Family

6 Must-read kids books

Could one of these classics be the perfect Christmas gift for the young book-lover in your life?

While there are hundreds of wonderful children’s books released each year, sometimes, it’s easy to forget the classics.

Take a look at these six 20th century titles that might just be the perfect Christmas gift for the kid in your life.

1. The Railway Children by E. Nesbit, 1906

Who: Edith Nesbit has been hailed as the first “modern writer” for children, with her stories facing up to the tragedies of real life.

Why: Edith’s own sad childhood – her father died when she was four – and a move to the country is mirrored in this tale of siblings Roberta, Peter and Phyllis, who scuttle to Yorkshire with their mother when their father is imprisoned. A railway runs along the back of their house, as it did in Nesbit’s.

2. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, 1908

Who: Edinburgh-born Grahame worked in a bank until the stories he wrote for son Alastair – nicknamed “Mouse” – were published and turned into a play with the help of Winnie the Pooh creator, A.A. Milne.

Why: As a boy, Grahame loved the woods, and his animal characters have distinct personalities: Mole (nosy and loving); Ratty (dapper and mannered); Badger (bad-tempered and stern); and Toad (conceited and madcap).

3. The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay, 1918

Who: Author Lindsay wrote and illustrated this tale to settle an argument with Bertram Stevens of The Bulletin and Art in Australia that children only liked to read about fairies.

Why: And so the Magic Pudding, that kept on giving, won. Yet the pudding, which walks and talks, is the meanest and sulkiest pudding ever – as koala Bunyip Bluegum, sailor Bill Barnacle and penguin Sam Sawnoff (as members of the Noble Society of Pudding Owners) discover.

4. Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner, 1929

Who: Only child Kastner was devoted to his mother, joined the army at 18, but was strongly anti-war. His books were regarded as anti-German by the Nazis and burnt, but the one about only child Emil survived the pyre.

Why: When Emil is robbed of his single mother’s hard earned savings on a journey to visit his grandmother in Berlin, he enlists a squad of street kids on a race across the city to find the culprit. One of the first children’s books to depict a rounded single-parent family, where the child acts without guidance.

5. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, 1950

Who: Beloved Professor Lewis was an Oxford academic and tutor. He and J.R.R. Tolkien (The Hobbit) were both members of elite literary circle, The Inklings.

Why: Lewis’ characters are unforgettable and have inspired artists and film-makers alike. The stories of Peter, Susan, Lucy and Edmund Pevensie in Narnia – with noble lion Aslan and the evil White Witch – will never fade.

6. Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park, 1980

Who Born in New Zealand, Ruth Park went to Australia in 1942 to continue her career as a journalist. She married the writer D’Arcy Niland (The Shiralee) and wrote more than 50 books. She won the Australian Children’s Book of the Year Award and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award (US) for Playing Beatie Bow. She was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1987 and passed away in 2010.

Why Playing Beatie Bow shadows Abigail as she suddenly finds herself in the Sydney of 100 years ago – the result of a scary game. “Now then,” thought Abigail, “something very weird has happened to me. I’m in the last century. I don’t know why and that doesn’t matter. I’ve got to get back.”

Related stories


Get The Australian Woman’s Weekly NZ home delivered!  

Subscribe and save up to 38% on a magazine subscription.