I wanted to put together a recommended reading list of books that help equip children for life.
Still not being fully equipped myself, I asked my friends which of the books they read as a child influenced them the most and would recommend as a gift.
THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS by Kenneth Grahame
Recommended by Guy: ‘I read it as a child but influenced me more as an adult than as a child. It is beautifully written, and captures a kind of England that has a great appeal. But it is also about discovery and escape - Mole finds a whole new world. Friendship, the river, picnics, Christmas, the country house, the past, freedom, spring.’
LITTLE WOMEN by Lousia May Alcott
Recommended by Natasha: 'Little Women was one of the first 'classics' I read when I was nine and I was hooked. That book now gives me a special connection to my mum as she was the one who suggested I read the book in the first place. It taught me the importance of family, and the importance (and difficulty) of following my dreams. I was brought up with those ideas and so the book really resonated with me. I still love the story, and parts of it still make me cry!'
A LITTLE HISTORY OF THE WORLD BY E. H. GOMBRICH
Recommended by Grace : I read this book an adult and since then I have bought three copies to give to my little cousins as gifts. It ought to be recommended reading for every child in the world. The tone is clear without being patronising. Its aim isn't to make children feel like they ought to know names and dates. It encourages children to enjoy history, and if anything, teaches children about equality and that every culture is valuable. The book was banned by the Nazis for being too pacifistic, which is a very good sign.
THE HOUSE AT POOH CORNER by A. A. Milne
Recommended by Ben: At the end of the House at Pooh Corner, Christopher Robin has to leave his animals at The Hundred Acre Wood and go to boarding school. It's a sermon on the impermanence and contingency of all relationships, especially in childhood. And that growing up involves loss.
ABSOLUTELY NORMAL CHAOS by Sharon Creech
Recommended by me: A teacher gave me this book when I was ten. I started reading it at the beginning of the long summer holiday, the same point at which protagonist Mary-Lou Finney starts her diary. Absolutely Normal Chaos book contained all of the themes I sought and enjoyed in future literature: humour, the confessional, trying to do the right thing, Americana, situations which could not be resolved (and that being ok) and boys. And in a not-too-forceful way, introduces Homer, Dickens and Frost.