Classic kids books…
The old ones are the best.
Or is that just a sign I am nearer 40 than 30?
Anyway. Here are some books I think every family needs to know and love, and a couple of reasons why I think they continue to win children’s hearts.
- The Complete Tales of Winnie-The-Pooh,* by A.A. Milne. Silly old bear. I find it hard to choose my favorite character: grumpy old man Eeyore? Rude Rabbit? Self-important Owl? The humor is sweet and gentle, but the observations about how a little community rubs along together are spot on.
“Hallo, Rabbit,” he said, “is that you?”
“Let’s pretend it isn’t,” said Rabbit, “and see what happens.”
(As a digression, if you haven’t read Two People, a novel for grown-ups by A.A. Milne, I really recommend it. I came across it in a charity shop in London, and couldn’t put it down. It’s one of those books where not much happens, but the ups and downs of the relationship get a hold of you.)
2. The Wind in the Willows Ah, this book makes me nostalgic for England…the little winding country lanes, the tea at 4 o’clock, very well-dressed toads and badgers. Toad of Toad Hall is a true old-fashioned rascal. We are currently reading this edition:
3. The Adventures of Lowly Worm, by Richard Scarry. This was my brother’s favorite book when we were little kids. Then my eldest son insisted we read it every night for about a year, so now we can recite every page. I love Richard Scarry, mainly because of the illustrations. There’s always a little ant or mouse in the background doing something unexpected, like the family of bugs eating giant hotdogs as the drive-thru cinema.
4. Stuart Little, by E.B. White. Stuart is another little gentleman. This book is so English and funny: when Mrs Little gives birth to her second son, everyone is too polite to mention that he is, in fact, a mouse. Even the film couldn’t quite handle that and the Little family got Stuart from an orphanage. Anyway, I love how this book encourages flights of imagination. My 5 year old was gripped by the story of Stuart sailing a (toy) boat in Central Park. The language is rich and leads to lots of great questions.
5.The Complete Tales Of Blackberry Farm This is a gorgeous series of books, each volume small enough for handbags and car doors (my dad often has one in his coat pocket). The animals on the farm are so sweet and real in their emotions. The books are aimed at little ones, but when we were kids, these characters lived on for us long after we were 3.
My personal favorites are Christmas at Blackberry Farm and Snow at Blackberry Farm. These are the kind of books I always keep an eye out for in charity shops as some of them are out of print.
6. A Bear Called Paddington, by Michael Bond. This summer my 5 year old started laughing out loud when we read him Paddington. He gets the quirkiness: the marmalade sandwiches under the hat, the frequent misunderstandings, the mysterious sticky suitcase. The stories are simple but they do use long sentences and interesting vocab. If you prefer there are lots of simpler editions out there. But mostly, the bear is just lovable.
Why are the old books the best?
Which brings me to my thoughts about why these books are classic kids books. They are obviously so dated – there’s no technology and people speak ‘in a sort of a clipped sort of way’ – but they are also timeless.
they all feature animals behaving like people
Seriously, little kids love this. Yeah, they can like Fireman Sam or Charlie & Lola, but they don’t love them like Piglet or Lowly. And my kids spend ages pretending to be animals at the moment – it must be a developmental thing.
they have drama but they aren’t scary
I can’t be the only person with 3 year olds who are scared of dinosaurs. These classic kids books feature adventures in the truest sense, and all my children love adventures – trips out exploring, hoking about with big sticks in forests, little people out in the big world, but with the comfort and safety of parents not too far away.
it’s the way I read them
With warmth, depth, love, nostalgia, belief, memories of being little myself and loving Pooh Bear as I loved my own teddy, and wishing I could find a real live bear like Paddington at a train station and take him home for keeps.
*The Amazon links in this post are affiliate links – thank you so much!
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