1. The Cat in the Hat
When a flamboyant, over-confident talking cat arrives at their home while their mother is out, two children find themselves in a madcap chaos of magical, tongue-twisting mess. A rollercoaster to read and a joy to listen to – this book fires imagination and a lifelong love of language. Like all the very best books should.
Best for: Ages 3–7

By Dr Seuss

2. Northern Lights
Pullman’s stories for young adults are complex and original. This novel launches his celebrated trilogy, His Dark Materials. In a parallel universe, Lyra travels to the Artic lands in search of her missing friend and imprisoned uncle. On her journey she discovers more about her own identity in this dazzling thriller.
Best for: Ages 12+

2By Philip Pullman

3. The Hobbit
For many, the ultimate fantasy epic, Tolkien’s works span volumes, but this is a good place to start. Bilbo Baggins is a quiet, stay-at-home hobbit who reluctantly finds himself on a daring expedition to raid the treasure hoard of Smaug the Dragon. Densely written but brimming with humour, magic and adventure.
Best for: Ages 11–15

3By JRR Tolkien

4. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Fantasy and cautionary tale are entwined as Dahl delights in descriptions of Charlie Bucket’s squalid home, the vile children who, along with him, win golden tickets to see Willy Wonka’s factory, and the fantastical sweets they get to try on their trip.
Best for: Ages 7–10

4By Roald Dahl

5. Emil and the Detectives
Ten-year-old Emil makes his first trip alone to visit family in Berlin when a suspicious man steals his money. Convinced he’ll be in trouble if he goes to the police, Emil befriends the city’s streetwise kids, determined to catch the thief without adult help. Funny, pacy and wryly observed.
Best for: Ages 8–11

5By Erich Kästner

6. Where the Wild Things Are
Sendak’s enduring American classic tells the story of Max, a little boy who is sent to bed in disgrace after being naughty. Suddenly, his room transforms into a magical world, sending Max off on a journey to a land where he becomes King of the Wild Things, a story celebrating creativity and individuality.
Best for: Ages 3–6

6By Maurice Sendak

7. The Gruffalo
By Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler
This duo have produced many of the greats in children’s literature, but The Gruffalo stands out, thanks to a winning combination of characters: a wily mouse who tricks the forest predators who want to eat him and a scary, knobbly, slightly loveable eponymous beast. Donaldson’s lilting, smart rhymes are whipped into magic by Scheffler’s playful drawings.
Best for: Ages 3–7

78. Peepo!
A glimpse into the world of a baby surrounded by love, the warmth of home and washing drying in front of the fire. The late Janet Ahlberg’s illustrations are designed with holes in each page so you can peek through to the next scene. ‘Here’s a little baby. One, two, three…’ Enduringly and simply charming.
Best for: Ages upto 3

8By Janet and Allan Ahlberg

9. You’re a Bad Man, Mr Gum!
Stanton shares a knack for the delightfully horrid and intelligently silly with Roald Dahl and Roddy Doyle. Mr Gum is a miserable, lazy, greedy man who wants to poison a loveable dog who keeps messing up his garden. Can a plucky young girl, a heroic boho and the mutt himself foil Gum’s evil plans? A modern gem.
Best for: Ages 7–10

9By Andy Stanton

10. Noughts & Crosses
Blackman is a wonderful contemporary author of fiction for older children and teens, setting her work in the modern world. The entire Noughts & Crosses series, following generations of two families torn apart by racial and cultural division, is tough, uncompromising and thought-provoking.
Best for: Ages 12–15


By Malorie Blackman