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Posted by Tom, May 25, 2011

The books we never outgrow

This week’s Stylist magazine (free outside the tube station, thank you very much) has a very good cover story on the children’s books we never outgrow, complete with rather marvellous illustrations by Quentin Blake. The article fudges a little towards the end, giving a list only of ‘Top 10 Children’s Books’, which is, of course, practically meaningless, but the core idea of un-outgrow-able books is a lovely one.

Stylist includes The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Charlotte’s Web and Matilda in its list (all favourites of mine), and the second Kate saw it lying open on my desk she pounced, conducting the fastest straw poll I believe I have ever seen. Well, I am pleased to say that ours is a suitably eclectic list, spanning most of the twentieth century, picture books and fiction, autobiography and fantasy, blockbuster names and forgotten gems. Helpfully, we’ve had quite a number of visitors this morning, so this is also a more comprehensive collection than it might otherwise have been. And without further ado, here it is – Nosy Crow’s list of the books we never outgrow:

Kirsty chose Autumn Term by Antonia Forest, the first in the Marlow family series of novels, originally published in 1948.

Dom named Going Solo, the second installment of autobiography by Roald Dahl and the sequel to Boy.

Deb initially wanted Charlotte’s Web but, at the time of writing, had settled on The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer.

Adrian picked, without a second’s hesitation, The Land of Green Ginger, a choice that caused a lot of blank stares amongst the rest of us. A little Wikipedia-ing later and I now know that it was written in 1936 by Noel Langley, who went on to be one of the (many) responsible for the screenplay of The Wizard of Oz.

Steph, insisting that she didn’t want to go for a picture book, and after much deliberation, has gone for Louisa May Alcott’s classic Little Women.

Tim Wesson, co-creator with Nikalas Catlow of our very own Mega Mash-Up series, has picked a classic of quite a different sort, Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat.

Kate Shaw fought off stiff competition from Camilla to be the one who gets to name another Roald Dahl, Danny Champion of the World, as their own (personally I always found the novel’s gritty social realism a little disturbing).

Imogen, remarkably unfazed by my ambushing of her the moment she crossed the threshold, selected Janet and Allen Ahlberg’s absolutely wonderful Jolly Christmas Postman.

Despite this being her idea, Kate W simply could not make a final decision, and seemed visibly pained by my insistence that she only be allowed one choice. However, after much cajoling from me and soul-searching from her, she’s plumped for Rumer Godden’s The Dolls’ House.

Kate B, after considerable thought, has picked Snoopy, by Charles M. Schulz.

Camilla, once her first instinct had been nixed by my increasingly dictatorial approach to rules, chose A. A. Milne’s When We Were Very Young.

And, because I’m the one writing this blog, I’m going to allow myself two choices. The first is Susan Varley’s Badger’s Parting Gifts, a criminally overlooked picture book and one of the most moving treatments of grief I have ever read. And the second is Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, from 1876, about which nothing new can be said, but which still seems fresh and exciting and funny to me on every re-reading.

So, there they are! Between Nosy Crow and Stylist, Roald Dahl gets an excellent showing, as does American literature. But what have we missed? What books have you never outgrown?

Here’s what some of @nosycrow’s Twitter followers have said:

@rachelisking: Mine would be Matilda, although I also love Ursula Bear by Sheila Lavelle (sadly no longer in print)

@LizzyCampbell: Mine would have to be Anne of Green Gables

@Girl___Friday: I third Danny! 🙂 Also Narnia.

@Rebecca Berry: I’ll never outgrow Cobwebs and Creepers. It isn’t in print anymore but I loved it!

@superjed79 JED: Pigs Might Fly by Emily Rodda (Aussie author). Awesome.

@musingsofayalib: I would most definitely choose Jon Scieszka’s The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales!

@sharontelfer: Wizard of Earthsea: original and best book about wizard school! Also another vote for the lovely Land of Green Ginger

@Lucy Coats: I’ll never outgrow The Wind in the Willows.P.S. Tell Adrian I used to LOVE the Land of Green Ginger. And Phantom Tollbooth taught me about dodecahedrons!

@macnelliebus: Tove Jansson’s Moomintroll books! Sweet, funny, heartful and wise

@kbalzart: The Poky Little Puppy!

@NatashaFarrant1: Anne of Green Gables. Never, ever, ever outgrown. Went to Green Gables last summer and embarrassed children by crying. A lot.

@loops777: Em…where to start?!I NEVER tire of the wonders of Mr Dahl.Hilariously witty. Always a special place for ‘A Little Princess’ too!

@rookibooks: Brambly Hedge series. Kids & i named one of our dog walks after them and we take popcorn for the mice! #kidsbooks #notoutgrown

@SarahTFergusson: Alan Garner’s The Owl Service. Beautiful and scary!

@cathiesue: Caddie Woodlawn

@Discover_Story: Tom’s Midnight Garden haunted me. I’m still hoping to find my real enormous garden.

@utzy: Now We Are Six. Bought my daughter old copy in a bookshop yesterday, and yes she will be six soon

@GilesCroft: The Man Who Was Magic by Paul Gallico. Time for a reprint.

@moongolfer:Agaton Sax

@classygenes: The Phantom Tollbooth! Fab! Still have it on my bookshelf. Who needs 3D when u have Juster’s imagination?

@tomfinnerty: Lovely article, thanks! I’d go for Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones

@KathLangrish: Finn Family Moomintroll. And – well, most of them, really. LOVED The Land of Green Ginger!

@AnabelMarsh: Another vote for Anne of Green Gables. Matthew’s death is a sobfest every time

@georgialeaper: The Jolly Postman, and Minnie&Ginger by Barry Smith http://amzn.to/msSyXK – Timeless lovestory

@Alex_T_SmithThe Tiger who Came to Tea – I’ve always wanted to go to a cafe in my pjs like the girl in the story

@vivlives001: Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

@dansumption: Another vote for Agaton Sax. Also, the Uncle stories.

@rebecsmart: The Swish of the Curtain by Pamela Brown

@JustinSomper: Where the Wild Things Are + Ahlberg’s The Mighty Slide + Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 😉

@neeshed: my childhood favourite was Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat – just started it with kids and still special

@Gem_Clair: Dogger, Shirley Hughes. (But I can’t talk about it because it still makes me cry!)

@alice_murphy: I also cried in the Book Shop about Michael Rosen’s The Sad Book. And Badger’s Parting Gifts… Among many others!

@janeconsidine: My childhood choice Where the wild things are.

@lesleytspencer: Eight Children and a Truck by Anne Catherina Vestly. Still got my battered copy:)

@Chiddle84: Ooh, the Jolly Postman!

@mightydanzy: The Monster at the end of This Book featuring the furriest, most favorite Muppet, Grover.

@katybeale: The Hobbit!

@Dreamteamsoft: Totally love Danny Champion of the World !

@LondonBessie: Gotta be Teddy Robinson. Just fantastic – funny, sweet, a bit bonkers and totally charming.

@Hilary Foster: The Owl Who Was Afraid Of The Dark; The Dark Is Rising hairs standing up at memory

@stevemaythe1st: Any of Tove Jannson’s Moomin books – wonderful evocative stories & illustrations

@murhilltypist: ‘National Velvet’, ‘The Thirteen Clocks’, and ‘Are you my mother?’: the moving tale of a fledgling and a JCB.

@LuLhullier: In English, all Shel Silverstein books #kidsbookillneveroutgrow

@clarefenn: Mine are Danny Champion of the World and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe

@julietanne: Hungry Caterpillar, Hairy McClary, The Little White Horse, The Tiger Child

@MissCellany: Beauty: Robin McKinley, Howl’s Moving Castle: Diana Wynne Jones and entire Little House on Prairie saga. And Mog! How could I forget Mog, The Forgetful Cat? (

@FlossieTeacake: YES TO PAMELA BROWN. Have you seen: http://bit.ly/mdNk9C

@bowbrick: ‘Peepo’ by the Ahlbergs. A board book worthy of the Booker. Literally one of my favourite books ever

@le_robertson: Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boynton. you have to love silly turkeys. 😉

So tell us on Twitter (there’s even a hashtag now, as we’ve only included Twitter nominations from people who sent theirs as a reply) or comment below.