My Favourite Children’s Authors

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If a love of books is instilled in our children by reading aloud to them at an early age and then sharing books and listening to them read as they begin to learn, let’s hope that books will still be a pleasurable source of entertainment for them alongside television, computers and games consoles as they grow older. The authors I’ve chosen here each write for a certain age group, ranging from three-to four-year-olds through to early teenagers. Let’s start with the youngest group.

Babette Cole

Young children will love the humour and colorful, lively illustrations of Babette Cole’s ‘The Trouble with Grandad‘. Grandad gets into a pickle because of the enormous vegetables he grows: he wins all the prizes at the Vegetable Show and makes other competitors jealous. When a rival gives him a tomato plant that becomes taller than the police station, Grandad is put in prison for growing a dangerous vegetable. The Trouble with Grandad By Babette ColeAll attempts to destroy it fail, so Grandad is released to see if he can solve the problem himself. He discovers that an enormous caterpillar is hidden inside it, which emerges and devours the tomato. When the prisoners decide to escape, they are so frightened of the caterpillar that they run back into jail. The caterpillar turns into a chrysalis and crashes into the police station. Grandad and grandson manage to escape the wrath of the chasing policemen by flying off on the back a a giant moth that emerges from the chrysalis. On returning to his allotment, Grandad hollows out a huge cucumber complete with windows and a clock tower, presenting it as a new police station. The police are delighted, but they have to protect their station from marauding giant slugs.

There is plenty of fantasy and humor here to delight young readers, and illustrations fill the greater part of each page. I find the one of the huge caterpillar happily sleeping on the roof of the police station particularly attractive. If children enjoy this story, there are others in the series such as ‘The Trouble with Dad‘ and ‘The Trouble with Mum‘, who is in fact a witch.

Francesca Simon

Horrid Henry and the Tooth Fairy  By  Francesca Simon, Illustrated by Tony RossOnce children become independent readers, there are few who will not appreciate the tales of Horrid Henry by Francesca Simon. Henry is the bane of his parents’ life: he throws food, squashes pet beetles, and steals tent pegs to make a camp fire. His brother Peter is the exact opposite of him. When Henry decides to be the perfect angel for a change one day, Peter is so annoyed that Henry isn’t being his usual self that he eventually picks up his plate of food to throw at Henry. He misses, and his dinner lands on top of Mum’s head instead. Henry finds it hilarious and doesn’t even mind being sent to his room for laughing.

This is another series of books with comical illustrations, this time in the form of black and white drawings by Tony Ross. We see caricatures of pirates and ballerinas, or Henry and his neighbour Moody Margaret mixing up a concoction of Glop. The first book in the series includes a story of Henry’s dance class as well as his camping holiday. Other titles in the seriesĀ  include ‘Horrid Henry Tricks the Tooth Fairy‘ and ‘Horrid Henry and the Mummy’s Curse‘. There are enough female characters in the stories to encourage girls to read, as if they are likely to need much encouragement when the tales are ridiculously funny.

Roald Dahl

By the time a child has finished with Horrid Henry, they will be old enough to discover the delights of Roald Dahl’s novels. The perfect one to begin with, as it is not overly long, is ‘The Magic Finger‘.

Fantastic Mr Fox By Roald DahlThe heroine is a girl who can zap people with her finger with drastic results: her teacher may have regretted calling her stupid, as she grows whiskers and a tail after the finger is turned on her.

Worse still is the fate of the Gregg family, caught shooting deer and ducks by the girl. She is so incensed that she puts the Magic Finger on them. The following morning, Mr and Mrs Gregg and their two sons have dwindled in size and grown wings. They have to spend the stormy night in a nest, as enormous ducks take over their house. Only when the ducks threaten to shoot the Greggs do they have the chance to return to their normal selves by promising never to shoot birds or deer again.

A child who enjoys ‘The Magic Finger’ will almost certainly delight in another of Dahl’s novels, ‘Matilda‘, once again centring on a girl with magic powers. Follow this book with ‘The BFG‘, a tale of a Big Friendly Giant, ‘Fantastic Mr Fox‘ or ‘George’s Marvellous Medicine’. Humour in ‘The Twits’ is taken to the somewhat vulgar extreme; for something more serious, try Dahl’s ‘Danny the Champion of the World’. Illustrations again form an important part of these books, and are almost always by the amazing Quentin Blake, who captures the essence of Dahl with his line drawings and caricatures. These stories will keep children absorbed for hours on end.

Terry Pratchett

Only You Can Save Mankind By Terry PratchettFor children aged nine to twelve, Terry Pratchett’s ‘Only You can Save Mankind‘ is the story of Johnny Maxwell who has an unexpected experience whilst playing a computer game. My younger son, when at the top end of this age group, was a reluctant reader, but when he discovered Terry Pratchett’s novels, all that changed. Other Terry Pratchett novels that will appeal to children of this age are ‘Johnny and the Bomb‘, in which Johnny Maxwell becomes a time traveler; ‘The Carpet People’, a fantasy first written when the author was only seventeen; and ‘Truckers’, the first of a trilogy about little people called nomes who are searching for a new home. The books are full of humour and highly imaginative.

Anthony Horowitz

Young teenagers, especially boys, are almost certain to enjoy Anthony Horowitz’s series of novels that center on the hero, Alex Rider. The plot lines are very detailed and full of tension, involved as they are in the world of espionage. The first in the series is entitled ‘Stormbreaker‘, in which Alex is recruited by M16; it is both thrilling and fun to read. Female characters are sadly lacking, however, so the series may not appeal to the majority of girls.

Frances Ridley

If, however, your young teenage son is still struggling with reading (and this is not uncommon), I would suggest Frances Ridley’s ‘Download‘ series, published by Rising Stars. Each book focuses on a topic such as motocross, mountain climbing or racing cars, so a book can be chosen that will tie in with a young teenager’s interests. Ridley presents information in a magazine-style layout, using relatively easy vocabulary alongside colourful illustrations; a short story is also included in each one. The books can also appeal to younger, more confident readers who have particular interests in the topics in this series.

There are of course many other authors such as J. K. Rowling, Jacqueline Wilson and Philip Pullman that will appeal to children. I have perhaps concentrated here on books that contain a strong element of humour (with the exception of Horowitz and Ridley), as this is likely to encourage reluctant readers. The books by Cole, Simon, Dahl and Ridley also feature excellent drawings or colorful illustrations that play a large part in helping less confident readers to follow the text. If your child is not a natural bookworm, share the books with them and read aloud; you might be surprised how much enjoyment an adult can find here too.

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One Comment on "My Favourite Children’s Authors"

  1. Ashley
    03/02/2010 at 08:53 Permalink

    Great list, I loved Roald Dahl as a child and still love reading his books to my children. They are enjoying Fantastic Mr Fox at teh moment. Babette Cole’s the Trouble with Mum is also one of their favourites, recently bought the Trouble with Gran and Bad Habits as well, very cool children’s books!

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Written by frangliz