What’s your favourite book from your childhood? It’s a question we recently asked here at HoneyKids HQ, and it brought up so many fond memories that we just had to share what we think are the best books for kids. So next time you’ve got a whole outdoorsy day out with the family planned but it starts raining (or pouring as it normally would in Singapore), or if you’re hiding indoors to escape The Haze, put on your jammies and snuggle up together with a good book! We hope you rediscover an old favourite – or find a new one – from these classic children’s books, as recommended by HoneyKids mums.
PS: Want some inspiration for books to read with little ones? Check out our favourite books for babies and toddlers. And if this story puts you in the mood for hunting down these great reads, check out our guide to Singapore’s best bookstores and best libraries for kids too!
Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling
J.K Rowling’s fantasy books are a top favourite for stay-at-home days: the beautifully descriptive details of the wizarding world take you on a trip far beyond the confines of your imagination. The series’ overall theme of good prevailing over evil may seem simplistic, but the harrowing journey that Harry takes over the course of seven books offer lessons on love, loss and perseverance that both kids and adults will remember for a long time.
The Far Away Tree series by Enid Blyton
This highly underrated series tells the tale of three children who stumble upon an enormous magic tree in the Enchanted Wood and go on adventures to faraway lands with their fantastical tree-top friends (we particularly love the lands of of Take-what-you-want and Do-as-you-please). Made up of four books, the series showcases Blyton’s incredible imagination, and is peppered with moral lessons. Perfect for falling asleep mid-read and drifting off into a different land. PS: A movie deal is in the works so you may just see this taken to the big screen in no time.
Sendak’s cult picture book revolves around Max, who wreaks havoc through his household after he puts on a wolf costume. After being sent to bed without supper, his room transforms into a jungle environment from which he sets sail to meet the “Wild Things.” The illustrations are quirky and beautiful, and the story encourages a spirit of adventure and the importance of imagination. We recommend popping the DVD of the film adaptation on after finishing the book – watch as your child becomes transfixed when the Wild Things come to life.
The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery
Another cult favourite for kids and adults alike. A little boy leaves the safety of his own planet to travel the universe and learns about the quirks of adult behaviour through a series of extraordinary adventures. Beneath the layers of delightful storytelling are timeless lessons that will take your child through adulthood. It’s advised to read the book as a child, a young adult and then, as a much older adult as the messages in the book will change in depth of meaning as the years go by.
The Giving Tree by Shel SilverStein
Fair warning: this children’s picture book does not have a happily-ever-after. The premise is simple – the book opens with the line, “Once there was a tree and she loved the boy,” setting the stage for the many complex layers of giving and human connection. This story of unconditional parental love has met with plenty of readings which delve into societal critique, but we’d say the melancholic ending of this bittersweet story will have you and your kids hugging each other a little tighter.
The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews
Written by screen star Julie Andrews, this modern classic relays the story of the great Whangdoodle, the wisest, kindest and most extraordinary creature there was. The three Potter children – Lindy, Tom and Ben – go on a search to meet the spectacular Whangdoodle but are thwarted by the scheming Prock. Snuggle up tight and prepare to be whisked away on this psychedelic, technicolour fantasy of strange, magical creatures.
The Animals of Farthing Wood by Colin Dann
In this classic tale of cooperation, survival and friendship, the animals of Farthing Wood must escape before their home is destroyed by the bulldozers. They make a pact to stick together and protect each other, but are met with numerous obstacles like a huge fire and a near drowning accident. The writing oozes intelligence and imagination and like classic journey tales, the book consistently tests the themes of loyalty and perseverance – big issues for your children to reflect on.
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
Published in 1939, this series follows French schoolgirl Madeline and her life amongst 11 other girls in a Catholic boarding school in picturesque Paris. The courage of the spirited heroine, the gorgeous illustrations, rhythmic text (great for reading out loud, together) and cheerful humour makes this a popular and timeless read for children everywhere.
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
What’s most striking about Pippi Longstocking is that she’s unconventional – she lives with a horse and monkey, and sleeps with her head under the covers and feet on the pillow. While she’s often strange, and sometimes rude, her generosity, thoughtfulness and ability to encourage children to question the adult world (instead of unthinkingly adopting its customs) are great traits for your children to look to.
Matilda by Roald Dahl
It’s no surprise that Roald Dahl makes it into this list for a third time. The endearing (and enduring) story of Matilda will touch bookworms and introverts everywhere. Despite her discouraging parents (who are oblivious to her brilliance) and the frightening Miss Trunchbull, Matilda finds comfort in reading and her teacher Miss Honey, who nurtures her talents. Beautifully heartwarming, humorous and touching, the story will teach your kids that anything can be done if you put your mind to it.
The Twits by Roald Dahl
This tale of two twits who are made for each other is one of Roald Dahl’s funniest books, if you enjoy a bit of absurdism thrown in with a pinch of dark humour. Mr and Mrs Twit are a truly horrible pair: they’re cranky, stinky and love playing awful tricks on each other – who could forget Mr Twit glueing pieces of wood to Mrs Twit’s walking stick to make her think she was shrinking? It’s the stuff kids lap up with glee. Quentin Blake’s illustrations hilariously bring this wicked old couple to life – you could even play a game with your kids spotting all of the curious things that have been caught in Mr Twit’s beard (hint: there’s a sardine in there!). Despite the revolting behaviour of Mr and Mrs Twit, we have a big soft spot for this book. It’s the source of one of our all-time favourite quotes, too: “If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”
The BFG by Roald Dahl
Short for The Big Friendly Giant, this beloved children’s book revolves around the friendship of Sophie and The BFG: the only nice, vegetarian giant in a land of “human bean-eating” giants. This legendary and well-loved creation by Dahl is known for his bigheartedness and hilarious, “jumbly” way of speaking. In the signature style of Dahl’s books, the entire book is wonderfully fantastical, odd and will give you the case of the warm-and-fuzzies (to be perfectly accompanied by a cup of hot cocoa).
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