I haven't read all the books on the list despite being much older than 14 but have fond memories of enjoying several. And I'm discovering how good some YA fiction is, so it's never too late to read books on the list!
I've been thinking since reading it about other books I remember reading and loving as a child. In honour of it being Children's Book Week I thought I'd list some of them here. So in no particular order they are;
Penguin's Progress by Jill Tomlinson
The story of Otto, the penguin chick. One of the first books I bought from the school book club and read myself! Anthropomorphic yes but actually also a surprisingly accurate description of penguin life. From the author of The Owl Who Was Afraid of The Dark, Jill Tomlinson is always a good choice for animal loving young readers.
Shadow the Sheepdog by Enid Blyton
Not one of her best known books but this was my favourite tale of hers when I was growing up. Animal mad, I loved the story of Shadow, the sheepdog pup, his boy owner Johnny and the other dogs on the farm, Bob, Tinker, Rafe and Dandy. I read it several times and never tired of Shadow's adventures. It's obviously dated now and could be considered a little preachy but that's what you get with Blyton and despite that she knew how to write stories to enthrall young children.
Professor Branestawm stories by Norman Hunter
I remember discovering this series of books in the school library when I was at middle school and reading them one after another. Books that were silly fun, and as a slighly intense child given to carrying round a book to write poetry in, I think I needed the reminder that sometimes it's ok to just read a book because it makes you laugh.
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Most lists of children's books will include at least one Dahl won't they?! This was my favourite, with Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator and its Vermicious Knids a close second. I was a bit of a weird child and loved insects and bugs, I would collect spiders to put in my bedroom, stroked bees, spent ages looking for crickets and together with my brothers once filled a laundry basket with caterpillars we collected from our next door neighbour's garden. So it was perhaps inevitable that the story of James and his bug friends would be my pick of Dahl's books.
101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith
Rather shamefully I've not read her classic I Capture the Castle but again as an animal obsessed child I loved 101 Dalmatians. Known of course by the Disney films which are wonderful in their own right but I remember being totally captivated by the idea of the Twilight Bark described in the book. And I still secretly think Suffolk sounds much better pronounced "Wuffolk"
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
This was read to us as a class when I was in the second year of middle school and I recall being desperate to hear the next chapter. With characters like Tock and the Mathemigician, and the lands of the Doldrums and Digitopolis I loved the plot and many of the puns - although I'm sure I didn't understand all the wordplay. Did I realise it was an allegory about the quest for knowledge and wisdom? Perhaps on some level but what I mostly remember is enjoying a cleverly written adventure.
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
I almost picked My Friend Flicka here but the emotion this wrought in me as a sensitive animal lover meant I had to choose Black Beauty. I wasn't a fully fledged member of the horse and pony mad club but I remember sobbing when reading about Ginger in particular. Anthropomorphism at its finest, this is no twee tale about cute horsies. It's poignant and tragic and for a child terribly moved by injustice I recall loving and hating this book.
The Magician's Nephew by C.S Lewis
I know that for most people The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is *the* book of the Narnia series and I've always loved it too but I also adored The Magician's Nephew, the story of Digory and Polly and how Narnia came to be. I remember wishing we lived in an old house with attics that extended across our neighbours' roofs! The book is obviously a Christian allegory, the beginning of Narnia being the Creation and Digory's dilemma over whether to take an apple clearly relates to Adam or Eve but like The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe the reason so many of us regard Narnia so fondly is the thought that just out there, beyond our world is a world of fantasy and magic. Religious or atheist I think there is something in many of us that secretly yearns for somewhere like that.
A magic mirror leads a Victorian boy, Sebastian to a girl called Melissa who has been trapped by an evil Enchanter. This wonderfully evocative fantasy tells of his quest to collect the Power Objects that will allow him to destroy the Enchanter's power. Along the way he is aided by Mantari the magical cat and Ver, Aestas, Autumnus and Hiems, the four seasons. I remember being enraptured by the magic in this book and was delighted when Fidra Books republished it after many years of it being out of print.
The Outsiders by S.E Hinton
We read That Was Then, This Is Now in English lessons when I was 11 or 12 and I remember being amazed. Here was a book that didn't feature magic, fantasy or English children with nannies or at boarding school. This was real - gritty, dark stuff and I loved it. I immediately went on to read S.E Hinton's other books, The Outsiders with lines like, "I lie to myself all the time, but I never believe me." soon became one of my favourite books. Even living in a world miles away both literally and figuratively from that of Ponyboy, Sodapop and Dallas I was still able to appreciate that this was a story that was really about teenagers and their hopes and fears rather than a book about older children. Connie, my middle daughter read it for the first time last year when she was 10 and has since re-read it, she loved it too (I'll have to watch the film with her sometime!)
Night Kites by M.E Kerr
This was for its time quite shocking to read, knowing it was written for teens rather than adults. Written in the 80s it was inevitable perhaps that this book having a gay character would also deal with AIDS but this was probably the first book I'd read with a gay person in it and perhaps it was one of the reasons why I learned that the world of institutionalised homophobia I grew up in needed to be challenged.
What were your favourite books when you were young?