Books are just brilliant – we all know that! But some books are more brilliant than others! On this page I want to share with you my favourite books of all time. But I also want you to tell me and all our readers what your favourite book is, it’s name and author, why you love it so much, and the best part of the book. So post me a comment and tell us all about it!
This month, my brilliant book is one of the top ten children’s books in the world – ever! And it’s as famous for its pictures as for the story! It’s about being angry, being lonely, being afraid and making big messes! But in the end it’s all about love.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Have you ever been really, really angry with your mum or dad? It’s okay…we all have at one time or another! Especially when we’ve been grounded for doing something wrong, or when they’ve told us we can’t do something we really want to do – and even if we know deep down that Mum and Dad are right and we’re wrong but it’s still SO UNFAIR! And when you’re feeling like that, have you ever fantasized about running away to somewhere special where you can do exactly what you want to do all the time? Well, if you have, my latest Brilliant Book is the book for you!
It’s all about a boy called Max who is a bit of a rebel, who loves noise and mess and dressing up as a wolf. One day he goes on a rampage through his house, messing it up so badly that his mum shouts at him and calls him a Wild Thing! He shouts back that he’s going to eat her up, and she sends him to his bedroom without dinner. Suddenly, his room turns into a forest with an ocean and a boat, and Max sails away to an island where the Wild Things live. They are gigantic, hairy, scary monsters, but Max tames them with a single glance and they crown him their King. Then the rumpus begins!! After a fabulously wild playtime, Max sends the monsters to bed…then he gets lonely and decides to go back to the place where he’s loved best of all…by his mum of course!
I’ve always loved this story, because it’s about being young and naughty and angry and lonely all at the same time. All kids feel this way sometimes, but there aren’t many picture books about these feelings. This book has just 10 sentences and 338 words – but it says so much! And I especially love the monsters on the island – they are so big and ugly and loveable, like bulldogs which have such ugly faces that they’re kind of beautiful! The best thing of all though for me is the ending, where after all the rumpus and wildness and fun, Max realizes that his mum’s love is the most important thing of all. And the pictures are AMAZING. They have such wonderful detail and every time you look at them you can find something new – a bit like Harry Harrison’s pictures in my books!
It’s not just children who love this book, but adults too. Over 19 MILLION copies have been sold around the world to date! It won the famous Calcecott Medal in 1964 just one year after it was published. The author AND illustrator of this wonderful book was Maurice Sendak who died just this year. He was a most unusual, extremely talented man with some very strong ideas about kids – and adults! He was a bit of a rebel himself! Go to my Amazing Authors page right away if you want to learn all about him!
And if you really love this story, then AFTER you’ve read the book you can see a wonderful film adaptation by Spike Jonze – but make sure you see it with Mum and Dad as it’s a PG film and it gets a bit scary!
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
Can you imagine being best friends with a SPIDER? Well, in this beloved classic of children’s literature, Wilbur the Pig was!
Wilbur was the runt of his litter, and his owner, Mr Arable, decided he had to be killed. His daughter Fern begged him to let her keep the pig and raise him, and her father relented. However when he reached five weeks of age, Mr Arable insisted that Wilbur be sold to another farm, where he was kept in a big old barn. He was soon befriended by the other farm animals, including a large grey spider with the magnificent name of Charlotte A. Cavatica, who took him under her “web”, teaching him his manners and how to be confident, singing him lullabies and telling him stories. However Wilbur’s idyllic existence was soon shattered by the news that the farmer was fattening him up for the market! Charlotte, who was extremely wise and kind, devised a very clever plan to save him…but I’m not going to tell you what that was as you simply MUST read the book for yourselves to find out!
You’ll just love this gentle, kind and funny story of farmyard life! And after you’ve read the book you can even borrow out a DVD of the animated film which came out in 2006 with Julia Roberts doing the voice of Charlotte and Dakota Fanning doing the voice of Fern!
Charlotte’s Web was written by E.B. White who was also the author of Stuart Little. Both books were so popular that they were jointly awarded the prestigious Laura B. Ingalls Award! Go to my Amazing Authors page right away to find out more about their fabulous author!
Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
Imagine setting off in a small boat with just a couple of friends – your brothers or sisters maybe, or your best buddies at school – and spending the summer camping in tents on a small island in the middle of a large lake – and then living a life of discovery and adventure, with battles with pirates thrown in!
That’s what happened to the four Walker children in this fabulous first book in the famous Swallows and Amazons series!
John, Susan, Titty and Roger are four very ordinary kids on holiday on a farm in Yorkshire with their mum and baby sister, and a Dad far away in the war, when their mum agrees to let them go camping on Wild Cat Island on the lake nearby, sailing there in their small boat the Swallow. Everything starts off well, until two other children, Nancy and Peggy, arrive on their boat the Amazon, and claim ownership of the island. Then there are fights, truces, fun and great adventure for day after day …without an adult in sight!
I loved this book when I was a kid, and my kids love it now, even though it’s over 80 years old!! In fact it’s regarded as an all-time children’s classic, and all the 12 books in the series are still in print, all these years later!
I think that’s because they take the reader back to a time when kids had much more freedom than they do today. It fulfils the fantasy of so many kids – and many adults too – to live close to nature, camp out under the sky, explore and sail and hike and go fishing – with no school, no work, none of the boring every day duties we all have to put up with! It’s a fabulous escape from city living, traffic, telecommunications, pollution, crowding, all those things that make our modern lives so frustrating sometimes.
So read the book and if you like it, there’s 11 more to come! Lucky you!
And if you want to read about its Amazing Author, who didn’t just write books but was also a real life Russian SPY (or so they say…) click right away on my Amazing Authors page!
The Sheep-Pig by Dick King-Smith
If you love stories about animals and farm life, or even just stories where the little guy beats hardship and struggle to find success and happiness, you’re going to LOVE this story about a brave little piglet, the runt of his litter on a farm, who refuses to accept his fate as just another pig being bred for bacon, and becomes a model sheep dog/pig! I’m willing to bet that most of you know this story already, in the form of the very famous film called Babe! Babe is in fact the name of the hero-pig in this book, so his name was used for the film when it was made in America in the 1990s.
This book is one of my daughters’ all time favourites, and I love it too. Like all Dick King-Smith’s books, it’s very simply written, but it’s full of humour and wisdom, with wonderful descriptions of farm animals and life on a little country farm. I love the sheer fun of the plot, with a little pig braving the odds to become not a great pig, but a great sheepdog! And I also admire the principles of respect and hard work and bravery which are at the heart of the story. It was an immediate success when it first came out in 1983, winning the Guardian Children’s Book Prize the following year.
Dick King-Smith was one of Britain’s best-loved children’s authors, who only died this year at the grand old age of 88! His favourite animals were pigs, and this book was the most successful of all the many books he wrote – see my Amazing Authors page to find out more about this wonderful writer and his previous careers as a soldier, a farmer and a school teacher!
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
If you like adventure stories or fantasies full of courage, hope and romance, you’re just going to LOVE my new Brilliant Book! The Tale of Despereaux tells the story of Despereaux Tilling, a tiny mouse with huge ears and an even bigger heart, who is born to an ordinary mouse family living in a castle. Despereaux is different. He loves beauty, he loves music, and most of all he loves the human Princess Pea. Down in the deep, dark dungeons live the evil rats. But one of them, Roscuro, is also different – he loves the light, and he loves soup! And finally there is a girl called Miggery Sow, a servant girl, who despite being not very bright and having cauliflower ears, believes that she too can be a Princess! Their stories all come together in a riveting adventure when Princess Pea gets kidnapped and Despereaux vows to save her.
I fell in love with this book from the very first page. It’s written in a quirky style which reminds me of old-fashioned fairy stories, with lots of little asides to the reader by the author explaining tricky words and commenting on what’s happening. The three main characters are very strongly drawn and colourful, and the tale is a rollicking great adventure. The only thing I wasn’t so keen on was the ending, because it happened rather suddenly! But maybe you’ll feel differently – read it and let me know!
The book was an instant best-seller when it came out and won the Newbery Medal for Children’s Literature in 2004! It’s even been made into a film! In the book, there are beautiful black and white drawings by Timothy Ering and the chapters are quite short so it’s perfect for reading aloud with mum or dad at bedtime. And if you love this book, you can read Kate DiCamillo’s other wonderful award-winning books such as The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (about the extraordinary adventures of a lost porcelain rabbit) and for slightly older kids, the heart-warming Because of Winn Dixie, about a girl who adopts a big, scruffy dog who changes her life.
And if you’d like to find out all about the amazing author Kate DiCamillo, got to my Amazing Authors page right away!
Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson
This is a moving, wonderful, inspiring book for any kid who dreams of adventure, exotic travel and freedom! It’s the story of an orphan girl Maia who travels – with her clever and strict but kind governess Miss Minton – from a boarding house in England all the way to the city of Manaus, 1000 miles up the Amazon River in Brazil, to live with her aunt and uncle on a rubber plantation! The story is set back in 1910, one hundred years ago. When she arrives in Manaus, which lies right in the middle of the jungle, she discovers that her aunt and uncle have gone slightly mad, and their twin daughters are cruel and absolutely horrible to her. But eventually she gets away and embarks on an amazing adventure in the jungle with a mysterious boy and two British detectives! I won’t say any more as the story is just too good to ruin by telling you what happens!
The author Eva Ibbotson (see my Amazing Authors page right away for more information!) wrote this book in memory of her beloved husband, who had just died. He was an entymologist (a scientist who studied insects) and he loved everything about nature. So she wrote this book so she could feel close to him and every page is packed with wonderful descriptions of the rainforest and its amazing array of plants and animals.
I love this book because it’s got a bit of everything: adventure, suspense, mystery, even a bit of romance, while at the same time containing some of Eva Ibbotson’s trademark whacky sense of humour. And I’m not alone! When the book was published in 2001, it won the Smarties Book Prize Gold Award, and was also Runner-Up in both the Whitbread Children’s Book of the Year AND The Guardian Fiction Award AND it was also short-listed for the famous Carnegie Medal. Wow – that’s one good book! Read it and find out for yourself!
Watership Down by Richard Adams
This book is one of the most famous books about rabbits ever printed! It was first published in 1972 with a tiny printrun, but within years had sold over 1 million copies. To date, it has sold over 50 million copies around the world! It’s the story of a group of rabbits who live in a comfortable warren in Berkshire in England but whose lives are suddenly turned upside down when their warren is destroyed by humans to make way for a housing development. A small group of rabbits escapes, and the story follows their epic and dangerous journey to find a new home, including strange and frightening encounters with humans, poison, machines and the evil leader of another rabbit warren.
Watership Down is a bit of everything: nature story (the book was very carefully researched and is very accurate about rabbit behaviour), adventure story, mystery, and above all a story about friendship, bravery and endurance. Interestingly, this book has been just as popular with adults as with children, and it’s quite a grown-up book in many ways. So it’s the perfect book to ask Mum and Dad to get for you and to read together! Especially in this very special Year of the Rabbit!
And if you want to read all about the author of this wonderful book, who is 91 years old and still living in Berkshire today, make sure you visit my Amazing Authors page right away!
Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce
Just imagine if you were staying in an old house with a small concrete backyard, with a very strange clock in the hall which struck 13 times after midnight, and when you got up to investigate and went outside, the backyard had transformed itself into a beautiful old garden? Then imagine that you met a little girl in that garden who became your friend, but every time you went back to the garden at night, she got much older, then became young again, then became a grown up! That’s what happened to Tom in this magical story about children, time travel and the fears that children have about growing old. It’s such a wonderful story, written by a woman with a truly fantastic imagination, and once you start reading it you won’t want to put it down! I’m not going to tell you my very favourite part of this story, because it happens right at the end, and I don’t want to spoil it for you. But my next favourite part is where the girl, Hatty, takes Tom on a wonderful ice-skating trip on the Cam River, from Cambridge all the way to Ely, during the Great Frost of 1894/95, which happens to be the very same trip that the author’s Dad did in real life, when he was a kid growing up in Cambridgeshire. Many people say that Tom’s Midnight Garden is one of the best children’s stories ever written – why don’ t you read it and see if you agree? And if you want to know more about the truly amazing author who wrote the story, go to my Amazing Author page right away!
The Grinch Who Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss
Now I know that I’ve only just featured a book by Dr Seuss a couple of months ago…but I just can’t resist another one when it’s so funny and so perfect for Christmas! If you haven’t read it already, you’re just going to love it! It’s about a very mean, small-hearted creature who lives in a cave above the town of Whoville, and who just HATES Christmas! And he especially hates the happy Whos who are singing and laughing as they get ready for a wonderful Christmas Day. So he disguises himself as Father Christmas and sets off down the mountain with his poor dog Max to wreck the Who’s celebrations. Will he succeed or will the spirit of Christmas triumph once more? You’ll have to read the book to find out! I love this story because it’s just plain fun – the verses are great, the story is a cracking one, and the ending is very satisfying! So make sure you ask for a copy this Christmas!And if you want to know more about Dr Seuss, just click on his name under the tab at the right for Awesome Authors!
The Borrowers by Mary Norton
If you like reading books about fantasy worlds which just might – you never know – be true right now, in your very own home, then this is the book for you! It’s a wonderful story about a family of tiny people, called “Borrowers”‘ who live on the things they “borrow” from human beings (or “human beans”) whose houses they live in. At the beginning, we meet the Clock family, Pod (the dad), Homilly (the mum) and their daughter Arrietty, who live a safe life behind the skirting boards of an old country house , only emerging to “borrow” items like thimbles and postage stamps and match boxes to provide their furniture, as well as morsels of food to eat. One day, a human boy comes to stay and the adventurous Arrietty is seen by him, much to her family’s horror. I won’t tell you what happens next, but it’s a great classic adventure story, and I don’t know any kid who’s read this story who hasn’t loved it – or its three sequels! It was written over 50 years ago but it’s won many prizes and is still one of the best-loved children’s stories of all time. So be a Borrower yourself and Borrow it from your school library – you won’t regret it! And if you want to hear more about its Awesome Author, go to my Awesome Authors page right now!
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
Kids often ask me “Why do you always write in rhyme?”. Well, the reason is: The Cat in the Hat! I just LOVED this book when I was little, and I still do now, hundreds of years later! I loved the whacky rhymes, the silly story, the crazy words and the funny illustrations! I’d never seen anything like it! Best of all, you could tell that the author Dr. Seuss was having a lot of fun writing it and that he really loved playing with words. And that’s what I wanted to do, so I started writing poems!
The Cat in the Hat tells the story of a brother and sister, left alone in their house one day, who are visited by a tall, thin and very mischievous cat wearing a big top hat and a bowtie. The cat entertains them by balancing lots of items, one on top of the other, then brings in two boxes containing two weird moptop creatures called Thing One and Thing Two who proceed to wreck the house! I won’t tell you how it ends, but it’s a crazy ride before you get there! So if you haven’t read The Cat in the Hat yet, you’re in for a great treat! And if you have read it, go out and get the sequel, The Cat in the Hat Comes Back or any other book written by Dr. Seuss. You’ll be giggling for the rest of the day!
And if you want to learn all about the author Dr. Seuss, and how The Cat in the Hat came about, go to my Awesome Authors page RIGHT NOW!
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Can you imagine a book being published over 50 years ago, which is STILL the most popular children’s book of all time (and that means even more popular than Harry Potter)? Well, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is IT! It’s the first book in The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, who I’ve featured today on my Awesome Authors page. It’s the mysterious and exciting story of two brothers and their two sisters who are sent to live in an old house in the country during World War Two. One rainy day, the children discover a wardrobe in an empty room which is the entrance to a snow-covered forest in the fantasy land of Narnia. Narnia is ruled by a wicked White Witch who has stolen Narnia from the true king, a great and wise old lion called Aslan. One of the boys is lured away by the White Witch, and the other children must endure a long and hazardous journey to rescue him. Eventually they become the Kings and Queens of Narnia themselves…but that is the subject of the rest of the series!
My kids and I LOVE this book. When you read it, it’s as if you are being carried away to a magnificent fantasy world of greatness, bravery, true goodness and terrible evil. It’s a much more exciting world than your average school playground! So if you want to have a truly amazing experience reading one of the best books that’s ever been written, make sure you read this book! And NB, the film version isn’t NEARLY AS GOOD!
Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver
This is an amazing story about a boy called Torak who lived about 6000 years ago in the wild forests and mountains of Northern Europe. His father has just been killed by a gigantic bear, but before he dies he makes Torak promise to find the mythical Mountain of the World Spirit. Torak is an outcast of his tribe, so his only companion on his search is a young wolf cub whose life he has just saved. My favourite part of the book is when he finds the Raven Clan and is taken in by them. I love this book because it’s very exciting and really interesting because Torak’s way of life is so different from ours. Even better, it’s the start of a series called Chronicles of Ancient Darkness so if you love this book as much as I did, there are five more books to read in the series!
Alone on a Wide Wide Sea by Michael Morpurgo
I first read this book when I gave it to one of my daughters as a gift a couple of years ago, and she left it in the car one day when I was sitting around and had to fill in time. The story was so good I couldn’t put it down, and since then I’ve been a huge fan of Michael Morpurgo! It’s the story of an orphan called Arthur Hobhouse who was separated from his beloved sister when he was sent to Australia after the Second World War to start a new life. When he arrived he and a group of other boys was sent to a farm in the outback run by a very cruel man and his kind but powerless wife. He had to go through many terrible trials but he survived and eventually married a lovely nurse and had a daughter with her. The second part of the book is the story of the daughter’s solo sailing trip back across the wide, wide sea to England to attempt to trace her father’s long lost sister. It’s a fabulous story, full of adventure and amazing characters, and it’s a moving testament to how human beings can survive the most terrible events in their lives and still end up happy. Make sure you read it and also try some of Michael Morpurgo’s other wonderful books!
See my Awesome Author’s page this week for more information about Michael Morpurgo!
This week my daughter Annabel is going to tell you all about her favourite book:
Inkheart by Cornelia Funk
Annabel says: Inkheart is about a twelve year old girl called Meggie whose Dad is able to read objects and people out of the books he reads aloud, but one day when he is reading, Meggie’s mum disappears with the two family cats and out comes two villains and a fire-eater. The story is about what happens next. The best bit in the book is when Meggie, her father, the fire-eater and Meggie’s aunt fight the bad guys and win. I love this book because it’s full of mystery and is very exciting. And when you’ve finished you can read two more books, Inkspell and Inkdeath and then you can even watch the movie!
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Little House on the Prairie is the name for a series of books by an American woman, Laura Ingalls Wilder, about her childhood in the American Mid West over one hundred years ago. They were first published back in the 1930s and 40s and they were so popular – then and now – that they’ve NEVER gone out of print! I love these stories and so do my kids because they are fascinating and full of adventure. They tell what it was like to be a kid living on the wild prairies of America when people had only just settled there. There are scary meetings with Red Indians, encounters with wolves and bears, horrible strict teachers in tiny schools, runaway horses, loyal dogs, ice skating on huge frozen lakes, blizzards that almost kill people. And it’s all true! They also have some of the best descriptive writing I have ever read! Make sure you don’t miss this wonderful series – these books are just amazing.
So what’s YOUR favourite book? Post me a comment now!
The Railway Children by E. Nesbit
Another one of my favourite kids’ books of all time. I’m actually reading this one (again) to my daughter Annabel at the moment. It’s the story of three children growing up in a wealthy family in London who have to move to a small cottage in the country after their father is mysteriously taken away one night. There they become obsessed with the railway that runs past their cottage, becoming friends with the Porter and the Old Gentleman who waves to them from the train every day. It’s not a funny story, but rather a mystery with some amazing characters. It was written way back in 1905 but it’s still a popular book today! Now THAT’s what I call a classic!
Matilda by Roald Dahl
I love this book because it is very funny, very original and I love the contrast between the very strong characters. I love the way that Roald Dahl has made Matilda so clever and good but with a wicked edge when she needs it, and Miss Honey so sweet, and Miss Trunchbull and Matilda’s Mum and Dad so absolutely AWFUL! I love the way that Roald Dahl uses big words and interesting language, and never dumbs down his story. My favourite part of the book is difficult to choose because there are so many wonderful scenes, but I think the best has to be when Matilda magicked a newt into Miss Trunchbull’s glass of water then poured it all over her so that the newt stuck to Miss Trunchbull’s enormous bosom!That made me laugh out loud!
So what’s your favourite book? Post your reply below!