Best books for kids
Wondering which books to buy or borrow? Looking for something to engage the reluctant reader? Here are some of our all-time favourites.

Harry Potter (series)

by J. K. Rowling

This series has smashed all book sales records, enthralled a generation of readers and drawn many erstwhile non-readers to books. Captivating, magical novels that engage adults and kids from around age 8.

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Oh, the Places You’ll Go

by Dr. Seuss

Weird words, whacky rhymes, outlandish characters and quirky illustrations make Dr Seuss books a joy to read aloud to littlies and perfect for starter-readers to delve into on their own.

We could just as easily have chosen The Cat in the Hat or Green Eggs and Ham or any one of a number of Dr Seuss’s books, but Oh, the Places You’ll Go is a wonderful story about the ups and downs of the journey through life.

Surprisingly profound for a book that features howling Haaken-Kraks and Boom-Boom bands.

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Charlotte’s Web

by E. B. White

The classic tale of how Fern – with the help of Charlotte the spider - saves Wilbur from the usual fate of nice fat pigs.

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The Chronicles of Narnia

by C. S. Lewis

Before the movie, there was the book – or seven of them, in fact. Four ordinary children find their way, through a magical wardrobe, into the mythical land of Narnia. There they help the lion, Aslan save the world and right wrongs.

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Horrid Henry (Series)

by Frances Simon (TBD

Some might object to Henry’s inclusion on the same list as so many classics, but he deserves his place. We’ve never met a child who doesn’t devour his books. They are funny, real and easy for children to relate to, and they are perfectly pitched to draw in newly-competent male readers.

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Charlie and The Chocolate Factory

by Roald Dahl

“Where’s Matilda?” we hear the fans cry. Or BFG? Or Esio Trot? Or James and the Giant Peach? The quirky, creative Roald Dahl was gratifyingly prolific and everyone has a favourite, but a selection of our young Dahl devotees opted for Charlie’s adventure in Willie Wonka’s factory.

There are some good-value collections and boxed sets available, so we suggest you get the lot. 

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Curious George (Series)

by Margret and Hans Augusto Rey

This inquisitive and cheerful little monkey gets involved in all sorts of adventures.

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The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie-the-Pooh

by A. A. Milne

His modern incarnations on the screen don’t do him justice - Winnie is best appreciated in the unabridged text with Ernest H. Shepard’s charming illustrations.

For the purposes of this list, we chose a compendium featuring a number of stories and poems. The poems are enchanting - children of all ages love the likes of Sneezles and The King’s Breakfast.

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Where the Wild Things Are

by Maurice Sendak

Max dresses in his wolf suit and creates havoc, whereupon he’s sent off to bed. Amazingly, his room is transformed and he meets the Wild Things of the title. Children from age 4 and up love this imaginative book

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Anne of Green Gables

by L M Montgomery

Anne, a skinny, red-haired, chatterbox of an orphan arrives at the farm where her adoptive parents had been expecting a boy to help with the farm work. Of course she wins over their hearts and ours.

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Goosebumps (series)

by R L Stine

This series of spine-chilling tales has been included for undeniable child-appeal. Young fans describe it as “interesting, scary, funny, mysterious, intense” and – perhaps inevitably - “awesome”. Plus we awarded it extra points for featuring a potato with razor sharp teeth and an evil, breathing sponge.

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The Tale of Peter Rabbit

by Beatrix Potter

Peter certainly is a bushy, bright-eyed mischievous rabbit. Disregarding his mother’s warnings about Farmer McGregor and his fondness for rabbit pie, he sets off to his garden and stuffs himself. He has to run for his life and then suffer the punishment of a sore tummy when he gets home. (Charlene Naidoo)

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Angelina Ballerina (series)

by Katharine Holabird

Young girls adore Angelina, the sweet little mouse who loves to dance. Very prettily illustrated.

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The Velveteen Rabbit

by Margery Williams

Much like Buzz Lightyear, who’s dropped into his new owner’s room, the velveteen rabbit is a present to a little boy for Christmas. He’s snubbed by the mechanical ones who imagine themselves real. The horse tells him that a toy becomes real if a child loves it enough.

Sure enough, the little boy makes the rabbit his favourite. But when the little boy falls ill, there are more troubles in store for the rabbit.

Utterly charming and heartwarming – it was even mentioned on the sitcom Friends. (Charlene Naidoo)

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The Johnny Maxwell Trilogy

by Terry Pratchett

The creator of the Discworld series is just as inventive when it comes to books for young readers. The Johnny Maxwell books, in particular, will grip older boys – notoriously a bibliophobic bunch.

The main character, a 12-year-old boy, and his friends get caught up in adventures that are funny, fast-paced and very engaging. Time-travel, mysteries, social commentary, explosions – it’s all there and more!

Pratchett fans should also look for the award-winning series about the young witch, Tiffany Aching.

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Babe, the Sheep Pig

by Dick King-Smith

Originally published as The Sheep-Pig, this book was made into the movie Babe. It’s a lovely story of a pig destined for the usual porcine fate, but who shows his talents as a sheepherder.

Check out the rest of this author’s works, too, featuring charming and believable dogs, mice, geese, even guinea pigs.

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The Jamie and Angus stories

by Anne Fine

Preschooler, Jamie, and Angus, his stuffed bull, are a loveable pair. Together, they have a series of mild adventures that kids from about 4 to 7 will relate to.

This popular and prolific author has written many books. Try The Diary of a Killer Cat, a chapter book for younger readers, or Alias Mrs Doubtfire (later made into a movie with Robin Williams).

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The Legend of Captain Crow’s Teeth

by Eoin Colfer

The Artemis Fowl series is probably Colfer’s best-know work, but we love his books for younger readers. The Legend of Captain Crow’s Teeth, is narrated by Will, and of his encounter with the ghost of the wicked-cutthroat pirate.

The lively story, funny family and short chapters are brilliant for getting starter readers into the swing of reading for pleasure.

There are more in the Legend of... series and every one is a treat.

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A Series of Unfortunate Events

by Lemony Snickett

“The misfortunes of the Baudelaire children are hilariously recounted over 13 volumes by the mysterious author. If they are anything like my daughter, your children will be sucked in from the first one and unable to resist the rest.

The writing is fine and subtle and ironic and the books are full of surprises. Highly recommended for readers from 8 to 80.”

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The Magic Faraway Tree

by Enid Blyton

The discovery of the Faraway Tree is the beginning of magical adventures for Joe, Beth and Frannie. Every chapter, a new land is to be found at the top of the tree, and the three children and their magical friends disembark to visit the Land of Spells, or the Land of Do-as-you-Please, or whatever is waiting for them.

Super for starter readers gaining confidence with a slightly longer read.

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The Very Hungry Caterpillar

by Eric Carle

The story of the hungry caterpillar that eats and eats and then goes through metamorphosis is probably the most captivating of Carle’s books.

It provides a good starting point to talk about the days of the week, healthy eating and colours, or just enjoy the rhythm of the words and the beauty of the pages.

Children love it from about age 2, and continue to enjoy it for years.

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by Carl Hiaasen

The Florida setting, the environmental messages, the quirky characters and the comic twists with a dash of mystery will all be familiar to grown-up fans of this best-selling author.

Hoot was his first book for a young audience (10+), and it very amusingly tells the story of kids who take on the adult world to save endangered owls.

If it’s a winner, get Hiaasen’s next book for young readers, Flush.

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The Just So Stories

by Rudyard Kipling

These are wonderful fables about animals, told as if by a present narrator, who addresses the reader, “Oh my best beloved.”

The style and some of the content might be a little unusual for modern children, and some tales have stood the test of time better than others, but it’s definitely worth sharing with your children the taming of the first dog and the cat that walked by himself.

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Winnie the Witch (series)

by Korky Paul and Val Thomas

Winnie is zany and fun, and the illustrations by Zimbabwean-born Korky Paul are magical.

The Meerkat Mail

by Emily Gravett

An informative and entertaining picture book for 5 – 9 year olds by one of the most exciting new young authors to appear on the book scene.

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by Quentin Blake

Young children will enjoy keeping one step ahead of Professor Dupont as he tries to track down his brightly coloured cockatoos.

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by Louis Sachar

An inspiring, moving, gripping story for ages 9 - 12. Simply written but with profound sensitivity - and a wicked sense of fun.

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Hairy Maclary (series)

by Lynley Dodd

Such fun to read aloud! The variety of dog types and sizes and personalities is very entertaining.

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The Gruffalo

by Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffler

The rhythm and humour have made this one of the most popular picture books ever. There’s a great twist in the middle.

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The Jamela Stories (series)

by Niki Daly

Jamela is a little girl who will become a real favourite with South African children. Look for Yebo, Jamela!, Jamela’s Dress and Where’s Jamela?


by Cornelia Funke

A truly original book about the magic of storybook characters. The book is long and quite a challenge for young readers but oh, how worth the effort!

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Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

by Lewis Carroll

Alice’s adventures in a topsy-turvy world make for a wonderful read-aloud to children.

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Guess How Much I Love You

by Sam McBratney, illustrated by Anita Jeram K

Aaah. This is such a sweet book for littlies. All about a mother’s love for her baby.

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The Wind in the Willows

by Kenneth Grahame

This centres on the animal inhabitants of an English river bank and in fact cries out to be read reclining on the clover in a meadow, as bumblebees buzz about.

Boastful and egotistical Toad (of Toad Hall) still amuses and it’s good to see him learn his lessons and come out a better chap.

Rat, Mole, Badger and Toad teach us about friendship and humility and similar lofty topics – but it’s also jolly good fun.

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The Hobbit

by J.R.R. Tolkien

I love the whole Lord of the Rings trilogy but The Hobbit is special, one of my favourite books of all time.

The story of Bilbo Baggins, the pesky little hobbit who started the whole “ring” trouble in the first place, the book is a feast of folklore, legend and mysticism.

My absolute favourite “Rings” character, Gollum, makes his debut here as the creature who covets this mysterious ring which Bilbo has stumbled across. (Charlene Naidoo)

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My Family and Other Animals

by Gerald Durrell

As a child, I envied Gerald Durrell with a burning passion. He and his loopy family left dreary old England for the glorious sunny island of Corfu. There the author met, studied and reared all manner of exotic beasts, from baby scorpions, to puppies, to bats. They even had a little boat – it was almost too much to bear!

I’ve read this book to my children and his observations about the natural world and his eccentric family are perhaps just as appealing now as then. It’s hilariously funny in parts, too.

It’s a reasonably challenging read, best-suited to the keen and competent 10+ reader. (Kate Sidley)

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The Scarecrow and His Servant

by Philip Pullman

This book concerns a scarecrow who comes to life, and the enterprising orphan Jack who becomes his servant.

It sounds like your average fairytale, but Pullman’s use of language and the ridiculous escapades lift the book to something special.

Another prolific, award-winning children’s author - His Dark Materials is a very popular series suited to teens.

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Little Bear (series)

by E H Minarik

Heartwarming little books to read together with your preschooler. They will love the cast of animal characters and the tender messages about friends, family and everyday life.

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The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm

by Norman Hunter

An eccentric “nutty Professor” type gets himself into all sorts of funny scrapes with his odd inventions that have a tendency to go haywire at inopportune moments. Should be enjoyed by the 7-plus brigade, in which case you can track down others in the series.

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The Emperor of Absurdia

by Chris Riddell

A little boy tumbles out of bed and finds himself in a strange land of snoring fish, umbrella trees and dragons, and where dinner is served before lunch. Kids of around 5 will find this upside down world particularly appealing.

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The Happy Prince

by Oscar Wilde

A rich nobleman learns to empathise with and help the suffering and needy. Wilde’s tale is not the most cheering, happy read, but it is beautifully written and moving, with its lessons about kindness and compassion.

Another classic tale, sometimes available in a collection with this one, is The Selfish Giant, in which a giant walls his lovely garden to keep children out, and inadvertently locks out the Spring.

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Judy Moody

by Megan McDonald

She’s bold, ambitious, spirited and mischievous. The spin-off serious about Stink, her little brother, Stink, the Incredibly Shrinking Kid is a winner, too.

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Amelia Bedelia

by Peggy Parish

The gag of these books is that Amelia is a housekeeper and she is completely literal-minded, leading to all sorts of funny misunderstandings that will appeal to the 4 – 7 age group. The books get kids laughing – and thinking.

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The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips

by Michael Morpurgo

A grandmother, Lily, tells her story to her grandson Michael. It’s 1943 and Lily’s beloved cat Tips has gone missing. With the help of Adolphus, an American soldier, she sets out to find Tips against the backdrop of World War II. The story comes back to the present when Adie and Lily meet again.

Very readable for tweens and it will impart a bit of history, too. Morpurgo, Children’s Laureate until 2005, has written many children’s books for kids, from littlies to teens.

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The Jolly Postman

by Allan Ahlberg

One of Britain’s most successful and talented storytellers, Ahlberg has written over 100 children’s books. His books range from picture-heavy ones for younger readers, to books like Woof!, The Bear Nobody Wanted, The Giant Baby and The Better Brown Stories for older kids. Try his poems, too.

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The Princess Bride

by William Goldman

Romance, wordplay, comedy, fencing, miracles, passion and spiders – this book has them all and more. The story of Buttercup, the most beautiful girl in the world, was a cult book and is now a classic.

Don’t be misled by the title, it is far from your average fluffy fairytale. Buy it for your almost-teen, read it yourself, then rent the DVD. By the way, the author is best known as an extremely prolific and successful scriptwriter (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was one of his movies).

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The Little Prince

by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The narrator - a downed pilot in the Sahara Desert – tells of his meeting with the Little Prince, who describes his journey from planet to planet, each of which is inhabited by an adult.

Through these tales, we are shown how a child sees the world more clearly than an adult does. It’s profound, moving, poetic and gently funny. Deservedly a classic.

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The Boys’ Book: How to be Best at Everything

by Guy Macdonald and Dominique Enright

The ultimate “How To” book for boys, featuring instructions for 100 feats and tasks. How to teach a parakeet to talk. How to fight off a crocodile. How to eat in a posh restaurant. How to lasso like a cowboy. How to locate a thunder storm...You get the picture. It pretty much covers everything the modern young man (or young woman, for that matter) could possibly need to know.

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I am Not Sleepy and I Will Not Go to Bed

by Lauren Child

Charlie has the task of putting his sister, the contrarian Lola (of I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato, and similar), to bed. He’s kind and patient, she’s spirited and full of beans. Great fun.

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