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Five Children & IT by E. Nesbit

There is nothing like wings for getting you into trouble. But, on the other hand, if you are in trouble, there is nothing like wings for getting you out of it.

When Cyril, Anthea, Robert, Jane and their baby brother discover a Psammead, a grumpy wish-granting sand fairy, in their gravel pit they’re excited by the opportunity to make all of their dreams come true.

The wishes go hilariously awry and the children quickly learn that the Psammead’s magical powers are much more likely to get them into trouble than to help them achieve their hearts’ desires. A wonderfully imaginative, funny coming-of-age story.  

 

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Where you tend a rose my lad, a thistle cannot grow.

Commonsense, truth and kindness, compassion and a belief in the essential goodness of human beings lie at the heart of this unforgettable story. 

When Mary Lennox is sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle, everybody says she is the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen. Then one day she hears about a garden in the grounds of the Manor that has been kept locked and hidden for years. And when a friendly robin helps Mary find the key, she discovers the most magical place anyone could imagine... 

 

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

Swallows and Amazons for ever!

What could be better than a summer holiday spent adventuring in a sailing boat without your parents? Arthur Ransome’s classic story of friendship and adventure has been a favourite since it was first published in 1930, infused with a sense of danger and excitement that echoed his experiences as a journalist and special correspondent.

The Walkers – John, Susan, Titty and Roger – have formed a crew and are ready to sail the Swallow to across the ‘high seas’ of the Lake District to make camp on Wild Cat Island. But the island is not as deserted as they think: they soon meet the fearless pirate crew of the Amazon, Nancy and Peggy Blackett, and forge a bond that will last the summer and beyond.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.

This impossibly beautiful, hopeful and heart-warming book has been winning over readers of all ages since it was first published in 1968, and with the recent Great Gerwig-directed film adaptation starring Emma Watson, it has enjoyed a new lease of life. The story of life in the March household, opening in the days of the Civil War and ending some ten years later, is full of adventures.

We follow the four very different March sisters as they take their varying paths to adulthood, always maintaining special bonds with each other. Both comforting and utterly compelling it is an absolute joy of a read regardless of whether you are eight or 108.

 

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.

The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it. Atticus Finch trys to explain the world to his children as he defends an innocent man, and through the eyes of Scout and Jem, Harper Lee explores the issues of race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s with compassion and humour.

Since it was first published in 1960, To Kill A Mockingbird has taken readers to the roots of human behavior - to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. 

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

'Dear old world', she murmured, 'you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.'

In this beloved 1908 classic novel set in Prince Edward Island, Canada, an eleven-year-old, redheaded orphan named Anne arrives at the home of two elderly siblings, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert. She is heartbroken to learn that the orphanage made a mistake, that the Cuthberts wanted a boy to help with their farm work, and Anne is sent back.

To Anne’s relief, her earnest, lively personality and generous spirit win the hearts of the Cuthberts, and Anne’s dream of belonging to a loving family and their home, Green Gables, comes true. Her enormous imagination, love of long words, and zest for life touch the lives of everyone in their community. 

 

The Railway Children by E. Nesbit

Girls are just as clever as boys, and don't you forget it!

With a mystery to solve, plenty of adventure, an abundance of fresh, English, countryside air and lots of good lessons to learn along the way The Railway Children by E. Nesbit has been a firm favourite for nearly 120 years. When their father mysteriously leaves home Roberta (better known as Bobbie), Phyllis and Peter must move to a small cottage in the countryside with Mother.

Although they are sad to leave their lovely London house, they soon discover the wonders of the hills and valleys and the canal that surround their new home. Though what is perhaps most exciting is the railway. But with the thrilling rush and rattle and roar of the trains comes danger too. Will the brave siblings come to the rescue of Father and solve the mystery of his disappearance?

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.

From its famous first line this book establishes one of the most memorable and lovable teenage characters in literature. Cassandra Mortmain is an aspiring novelist and this story is formed of her journal entries. She lives in a decaying castle with her family who are genteel but highly eccentric and very poor.

When two eligible young American men become the Mortmains’ new landlords things start looking up, especially for Cassandra’s romance-obsessed sister Rose. Very funny, poignant, captivating, filled with the beauty of the English countryside and charged with the intensity of growing up, there is nothing quite like this book.   

 

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

She asked where he lived. ‘Second to the right,’ said Peter, ‘and then straight on till morning.

One of the most famous, best-loved stories ever written, the adventures of Peter Pan, Tinker Bell and the Darling children in the magical world of Neverland have captured the imaginations of generation after generation of children. For little ones it’s the epic tales of fairies, pirates, mermaids and the chance to play all day with the Lost Boys that draw you in.

When rereading as an adult, however, the story takes on a moving, bittersweet new dimension as Barrie’s seemingly simple, whimsical story grapples with the loss of childhood imagination, what it means to grow up without parents and parental grief at the inevitability of children growing up and flying the nest. Whatever your age, the story of the boy who never grew up never fails to enchant.  

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Lots of things are mysteries. But that doesn't mean there isn't an answer to them.

This is Christopher's murder mystery story. There are also no lies in this story because Christopher can't tell lies. Christopher does not like strangers or the colours yellow or brown or being touched. On the other hand, he knows all the countries in the world and their capital cities and every prime number up to 7507. When Christopher decides to find out who killed the neighbour's dog, his mystery story becomes more complicated than he could have ever predicted. 

What follows makes for a novel that is funny, poignant and fascinating in its portrayal of a person whose curse and blessing are a mind that perceives the world entirely literally.

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

If I am a princess in rags and tatters, I can be a princess inside. It would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the time when no one knows it.

Sara Crewe is the girl at school who has everything – dolls, dresses, friends and the favour of the teachers. She lives at her boarding school in London but when her father dies suddenly Sara loses everything.

Permitted by the horrible headmistress to remain at the school only in the role of a servant, Sara finds herself all alone living in a freezing cold attic. To survive she turns to her imagination. If you loved The Secret Garden you will adore this story about the kindness and spirit of one little girl, capable of transforming the world she inhabits.

The Children Who Stayed Behind by Bruce Carter

When Gillian paused to consider it (and she both paused and considered only rarely) she thought she would be interested to see what would happen when the Germans came. 

This book takes place at a time in history that never happened. It’s the Second World War and England’s coast has become the new front line. An attack on Brighton is imminent. Drake, Gillian and Sammy are supposed to be evacuated but in the panic to leave they manage to miss the last train. Barbed wire lines the beach, soldiers scan the horizon, the entire city has become a warzone.

But the children know Brighton better than anyone and when the pier mysteriously lights up they know they have to investigate. This is an alternative history and a gripping adventure story about three children…and their rabbit. 

 

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

‘The Walker is abroad,’ he said again. ‘And this night will be bad, and tomorrow will be beyond imagining.’

Will Stanton has one wish for his eleventh birthday – snow. His birthday is on the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, and as evening comes on the day before and snowflakes start falling, it looks as though Will’s wish will be granted. But the following morning Will finds his family frozen in time – his eleventh birthday is the day he discovers that he is not just an ordinary boy.

So begins a quest through a snowy, forested landscape, battling the Dark in a war that will decide humanity’s fate. This is rip-roaring adventure fantasy, layered with British folklore – haunting, beautifully told, and scarily page-turning. 

Haroun and Luka by Salman Rushdie

Happy endings must come at the end of something… If they happen in the middle of a story, or an adventure, or the like, all they do is cheer things up for a while.

Haroun’s and Luka's father, Rashid, is the greatest of all storytellers. His wonderous stories bring laughter to the sad city of Alifbay. But one day something goes wrong and both sons are sent on separate quests to save the fading gifts of their storyteller father. Filled with quests replete with unlikely creatures, strange alliances and seemingly insurmountable challenges, the two books of Haroun and the Sea of Stories and Luka and the Fire of Life were written by Booker Prize winner, Salman Rushdie, as gifts for his own two sons.

Lyrical, rich with wordplay, and with the narrative tension of the classic quest stories, these books are Salman Rushdie at his very magical best.

The Call of the Wild by Jack London

The ghostly winter silence had given way to the great spring murmur of awakening life. This murmur arose from all the land, fraught with the joy of living.

Buck is a dog a long way from home. A big St. Bernard/Scotch Collie, unjustly sold off from his family in California and forced into a sled team way north in the wilds of Alaska, he finds himself learning the harsh realities of a dog’s life from his teammates: Spitz, Dave, Dolly, Pike, Dub, Billie, Joe, Solleks, Teek, and Koona.

But when Buck meets outdoorsman, John Thornton, both their fates are turned upside down. For, in Buck, John has found a loyal partner, and, in John, Buck has discovered a route back to his ancestral home.

 

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