Guide to reading the world

25th February 2005 at 00:00
Government English advisers are concerned about the predictable and limited literary diet many children are getting in school. With World Book Day coming up next week, I asked three children's literature boffins to suggest some essential books for all primary ages.

Michael Thorn, deputy headteacher and director of children's books website Achuka (www.achuka.co.uk) The list could go into three figures with ease - here are just five.

The Edge Chronicles, by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell (Random House).

These illustrated fantasy adventures appeal particularly to boys aged seven to 10 and, because of their episodic structure, are marvellous for building reading stamina.

Hatchet and Hatchet: Winter by Gary Paulsen (Macmillan). An author who has never really taken off in the UK but whose survival stories are first-rate outdoor adventure for older key stage 2 boys.

The Greatest Show On Earth, by Margaret Mahy (Puffin). A good title for lower KS2. Like our own Anne Fine, this veteran New Zealand author can write for any audience.

Family Fan Club, byJean Ure (HarperCollins). Girl-friendly fiction that mixes sometimes heavy storylines with light and humorous treatment.

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Book? by Lauren Child (Hodder). A character falls into a book of fairy tales. Child's work is just as distinctive as Anthony Browne's or Maurice Sendak's.

Kevin Harcombe, headteacher.

Peepo! Janet and Allan Ahlberg (Viking Children's Books). A perfect amalgam of text, illustration and design.

Dogger, Shirley Hughes (Red Fox Picture Books). Nothing captures the vulnerability and resilience of children like the pen and paintbrush of Hughes.

The Fib and other stories, George Layton (Macmillan Children's Books).

Tales of a working-class lad and his mates in 1950s and 1960s Yorkshire.

Angst, cringing embarrassment and, above all, humour ensure that this still has children in stitches today. Particularly wonderful on the shifting relationships of friends as they grow up.

Quick, Let's Get Out Of Here, Michael Rosen (Puffin). Inventive, moving, hilarious and hooks children without fail. The wonderful tales of toddler Eddie have an added poignancy since the adult Eddie's recent death.

Jabberwocky, Lewis Carroll. I hate the "Alice" books, but this poem is a work of genius, distilling an entire epic into half-a- dozen perfect stanzas.

Macbeth, William Shakespeare. Witchcraft, violence, murder, treachery, madness. Perfect for children, then, even if you don't think they should study the whole play.

Five Children and It, E Nesbit. A true classic of adult-free children, magic and their japes.

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, CS Lewis. Deftly-handled themes of love, betrayal and redemption.

Private Peaceful, Michael Morpurgo (Collins). Poignant but unsentimental and crafted in his beautifully unfussy trademark prose. Most of all, he knows how to tell a great story.

George's Marvellous Medicine, Roald Dahl (Puffin). For its energy and invention. George's potions, sourced from the bathroom, kitchen and shed, appeal to the mad scientist in us all.

Geraldine Brennan, TES books editor, chooses contemporary books, in ascending age order.

Fruits: A Caribbean Counting Poem, Valerie Bloom, illustrated by David Axtell (Macmillan). Edible paintings and luscious read-aloud text with appeal long after one to 10 has been mastered.

Under the Moon and Over the Sea, the most recent anthology by Caribbean Dozen editors John Agard and Grace Nichols (Walker Books). Worthy winner of last year's Centre for Literacy in Primary Education poetry book award.

Belonging, by Jeannie Baker (Walker Books). Wide appeal in a wordless picture book that tracks urban sprawl through touching domestic detail.

Smile!, by Geraldine McCaughrean (Oxford University Press). A warm, funny and moving story about choosing the most precious things in life.

The Scarecrow and the Servant, by Philip Pullman, illustrated by Peter Bailey (Doubleday). Unlikely heroes take on the rich and powerful in a novel with a classic fairy-tale flavour and welcome line illustrations.

The Silver Spoon of Solomon Snow, by Kaye Umansky (Puffin). Plays to hilarious effect with the form of the Victorian waif novel and sneaks in a grass-is-greener moral. May induce sudden weeping due to laughter.

Cloud Busting, by Malorie Blackman (Doubleday). Shifts between poetic forms in a tale of bullying, friendship and the power of imagination.

Belly Flop, by Morris Gleitzman (Puffin). A strong central father-son relationship, Gleitzman's trademark comedy and a water crisis in Australia.

The Exiles, by Hilary McKay. (Hodder Children's Books). An introduction to the Conroys, the most memorable fictional sisterhood since the Marches.

The Star of Kazan, by Eva Ibbotson (Macmillan). An adventure with everything - horses, jewels, crooks, a foundling, a horrid boarding school - set just before the rise of Nazism in Europe. Ideal for Year 6 readers with stamina.

World Book Day is on March 3. See www.worldbookday.co.uk

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