In July I read 13 Babysitter's Club books and honestly, they are still great reading. Besides the fact that the outfits they describe as being really cool and sophisticated absolutely aren't anymore, the writing is for the most part really solid and insightful. In recent months I've been going back to so many childhood favourites in search of solace and comfort.
Many children's books, even if their focus is adventure and mystery, take us back to simpler times. Because they are told from the perspective of the child protagonist/s, the problems that they have and the worries they are overcoming tend to be things that we as adults have often already dealt with, which makes them a great reminder of how far we have already come in life.
Today I wanted to talk about a few children's books that I loved as a kid and have been revisiting, and a couple of series that I've discovered as an adult. I'd also love to hear about your favourite kids books, so do feel free to leave a comment.
My top 3 series that I return to from childhood are all ones that I never read all of the books in. I've previously talked about my Swallows and Amazons re-read, which I'm currently in the 9th year of. If you don't know the series, it begins with Swallows and Amazons and is pretty much about a group of kids in boats who go exploring various new places by themselves in the 1920s and '30s. It's fantastically freeing and inspiring and although it's also full of all kinds of problematic attitudes of the time it was written, these have provided a really good starting point for discussion with my kids as I've involved them in my re-read too. The series has 12 books in total and I read some of them as a child and not others, so now I'm going through and reading them in order. After 9 years I'm currently on book 9, The Big Six. The majority of the series takes place in the summer, but they are perfect reading for any time of year, because of their escapist, anything is possible storylines.
Another favourite series that I read a few of as a kid and have embarked on a completion project as an adult is The Chalet School by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer. This is another amazingly escapist series. Set in a school in the Austrian Alps, the series is made up of 64 books and was written between 1925 and 1970. It follows the escapades of the girls in the school as they do lessons, have expeditions and learn about the world. Much of the action is actually made up of pretty undramatic things, but because it's set in a very different time I find it really soothing to re-read. The only thing with these books is that they are mostly out of print and some are quite tricky to find!
The final series I'm re-reading from childhood is The Babysitters Club (Scholastic Books). This was inspired by the Netflix series (so so good) and if you don't know the series, it's literally about a group of pre-teen/teenage girls in America who babysit. It's about friendship and growing up and it's just a lot of fun. It's also got a lot of stuff about acceptance and feminism and racial justice that I didn't really pick up on as a kid but really appreciate as an adult.
Two amazing series that I've discovered as an adult and wish that I had read as a child are The Worldquake Sequence by Scarlett Thomas (Canongate Books), beginning with Dragon's Green. I've already made a video about this book, but I love and adore it and it's full of magic and books (and books are magic too) and yummy food and is just gorgeous really. The second series is the Cogheart adventures by Peter Bunzl (Usborne Books) which are a steampunk series with two children having to escape from an evil villain and solve a mystery at the same time. A bonus shout out to a series I've recently discovered through reading it with my kids, which is the Sam Wu series by Katie and Kevin Tsang. We've only read Sam Wu is Not Afraid of Ghosts so far, but we all find it hilarious and such a realistic look into the way kids think about things!
I think it's interesting that the series I've discovered as an adult are both fantasy while the ones I'm going back to from childhood most definitely aren't. I did read fantasy as a kid and do still love the Chronicles of Narnia, The Magic Faraway Tree etc, but I do think there's been a shift in the volume of fantasy books written for younger readers since I was a younger reader, and maybe even a shift away from the more realistic, everyday type of stories I talked about in the first part of this post. It's a big part of why I love exploring the world of children's literature so much and filling my house with gorgeous, escapist adventure stories of all kinds!
If you have a younger reader in your life, we now have a Ninja in Training subscription suitable for 8-12 year olds (with an added booklet where they can do activities, gain stickers and level up!) and a Ninja Apprentice subscription for 13+. You can find out more details here, and all subscriptions can be purchased as gifts.