Books

12 Classic Children’s Books Every Adult Should Read Before They Die

Watership Down – Richard Adams (1972)

Set in the beautiful English countryside of the Berkshire Downs, a once idyllic rural landscape, this stirring tale of adventure, courage, and survival follows a band of very special rabbits fleeing the destruction of their home by a developer. Led by a stout-hearted pair of brothers, they leave the safety of Sandleford Warren in search of a safe haven and a mysterious promised land, skirting danger at every turn.

The Owl Service – Alan Garner (1967)

Something is scratching around in the attic above Alison’s room. Yet the only thing up there is a stack of grimy old plates. Alison and her stepbrother, Roger, discover that the flowery patterns on the plates, when traced onto paper, can be fitted together to create owls–owls that disappear when no one is watching. With each vanished owl, strange events begin to happen. As the kids uncover the mystery of the owl service, they become trapped within a local legend, playing out roles in a tragic love story that has repeated itself for generations . . . and has always ended in disaster.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (The Wolves Chronicles) – Joan Aiken (1962)

Long ago, at a time in history that never happened, England was overrun with wolves. But as Bonnie and her cousin Sylvia discover, real danger often lies closer to home. Their new governess, Miss Slighcarp, doesn’t seem at all nice. She shuts Bonnie in a cupboard, fires the faithful servants and sends the cousins far away from Willoughby Chase to a place they will never be found. Can Bonnie and Sylvia outwit the wicked Miss Slighcarp and her network of criminals, forgers and snitches?

Stig of the Dump – Clive King (1963)

It is the story of Barney and his best friend, cave-man Stig. Barney is a solitary little boy, given to wandering off by himself. One day he is lying on the edge of a disused chalk-pit when it gives way and he lands in a sort of cave. Here he meets ‘somebody with a lot of shaggy hair and two bright black eyes’ wearing a rabbit skin and speaking in grunts. He names him Stig. Of course nobody believes Barney when he tells his family all about Stig, but for Barney cave-man Stig is totally real. They become great friends, learning each others ways and embarking on a series of unforgettable adventures.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – C S Lewis (1950)

Four adventurous siblings—Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie—step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Lion, Aslan, signals a great change . . . and a great sacrifice.

The Borrowers – Mary Norton (1952)

The Borrowers—the Clock family: Homily, Pod, and their fourteen-year-old daughter, Arrietty—are tiny people who live underneath the kitchen floor of an old English country manor. All their minuscule home furnishings, from postage stamp paintings to champagne cork chairs, are “borrowed” from the “human beans” who tromp around loudly above them. All is well until Pod is spotted upstairs by a human boy! Can the Clocks stay nested safely in their beloved hidden home, or will they be forced to flee?

The Hobbit – J R R Tolkien (1937)

When Gandalf the Grey stops by one morning looking for someone to share in an adventure, Bilbo Baggins fervently wishes the wizard elsewhere. No such luck, however; soon 13 fortune-seeking dwarves have arrived on the hobbit’s doorstep in search of a burglar, and before he can even grab his hat or an umbrella, Bilbo is swept out his door and into a dangerous adventure. The dwarves’ goal is to return to their ancestral home in the Lonely Mountains and reclaim a stolen fortune from the dragon Smaug. Along the way, they and their reluctant companion meet giant spiders, hostile elves, ravening wolves–and, most perilous of all, a subterranean creature named Gollum from whom Bilbo wins a magical ring in a riddling contest.

The Enchanted Wood (The Faraway Tree) – Enid Blyton (1939)

When Joe, Beth and Frannie move to a new home, an Enchanted Wood is on their doorstep. And when they discover the Faraway Tree, that is the beginning of many magical adventures! Join them and their friends Moonface, Saucepan Man and Silky the fairy as they discover which new land is at the top of the Faraway Tree. Will it be the Land of Spells, the Land of Treats, or the Land of Do-As-You-Please?

Five on a Treasure Island (Famous Five) – Enid Blyton (1942)

There’s a shipwreck off Kirrin Island! But where is the treasure? The Famous Five are on the trail – looking for clues – but they’re not alone! Someone else has got the same idea. Time is running out for the Famous Five, who will follow the clues and get to the treasure first?

Five Children and It – E Nesbit (1902)

The last thing Cyril, Anthea, Robert, Jane, and their baby brother expect to find while digging in the sand is a Psammead – an ancient Sand-fairy! Having a Sand-fairy for a pet means having one wish granted each day. But the fivesome doesn’t realize all of the trouble that wishes can cause.

Pippi Longstocking – Astrid Lindgren (1945)

Pippi is an irrepressible, irreverent, and irrefutably delightful girl who lives alone (with a monkey) in her wacky house, Villa Villekulla. When she’s not dancing with the burglars who were just trying to rob her house, she’s attempting to learn the “pluttification” tables at school; fighting Adolf, the strongest man in the world at the circus; or playing tag with police officers. Pippi’s high-spirited, good-natured hijinks cause as much trouble as fun, but a more generous child you won’t find anywhere.

The Worst Witch – Jill Murphy (1974)

Mildred Hubble is starting her first year at Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches — and making a mess of it! She can’t ride her broomstick without crashing, she’s always getting her spells mixed up, and worst of all, the teacher’s pet, Ethel, has just become her sworn enemy.

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