Raggedy Ann Girl's Top Ten Childhood Books 

When I was a child, perhaps because I was an only child, reading was my absolute passion.  I could happily spend hours alone with a book, completely immersed in whatever fantasy world that particular book held me in. And, of course, I had my favourites. Those books I would read over and over. The ones I would turn to when I was confined to barracks with a cold or chickenpox. And even today, when I'm in need of an indulgent hour or two, it's these books I take from the shelf. They are part of my childhood, part of my life and that's the thing about favourite books, particularly the ones we love as children, they stay with us. We remember the way they made us feel, and oftentimes the first time we read them.

And so here are a few of my childhood favourites, I wonder whether any of them are your favourites too?


1     Charlie and the Chocolate Factory -  Roald Dahl

Ah, what would children's fiction have been like without the wonderful Roald Dahl? His dark, and yes, sometimes macabre stories seem to be plumbed right into the more mischievous regions of a child's mind. Or at least this child's. Certainly every child would leap at the chance just to visit a chocolate factory, let alone inherit one. Even when there seemed a great likelihood of a grisly, albeit appropriate, fate for those children not as well behaved as the titular Charlie Bucket. Full of weird and wonderful characters like the gluttonous Augustus Gloop (eventually sucked in to a chocolate fountain) or the gum-chewing Violet Beauregarde (who swelled up like a giant blueberry bubble) and, of course, the crazed chocolatier extraordinaire, Willy Wonka. I don't know about you, but I'm still looking for that Golden Ticket …


2     James and the Giant Peach - Roald Dahl

It's no surprise that my list features another Dahl favourite. After all, in the 1970s of my childhood he was probably the most read of all children's novelists.The story of a young boy, sent to live with his cruel aunts after his parents are devoured by an escaped rhino, who accidentally causes a peach, and the insects within it, to swell to massive proportions. Who wouldn't love a book with adventure, giant talking insects, revenge on nasty aunts, wit, drama and, yes, a great big peach?


3     Little Women - Louisa May Alcott

A book for which my Mum and I share a huge love. This story of the four March girls growing up during the American Civil War is surprisingly accessible to modern young women. And Jo, the central character, is most certainly an apt role model for today's girls. She is clever, confident, active, principled, loyal and independent. With her sisters, the responsible Meg, altruistic Beth and vain Amy, the March girls represent all of the most common traits of teenage girls of any era. A true story of growing up, it is a classic.


4     Charlotte's Web - E B White

It is not always a bad thing to see a film version of a story prior to reading the book. At least, having first seen the film should not put you off reading the book on which it is based. Charlotte's Web was the first film I was taken to see at the cinema. I must have been about four years old. Of course I was far too young to read the book back then. In fact, as exciting as that first cinematic experience had been, I didn't really think much about the story until I was nine or ten and it re-appeared as our class reader. How pleased I was! So delightful and simply written is the story of Wilbur the runt piglet who is saved from slaughter by the kindness of a little girl and the intellect and cunning of a wonderful spider named Charlotte. Since I am a confirmed arachnophobe, would it surprise you that I consider Charlotte the spider to be one of the great heroines of children's literature? Probably not if you've read the book.


5    Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

Carroll's extraordinary book, surely unmatched in modern literature, remains a perennial favourite. The brilliance of the writing captivates readers of all ages because it really does seem to come from the imagination of a child, rather than an adult.  And no film version, whether the animation of Walt Disney or the remarkable styling of Tim Burton can truly ever do justice to the tale. I was fortunate enough to read the story from a book handed down, via my Mum, from my Grandma. It had been given to her as a child in the early 1920s and had the most beautiful illustrations. Having been the third generation to read the story from the very same book, I feel a very great affinity with it. A true treasure.


6     Gobbolino the Witch's Cat - Ursula Moray Williams

I must have read and re-read this charming book a dozen times during my childhood. If I felt poorly or sorry for myself, out it came. And little wonder. What child with her own cat could not love a book that begins with the following paragraph: "One fine moonlight night little Gobbolino the witch's kitten, and his sister Sootica tumbled out of the cavern where they had been born, to play at catch-a-mouse among the creeping shadows." It tells the tale of a kitten, born to be a witch's cat but wanting nothing more than to be a kitchen cat and to "sit by the fire and sing like the kettle on the hob, to keep down the mice and mind the baby and sit on his mistress's lap".  Bliss.


7     Born Free, Living Free & Forever Free - Joy Adamson

I first read these books when I was ten years old, having already been familiar with the work of Joy and George Adamson and, of course, Elsa the lionness they 'adopted'. It was the first biographical book I read. I still remember the utter devastation I felt when I first read the passage where Joy Adamson describes the death of Elsa. It was the first time I cried when reading a book. It was not the last. But this book is uplifting, entertaining and educational, and fired in me a real interest in wild animals.


8     The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe - C S Lewis  

The first and best-known of C S Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, this book really captured my childhood imagination. It's supposed Christian allegories were completely lost on me, but I loved the tale of good triumphing over evil and the wonderfully elaborate world created in those pages. And, of course, it featured three of my favourite notions: talking animals, the threat of unending winter and mounds of turkish delight.


9     The Little Grey Rabbit series - Alison Uttley

I fell in love with this series of delightful stories long before I discovered author, Alison Uttley, was born just a few miles from my own birthplace. They were my bedtime stories of choice and the wonderful characters including the kind-heated Little Grey Rabbit, the Wise Owl, Speckeldy Hen, Robin the postman, Fuzzypeg the hedgehog and Moldy Wold the mole, seemed so real to me and actually led me into learning more about the real animals upon which they were based. The illustrations, by Margaret Tempest, only added to the stories' charm.


10    The Magic Faraway Tree - Enid Blyton 

This was the book I kept at my Grandma's house. She would read it to me whenever I stayed over. Only when she passed away, when I was five years old, did it come home with me, so it has more importance to me than, perhaps, any other book I ever owned. In recent times the book, and the series from which it comes, have been over-hauled to suit modern tastes. I can perfectly understand why the character of Dame Slap, who used to reprimand her pupils by whacking them, has been changed to Dame Snap, who now only shouts at them, but am mystified by other changes. For it has been decreed that it is now inappropriate to call two of the characters Dick and Fanny for fear of causing offence. These names have been changed to Rick and Franny. But for me this book represents cuddles and warm blankets and happy evenings. And even though you and your children weren't fortunate enough to have it read to you by my Grandma (that's an exclusive club of one), it's still a cracking read.