Author Profile: Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957)

Little House in the Big Woods first edition
First Edition of Little House in the Big Woods

Having owned, and read repeatedly, the entire ‘Little House’ series as a child, I was already aware that Laura Ingalls Wilder had lived the adventurous childhood of a true ‘pioneer girl’ (the original working title of her memoirs). However, unlike many authors of fictionalised accounts, Ingalls actually downplayed, or omitted entirely, some of the events of her childhood. Like the brother who died in infancy (a particular tragedy at a time when it was still considered important for a man to have a son: Laura had no other brothers), or the time a man in the town where her family was living got drunk and accidentally set himself on fire. Continue reading “Author Profile: Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957)”

Author Profile: Enid Blyton (1897-1968)

Enid Blyton signatureOne of the most popular British 20th century children’s authors, Enid Blyton’s relationship with her own children was, to put it mildly, strained. Blyton was a prodigious author: Wikipedia lists a total of 762 published works written by Blyton. Continue reading “Author Profile: Enid Blyton (1897-1968)”

Author Profile: Roald Dahl (1916-1990)

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Me reading ‘Matilda’ on Christmas Day 1989

I can still remember hearing the news that Roald Dahl had died, because at the time I was the perfect age to be a fan of his work. Just a few months before I had seen him interviewed on children’s television show ‘Blue Peter’ and one of his last works, ‘Matilda’, had been a Christmas present the previous year. Continue reading “Author Profile: Roald Dahl (1916-1990)”

Twelve Classic Books for Older Children

Again inspired by Stuff’s list of Fifty Books Every Kid Should Read By Age Twelve, and by Goodread’s Top 100 Children’s Books list, here is my hopelessly-biased (the majority of the books are British, and most are favourites from my own childhood) but still very good list of twelve of the best classic reads for children aged eight to twelve.

As with my list of Classic Books for Younger Children I’ve arranged them in rough order from the simplest to the most complex. As different children develop in reading at different rates I haven’t given a hard-and-fast indication of exactly what age kids need to be to tackle these books: I’m pretty sure I’d read them all (with the exception of J. K. Rowling, whose books came out when I was… a little older) long before I turned twelve, but I was a comparatively advanced reader and definitely still loved all these books at that age. For particularly reluctant readers, and those who are struggling, reading stories aloud can be a great way to keep them interested in books.

Continue reading “Twelve Classic Books for Older Children”

Ten Classic Books for Younger Children

Recently New Zealand news website Stuff published a list of Fifty Books Every Kid Should Read By Age Twelve. While I can’t help but question whether some of these books are really suitable for pre-teens, as someone who loves books and loves working with children here is my own offering of ten classic books for reading aloud to younger children, aged from around three to seven. Some of these books appear on the original list; others do not. All have been road-tested on real children and pass the most critical test of all: the kids enjoy hearing them, and thus are encouraged into the love of reading which paves the way to becoming life-long readers. I’ve arranged them in rough order from simplest to most complex.

Continue reading “Ten Classic Books for Younger Children”

Through the Eyes of a Child: WWII in Children’s Literature

World War Two was the war of my father’s childhood. It began when he was one year old and lasted until he was seven, with societal repercussions (returning soldiers, damaged infrastructure, continued rationing etc.) that continued for far longer. So it makes perfect sense to me that some of the classic books of my childhood were written by people who lived through that same period and authored works which showed WWII from the point of view of children. Here, then, are five classic children’s books addressing the experience of children caught up in aspects of that particular conflict. In most cases it’s been many years since I read them, but they’ve stuck with me all this time, and that’s arguably the hallmark of truly great literature. Continue reading “Through the Eyes of a Child: WWII in Children’s Literature”