To celebrate World Book Day, I’m excited to be part of a group of UKYA bloggers sharing the books that shaped our childhoods.
There were a lot of books I loved growing up, but I feel like the books that had the most impact are a few that I read when I was about 3-5 years old, and then a few more when I was 9-11 years old.
To reflect this, I’m splitting this post into two parts. One for the children’s books I read in my ‘early years’ and one for the MG/YA/adult books I read when I was slightly older.
Let’s dive in!
The early years
One of my all-time favourite books as a child was Six-Dinner Sid. It’s about a cat who loves food, but never gets full, so ends up going to six different houses to eat different meals.
At each house he takes on a different persona and I think this is part of why I loved the story so much. It was funny and multi-faceted, and has a happy ending.
In fact, I loved this book so much that I was upset when my parents got rid of my copy one summer after a clear out. So, they bought me a new copy for Christmas.
I’m pretty sure I made my parents read Elmer with me several times a month because I loved it so much.
It’s about an elephant who’s different from others and is ostracised because of it. Elmer is multicoloured, energetic, and wants to do fun things whereas the other elephants are grey or brown and want to do the same old things every day.
Eventually Elmer is accepted by the others, and I feel like that’s what this book is all about – acceptance. Plus, I’m pretty sure my five-year-old self didn’t realise, but Elmer is clearly a gay icon. Look at that rainbow colouring. We have no choice but to stan.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Oh, this book. Even just looking at the cover brings back fond memories.
There was a period when I was obsessed with this book and couldn’t get enough of it. I’m pretty sure it kick-started my love of fruit. And caterpillars.
It’s a tactile picture book too, with cutouts for children to feel.
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
This book was probably the first ever thriller I read. No joke. It’s about a family who go in search of a bear (I don’t know what they were thinking, to be honest) and when they get a little too close for comfort, they sprint back across the hills and too their house.
It has such a good build up to the climax that and whenever I used to read it, the final few pages would make my heart jump. So in a way, it was my first thriller.
My mum recently bought a copy of this for one of my young second cousins. When she showed me it, I literally shrieked “DEAR ZOO!” because I was so happy to see this book again after such a long time.
This is another interactive picture book and I used to love opening the flaps and pop up sections to find out which animals were behind them.
Although I feel morally on the fence about zoos now, I remember how much this book made me want to see more animals and go to more wildlife places when I was younger.
The ‘tween years
I read The Hobbit when I was 10 or 11 and it was probably one of the first adult fantasy books I ever picked up.
I remember the excitement of going on Bilbo’s journey with him and encountering one of the most iconic book dragons in literature. (The Priory of the Orange Tree didn’t exist then, OK?)
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
I’d be surprised to find a list of childhood books that didn’t include at least one of the Harry Potters.
Although I no longer support or agree with anything JK Rowling says, these books had a special place in my heart growing up.
This is because when they first came out, I was still pretty young. So my Dad read the first two and second books to me every night before bed.
Then as I got older, I began to read them to him.
The Illustrated Mum
I’m not going to lie, I’ve probably read about 90% of Jacqueline Wilson’s children’s books. That’s because when I was growing up, I devoured them.
I loved her characters and family dramas. In primary school, when we were asked to write to our favourite author, I wrote to her asking if she might send me a signed postcard. She sent back a postcard and wrote ‘here’s your signed postcard, sweetheart’ on it. And I’ve never forgotten that.
This is probably my favourite of all Roald Dahl’s books. It’s definitely one of the more fun and silly of his works, rather than dark and sinister, but I think that’s why I liked it so much.
It’s the story of an unlikely, wholesome friendship between a young girl and a giant, who begin to teach each other things about their different worlds.
I remember reading this book and low-key wishing I had my own friendly giant to hang out with.
Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging
Were you even a white girl growing up in the UK in the 90s and early 00s if you didn’t read at least one Georgia Nicholson book? (I jest, of course you were, all our lived experiences are different.)
I found these books at a time when I was in a big group of friends, and although it was great, it was easy to get lost amongst the louder voices and bigger personalities.
Georgia and her friends were like my second gang of friends and I loved their random nicknames and secret codes.
There are definitely more books I could have included on this list, but these are some that I have the most distinct memories of reading. All of them have stayed with me, despite the many books I’ve read since picking them up, and I remember each of them with fond nostalgia.
Which books shaped your childhood? Do you have any favourites that you still read now?
Don’t forget to check out the rest of our World Book Day content!