Inspired by Katyboo, who wrote about some of her favourite children’s books in this post, I decided it was time for a list of my own.
I’m choosing to ignore the more obvious titles. While I do love the Narnia books, Charlotte’s Web, Winnie the Pooh, Heidi and pretty much everything by Roald Dahl I don’t think you need me to tell you what they’re about. Instead I’m going to concentrate on the (hopefully) more unusual books that many of you out there may not have heard of but – in my opinion – should really read if you’re at all interested in books for children.
The Final Journey by Gudrun Pausewang
(Original German title: Reise im August)
Set during the Second World War, this is the story of Alice, a German Jewish girl who has been kept hidden by her family and is unaware of what’s been happening to the Jews in her home town. But one night they are discovered and put on a train to Auschwitz. The majority of the story takes place on the train, where 50 people are packed into a small wagon like animals (only 49 in Alice’s carriage – her grandmother was unable to keep up with them on the walk to the train). The story ends when the train reaches Auschwitz and the passengers are told to leave their luggage and go into the showers, the last sentence being “she raised her arms and opened her hands” (my translation there, it may be slightly different in the actual book).
This is a frightening and extremely sad story. I cried my eyes out all the way through it. Definitely worth a read (although probably not suitable for under 12s)! I have to warn you though – I’ve only read it in German so have no idea whether the translation is any good. Still I highly recommend it.
Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer
The story starts when Charlotte arrives at a new boarding school, where she somehow manages to get the “best” bed in her dormitory. The next mornig she wakes up in the same bed, but everything else is different. The year is 1918 and instead of her room mates there’s a younger girl called Emily who says Charlotte is her sister and addresses her as Clare. When Charlotte wakes up the next morning she’s back in her own time. At first she assumes she was dreaming, but then realises it’s a day later than it should be. The story continues with the two girls swapping places (they are Charlotte sometimes and Clare somtimes, hence the title) until a mix up leads to the two being stuck in each other’s time. The rest of the story then follows Charlotte’s life as Clare in 1918 and her struggles to retain her own identity and eventually return to her own time. This is an excellent book, sometimes sad, sometimes funny. One of my all time favourites. It’s just a shame I’ve lost my copy… I’m desperate to buy it again!
So Much to Tell You by John Marsden
Marina is a 14 year old girl who is sent to boarding school after a traumatic event leaves her with a scarred face and refusing to talk. Her English teacher gives the class an assignment to keep a diary, promising he won’t read them, just check every once in a while that they are using them properly and not just filling them with swear words. At first Marina is unwilling to write in the diary, but as the book goes on she shares more and more of her thoughts and feelings and we gradually learn more about her past and what happened to cause her silence. Another incredibly sad story (I’m sensing a theme here!) but well worth a read. Apparantly there’s a sort of sequel to this book, Take My Word for It, which is the diary of Lisa, a girl from Marina’s dormitory at the school. According to Wikipedia it fills in some of the gaps in Marina’s story and also tells a bit of what happens to Marina after So Much to Tell You finishes. I would love to read that one!
Mary Poppins Comes Back by P.L Travers
I’m sure most of you have at least seen the film of Mary Poppins, even if you haven’t read it, but did you know the book is merely the first one of a whole series? Mary Poppins Comes Back is the second book and was published in 1935.
Ever since Mary Poppins left nothing has gone right at 17 Cherry Tree Lane. One day Mrs Banks sends the children to the park where Michael flies his kite up into the clouds. It comes back down again with Mary Poppins on the end, who then goes home with them and takes charge of the children once more. The rest of the book is in the same vein as the first, with Mary Poppins and the children experiencing adventures such as a visit to a circus in the sky. The children also have a new sister, baby Annabel. At the end of the book Mary Poppins leaves again (on a carousel this time), but she buys a return ticket just in case… which sets us up nicely for book three in the series, Mary Poppins Opens the Door. If you liked the first Mary Poppins book then I’m sure you’ll like the second… I know I do!
When Marnie Was There by Joan G. Robinson
Anna, a lonely foster-child who doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere, is sent to Norfolk by her foster parents. From the moment she arrives everything seems familiar, like a memory. Then she meets Marnie, “the girl at the window”, who somehow remains just as elusive when the two actually meet as when she was just a face in the window. Later, Marnie disappears but thanks to her Anna has learned to make friends, which she does with the four children who move into the house on the creek. There’s a nice twist at the end, but I’m not going to tell you what. For that you’ll have to read the book yourself.
The Way to Sattin Shore by Philippa Pearce
Kate never knew her dad, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t miss him. She often secretly visits his headstone, but then one day it disappears and she finds out that the name on the headstone isn’t her dad’s name after all. She then sets out to find out what happened, uncovering a number of family secrets along the way. A lovely book and beautifully written. The first time I read it I couldn’t wait to find out what was really going on with Kate’s dad.
That will do for now I think. Please feel free to tell me about your favourite children’s book in the comments box. There’s nothing I like more than discovering new things to read!