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Our 10 Favourite Childhood Books To Share With Your Children

14/03/2013 15:59 | Updated 22 May 2015
World Book Day: Ten classic reads for young childrenGetty

Many old favourites are still in print or have been repackaged for a new generation of readers. We look at the best reads for children ages 0-11 (and their mums and dads taking a trip down memory lane!)

1. The Adventures of Milly Molly Mandy by Joyce Lankester Brisley (Puffin)

When we read Milly Molly Mandy as kids it was already a nostalgic read that our own mothers and grandmothers enjoyed, first published in 1928. Millicent Margaret Amanda, or Milly Molly Mandy as she is known, lives in a nice white cottage with a thatched roof and spends her time playing with Billy Blunt and Little Friend Susan, running errands, picking blackberries and having wholesome fun. It's the kind of story that should seem dated by now - what, no mobile phones! - but remains charming. All four Milly Molly Mandy books are reprinted in one in Puffin's recent re-issues.

2. The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton (Egmont)

Another title that our parents read before us, The Faraway Tree series was also actually four books - The Enchanted Wood, The Magic Faraway Tree, The Folk of the Faraway Tree and Up the Faraway Tree. The eponymous tree is in an enchanted forest near the house of Jo, Bessie and Fanny (Joe, Beth and Frannie in modern reprints!). It houses fantastical characters that the children befriend, and has ever changing lands at the top, some nice, some less nice, that the children and tree's inhabitants must leave before it moves on and they get stuck. Perhaps the appeal lies in the fact that we all know a tree in a park or forest that looks like it might just be a faraway tree itself, and they are as big and magical to our kids as they are to us.

3. Stig of the Dump by Clive King (Puffin)

When Barney is bored one day he heads to the local chalk pit, now used as a rubbish dump, where he spots and befriends Stig, who is, quite literally, a caveman, living in a cave and coming from, as we find out later in the book, an ancient tribe who lived in the area in the past. There have been two television adaptations - 1981 and 2002, the latter of which is available on DVD - and an audio version read by Tony Robinson. Stig remains ideal for anyone who has had an imaginary friend, or a real friend who's just a little bit different.

4. Burglar Bill by Janet and Allan Ahlberg (Puffin)

Almost any book by the Ahlbergs should be recommended for children to discover, and parents to rediscover, from Peepo! to Funnybones and Cops and Robbers to The Jolly Postman, but it is Burglar Bill that is the most memorable, perhaps down to the most wonderful of catchphrases – "That's a nice x, I'll 'av that" – be it a slice of toast or a box containing a baby. He meets Burglar Betty and reforms of course, though one can't help but think they won't stay legit for long. It's got humour for parents and kids alike, and wonderful pictures. That's a nice book, you should 'av that.

5. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume (Macmillan Children's Books)

Today's generation of mums learnt nearly everything they needed to know from Judy Blume. Slightly older kids will remember the penis called Ralph in Forever and the heartbreaking summer of her father's murder for Davey in Tiger Eyes. But for pre-teens, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret that must be the most memorable, not least because it led to legions of girls sloping off at breaktime to chant, "we must, we must, we must increase our bust." The latest edition has changed belted sanitary towels to sticky ones ensuring Margaret's first period still speaks to girls today.

6. Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem (HarperCollins)

This series of illustrated books is about a community of mice who live in the English countryside, in tree trunk cottages along Brambly Hedge. The adventures in their daily lives keep readers fascinated, but it's the illustrations that really make these stories, with attention to detail that means you see something new on every reading, from daisy chain decorations on the rafters to ornaments of mice on the welsh dressers. HarperCollins have just released a treasury of all the Brambly Hedge stories in one lovely book, an ideal way to relive your childhood while pretending it's for the benefit of your children.

7. The Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord and Janet Burroway (Red Fox)

"One hot summer in Itching Down, Four million wasps flew into town." And so begins the tale of The Giant Jam Sandwich, which is essentially a modern day morality tale in rhyme about what happens when a village comes together to use wit and ingenuity to defeat the enemy. The story is fast paced and funny, the illustrations are beautiful and, like jam sandwiches, it's hard to imagine it will ever lose its appeal.

8. The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner (HarperCollins)

Long before fantasy for kids meant Harry Potter and scary meant facing a dementor on a dark night, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen was terrifying young readers with its tales of dark spirits, shapeshifting sorceresses, and wizards, based on the folklore of Alderley Edge. This atmospheric children's fantasy novel bridges the gap between CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien, with its claustrophobic tunnel scene staying in the minds of readers years later. Not for the easily scared but perfect reading for kids, and grown-ups, ready to stretch their imaginations and explore the fantasy genre.

9. Mr Gumpy's Motor Car by John Burningham (Red Fox)

If you're an adult who loves the rhythm and cadences of our language it's quite possible it's all because of Mr Gumpy. The story of his day out in his motor car, packed with children and animals is nice if unremarkable, but the language is really something. Engines chug, wheels churn, and the passengers push and shove and heave and strain and gasp and slip and slither and squelch, words which should still excite any young person in possession of a pair of Wellington boots.

10. The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier (Jonathan Cape)

This is the tear jerking story of the Balicki family from Warsaw. separated by the Nazis and desperate to find each other. The Balicki children, Ruth, Edek and Bronia, are helped by an orphan, Jan, who met their father after his escape from Nazi prison and who gave him the silver sword (really a letter opener). The children cross war-torn Europe facing starvation, bullets and hazardous river crossings in their attempt to be reunited with their parents who have made their way to Switzerland. It's as exciting, and important, now as it as it ever was and an ideal introduction to the history of the twentieth century.

Do you remember these books?

Did you have any favourites you've found for your children?

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Best books for children aged three to five, five to eight and eight to 11.

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