Kids books that have totally stuck with you

When you were a kid, did you ever find a book that, to this day, hasn’t gone away – that you could maybe read, years and years later, and still enjoy?

Here’s my list, all books I read up to the age of about 11-12. I’m not limiting it to a ‘top 10’ – in fact, some of the entries cover whole series of books. Justifiably.

  1. Arthur Ransome – the ‘Swallows and Amazons’ series
  2. C S Lewis – the ‘Narnia’ series
  3. Robert A. Heinlein – all his ‘juveniles’ (Farmer in the Sky, The Rolling Stones, Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, etc).
  4. Madeleine L’Engle – A Wrinkle In Time
  5. Tove Jansson – Finn Family Moomintroll
  6. J R R Tolkien – The Hobbit
  7. J R R Tolkien – The Lord of the Rings
  8. Nicholas Fisk – Space Hostages
  9. Norman Hunter – the whole Professor Branestawm series (my copies of the first three were autographed by the author himself, who came to my parents’ house in 1970).
  10. Arthur C. Clarke – Islands in the Sky (my main entree to Clarke, a YA-pitched showcase for his comsat future, and the first appearance of the ‘broomstick’ he also used 50 years later in 2010: Odyssey Two).
  11. Andre Norton – Plague Ship.

Care to share your list?

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2014


13 thoughts on “Kids books that have totally stuck with you

    1. There’s a lot to be said for kidlit – the best of it carries adult layers that bypass the kids. Makes authors have to hone in directly to what really counts in a story. And fun to read no matter what age you are.

  1. Oh, some treasured favourites there! I still own almost all the Swallows and Amazons series and they were my absolute favourites. I must have worn out the library’s copy of Wind in the Willows, along with Tarka the Otter, and of course the Narnia books were right up there too. (Although I much preferred The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe to the rest.) All the Biggles books, and the Willard Price Adventure series, shading into Rider Haggard. After that I was into Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh and my continuing passion for crime fiction was ignited.
    Glad Deborah mentioned The Dark is Rising – I only discovered it once I was at Teachers College but was utterly delighted by a book that was set somewhere I recognised as my real life. It added a tingle of magic.
    It’ll be interesting to see which books today’s kids hold dear in a few years’ time.

    1. I was introduced to Ransome, age about 8, by my mother who was keen to make sure my reading steered well clear of Enid’s Little Blighters. I still have the original Puffin editions, some of which were issued new during the time I was collecting them. Didn’t discover Ransome’s extraordinary cloak-and-dagger other life for ages – who’d have thought that this wonderful kids’ author was also a double agent working for MI6 and spying on the top Soviet heirarchy of 1919?

      1. I have an elderly cousin in the Lake District that knew Arthur Ransome’s Russian wife and said she was a forceful, domineering woman. I bet his writing was a much-needed escape!

        1. Sounds like it. She was Lenin’s secretary apparently. He ended up having to escape with her back to the UK in 1919. Great to have that connex via your cousin. Two degrees from the author – very cool!

  2. Well, when it comes to reading, I’m not sure when I stopped being a kid. I still love it to death and still read books in the same genres I read as a teen. Anyhoo, here’s my list:

    1. The Illustrated Man – Ray Bradbury
    2. Stranger In A Strange Land – Robert Heinlein
    3. Call of the Wild – Jack London
    4. Firefox – Craig Thomas
    5. Stuka! – Hans Ulrich-Rudel
    6. Thud Ridge – Colonel Jack Broughton
    7. The Integral Trees – Larry Niven
    8. The Foundation Series – Isaac Asimov
    9. The Battle of Leyte Gulf – Thomas J. Cutler
    10. Hour of the Horde – Gordon R. Dickson
    11. Janissaries – Jerry Pournelle
    12. Tactics of Mistake – Gordon R. Dickson
    13. The Tenth Victim – Robert Sheckley
    14. Retief and the Warlords – Keith Laumer
    15. Bolo! – Keith Laumer
    16. Berserker – Fred Saberhagen
    17. The Humanoids – Jack Williamson
    18. Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos – H.P. Lovecraft

    Yeah, and this is the “short” list. These books are so significant to me, they helped define my personality and interests for the years to follow. I read intensively as a kid, and still do.

    1. My reading veered in similar direction as a teenager – I devoured Asimov, Clarke and Niven particularly. Saberhagen’s Berserker series is near-forgotten now but hugely under-rated, I read a number of those stories. And I can’t help thinking the word ‘Borg’ springs to mind, somehow. Did you ever read A. E. Van Vogt? I enjoyed a few of his – ‘Voyage of the Space Beagle’ especially.

      Firefox was an amazing story – I read the book several times and was blown away with how well it worked as a book…but was also translatable directly into a movie with almost no adaptation. Usually the two media have conflicting demands, but Thomas seems to have structured what he was doing to work well in both. Brilliant, and I wish I knew the trick!

      1. I read a little bit of Vogt, but never got around to Voyage of the Space Beagle. I missed out on that one. There’s so many out there, it’s easy. I didn’t read Starship Troopers until decades later.

        Just now I’m thinking about how this early SciFi shaped my personality. In these books, the protagonist fights against overwhelming odds and still emerges victorious. It instilled a “can do” belief in me. In my generation “teenage ennui” was just as common as now. I never really went through it, I think, because I read so many stories about troubleshooting and problem-solving.

        The Twilight YA series really irritates me sometimes. It seems like Bella isn’t one to figure out the problem, and it’s everyone else who fights for a solution around her. I wonder what thinking this is feeding to overly emotional teens. I would hope that young women are reading things more empowering than that.

        1. You’ve got me thinking now. I absolutely consumed SF as a kid…did that shape me? I’d be surprised if it didn’t. I never had ‘teen ennui’ either, I was too busy poking my nose into physics and reading Heinlein.

          Definitely hunt out Van Vogt if you can – the stuff is dated now but very much carries that sense of golden age classic optimism. ‘Space Beagle’ was one of his ‘fixup’ novels, engineered as a mash-up of several linked novellas.

          Apropos Twilight, I agree – to me, it seems to be pandering to teenage dreams of wish-fulfilment without the hard work. Anne Rice-lite. I’ve managed to avoid the series except where I trip over ads for it on TV.

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