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Favourite Children's Books Part 4: Chapter Books

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Favourite childrens books are made through memories: Chapter books

By Hana Whaanga

To celebrate Children’s Book Day coming up on April 2nd , we are sharing our favourite children’s books through a small series, told in parts. These are books that may be from our own childhoods, our kid’s childhoods or more recent publications and some may still be in print and even in our libraries! Some may be more recent publications that have become classics as well. Either way, enjoy taking this trip down memory lane and please do share with us, your favourites on our Facebook page.

In compiling my own list, I found that books I was recalling had a memory attached to them.
Do you have a treasured memory of a children’s book from your childhood? Did you have an olfactory recollection of a book read to you as a child?

Today we share recollections of favourite children’s chapter books from some of our staff:

Badjelly the Witch: A Fairy Story by Spike Milligan (originally published 1973): Albany says, “My grandfather is an absolute Spike Milligan fanboy, so I was kept well-stocked with Spike’s child-appropriate offerings, including a book-CD copy of Badjelly. I can still hear Badjelly sneering ‘Hello, children,’ and the orchestral rendition of the fork and spoon lightning.”

Amy says, “When I got a bit older, my teachers at school introduced me to some of my favourite books. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White holds a special place in my heart. It was the first book I read before watching the movie and when I finally finished, I was so excited to watch it. Even though my nana spent most of the time with her hands over her eyes to avoid looking at the CGI rat, I think we both enjoyed the movie (almost as much as the book).”

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A Series of Unfortunate Events (series) by Lemony Snicket (published between 1999 and 2006)
Albany says, “The reason I knew words such as ‘xenophobia’ as an 8-year old. I loved Lemony Snicket’s dark humour and sarcasm, his oddball narration style, and his refusal to pigeonhole children as either completely helpless or completely heroic.”

Lara says, A Series of Unfortunate Events was an absolutely miserable series of books which I thoroughly enjoyed when they came out and also enjoyed rereading as an adult. I did have the full set but unfortunately (you see what I did there?) my copy of book 12 has long been missing”.

Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism by Georgia Byng (originally published 2002)
Albany says, “Only now do I realise that most of my favourite chapter books were about orphans who used reading in order to escape terrible situations. In reality, I have two lovely parents who encouraged me to read – and read to me – because reading is good for you. Also, this book had a really cool cover.”

Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary (originally published in 1975)
Hana says, “I personally enjoy the feistiness and determination of Ramona’s character, somewhat seeing myself in her. She had short brown hair, she had an older sister, and this story follows her first day of school. What more do you need in likeness to identify with a character?”
Editor’s note: Unfortunately, we don’t have any of the Ramona series in print at the libraries, however the whole Ramona collection is available as an e-audio book with Overdrive/Libby.

Amy says, “More recently, I read Russell Brands take on The Pied Piper of Hamelin which had me chuckling. The illustrations by Chris Riddell were perfect alongside the cheeky narration of the story (and that might be a hint for the ridiculous amount of toilet humor in this book).” On the other end of the emotional spectrum, I read Wonder by R.J. Palacio. A beautiful story which pulled on my empathetic heart strings and made me ugly cry. There aren’t many books that can top how that book made me feel.”

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A lot of library staff mentioned Enid Blyton as a seminal author in their reading interests and habits. Andrea says, “My favourite series as a child were, The Famous Five, The Secret Seven and The Naughtiest Girl. All of those series were written by Enid Blyton. Growing up I lived within walking distance of the Hastings library and I remember regularly staggering home with as many Enid Blyton books as I could carry. I loved the mystery and adventure in them and of course it didn’t hurt that all of those series featured animals.”

Li says, “I loved practically anything by Enid Blyton. I was (*cough* um *cough*) the biggest Noddy fan. So much so that for my 21st birthday my mum bought me the new copies of the first 10 books. I have to acknowledge the problems around racism, but the new books are racial-sterotype-free, and the adventures that Noddy gets up to are still fun for kids, even in the age of technology. The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, The Naughtiest Girl, and Malory Towers are all also great books that hold the childlike magic, and kids can relate to the characters despite the time difference. (A warning here that depending on edition, there may be some casual, what-was-normal-back-then racism, which you may want to discuss with your kids.)”

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Lara says, “A bedtime story favourite was mum reading to me from her own collection of Enid Blyton books. The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. Jennie says, “I mean what child of the 80s didn’t love these books?”

My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards: Elizabeth says, "I identified with the main character SO MUCH! I was a little British child whose family emigrated to NZ when I was 4. I loved books that reminded me of home. They made me feel safe, and had the added advantage of getting my family reminiscing, which meant we spent more time together even though I could read by myself. And did. Voraciously. Realising how much I treasured books that mirrored my life and experiences has made me hugely aware of the value of representation of all kinds of diversity in books. When I was a teacher, if I couldn’t source books that represented my students, I researched and wrote them, in conjunction with families, and put them into the class library.”

Matilda by Roald Dahl. Lara says, “My brother and I both enjoyed Roald Dahl. Being the bookish kid I was Matilda was my favourite. Jennie says, “I got this book for Christmas one year from my sister, she worked in a book shop and this was the first book she had bought just for me.” 

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Lara says, “Animals and dancing are definitely a theme in my favourites. I have my mum’s copy of Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild, which was one I reread many times, along with the Drina series by Jean Estoril, which is now a tough set to find.“

Lara says, “I was a dedicated Jacqueline Wilson fan. I even dressed up as Violet from Midnight for a “favourite book character” dress up at primary school. “Hana says, “I too, was a dedicated fan. I have a vivid memory in Intermediate, when the school Librarian suggested I try reading ‘The suitcase kid’. I must’ve told her I lived between two households, much like Andy. Remembering this still brings me joy as I understand the full responsibility and power of a school librarian, to put the right book in the hands of the right reader.”

Li says, “As for some of the newer reads, I will forever push the Septimus Heap (Magyk) series by Angie Sage. If you liked Harry Potter, but felt it got a bit dark, or you just liked Harry Potter but thought there should be more dragons, give this series a go! It’s cute and wholesome but full of magyk and adventure, purple snakeskin shoes, dragons, alchemy, and even time travel. Bonus, it has a companion series, which I totally geeked out about, as it shows the main characters 7 or so years in the future. Side note - the audiobook narrator for the Magyk series is AMAZING.”

All library staff have so many more recommendations, and could talk for hours about books. Please feel free
to come see us anytime if you need a suggestion; we love to help!

While you’re here, why not try our Pick’n’Mix service? Just tell us your child’s interests and what they’ve enjoyed.
Let your favourite library staff members take the hassle out of searching- it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3!

24 March 2022

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