Prehistory in fiction 

This is not a normal blog post. In fact it’s not a blog post at all but is instead a request. I am working on a large project gathering fiction and poetry titles for young people set in specific historical periods. As you can imagine I already have a long list, but I can’t do it all without the wonderful input of the hive mind – that’s where you come in. 

This is the first of ten posts designed to gather your input in the comments field. This thread is for children’s and YA fiction and poetry set in prehistory. Please add your favourite titles below (and feel free to chat with each other) I won’t be able to reply to everyone, but massive thanks in advance for all your help.

Remember – children’s and YA fiction and poetry set in prehistory (from any country) but as historical as it can possibly be. 

Thanks! 

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A Primary School Librarian’s List Of 125 Books That A Child Might Want To Read.

these are your kids on books

The publication of yet another list of the “top 100 books” that children “should” read in primary school raised an extensive discussion on social media about the books chosen. Whilst the books on the list are undeniably classics, and books of quality, do they actually represent the kind of books that will nurture a love of reading in children, or is this instead a list of national curriculum and Amazon favourites?

To challenge that list I give you the list of an experienced primary school librarian. These books are the ones that I know have created delight in young readers and have been loved with a passion. You might not agree with all my choices (and some of them are not to my personal tastes) but these have all been loved by REAL CHILDREN who devoured them and wanted more after finishing them. These are not only books that children have enjoyed, but also ones that parents have enjoyed sharing with them. Sharing books aloud is an important way to foster a love of books and reading in a child, and no one is ever too old to hear a story.

The list progresses roughly through developmental stages, but is by no means prescriptive, and it is not in order of preference. “Top books” charts are far too subjective, and the books on this list are all great. If you need more guidance and advice on children’s reading there really is only one person to seek out – a school librarian. These titles are all for primary age children and (with one notable exception in William Grill’s Shackleton) are all fiction titles.

Just for clarification, I don’t believe that any of these books “should” be read by all children, that’s not how a love of reading works. This is list of great books that I know children have loved and, if any of them suit the tastes of children you know, then they too might read them and enjoy them. If they want to. Your list might be different, and I’d love to know what you’d recommend – please add your titles to the comments. I’m sure there are many titles that you feel should be added, so go ahead! Please do add newer books that you know have worked, and please remember to credit all creators of the work, and do post links to their websites where possible. I’ll aim to keep the comments open so that we can keep adding to it and share the list as a resource.

Every one of these books have two things in common: they are beautiful stories, and children love them. All in all enjoyment of reading is the most important thing. It’s all about what children want to read and it should never be about just ticking off a list of books that adults think children “should” read.

Hopefully you will enjoy these books too.

Picture Books (for first word recognition, first reading, and sharing)
1. The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
2. Dr Xargle (series) by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross
3. Farmer Duck by Martin Waddell and Helen Oxenbury
4. The Shirley Hughes Collection
5. Meg and Mog (series) by Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski
6. The Blue Balloon by Mick Inkpen
7. Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers
8. Elmer (series) by David McKee
9. Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
10. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
11. Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and Patrick Benson
12. Smelly Louie by Catherine Rayner
13. Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan
14. This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen
15. Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allen Ahlberg
16. Whatever Next? By Jilly Murphy
17. Q Pootle 5 by Nick Butterworth
18. Here Come The Aliens! By Colin McNaughton
19. Beegu by Alexis Deacon
20. Morris the Mankiest Monster by Giles Andrea and Sarah McIntyre
21. No Matter What by Debi Gliori
22. Sand Horse by Michael Foreman
23. Mousehole Cat by Antonia Barber and Nicola Bayley
24. We’re Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury
25. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
26. Wolves by Emily Gravett
27. Mouse, Bird, Snake, Wolf by David Almond and Dave McKean
28. Jim’s Lion by Russel Hoban and Alexis Deacon
29. The Whale’s Song by Dyan Sheldon and Gary Blythe
30. Changes by Anthony Browne
31. Use Your Imagination by Nicola O’Byrne
32. The Queen’s Hat by Steve Antony
33. Mr Magnolia by Quentin Blake
34. Fungus the Bogeyman by Raymond Briggs
35. A New Coat For Anna by Harriet Ziefert and Anita Lobel

First Chapter Books (and slightly longer First-Readers)
36. Shackleton by William Grill
37. Monkey in the Stars by Jamila Gavin
38. The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl
39. The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark by Jill Tomlinson
40. Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre
41. Fortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell
42. Ottoline and the Yellow Cat by Chris Riddell
43. Mr Majieka (series) by Humphrey Carpenter
44. Astrosaurs (series) by Steve Cole
45. How to Write Really Badly by Anne Fine
46. Cartoon Kid by Jeremy Strong
47. My Dad’s a Birdman by David Almond and Polly Dunbar
48. Nelly the Monster Sitter (series) by Kes Gray
49. Dirty Bertie (series) by David Roberts and Alan MacDonald
50. Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
51. Necklace of Raindrops by Joan Aiken and Jan Pienkowski
52. Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf by Catherine Storr
53. Horrid Henry (series) by Francesca Simon
54. Betsey Biggalow (series) by Malorie Blackman
55. Astounding Broccoli Boy by Frank Cottrell Boyce
56. Give Peas a Chance by Morris Gleitzman
57. Cliffhanger by Jacqueline Wilson
58. Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos
59. Dinkin Dings (series) by Guy Bass

Moving on….. (longer chapter books and/or stronger themes)
60. Dragons of Crumbling Castle by Terry Pratchett
61. Emily Windsnap (series) by Liz Kessler
62. Varjak Paw by SF Said
63. Coraline by Neil Gaiman
64. Box of Delights by John Masefield
65. Great Ghost Rescue by Eva Ibbotson
66. Mr Stink by David Walliams
67. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
68. Awful End (series) by Philip Ardagh
69. Uncle Montague (series) by Chris Priestley
70. The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
71. Dream Master (series) by Theresa Breslin
72. Molly Moon (series) by Georgia Byng
73. Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
74. Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
75. Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer
76. Whispers in the Graveyard by Theresa Breslin
77. Charlotte’s Web by E B White
78. Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce
79. The Dark Is Rising (series) by Susan Cooper
80. Chrestomanci (series) by Dianna Wynne Jones
81. Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransome
82. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
83. The Owl Service by Alan Garner
84. Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce
85. Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
86. Holes by Louis Sachar
87. Last of the Spirits by Christ Priestley
88. Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
89. Clockwork by Philip Pullman
90. Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner
91. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Transition books (stronger themes for transition from primary to secondary school)
92. The Tulip Touch by Anne Fine
93. Noughts and Crosses (series) by Malorie Blackman
94. Mirromask by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean
95. Alex Rider (series) by Anthony Horowitz
96. Strawgirl by Jackie Kay
97. The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier
98. Once by Morris Gleitzman
99. Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson
100. City of the Beasts by Isabel Allende
101. Krabat by Ottfried Preussler
102. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne
103. Dark Satanic Mills by Marcus and Julian Sedgewick
104. Looking for JJ by Anne Cassidy
105. Book of Dead Days by Marcus Sedgewick
106. Spooks series by Joseph Delaney
107. Wonder by R J Palacio
108. Diary of Anne Frank
109. Tamar by Mal Peet
110. Maus by Art Spiegelman
111. Witch Child by Celia Rees

OH – and you can’t nurture a love of reading without poetry – so the list gets a bit longer with some poetry…
112. Puffin Book of Brilliant Poetry edited by Brian Patten
113. All the Wild Wonders by Wendy Cooling
114. All The Best – selected poems of Roger McGough
115. Quick, Let’s Get Out Of Here! by Michael Rosen
116. Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl (illus Quentin Blake)
117. Wriggle and Roar by Julia Donaldson
118. The Complete Nonsense of Edward Lear
119. Give The Ball To The Poet – an anthology of Caribbean poetry
120. Silly Verse for Kids by Spike Milligan
121. Highwayman by Alfred Noyes (illus Charles Keeping)
122. Wicked World! By Benjamin Zephaniah
123. Nightmares by Jack Prelutsky
124. I Had a Little Cat (collected poems) by Charles Causley
125. Casting a Spell (an anthology) by Joan Aiken, Wendy Cope and others

Note – almost all of the authors on this list have a whole body of extraordinary work in their catalogues, and many of these books have sequels that are equally worth reading. Please do take the time to look up the other work of these authors.
Extra footnote– I mean no offence to any of my writer friends if I’ve left off your work! If this was a list of all of the books that I love for primary age children, I would need to buy more webspace as it would be hundreds of pages long.

Dawn Finch is a school librarian and children’s author, and is currently the Vice President of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP)

A new Children’s Laureate.

I was lucky enough to be invited to the announcement for the new Children’s Laureate and am thrilled that the role has been accepted by children’s illustrator and writer Chris Riddell. Chris is an outspoken and dedicated supporter not only of children’s books, but also of school libraries and librarians and he used his acceptance […]

Ask a librarian – “Help, my child has a kindle!”

Ok, so you have made the leap into e-books and decided that it’s time your child had an e-reader – what now? What on earth are you going to put on it?

Chances are your child will have very set ideas about what they want on there, but does it represent value for money, and are you giving them quality? There are thousands and thousands of free books available on Kindle and the temptation is to download a whole bunch of them and just see how it goes. However, in my experience this has a similar effect on children to wheeling in a barrow of dusty volumes and saying “you should be reading these books.” They will simply ignore them and it will clutter up their e-readers with material that they have no intention of ever looking at, let alone reading.

I have comprised a very short list based entirely on the free or under £1.50 books currently available on Kindle.

These are classics that I feel your child will enjoy, and that represent high quality yet approachable and readable material. I won’t review these, as most of them you will know. They may not match your list, and this list will certainly not include every free classic available, but these are the ones that in my experience a modern child should find accessible enough to read and enjoy.

I hope it helps.

Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland – Lewis Carroll (free)

The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett (free)

The Complete Oz Collection – L Frank Baum (currently on at 77p for the complete set!)

Treasure Island – RL Stevenson (free)

Five Children and It – E Nesbit (free)

The Story of the Treasure Seekers – E Nesbit (free)

Enchanted Castle – E Nesbit (free)

Peter Pan – J M Barrie (free)

Wind in the Willows – K Grahame (free)

Pinocchio – Carlo Collodi (free)

Beauty and the Beast – Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont (free)

The Velveteen Rabbit – Margery Williams (49p)

The Wombles – Elizabeth Beresford (£1.50)

On NOT writing a grown-up book…

On Not Writing a “Grown-Up” Book

As I child I grew up in an area where money was generally in short supply and books were luxuries that most could not afford. Thankfully, I was one of the lucky ones; my parents considered books to be essentials, and as a result I grew up in a house that was full of reading material. On top of this, the local library was one of our most frequent destinations on trips out, and the school library became my playground – I much preferred being there to being outside.

My school library was a gateway to a world beyond the grey walls of my cold and shabby school. It allowed me to step into worlds of fantasy and wonder. I was never drawn to books based in the real world, and had no desire to sink into stories of high-school drama or teen romance. Instead, I craved a world of mystery and the macabre. I worked my way through everything that my poorly funded school library offered in the way of children’s books, and then started on works of classic gothic fiction. The librarian would not let me borrow these (she considered me too young) and so I had to return to the library day after day to read through them.

Jumping forward a few years (OK, decades), I finally have a library of my own to run and, needless to say, I run it a little differently from the freezing mausoleum that I used to frequent. My school library is warm and welcoming, with comfy corners in which to settle with a story. However, that is not the biggest change. I am lucky to be both a writer and a children’s librarian in a new golden age of fiction for our younger readers. In the twenty-five years that I have worked with children’s books I have watched with glee the rise in the quality of books for younger readers.

The shelves are no longer are full of stories that adults consider ’worthy‘. I don’t have to stock them with books that are designed only to teach. Now more than ever, children’s and young adult books are written for enjoyment and pleasure. These books allow younger readers to indulge their own tastes for fiction without the sole purpose being the vehicle of a concealed moral message.

Adults will perhaps tolerate a book heavy on description and slower moving, they might even put up with a few plot holes, but children will not. If a book is too long-winded on description, or too scene-led, a child will generally not finish it, or skip large chunks to get to the action. For a children’s book to be successful it has to be a roller-coaster of events that tightly link to a satisfying conclusion. Children’s books need to be able cut to the quick in a way that brings each scene to life with tight yet detailed descriptions – a hugely challenging task.

Thankfully we are lucky enough to have writers of outstanding calibre seizing that challenge and publishing superb books that create addicted readers. These books will set in place a pattern of reading that will last readers their whole lives, and give them endless pleasure. We have writers like Marcus Sedgwick, Chris Priestley, Jon Mayhew, Malorie Blackman, Jonathan Stroud, Cliff McNish, Cornelia Funke, David Almond, Patrick Ness . . . and the list is increasing all the time! I would be honoured to join their ranks, but I’ve some big shoes to fill. We have writers who deliver work that is scalpel sharp and diamond bright, and which renders the reader breathless and hungry for more.

For a librarian this is a joy, and for a writer it is inspiration.