What a question! When I asked it on Twitter, I never imagined the number of responses I would receive: over 300 comments and more than 200 different book recommendations ranging from picture books to young adult. Favourite authors were praised too with many comments simply stating, “Anything by Katherine Rundell / Emma Carroll / Eloise Williams / S.F. Said.”
The unanimous message is that quality children’s books are worthy to sit among the greatest books no matter what age they are aimed at. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”
In 2019, author Katherine Rundell published her essay, “Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise.” This book perfectly expresses the power of children’s books and their ability to awaken the emotions, dreams and potential adults sometimes lose in their quest to be “grown-up”.
So, which children’s books should adults read?
There are two clear favourites and most recommended:
The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson (middle grade)
From the blurb: Marinka dreams of a normal life, where her house stays in one place long enough for her to make friends. But her house has chicken legs and moves on without warning.
For Marinka’s grandmother is Baba Yaga, who guides spirits between this world and the next. Marinka longs to change her destiny and sets out to break free from her grandmother’s footsteps, but her house has other ideas…
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (young adult)
From the blurb: Conor has the same dream every night, ever since his mother first fell ill, ever since she started the treatments that don’t quite seem to be working. But tonight is different. Tonight, when he wakes, there’s a visitor at his window. It’s ancient, elemental, a force of nature. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth. Patrick Ness takes the final idea of the late, award-winning writer Siobhan Dowd and weaves an extraordinary and heartbreaking tale of mischief, healing and above all, the courage it takes to survive.
Other highly-praised stories:
His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Once by Morris Gleitzman
The Legend of Podkin One Ear by Kieran Larwood
The Arrival by Shaun Tan
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Letters from the Lighthouse by Emma Carroll
The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson
The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge (YA)
Holes by Louis Sachar
Orphans of the Tide by Struan Murray
The Storm Keeper’s Island by Catherine Doyle
The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper
The Murderer’s Ape by Jakob Wegelius