To celebrate International Children’s Book Day on April 2, we asked the OUP Australia staff to name their favourite children’s books.
There were books that made us laugh and made us cry, but can you guess the only book that was mentioned by two staff members?
My favourite book as a child was Elizabeth Honey’s 45 + 47 Stella Street and everything that happened. The characters’ adventures taking place in Australian suburbia made me feel like I could see myself in the book, and as if everyday life had a lot more mystery!
I’ll go for Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. It’s about a boy who has the worst day ever – nothing seems to go right. And at the end of the day, when he’s feeling very dejected, his mum just tells him, ‘Some days are like that.’ It’s a good thing to remember, even when you’re an adult!
I loved The Tiger Who Came to Tea – this story it used to make me laugh so much that a tiger was sitting down to eat tea and cake! And I loved the illustrations, I can remember my year 1 teacher reading me this in quiet time and I loved it so much I went home and asked for it for my birthday! I read it to my children now and they love it to and laugh at the same parts that I did.
I remember loving Unbelievable by Paul Jennings. I’m pretty sure I borrowed it from the school library many times. I also loved the books by June Factor (Unreal Banana Peel, Far Out, Brussel Sprout!, All Right, Vegemite! And Real Keen Baked Bean) because I found the poems funny and cheeky. I read and re-read these books many times. I also enjoyed the spooky Goosebumps books.
My daughter and I loved The Tiger Who Came to Tea, a quirky English classic I think, you never really do find out just why the tiger came or where it went afterwards. At a recent ‘Book Day Dress-up’ parade at my daughter’s school, one of the preppies arrived in a tiger suit holding a teapot. I think my daughter and I were the only other people there who knew who that character was!
I loved (well, still do love) Magic Beach by Alison Lester. My family has a beach house, and this book always reminds me of spending holidays there with all of my cousins. Sometimes we would read it while there, and we would all choose a different character from the book to be.
I was part of the generation who got to grow up alongside the Harry Potter kids, and I treasured every one of those books. Of course, part of the joy is in the fantastical adventures. But, I also loved how important it was that the characters learned new things along the way – about magic, but also about each other, and about themselves.
‘When in doubt, go to the library.’
One of my favourite books to have read aloud to me as a child was The Monster at the End of This Book: Starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover from ‘The Little Golden Books’ series. It’s a great interactive book that breaks the fourth wall by having Grover (from Sesame Street) try to prevent the reader from turning the pages of the book for fear of a monster at the end. Spoiler, the monster is him.
My favourite books were: Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel, The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton, Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss and Water Wings by Morris Gleitzman.
I only just discovered The Giving Tree when my daughter received it for her birthday. I can’t decide whether it warms my heart or makes me feel sad – let’s just say that it is bittersweet. It is about the relationship between a tree and a child, and how that changes as the child grows up. I also loved The Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton and Dr Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go – another book that is hopeful and heartbreaking at the same time. As I got older, I loved Bridge to Terabithia and Came Back to Show You I Could Fly.
My favourite children’s book is Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner. This is a magnificent piece of Australian storytelling describing the turbulent life of a family with seven children who live in early outback Australia. The seven children are an entertaining cast of characters and at times prove to be sources of frustration for their father, the very strict, Captain Woolcot, and his new young wife, not much older than his oldest daughter. My favourite character was the lively Judy who always found herself displeasing her father by finding herself at the centre of some sort of mischievous and troublesome activity. In the book we are introduced to (or reminded of) the growing pains children and young adults are confronted with, many of which are relevant and resonate with modern readers.
I remember The Jolly Postman or Other People’s Letters by Allan Ahlberg being the most coveted book in the school library – the reserve list was insane! The reason it was so popular was because it was interactive (letters in envelopes) – a new feat in the early 90s. Very much worth the wait time.
One year for my birthday my Godparents bought me the audio book (in cassette-form) of Josie Smith by Magdalen Nabb. It was read by George Layton whose voice was so charismatic and diverse that it was incredibly easy to imagine Josie’s world in a small British town.
The series that made me fall in love with reading was Baby-sitters Little Sister by Ann M. Martin. It was a spinoff of The Baby-sitters Club for a slightly younger audience. The protagonist Karen Brewer was imaginative, assertive, sassy and my first literary role model.
When my kids were little, we loved reading a book called Dog In, Cat Out by Gillian Rubinstein and Ann James. The story perfectly captures domestic life with small kids and animals. There are four words in the book: cat, dog, in, out; but the detail in the pictures makes it fun to read over and over.
As a tiny tot I was obsessed with the illustrations of different types of families in The Baby’s Catalogue by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. In kindergarten I moved on to Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, even though it spooked me a bit. In Primary School I loved anything by Roald Dahl, but particularly Boy and Fantastic Mr. Fox.
Answer: The Tiger Who Came to Tea was Amanda and Emma’s favourite.