The SYP Committee’s favourite children’s books

Posted on June 8, 2009 in Uncategorized

Tomorrow, June 9th, Michael Rosen’s successor as Children’s Laureate will be announced. Back in April, past laureates were asked by Waterstones to choose their favourite children’s books of all time to feature on Laureates’ Table, a new promotion at Waterstone’s that is part of the 10th anniversary of the Children’s Laureate. (Click here to read the Bookseller’s report.)
The books we read in childhood – which are not necessarily those aimed at children – often stay with us for the rest of our lives, informing our views and reading tastes as we grow older. These memories are probably especially important to those of us working in publishing. Jobs in children’s publishing are a highly sought-after within the industry – happy memories of reading when we were young must contribute to this, as well as the enduring qualities of children’s books, which capture the imaginations of adults too. With this in mind, we asked members of the SYP committee to tell us about their favourite books from their childhood:

Sean Moss, Events co-ordinator: The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton

You can’t get more ingenious than a tree with different worlds at the top that change every now and then, a man covered in saucepans and a man called Moonface! An absolutely classic adventure story.






 Angie Solomon, Chair: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Ok, so I’m going to pretend that my favourite children book/s weren’t the entire Sweet Valley High or Point Horror series and choose something a bit more highbrow as I’m writing to fellow publishers.
When I was younger I absolutely adored Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and the sequels that followed it. My favourite was Amy; although she was the snooty one I loved her spirit and the fact that she finally won the boy! I was never a big fan of tomboy Jo, as I didn’t really connect with the outdoorsy type; but I loved the quiet tragedy of Beth and from there decided on the name of my first daughter.

I think Little Women is a book that can be enjoyed by all girls young and old – and I’m sure boys will also sneak a read!

Nikki Dudley, InPrint Production Editor: Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

This novel turns racial issues on their head. It follows the story of Sephy (a Cross) and Callum (a nought), struggling to stay friends in a world where their origins determine their status. Callum epitomises the struggle to escape the status you are born into and Sephy the struggle to escape the guilt that is attached to unfounded superiority.


Some have hailed it a modern day Romeo and Juliet and the similarities are there – forbidden friendship, feuding families, tragedy. However, this is a fresh take on racial tensions, where those with white skin are the ones who are discriminated against, and those with black skin are superior. A real thought-provoking narrative, which may not be high-class writing throughout, but is definitely worth reading and is even more relevant in today’s society where unjust wars and terrorism are real concerns.

CJ Montague, Jobs Co-ordinator: Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne

The books you read as a child have a lot to answer for: for most of us, it was where we first fell in love with books, and now we’ve persevered and moved city or even country to work with them!

I filled my teen years with the fluff of Babysitters Club (yes I admit it!), but cut my teeth on Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl and C.S. Lewis, and adored the tales of The Velveteen Rabbit and The Littlest Angel. Even as an adult I was enchanted by The Man with the Dancing Eyes (Sophie Dahl, Bloomsbury); a ‘grown up’ Fairytale, but I will always go back to Winnie the Pooh. I was put to sleep listening to the adventures of Pooh and Christopher Robin, and his steadfast friends; the loyal Piglet, the ever-enthusiastic Tigger, the Mother/Son team, Kanga and Roo, and the rest. The rhymes of When We Are Six and When We Were Very Young had my sister and I in kinks; lines from Halfway Down, Disobedience and Sneezles, from the same books, are still quoted in my house. I actually think my Dad enjoyed reading them more than we did listening. 
The dedication to Lucy at the start of the Chronicles of Narnia is one of my favourites:
I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales…but some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.

It’s that simple, the essence of children’s books: they’re not just for children!

Kevin Mahoney, Web Content Editor: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

My favourite children’s book is Where the Wild Things Are, written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak, which was first published in 1963.  To be honest, I can’t really remember what the story is about, as it’s the illustrations that have always grabbed me – they’re so iconic, and disturbing (in a good way).  Whenever a new baby cousin arrives, I always have to buy them a copy of Where the Wild Things Are, as I think it should be a prerequisite of childhood.  And if they’re really good, then I’ll buy them a copy that contains a fluffy toy of one of the wild things.  Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers are currently making a movie of Where the Wild Things Are, which should be quite a challenge, as I believe the text in the book is only 10 lines long!


Bhav Mehta, Project 60 Co-ordinator: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is at the top of my list of children’s books. It’s a sheer work of genius, filled with imagination, fun, and magic.

Unlike other children’s books, the antagonists in this book aren’t adults or monsters or vampires, but rather the naughty children. These are: Augustus (who is gluttonous), Veruca (who is spoiled brat), Violet (who chews gum all day) and Mike (who is obsessed with watching TV). Charlie, the hero of the book, is the only one who doesn’t misbehave. As Willy Wonka leads the children from room to room, one child after another falls victim to his or her bad habit and is eliminated. Charlie remains, and thus inherits Willy Wonka’s factory and his fortunes!

Charlie – the poor boy that barely has enough money to survive and can only dream about his future – finally strikes it rich! Charlie is the original Slumdog Millionaire!

Lucy Mitchell, InPrint Online Editor: Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones

I always loved reading when I was little but this was the first book that I fell in love with, when I was about ten or eleven, and have re-read many time since.

A photograph hanging in her childhood bedroom brings strange memories back to Polly of a life she never lived: gate-crashing a funeral, meeting the mysterious Tom Lynn and his string quartet, the stories she wrote for him becoming reality: but what was the terrible thing she did that caused Tom to be erased from her life?

Diana Wynne Jones is the master of weaving magic into real life situations, leaving you half expecting to walk around a corner and into an alternate world. The magical element in Fire and Hemlock is so subtly created that the reader is left uncertain as to whether anything out of the ordinary has happened or not, and the blending of old ballads and folk stories adds yet another layer that makes this book thrilling for children and adults alike.