- The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis
I have chosen to include series on this list as singular entries to avoid repeating myself and allow me to showcase a wider variety of fiction. The first series on my list is The Chronicle of Narnia; a series which shaped many children’s lives since the initial publication of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe in 1950. They returned to prominence in 2005, with the release of a film adaptation which brought my generation to the fantastical series. I personally read the books in Chronological order (starting with the Magician’s Nephew) but there is dispute about the order of the novels as they were not published in this order.
- Peter and Jane by Ladybird Books
The Key Words Reading Scheme, also called Peter and Jane, is a series of learning to read books that were how my parents taught me how to read. They were a huge part of my childhood given that they were how I learnt to read and I still have the whole collection in a box somewhere for when I have children of my own. The entire series was published between 1964 and 1967 though the books have been revised over the years with small changes made to content and artwork to reflect changes in attitudes. The books are still available to this day and though they are a little old fashioned now they still hold a special place in my heart.
- Shirly Hughes Collection by Shirly Hughes
The Shirly Hughes Collection is a series of short stories by the children’s author Shirly Hughes, many of them featuring her most famous character Alfie. I loved these stories when I was a child and I still have my copy of the collection somewhere at my parents’ house. Shirly Hughes has been publishing children’s literature since the 1960’s and the Alfie books were published between 1981 to 2002. She also illustrates her own stories with beautiful drawings that make her tales all the more endearing.
- The Lottie Project by Jaqueline Wilson
I couldn’t write this list and not mention Jaqueline Wilson. She was an author who defined the childhoods of most of my peers with her incredibly successful children’s novels and the famous CBBC adaptation of The Story of Tracy Beaker. I loved her books as a child, but by far my favourite was the 1997 novel The Lottie Project, which told the story of a girl called Charlotte writing her history project. Wilson published about 40 novels before she had her breakthrough in 1991 with The Story of Tracy Beaker.
- Mr William Shakespeare’s Plays by Marcia Williams
From a very young age I think I was destined to fall in love with the work of William Shakespeare. The first versions of his plays I remember reading myself were Marcia Williams’ Illustrated, Comic Style books, Mr William Shakespeare’s Plays (1998) and the following Bravo Mr William Shakespeare! (2000). Each book included 7 short versions of Shakespeare’s plays, including Romeo and Juliet, King Lear, Twelfth Night etc. The illustrations even featured famous quotes from the original plays. I still love these books to this day as overviews of Shakespeare’s Plays and I love that they bring Shakespeare to a younger generation.
- James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Another children’s author who couldn’t be ignored on this list. Roald Dahl remains one of my favourite authors to this day and I love his adult fiction, but it is his children’s novels that defined a large part of my life. I grew up on his books and the film adaptations of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1971) and Matilda (1996). My favourite book of his was James and the Giant Peach, I think mostly because I loved the illustrations and the concept a boy befriending all of these giant insects and just rolling away from his problems. It was so abstract and idealist I absolutely love it.
- My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards
My Naughty Little Sister was first published in 1952 by Dorothy Edwards and Illustrated by Shirly Hughes. I had a collection of the tales that was handed down to me by my mum and I really loved them. The stories of a badly-behaved child were always fun to read and short stories. Between 1952 and 1971 Edwards published 5 collections of My Naughty Little Sister short stories. I don’t think many people my age read these but I had them handed down to me from my mum and I loved them!
- The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy
A fantasy series about a school for witches, with the first instalment published in 1974 and the most recent in 2013 (which I haven’t actually read yet). This series has been incredibly popular with TV and Film companies, with a film made in 1986, a TV series running from 1998 to 2001, two spin offs from that series, and a new series on CBBC started in 2017. There are seven books in the series up until now and I loved them when I was a child. I never actually watched any of the adaptations when I was a child but I am planning on checking out the new CBBC series at some point, and reading the most recent addition to the series.
- Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaader
This is not a children’s book. I feel the need to make that completely clear. As a child I enjoyed reading more than just children’s books and Sophie’s World was probably my favourite. I first read it when I was 9 years old and there was a lot I didn’t understand but I loved it and I have loved it ever since. I still learn something new every time I read it. It was first published in 1991 by Norwegian writer Jostein Gaader, but wasn’t published in English until 1995. It deals with a teenager learning philosophy from a middle-aged philosopher and it introduced me to the ideas of Socrates and Plato that have influenced my thinking ever since.
- The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling
I don’t think much needs to be said about the international success that is Harry Potter. The seven-book series, published between 1997 and 2007, which inspired two film series, a stage play, numerous spin offs, and three theme parks, amongst other things, has shaped an entire generation. Words like muggle and expelliarmus are immediately understood by most people my age and the series is loved by millions. It’s no surprise that this is my favourite book series from my childhood; I have a deathly hallows tattoo! The universe Rowling has created is so expansive and detailed that it’s very easy to fall in love and make the universe your own.