch (illustrated by his daughter aged 6), and Norman Lindsay's The Magic Pudding.

Having two grown up children, I look back with fond memories of reading to them both. I found it especially amusing that children love repetition. The same story read to…

bottom of page