It’s no secret that reading is a big part of my life, so I thought I’d have some fun and share the books from my childhood that have made some sort of impact on me. I genuinely believe that there’s something to learn from almost any book – even if it wasn’t that good! These aren’t necessarily critical classics, they just had characters or themes that stood out to me in some way. It was so nostalgic to reminisce on my favourite childhood books, and I’ll definitely be compiling a teen list!
*note* Although they’re in no particular order, I’ll be rating all the books, using my made-up, completely arbitrary system based on my favourite childhood toys, games, etc. This system will make no sense…or will it? You tell me.
Matilda, by Roald Dahl
This might sound silly, but looking back, Matilda was a super inspiring character, because she was the first one I saw pieces of myself in. Little girl, who felt misunderstood by adults, and is obsessed with reading? Sounds about right! Her intelligence manifested into this actual superpower, which is a wonderful thing for a child to read. And there’s nothing like Roald Dahl’s writing style, he’s so witty and eccentric – I’ve seen the West End productions of both this and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and these qualities lend themselves to the stage so much.
Rating: 4 Bubblegum smell pens
Holes, by Louis Sachar
Louis Sachar was another comedic voice in my childhood, and I remember laughing out loud at his books. He has a quirky, fun prose that was so readable. Holes is easily his best work to me – it’s just such a wonderfully crafted story. The saga of teenage Stanley Yelnats’ (get it?) seemingly endless stream of bad luck has drama, backstory, intrigue, mystery and, of course, humour.
Rating: 3.5 packets of Strawberry fruit flakes and three of those plastic flower hair clips
The Princess Diaries Series, by Meg Cabot
I absolutely loved these books in my pre-adolescent years, probably because I thought it was what teenage life would be like (spoiler- it was not). It’s true that Mia was often obsessed with her boyfriend to an unhealthy degree, and had a sometimes horrible best friend, who was so clearly jealous of her. But was this series entertaining? Yes, yes and yes. Cabot captured teenage hysteria in a hilarious way. In my opinion, it’s incredibly hard to successfully write humour and she did it in spades. In retrospect, I really like the fact that the books’ heroine was awkward and insecure, as were her oddball group of friends. Also, the books spawned two ICONIC (loosely related) films, with a rumoured third in works – it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Rating: A single Tamagotchi and a DVD copy of ‘The Lizzie Mcguire Movie’
Goodnight Mister Tom, by Michelle Magorian
It is almost a given that this title was on your Primary School reading list. Wasn’t it a tearjerker? This is essentially a story about a boy who’s evacuated from London to live in the countryside with this stern old man. As the story progresses, both begin to thrive in this new relationship. It’s a wonderful portrayal of an unlikely bond against a harsh backdrop of war.
Rating: One Groovy Chick pencil case, that’s in fact full of fake Spiderman tattoos
The Truth Cookie, by Fiona Dunbar
Ok, so visualise this. You’re a twelve-year-old girl. Your dopey but kindly widower dad has this new girlfriend who’s a wretch – this is clear because her government name is Varaminta Le Bone. He can’t see the constant, evil, Maleficent-level vibes she gives out, because – as aforementioned – he’s a dope. You have a stepbrother, whose name is Torquil, that you can’t stand. What is life? Can you even? You can’t even. Then, you find this magic cookbook. It shows you how to make ‘special’ cookies that will make the eater tell the truth. Ironically, your last name is ‘Baker’ so you can’t resist. This is an illegal mix of drugging and witchcraft – you should be in young offenders, but it’s fine because no one knows, and they’re an excellent plot device. If I had to pick one highlight from this story, it would be the character signalling through outrageously posh names, which if I ever write a kids book I vow to do.
Rating: Four Kellogg’s Strawberry Fruit Winders anda bottle of kid-friendly peel-off nail varnish
Lola Rose, by Jacqueline Wilson
There isn’t enough space to fit all my favourite childhood Jacqueline Wilson books – I’ll probably make a separate post about her at some point. Do you want to hear something cringey? When I was young, I used to get so sad that her books were finished, I’d write continuations. Somewhere, in the depths of my bedroom, there’s an unfinished, pencil-written sequel to The Diamond Girls. I revisited a lot of her books a while ago, and she did great things for children’s literature, with her niche definitely being working class kids with complex family lives. If I had to pick what my favourite was as a child, it was probably Lola Rose, because the premise was so fun – winning the lottery! But it was against this incredibly grim reality of a family fleeing domestic abuse; it had a great, winding story arc, full of twists.
Rating: A pair of jelly shoes and one Rowntree’s ice lolly
Honorable Mention: The Harry Potter Series, by J.K. Rowling
I know, I KNOW. It’s beyond redundant for a millennial to say they love Harry Potter. But it’s true. These books were a massive part of my early literary life, and remains my favourite series; I tend to reread at least the final four every year or so, and I can’t get enough of those audiobooks! Special mention to my faves, books 2, 4 and 6. There really is no book series since that’s replicated the anticipation I used to feel waiting for the newest release, or the thrill of everyone reading them at the same time, and racing to finish. And really, who didn’t cry during the Battle of Hogw- you know what, let me reel it in. I love these books. The end.
Rating: a Sims 2 CD-ROM, two cartons of strawberry Ribena and three rainbow pencils