World Book Day is often associated with book fairs and children getting dressed up as their favourite literary characters. This year, on 3rd March, World Book Day celebrates its 25th anniversary and, even as an adult, it’s a great opportunity to delve into children’s literature.
Whether you have children or grandchildren to share a book with or want a nostalgic read, there are plenty of children’s books that can delight and entertain adults. While they are simpler to read, children’s books can be filled with thought-provoking stories and whisk you away on an adventure when you want to escape. Here are 10 children’s books that are worth rereading or picking up for the first time as an adult.
1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
The Chronicles of Narnia series is one of the best-known classic fantasy series aimed at children, with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe being the most popular book. The imaginative story follows children who find a portal to the magical world of Narnia that’s filled with talking animals and adventure. The book also features many religious allegories, reflecting the author’s Christian views, that you may have overlooked as a child.
2. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Where the Wild Things Are is a picture book by American writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak that’s been adapted several times since it was first published in 1963. The book is a little longer than 200 words but manages to capture a story of love as Max’s bedroom turns into a forest filled with wild things. It’s an excellent book to read to young children that you can enjoy too.
3. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
While now considered a children’s classic, The Secret Garden was first serialised in an adult magazine, and it’s still a great option for adult readers. At the start of the novel, the main character Mary Lennox is often rude and selfish, but as she discovers a door leading to a secret garden she becomes more self-aware and grows as a character.
4. Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman
Northern Lights is the first book in His Dark Materials trilogy written by Philip Pullman. Fierce heroine Lyra takes a journey that spans worlds and is perfect for those who want to escape with a fantasy novel. As with many books on this list, when rereading the series as an adult, you’ll notice darker and more philosophical themes.
5. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
The novel Peter Pan is much darker and more complex than the Disney version that’s often associated with the classic character. The timeless classic sees the Darling children visit Neverland, which is filled with adventure and wonder, but it’s also a poignant reminder of youth and how quickly it can pass.
6. The Giver by Lois Lowry
Dystopian novels have become a staple of the young adult genre, and Lois Lowry’s The Giver led the way when it was published in 1993. Set in a society that has taken away pain and strife, the novel follows Jonas as he struggles with new emotions and understanding the world when he is selected to become the “Receiver of Memory”.
7. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
We all know the story of the girl that falls down a rabbit hole and into a world of strange characters. If you’ve yet to read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, it’s worth adding to your list. Characters like the Cheshire Cat and Mad Hatter have delighted readers, young and old, for over 150 years.
8. Matilda by Roald Dahl
Any one of Roald Dahl’s bibliography could be included on this list. His books are fun, charming and often have witty narratives adults can appreciate. Matilda follows a five-year-old girl who loves to read and discovers she has special abilities. It’s a classic good vs evil story as Matilda deals with her horrible family and headmistress.
9. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Despite being published almost 80 years ago, The Little Prince still holds up as a great story and remains a classic. The fantastical parts of the story, including the young prince from a tiny asteroid visiting earth, keep children entertained, but it makes many observations on life and human nature that are still thought-provoking for adults.
10. Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian
First published in 1981, Goodnight Mister Tom is set during World War II and follows a young boy, Willie, as he’s evacuated from London to the countryside. While written for children, the novel touches on some dark topics, including abuse and mental health, but is a heart-warming story of two people saving each other from loneliness.